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McINTOSH, JOHN, militiaman, ship’s captain, businessman, and politician; b. 4 March 1796 in Colarich, parish of Logierait, Scotland, eldest son of John MacIntosh and Ann Ferguson; m. first 27 Jan. 1824 Catherine Oswald Stewart (d. 1832), and they had at least two sons and two daughters; m. secondly 12 March 1833 Helen Baxter, widow of David Ferguson, and they had at least three sons and four daughters; d. 3 July 1853 in Toronto.

The MacIntosh family immigrated from Scotland to Quebec in 1800 or 1801, moving to York (Toronto) in 1803. As a militiaman in the War of 1812, John McIntosh saw action at Detroit and Queenston Heights and was captured during the American attack on York in April 1813 [see Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe]. He later claimed to have piloted brigades of boats from York to Kingston on two occasions. After the war, he and his five brothers (Robert, James, Charles, William, and David) were active as captains, and sometimes as owners, of various vessels on the Great Lakes. Among those commanded by John was The Brothers (called The Three Brothers in some sources), a schooner launched at York by a joint-stock company early in 1820. Four years later McIntosh, a Presbyterian, married the daughter of Alexander Stewart, minister of the town’s first Baptist congregation. In 1828 McIntosh received from his father several valuable town lots. Apparently the rental from these, together with the revenue from a farm he owned in the London District, allowed him to retire from sailing at an early age and gave him considerable time in the 1830s and 1840s to devote to reform causes, a political interest he seems to have inherited from his father.

Throughout his public life McIntosh was a close associate and supporter of William Lyon Mackenzie*, and his second wife, whom he married in 1833, was the sister of Mrs Mackenzie. But, since he did not embrace some of Mackenzie’s outlandish ideas and was a respected businessman in the provincial capital, he was not perceived as being of the same ilk. For much of the 1830s he served as chairman of the Committee of Home District Reformers. As well, in 1832–33, when Mackenzie was in England fighting his expulsion from the House of Assembly, McIntosh acted as chairman of the Central Committee of One Hundred Freeholders of Upper Canada, which was charged with raising both support for Mackenzie and opposition to the policies of the provincial government. In 1834, and again two years later, he contested and won the fourth riding of York for the reformers. He chaired a meeting in 1837 at which a declaration was drawn up by Toronto reformers calling on Upper Canadians to form political unions to oppose the policies of the British government for the colony and those of the provincial administration. McIntosh was called to a meeting that fall of a few prominent reformers, to whom Mackenzie unsuccessfully proposed insurrection. Though aware too of Mackenzie’s later plans for actual rebellion, in which he took no active part, McIntosh escaped the persecution suffered by many leading radicals [see David Gibson*], probably because of his reputation as a concerned but reasonable individual unlikely to be attracted to treasonous schemes. He always spoke with moderation on political issues and never confined himself solely to politics in matters of public interest. For example, in September 1836 he had headed the list of those calling for a meeting to establish a mutual fire insurance company in the Home District.

In 1841 McIntosh again presented himself for election in 4th York but this time Robert Baldwin opposed him. Despite insisting that he would not run if McIntosh wanted to, Baldwin continued to campaign, arguing that it was the wish of the reformers in the riding, who had earlier asked McIntosh to run. William Lyon Mackenzie later maintained that Baldwin took this action in order to defeat McIntosh because of the latter’s opposition to the union of Upper and Lower Canada. Whatever the case, it is true that Baldwin could have withdrawn in York (he was elected in another riding, Hastings) instead of staying on to defeat a respected reformer.

For the remainder of his life McIntosh continued to support the reform cause and Mackenzie in particular. In 1849 he gave refuge to Mackenzie when he returned from exile, causing a riot outside his own home on Yonge Street. He ignored some pressure at the time of the general election of 1851 to run in his old riding, deciding instead to support the reformer Joseph Hartman. In the last few years before his death in 1853 his activities were limited by illness.

Ronald J. Stagg

[There are numerous references to John McIntosh in the Mackenzie–Lindsey papers at the AO: the Mackenzie correspondence (MS 516) contains many entries, the most useful being several in 1841; in addition there is a small collection of biographical information on Mackenzie’s relations in the C. B. Lindsey papers (MU 1947), and a little material in the Mackenzie clippings (MU 1855, no.2056). The obituary article “A memoir of John Mackintosh,” which ran in Mackenzie’s Weekly Message on 9 Feb. 1855, contains considerable material on him. McIntosh’s will and codicil are contained in AO, RG 22, ser.155. The above sources are supplemented by material in several books: Lindsey, Life and times of Mackenzie; Scadding, Toronto of old (1873); and Robertson’s landmarks of Toronto, vols.1–3. References to McIntosh’s reform activities will also be found in the Toronto Patriot, 11 Nov. 1836, and Constitution, 2 Aug. 1837, and in the C. R. Dent papers at the AO (MU 837).  r.j.s.]

AO, MS 2, baptisms and marriages performed by Presbyterian ministers in York, 1823–29, baptism of Catherine and A. J. McIntosh, 9 Feb. 1829. MTL, Robert Baldwin papers. PAC, RG 1, L3, 332: M6/57; 339a: M11/408. St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Toronto), Reg. of marriages, 12 March 1833 (mfm. at AO). Town of York, 1815–34 (Firth). Patriot, 20 Sept. 1836. History of Toronto and county of York, Ontario . . . (2v., Toronto, 1885), 2: 96–97. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving), 209. History of the Great Lakes, [ed. J. B. Mansfield] (2v., Chicago, 1899; repr. Cleveland, Ohio, 1972), 1: 801.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Ronald J. Stagg, “McINTOSH, JOHN (1796-1853),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcintosh_john_1796_1853_8E.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/mcintosh_john_1796_1853_8E.html
Author of Article:   Ronald J. Stagg
Title of Article:   McINTOSH, JOHN (1796-1853)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   December 4, 2023