MALLORY, BENAJAH, colonizer, businessman, militia officer, politician, justice of the peace, and army officer; b. c. 1764 in the American colonies; m. first Abia Dayton, and they had five children; m. secondly Sally Bush, and they had no children; d. 9 Aug. 1853 in Lockport, N.Y.
Benajah Mallory may have been the son of Ogden Mallory, an early settler of Wells, Vt, where Benajah was living at the outbreak of the American revolution. He later enlisted in the local militia as a private and saw action in several battles. According to American historian Orasmus Turner, Mallory was the “first merchant” in the Genesee country of western New York State. He settled in the community founded there in the late 1780s by the followers of Jemima Wilkinson. He was drawn, no doubt, by an “anticipated” connection to the daughter of one of the sect’s prominent members, though Mallory apparently never shared the religious tenets of the group. In 1792 he was listed as an ensign in the Ontario County militia. His father-in-law, Abraham Dayton, was interested in obtaining the grant of a township in Upper Canada near the Grand River lands of the Six Nations. In 1795 he and his associates, including Mallory, settled in Burford Township. Within a year Mallory had built a house and established a tan-yard, “at a great expence with other Improvements.” Bedridden from the outset, Dayton died in 1797. Mallory assumed the leadership of the small community of 21 settlers and went to “much Expence towards opening and settling” the township. He hastened to report his intention to bring the number of settlers above the 40 required under the terms of the grant. It was, however, to no avail. Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe* had become disenchanted with his experimental system of making township grants, and his successor, Administrator Peter Russell*, was determined to rescind them. The Burford Township grant reverted to the crown, but actual settlers were individually confirmed in their lands: Mallory was granted 1,200 acres and his wife was recommended for 200.
Within a regional population of nondescript, semi-literate, non-loyalist Americans, Mallory stood out. He had only cleared 15 acres by 1798, but he was a leader with both ambition and ability. During the reorganization of the region’s militia that year Surveyor General David William Smith* successfully recommended him for the captaincy of a local company. Mallory’s immediate interest, however, was land speculation, particularly within Burford Township. His claim to a lease of lands owned by the Six Nations occasioned a complaint to Smith by Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea*] early in 1798. By late 1801 Mallory had acquired stills, which he seems to have leased for some time since he did not possess a licence. On 2 April 1802 he took out a recognizance to maintain order in “his house of public entertainment.” Soon after, he purchased 560 acres in Burford, an acquisition financed by mortgaging the property to the Kingston merchant Richard Cartwright*. Lord Selkirk [Douglas*], who visited Mallory in 1803, described him as possessing a “good frame house” and “a large stock of Cattle – 50 head or more.” Mallory claimed at that time to have contracted to supply army garrisons with fresh beef and had sent “last year or before 20,000 lb from his own stock.”
He had thus reinforced his early prominence with economic prosperity. The establishment of the London District in 1800 necessitated the appointment of local officials. For the most part, the positions went to loyalist officers such as Samuel Ryerse* and Thomas Welch*, rather than to the non-loyalist, largely Methodist Americans who comprised the majority of the new district’s population. In May 1802 Smith had recommended Mallory to Ryerse as a likely candidate for the magistracy. Ryerse, “not being well acquainted with him myself,” soon learned of two incidents that did not reflect “much honor on his character.” In one case, Mallory had apparently demanded payment to divulge information relating to a robbery; in the second, he had, again apparently, arranged the robbery of one of his creditors, who was anxious to collect on a note. For his part, Mallory had become disenchanted with the officers of the local courts. In December 1802 he complained to Welch, clerk of the district court, about Welch’s fees on suits filed by Mallory; at the same time, he criticized the fees taken by the judge, Ryerse. Criticism of this sort was a justifiable and common complaint, especially among small merchants and farmers. But Welch had obviously detected an unsettling quality in Mallory’s charges; in his response, he offered the hope that “you do not mean . . . to advance your Popularity by impeaching the Conduct of the Judge of this District, and his Clerk.” Such a course, he suggested, would be inconsistent with the conduct of the “Religious, the Humane Capt. Mallory.”
Surveyor General Smith was the dominant influence in the area. His decision not to seek re-election to the House of Assembly opened the way for a formal political challenge to the office-holding élite. Mallory and Ryerse contested the riding of Norfolk, Oxford and Middlesex. In May 1804 Selkirk commented, “Electioneering seems here to go on with no small sharpness – his [Mallory’s] adversaries threw out some allegations to which he replied by the Lie direct – and he alledges they pursued him with a view to assassinate.” Mallory’s victory, 166 votes to 77, only exacerbated factional strife, which soon erupted in the Court of Quarter Sessions. After shots had been fired into his home in January 1805, Mallory claimed the attempted assassination to be the work of Ryerse or John Backhouse, a justice of the peace; Ryerse, in turn, implied that Mallory had had the shooting staged. The affair degenerated into a skein of charge and countercharge, which spilled over from quarter sessions into the Court of Kings Bench, where ultimately the affair came to naught.
The unruliness of local life developed from concrete criticisms of the administration of the district’s courts. In a small society, concern about such issues quickly acquired a personal dimension. When factionalism escalated into the political arena, the lines of division broadened. Thomas Welch denounced the Mallory-led group as seditious – Methodists bent on subverting “good Order.” He noted that one of them had announced that Upper Canada would become “a very good Country after we have adriven out of it all the old Tories and Half Pay officers, and have a new Constitution like that of the United States.”
Mallory’s initial impact on the assembly was negligible; he was, at best, a secondary figure. His support of William Weekes*’s motion of 1 March 1805 to consider “the disquietude which prevails . . . by reason of the administration of Public Offices” indicated his attraction to the fragmentary opposition in parliament. In the session of 1806 he brought up a petition for the relief of Methodists in their want of full enjoyment of civil and religious rights. More important to him was Ryerse’s charge that he had been “illegally and unduly returned,” being “a preacher and teacher of the Religious Society or Sect called Methodists.” In 1807 the charge was dismissed by the assembly for want of evidence: Ryerse had simply been unable to marshal his witnesses in York (Toronto). Some, however, such as Richard Cartwright, who was then a legislative councillor, claimed the charge was true.
Mallory had finally become a justice of the peace in December 1806; he was, as well, a captain in the 1st Oxford Militia. But he was identified with political opposition and symbolized the political beliefs frequently associated with the American settlers, whom Lieutenant Governor Francis Gore described as retaining “those ideas of equality & insubordination much to the prejudice of this Government.” Welch claimed that nine out of ten settlers in Oxford County were Americans. The Chesapeake affair of 1807 [see Sir George Cranfield Berkeley*] led him to believe that, in the event of war with the United States, these people would become “internal enemies” and were therefore “very much to be dreaded.” When in 1808 leadership of the opposition within the assembly passed to Joseph Willcocks*, Mallory became much more active in the day-to-day activities of the house and increasingly supported Willcocks’s initiatives. He disagreed with Willcocks, however, on such issues as the bill to give salaries to judges in the Court of Common Pleas, which, although favourites of the opposition, were unpopular in the London District. Mallory was the sole opponent of an amendment to the District School Act because the “inhabitants were much dissatisfied with the law as it now stood.”
In 1808 he was re-elected for Oxford and Middlesex. Throughout the fifth parliament (1809–12) the opposition became more cohesive. By 1811 Mallory was, with John Willson, one of Willcocks’s foremost supporters. They worked together on a range of measures popular with the opposition; they unsuccessfully attempted, for example, to pass a bill restraining sheriffs from packing juries and another preventing government officials from sitting in the assembly. They cooperated too in adopting potentially popular positions on other measures: they opposed the bill to relieve creditors with absconding debtors, voted to reconsider the state of loyalist and military grants, and opposed changes to the Militia Act of 1793. On the one hand, it seems probable that Mallory was politicized by his career as an assemblyman. On the other, he himself felt harassed by members of a vindictive provincial administration. On 15 Jan. 1807 Richard Cartwright had won a massive judgement against Mallory for debt – £1,887 17s. 0d. and costs. No doubt the judgement had an effect on Mallory, for the following year he sought a lease of Six Nations land where he had discovered iron ore and planned to build an ironworks. He eventually leased about 1,460 acres, but nothing was erected. In 1810–11 he lost three cases involving debts, one for a staggering £1,000 and costs, and two parcels of his land were seized. and sold to pay his debt to Cartwright. He was referred to in one case as “late of Burford, now a merchant and farmer.” In 1810 he was acquitted of assaulting a sheriff. Mallory later claimed it had cost him “near” $2,000 just to defend himself; financially, he was ruined.
The greatest success of the opposition in the assembly occurred in early 1812 when Administrator Isaac Brock* attempted to put the province on a war footing. The resistance to changes in the Militia Act (notably the opposition’s refusal to see an oath of abjuration incorporated in the act) was attributed to Willcocks and Mallory. Robert Nichol* reported in March 1812 that their efforts “to create apprehensions respecting the intended operation of the Militia Bill” had produced much alarm among young men at the head of Lake Ontario. A frustrated Brock dissolved parliament in May, hoping to secure, as Archibald McLean* put it, a new assembly “composed of well informed Men who are well affected to the Government. “
The old élite had withered in the face of popular opposition. In the ensuing election Mallory was opposed by Mahlon Burwell*, a close associate of Thomas Talbot, whose base of power was rooted in what amounted to a personal fiefdom. This alliance was determined to bring Mallory to heel. Years later Asahel Bradley Lewis* alleged that the hustings for Oxford and Middlesex in 1812 had been located in “an entire wilderness. So that Mallory and his friends were obliged to travel nearly 60 miles through the woods, to the poll, – there they found the ‘Father of the Settlement’ [Talbot], providing votes for his favourite . . . by furnishing all who were willing to support the claims of the Young Aspirant to office, and who were not already qualified – with location tickets.” Mallory derided this tactic as “the most blackest and unConstitutional Designs” and urged electors to “Repell oppression accompanied with tyreney.” His effort, however, proved futile and Burwell was returned.
Disaffection and treason are among the major themes of the War of 1812 and its effect upon Upper Canada. The population was overwhelmingly non-loyalist American; most, probably, were indifferent to the outcome. Some, such as Michael Smith*, returned to the United States while others, Ebenezer Allan* and Andrew Westbrook* among them, were immediately seditious; a few, such as Elijah Bentley*, sought the most propitious moment to declare their real loyalty. But the most sensational cases – Willcocks, Mallory, and Abraham Markle* – fall into none of these categories. Each man had had a record of political opposition, but only in the summer of 1813 did any one of the three become actively disloyal. Their treason then has to be understood in the light of changes taking place within the province at that time rather than by interpreting treason as the logical outcome of persistent opposition. Brock had used both Willcocks and Mallory as emissaries to the Six Nations; moreover, Willcocks had served at the battle of Queenston Heights in 1812. In 1829 Francis Collins* referred in the Canadian Freeman to a statement made in the assembly by Robert Nichol that Willcocks had been “forced from his allegiance by a vile conspiracy against his life.” Collins reported that this “assertion was supposed by many” to mean the actions of Judge William Dummer Powell*. Like Willcocks and Markle, Mallory could argue that he too had been persecuted, but by none other than Nichol. At some point early in 1812 Mallory protested to Brock that “many caluminous reports has been advanced to you by a mr Robert Nicol and Some of his Coagiters loath against my Private and Public Character.” The reports had accused him of disloyalty, of attending “Public Meetings for bad Purposes,” and of having been prosecuted. Mallory denounced the charge of disloyalty but admitted that he had indeed been prosecuted. To him, however, the court actions, both civil and criminal, were tangible evidence of a persecution that had begun after his election in 1804. His public record as a magistrate and militia officer could not be impugned. He had, he said, encouraged the militia to adhere to the crown and offered to lead them “to Repel the Ravages or intrusion of an invading Enemy.” But he was never given the chance. As concern for maintaining the rule of law withered before the civil élite’s fear of disorder after the American occupation of York in the spring of 1813, the three leaders of opposition, one by one, crossed the border.
Willcocks went over to the Americans in July 1813 and offered to raise a corps of expatriate Canadian volunteers “to assist in changing the government of this province into a Republic.” Mallory may have had some prior commitment to republicanism. Certainly what had begun 10 years previously as reaction to executive maladministration of government, when combined with his perception of military despotism in the summer of 1813, made him draw upon the only rhetoric of opposition that he knew, republicanism. Such language entailed a fundamental clash with the polity of Upper Canada.
Mallory’s formal enlistment as a captain in the Company of Canadian Volunteers dates from 14 November; the same day he was reported to have been seen by Major William D. Bowen with a party recruiting on the Grand River. Following the burning of Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) by the Americans and their retreat to Fort Niagara (near Youngstown), N.Y., Mallory was given command at Fort Schlosser (Niagara Falls), N.Y. In late December his detachment fought a spirited rearguard action against British troops advancing south after taking Fort Niagara. Mallory’s men again distinguished themselves at Black Rock (Buffalo) as the British continued their drive towards Buffalo.
Mallory was outraged by the United States Army’s obstruction of local generals and its resistance to establishing Willcocks’s corps as a permanent force. In spite of the opposition of superiors, he continued to recruit and paid his men from his own resources. Finally, as a result of Willcocks’s lobbying in Washington, the Volunteers were put on a permanent footing and on 19 April 1814 Mallory was promoted major. During the following summer the unit saw action at the battles of Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane. In mid July Mallory barely escaped capture near Beaver Dams (Thorold). Despite their effectiveness, the Volunteers were disintegrating; on 24 August Mallory sought a transfer because of a lack of recruits and a surplus of officers. He hoped to remain on the Niagara frontier where, he explained to John Armstrong, the American secretary of war, “I have no Doubt from the Knowledge I Possess of the Country . . . I can be more usefull.” Mallory urged a more aggressive military stance and the raising of 10,000 or 15,000 militia commanded by a “few Patriots.” He was convinced that Americans now saw the “necessity of Exterminating British and Savage tyranny from the Demain of Canada I am Sattisfied our effort will be the Last Struggle of the British in Canada.”
A transfer, however, was not forthcoming. Willcocks died in September and command devolved upon Mallory. He argued in vain for more arms and supplies. The Volunteers were hobbled by desertion and squabbling among the officers. On 15 November Markle and William Biggar, an ensign in the Volunteers and possibly Markle’s son-in-law, charged Mallory with embezzlement and felonious conduct. He was suspended and Markle took command. Mallory attributed the accusations to “Malevolence and black Designs Proceeding from a black heart.” The corps was disbanded on 3 March 1815 although Mallory continued to serve in the army in some capacity until 31 July.
In Upper Canada, Mallory had been convicted of treason at Ancaster in 1814 [see Jacob Overholser*] and his lands were later vested in the crown. He had sacrificed, as he put it, “both family & property.” According to Joel Stone*, his mother-in-law’s second husband, Mallory had joined the Americans “without the Knowledge or assent of his wife who was left in Canada with a family of five children.” She remained “sincere – as to her Congugal vows” and later “followed him when Sent for.” Mallory eventually settled in Lockport. On 1 Jan. 1829 a notice in York in the Canadian Freeman reported that he “has since figured in the Newspapers of his country as an adept in the art of converting the property of others to his own use, for which accomplishment he has been honoured with lodgings in a State Prison.” A letter of 28 March 1832 in the Western Mercury reported that Mallory, “one of the basest of the human race,” was “now lingering out his wretched existence in prison.” His wife remained with him throughout, struggling to support their family, “until she found that her said Husband . . . was,” according to Joel Stone, “if possible more criminally traitorous to herself than he had been . . . capable of being to both Governments.” She renounced him and returned to Upper Canada with her two youngest daughters to live with Stone and her mother in Gananoque. Early in January 1838 Mallory offered his services to William Lyon Mackenzie* and “the brave Patriots” on Navy Island. He drew a parallel between the traitors of 1813 and the rebels of 1837: he “had once Suffred from my takeing the Same Stand In the british Parliament in opposing dispotic tyrants.” Mallory later remarried and was baptized in Lockport in July 1853. He died there a month later.
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