Date Published: 1795-1800
Binding: No binding
#1. John White (c1761-1800)
Autograph letter dated [Niagara-on-the-Lake], July 1, 1795, signed in initials, from J[ohn]. W[hite]., (1761-1800) White was an English Barrister who was the first Attorney-General of Upper Canada, 1792-1800. He moved with the capital of the new colony, from Kingston to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) to York (Toronto), living with William Osgoode at Niagara and with his wife, Marianne, who joined him in 1797 to 1799 at York, until she returned to England with their daughter, leaving their two sons with him. White also was a member of the House of Assembly, 1792-4. He quarrelled with his wife, with his colleagues, and particularly with Lt. Gov. Simcoe, and with John Small, clerk of the Executive Council. The latter challenged him to a duel. This was to be the first duel in Upper Canada. In 1800, January 3, John White, and John Small the Clerk of the Executive' Council, met behind the Government Buildings, in a grove on Palace (now Front) Street at the foot of what is now Berkeley Street, Toronto. White received a wound above the right hip which proved fatal and in a very short time resulted in White's death.
1 page & integral cover leaf; reverse blank.
The letter is addressed to his brother-in-law, Samuel Shepherd, at the Dragon Inn, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, and re-directed to Harrogate, Yorkshire. In 1783 White's only sister Elizabeth married his fellow student, Samuel Shepherd, who became a distinguished British jurist and throughout his life remained White’s staunch friend and patron. Shepherd recommended White as a suitable attorney general of Upper Canada to William Osgoode, who had been selected as chief justice of the new colony. White was appointed on 31 Dec. 1791. The government moved in September 1792 from Kingston to Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake); White and Osgoode lived together there until White acquired a house the following year. In 1797 he moved to York.
Although White had a significant impact on the legal and judicial system of Upper Canada, his historic claim is not to fame but to the infamy arising largely from the manner of his death and the circumstances surrounding it. While this was the first duel fought in York (Toronto) dueling was common at this time. In 1871 labourers were digging for building purposes and came upon the grave of Attorney-General White. His remains were carefully removed and deposited in St. James Cemetery.
The letter is dated [Niagara-on-the-Lake], July 1, 1795, and bears two postal franks, via HMS Adventure and the remains of a wax seal. It begins ''My Dear Sam, Such is my forlorn condition that I have not heard of you these fourteen months. . .How much longer I may remain without the consolation of hearing from you I have not a clue to guess. . .'' He hopes he has received the Bank of England Power, and the other certificates, presumably covering his salary of 300 Pounds per year. Enclose another such document and says he will write more fully later. Says the Gov. & Council have received instructions from the Duke of Portland ''that will be our regulator in the future.'' Prays God to keep all at home.
#2. John White (c1761-1800)
Autograph letter signed in initials, from J[ohn]. [White]. To Samuel Shepherd. Dated [Niagara-on-the-Lake], July 30, 1796; with postal frank Weymouth Ship LRE; & remains of wax seal.
White is anxious lest the offer of a Halifax appointment should be lost, & he has sent letters to Quebec & New York. Asks Shepherd to consult Mr. Strange (presumably Sir Thomas A.L. Lumsden Strange (1756-1841), Chief Justice of Nova Scotia). ''There is some irregular behaviour, that makes the situation to a family man awkward.'' It is said with Mr. S., presumably Lt. Gov. Simcoe, never visited headquarters, and that ''our general,'' presumably Gen. Peter Hunt (1746-1805, C-in-C., forces in Canada, applauds his behaviour. Hopes to fix his position before being joined by his family. Asks that the Mandamus regarding his appointment be put into a despatch to the Governor. Congratulates Shepherd on being made a Sergeant at Law; he was wise to refuse to take silk. Sorry to hear of the quarrels of his wife and his sister [Elizabeth, Shepherd's wife]. Is surprised Shepherd was obliged to use reason with her: never of much use in the past. Surprised to learn she had to be restrained from coming to Canada, when every letter contains positive refusal ever to live with him again. ''Is the game over - - - and is it left for me to pack the cards?''
?'' This melodramatic metaphor presumably refers to his marriage. Will write his sister.
''Our general'' has left; they departed on tolerable terms. They have always preserved decency between them, which is hollow on his part and, deservedly, on White's as well. He has always ''kept him in order,'' and therefore been treated with our outward respect than most. Sends greetings to all; comments on future of Henry, presumably Shepherd's son. Asks to be sent a ring for his watch string. 3 pages & integral cover page.
#3. William Osgoode (1754-1824)
Autograph letter, signed, from William Osgoode (1754-1824), Chief Justice of Lower Canada; held same office in Upper Canada. To Samuel Shepherd, dated Quebec, 2 Feb. 1800; with postal frank, 5/- paid annotation, & remains of wax seal.
''As he does not think Shepherd has any other correspondent in Canada, it is with surprise and regret that he must inform him of ''the unexpected dissolution of our valuable friend the Attorney-General in Upper Canada.'' Has received no direct account because of the season; but indirectly the news somehow reached Montreal and was sent to him. And as others have also heard it, there can be no doubt it is true. The duel was between White and Mr. Small (1746-1831). Clerk of the Executive Council, who called him out to answer for some disrespectful language. Further particulars not yet received. Particular astonished as he had just received a long letter from him regarding public events in Upper Canada, and his hopes for a new appointment to be arranged in the Secretary of State's office. Had forwarded certificates for this purpose, and had asked Osgoode to obtain the signature of Gen. Hunter on them, as he happened to be wintering at Quebec. Osgoode hopes that the friendship between Mr. Russell, the Receiver General of Upper Canada, and Mr. White will ensure that proper care and attention are given to the latter's two surviving sons. Russell & White were the only persons remaining in Upper Canada with whom Osgoode had kept up regular correspondence.
Any directions regarding the two little boys should be addressed to Mr. Russell. Hopes every regard will be given to them. Might also write to the House of Forsyth Richardson & Co. at Montreal, which had long done business with White, and showed much kindness to the sons when they were at school in Sorel. Osgoode would also be glad to hear from Shepherd, should he remain in Canada, He believes this to be doubtful . . . '' for to you I mention in confidence that I have made application for a release from my banishment or at all events for leave of absence during the next summer.'' Osgoode can imagine the painful experience of breaking the news to Mrs. Shepherd and Mrs. White. As a friend of White's, '' . . . I can lament the departure of a person of pleasing intercourse with whom I passed nearly two years under the same roof without two minutes of disagreement and whom I experienced to be a man of veracity & integrity . . .''
Four pages with separate cover envelope; & with certificate mentioned enclosed, dated from Upper Canada, Jan. 1800, addressed to the Treasury, Whtehall, certifying that White had discharging his duty as Attorney-General of the province for the past 6 months & had his half-yearly salary of 150 Pounds due to him; signed by Gen. Hunter. 1 page.
William Osgoode succeeded in leaving Canada the following year (1801), when he was pensioned off and returned to England. Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto is named after him. Robert Pilkington returned to England in 1803 and eventually rose to be inspector-general of fortifications.
#4. Robert Pilkington (1975-1834)
Autograph letter, signed, from Robert Pilkington (1975-1834), to Samuel Shepherd; dated Niagara, Upper Canada, 5 Feb. 1800. Pilkington was an officer on Lt. Gov. Simcoe's staff. Had promised a month earlier to send further details of the unexpected death of Mr. White in a duel with Mr. Small. ''It occurred to me and I observed much depended upon the state of mind Mr. White might have been in after being wounded; as he was perfectly composed and gave every necessary direction, I cannot question but you will receive all the information you may be desirous of without my distressing you further on so mournful an occasion.
Two pages, integral cover page, reverse blank. With postal franks, ''paid 25 cents'' annotation, & wax seal.
Robert Pilkington returned to England in 1803 and eventually rose to be inspector-general of fortifications.
Accompanying the four letters are extensive notes (10 pages) on the various postal franks used, and the routes they would have followed, and comments on the cost, the time taken to reach destinations, etc. With further notes on the contents and their historical background, and the persons mentioned.
Also, a hand coloured map of Canada & the US. And a complete transcript of the letters in the same person's handwriting (which on the whole is more legible than the originals). These notes appear to have been made by a collector in the 1930's or earlier, with the emphasis on the postal significance of the letters.
Very Good. Item #8098