John George Bourinot

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John George Bourinot
father and son


John George Bourinot


Sir John Bourinot in 1888


John George Bourinot (15 March 1814 – 19 January 1884) was a French Canadian merchant and politician, a member of the first Canadian Senate.

Born in Grouville, he was educated in Jersey and in Caen in Normandy and emigrated as a young man to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where he opened a business as a ship chandler. In 1834, shortly after his arrival there, he was appointed French vice-consul and also worked as an agent for Lloyd's of London. In 1835, he married Margaret Ann Marshall, daughter of John George Marshall, from a politically influential local family. Together, they had eleven children.

In the 1840s, Bourinot lobbied unsuccessfully for the independence of Cape Breton Island from Nova Scotia. In 1859 he was elected as the Conservative MLA of Cape Breton County in Halifax. Bourinot eventually sided with Charles Tupper, voting for the Confederation Resolution in 1866, and was appointed by John A Macdonald as a Liberal-Conservative member of the first Canadian Senate.

His political career thereafter was unremarkable; Bourinot was mostly active in committee work. He died of a stroke in Ottawa, where he had wanted to attend the opening of parliament in 1884.


John Bourinot's eldest son, also John George (1836-1902) - later Sir John - was a Canadian journalist, historian, and civil servant, author of the first Canadian effort in 1884 to document Parliamentary Procedure and Practice, and remembered as an expert in parliamentary procedure and constitutional law.

Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, he was educated there before enrolling at Trinity College, Toronto, in 1854. Although he was a good student, he left the university two years later and worked as a parliamentary reporter for a Toronto newspaper. In 1860 he was in Halifax, where he founded, together with Joseph Crosskill, his own newspaper, the Evening Reporter.

In May 1867 he left the newspaper and worked as a freelance writer for some time, until he secured a job as a clerk at the Canadian Senate in May 1869. In the following years, he steadily advanced through various grades until he was appointed chief clerk of the Canadian House of Commons in December 1880; a post he would occupy until his death 22 years later.

A founding member of the Royal Society of Canada, he also acted as its honorary secretary, and in 1892 served as president of the society. He wrote many books on political history, some of which were considered references for decades to come.

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Descendants of Jean Bourinot

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