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
By Fred'k Wm. Terrill, Printed by John Lovell & Son, Montreal 1893
The Late Sir John J. Caldwell
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.
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
Early in his practice he had for clients the Molsons,
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.
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:-
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
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
*Researching J.J.C. Abbott..............Elizabeth Abbott ( )