HOBSON, BENJAMIN, teacher and jp; b. c. 1737; d. c. 1832 in New Carlisle, Lower Canada.
Benjamin Hobson apparently served in Major-General John Burgoyne*’s army during the American revolution. He then established himself at Quebec, opening a school in Lower Town in 1778. Subsequently he moved to Yamachiche, where he taught for some years.
In 1784 Hobson decided to settle in the Gaspé peninsula, as did a large group of loyalists. He sailed on 9 June 1784. He seems to have been married by then, but he did not take any children with him. He chose to live in New Carlisle, a village selected by the British government as an administrative centre and rallying point for the English-speaking population in the region. New Carlisle already had 22 families.
Two years after arriving in the Gaspé, Hobson founded a Protestant primary school. At that time the government paid him £37 10s. 0d. a year. In 1790 he was one of four Protestant teachers in the province receiving a salary from the government, his being the sum of £25 annually. The New Carlisle school was the first institution of its kind outside the large centres to be recognized in the province. Hobson taught in his own home, without receiving any compensation whatever for the use of his premises.
This situation lasted until 1801, when the act setting up the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning was proclaimed. The school in New Carlisle then became the responsibility of that body. Hobson’s salary was increased to £45, and a house was found where he could teach his pupils. The parents in the locality, however, more or less took on the upkeep of the establishment, partly in money, partly in kind. The people of New Carlisle did not build a real school until 1821, when the secretary of the Royal Institution, Joseph Langley Mills, threatened in writing to have payment of Hobson’s salary stopped, a step which would have meant the closing of the teaching establishment.
Little else is known of Benjamin Hobson’s life. It seems that his entire career was spent in teaching. On 29 May 1811 he received a commission as justice of the peace for the District of Gaspé, and it was renewed in 1824. He had retired from his profession in 1822 at the request of the government, which granted him an annual pension of £30 in 1823. Seven years later when pensions were abolished by the government, protests were received from pensioners, but Hobson was not among them. It appears that he died in 1832.
BL, Add. mss 21822: 309; 21823: 161–63. PAC, RG 68, General index, 1651–1841: 341, 343, 356. Ivanhoë Caron, “Les maîtres d’écoles de l’Institution royale de 1801 à 1834,” BRH, 47 (1941): 21–32. Patrice Gallant, Les registres de la Gaspésie (1752–1850) (6v., [Sayabec, Qué., 1968]). L.-P. Audet, Histoire de l’enseignement au Québec (2v., Montréal et Toronto, 1971); Le système scolaire. Boulianne, “Royal Instit. for the Advancement of Learning.”