Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine James
b. 1811-07-20
d. 1863-11-20
James Bruce (Lord Elgin) was an aristocratic younger son who was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He gave up a career in politics on the death, first, of his elder brother, and, then, his father, which made him a Scottish peer. After a term as governor of Jamaica, he accepted the commission of a Whig administration to become governor general of British North America, in 1847.
Elgin completed the process of bringing French Canadians back into government after their virtual exclusion by the Act of Union of 1840, itself a British response to the Rebellion of 1837-38. By signing the Rebellion Losses Bill in 1849, he provoked the burning of the Parliament buildings in Montreal and the Annexation Manifesto. However, interest in the latter document was short-lived as prosperity returned in the early 1850s. In 1854, Elgin charmed some recalcitrant southern members of Congress to support a Reciprocity Treaty between Britain and the United States, which ensured Canada's continued existence beyond the Republic.
Not always the arbiter of moderation whom Canadians celebrate, Elgin presided over the looting and destruction of the emperor's summer palace on the outskirts of Beijing in 1860, perhaps a fitting bookend to his father's removal of the Eglin marbles from Turkish-occupied Greece at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
  • 1. W. L. Morton, Bruce, James, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 2. Olive Checkland, Bruce, James, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
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