BALDWIN, CONNELL JAMES, soldier and public servant; b. 1777 at Clogheneagh (County Cork, Republic of Ireland), son of Dr James Baldwin, mp, and Mary O’Connell; m. in 1830 Mary Sprague of Albany, N.Y., by whom he had one son and six daughters; d. 14 Dec. 1861 at Toronto, Canada West.
Connell James Baldwin was a member of a distinguished Irish family which included such military men as General Count Daniel O’Connell of the Irish Brigade of the French army. Baldwin’s brother Herbert became mp for Dublin, and Daniel O’Connell, “the Liberator,” was his cousin; the Upper Canadian Reform leader, Robert Baldwin*, was also a distant relative. After an education at a Jesuit college, probably either Saint-Omer in Brittany or Stonyhurst School in England, Connell Baldwin joined the Royal Navy at 14. Invalided out at 16, he joined the army and took a course at Farnham Military College. He fought with distinction in many of the major battles of the Peninsular War, gaining a medal and ten clasps, the position of aide-de-camp to General Thomas Picton, the rank of captain, and a pension because of four wounds.
After the war Baldwin did garrison duty as brigade-major in Britain and in the West Indies from 1820 until 1826, when he retired on half pay. From 1826 to 1828 he was involved in raising and commanding a regiment, composed largely of troops he had commanded in the Peninsular War, to serve under Emperor Dom Pedro I in Brazil. When his troops were used as common labourers Baldwin demanded a discharge for the men and passage home to Ireland.
In 1828 Baldwin immigrated to Canada and was joined by some of the men he had commanded in Brazil, including Father William John O’Grady*. Baldwin was granted 400 acres near Peterborough, where he lived briefly, and 400 acres in Toronto Gore Township where in 1830 he built a school and church for his neighbours, followers, and dependents, and established himself as a country squire. He served as a justice of the peace and had a reputation for great fair-mindedness in his decisions in the minor civil suits with which he dealt. A commissioner of roads, he was also a militia colonel from 1835 to 1851. Politically he was a moderate Reformer strongly identified with Irish Catholic interests. In the mid 1830s he corresponded publicly with William Lyon Mackenzie over the activities of the Orange Order and Tory indifference to what he saw as the Orange menace.
When rebellion broke out in 1837, however, Baldwin remained loyal to the government. He raised a corps of 1,200 men at his own expense for the defence of the Niagara frontier. This operation caused him much difficulty later: because of their poor quality Baldwin had refused uniforms he had ordered, and the supplier successfully sued for payment. Baldwin refused to petition for compensation because he felt the government would of itself grant aid, and he was forced to commute his half pay to discharge his debts. Left with only his wound pension, Baldwin had to reduce the scale of his activities. He closed his school but served on the board of trustees of the local separate school district when it was organized in 1841. He continued as a jp, but as a matter of pride never accepted a fee.
In the 1841 election he was a Reform candidate in the Orange stronghold of the 2nd York riding. Running against a rabid Orangeman, George Duggan* Jr, Baldwin withdrew to avoid bloodshed, but was not renominated when a new election was ordered in 1842, probably as a result of the disadvantage posed by his religion. In 1847, when cholera swept Toronto, Baldwin turned his home into a private hospital and cared for many of the destitute and diseased immigrants. He knew intimately and worked closely in the cause of Catholicism with bishops Alexander Macdonell*, Michael Power*, and Armand-François-Marie de Charbonnel*. In 1859–60 he was a leader in the successful struggle of Toronto-area Catholics to stop the visiting Prince of Wales from recognizing the Orange Order by walking through its welcoming arch.
Baldwin died in 1861 while visiting Toronto. He had served in many capacities, particularly for the Reform party, the Catholic Church, and the underprivileged. Yet when he died, and after the death of his son some months later, his wife and daughters were left with heavy debts. Only a strong campaign by his nephew, Moore A. Higgins, and some of his friends secured Mrs Baldwin a tiny pension.
PAO, Mackenzie-Lindsey papers, clippings, box 22A. Arthur papers (Sanderson). Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1841. Canadian Freeman (Toronto), 28 Dec. 1871. Church, October–December 1841. Examiner (Toronto), 24 Feb., 24 March 1841. Irish Canadian (Toronto), 13 Dec. 1871. Leader, 16, 18 Dec. 1861. Mirror (Toronto), October–December 1841. Chadwick, Ontarian families. W. P. Bull, From Brock to Currie, the military developments and exploits of Canadians in general and of the men of Peel in particular, 1791 to 1930 (Toronto, ); From Macdonell to McGuigan, the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Upper Canada (Toronto, 1939); From the Boyne to Brampton, or John the Orangeman at home and abroad (Toronto, 1936). G. S. Tavender, From this year hence, a history of the township of Toronto Gore, 1818–1967 (Brampton, Ont., 1967). J. R. Teefy et al., Jubilee volume, 1842–1892: the archdiocese of Toronto and Archbishop Walsh (Toronto, 1892).