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RADENHURST, THOMAS MABON, lawyer, politician, and office holder; b. 6 April 1803 in Fort St Johns (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Lower Canada, son of Thomas Radenhurst and Ann Campbell; m. 9 Nov. 1834 his cousin Lucy Edith Ridout, daughter of Thomas Ridout*, in Toronto, and they had four sons and six daughters; d. 7 Aug. 1854 in Perth, Upper Canada.

Thomas Mabon Radenhurst’s father came from Cheshire, England, to Lower Canada in February 1776 as storekeeper to the hospital at Trois-Rivières and ten years later married the daughter of a loyalist in Montreal. His death in 1805 left Thomas and his seven brothers and sisters under the sole care of their strong-willed mother. She managed to get commissions in the army for two of her older sons and later to have Thomas accepted at John Strachan*’s Home District Grammar School at York (Toronto). From there he went on to study law in the office of his cousin George Ridout*. Called to the bar in the spring of 1824, Radenhurst left York for Kingston and then moved to the new community of Perth, which in 1823 had become the judicial seat of the Bathurst District. There he built a prosperous legal practice out of the usual material: trespasses, debts, petitions, and assaults. Typical were his cases on behalf of the settlers of McNab Township against Archibald McNab, his role as solicitor for William Morris’s Tay Navigation Company, and his defence of the Reverend William Bell in a libel suit instituted by John Stewart of the Bathurst Independent Examiner. Also typical of his class and age were the land speculation and the various private commercial transactions with which he augmented his professional income.

Radenhurst moved in the upper ranks of Perth society among the half-pay officers, merchants, and lawyers who composed the town élite. In 1832 he bought the Reverend Michael Harris’s magnificent stone residence (now known as the Inderwick House), a visible crown to his successful career. Radenhurst’s hatred, however, of fellow lawyer James Boulton (brother of Attorney General Henry John Boulton*) climaxed in a duel they fought in 1830. Fortunately “the matter ended without injury to either party.” More serious consequences attended the duel fought in 1833 by their law students John Wilson* and Robert Lyon. Robert, the brother of Radenhurst’s old friend and brother-in-law George Lyon, was killed and was buried in the Radenhurst family plot.

The “Father and Champion of Reform” in Lanark County, Radenhurst dated his “adhesion . . . to Reform principles” to the general election of 1828 when he ran successfully for the Carleton seat in the House of Assembly, which he represented until 1830 when the house was dissolved after the death of George IV. Deeply affected by the dismissal of Judge John Walpole Willis*, he served in 1829 on the select parliamentary committee chaired by William Warren Baldwin* inquiring into the case. In February 1840 when Robert Baldwin was offered the position of solicitor general by Governor Charles Edward Poulett Thomson*, he wrote to Radenhurst for advice. Radenhurst warned Baldwin of the perils of compromising his principles and accepting office under “what [Sir Francis Bond Head*] would say is the bread and butter system.” None the less the bread and butter system did not hurt Radenhurst. Treasurer of the Bathurst District since 1840, he was appointed judge of the district court in December 1841, a position he declined on the grounds that it was not remunerative enough, and frequently served as crown prosecutor for the Eastern and Midland circuits. Criticized by Baldwin when a verdict went against him in 1851, Radenhurst could remind Baldwin of his impeccable handling of “all the public business you have entrusted to me since 1842.” He could also ask Baldwin to “use your influence” to affect local appointments.

Radenhurst’s local political influence, however, was overshadowed by that of Malcolm Cameron*, who in the election of 1836 emerged as the power of the reform party in the Bathurst District. When Cameron decided to run for the riding of Kent in 1847, Radenhurst, who had repeatedly withdrawn his candidacy in Lanark at the party’s request, fully expected to win the reform nomination there. Instead, William Bell’s son Robert was selected at a sparsely attended reform convention. Ignoring his promise to support the convention’s candidate and his own earlier warnings against splitting the party, Radenhurst threw his hat into the ring, but despite the split Bell was able to carry Lanark for reform. In 1851 Radenhurst ran again and this time emerged as the sole reform candidate but, having “injured himself beyond recovery” because he “broke faith last election,” he was defeated by tory James Shaw*.

Despite his lack of political success Radenhurst was admired by contemporaries “for his strict integrity in his professional pursuits.” In 1847 an observer describing Radenhurst’s courtroom manner commented that he “lounges in his chair with an easy familiarity.” Yet despite his “seeming abstraction . . . nothing has escaped his notice. . . . The witness finds that he is in the hands of a master.” Above all, Radenhurst could convince a jury that he believed “there is such a thing as truth” and that “whatever may be the merits of the suit the advocate is an honest man.” He was made a queen’s counsel in December 1850, but did not live long to enjoy the honour. Ill for several months, on 4 Aug. 1854 he suffered “a return of his disorder – (paralysis)” and died three days later. The mighty of Lanark County formed part of his funeral procession to the Perth Episcopal cemetery. At his death Radenhurst left behind a large family, an estate valued at more than £5,000, and a reputation as “a leading member of the Bar in Canada.”

William Cox

AO, MS 35, unbound papers, 1805; MU 2367–68. MTL, Robert Baldwin papers. PAC, RG 8, I (C ser.), 278: 122, 175, 203; 547: 179; 548: 16; 634: 53; 720: 124; 1220: 289; RG 31, A1, 1851, Perth. Perth Museum (Perth, Ont.), Radenhurst papers. QUA, William Bell papers; William Morris papers. Bathurst Courier, 9 Nov. 1834; 24 June 1836; 23 March 1840; 4, 18 Jan. 1842; 9 Nov., 24, 31 Dec. 1847; 7 Jan. 1848; November–December 1851; 11 Aug. 1854. Lambton Observer, and Western Advertiser, 17 Aug. 1854. Edward Shortt, The memorable duel at Perth ([Perth, 1970]).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

William Cox, “RADENHURST, THOMAS MABON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 26, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/radenhurst_thomas_mabon_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/radenhurst_thomas_mabon_8E.html
Author of Article: William Cox
Title of Article: RADENHURST, THOMAS MABON
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: October 26, 2014