William Lyon Mackenzie

Section O, Lot 94
Toronto Necropolis

Born March 12, 1795 in Springfield, Dundee, Scotland, Mackenzie arrived in Upper Canada in 1820. He married Isobel Baxter in 1822, and together they had 13 children. On May 18, 1824, he entered political journalism by publishing the first issue of the Colonial Advocate. He soon became a leading voice in the reform movement. In the fall of 1824, he moved to York to be nearer Parliament. On 1828 he was elected to the House of Assembly for York Riding. Vastly popular, his venomous attacks on local oligarchy still caused reprisals. Political views produced libel suits, threats, physical assaults, and an attack on his newspaper office when it was wrecked and his types thrown into the lake. Scathing attacks on the Family Compact (whom he described in one of his milder moments as “a few shrewd, crafty, covetous men…”; and about whom he said: “A sordid band of land-jobbers grasped the soil as their patrimony, and with a few leading officials, who divided the public revenue among themselves, formed the family compact, and were the avowed enemies of common schools, of civil and religious liberty, of all legislative or other checks to their own will.”), led to repeated expulsions from the assembly. In 1834 he was elected the first Mayor of Toronto. He worked tirelessly (particularly during the cholera epidemic). City council adopted during his term, the design for the city’s coat of arms and civic motto of “Industry, Intelligence, Integrity.” He decided not run again, and returned to provincial parliament. On December 5, 1837, frustrated and disappointed in efforts to reform, he led and abortive armed revolt. He escaped to the U.S. where he continued to work for the “Liberation of Upper Canadians” until jailed for 18 months for breach of neutrality laws. He spent the next 10 years in exile, working as a correspondent for the New York Tribune, and wrote several books.  Was pardoned by the government in 1849, and returned to Canada where he quickly resumed both his journalistic and political careers. He served in the Assembly of the Province of Canada for Haldimand, and published Mackenzie’s Weekly Message. In 1857, Mackenzie retired from political life. He died at his home on Bond Street in Toronto on August 28, 1861. 

N.B.: Mackenzie was completely bald as a result of a childhood illness. He wore a bright orange wig which, in moments of unrestrained joy, he would whip off and toss in the air. In moments of unrestrained anger, he thought nothing of tossing it at whomever his anger was directed.

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