HOOPER, JOHN, printer, teacher, stationer, journalist, and author; b. 1791 in Cornwall, England; d. May 1869 at Saint John, N.B.
Hooper came to Saint John about 1817 as a printer and schoolmaster, eventually becoming proprietor of a bookbinding and stationery business on Market Square. In 1827, in partnership with James Stevenson, he commenced publication of the British Colonist. First a literary journal carrying extracts from such British periodicals as Blackwood’s Magazine, it later acquired the character of a newspaper.
In the spring of 1830 Hooper published an article signed “Hampden” which, according to Attorney General Charles Jeffery Peters*, was “a gross libel on the judges and the whole administration of justice within the province.” Written by Thomas Gardner of Fredericton it represented, without offering names, judges, lawyers, sheriffs, and clerks of the courts as being “unjust, cruel and rapacious.” Because it appeared at a time of great public hostility to the administration of the crown lands and the customs establishment, Peters despaired of getting a jury that would convict Hooper for libel against authorities. When the case came to trial in January 1831, the judge, Ward Chipman*, directed the jury to find Hooper guilty. Its verdict was guilty of publication without malice and the case was stayed, though the writer of the article was later fined £30. Hooper had conducted his own defence on the principle of freedom of the press, and public opinion supported him.
That Hooper was a firebrand is shown by his letter of a few weeks after the verdict to Henry Chubb*, publisher of the New Brunswick Courier, offering a duel for alleged defamation of character in a private quarrel. Yet in 1836 Hooper joined the staff of the Weekly Chronicle, an ultra-conservative paper founded that year to defend the unpopular policies of Thomas Baillie at the Crown Lands Office; he worked there until it ceased publication in 1860.
John Hooper wrote The advantages of emigrating to the British colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, etc. . . . (London, 1832); Emigration to the North American colonies: recommended to the attention of capitalists, agriculturalists, mechanics, and others . . . (London, 1832); and Practical information for emigrants including details . . . of the province of New Brunswick (n.p., 1832). New Brunswick Courier, 22 Jan., 9 April 1831. Harper, Hist. directory, 49. W. H. Kesterton, A history of journalism in Canada (Toronto, 1967). MacNutt, New Brunswick, 223, 237–38. J. S. Martell, “The press of the Maritime provinces in the 1830’s,” CHR, XIX (1938), 29.