McCALLUM, JAMES, businessman, seigneur, office holder, and politician; b. c. 1762; m. Janet –, and they had at least ten children; d. 19 Dec. 1825 at Quebec.
James McCallum was a master baker on Rue Saint-Pierre, in the commercial heart of Quebec, in 1794. That year he entered into an association with the brothers Philip and Nathaniel Lloyd to exploit the fisheries, hunting-grounds, and Indian trade of Labrador. McCallum, who seems to have had capital, was to purchase a boat, furnish supplies, and market the produce in return for a 50 per cent share in the profits. The partners had fallen out by March 1797 when McCallum, having failed to keep his side of the agreement, sold his interest to a rival firm, Lymburner and Crawford, for £622. The Lloyds took McCallum to court; they apparently obliged him in 1799 to dissolve his association with them at considerable cost, but the case dragged on for years.
McCallum’s loss of interest in the Lloyd partnership stemmed from a desire to concentrate on the grain and flour trade of the south shore of the St Lawrence below Quebec. In 1796 he had become seigneur or co-seigneur of L’Islet-de-Bonsecours at a cost of £438, which he paid in cash. On his own and jointly with Pierre Casgrain of Rivière-Ouelle he began purchasing large quantities of barley for John Young*’s brewery and distillery near Quebec. In February 1798 McCallum and John McCallum of St John’s (Prince Edward) Island joined Casgrain in an association to trade and speculate in grain and other country products. In addition to advancing one-half of the operating capital, James was to build a storehouse in the parish of Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies and manage operations at Quebec; Casgrain resided in Rivière-Ouelle and John probably in Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies. In March, James McCallum and Casgrain also agreed to buy all their grain on the south shore jointly for seven years and to reserve the first 100,000 minots annually for Young, who had apparently undertaken to purchase in that region only through them.
In January 1801 McCallum entered another field of endeavour with the purchase from Young for £3,750 of two-thirds of St Andrew’s Wharf, strategically located at Quebec; he acquired the remaining part at a sheriff’s sale in March and built, at considerable expense, two large stone warehouses. The wharf was leased until 1805 successively to Henry Caldwell* and Monro and Bell [see David Monro] for £500 per annum, but by 1812 it was bringing in £1,000 annually. McCallum continued to supply Young, whose firm of Young and Ainslie owed him nearly £3,000 by October 1803. Young paid for his grain partly in beer and spirits, which McCallum may have sold retail from a tavern on Rue Saint-Pierre and wholesale to such customers as Casgrain (who had agreed to buy only from him) and the merchant John Painter*.
McCallum also maintained grist-mills. In 1803 he leased the manorial mill of L’Islet-de-Bonsecours to the miller Archibald McCallum, probably a relative or clansman, in return for two-thirds of the wheat ground; nine years later he leased it to another miller for one-quarter of the profits and the right to have his grain ground at an advantageous price. In 1809 he had purchased at a sheriff’s sale a large mill at Beauport formerly belonging to Young, and from 1813 at least he rented land around it from the seigneur of Beauport, Antoine-Louis Juchereau Duchesnay, for the growing of grain. From the beginning he produced flour for use in his bakery, for sale locally, and for export; he transported it and wheat in vessels chartered from John Goudie and probably from others. In 1818 he was made an inspector of flour and meal at Quebec and two years later was an examiner of candidates for inspector.
By 1815 McCallum had formed James McCallum and Company with a son, John. The firm sold rum and Jamaica spirits, salt, oil, staves, peas, and grains. It received in April 1817 a contract worth £4,450 to supply government commissioners with seed grain for distribution to farmers who had suffered a disastrous harvest the previous fall.
In June 1813 McCallum had purchased the St Roc Brewery from Young’s wife, Christian Ainslie, who was harassed by her husband’s debts; the price agreed upon was £16,000 plus £2,177 for the stock on hand, all of which he had paid by September. He began immediately to make improvements; in the end they cost probably more than £1,000 and included a large wharf, which took five years to complete. He also hired a brewer at £150 per annum and a maltster at £90 and soon began importing hops from James Hunter and Company of Greenock, Scotland. He apparently manufactured containers for beer and spirits since in 1815 James McCallum and Company received contracts to supply the Transport Board with puncheons and hogsheads worth about £8,000. By the early 1820s the brewery was being operated by McCallum and Sons, composed of James and two sons, James and Duncan.
McCallum also engaged in property development. He bought a number of lots in Godmanchester Township in 1802 and leased 1,168 acres from the crown in Hemmingford four years later. In April 1810 he paid Anglican bishop Jacob Mountain £833 for about 4,000 acres that Mountain had just been granted in Sherrington Township. In June 1813 he acquired from Young some 7,200 acres in the same township for £1,672. His interest in Sherrington stemmed from its potential for immediate production of grain. Surveyor General Joseph Bouchette* had noted by 1815 that Sherrington was surrounded by established settlements, “and possessing within itself great inducements for settlers, it is likely to become in a few years a very fertile and valuable tract.” In 1824, in order to avoid continued costly litigation with Canadians already settled on the lands when he acquired them, and in return for a promise by the government to concede the clergy reserves within their boundaries, McCallum had his Sherrington holdings converted to seigneurial tenure as the seigneuries of Saint-James and Saint-Normand. Some four years earlier he had bought 700 acres of unpatented land in Hinchinbrook Township from Bouchette.
In addition to developing rural property, McCallum rented out a number of houses in Lower Town Quebec, generally for commercial use. As a property owner he had been a member of the Fire Society and had occasionally served on its board. He was a stockholder in the Quebec Fire Assurance Company by 1819 and a director from 1820. This activity and his election in 1818 as a director of the newly formed Quebec Bank placed him in the vanguard of the Quebec business community.
McCallum appears to have been as aggressive in politics as in business. In 1817 he defeated John Neilson* in a by-election in Quebec County, where Beauport was located, but his victory was voided when Neilson was able to prove to the House of Assembly that McCallum had used bullies and bribery. Neilson was returned in early 1818. In the elections of March 1820 McCallum withdrew from the race in the riding of Devon, which included L’Islet-de-Bonsecours, after polling just four votes in two days, and he was defeated by Neilson and Louis Gauvreau in Quebec County. His protest that the returning officer in Quebec County, Félix Têtu, had erroneously given a slight majority to Gauvreau was apparently rejected. McCallum succeeded, however, in getting elected for Lower Town Quebec in July. He represented that riding until 1824, when he was defeated by Thomas Ainslie Young*. He maintained that Young had employed corrupt tactics, but his claim was never fully studied by the assembly.
McCallum’s rapid business expansion after 1800 was based increasingly on borrowed capital. With his acquisition of the St Roc Brewery and Sherrington lands in June 1813, however, he overextended himself. In 1814 he owed a Quebec blacksmith, David Douglas, £2,200; a year later he borrowed a total of £4,000 from John Painter, and in 1816 he obtained £4,000 from George Pozer* and £1,100 from a Quebec widow, Ann Purcell. By 1819 his debt to Douglas had soared to £15,000. The following year nearly £10,000 of this debt was in the hands of the Quebec Bank; impatient with McCallum’s inability to make payments, in 1824 the bank obliged him to lease to it for five years McCallum’s Wharf and two houses on Rue Saint-Pierre, the lease payments to be deducted from the debt. In 1822 McCallum and Sons was dissolved, and on 6 Oct. 1825 McCallum transferred all his properties to three sons in return for their promise to pay some £23,000 in debts to Painter’s estate, François Desrivières in Montreal, and Pozer, to whom he owed £18,000. At his death in December McCallum was insolvent, owing nearly £6,600 to the bank and £4,000 to Pozer.
James McCallum is representative of a part of the second generation of British businessmen at Quebec. Successors in the early 19th century to William Grant*, George Allsopp*, and Adam Lymburner*, members of this group included John Young, John Mure, and William Burns and were generally Scots. They sought to benefit from the rapid development of Upper Canada, in large part through arrangements with merchants in Montreal, whose hinterland that colony formed. Yet their location more naturally led McCallum and merchants like him at Quebec to exploit the fisheries and fur trade of Labrador and the Gulf of St Lawrence as well as the rich agricultural lands of the south shore below Quebec, in the latter case through industries such as brewing, distilling, and flour milling. Brewing and distilling were, however, risky undertakings: Robert Lester*, Young, McCallum, and no doubt others found the internal market small, export markets non-existent, imported wines and spirits strong competition, and the time needed for equipment repairs long because of a lack of skilled labour.
Quebec’s principal economic asset being its port, the main activity of these merchants was the import-export trade with Britain and the West Indies, in which the Scottish merchants’ home connections and support were especially strong. Despite the importance of the port, with the exception of Mure these merchants did not engage extensively in the timber trade, shipbuilding, or manufacturing as did such notable Quebec figures as John Goudie, Mathew Bell*, and Henry Usborne*. Merchants like McCallum also speculated in land, chiefly in the Eastern Townships, and invested in seigneuries and in urban – often commercial – property. After 1815, in part to avoid falling under the control of Montreal capital, they established financial institutions such as the Quebec Fire Assurance Company and the Quebec Bank [see George Garden; Daniel Sutherland]. The great striving of these businessmen and others at Quebec did not always produce brilliant results, as McCallum’s case demonstrates, but it did constitute the motive force in the commercial and agricultural development of Quebec and its hinterland in the early 19th century.
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Cite This Article
James H. Lambert, “McCALLUM, JAMES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 23, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mccallum_james_6E.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:
|Author of Article:||James H. Lambert|
|Title of Article:||McCALLUM, JAMES|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1987|
|Year of revision:||1987|
|Access Date:||March 23, 2023|