- Peter Russell (politician)
name = Peter Russell
caption = Peter Russell
11 June, 1733
30 September, 1808
York, Upper Canada
Cambridge- did not finish studies
occupation = Military officer,
government official, politician and judge of
Peter Russell (
11 June 1733– 30 September 1808) was a gambler, government official, politician and judge in Upper Canada. Born in Cork, Ireland, Russell attended Cambridgebriefly. His debts forced him to enter the British Armyduring the Seven Years' War. He was commissioned into the 64th Foot.
After fleeing due to gambling debts, Russell returned to the American colonies during the
Revolutionary War, seeking promotion in the military and being promoted Captainin 1781. He was appointed superintendent of the port of Charleston in 1782 before returning to England. Again in debt, Russell came to Upper Canadain 1790 to join the administration of John Graves Simcoeserving on the Executive Council and Legislative Council. Russell was appointed to a temporary judgeship in 1794 and also became Speaker of the Legislative Council.
Simcoe requested a leave of absence in December 1795 and recommended that Russell act as administrator of Upper Canada in his absence. Russell assumed the position in July 1796 and remained administrator until 1799 when Simcoe's permanent replacement was appointed.
Russell’s administration saw the peaceful transfer of six border posts from the British to the Americans under the terms of the
Jay Treaty. During his temporary appointment, Russell was at a disadvantage, however, as Simcoe had taken the vast majority of his officialr papers with him, leaving only twelve documents behind. This left Russell ignorant of British policy and of Simcoe's proposals for management of the province.
Russell attempted to tighten up the system of land grants in order to curtail speculation, nepotism and corruption. He clashed with the new chief justice, John Elmsley, (who served on the Executive Council as part of his duties) over issues such as the seat of government with Elmsley objecting to the implementation of Simcoe's directions on making York the capital. Elmsley also objected to Russell's self-appointment to the Court of King's Bench due to Russell's lack of legal training and the violation of the separation of judicial and executive powers. Russell needed the extra income, however, and ignored Elmsley's objections.
By 1798 it became evident that Simcoe would never return. Russell hoped to become the new lieutenant-governor and was disappointed when
Peter Hunterwas given the position in 1799.
Russell remained on the Executive Council but his influence waned and he had little power. When Hunter died in 1805, Russell again hoped to be named administrator but was passed over in favour of
Alexander Grant. Tired of Canada, he wished to return to England but, unable to find a buyer for his 6,000 acres (24 km²) of land, he could not afford the trip and remained in the province until his death in 1808.
* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2643 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
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