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Canadian History
Hon. Malcolm Cameron


Was the son of Mr. Angus Cameron, formerly of Argyleshire, Scotland, and who came to Canada in 1806, as the hospital sergeant of a Highland regiment. The subject of this sketch was born at Three Rivers, on the 25th of April, 1808. His father, whose regiment was disbanded in 1816, kept a tavern at Perth, in the Ottawa district. Until 1822, the family resided here, after which young Malcolm's mother, anxious for the welfare of her child, now in his twelfth year, procured a situation for him with a farmer on the banks of the Mississippi river. Her great dread was that the child should become fond of drink, or that his character should become stamped by any of the recollections of his father's bar-room. Stamped his character was, but in the right way. The lad had at an early age, and the feeling was with him as man, a horror of bar-rooms, and a deep dislike for the liquor traffic. He remained a farmer's lad for about three years, when he obtained a position in a store at Laprairie. Here he disagreed with his employer, threw up his situation, and set out on foot for Montreal, in which city he took the position at first of a stable-boy. In the old country, where so many of the distinguished men are born midway to their position, we suppose they could hardly believe that in such a way as this some of the greatest ornaments of Canada have set out in life. The lad's mother now opened a boarding-house in Montreal, and her son lived with her during the following winter, and attended the district school. From all that can be gathered, his mother was a noble-souled woman, with a clear sound head, a great heart, and high aims for the future of her son. Young Malcolm subsequently obtained the position of clerk in a brewery, and this situation he held for about four years, giving great satisfaction to his employer. He saved some money, with which he purchased Hume's and Smollet's histories of England, which he read and re-read with enthusiasm. This was an evidence in a way of what the man was yet to be. He now became a wide reader, amassing large stores of information. He was never scholarly or cultured, but he was well-read, intelligently read, and his range of knowledge was wide and useful. He soon opened a general store on his own account, and during a visit to Scotland, in 1833, married his cousin, Miss Christina McGregor, daughter of a Glasgow cotton spinner. Three years later he was elected for the county of Lanark in the old Upper Canada assembly. Sir Francis Bond Head was now strutting abroad through the Province, and exasperating the people by the manner in which he treated their requests for redress from political grievances. Against this mock tragedian, Mr. Cameron brought the force of his strong individuality. He who had fought for everything that he had possessed was not likely to defer to the unearned powers and positions of the dominant family compact. He opposed that combination with might and main, and though at the first his exertions seemed not unlike the sea flinging itself against the base of an invincible cliff, after a while the great fabric was seen to shiver, and then to begin rocking. In the parliament and upon the hustings he opposed oligarchy, favouritism, and corruption, advocated responsible government, and declared loudly for separation of church and state. Under Lord Bagot's administration he was Inspector of Revenue without a seat in the Cabinet; he had already refused the Inspector-Generalship under Sydenham. Under the Baldwin-La-fontaine administration he held a seat in the Cabinet. He was once President of the Council, again Commissioner of Public Works; was also Minister of Agriculture as well as Postmaster-General. Upon the Hincks reconstruction, in 1851, he became President of the Council. With Dr. John Rolph, somewhat after this time, he was the leader of the advanced radical element. In 1854 he was not sent to parliament, but in 1858 he was returned for Lambton again. In 1863 he withdrew from parliamentary life, and became, conjointly with Mr. George Desbarats, Queen's printer. In 1869 he was unsuccessful in contesting South Renfrew, and two years later he was defeated for South Lanark, in his contest for the local legislature. In 1874 he was successful again, being sent to the Commons for South Ontario. This seat he held till his death, which occurred at Ottawa, on the 1st of June, 1876. He was instrumental in the passage of much useful legislation, and strenuously advocated the abolition of imprisonment for debt. In public life he always kept his hands pure. His mercantile career was a chequered one, and he died a poor man, leaving little behind him save an irreproachable name.


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