Among the honored names of eminent Canadians, there are none more worthy of honorable mention than that of the late Hon. John Crawford, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. He was the second son of the Honorable George Crawford, of Brockville, a member of the Legislative Council, who, upon the Confederation of the Provinces, was appointed to the Senate of Canada. His elder brother, the late James Crawford, sat in the House of Commons for Brockville, from 1867 to 1877, and was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 41st Brockville Rifles.
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Mr. Crawford was born at Manor Hamilton, County Cavan, Ireland, in the year 1817, but while yet a child came with his father to Canada, and was educated in Toronto.
Entering the legal profession, he studied in the office of his brother-in-law, the Hon. Henry Sherwood, Attorney-General of the Province, in this city, and in 1839 was called to the Bar of Upper Canada, and, after a long and eminently successful professional career, was created a Queen’s Counsel in 1867. He was for many years a Bencher of the Law Society of’ Upper Canada, and was regarded as being one of the soundest advisory counsels in the Province. By his diligence, ability, and close attention to the interests of his clients, he built up an extensive and highly lucrative practice, having entrusted to his care the interests of many private clients, and the largest commercial and monetary institutions.
While devoting the greatest attention to the business affairs of others, and though largely occupied with the management of his own property, he found time to give considerable attention to various enterprises calculated to benefit the commercial interests of Toronto and its vicinity. He was first President of the Toronto and Nipissing Railway, and did much towards its organization. He was also President of the Royal Canadian Bank, of the Imperial Building Society, and the Canada Car Company, and a Director of many institutions. He held a commission as Lieutenant-Colonel of the 5th Battalion, Toronto Militia.
In politics Mr. Crawford was strongly and consistently identified with the Conservative party, and in 1861 contested East Toronto with the Hon. George Brown, the leader of the Reform party, and after one of the most warmly fought contests which ever took place in Canada, obtained a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Canada, which he retained until the General Election of 1863, when he was defeated. At the first general election after Confederation, in 1867, he stood for South Leeds, and being successful, sat in the House of Commons until the dissolution in 1872. At the ensuing general election he was returned for West Toronto by a large majority, but resigned his seat, November 5, 1873, to accept the appointment from Sir John Macdonald’s Government, of Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, to succeed the Hon. (now Sir) W. P. Howland. Mr. Crawford, though taking a keen interest in political affairs, could never be said to have entered political life. He was induced to enter Parliament by those with whose principles he was in accord, and because he was probably the only man who, under the then existing circumstances, could have carried East Toronto in the Conservative interest; but, though an unwavering member of his party, and true at all times to its principles and Parliamentary leaders, he left to others the management of the party interests, contenting himself with attending to the commercial and legal legislation, which from time to time came before Parliament. Mr. Crawford was Chairman of many of the Committees during the time he was in Parliament, and was in every respect a most useful member. It is safe to say that there have been few of its members who have gained more of the respect and affectionate regard of both sides of the House than he.
His appointment to the chief civil office of the Province was a most popular one with his party and the public generally. His high social position, his connection with many of the oldest and best families of the Province, together with his well known administrative abilities, were all elements in his favor. He fully justified the high expectations of all, and, had his life been spared, would doubtless ere this have had new honors conferred upon him; but it was otherwise ordained by a Divine Providence, and while yet in the height of his usefulness and in the enjoyment of the honors so justly conferred upon him, he was stricken down, and on the 13th of May, 1875, lie died after about a fortnight’s illness. The Mail of the day following thus spoke of the loss sustained, not only by his family and friends, but by the whole community: “Toronto has had few better citizens than the deceased Lieutenant-Governor. In every walk of life he bore himself as a worthy man. His legal career was without a blemish. In politics he was a pronounced Conservative, and a true loyalist. His connections with public institutions were of a kind entirely in keeping with his good name as a lawyer, and as a private citizen. He filled the office of Lieutenant-Governor, the highest official position in the Province, with infinite credit; though in his time a politician, whose views were well known and settled, he forgot party in the Parliament Buildings and Government House, and aided his Ministers to the utmost of his ability in conducting public affairs.
“Aptitude for the profession he followed, the establishment of good connections, large family influences, and a long devotion to business, combined to make Mr. Crawford what is known as a successful man. He amassed a considerable fortune, and, though far from being obtrusive in any respect, he was not wanting in social qualities, which often shone out to an unexpected degree. In every way he was a man of excellent parts; a good husband, a kind father, a most excellent citizen, and a Lieutenant-Governor who well understood and never exceeded the lines of his duty.”
Mr. Crawford’s funeral was the largest and most imposing that ever took place in Toronto, and fully testified the high respect in which he was held by all classes of the community.’ The arrangements were made by the Government of Ontario, it very properly being decided that a public funeral should be accorded to one who died holding the highest official position in the Province. In accordance with a proclamation of the Mayor, the principal places of business and public offices were closed at noon, and long before that hour the fronts of many of the shops, hotels, and other buildings were draped in black, while at every point, flags at half mast met the eye. The streets were thronged with spectators, and between eleven and one o’clock a large number of citizens were admitted to the drawing room of the Government House, where the body lay in state. The pall bearers were the Attorney-General and Treasurer of Ontario; the President of the Senate of Canada; the Hon. (now Sir) W. P. Howland, C. B., formerly Lieutenant-Governor; the Hon. Chief Justice Hagarty, the Hon. Frank Smith, the Hon. Matthew Crooks Cameron, and Mr. E. Crombie. The procession composed the Volunteer Force of the city, including the Governor-General’s Body Guard, Garrison Artillery, Tenth Royals, Queen’s Own Rifles, the officers of the 12th Battalion; the Ontario Prohibitory League, and other Temperance organizations; the pupils of the Collegiate Institute, with the Rector and Masters; the pupils of Upper Canada College, with the Principal and Masters; the Council of Public Instruction; Professors of Knox College; the Professors of University College and Graduates; the Professors of the University of Toronto and Graduates; the Senate of the University; the Clergy of the City; the County Council of York; the Board of Trade; the various National and Benevolent Associations; the Medical Profession; the Members of the Bar of Ontario; the Chief Mourners; the Members of the Executive Council of Ontario; the Members of the Legislative Assembly; the officers of the Government and Assembly of Ontario; Members of the Privy Council of Canada; Officers and Members of the Dominion Parliament, and the Civil Service of the Dominion; the Chief Justices, the Chancellor and the Judges of Ontario; the Sheriff and officers of the Courts; the Mayor and Council of Toronto; the Mayor and Council of Hamilton; the Mayor and Council of Guelph; the Literary and Scientific Societies, and a vast concourse of citizens. On the arrival of the procession at St. James’ Cathedral, the coffin was received by the Very Rev. Dean Grasett, and the Rev. Canon Baldwin, the former performing the funeral service in the Cathedral, and at the cemetery, where the coffin was placed in. the vault.
In 1845, he married Helen M., youngest daughter of the late Hon. Mr. Justice Sherwood, who, with one son and five. daughters, survive him.