MONRO (Munro), DAVID, merchant, ironmaster, militia officer, politician, office holder, jp, and seigneur; b. c. 1765 in Scotland; d. 3 Sept. 1834 in Bath, England.
Neither the date of David Monro’s arrival at Quebec nor the reasons why he came are known. According to the Quebec Gazette, when the partnership between merchants Alexander Davison and John Lees* came to an end in August 1791, Monro was authorized to give discharges to the company’s debtors. He had dealings at that time with another local merchant, Mathew Bell*, with whom he was to form the partnership of Monro and Bell. On 6 June 1793 the two partners joined George Davison*, the brother of Alexander, in purchasing from the latter the operating lease on the Saint-Maurice ironworks. In 1796, on his return from a stay in London, Monro resumed his endeavours, both at Quebec and at the ironworks, where he devoted his energies to adding to the properties owned by the enterprise. From then on he divided his time between Quebec and Trois-Rivières.
As a faithful subject, Monro in July 1794 had signed a declaration of loyalty to the constitution and government instituted in Lower Canada by Great Britain, and in 1797 he served on the jury at the trial of David McLane* for treason, a trial that caused much stir. In 1800 he became an ensign in the Quebec Battalion of British Militia; promoted first lieutenant before 1805 and captain on 18 March 1812, he reached the rank of major of the 4th Battalion of Quebec’s militia in 1813. He was elected to the House of Assembly for Saint-Maurice, a riding that he and Michel Caron represented from 6 Aug. 1804 to 27 April 1808. In this fourth parliament, debates were increasingly bitter, particularly when the bills dealing with financing prisons and with ineligibility of judges to sit in the assembly [see Sir James Henry Craig*; Pierre-Amable De Bonne*] were presented. Monro voted with the English party. He did not stand for election in 1808, commenting that “the situation, I feel, would materially interfere with my future arrangements.” In the period from 1805 he had been appointed to several offices: commissioner for building and repairing churches and presbyteries in Trois-Rivières (1805, 1818, 1820), justice of the peace for the district of Trois-Rivières (1805, 1811, 1815) and for the district of Quebec (1810), commissioner for receiving the oath of allegiance (1807, 1810, 1815, 1820).
Concurrently with these various functions, Monro played an active role in the merchant community of Quebec. He held shares in the Union Company of Quebec, an enterprise founded in 1805 to provide the town with a fine hotel, and in February 1806 he was appointed to its management committee. In March 1806 he was elected president of the Fire Society but declined the honour. On 21 Feb. 1809 he joined the town’s leading merchants in founding the Quebec Committee of Trade and was put on a committee of seven, chaired by James Irvine, to study proposals from the Halifax Committee of Trade. Monro had also strengthened his ties with the business community through his marriage, solemnized at Quebec on 5 March 1807; his wife, Catherine MacKenzie, aged 23, was the daughter of deceased Trois-Rivières merchant James Mackenzie, who had been a partner of William Grant* of Trois-Rivières, and the sister of Ann MacKenzie, who had married Mathew Bell in 1799. They were to have four children.
With George Davison’s death in March 1799 Monro and Bell became the sole lessees of the Saint-Maurice ironworks. Under their direction the enterprise enjoyed a stability that promoted an intense development of activities, an increase in production, and some expansion. More than 20 buildings for industrial, residential, or service use were erected, and more than 300 men worked there. On 31 Dec. 1815 Monro withdrew from Monro and Bell and from the management of the ironworks. On 26 Oct. 1816 he handed his share over to Bell, on conditions drawn up before notary Joseph-Bernard Plant. Bell then went into partnership with John Stewart*, who had been in partnership with Monro and Bell until November 1806 under the name of John Stewart and Company. Collaboration between Monro and Bell was not ended, however; in May 1817 they bought Champlain seigneury for £2,520, and they also owned the banal rights on the seigneury of Rivière-du-Loup.
In 1817 David Monro refused Governor Sir John Coape Sherbrooke’s invitation to become a member of the Legislative Council, on grounds that he planned to leave the province as soon as possible for quite a long time. He was still at Quebec in 1818, but in 1821 he was in England, his return to Great Britain necessitating his replacement in an administrative post. He died in Bath on 3 Sept. 1834. His will was registered at Quebec two years later and one of the beneficiaries was his former partner Mathew Bell.
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