Richard Cartwright (born 1759)

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The Hon. Richard Cartwright (February 2, 1759 – July 27, 1815) was a businessman, judge and political figure in Upper Canada.

Early life[edit]

He was born at Albany, New York in 1759. His father, Richard Cartwright, had immigrated there from England in 1742. His mother, Joanne Beasley, was from a 'loyal Dutch family', and his father, an innkeeper and small landowner, soon became a pillar of the local community and was able to educate Richard privately.

Family loyalty questioned[edit]

During the American Revolution his father tried to remain as neutral as possible in the now rebel-occupied Albany, but a letter from Richard was intercepted by the authorities in 1777; this showed his loyalty was not with the American Patriots.

Departs for Canada[edit]

The younger Richard was allowed to leave for Canada, but following his departure, now tainted by their son's loyalism to the Crown, his parents were abused and their property was 'destroyed and plundered', before they were 'conveyed away by guard to Crown Point' in 1778.

At Fort Niagara, the young Cartwright found employment as secretary to John Butler, and took part in military expeditions with his Loyalist regiment into New York. He soon saw the potential profits in supplying the British army; in 1780 he ended his military career and formed a partnership with Robert Hamilton.

Life at Kingston[edit]

He settled at Kingston (which was then still called Cataraqui) in 1785, where he opened a general store. He built "Rockwood Cottage" as a family home. His business interests expanded to include importing and exporting goods, manufacturing and shipbuilding. He was an early proponent of free trade with the United States.

Political career[edit]

In 1788, he became a judge in the Court of Common Pleas and, in 1789, was named to the land board for the Mecklenburg District. He became a member of the Legislative Council for the province in 1792. He helped bring John Strachan to Upper Canada in 1792 to help improve educational facilities in the province. Unlike Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, Cartwright believed that English institutions should be adapted to Upper Canada's needs, and he opposed encouraging Americans to immigrate to the province. He served as an officer in the militia during the War of 1812. Cartwright died in Kingston in 1815.

Family[edit]

He was a cousin of Richard Beasley. In 1785 Cartwright married Magdalen Secord, from a well-known Loyalist family, sister-in-law of Laura Secord. His son, John Solomon, became a judge and political figure in the Province of Canada. His grandson, Sir Richard John Cartwright, became a Kingston lawyer and Canadian political figure.

The former township of Cartwright in Durham County was named in his honour.

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