The Hon. Albert Norton Richards

The following article was written in 1880 by John Charles Dent, journalist and historian, (born at Kendal, England, 8 Nov 1841; died at Toronto 27 Sept 1888) for the Canadian Portrait Gallery.

After a newspaper career abroad and in Toronto, Dent became a freelance writer.   His most successful book was the illustrated 4-vol. Canadian Portrait Gallery (1880-81) in which he wrote 185 of its 204 sketches.

In The Last Forty Years: Canada since the Union of 1841 (2 vols., 1881) and the more partisan The Story of the Upper Canadian Rebellion (2 vols., 1885), he sided with moderate reformers.   John King, W.L. Mackenzie’s son-in-law, attacked him in The Other Side of the “Story” (1886).   Later, however, Dent thought that responsible government had made Canadian politics corrupt. A convinced free trader and lifelong admirer of John Bright, he insisted on economy and probity in government. In addition to history, Dent also wrote fiction, much of which was published posthumously.

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Albert N. Richards

Albert N. Richards  about 1880

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The Hon. Albert N. Richards

2nd Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia  1876-81

Mr. Richards is the youngest son of the late Stephen Richards, of Brockville, and a brother of the Hon. William Buell Richards, ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Dominion.

Albert Norton Richards was born at Brockville, Upper Canada, on the 8th of December, 1822. Like his elder brothers, William and Stephen, he received his early education at the famous Johnstown District Grammar School, and embraced the legal profession as his calling in life. He studied law in the office of his brother William, with whom he entered into partnership after his call to the Bar in Michaelmas Term, 1848.

Though perhaps somewhat less conspicuous at the Bar than his partner, he took a high position, and was distinguished for the acumen and soundness of judgment which seem to be inherent in every member of his family. After his brother’s elevation to the Bench, he himself continued to practise at Brockville. His business was large and profitable.

He took a keen interest in politics, and was identified with the Reform Party. He did not seek Parliamentary distinction, however, until the year 1861, when he was an unsuccessful candidate for the representation of South Leeds in the Legislative Assembly of Canada—his successful opponent being Mr. Benjamin Tett.

At the general election of 1863 he again offered himself in opposition to the same candidate, and on this occasion was returned at the head of the poll. In the month of December following he accepted office in the Sandfield Macdonald-Dorion Administration, as Solicitor-General for Canada West in 1863-64. He was at the same time created a Queen’s Counsel.

Albert N. Richards, MP- Soliciter-General for Canada West

Albert N. Richards, MP
– Solicitor-General for Canada West

Upon returning to his constituents for re-election, after accepting office, he was compelled to encounter the full strength of the Conservative Party. The Government of the day existed by a mere thread, their majority averaging one, two and three, and it was felt that if Mr. Richards could be defeated the Government must resign.

The constituency of South Leeds was invaded by all the principal speakers and agents of the Conservative Party, headed by the Hon. John A. Macdonald and the late Mr. D’Arcy McGee, and no stone was left unturned to defeat the new Solicitor-General. The result was the defeat of the latter by D. Ford Jones, the Conservative candidate, by a majority of five votes.

Mr. Richards, after the resignation of the Government, remained out of public life until 1867, when he unsuccessfully contested his old seat for the House of Commons with the late Lieutenant-Governor John W. Crawford, the latter being elected by a majority of thirty-nine.

In 1869 Mr. Richards was offered by the Government of Sir John Macdonald, the office of Attorney-General in the Provincial Government which Mr. Macdougall, as Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories, was about to establish at Fort Garry. Mr. Richards accepted the office, and accompanied Mr. Macdougall on his well-known journey, until stopped by Louis Riel at Stinking River.

In the following year he visited British Columbia on public business, and in 1871 he again visited that Province, this time for the benefit of the health of his children, eight of whom he had lost by death during his residence at Brockville.

At the general election of 1872, Mr. Richards made another and a successful appeal to the electors of South Leeds, and was returned to the House of Commons. He held his seat until January, 1874; when, being absent from the country, on a visit to British Columbia, he was unable to return in time to be nominated for his old constituency, and South Leeds became lost to the Reform Party.

Mr. Richards continued to reside in British Columbia, and for several years was the official Legal Agent of the Dominion Government in that Province. He took an active part in endeavouring to bring about various much-needed law reforms, as to several of which he was ultimately successful.

On the 29th of July, 1875, he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, a position which he has ever since held. His sterling qualities have obtained recognition, and he has won great popularity.

He has been twice married. His first wife, whom he married on the 17th of October, 1849, was Frances Chaffey, daughter of the late Benjamin Chaffey, formerly of Staffordshire, England. This lady died in April, 1853. On the 12th of August, 1854, he married Ellen Chaffey Chislett, daughter of the late John Chislett, also of Staffordshire. His second wife still survives.

Lt.-Gov. Albert N. Richards

Lt.-Gov. Albert N. Richards

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4 comments on “The Hon. Albert Norton Richards

  1. Bruce Varcoe says:

    There is probably a photo of Stephen RICHARDS SR 1791-1863 at the McCord museum website (Notman Photo Archives). However, it is only labeled as “Mr Richards 1862”. Do a search for the preceding and you will find it. Sitting with his right elbow on a table and right hand resting on his cheek. I have photos of all three sons and the resemblance is striking so very probable it is him. In addition his right hand seems to be somewhat deformed (as you might expect for someone who was a blacksmith). Also a photo of Edmund John SENKLER who is in that group photo of 1866. He was a Judge in St Catharines in Ontario and his brother William Stevens SENKLER was also a Judge.
    You might want to check out the material I donated to the Brockville Public Library a number of years ago concerning the Richards family.

    Regards

    Bruce A Varcoe
    Ferndale,WA,USA
    (formerly of Toronto and Vancouver)

    • Doug Grant says:

      Bruce:

      Thanks for your comments and the reference to the McCord Museum collection. I have followed up on your remarks and have spent quite a few hours looking through their pictures.

      I was looking for other possible Brockville portraits besides Stephen Richards, Sr. & Edmund J Senkler. My discoveries include: David S. Booth, William J. Christie, Mr. & Mrs. William Chaffey, R.P. Cooke, Rev. E.P. Crawford, John M. Gill, and William Gilmour.

      This site is a great resource for many different types of images.

      http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/keys/collections/

      Best wishes,

      Doug Grant

  2. William Chislett says:

    The Chislett’s and Chaffey’s came from Somerset not Staffordshire.

    • Doug Grant says:

      Bill:
      Good to hear from you. You are absolutely correct. Mr. Dent slipped up in his research. I knew that Somerset was the home area in England of the Chaffeys and Chisletts.

      Doug Grant
      Brockville

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