This Week in History


Francis Hincks

For the week of Monday December 13, 2004

On December 14, 1807, Francis Hincks was born in Cork, Ireland. This Presbyterian minister's son became an influential journalist, politician and colonial administrator in Canada.

His Excellency The Hon. Francis Hincks, C.B.
© Library and Archives Canada / C-003160

In 1832, Hincks and his wife left Ireland to settle in York, Upper Canada, where he went into business. He later worked as a cashier at the Bank of People and became friends with Robert Baldwin, a moderate Reformer. In 1834, Baldwin won the provincial elections and offered Hincks a position as auditor of public accounts in the new government of Upper Canada. Hincks left his position at the bank in 1838, however, to found The Examiner, a Toronto weekly newspaper that promoted the concept of a responsible government. Through this paper, he became one of the main spokespersons for Upper Canadian Reformers.

He also encouraged the coalition between Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, a moderate Lower Canadian Reformer. In 1841, the Baldwin-Lafontaine alliance won the elections and Hincks was elected as Member of Parliament for Oxford County. He was one of the leaders who helped foster the creation of a partnership between Francophones and Anglophones to govern the Province of Canada, which became the model for the Canadian government after 1867.

Robert Baldwin
© Library and Archives Canada / C-010671

In 1842, Governor General Sir Charles Bagot offered Hincks the position of Inspector General. He subsequently sold The Examiner and, in 1844, founded a new paper in Montreal called The Pilot. After selling this newspaper in 1848, he resumed his position as inspector general of public accounts. He succeeded in restoring the province's credit and stimulated its economic development by encouraging railway construction. In 1851, Hincks and Augustin-Nobert Morin were called upon to form the new government following the resignation of Baldwin and Lafontaine. This government, however, was accused of corruption in the railway construction project, and was defeated in 1854. Queen Victoria then appointed Hincks governor of two West Indian colonies.

He returned to Canada in 1869, and Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald offered him the post of Minister of Finance, for which he was highly qualified. While in office, he regulated the banks and currency. Nevertheless, Hincks slowly lost his zest for politics and resigned as Minister, retaining his seat in the legislature. He remained active in retirement, but contracted smallpox and died at the age of 78.

In 1969, Sir Francis Hincks was designated a person of national historic significance.

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