KINGSFORD, RUPERT ETHEREGE, solicitor, lecturer, author, and police magistrate; b. 20 Oct. 1849 in Montreal, son of William Kingsford* and Maria Margaret Lindsay; m. 16 March 1875 Alice Laura Marian Kingston, daughter of George Templeman Kingston*, in Toronto, and they had at least four daughters and four sons; d. there 7 Oct. 1920.
As a youth, Rupert E. Kingsford attended Upper Canada College in Toronto from 1861 to 1865. He then entered the University of Toronto, where he subsequently received scholarships in the classics and modern languages. A member of the university rifle corps, in 1866 he accompanied it to battle the Fenians at Ridgeway [see Alfred Booker*]; he sustained a wound and was later decorated. Following this service Kingsford reapplied himself to academic pursuits at the university, acquiring a ba in 1869 and an ma two years later. In 1873, after three years in the faculty of law, he was granted an llb. Because he had also attended Osgoode Hall as a student-at-law, he was called to the bar that same year.
Kingsford would practise law for at least 19 years, in a number of partnerships. Most likely he worked predominantly on civil cases or as an estate executor, rather than in criminal court. Throughout this period, and beyond, he engaged in a number of other activities, many related to the legal sphere. In 1874 he was made a commissioner to consolidate Ontario’s statutes. Appointed an examiner at Osgoode Hall in 1877, he was also a lecturer there from 1886 to 1897. He reputedly had a role in the consolidation and revision of the education acts in 1896, and he was instrumental in the development of the university act of 1901.
Between 1896 and 1914 Kingsford authored a number of legal works. Commentaries on the law of Ontario . . . (Toronto, 1896), an adaptation of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the laws of England, was, according to a newspaper account in 1906, the first colonial law book ever reviewed by the London Times, a claim that awaits verification. Kingsford’s other books, which made some contribution to legal scholarship, were a reflection of the textbook tradition of the period: cumbersome collections of case-law, notes, revised statutes, and a plethora of citations, all dedicated to enhancing legal instruction rather than providing a practical examination of the laws. Among the earliest instructional texts in Canada, Kingsford’s works called attention to the dearth of legal literature and fuelled the Canadian response to the British call for further texts.
Other pursuits allowed Kingsford to indulge his ardent imperialism. In 1886, a year before his father’s monumental history of Canada began appearing, Kingsford’s play The campaign of 1815 was published. A historical story about the battle of Waterloo, it underlined his belief that Canada and Britain must fight, united, to ensure liberty for all. His affiliations included membership in the Queen’s Own Rifles and terms on the executive committee of the British Empire League and as president in 1911–12 of the Ontario division of the Canadian Defence League. Kingsford held that every man should enlist in the reserve forces to help preserve the British empire.
Kingsford was most noted for his work as a police magistrate. In June 1894 the province had made him a deputy police magistrate for Toronto; in March 1899 the city elevated him to assistant magistrate. Kingsford presided over the police court when veteran magistrate George Taylor Denison* was absent and in April 1902 he became Toronto’s second police magistrate. He was responsible primarily for hearing cases of public order – his was the “drunk court.”
Kingsford dealt with vagrants, beggars, prostitutes, and the inebriated, people of often difficult demeanour. The demanding circumstances of his court were rarely acknowledged publicly. Indeed, the Evening Telegram, the only Toronto daily to report regularly on the police court, was relentless in its criticism of Kingsford’s adjudication of cases. His every judgement, his sense of justice, and even his intelligence were subject to debilitating scrutiny. In contrast, the Telegram revered Denison for applying a subjective and inconsistent maxim: “This is a court of justice, not a court of law.” Kingsford never developed the celebrated pace of Denison, who could race through an overflowing docket. He represented what Denison evidently despised in his courtroom, a true lawyer; Denison would “never allow a point of law to be raised,” whereas Kingsford revelled in legal argument and appeared to possess a “penchant for legal technicalities.” “Upon the bench,” the Toronto Daily Star would eulogize defensively, “he was not only zealous for a just interpretation of the law, but solicitous that those who appeared before him should have an adequate opportunity to present their defence.” Kingsford thus seemed to introduce something foreign to the police court: decisions that took account of substantive and procedural law. If fairly represented by the Telegram, however, the public was not receptive to such innovation. In January 1920 Denison reorganized the police court by placing expeditious junior magistrate Jacob Cohen in charge of the “drunk court” and relegating Kingsford to the overflow and the less onerous women’s court.
Until his death from pneumonia in October 1920, Kingsford remained loyal to his love for law. It had penetrated every aspect of his life, as a student, solicitor, and author, and finally, even if sometimes against his best interest, as a police magistrate.
Rupert Etherege Kingsford’s play The campaign of 1815 was published in the Canadian Institute, Proc. (Toronto), 3rd ser., 4 (1885–86): 149–74, as well as in a monograph version ([Toronto, 1886?]). He is also the author of several legal texts, all published in Toronto: Manual of evidence in civil cases (1889; 2nd ed., 1897), which went through two further revisions under the title Evidence and practice at trials in civil cases (1908; [new ed.], 1911); Manual of the law of landlord and tenant for use in the province of Ontario (1896; 2nd ed., 1904); The law relating to executors and administrators in the province of Ontario (1900; rev. ed. 1902; 2nd ed., 1914); and The law relating to wills adapted to the provinces of the Dominion of Canada: being Jarman’s treatise on wills (sixth edition) condensed with Canadian cases added (1913). A copy of the proof sheets for “Endowment of Upper Canada College,” Kingsford’s contribution to the college’s memorial volume of 1893, is preserved in the AO’s pamphlet collection.
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