Hon. Sir John J. Caldwell Abbott*
1821-1893
From: "Montreal History and Gazeteer to the year 1892"
By Rev. J. Douglas Borthwick, John Lovell & Son, Montreal 1892

Was born at St. Andrew's Quebec, on 12th March, 1821. His father was the late Rev. Joseph Abbott, M.A., who came to Canada from England in 1818, and settled at St. Andrews. After his school days he entered McGill College, passed a brilliant career and graduated B.C.L.  Afterward he studied Law, and in 1847 was called to the Bar of Lower Canada. He has always been a standard authority on Commercial Law.  It was in 1859 he first entered politics, being the representative of his native county in the old Canadian Assembly till the Union, when he was returned to the House of Commons. From 1874
to 1880 he retired from public life, but again represented Argentueil.  His great work was the Insolvent Act of 1864. For a short time in 1862 Mr. Abbott held the appointment of Solicitor-General in the Sandfield MacDonald-Sicotte Administration. Some time before this he had been made a Q.C.  He is the author of several important public measures. For some years he has been a Senator. On the death of the late Sir John A. MacDonald, he was called to form a new Cabinet, and now holds the high position of Premier of Canada.  His wife is a daughter of the first Dean of Montreal - May Bethune, daughter of 
Rev. John Bethune, D.D., and sister of our well-known citizen Strachan Bethune, Esq., Q.C., Chancellor of the Diocese of Montreal.


From: "Chronology of Montreal and Canada from A.D.1752 to A.D. 1893"
By Fred'k Wm. Terrill, Printed by John Lovell & Son, Montreal 1893

The Late Sir John J. Caldwell Abbott, K.C.M.G.,
Ex Premier of Canada

Theoretically the office of Prime Minister is a prize open to competition of the entire male population of Canada; but, as it has fallen to only four persons in a quarter of a century, many must be curious to know the conditions which fitted the lately deceased statesman for the highest position in the country.

He was bom on Monday, the 12th of March, 1821, at St. Andrews, of which parish his father, the late Rev. Joseph Abbott, M.A., was the first Anglican incumbent.  Being a profound scholar and an author of note, the Reverend Mr. Abbott was peculiarly adapted to assist in educating his gifted son, who repaid him by taking high rank at McGill College.

Having been admitted to the Bar in 1847, he became a Queen's Counsel in 1862, and, in 1867, Doctor of Civil Law.  He was for years a Professor of Law in McGill College, Dean of the Faculty of Law and one of the Governors of the Institution. He refused a chief justiceship, possibly because the receipts of his office were from five to eight times a judge's salary, but, being of a retiring nature, he, perhaps, distrusted his fitness to sit in judgment, though he knew that few could so convincingly present one side of a case.

He once advised a partner not to allow one case to engross his attention, but daily to somewhat advance all his business.  This suggestion indicated his own remarkable readiness in turning from one subject to another without losing the thread of either, a faculty which enabled him to engage in politics, railway enterprises and the command of a battalion on frontier duty, without forfeiting the confidence of his clients.

Those who consulted him will remember with what a pleasant greeting he suspended dictating to his amanuensis; but comparatively few know how easily he resumed, at the point of interruption, and how often this occurred.
His manner, at the Bar, was no less happy.  Avoiding vain flights of oratory, he, in a conversational tone, took court or jury into his confidence, which, as he did not pervert facts, was reciprocal.

To serve a client's interests, he would turn night into day, unfortunately without the compensation of rest when day returned; so the wonder is not that he survived threescore and ten by only two years, but that, in spite of over-work, he reached the allotted term of well preserved old manhood.

No country has had a permanently satisfactory insolvent law, because of the conflicting interests of creditors, who ought to be paid in full, and of debtors who expect discharge because their estates have been taken from them; yet the late Sir John, deeming Lower Canada's saisie-arret to be half an Insolvent Act, so ingeniously supplemented it, through the experience of other countries, that he gave Canada an Act which had a long term of usefulness, and, if (possibly) of abuse, it is remarkable that when Government resolved upon a new Insolvency measure, they retained the Hon. Mr. Abbott's assistance. The late 
Sir John could the better use his deep knowledge of Commercial Law in helping his clients, as he had mastered the principles of book-keeping and of commercial business.

Early in his practice he had for clients the Molsons, Allans, Merchants Bank and Molsons Bank and, from its inception, the Canadian Pacific Railway, the solicitorship of which he resigned to take the rest that was soon interrupted by the death of the Rt. Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald. It then became evident that, while a number desired to be Premier, his hand, though weakened by disease and advancing years, could best steady the helm of State, and although he reached the Prime Ministership without having manifested ambition for the position, and at a time when he was unfitted for the cares of office, such were his resources and adaptability that even his enemies do not charge him with one radical error. The purity of his official life is evident, for his last will and testament apparently disposes of a smaller sum than, in 1882, his well informed friend, the late Sir Hugh Allan, declared him possessed of. the soundness of his opinions, his sincerity and faithfulness inspired such respect that, in 1857, his old neighbors elected him to Parliament, and they frequently repeated this, during a period of over thirty years, and when, in the time of the Trent affair, war seemed imminent, they and their sons volunteered to follow him as leader.
Beginning, like many notable Englishmen, as a Liberal, and ending as a Conservative, he was called to be a member, first, of a Liberal Government and, successively, member and head of a Conservative Government.

In 1887, his fellow-citizens expressed their opinion by a majority of 2,000, in a contest for the mayoralty, although his opponent was of the nationality of the majority.   In 1888, his conduct had apparently converted the few dissentients of 1887, for he was then elected by acclamation.

Capitalists, who are sensitive to their interests, elected him to the Directorship of the most important  financial institutions, notably the Citizens' Insurance Company, Merchants Bank, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Pacific Railway.

Among recent testimonials, in the public press, occur these expressions:-
"As a man he was, in many respects,  the most perfect I  have met.''
'' He was polite and good-natured."
" Intercourse with him was always pleasant."
'' Sir John will  always be remembered as one of the cleverest lawyers Montreal has had."
'' In the defence of the St. Albans  raiders, he proved himself of great strength, and the peroration of his address will always be looked upon as a gem."
'' He was probably the most successful lawyer of his time. "
"As Mayor of Montreal, he undoubtedly was the best presiding officer they ever had at the City Hall."
'' As an opponent, I always found him loyal  to the core."
'' At a critical moment in the history of the Liberal-Conservative party and Government of Canada, he nobly and patriotically assumed their direction, and conducted the administration of our public affairs with credit and distinction."
La Minerve says :-" He was a friend of our race."
La Patrie :-" With him there disappears one of the great men of the Canadian Tory Party."
The Star:--" When the great Sir John fell in the thickest of the fight, the soldiery about him could unite, for the time, under no other leader than J. J. C. Abbott."

Lord Mount-Stephen and Sir Donald Smith engaged his presidency of the Directors of the Royal Hospital, which cost them more than a million dollars. In view of such unanimity of esteem, it is not surprising that, in 1892, Her Majesty honored him with knighthood.

He peacefully died, at his home, on Monday, the 30th day of October, 1893. His wife, daughter of the late very Reverend Dean Bethune, and four sons and four daughters survive him. His sons, John B. Abbott and Harry Abbott, Q.C., continue the legal business their father began. William Abbott and  Arthur Abbott are leading manufacturers, and R. W. Heneker, one of Sir John's sons-in law, is solicitor of the 
Canadian Pacific Railway.

That Sir John's smile and manner were no mask, is evident from his last will and  testament,  which  proves the astute diplomatist to have possessed fine sensibilities and deep affection.  Among hundreds who were present at his funeral were 
Sir John Thompson, his successor as Premier, Sir William Dawson, Chief Justice Sir Francis JohnsonSir Charles Tupper, Hon. W. B. IvesPeter RedpathJohn H. R. Molson, Andrew AllanHon. Judge Baby, Hon. Judge Tait, Hon. Judge Hall, Hon. Judge Wurtele,   Hon. Judge MathieuHon. Judge Taschereau,   Hon. Judge Gill, Hon. Judge Jette and Hon. Judge Davidson,  the Hon. George Drummond
F. Wolferstan Thomas,   R. B. AngusRichard White and many other distinguished persons.  His Excellency the Governor General, whose Aides followed in the procession, was in the Cathedral,
attended by Lady Aberdeen.


*Researching J.J.C. Abbott..............Elizabeth Abbott (            )

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