Tuesday, March 24, 2015

History Lesson

A thought occurred to me while watching a TV show today: what did Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, namesake of my high school, do?

Why did I have that thought? No idea. Possibly because Sherlock Holmes takes place in the past?

So I went to Wikipedia, as one does here in the future. Here are things that I learned:

  1. Simcoe was a fairly effective military commander for the British during the American Revolution.
  2. He  tried to establish a Loyalist free black regiment, but was offered command of the Queen's Rangers so he did that instead.
  3. He pushed for abolishing slavery in Upper Canada, but the 1793 Act Against Slavery was compromised, so any current slaves remained slaves until death.  It *did* prevent new slaves from being introduced, banning importation - the only new slaves were children born to female slaves, although the kids would be freed when they turned 25 with sufficient provisions from their prior owners to ensure they wouldn't have to be supported by the government. Slaves were finally emancipated in 1834 along with most of the slaves in the British Empire (excepting Ceylon (Sri Lanka), St Helena, and the territories of the East India Company).
  4. He moved the capital of Upper Canada from Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) because it was too close to the USA, separated only by the Niagara River. He picked out a nice spot on the water to start a city, renaming that body of water the Thames River and the site London to match the British capital.  He was then overruled by Governor-General Carleton and had to use his second choice, a site on Lake Ontario near the Rivere Taronto, which he named York. He also renamed the river to the Humber.
  5. He had Yonge Street and Dundas Street built. Yonge Street was built along the logging route connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Taronto (which he renamed Lake Simcoe after his father). Dundas connected York and London.
  6. In 1797, he was in charge of the British forces in St-Domingue (Haiti) where he was fighting to take the island from the French - and re-establish slavery, as it would have served the British agenda. Slavery had been abolished there in... 1793.
  7. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of India in 1806, replacing Charles Cornwallis who had died shortly after arriving in India.  Simcoe died before leaving for India at the age of 54.
Non-Simcoe things:
  1. There are two Lord Mayors in Canada; one is the head of Niagara-On-The-Lake in recognition of its status as first capital of Upper Canada. The other is Wayne Gretzky, honorary Lord Mayor of Brantford.
  2. There is only one Lord Mayor who's status was granted solely by the city council: Wayne Gretzky again.
  3. When York was incorporated as a city, it was named Toronto because of the negative connotations that were associated with "dirty Little York."

A trip to the library for Simcoe's biography is in store for tomorrow, I think.