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HUTTON, WILLIAM, farmer, teacher, and public servant; b. 22 Dec. 1801 at Summer Hill, near Dublin (Republic of Ireland), seventh child of the Reverend Joseph Hutton and Mary Swanwick; m. Frances McCrea of Strabane, County Tyrone (Northern Ireland), and they had five daughters and one son; d. 19 July 1861 at Quebec City.

Educated in Ireland, William Hutton apprenticed to a farmer before farming himself. He immigrated in 1834 to New York but decided to settle instead near Belleville, Upper Canada, where he purchased a farm. Unable to support his family by this means he also taught school, and was superintendent of common schools in the Victoria District from 1844 to 1850. He was a justice of the peace for the district from 1840 until his appointment in 1842 as warden; he held the latter office until it became elective in 1846. The district council appointed Hutton their clerk in the following year and, subsequently, the district auditor, but he held these posts only a short time. In 1848 he became a part-time provincial arbitrator for the Board of Public Works and in 1852 a clerk in the customs branch of the department of the inspector-general, Francis Hincks*, a cousin who often helped Hutton’s career.

Hutton had already shown an interest in the improvement of Canadian agriculture by organizing in 1841 a district agricultural society. In 1851 his essay, “Agriculture and its advantages as a pursuit,” won a gold medal from the Johnstown District Agricultural Society, and in 1852 he received an award from the Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada for his “Report on the state of agriculture in the county of Hastings.” Spurred by ambition and interest, he sought the position of secretary to the Bureau of Agriculture created in 1852 but, instead, became secretary of the Board of Registration and Statistics in 1853. When the bureau absorbed the board in 1855 he became its secretary. His position in the bureau, his enthusiasm for Canada’s prospects, and his connection with prominent Reformers, notably Hincks, probably account for his dispatch on a mission to promote emigration from England and Ireland during the winter of 1853–54. He lectured widely and also arranged for the publication by Edward Stanford of London of an emigrant guide entitled Canada: its present condition, prospects, and resources. It was the first of two pamphlets he produced for promoting immigration, and he also contributed to a refutation of observations of Canada by an English visitor, James Caird. His style was direct and informative. His writings were probably helpful to emigrants because they were based on his experiences and observations as an immigrant, a farmer, and a civil servant, familiar with different parts of the province.

As secretary of the Bureau of Agriculture, with a small staff under him, Hutton prepared the annual statistical reports, granted patents and copyrights, arranged for Canadian displays at exhibitions in Europe and the United States, assisted local agricultural societies, advised the government on the opening of colonization roads, and corresponded with the emigration agents who were sent to Europe beginning in 1859 with A. B. Hawke. He was conscientious and a capable public servant; he prepared the 1852 census with classifications and analyses of the statistics so that the general public could easily understand them and in 1855 his plan for a reorganization of the Bureau of Agriculture was accepted. He was in many ways the ideal laissez-faire mid-Victorian: a believer in self-help, a constant pursuer of personal and community improvement, and a supporter of public education as a means of personal and social betterment.

Wesley B. Turner

William Hutton was the author of “Prize essay on agriculture and its advantages as a pursuit” and of “Report on the state of agriculture in the county of Hastings,” Canadian Agriculturalist and Trans. of the Board of Agriculture of Upper Canada (Toronto), IV (1852), 1–7 and 194–98 respectively; of Canada: its present condition, prospects, and resources, fully described for the information of intending emigrants (London, [1857]); and of Canada: a brief outline of her geographical position, productions, climate, capabilities, educational and municipal institutions . . . (Toronto, 1857; 2nd ed., Quebec, 1860; 3rd ed., 1861). The latter was published in French as Le Canada: courte esquisse de sa position géographique, ses productions, son climat, ses ressources, ses institutions scolaires et municipales, ses pêcheries, chemins de fer . . . (2e éd., Québec, 1860). In addition, Hutton was a contributor to Caird’s slanders on Canada answered & refuted! . . . (Toronto, 1859). PAC, RG 17, A1, ser.2, 1491–93; AIII, ser. 1, 2393. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1852–60; Sessional papers, 1863, III, no.4. Morning Chronicle (Quebec), 20 July 1861. [G. E. Boyce, Hutton of Hastings: the life and letters of William Hutton, 1801–61 (Belleville, Ont., 1972), is an interesting and most informative work.  w.b.t.]

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Cite This Article

Wesley B. Turner, “HUTTON, WILLIAM,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 26, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hutton_william_9E.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/hutton_william_9E.html
Author of Article:   Wesley B. Turner
Title of Article:   HUTTON, WILLIAM
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   February 26, 2024