DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day

COCHRANE, HENRY – Volume XII (1891-1900)

d. 22 May 1898 at Jackhead, Man.


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

DUGGAN, GEORGE, lawyer, judge, and politician; b. August 1812, at Mallow, County Cork, Ireland, son of John and Mary Duggan; d. at Toronto, Ont., 14 June 1876.

George Duggan came to Canada as an infant with his parents. They joined John’s brother George*, in York (Toronto), Upper Canada, then settled in Hamilton. The younger George went to York about 1828 and studied law in the office of Simon Washburn. He was licensed attorney and notary public in 1833, and called to the bar in 1837 after an unusually lengthy apprenticeship. On 19 Nov. 1839 he married Phoebe Anne, daughter of James Rogers Armstrong and sister of Mary, wife of Egerton Ryerson*. When his brother John was admitted to the bar in 1840 they formed the partnership of Duggan and Duggan.

The Duggan family was exuberant in its opposition to the rebels of 1837, and George Jr more than the others; he succeeded in being captured by William Lyon Mackenzie*’s men. His uncle George, a Tory and office-seeker of long standing, had risen in Toronto from carpenter to coroner and the younger George, his protégé, showed similar ambition. He must early have been an Orangeman, and was district master by 1840. He sat as alderman in Toronto twice, 1838–40 and 1843–50. In 1840, 1848, 1849, and 1850, he aspired unsuccessfully to the mayoralty.

In January 1838 Duggan attempted to fill the vacant assembly seat in the 1st riding of York, and polled strongly behind John William Gamble, a Tory. A full year before the election of March 1841 his electoral address was out for the 2nd riding of York. The other five seats within the county fell to candidates of Lord Sydenham [Charles Poulett Thomson*]. Duggan sought but did not receive Sydenham’s backing; nevertheless his boisterous loyalism, his Orange order ties, his links with the Methodists through his marriage, and the Roman Catholicism of his opponent gave him an easy victory, and he immediately assured the administration of his goodwill. Election irregularities compelled him to fight the seat again in 1842; this time he decisively defeated Robert Baldwin* himself. In November 1844 he won again as a supporter of Sir Charles Metcalfe* “for British Hearts and Liberal Measures” against the low, scheming, Reform “oligarchy.” His most conspicuous parliamentary activity was in opposition to the bill, directed against the Orange order, outlawing party processions. Conservatives in the riding jockeyed for the nomination in December 1847. Duggan, the city lawyer, was thrust aside. Provincial party leaders then entered him belatedly in Durham against the county’s leading Reformer, James Smith, but he lost decisively.

Duggan hoped to be appointed recorder of Toronto through the offices of the city council and a Tory government, but the incoming Reformers in 1848 refused him patronage despite his assurance, made in confidence, that his lodge membership had lapsed three years before. He made an identical assurance, of his membership having lapsed three years earlier, when he again applied in 1850, even though he had been deputy county master for East York in 1848–49, and junior deputy grand master for British North America in 1849–50. Nevertheless, the Reform government, on the city council’s recommendation, and perhaps trying to buy Orange neutrality if not support, grudgingly appointed him recorder from January 1851.

The recorder tried minor civil cases. In fine judicial tradition Duggan shed much of the partisanship which petitioners had claimed disqualified him for the post. As one of Toronto’s police commissioners ex officio from 1858, he helped to enforce a new policy of refusing employment to all members of secret societies (such as the Orange order), and during the Fenian scares of the 1860s he worked to contain Protestant animus. In 1868 he was promoted judge of the York county court, and he remained in this post until his death in 1876.

By learning effacement and observing decorum in routine magisterial tasks George Duggan reached the lower level of the judiciary, and the two sons who survived him were lawyers. He had not attained the mayor’s chair and could not ensure his renomination as a parliamentary candidate. He was only a makeweight on a number of company boards and was not a member of synod (though churchwarden of St James’ in Toronto, 1862–69). His funeral nevertheless brought out the city’s dignitaries and 70 carriages, and encomiums from newspapers of all political leanings on a man “not brilliant but kind and conscientious.”

Barrie Dyster

City of Toronto Archives, Toronto city council, Minutes, 1838–50. MTCL, Baldwin papers, index entries for Duggan and Gurnett; George Duggan Jr, a.l.s. to J. C. Morrison, 20 March 1848. PAC, MG 26 A (Macdonald papers), 237, G. McMicken to Macdonald, 18 March 1866; RG 5, A1, 30 Sept. 1837; C1, 1850, no.2167. PAO, Toronto city council papers, 1838–50. PRO, CO 42/456, 417–21. Christian Guardian (Toronto), 9–23 Nov. 1842; 9 Oct., 6 Nov. 1844. Evening Telegram (Toronto), 15, 16 July 1876. Globe (Toronto), January 1848; 15 July 1876. Mail (Toronto), 15–17 July 1876. Patriot (Toronto), 30 Jan. 1838. Arthur papers (Sanderson). British American League, Minutes of the proceedings of a convention of delegates . . . (Kingston, 1849); Minutes of the proceedings of the second convention . . . (Toronto, 1849). Loyal Orange Association of British North America, Grand Lodge, Annual Reports, 1849–50. Town of York, 1815–1834 (Firth). Commemorative biog. record, county York, 397–98. Landmarks of Toronto (Robertson), III, 469. Middleton, Municipality of Toronto.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Barrie Dyster, “DUGGAN, GEORGE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 22, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/duggan_george_10E.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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/duggan_george_10E.html
Author of Article:   Barrie Dyster
Title of Article:   DUGGAN, GEORGE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1972
Year of revision:   1972
Access Date:   May 22, 2024