LYND, DAVID, office holder, landowner, seigneur, politician, and militia officer; b. c. 1745, probably in Scotland; d. 29 June 1802 at Quebec, Lower Canada.
It is not known when David Lynd took up residence in Quebec. He was appointed to his first post, as English clerk to the Court of Common Pleas of Quebec, in the spring of 1767, succeeding William Kluck. Whether prior to his arrival in the colony he had acquired the legal knowledge necessary for carrying out his duties remains unclear. Whatever the case he was never admitted as a lawyer or notary in the province. Like so many other legal officers appointed in the early years after the conquest, he may have had no specific professional training when he obtained his first position. The appointment as clerk settled his career. For the rest of his life he was to hold various similar offices in the courts of the District of Quebec.
The Quebec Act, which came into force on 1 May 1775, was supposed to put an end to the existing courts. However, since Governor Guy Carleton had determined, by a proclamation dated 26 April 1775, to maintain the former judges of the Court of Common Pleas in office as “commissioners” for civil suits, Lynd continued acting as clerk with the civil court thus created, pending the establishment of a new judicial system. But in November William Gordon arrived from London with a mandamus appointing him clerk of the crown (King’s Bench) and of the Common Pleas. Annoyed at this interference by the imperial government and considering it unfair to remove from office people whose past services had given him satisfaction, Carleton limited Gordon to the post of clerk of the crown [see Alexander Johnston*]. Since all the parties involved in this imbroglio agreed to the compromise, Lynd was able to continue in the exercise of his duties; he also remained register of the Vice-Admiralty Court, a post to which he had been appointed on 13 May 1767.
When regular civil and criminal courts were finally set up, in February and March 1777, Lynd was confirmed as clerk of the Common Pleas, and on 31 March was appointed clerk of the peace. In these two offices he had Nicolas-Gaspard Boisseau as his French-speaking colleague. That same year he was chosen to serve as clerk of the crown, as deputy first to Gordon, who continued to hold the office until his death in 1781, and then to Gordon’s successor, William Pollock. From 22 May 1779 Lynd acted as coroner for the District of Quebec, an office he retained until April 1792. He was also successful in obtaining an appointment in 1784 as register “for English matters” in the Prerogative Court. This court, which had been created by Governor Murray* in 1764, was mainly responsible for the probate of wills, issuing letters of administration in estate matters, and dealing with questions of tutorship and curatorship. Lynd was then in the peculiar and unique situation of monopolizing the office of English language clerk for all the civil and criminal courts of the District of Quebec, so that in April 1786 he could call himself “clerk of the courts of judicature of this district.”
The Judicature Act, which came into force in December 1794, completely reshaped the judicial system of Lower Canada, but it scarcely affected Lynd’s career. Although the Vice-Admiralty Court was retained, all others were abolished. New courts of King’s Bench were created at Quebec and Montreal as courts of first instance for both civil and criminal matters. On 11 Dec. 1794 Lynd became protonotary and register of the court for the District of Quebec, conjointly with Pierre-Louis Panet. The following year, on 12 May, he was also appointed clerk to the Court of General Sessions of the Peace, along with Joseph-François Perrault*. Lynd retained these offices until his death, but none the less continued to act as clerk of the Vice-Admiralty Court and deputy to the clerk of the crown, an office whose holder did not bother to live in the colony.
In the years preceding the Quebec Act of 1774 Lynd had made common cause with those British residents of the province who were demanding a house of assembly, even if Catholics had to be excluded from it. In the autumn of 1773 he had joined the group of old subjects who met in Miles Prenties’s inn under the chairmanship of John McCord to voice their demand; along with several dozen of his compatriots, he had also signed the petitions for an assembly that were presented to Lieutenant Governor Hector Theophilus Cramahé* and to the king. During the 1780s he had continued to associate himself with the demands for constitutional change. It was not surprising, therefore, that he became a candidate in the elections of June 1792, the first to be held after the Constitutional Act of 1791 had created a house of assembly in Lower Canada. Lynd chose to stand in the riding of Quebec, his opponents being Ignace-Michel-Louis-Antoine d’Irumberry* de Salaberry and Michel-Amable Berthelot Dartigny. At Charlesbourg, where voting took place, a riot almost broke out after it was decided to close the poll and take down the hustings. Berthelot Dartigny, who of the three candidates had at that moment received the fewest votes, claimed his supporters had been prevented from casting theirs. The tumultuous gathering was calmed by the intervention of Prince Edward Augustus, who, being on familiar terms with Salaberry, addressed the crowd and urged people to disperse. Berthelot Dartigny denounced the alleged irregularities at the poll both in the Quebec Gazette and in a pamphlet that he published; then with a score of electors he filed a petition in the House of Assembly to contest Lynd’s election.
In the end nothing further came of the matter; Salaberry having chosen to represent Dorchester riding which had also elected him, Berthelot Dartigny was admitted to sit along with Lynd, and on 2 March 1793 his supporters withdrew their petition, thus preventing the assembly from examining the merits of the dispute. Lynd sat as a member until the house was dissolved on 7 May 1796; he attended fairly regularly despite his court duties, which must have taken up much of his time. Except on one occasion he supported the English party in voting. In another debate Lynd, who owned at least two slaves, sided with those who sought to maintain slavery in Lower Canada by voting against the bill that would have decreed its abolition in 1793.
Of all Lynd’s offices, that of coroner was unique in paying a salary. For the others he received only fees, which were mainly payable by the litigants and were set according to a rate that at first was fixed by ordinance and later, under a law of 1801, was determined by the judges of each court. In addition there were modest allowances for the annual trips to Montreal that he had to make as deputy to the clerk of the crown. Since he was holding too many offices at the same time, Lynd found it impossible to carry out all his obligations and regularly had to pay someone to replace him, which reduced his income correspondingly. Because of this situation he succeeded in obtaining a special allowance of £325 in 1782 and another of £200 the following year.
As if so many occupations were not enough to keep him busy – or with an eye to the main chance – Lynd managed in November 1793 to secure an appointment, along with James Monk* and Thomas Aston Coffin, as attorney for Brook Watson and Company of London [see Sir Brook Watson]. He thus looked after numerous legal transactions to protect the financial interests of this firm, which engaged in business in the province.
Since the greater part of Lynd’s earnings came from the fees he received for the legal instruments and procedures he handled as clerk, it is almost impossible to estimate his annual income. It cannot have been inconsiderable, however, judging by the size of his investments in real estate, which were particularly numerous from 1785 to 1790. Lynd often bought, but almost never sold. At his death he owned more than 20 properties; they were located mostly in the town and suburbs of Quebec, and included five houses in the town proper and some pieces of land in the faubourg Saint-Roch. He held several properties en censive in the fiefs of Tilly and Saint-François, and he had received a grant of two lots in Granby and Milton townships for his services as a lieutenant in the British militia during the siege of Quebec by the Americans in 1775 [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*]. In February 1779 he and his brother John had bought the fief of Sasseville, with the attached seigneurial rights, in Quebec’s Upper Town; unable to pay his share, John gave it up in David’s favour in October 1785. That year Lynd began subdividing his land in the faubourg Saint-Vallier with a view to selling it under terms entailing a perpetual ground-rent, a practice then common in the neighbouring faubourg Saint-Roch; he had four lots surveyed, for which he found takers only with difficulty.
The property to which Lynd was most attached was the farm of La Vacherie; leased to him by the Jesuits in 1771, it included a house, barn, and stable. Lynd first made it his summer home but soon moved there permanently. In 1772 he also leased the farm’s water-mill, situated at the crossing over the Rivière Saint-Charles, but it is not known whether the one-year lease was subsequently renewed, or whether the mill – remained in operation. To take further advantage of La Vacherie, Lynd conceived a plan to build a bridge spanning the Saint-Charles; it was to run from the land behind his farm and connect with the junction of the Beauport and Charlesbourg roads. He gathered about him eight other English-speaking citizens: Charles Stewart, Ralph Gray, James Johnston*, John Purss, John Coffin, William Lindsay* (d. 1834), Nathaniel Taylor, and Peter Stuart, the last four of whom were justices of the peace for the District of Quebec. They put together the capital needed for construction, and on 22 April 1789 obtained letters patent authorizing them to collect tolls for a period of 50 years. The bridge, made entirely of wood and 701 feet long, was built in seven months under the supervision of Colonel Asa Porter; on 19 Sept. 1789 it was inaugurated by Bishop Hubert* of Quebec, and named after Governor Lord Dorchester [Carleton]. It was, wrote the Quebec Gazette, “without doubt the greatest work of the kind ever executed in this Province.”
By an ordinance of the following year the owners also obtained a local monopoly of river crossing, by either bridge or ferry. In 1794 William Grant (1744–1805), who was acting for the proprietors, leased out the crossing rights and the house located near the bridge for £250 a year. The Dorchester Bridge had cost £1,627. It frequently required expensive repairs, and the return on it disappointed the owners, several of whom sold their shares at a loss. Lynd himself kept until his death 4 of the 48 jointly owned shares in the bridge, which he had promoted and which remained in use until 1820.
Lynd had been a member of the Agriculture Society for the District of Quebec since its foundation in 1789, and in 1793 held office as a director. He was also a member of the Quebec Fire Society in the 1790s. From at least 1794, and probably until his death, he was a lieutenant in the Quebec Battalion of British Militia. In 1798 he gave up residence on his estate of La Vacherie and moved to Rue Saint-Stanislas in Quebec. This decision may have been taken for reasons of health, because shortly after he seems to have reduced the pace of his professional activities, particularly as protonotary of the Court of King’s Bench and clerk of the peace. He died on 29 June 1802. His wife, Jane Henry, daughter of the Presbyterian minister George Henry, was appointed guardian of their under-age son, Hutchinson, a few days later. The couple had had two other children: Ann, who had married Thomas Grant, a Quebec merchant, and died in 1799 “after a long and lingering illness,” and Jane, wife of Thomas Dodd, a captain in the Royal Artillery. Lynd had also in effect brought up Marie-Magdelaine Schleiger, whose mother had committed her to his care legally in 1777, “being unable to do better than to indenture her in order to teach her how to earn her living and to provide her with food and keep.” The child was only 12 at that time and was to remain seven years in Lynd’s service.
David Lynd and Jane Henry had been married at Quebec without a marriage contract. The inventory of the joint estate was drawn up between 7 January and 31 May 1805. Besides the furniture and other effects in his two residences on the Rivière Saint-Charles and at Quebec, which were valued at £467, and his library, which was worth £223, Lynd left large debts totalling £2,378, an amount only slightly in excess, however, of the sum owed to him; the main part of his estate consisted of a rather impressive accumulation of landed property. The heirs – his children Jane and Hutchinson and his granddaughter Marguerite Grant – accepted the inheritance. In 1804 his widow had asked for a renewal of the lease to La Vacherie. In subsequent years, however, she and the heirs parted with some of the properties her husband had left them.
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