George Hamilton (politician)
George Hamilton was a Canadian merchant and politician, who founded the city of Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton is a port city in the Canadian province of Ontario. Conceived by George Hamilton when he purchased the Durand farm shortly after the War of 1812, Hamilton has become the centre of a densely populated and industrialized region at the west end of Lake Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe...


Hamiliton was born on October 1788 in Queenston Heights
Queenston Heights
thumb|Brock's Monument|250px|Brock's Monument at Queenston HeightsThe Queenston Heights is a geographical feature of the Niagara Escarpment immediately above the village of Queenston, Ontario, Canada. Its geography is a promontory formed where the escarpment is divided by the Niagara River...

. The son of wealthy and influential Queenston merchant Robert Hamilton
Robert Hamilton (judge)
Robert Hamilton was a businessman, judge and political figure in Upper Canada.He was born in Bolton, East Lothian, Scotland in 1753, the son of John Hamilton and Jane Wright. He came to Canada as part of a contract with a fur trading company operating west of the Great Lakes...

, who later held important government offices, being a member of the Legislative Council and lieutenant of the County of Lincoln, and son of Catherine Askin(Robertson) , Hamilton was educated in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

, Scotland and appears to have possessed a keen mind for business and letters. The Scottish schooling of the era would have exposed him to moral philosophy and what later became the separate discipline of economics. It is likely that his education fostered scepticism as well as a commitment to freedom of religion
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

 and the right to hold dissenting opinions, attitudes that would surface in his political career. He married Maria Lavinia Jarvis in 1811.

Hamilton also served during the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 where he held the rank of captain with the Niagara Light Dragoons, participating in the capture of Detroit and the Battle of Queenston Heights
Battle of Queenston Heights
The Battle of Queenston Heights was the first major battle in the War of 1812 and resulted in a British victory. It took place on 13 October 1812, near Queenston, in the present-day province of Ontario...

 and Lundy's Lane. During 1814, British troops billeted at his Queenston establishment burned the property. This loss, combined with a familiarity with the Head of the Lake acquired during the war when Burlington Heights
Burlington Heights
Burlington Heights refers to an area of flat land sitting elevated above the west end of Burlington Bay in the city of Hamilton, Ontario.The "Heights" were the location of a British Army post during the War of 1812. Afterwards, the former army barracks were used as a hospital for immigrants with...

 was heavily garrisoned, may have prompted George Hamilton's purchase of 257 acres (1 km²) of Barton Township from James Durand
James Durand
James Durand was a businessman and political figure in Upper Canada.He was born in Abergavenny, Wales in 1775 and came to Upper Canada in 1802 to deal with delinquent accounts on behalf of a group of London merchants. Having seized the Bridgewater Works at Chippawa, Durand purchased the operation...

, in January 1815. Well placed and shrewd, Hamilton likely knew of prewar discussions about creating a new administrative district with a judicial centre. Within a year of his land purchase, George reached agreement with the owner of adjacent property to the north, Nathaniel Hughson
Nathaniel Hughson
Nathaniel Hughson, born: 16 July 1755 at New York. died: 1 November 1837 at Hamilton, Ontario. Farmer and hotel owner, Loyalist who moved to Canada following the American Revolution, one of the city founders of Hamilton, Ontario. Married to Rebecca Land...

, on a scheme which they calculated would increase the possibility of having the court-house and jail for the new district located on Hamilton lands, to the benefit of the values of both men's property. Together they empowered James Durand to lobby at the House of Assembly for the Hamilton townsite and to act as an agent selling town lots. The instructions coincided with the very week that the assembly and Legislative Council deliberated on the formation of the new district and the designation of a district town; the act was passed on 22 March 1816. The precise manoevres cannot be documented, but there is little doubt that the origins of the Hamilton town site, and its location back from the waterfront, derived from a complicated private affair involving Messrs. Hamilton, Hughson, and Durand. The new town was to become the capital of the new Gore District. Hamilton provided land for a court house and jail. The police village
Police village
A police village was a form of municipal government used in the province of Ontario, Canada, beginning in the early 19th century. It was used in cases where the finances or population of the area did not permit the creation of a village....

 of Hamilton was incorporated in 1833.

The offer they made to the government of Upper Canada included the granting of two blocks of land of 2 acres (8,093.7 m²) each to the Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

. These were to be reserved for the construction of public buildings. The overall design of the townsite, likely conceived in 1816, was commonplace. George Hamilton employed a grid street pattern used in most towns in Upper Canada and throughout the American frontier. The eighty original lots had frontages of fifty feet; each lot faced a broad street and backed onto a twelve foot lane. It took at least a decade for all of the original lots to be sold, but the construction of the Burlington Canal in 1823, and a new court-house in 1827 encouraged Hamilton to add more blocks around 1828-9. At this time, he included a market square in an effort to draw commercial activity onto his lands, but the natural growth of the town was to the north of Hamilton's plot.
As a private town developer, Hamilton's record was mixed; he literally created the town, but he clearly tried to shape it to benefit his private fortunes. The market ploy, a successful petition for the crown to return one of the original 2 acres (8,093.7 m²) squares, and eventual disputes over ownership of "the Gore" indicates his manipulative efforts. All the same, he left enduring marks on the urban landscape; the court-house square, the haymarket, "the Gore", and the basic street plan of the city core.

Hamilton represented the riding of Wentworth
Wentworth County, Ontario
Wentworth County, area , is a historic county in the Canadian province of Ontario.It was created in 1816 as part of the Gore District in what was then Upper Canada and later Canada West...

 in the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada
Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada
The Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada was created by the Constitutional Act of 1791. It was the elected legislature for the province of Upper Canada and functioned as the province's lower house in the Parliament of Upper Canada...

 from 1821 to 1830, where he tended to support moderate reformers and encourage immigration to Canada. He helped set up a canal
Canals are man-made channels for water. There are two types of canal:#Waterways: navigable transportation canals used for carrying ships and boats shipping goods and conveying people, further subdivided into two kinds:...

 to link Hamilton harbour to Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario is one of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded on the north and southwest by the Canadian province of Ontario, and on the south by the American state of New York. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, was named for the lake. In the Wyandot language, ontarío means...

 and worked to secure funding for the court house and jail.

Hamilton died on February 20, 1836. His body was buried at the family burial plot on the family's own farm. It is now part of Mountain Side Park. The monument (tombstone) at the Hamilton cemetery wasn't put there until 1894. (George Hamilton's body is not buried at the Hamilton cemetery).

Hamilton was one of a handful of important Canadians who recognized the colony's special needs and possibilities at an early date. His outlook on colonial affairs was truly that of a British-American, a hybrid with an element of self interested zeal.

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