THOMPSON, DAVID, soldier, teacher, and author; b. in Scotland, perhaps in 1790 but more probably in 1795 or 1796; buried 3 June 1868 at Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Ont. There is no evidence that he married.
David Thompson enlisted in the 1st Foot, 3rd battalion, of the British army in 1808 or 1809, and saw action in Europe in the Walcheren expedition and the Peninsular War before arriving in Upper Canada in 1812 and serving at Moraviantown, Lundy’s Lane, and Fort Erie. In 1812 he was raised to the rank of corporal in the 1st battalion.
When he was discharged in 1815 Thompson, like so many other British soldiers stationed in the Canadas, chose not to return home. He settled at Niagara where, except for one short period, he lived the rest of his life. War wounds apparently prevented Thompson from farming extensively; from 1815 until 1855 he taught at common schools in and around the town of Niagara, and for a brief time in Frontenac County. In 1842 and 1843 he may have served as clerk of the town and township of Niagara. He was also first captain of the Niagara Independent Artillery Company from 1838 until at least 1855.
In 1832 Thompson wrote a History of the late war between Great Britain and the United States, which was printed by Thomas Sewell. The book had two purposes: to defend Britain’s conduct against American accounts and to arouse the patriotism of the young by reminding them of the heroism of their forefathers. It is a partisan book, but not a mere polemic, for Thompson researched his subject well. More than a third of the text is devoted to the causes of the war: he concludes that France and the United States must share guilt equally and that Britain’s only fault lay in failing to attack the United States before the Americans had time to prepare for war. The book contains some vivid descriptions of those battles in which Thompson took part, and he gives substantial credit to the Canadian militia in the defence of the country against invasion.
At the time of its publication the book was favourably noticed in several Upper Canadian newspapers. One 20th century authority has called it “the first important book published in Upper Canada,” but it would, perhaps, be more accurate to say that it was the first important historical work published in that colony. Whatever its merits, it did not, apparently, sell well: a year after its publication Sewell brought suit against Thompson because the latter could not pay for the paper it had been printed on. It does not appear that he was convicted, but it seems that he was unable to raise bail before his trial and spent some time in jail.
Thompson was remembered in the community as a good teacher and useful citizen. And he remained throughout his life the old soldier and British American patriot: in 1854, when the Crimean War began, he was eager to raise a company of Canadian riflemen – “no country in the world,” he wrote, “can produce better material for soldiers.”
David Thompson, History of the late war between Great Britain and the United States of America; with a retrospective view of the causes from whence it originated . . . (Niagara, [Ont.], 1832; repr. Toronto, 1845; [New York], 1966). PAC, RG 1, L3, 498, no.118; RG 8, I (C series), 36, pp.325–29; 199, pp.68–69. St Mark’s Anglican Church (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.), burial register. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1854–55, III, app.B, table L. Niagara Gleaner (Niagara, [Ont.]), 1818–37. Niagara Mail (Niagara, Ont.), 3 June 1868. Literary history of Can. (Klinck et al.), 214.