YOUNG, THOMAS AINSLIE, office holder, militia officer, politician, and justice of the peace; b. 12 June 1797 at Quebec, son of John Young* and Christian (Christianna) Ainslie; m. there 27 Dec. 1823 Monique-Ursule Baby, daughter of the deceased François Baby*, and they had at least seven children; m. there secondly 31 May 1845 Ann Walsh; d. there 8 Feb. 1860.
Thomas Ainslie Young grew up in an environment oriented towards politics and trade. His father, a leading figure in the English party, was a member of the Executive and Legislative councils and also an important merchant at Quebec. His mother, a daughter of Thomas Ainslie*, Quebec’s receiver of customs, proved an excellent business woman. Young received most of his schooling in Lower Canada, continuing his studies in London from 1814 to 1817.
Like other sons of influential people, Young quickly obtained posts in the administration. Before he was 21, he was appointed secretary to the committee of the Executive Council responsible for auditing public accounts. In 1820 he became controller of customs for the port of Quebec, an office his father had tried to obtain some ten years earlier without success. Moving up, he served as inspector general of the public accounts for Lower Canada from 1823 to June 1826, when Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay*] made him auditor general of the province. Young performed the duties of this office until 1834, but from 1829 there was virtually no provision for paying him a salary. In 1833 and 1834 he approached the governor and the House of Assembly to have this situation rectified. A committee recommended that he be paid the amount he was owed, but the assembly took no further steps. The reaction of the house may be attributed in part to the decline of Young’s political influence after October 1834, and to its own struggle with political and economic problems of greater collective importance than individual administrative concerns.
Although he was an office holder, Young was elected to the assembly as member for Quebec’s Lower Town in 1824, 1827, and 1830. In 1824 he maintained that he could reconcile his “public duties” with his “private interests.” But it is possible that his first election tainted his political credibility, for he was accused of corrupt electoral practices. His opponent, James McCallum*, and a number of voters petitioned the House of Assembly, and the commission then set up heard the testimony of witnesses. Adjourned in 1825, the case was dropped by the petitioners two years later. It is not known whether Young was really out to take his father’s place in the hearts of the Lower Town voters, as is suggested in a remark he made in 1834, “I counted on the well-known and long-tested character . . . of my late father.” During the ten years he sat in the assembly, he was considered the spokesman for his riding’s merchants. He took part in special and standing committees on economic questions, and particularly on finance and trade, matters in which many people acknowledged his competence. Young voted against the 92 Resolutions drafted in 1834, for although he accepted the principle behind them, he objected to the methods proposed to carry them into effect. Before the elections of that year the merchants, “for reasons best known to themselves,” chose to nominate another candidate, George Pemberton, and Young withdrew.
Young is chiefly remembered because he was inspector and superintendent (chief) of police for the city of Quebec from 1837 to 1840. Various factors doubtless account for this appointment: his role as sheriff of the district of Quebec (a responsibility he shared with William Smith Sewell from 1823 to 1827), his participation in parliamentary debates, his municipal experience (among other things as justice of the peace from 1828 to 1830), his “legal knowledge,” his loyalty towards the colonial government, and the fact that he belonged to the predominant minority. Le Canadien considered the appointment “unfair,” for Young had been reprimanded by the government for embezzling funds when he was sheriff. But the city of Quebec needed an administrator to ensure law and order. Even before the publication of the 1838 ordinance to establish an effective policing system in Montreal and Quebec, Young had brought the police in his own city under regulation, and he continued until 1840 to propose various measures to improve their efficiency.
By the autumn of 1837, in light of the real possibility of new disturbances, the government of Lower Canada needed a man who firmly respected the social and political order. Young hunted down the Patriotes and pseudo-Patriotes around Quebec, even as far as the American border. The 1838 ordinance gave him authority to act as a justice of the peace. Thus he obtained the right to issue warrants for search and arrest. The best known and most controversial of his raids was on the house of Mme Clouet, who was suspected of hiding Louis-Joseph Papineau* and a quantity of weapons. His most celebrated arrests were those of Étienne Parent* and Jean-Baptiste Fréchette, respectively the editor and the printer of Le Canadien, on 26 Dec. 1838, and Napoléon Aubin* and Adolphe Jacquies, both of Le Fastasque of Quebec, on 2 Jan. 1839. Young accused these newspapers of publishing “articles of an inflammatory and very objectionable nature,” creating discontent, and undermining confidence in the government. He used various methods of surveillance, such as scrutinizing the papers, visiting the post office and opening suspicious letters, receiving anonymous and sworn denunciations, and spying. For the sake of peace, he carried out preventive arrests of persons suspected of high treason or of “treasonable practices”; they were put in jail and released some time later.
Following this troubled period, the authorities rewarded Young by appointing him police magistrate for the district of Quebec, a position he held from 1840 to 1842. After the post was abolished in 1843, he held no further public office of any importance. In 1845 he tried to get himself reappointed as inspector and superintendent of police of the city of Quebec, but without success. The following year he also failed to obtain the rank of major in the 1st Battalion of Quebec County militia. He may indeed have lost all political influence. Whatever the case, from 1846 to 1854 he addressed a new set of appeals to the government to recover his salary arrears from the period 1829–34, but again his requests fell on deaf ears.
Overshadowed by his father in the annals of Canadian historoung had a career similar to that of numerous sons of the English-speaking élite in Lower Canada. His place in the public service was hand-picked, and he took advantage of the prevailing nepotism. Like many others, he enjoyed concurrently a number of lucrative offices and honours. For example, from 1826 to 1829 he was a member of the assembly, auditor general of the province, sheriff of the district of Quebec, a justice of the peace, a director of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning, and a militia officer. His military career had begun when he joined the voluntary militia on 8 April 1814. He had been appointed an ensign in the 1st Select Embodied Militia Battalion of Lower Canada, stationed at Pointe-aux-Trembles (Montreal), and was then transferred to the Beauport battalion of militia on 24 Dec. 1817. On 1 May 1818 he was appointed “Capitaine Aide Major” (adjutant). He was promoted major in February 1825 and on 1 June became second major of this battalion.
Thomas Ainslie Young’s loyalty to British institutions had led him to take an extremist attitude when he was made head of the Quebec police in 1837. The colonial government had found the ideal man for the job: respectful of authoritoung became a link in the administrative chain and carried out orders almost to perfection. He was an alarmist, and this trait served the interests of the authorities while provoking a good deal of anxiety in the Patriote population. His dogged persistence in hunting down rebels made him the “scourge of the Patriotes.” From 1845, however, the wind of politics veered, and the last 15 years of Young’s life were “uneventful.”
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Cite This Article
Marcel Plouffe, “YOUNG, THOMAS AINSLIE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 7, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/young_thomas_ainslie_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:
|Author of Article:||Marcel Plouffe|
|Title of Article:||YOUNG, THOMAS AINSLIE|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1985|
|Year of revision:||1985|
|Access Date:||June 7, 2023|