Charles Poulett Thomson, 1st Baron Sydenham
|The Right Honourable
The Lord Sydenham
|Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada|
|Preceded by||Sir George Arthur, Bt|
|Succeeded by||Major General John Clitherow|
|Governor General of the Province of Canada|
|Preceded by||The Earl of Durham GCB|
|Succeeded by||Sir Charles Bagot|
|President of the Board of Trade|
5 June – 14 November 1834
|Prime Minister||The Earl Grey KG
The Viscount Melbourne
|Preceded by||The Earl of Auckland GCB|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Ashburton|
8 April 1835 – 29 August 1839
|Prime Minister||The Viscount Melbourne|
|Preceded by||The Lord Ashburton|
|Succeeded by||The Lord Taunton|
|Born||13 September 1799
Waverley Abbey, Farnham, Surrey
|Died||19 September 1841
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Born at Waverley Abbey, near Farnham, Surrey, Thomson was the son of John Buncombe Poulett Thomson, a London merchant, by his wife Charlotte, daughter of John Jacob. His father was the head of J. Thomson, T. Bonar and Company, a successful trading firm that had dealings with Russia. After attending private schools until age 16, Thomson entered the family firm at Saint Petersburg. In 1817 he came home due to poor health and embarked on a prolonged tour of southern Europe. He returned to Russia in 1821 and over the next three years travelled extensively in eastern Europe. He established permanent residence in London in 1824 but frequently visited the Continent, especially Paris.
Thomson was returned to the House of Commons as MP for Dover in 1826. In 1830 he joined Earl Grey's government as Vice-President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy, an office he held until 1834. He was then President of the Board of Trade under Lord Melbourne in 1834 and again between 1835 and 1839. A free-trader and an expert in financial matters he was elected MP for Manchester in 1832, a seat which he held until 1839. He was continuously occupied with negotiations affecting international commerce until 1839, when he accepted the Governorship of Canada.
Sydenham succeeded Lord Durham as Governor of Canada in 1839. He was responsible for implementing the Union Act in 1840, uniting Upper Canada and Lower Canada as the Province of Canada and moving the seat of government to Kingston. Later that year, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Sydenham, of Sydenham in the County of Kent and of Toronto in Canada. Upper Canadians were given a choice in the matter of union, which they accepted; Lower Canada had no say, and as a result many French Canadians were opposed to both the union and Sydenham himself. Sydenham was just as anti-French as Durham had been, and he encouraged British immigration to make the French Canadian population less significant. French Canadians referred to him as le poulet, "the chicken". Realizing he had almost no support in Lower Canada (at this time Canada East), he reorganized ridings to give the Anglo-Canadian population more votes, and in areas where that was infeasible, he allowed English mobs to beat up French candidates. Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine was one such candidate who suffered from Sydenham's influence; Lafontaine eventually left Canada East to work with Robert Baldwin in creating a fairer union for both sides.
Sydenham also settled the Protestant land dispute in Upper Canada (at this time Canada West), which the Family Compact had interpreted to refer only to the Anglican Church. Sydenham declared that half of the land set aside for Protestant churches would be shared between Anglicans and Presbyterians, and the other half would be shared between the other Protestant denominations. Sydenham wanted to make Canada more financially independent, so that there would less danger of annexation by the United States. He had been working on this policy throughout the 1830s, when he was President of the Board of Trade in Britain, though he had little time to implement any economic reforms once he had arrived in Canada. After less than two years as Governor-General, Sydenham died in 1841. He had been described as sickly and an autopsy revealed severe gout. Shortly before his death, he had resigned his position and was due to return to England within weeks. However, on September 4, Sydenham was "riding a spirited horse near Parliament House, but could not, for a long time, get the animal to pass that building. After a severe application of spur and whip, however, the horse proceeded, but immediately after, put his foot upon a large stone... not being able to recover, fell and dragged his rider with him, fracturing the leg, and lacerating it above the knee." This apparently led to a deadly infection. For fifteen days, Sydenham was described as suffering extreme pain, then died the morning of September 19, 1841.
Soon after its founding, the present-day City of Owen Sound, Ontario, was named Sydenham in 1842 in honour of the recently deceased Governor of Canada; in 1856, the community became a town and was renamed Owen Sound after the adjacent body of water. Sydenham is the name of the principal river that runs through Owen Sound. Sydenham was also the name of the former Township of Sydenham, which bordered Owen Sound to the east, and in 2001 amalgamated into the municipality of Meaford, Ontario. Sydenham Community School is located in Owen Sound. For more than half a century, Owen Sound's main street was called Poulett Street; in 1909, the community's street names were numbered on the New York City model, and Poulett Street became 2nd Avenue East.
Sydenham Public School in Kingston, Ontario, which has operated as an educational facility since its construction in 1853 as the Kingston County Grammar School, was renamed in the 1890s in memory of Lord Sydenham.
- Buckner, Phillip. "Thomson, Charles Edward Poulett, 1st Baron Sydenham", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Université Laval and University of Toronto, 2000
- Knaplund, Paul, ed. (1973). Letters from Lord Sydenham, Governor-General of Canada, 1839–1841, to Lord John Russell, New York: A. M. Kelley, 180 p.
- Shortt, Adam (1908). Lord Sydenham, Toronto: Morang & co., limited, 367 p. (online)
- Scrope, George Poulett and Charles Edward Poulett Thomson Sydenham (1844) Memoir of the Life of the Right Honourable Charles, Lord Sydenham, G. C. B.: With a Narrative of His Administration in Canada, London: John Murray, 403 p. (online)
- Portraits of Charles Poulett-Thomson, Baron Sydenham at the National Portrait Gallery, London
- Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs [self-published source][better source needed]
- "Biography". Dictionnaire des parlementaires du Québec de 1792 à nos jours (in French). National Assembly of Quebec.
- "Thomson, Charles Edward Poulett". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Charles Poulett Thomson