The birth of George Brown

Nov. 29, 1818: This newspaper’s founding proprietor was born 200 years ago this day in a Scottish village. George Brown’s reform-minded father moved the family to New York, where he established a newspaper. But young George preferred British to U.S. rule, and in 1844, he established The Globe in Toronto, which quickly became the most influential newspaper in British North America. Brown championed technological innovation, prison reform and responsible government in opposition to the Tory elites. The Reform Party and movement he effectively led eventually became the Liberal Party. Like many journalists, Brown made an indifferent politician, and during his time in Parliament, he was consistently bested by his Conservative rival, John A. Macdonald. But after years of unstable, short-lived governments, it was Brown who proposed the Great Coalition, which made Confederation possible. Macdonald, not Brown, became prime minister, of course, but that was all right, because Brown was always at heart a newspaperman. In a way, the paper killed him. In March, 1880, he was accidentally shot in the thigh by an irate former employee. The wound became infected and he died in May. But Brown’s legacy is great: He founded what became The Globe and Mail, helped forge the Liberal Party and proposed the compromise that led to Confederation. – John Ibbitson

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