George Benjamin (Orangeman)

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George Benjamin (15 April 1799 – 7 September 1864), born Moses Cohen, was an Orangeman and political figure in Upper Canada.

Background and early career[edit]

Born in Sussex, England, he worked for a time as a journalist before emigrating to the United States. In 1834, he arrived in Belleville, Upper Canada, where he established a Tory newspaper, named The Belleville Intelligencer.

Orange Order activities[edit]

He became a Captain in the local militia and a member of the Orange Order in later years. He helped finance the building of a plank road between Belleville and Camden. He served as warden for Hastings County from 1847 to 1862.

Though he was Jewish; in 1836 he became grand master in British North America for the Orange Order, replacing Ogle Robert Gowan. At this time, the Orange Order had a strong voice in Upper Canada. Gowan's attempt to regain control of the Order in 1853 led to a split in the organization which was only healed in 1856 when both he and Benjamin withdrew from the leadership.

Benjamin had many political enemies, he was the subject of a cruel caricature in Susanna Moodie's 1843 short story "Richard Redpath".

Elected to Parliament[edit]

In an 1856 by-election, he was elected to represent North Hastings in the Legislative Assembly, becoming the first Jew elected to a Canadian parliament. He was re-elected in 1857.


Benjamin died in Belleville in 1864 after a prolonged illness.


  • Brian Busby, Character Parts: Who's Really Who in CanLit, Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2003. p. 148-150.

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