Christopher Dunkin

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The Hon.
Christopher Dunkin
Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada for Drummond—Arthabaska
In office
Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada for Brome
In office
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Brome
In office
Succeeded by Edward Carter
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec for Brome
In office
Succeeded by William Warren Lynch
Personal details
Born (1812-09-25)September 25, 1812
Walworth, London, England
Died January 6, 1881(1881-01-06) (aged 68)
Knowlton, Quebec
Political party Conservative
Other political
Conservative Party of Quebec
Spouse(s) Mary Barber, daughter of Jonathan Barber
Cabinet Minister of Agriculture (1869-1871)
Quebec Treasurer (1867-1869)

The Hon. Christopher Dunkin, QC, PC (September 25, 1812 – January 6, 1881) was a Canadian editor, lawyer, teacher, judge, and politician.

Early life[edit]

Born at Walworth, London, England, he was the son of Summerhayes Dunkin (1779-1823), of Horsleydown, Bermondsey and Martha, daughter of John Hemming (1760–1825) of Twickenham, Middlesex. [1] He was a first cousin of The Hon. Edward John Hemming who came to Canada at his invitation. His family emigrated to New York in 1821, but his father died two years later and his widow remarried the eccentric English surgeon, Jonathan Barber (1784–1864), Professor of Elocution at Harvard and Yale universities, and subsequently Professor of Public speaking at McGill University. The 'exceptionally intelligent' Dunkin had returned to Britain to study classics and mathematics at the University of London and the University of Glasgow, but graduated from neither.

In 1831, Dunkin rejoined his mother and step-father in North America, continuing his education at Harvard University for two more years. Again, he did not graduate, but Harvard nevertheless awarded him an honorary degree and appointed him tutor of Greek and Latin for 1834-35. This did not go well for him: His Freshman class provoked what became known as the Dunkin Rebellion in which classroom furniture and windows were broken, followed by disruptions in morning and evening prayers. Dunkin's contract was not renewed.


As a loyal British subject and conservative, Dunkin did not hold a favourable view of life in the United States, and instead left for Montreal, where British patriotic fervour was at its peak. In 1837, he gained his first employment in Montreal as a correspondent for the Morning Courier. The following year, he was appointed secretary to the Education Commission, and then to the Postal Service Commission, before becoming Deputy Provincial Secretary for Canada East, an office he retained from 1842 to 1847. His diplomatic nature enabled him to work easily between all the political parties at a tubulent time in Canadian politics. In his spare time, Dunkin had started studying law in the offices of Alexander Buchanan and then Francis Godschall Johnson, and was called to the Bar in 1846.

He became a partner in what was then Montreal's most prestigious law firm, Meredith & Bethune. In 1849, the founding partner, Meredith, accepted a judicial position in Quebec City and soon afterwards Dunkin left to set up his own practice in the Eastern Townships which as an area was beginning to flourish but lacked talented lawyers. He established himself at Knowlton, Quebec.

Political Life[edit]

He was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1857 for the Quebec riding of Drummond—Arthabaska. He then represented the riding of Brome from 1862 until 1867. In 1864, he introduced a temperance act, known as the Dunkin Act. Dunkin was acclaimed for the Brome seat in the 1st Canadian Parliament in 1867 as a Conservative; he also represented the same riding provincially from 1867 to 1871. He was re-acclaimed in 1869 by-election after he was appointed Minister of Agriculture. He resigned in 1871 when he was appointed a Puisne Justice of the Quebec Superior Court.


See also[edit]