(The Three William Lindsays – Part 2)
About a year ago, my cousin and I were invited to luncheon with a distant family member who wanted to share her inherited Lindsay papers. The delicious luncheon filled our bellies and the precious family papers filled our souls. Among the papers were copious legible (!) handwritten notes by my great uncle, Stanley Bagg Lindsay, with some details of the lives of all three William Lindsays.
Why the second William (Burns) Lindsay (1796-1862) mantained two careers
In many families the eldest son often follows in his father’s footsteps when choosing a career. However, the second William Lindsay’s older brother died in 1817 when William was only 21.
Before then, in 1808, 12-year old William actually began work as an apprentice writer* in his father’s office, who was the recently appointed Clerk of the House of Assembly for Lower Canada. However, instead of eventually following in his father’s footsteps full time, William first pursued a career in banking.
William worked as one of three employees when the Bank of Montreal first opened in Quebec City in 18171. He began as the bank teller and eventually worked his way up to became an officer of the bank. During his time at the bank, William requested and obtained leaves of absence to attend to his duties at this father’s office during the Assembly sessions.*
At the age of 23, William married Maria Jones in Quebec City in 1819 and eventually they had 11 children. Their first son was his namesake, William Burns Lindsay, who would also continue the family tradition as the Legislative Clerk (see next story).
About ten years after they married, William’s father resigned from the Assembly in 1829 due to his failing health. (see The Three William Lindsays part 1) Not surprisingly, thirty-three year old William was unanimously appointed Clerk of the House of Lower Canada thus providing a fairly smooth transition and continuity of management. After 12 years establishing his own career in banking, he ultimately did step into his father’s political shoes.
At the time of his resignation from the Bank, “he had earned and obtained the good will and esteem both of his employers and of their customers, the merchants of Quebec.”* His unique combination of careers would have provided him with useful contacts with not only the elite “but young Canada’s most enterprising merchants and aspiring financiers”2 at that time. It must have placed him in a very powerful position indeed.
His work continued as Clerk of the Assembly right up until the 1837 rebellions (also known as the Patriots’ War)3, pitting the rebels against the colonial government of Lower Canada in an armed conflict, that had been brewing for nearly three decades. For the next few years, William commanded a volunteer artillery company*, until the restoration of order.
At this point, William was appointed Clerk to the Special Council4 set up to administer the affairs of Lower Canada until the Act of Union of 1840 when Lower Canada and Upper Canada were united into the one Province of Canada, as a result of these rebellions.
Lord Sydenham5, the first Governor General for the United Province of Canada, convened the first Parliament of Canada in 1841 in Kingston, Ontario6, and appointed William to be the clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Perhaps the Grand Trunk Railway enabled a commute between Assembly sessions while Kingston was the capital, as the 1842 census listed Quebec City still as his home.7 William held this office for the next 21 years until, according to his obituary, he died “almost in harness: for, though very unwell, he attended his place in the House … and within a few days of his death he signed official papers.”*
William died in Quebec City in 1862 at the age of 65 years.
The funeral took place from his residence in Quebec City while the flag on the Parliament Buildings flew at half mast during the funeral. An eloquent tribute to his worth was paid by the premier Hon. Mr. Cartier8 and the House of Assembly adjourned to testify respect to his memory. The members attended the funeral together putting any differences aside for that day. “As an efficient public officer, Mr. Lindsay was a very remarkable man…he was emphatically the right man in the right place … he never suffered himself to become a political partisan or to show more favour or grant more facilities to one side than the other.”*
Upon his death in 1862, William’s namesake (the third William Lindsay), succeeded to the clerkship of the Legislative Assembly thereby taking his father’s place and continuing the family history.
Next: Why the third William Lindsay gave up a promising career as a lawyer
As the family genealogist, I research my ancestors and write their stories. Recently, I found three generations of ancestors with the same name and the same role in an evolving Canada.
Their birth and death dates were vital as the first step to sorting them out. I noticed, however, that previous genealogists also struggled to sort them, as two of the three were sometimes labelled “Senior” and “Junior” (and sometimes in reverse order) and then “The Elder” and “The Younger” were assigned to another two. To keep things simple in my story, I will label them first, second and third – in the order of their births.
* Handwritten notes – Stanley Bagg Lindsay – dated March 1939
4https://wiki2.org/en/Special_Council_of_Lower_Canada – referenced 2021-04-26
6Kingston was named the first capital of the United Province of Canada on February 10, 1841. While its time as a capital was short (ending in 1844), the community has remained an important military installation.
7The capital moved from Kingston to Montreal in 1844 and then alternated between Quebec City and Toronto from 1849 until Queen Victoria declared Ottawa the permanent capital in 1866.