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Canadian History
Hon. John Young


Was born in Ayr, Scotland, on the 4th of March, 1811, and received his education at the parish school. For some time he taught school in the neighbourhood of Ayr, but in 1826, with the object of bettering his position, he sailed for Canada, and on his arrival took up his residence in Montreal, where he obtained a clerkship in the mercantile office of John Torrance, one of the leading merchants at that time. In 1833, when only twenty-four years of age, he entered into a partnership with David Torrance in Quebec. Before the outbreak of the rebellion in Lower Canada, he took the liberty of representing to the then Governor-General, Lord Gosforth, that there were troubles ahead, and urged the formation of volunteer companies, but unfortunately his suggestion was unheeded. However, when the storm did burst, the young Scot at once volunteered to aid in raising a regiment, a task which was accomplished in about twenty-four hours. Mr. Young had, in the meantime, removed to Montreal, which city he foresaw, would in time become the centre of trade, and joined Mr. Harrison Stephens in business. During the Metcalf crisis, Mr. Young was returning officer, and there being every prospect of a serious riot, he at once searched for and seized arms wherever found. By means of this vigorous action he secured the peace of the city, and his name was specially mentioned in the Governor's despatch to Downing Street. It would be impossible in this short sketch to narrate all the enterprises with which his name has been associated, and we will simply say that his heart was thoroughly devoted to the interests of the city of his adoption, its harbour, its railway connection, its trade, and also its culture; and that in 1846 he espoused the principles of free trade with ardent enthusiasm, and remained faithful to them to the end of his career. In 1851, although Mr. Young has not been previously a member of Parliament, his administrative abilities and knowledge of trade were so well known, that he was chosen Commissioner of Public Works in the formation of the Hincks-Morin Cabinet, and he found a seat for Montreal, and continued to represent it until 1857, when ill-health compelled him to retire. In 1863, having regained his health, he presented himself as candidate for Montreal West, but failed to secure his election. However, in 1872, he succeeded in beating his opponent by a majority of 800. In the House of Commons he generally voted with the Opposition. For two years afterwards (in 1874) local interests so pressed upon him that he was compelled reluctantly to give up political life, and ceased to represent Montreal in the councils of the country. He at one time was president of the Board of Trade, and during the later years of his life filled the office of Harbour Commissioner for the port of Montreal. Mr. Young was a thorough Reformer, and in religion professed the simple faith of the Unitarians. He was a man of stalwart frame and fine presence, genial, able and vigorous. He died on the 12th of April, 1878, universally mourned by all classes in the city he had loved and served so faithfully.


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