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ROSS, DAVID ALEXANDER, businessman, lawyer, militia officer, and politician; b. 12 March 1819 at Quebec, son of John Ross, a protonotary, and Margaret —; m. there 27 Feb. 1872 Harriet Ann Valentine, widow of merchant James Gibb; d. there 23 July 1897 and was buried three days later in Mount Hermon Cemetery at Sillery, Que.
David Alexander Ross studied with Daniel Wilkie* and then at the Petit Séminaire de Québec from 1833 to 1837. After articling, he was called to the bar on 8 Jan. 1848 and practised at Quebec. He was in partnership with Andrew Stuart from 1869 to 1885, and Stuart’s son Gustavus George joined them in 1878. Made a qc on 28 Feb. 1873, he became bâtonnier of the Quebec bar on 1 May 1874 and was reappointed to this office on 1 May 1886.
In 1834 Ross’s mother, a widow since 1826, had married John Strang, a partner of Joseph Masson* who was responsible for Masson, LaRocque, Strang and Company at Quebec. Strang facilitated David’s entry into the business world. With his financial assistance Ross in 1841 bought a foundry in Lower Town, where he manufactured stoves and other articles. Around 1850 he abandoned this endeavour and two years later he was operating a general store with Hilary Lenfestey. He was an agent for the Scottish Amicable Life Insurance Society between 1861 and 1865 and for the Imperial Fire Insurance Company of London in 1865, 1871, and 1872. He served on the board of the Compagnie de Chemin de Fer Urbain Saint-Jean between 1877 and 1879. He was also a director of the Quebec and Lake St John Railway and in 1880 he supported a bill to increase the company’s powers through amendment of its charter.
In his later years Ross took an interest in politics. In the 1878 election he won a seat as a Liberal in the Legislative Assembly for the riding of Quebec. From 8 March 1878 to 30 Oct. 1879 he served as attorney general in the cabinet of Henri-Gustave Joly*. He did not run in the 1881 election. In January 1887 he was sworn in as minister without portfolio under Honoré Mercier. Mercier entrusted him with such important tasks as settling the question of the boundary between Quebec and Ontario. Many times during his term of office he refused to use his influence with the government. Although he did not always take the same stand as his party, on the whole he remained cautious and reasonable. In March 1887 he was named legislative councillor for Gulf division and put in charge of a commission set up to consolidate the statutes. Mercier appointed him president of the Executive Council in 1890, a position he held until 16 Dec. 1891.
David Alexander Ross purchased a villa on Chemin Sainte-Foy, near Avenue des Érables. He apparently kept a splendid garden and owned several paintings by Cornelius Krieghoff*. Ross took an active part in the social life of Quebec as a member of various military, educational, philanthropic, and religious organizations. He enrolled in the École Militaire de Québec and obtained a first-class certificate in the training of companies and battalions. A lieutenant-colonel in the militia, he participated in the efforts to stop a Fenian invasion in 1866. He was president of the St Andrew’s Society from 1876 to 1878 and vice-president in 1882–83, as well as president of the Caledonian Society of Quebec from 1877 to 1879. In 1883 he succeeded James MacPherson Le Moine* as president of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, a position he held until 1885; he apparently did not play much of a role in that body. Ross was also one of the founders of the Liberal newspaper L’Électeur in 1880, and from 1884 until his death he was president of the Quebec Auxiliary Bible Society.
ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 11 déc. 1819; CE1-66, 26 juill. 1897; CE1-67, 27 févr. 1872; P-23; P-233; P-351; T11-1/231. ASQ, Fichier des anciens. AVQ, Conseil, conseil et comités, chemin de fer, Québec–Lac Saint-Jean; tramways, St John Street Railway. L’Électeur, 22 janv. 1891. Montreal Daily Star, 23 July 1897. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth). Quebec & Levis directory, 1890–97. Quebec directory, 1861–90. RPQ. Turcotte, Le Conseil législatif. Ginette Bernatchez, “La Société littéraire et historique de Québec (the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec), 1824–1890” (thèse de ma, univ. Laval, Québec, 1979). Arthur Buies, Le chemin de fer du lac Saint-Jean (s.l., 1895). Rodolphe Gagnon, “Le chemin de fer de Québec au lac Saint-Jean (1854–1900)” (thèse de des, univ. Laval, 1967). France Gagnon-Pratte, L’architecture et la nature à Québec au dix-neuvième siècle: les villas ([Québec], 1980). J. M. LeMoine, Monographies et esquisses (Québec, 1885). Henri Masson, Joseph Masson, dernier seigneur de Terrebonne, 1791–1847 (Montréal, 1972). Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, vols.3, 6; Mercier et son temps. “Les disparus,” BRH, 34 (1928): 32.