John Charlton, member of Parliament from Norfolk, is a descendant from the Chadtons of Northumberland, England, whence his father, Adam Charlton, immigrated to the United States, in 1824, settling at Caledonia, Livingston County, N. Y., and engaging in teaching and storekeeping. There the son was born, February 3, 1829, the maiden name of his mother being Ann Gray, a native of the Empire State. In the infancy of John, the family removed to Ellicottville, Cattarangas County, same state, where Adam Charlton was employed by the Holland Land Company; its lands, known as the “Holland Purchase,” once embracing most of Western New York.
The subject of this brief biography was educated at the Springville Academy, Erie County, N. Y.; came to Canada with his father’s family in April, 1849; located on a farm in West Dumfries, near Ayr, County of Waterloo, and four years later removed to Lynedoch, on Big Creek, Norfolk County, his home since March, 1858. He formed a partnership with George Gray, and the firm of Gray and Charlton opened a store with a combined capital of $1,000, out of which they built their store and dwelling house, mainly with their own hands; added, a little later, the lumber to general mercantile trade, and their business grew in a few years to liberal proportions. In 1859, Mr. Charlton sold out to his partner, and assumed the management of the extensive business of Messrs. Smith and Westover, in Canada. Two years later, in company with James Ramsdell, of Clarence, Erie County, N. Y., he purchased the Canadian interest of Smith and Westover, and continued the lumber business four years, when Mr. Charlton bought out his partner, and continued in the same line of trade alone. Success attended him, he being especially fortunate in the hazardous business of towing timber on the lakes. A few years later, he took a younger brother, Thomas Charlton, into partnership, and in 1873, extended his operations into Michigan, where, as well as in Canada, he is still trading. He is an energetic, straight forward business man, beginning business in Canada, as has been seen, on but little capital save pluck and perseverance, and placing himself years ago in independent circumstances.
Mr. Charlton had but little to do with politics, except to vote, until 1872, when he was returned to Parliament from North Norfolk. He holds that seat yet, having been twice reelected 1874 and 1878 his third term not expiring until 1883. He is an unwavering Liberal, and was a firm supporter of the late Mackenzie Government. He was the first member of the House to move in the matter of securing a Geographical and Geological Survey of the North West, offering a resolution to that effect as early as April, 1873, and repeating it the next year. He made the Government defense of the Brown Draft Reciprocity Treaty, in March, 1875, a speech for the ability of which he was complimented very highly even by the Opposition; and had charge of Secret Service Investigation in 1877, making an able report, showing a waste of funds in the management of affairs, and insisting that all sums illegally expended should be refunded.
In the session of 1878, Mr. Charlton seconded the address to the speech from the Throne, and subsequently defended the Government policy of a Revenue Tariff versus a Protective Tariff, in an exhaustive speech which was published in full in nearly every Reform paper in the Dominion, and was extensively circulated in pamphlet form as a campaign document. An edition of 50,000 copies of the Hansard report of this speech was ordered by members of Pariiament during the session for circulation among their constituents. That speech, which we have examined with some care, indicates most thorough investigation of the Tariff question, and splendid argumentative powers. Mr. Charlton is universally recognized on both sides of the House, as one of the best authorities in the country upon the Trade question. As a debater, he is not only powerful, but keen, being especially sharp at repartee. When he is on the floor, it is not safe to ask him a taunting question or to throw out an ironical hint. His answers are always ready, and like a “two edged sword,” somebody gets cut.
November 1, 1854, Mr. Charlton was united in marriage with Miss Ellen Gray, daughter of George Gray, of Norfolk, his former partner in business. They are members of the Presbyterian Church, of which he is an elder. He is an energetic Sunday School worker, a strong advocate of temperance, and a generous supporter of local benevolent and educational institutions, sometimes lecturing on moral questions and literary subjects.
Mr. Charlton is compactly built, about five feet and eight inches tall, and has a dark complexion, a grey eye, and an expression of the countenance which indicates firmness coupled with kindness and benevolence.