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Matthew Crooks Cameron, son of John McAlpin Cameron, was born at Dundas, Ontario, on the 2nd day of October, 1822. His father was a descendant of the Camerons of Fassifern, Scotland, and emigrated from Inverness-shire, to Upper Canada, in 1819, settling at Dundas, where he engaged in the mercantile business; subsequently discharged the duties of deputy postmaster, under Thomas Allan Stayner, then the Imperial Postmaster-General for Canada, at Hamilton, and also deputy clerk of the Crown for the then Gore district; later he was student at law with Sir Allan MacNab, with whom he remained until he was appointed the first permanent clerk of committees in the Parliament of Upper Canada, which responsible position he retained until he entered the service of the Canada Company, in whose office in Toronto, he held an important position for many years. Coming to this part of the country as he did, when it was yet undeveloped, and but sparsely settled, and engaging in active life, Mr. Cameron became well and widely known. He died at Toronto, in November 1866, aged seventy-nine years. The name of our subject’s mother was Nancy nee Foy, a native of Northumberland, England.
The primary education of Matthew Crooks, was obtained, first at a school in Hamilton, under a Mr. Randall, and afterwards the district school in Toronto, which he attended for a short time. In 1838 he entered Upper Canada College, where he studied until 1840, when, in consequence of an accident while out shooting by which he lost a leg, he had to retire; two years later he entered the office of Messrs. Gamble and Boulton, of Toronto, as student-at-law, where he remained until Hilary term, 1849, when he was called to the Bar of the Province of Ontario, (then Upper Canada). He engaged in Toronto in the practice of his profession, first, with Mr. Boulton, his former master; this firm continued until the law partnership of Messrs. Cayley and Cameron was formed, the senior member being the Hon. WilIiam Cayley, an English barrister, and at one time Inspector-General of the Province of Canada; in 1859 Mr. Cayley retired, and Dr. McMichael entered, the firm then becoming Messrs. Cameron and McMichael; later Mr. E. Fitzgerald became a partner in the business, and his name added to the name and style of the firm, remaining so for several years. On the retirement of Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Hoskin became a member of the firm, and it remained Cameron, McMichael and Hoskin until the senior partner’s elevation to the Bench in November 1878. His appointment was the recognition of true merit and legal ability. As a lawyer he was eminent in every department of his profession, but particularly excelled before a jury; possessing an excellent power of analyzing and arranging facts, combined with an impressive manner of speaking he delivered his arguments with a logical force and clearness rarely surpassed. The same qualities of mind may also be said to render his rulings and decisions on the Bench equally clear and explicit; was created a Queen’s Counsel in 1863, and elected a Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario, in 1871.
The first public office held by Judge Cameron was that of a commissioner with Col. Coffin, appointed by the Government, in 1852, to enquire into the causes of accidents which had been of frequent occurrence on the Great Western railway. From 1859, when he represented St. James’ ward in the city council, he figured prominently in public life; in 1861, and again a few years later, at the solicitation of many citizens, he contested the mayoralty unsuccessfully. In 1861 he entered politics, and sat for North Ontario in the Canada Assembly, from the general election of that year, until the general election in 1863, when he was defeated. But in July 1864, he was re-elected for the same seat, which he continued to hold until Confederation, when he was again unsuccessful. At the general provincial election in 1867, he was returned to the Ontario Parliament from East Toronto, and re-elected in 1871 and 1875. He was a member of the Executive Council of Ontario in the Sandfield Macdonald Administration from July 20, 1867, until the resignation of the ministry, December 19, 1871, and with the exception of the last five months of this period, when he was Commissioner of Crown Lands, he held the offices of Provincial Secretary and Registrar. He was also leader, and a very able one too, of the Opposition, for the four years subsequent to the general election in December, 1871.
While in politics Judge Cameron was a formidable opponent of the Reform party, and aided in forming the Liberal Conservative Association of Toronto; became its first president, and held that office until his elevation to the Bench; was also vice-president of the Liberal Conservative Convention which assembled in Toronto, September 23, 1874; was one of the promoters and became a director of the Dominion Telegraph Company, and also of the Confederation Life and the Isolated Risk Insurance Companies, all of which proved successful enterprises, and have become permanent institutions.
In religious views Judge Cameron adheres to the Church of England, of which he is a member; is also a member of the Caledonian and St. Andrew’s Societies.
December 1, 1851, he was married in Toronto, to Miss Charlotte Ross, daughter of William Wedd, Esq., an English gentleman, who immediately, prior to his death, resided in Hamilton, Ont. She died January 14, 1863, leaving three sons and three daughters who are all still living in Toronto. The eldest son is Dr. Irving Heward Cameron, a practicing physician of this city.