Robert Randal

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Robert Randal (ca 1766 – May 2, 1834) was a businessman and political figure in Upper Canada.

He was born Robert Randall in Maryland (Virginia in some sources) around 1766; after 1809, he spelled his surname Randal. In 1795, he was part of a partnership which wished to buy the lower Michigan peninsula from the United States government. In 1795, Randal was part of a partnership with Ebenezer Allen and Charles Whitney of Vermont and several British subjects in Detroit including John Askin and William Robertson, which planned to buy the entire lower Michigan peninsula from the United States government.[1] He was cited for contempt for attempting to bribe members of the United States Congress in conjunction with this scheme. In 1798, he petitioned for a 999-year lease on land near the Niagara River on which to build a foundry. He also bought a sawmill and gristmill on adjoining land. In 1800, he signed two-thirds of the business over to his creditors in Montreal. In 1802, that company, now bankrupt, sold its interest to a company in London who sent their agent, James Durand, to collect on their debt. In 1803, Randal set up business near Cornwall, Ontario, building a tannery and potash works on the American side of the Saint Lawrence River at Massena, New York and establishing up a ferry service. In the meantime, although Randal had not relinquished his one-third share of the operation, Durand sold the Niagara operation to Samuel Street and Thomas Clark.

Now experiencing financial difficulties, Randal attempted to set up a new iron works at the Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa River. However, in 1809, he was thrown into prison for his debts. In 1815, released from prison, he sued for damages in the Niagara District court. Although damages were awarded, the amount was appealed and the case went back to court. Randal's large property on the Ottawa River was sold at a substantial loss to cover legal costs. The property was purchased by John Le Breton and Levius Peters Sherwood. The legal costs were owed to Henry John Boulton, who never represented Randal in court because his father D’Arcy Boulton was the judge hearing the case. In 1819, Randal was forced to present his own case at the appeal; the attorney general John Beverley Robinson represented the defendant. The presiding judge William Dummer Powell threatened the jury with a writ of attaint if they found for Randal, who subsequently lost his appeal.

In 1820, Randal was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada in the 4th riding of Lincoln. He served as a member of the assembly until his death in 1834. In 1827, Randal presented a petition in London protesting certain conditions imposed on resident immigrants from countries, such as the United States, who wished to become citizens, one example being that they would need to swear against any continued allegiance to their former country; the colonial government was instructed to correct these problems in the legislation. Although he had originally opposed government aid to the Welland Canal, in 1831, he supported a measure to increase aid because, after participating in a commission to report on the state of the canal, he considered it to be important to the development of the Niagara region.

Despite measures introduced by the assembly to attempt to inquire into his case and Randal's ongoing appeals, he never recouped his losses. All too frequently, judges and political figures charged with looking into Randal's claims had a vested interest with respect to the outcome. Randal's case was viewed as an example of the abuse of power exercised by the so-called Family Compact in Upper Canada.

He died at Gravelly Bay in the Niagara District.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Account of a Plot for Obtaining the Lower Peninsula of Michigan from the United States in 1795 by J. V. Campbell". Collections of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan together with Reports of County Pioneer Societies, Vol VIII. (second ed.). Lansing, Mich.: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford. 1907 [1886]. pp. 406–411. Retrieved 2006-10-15. 

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