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Canadian History
Hon. Geo. William Ross, LL.B., M.P.P.


The career of this gentleman is an excellent example of what the New World can do for a man who sets before himself a high ideal of life, with the ambition to overcome the accidents of birth, and the steadfast purpose to rise to a useful and exalted position among his fellows, with the adventitious aids which belong to an artificial society and an age of privilege. In Mr. Ross's case a laudable ambition has not been thwarted by circumstances which in the Old World so often prove a bar to personal advancement, whatever may be the merit of him who strives to overcome them. With all the freedom of our social and national life in Canada, it is of course not often given to one to rise from humble birth and the limited resources of a rural school training to high political office and the Ministership of Education - a position which Mr. Ross succeeded in attaining, greatly to his credit, before he had reached his forty-third year. Only unusual gifts and their devotion to high purpose and worthy ends could win such signal fortune as Mr. Ross has achieved far in advance of those who began life's race with him. Mr. Ross, who is of Scotch parentage, was born near Nairn, in the County of Middlesex, Ontario, on the 18th of Sept., 1841. As we have hinted, he is the architect of his own fortunes. The possessor of a good physical frame, and a strong and active intellectual organization, which he assiduously cultivates, Mr. Ross has successfully fought his way upwards with a determination and persistence characteristic of his Highland origin. As a boy he was fortunate to receive the sound but eminently practical education to be had in the older settled districts of the Province a generation ago. Building upon this, by his own unaided efforts, he succeeded in 1857 in obtaining a third-class county certificate, and for many years devoted himself to teaching. In 1859 he obtained a second-class, and in 1867 a first-class, County Board certificate. Two years later, he took a course at the Normal School, Toronto, and in 1871 secured a first class Provincial certificate. In the latter year he was appointed Inspector of Public Schools for the County of Lambton, and subsequently acted in a similar capacity for the Towns of Petrolea and Strathroy. While Inspector for East Lambton, Mr. Ross was in 18765 made the recipient of a handsome gold watch and chain, with a complimentary address from the teachers of the district, in acknowledgement of his zeal in educational work and his able and unwearied service in the profession. He was also presented with a flattering address by the County Council. "During those years," says a writer in the Canada School Journal, "when the establishment of additional Normal Schools was agitated in this province, and rival cities were clamouring for location of the proposed new schools within their limits, Mr. Ross took a leading part in the movement set on foot for the creation of County Model Schools, when it was found that the Government of the day hesitated to incur the outlay for additional Normal Schools. He devoted much time and attention to perfecting the new scheme of County Model Schools, and after their establishment, prepared the syllabus of lectures, and was for a time appointed inspector of Model Schools. The excellent results that have followed are a sufficient indication of the wisdom of his counsels, and of the energy and skill with which the scheme was put into practical operation. From 1876 to 1880 he was a member of the Central Committee, and was there a faithful advocate of the teachers' interests. He contended for the use of only one text-book on the same subject in the public schools, and was in favour of confining the Normal Schools to strictly professional work, leaving the academic or non-professional part of the students' training to the High Schools and Institutes."  For some years Mr. Ross was engaged in journalistic work. At one time he owned the Strathroy Age and at another was part proprietor of the Huron Expositor. His great mental resources and intimate knowledge of public questions well fit him to shine in the field of journalism. In education journalism he also made his mark, having conducted, with Mr. McColl, of Strathroy, the Ontario Teacher, a publication which was spiritedly edited and for a time of great service to the teaching profession. Like many of our public men, Mr. Ross has also been drawn to law, and though he has never practised the profession he has passed several of the preliminary examinations, and in 1879 wrote for and obtained from the Albert University the degree of LL B. For many years Mr. Ross has been an enthusiastic leader in Temperance and Prohibitory movements in Canada, and in the House of Commons, as well as in the Ontario Legislature, has earnestly advocated the cause of Temperance and taken active part in its legislation. In 1879 he was elected Most Worthy Patriarch of the National Division of the Sons of Temperance of North America, and for two years presided over their deliberations at Washington and at Cincinnati. In Reform politics Mr. Ross has for years been a well known and distinguished figure. A ready debater and a lucid and incisive speaker he has again and again been of yeoman service to his party and done much to advance the cause of Liberalism throughout Ontario. "As a public speaker," remarks the authority we have already quoted, "Mr. Ross has a remarkable faculty of grouping his facts and presenting his arguments in clear, logical order, in which we find the influence of his early training as a teacher. He is quick at repartee, possesses a retentive memory, and a contagious enthusiasm which frequently expresses itself in genuine eloquence. He has the ardour and impulsiveness of a Celt combined with much prudence and sound judgement. He is a living example of the power of continuity of purpose and indomitable will when linked with intelligence and high motive."  Mr. Ross was first elected representative of West Middlesex in the House of Commons in 1872; two years afterwards, at the general election, he was returned by acclamation; he was again returned in the years 1878 and 1882, though in the following year he was unfortunate to lose his seat in consequence of bribery by agents. In Nov., 1883, he was appointed Minister of Education for Ontario, as successor to the Hon. Adam Crooks, Q.C., and in the following month was elected to the Legislative Assembly for his present seat, West Middlesex. To his important office Mr. Ross brings a strong, clear, and well stored mind, wide experience in teaching, a hearty enthusiasm in educational matter and sterling qualities as a departmental administrator and public officer. He strikes the interviewer at once by his clear-headed practical view of things, and gives the impression of an eminently safe man, a cautious but vigorous administrator, with no fads or crotchets, but with abounding energy, unflagging purpose, and strong common sense. Mr. Ross married Christina, fourth daughter of Duncan Campbell, Esq., of Middlesex who however died in 1872. In 1875 he again married, Miss Boston of Lobo, County Middlesex, becoming his wife.


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