CRAIGIE, JOHN, office holder, businessman, and politician; b. probably in 1757, possibly in Kilgraston, Scotland, third son of John Craigie; d. 26 Nov. 1813 at Quebec, Lower Canada.
John Craigie came to Quebec in 1781 to replace John Drummond as deputy commissary general for the British army in Canada. He had been recommended by Lord Adam Gordon, who described him to Governor Haldimand as a man with considerable experience in bookkeeping. When the commissary general, Nathaniel Day, left Canada in 1784, Craigie was appointed by Haldimand to succeed him as head of the commissariat, which was responsible for purchasing, storing, and distributing the army’s provisions and building materials. The next year Craigie became private secretary to Lieutenant Governor Henry Hope*, who in April 1786 recommended him unsuccessfully for the seat on the Legislative Council left vacant by the death of Conrad Gugy*. Craigie also carried out the responsibilities of storekeeper general and deputy inspector general of public accounts in Lower Canada.
On 13 Nov. 1792 he married Susannah, daughter of John Coffin and widow of James Grant. The following year Craigie and his brother-in-law Thomas Coffin* went into partnership with Thomas Dunn and Joseph Frobisher to found the Batiscan Iron Work Company, which operated iron mines and ironworks on the east bank of the Rivière Batiscan, near Sainte-Geneviève-de-Batiscan. Along with these various concerns he pursued a political career: elected for Buckingham in 1796, he sat in the Lower Canadian House of Assembly until June 1804. During the 1797 session he secured the passage of an act regulating trade with the United States and he proposed the establishment of public schools, particularly in rural regions, and the creation of workhouses or other buildings to provide shelter for the needy. In 1802 he was chairman of an assembly committee which recommended that the growing of hemp be encouraged.
Nevertheless, Craigie maintained his interest in the Batiscan ironworks, which he and his brother-in-law ran from 1800. That year the company, which had sought to lease the Saint-Maurice ironworks, was thwarted by Mathew Bell*’s group; with the complicity of Lieutenant Governor Robert Shore Milnes*, Bell won out, beating Craigie’s group by a tender that offered £50 more than whatever his competitor bid. In October 1800, however, Milnes recommended Craigie for appointment to the Executive Council, pointing out that he had always supported the government in the assembly. In fact Craigie from 1797 to 1800 had rather divided his support between the Canadian party and the English party, although he favoured the latter; he was appointed an honorary member of the Executive Council in 1801. From that moment on he became the most steadfast representative of the English party in the second parliament.
Craigie also had several temporary responsibilities: in 1794 he was a director of the Quebec Library, and in 1801 he was appointed commissioner for the care of the insane, for the building of the Anglican church (Cathedral of the Holy Trinity) at Quebec, and for the construction of a bridge over the Rivière Jacques-Cartier; he acted as commissioner for the construction of a new building for the Hôpital Général of Quebec in 1803. His successes were mirrored in his social life. By 1792, at least, he was living on Rue Sainte-Anne, in the most fashionable quarter of Upper Town, and in 1804 he purchased a house on Rue Saint-Louis from Adam Mabane*’s sister Isabell for £1,300. Among the godparents of the Craigies’ 12 children were Milnes, Dunn, Frobisher, George Allsopp, Roger Hale Sheaffe*, Henry Caldwell, and Isabell Mabane.
But Craigie’s success proved more apparent than real. He did not have the money for his new house and paid only an annual interest of £78. In 1805 he began to use funds belonging to the army for his personal undertakings; when he was found out, he was dismissed as commissary general in 1808 by Governor Craig, who unsuccessfully proposed replacing him on the Executive Council as well. Moreover Craigie was sentenced to pay back the money that had been misappropriated. In 1811 his stables on Rue Haldimand were destroyed by fire, and in the course of the following year the mines and ironworks at Batiscan were abandoned, after they had consumed the funds that Craigie had filched from the state. In November 1813, at about 56 years of age, Craigie died. He had still not paid for his house, he owed £24,000 to the government, and he had a host of small debts. On the other hand he was the principal owner of the Batiscan Iron Work Company’s holdings and had a piece of land on the Plains of Abraham. In March 1815 his wife renounced the estate in her own and her children’s name.
John Craigie represented what was probably a fairly common breed of person in Canada. Coming from a prominent Scottish family, he was to try his luck in a French colony which had been conquered by Great Britain and in which those of English tongue were well placed to assume positions of authority in the midst of a French-speaking population. With some political backing, he tried to climb the ladder of success and make his fortune with the state’s money. In his case the attempt ended in failure.
ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 23 Aug. 1784, 13 Nov. 1792, 30 Nov. 1813; CN1-16, 31 mai 1815; CN1-230, 19 déc. 1804; 11–14 janv., 16–17 févr., 28–29 déc. 1814; 30 janv., 21 mars 1815. BL, Add.
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Cite This Article
Christian Rioux, “CRAIGIE, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/craigie_john_5E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Christian Rioux|
|Title of Article:||CRAIGIE, JOHN|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1983|
|Year of revision:||1983|
|Access Date:||June 1, 2023|