BALDWIN, AUGUSTUS WARREN, naval officer and politician; b. 1 Oct. 1776 at Russell Hill farm, near Lisnegatt (County Cork, Republic of Ireland), sixth of the 16 children of Robert Baldwin Sr and Barbara Spread; d. 5 Jan. 1866 at Russell Hill, his estate near Toronto, Canada West.
Augustus Warren Baldwin entered the merchant navy as an apprentice in January 1792 but in May 1794 was able to join the crew of the sloop La Trompeuse. The captain, J. Erskine Douglas, a family friend, soon obtained a midshipman’s commission for him. Baldwin served under Douglas for several years, mostly sailing on the Home and Halifax stations; from 1798 to 1804 he was on the Boston, which in 1799 ironically chased the ship carrying his family to America, mistaking it for a French vessel. He was commissioned lieutenant in 1800. He participated in the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, and in 1808 received a gold medal and a commander’s commission for his part in the capture of the Russian ship Sewolod. After four years’ inactivity he took command in February 1812 of the brig Tyrian operating largely in the English Channel. His activities were apparently profitable: after one engagement off Spithead he received £100 for recapturing a ship from a French privateer.
Posted captain in January 1817 and retired from his command, Baldwin decided to settle in Upper Canada. He purchased a 200-acre estate from Elizabeth Russell, half-sister of Peter Russell*, located to the east of Spadina, home of his brother, William Warren Baldwin*. Here Augustus built his own Russell Hill and established himself as a landed gentleman. He was appointed a magistrate of the Home District in 1822 and in 1823 a commissioner to hear claims arising from the War of 1812. On 4 Oct. 1827 he married Augusta Mary Melissa Jackson, daughter of the Reformer John Mills Jackson*; a son and two daughters died in their teens.
Baldwin soon played an active role in the financial life of the community. Probably under the aegis of his brothers, William Warren and John Spread Baldwin, he invested heavily in the Bank of Upper Canada and in the Desjardins Canal Company. He also made a £1,000 loan to the firm of the merchant Quetton* de Saint-Georges, in which John S. became a partner, and in 1824–25 joined other members of his family in a shipbuilding operation.
Unlike his brother William Warren, Augustus was a Tory, and when Sir John Colborne was broadening the Legislative Council membership in 1831 he was appointed to that body. During the constitutional crisis of March 1836, when his nephew Robert Baldwin* and the rest of the Executive Council resigned in a dispute with Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head*, Augustus, probably out of a sense of duty, was one of those who accepted appointment to replace them. He remained on both councils until June 1841, when he was appointed to the new Legislative Council of the united Province of Canada. He resigned almost immediately, however, probably because attendance would have involved travelling to Kingston. His ornamental role in politics was summed up in Head’s A narrative: “his loyalty and his mild amiable disposition formed the conspicuous features of a character which was by all parties esteemed.”
In his declining years Baldwin was one of the patriarchs of Toronto. Between 1832 and 1856 he was frequently a director of the Bank of Upper Canada and he was also a director of the British America Assurance Company. He sold part of his land between 1850 and 1857. A member of the Church of England, he was a founder and first rector’s warden of St Paul’s Church in 1842–44. On 1 Oct. 1846 he formally retired from the navy, but was promoted rear-admiral in 1851, vice-admiral in 1857, and admiral-of-the-white in 1862.
Although retaining his faculties to the last, he unfortunately remained too loyal to his early investments. When he died in January 1866 his estate, aside from land, was valued at $16,512, but some $10,500 was in stock and deposit in the Bank of Upper Canada which failed shortly afterward; also his stock in the Desjardins Canal Company was by then a rather limited asset. The remaining land, however, rapidly became valuable; it was left to Robert Baldwin’s heirs and to Augustus’ nephew William Augustus Baldwin, subject to the life interest of his wife. Baldwin’s career demonstrates two points often forgotten: that not all Baldwins were Reformers, and that they were active in fields other than politics.
MTCL, Robert Baldwin papers; William Warren Baldwin papers. PAC, RG 68, 1, General index, 1651–1841, pp.138, 192, 445, 450, 670–71. PRO, Adm. 196/3. York County Surrogate Court (Toronto), will of Augustus Warren Baldwin, 14 Aug. 1850, and inventory of the estate, 17 Jan. 1866. Globe, 6, 10 Jan. 1866. F. B. Head, A narrative (London, 1839), 454, 456–57. Armstrong, Handbook of Upper Canadian chronology, 14, 35. John Marshall, Royal naval biography . . . (4v. in 6 and 2v. supp., London, 1823–35). Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians, 155–56. O’Byrne, Naval biographical dictionary (1849), 42. Wallace, Macmillan dictionary, 30, 343. R. M. and Joyce Baldwin, The Baldwins and the great experiment (Don Mills, Ont., 1969). T. W. Acheson, “John Baldwin: portrait of a colonial entrepreneur,” OH, LXI (1969), 153–66.