BALL, INGRAM, politician and judge; b. 1752 at Stonehouse Manor in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, England, eldest of six children of Robert Ball and Mary Dickerson; m. first Anna Coutts; m. secondly Margaret Childs; there were 12 children from the two marriages; d. 18 March 1807 near Sydney (N.S.).
Ingram Ball was the elder brother of Alexander John Ball, who became a rear-admiral in the Royal Navy and the first British governor of Malta. He entered the 33rd Foot as an ensign on 12 Feb. 1772, and in June of the following year exchanged to the 7th Dragoons as a cornet. Promoted lieutenant on 29 May 1776, he was advanced to captain-lieutenant in January 1780, but resigned from the army that November. It has been claimed that during the War of American Independence he served on the staff of Lieutenant-General Lord Cornwallis. Ball came to Cape Breton in 1788 with his wife and six children and settled west of Sydney on the site of the present-day village of Ball’s Creek. He soon became involved in the political life of the colony, being appointed to the Executive Council on 22 June 1789 by Lieutenant Governor William Macarmick. Ball aligned himself with a faction in the council headed by Ranna Cossit, the Church of England clergyman in Sydney, which was opposed to one led by David Mathews*, the attorney general. Both groups sought to control the colony through manipulation of the lieutenant governor and council, an essential step since a house of assembly was never convened.
When Macarmick left Cape Breton in 1795, Mathews became administrator and used his new power to harass and dismiss members of the rival clique. In his capacity as first (and, at this point, only) assistant judge of the Supreme Court, a position to which he had been appointed by Macarmick, Ball functioned as chief justice. Unfortunately, however, some of his judgements were in opposition to those of Archibald Charles Dodd*, a magistrate and an ally of Mathews. Dissatisfied with Ball’s decisions, Mathews appointed Dodd first assistant judge in June 1797, an action that appears to have suspended Ball from the Supreme Court. At some time during Mathews’s term of office he also dismissed Ball from the council. As tension between Mathews and his adversaries grew during 1797, a group of sailors led by his son roamed about terrorizing those inhabitants who opposed the administrator. During Ball’s absence they broke into his home, “a Strumpet in their Company,” and “teized & tossed about” Mrs Ball for some time. The following year Mathews used a debt charge as an excuse to jail Ball.
In June 1798 James Ogilvie arrived to assume control of the government. He soon released Ball and reappointed him to his seat on the council, dismissed Dodd from the Supreme Court, and replaced him with two joint chief justices, Ball and William Smith. By early 1799 Ball and Smith were at loggerheads; unable to agree on judgements, they split decisions and nullified the power of the Supreme Court. The cause of this rivalry appears to have been Ball’s change of allegiance to Mathews’s group, Smith tending to favour Cossit and his allies. The reasons for Ball’s volte-face are not clear. In May 1799 John Murray* replaced Ogilvie as administrator. He favoured the Cossit faction and soon fell out with Ball, calling him an “old Military Debauchée” and accusing him of being drunk “from Morning to night.” Ball was finally removed from his positions as joint chief justice and councillor on 22 Dec. 1799, and in the spring of 1800 he was convicted of perjury and sentenced to jail for 12 months. Murray’s successor, John Despard*, took an interest in his case and in May 1801 obtained the British government’s consent to the remission of the remainder of Ball’s sentence.
After his release Ball took no active part in Cape Breton politics and retired to his farm. His career reveals the acrimonious state of political life during the early years of the colony’s existence, due largely to factionalism and favouritism arising from the absence of a house of assembly and the scramble for the small number of offices available.
PAC, MG II, [CO 217] Cape Breton A, 10: 86; [CO 220] Cape Breton B, 5:44–45. PRO, CO 217/113: ff.200–1, 534; 217/114; 217/115: f.87; 217/116; 217/117: ff.21, 29, 125, 143–45; 217/118: f.13. [William Smith], A caveat against emigration to America; with the state of the island of Cape Breton, from the year 1784 to the present year; and suggestions for the benefit of the British settlements in North America (London, 1803).