Daniel Morrison, son of a Church of Scotland minister, was raised and educated, apparently for a professional career, in Scotland. He immigrated to Upper Canada in 1847 and became a teacher and farmer in West Flamborough Township. Beginning probably in 1849 he wrote occasional vigorous and sarcastic items for the Dundas Warder and Halton County General Advertiser, the Reform newspaper founded by Robert Spence, and was its parliamentary correspondent in 1851. He replaced Charles Lindsey* in 1852 as editor of the Toronto Examiner, owned by James Lesslie*, and in 1854 joined Lindsey at the Leader, which was owned by James Beaty* and supported the Hincksite Liberals. When the coalition government of Sir Allan Napier MacNab and Augustin-Norbert Morin was formed in 1854, the Leader supported it and thereafter followed a moderate Conservative line. Morrison remained at the Leader until November 1857. Early in 1858 he and George Sheppard bought the money-losing Daily Colonist from Samuel Thompson* with the intention of merging it with the Leader, thereby making it solvent and reducing the number of dailies in the overcrowded Toronto market. The merger was prevented by the joint action of the Grand Trunk Railway, which advanced money to the Colonist, and of John A. Macdonald*. The railway needed the government’s support as well as the newspaper’s, and the government wanted a dependable government paper in Toronto.
Morrison and Sheppard attempted to publish the Colonist with a degree of editorial independence unusual for a government organ. Yet the advantages of receiving contracts for government advertising and stationery were offset by the restraints exerted by political leaders to have the paper serve their own ends exclusively. Macdonald’s anger with articles condemning the government’s political practices and the refusal of Sheppard and Morrison to retract an article that defended George Brown* from a scurrilous personal attack by William Frederick Powell led to a break with the government. On 30 June 1858 Sheppard and Morrison wrote a celebrated editorial “Whither are we drifting?” that strongly condemned the Macdonald government. Arguing that it abused its executive power by placing party ahead of country, they were asserting that even a paper which supported the governing party must have independent opinion. Sheppard wrote Charles Clarke* that “Macdonald is now hunting us with the malignity of a fiend.” On 9 July the Atlas, published by Samuel Thompson, was founded to support the government. The loss of government advertising and stationery contracts created further financial difficulty for the Colonist; Sheppard joined the Globe by the end of July, and Morrison resold the Colonist to Thompson on 12 Nov. 1858.
After unsuccessful speculation in railways with William Kingsford* and Isaac Buchanan*, Morrison in 1859 secured a civil service appointment, evidently as an arbitrator in the Public Works Department. On 19 March 1860 he became editor of the Quebec Morning Chronicle, and in the spring of 1861, of the London Prototype, both owned by S. B. Foote. Exciting opportunities as a correspondent during the American Civil War may have drawn him to New York, where he worked for the Tribune and the Times and contributed articles to the Scottish American and the Albion. He returned to Canada for a while in 1864 to work on the Cayuga Haldimand Tribune, then went back to New York. In August 1868 Morrison joined John Ross Robertson*’s Toronto Daily Telegraph, which claimed to be an “advocate of liberal conservatism” whose “independence was not open to question,” but was secretly supported by the Conservative party and the Grand Trunk Railway. It was agreed by this time, as Morrison and Sheppard had unsuccessfully attempted to demonstrate in 1858, that the most useful paper to a government was one which seemed strong and independent. Nevertheless, in return for support it was expected to give editorial backing on crucial issues.
Morrison, who was highly regarded by his peers as a newspaper writer, remained as managing editor of the Daily Telegraph until his death. An obituary stated: “There were vigour, and fire, and life, and force in those splendid articles of his.”
PAC, MG 24, D16; MG 26, A. PAO, Clarke (Charles) papers; Mackenzie-Lindsey papers. UWO, mss, VF 305 (W. Buckingham papers). Macdonald, Letters (Johnson and Stelmack), II, 154, 165. Daily Colonist (Toronto), 1858. Daily Telegraph (Toronto), 12 April 1870. Leader, 14 Dec. 1861. Landmarks of Can., I. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis; Sketches of celebrated Canadians. Careless, Brown. Ron Poulton, The paper tyrant, John Ross Robertson of the “Toronto Telegram” (Toronto and Vancouver, 1971), 31–55. M. H. Lewis, “A reappraisal of George Sheppard’s contribution to the press of North America,” OH, LXII (1970), 179–98. J. J. Talman, “George Sheppard, journalist, 1819–1912,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XLIV (1950), sect.ii, 119–34; “The newspaper press of Canada West, 1850–60,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XXXIII (1939), sect.ii, 149–74.