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JACK, ISAAC ALLEN, lawyer and author; b. 26 June 1843 in Saint John, N.B., son of William Jack, a lawyer, and Emma Carleton Kenah; d. there 5 April 1903, unmarried and without issue.

Allen Jack was descended from loyalists on both sides and was the namesake of one of New Brunswick’s original judges, Isaac Allen. Educated at the Fredericton Collegiate School, he began higher studies in 1861 at the newly secularized University of New Brunswick (Fredericton). Soon, however, he led several other scions of the Anglican gentry in preferring charges against the institution’s first lay, and first non-Anglican, president, Joseph R. Hea, accusing him of ungentlemanly conduct in his treatment of students and staff. Hea’s trial before Lieutenant Governor John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton* as university visitor was understood widely as amounting to a tory attack on the Smasher government of Charles Fisher*, which had appointed Hea. The charges, prosecuted by William Jack, were sustained and Hea was dismissed. Nevertheless, Jack chose to pursue his degree at the more genteel King’s College (Windsor, N.S.), from which he was graduated with a ba in 1863.

After returning to Saint John, Jack remained in his father’s chambers through articling, admission as an attorney (1866), call to the bar (1867), and junior partnership. Like many young lawyers, he often despaired of his prospects. Determined to “dress like a gentleman & wear a smile” in the face of “genteel starvation,” he nevertheless contemplated emigration. Professional profit was only $500 in 1869 and $800 the year following. In 1869, in the Supreme Court of New Brunswick, Jack appeared as counsel in Canada’s first appellate case on the constitutionality of judicial review of legislation under the British North America Act, urging unsuccessfully that the federal-provincial division of powers be policed by the federal power of disallowance rather than by the courts. In 1885 he was appointed to the prestigious position of recorder (solicitor) of his native city. It was in Jack’s office that the Saint John Law School (now the University of New Brunswick faculty of law) was organized on 18 Aug. 1892, and he taught its course in Roman law for three years. His health had broken in 1894, however, and, confined to his room from the following year, he devoted his remaining energies to literary production.

For 21 months in 1870–71 Jack had kept a journal, the most substantial extant for a late-19th-century New Brunswick lawyer. It is a remarkable document, chronicling the vicissitudes of law practice and reflecting in detail some of the literary, scientific, and religious enthusiasms of the age, while not omitting its author’s occasional visits to brothels. It reveals Jack as a frequent lecturer at the Mechanics’ Institute, an active member of Saint John’s important Natural History Society of New Brunswick, and an avid concert goer. Apart from law, its principal concern is religion.

At King’s, Jack had fallen under the “magnetic” spell of his fellow student the Anglo-Catholic George Wright Hodgson [see Hibbert Binney*], and at home he attended St Paul’s (Valley) Church, the least “low” of the Anglican parishes in and around Saint John. As a loyal member of its surpliced choir he had frequent contact with Bishop John Medley* and his influential son Charles Steinkopff, who put distinctive emphasis on beauty in music, architecture, and ecclesiastical furniture as an aid to faith. Through Jack’s diary one can trace a growing appreciation of the aesthetic badges of Anglo-Catholicism. In 1882 he was among the influential members of St Paul’s who left to support the bitterly controversial establishment of the ritualistic Mission Chapel.

Romanticism in religion complemented a quixotism in politics. Like his father a tory and anti-confederate, he opposed both the Liberal Samuel Leonard Tilley* and the federal Conservative party with which Tilley became associated. In other words, he was a provincial Conservative but a federal Liberal. Politics stimulated Jack to two notable polemics. In “Canadian aristocracy” (1874) he denounced the political corruption and social degeneration that had accompanied the rise of responsible government and egalitarianism, mourning extravagantly the passing of New Brunswick’s polished, Anglican, legal-military élite. The anonymous 1880 novella Memoirs of a Canadian secretary was prompted by Jack’s dismay at “that most melancholy subject,” the return of Sir John A. Macdonald*’s Conservatives to power in 1878 and the National Policy that followed. Written ostensibly from the vantage of 1928, the memoir portrays a New Brunswick without commerce – its inhabitants reduced to dulse gathering – the province taken over by the St Lawrence French and governed by an “Intendant.” Saint John’s most zealously evangelical Anglican church is depicted as “Our Lady’s Chapel”; Loyalist Day (18 May) is retained in the memory only of elderly eccentrics. Jack’s most savage criticism was reserved for the “Marquis of Gagetown” (Tilley), whose manipulation of patronage had accomplished the return of federal Conservatives. In the final scene of the Memoirs Tilley is shot by an assassin.

From the 1860s to the 1880s Jack wrote prose and poetry for many newspapers and magazines, on a variety of subjects. The literary productions for which he is remembered are historical and came during the long period of retirement. A founding member of both the New Brunswick Historical Society and the New Brunswick Loyalist Society, Jack felt the need to attract interest in Maritime history by emphasizing the “well regulated family pride” that came from a loyalist descent. Thus his Biographical review . . . of leading citizens of the province of New Brunswick (Boston, 1900) printed lengthy, sympathetic notices of 360 New Brunswickers, most of them Jack’s contemporaries, and focused on genteel ancestry. The History of StAndrew’s Society of StJohn, N.B., Canada, 1798 to 1903 (Saint John, 1903) took the form of annals but was more accomplished than the Biographical review. Jack’s most notable historical imprint was based on an ironic misunderstanding. Joseph Wilson Lawrence* had presented Jack with Ward Chipman* Sr’s lengthy brief in an 1800 test case, arguing the unlawfulness of slavery. The document became the centre-piece of Jack’s 1898 article on “The loyalists and slavery in New Brunswick.” Though later research has shown that the test case was initiated by Samuel Denny Street* and that Chipman argued the side of the slave owner in subsequent litigation, Jack’s celebratory portrait of Chipman still dominates the historiography.

D. G. Bell

[Jack’s article “Canadian aristocracy” appears in Maritime Monthly (Saint John, N.B.), 4 (1874), no.1: 65–77, and that on slavery in New Brunswick in RSC Trans., 2nd ser., 4 (1898), sect.ii: 137–85. The memoirs of a Canadian secretary: a posthumous paper appeared anonymously under the fictitious editorship of “Ephraim Davis” and bears the fictitious imprint “Toronto, 1928,” but was issued by the firm of Dawson Brothers in Montreal in July 1880. There is nothing in the volume to indicate the actual publication details, but these can be determined from the following reviews in contemporary newspapers: the London Advertiser (London, Ont.), 20 July 1880; the Saint John Globe, 24 July 1880; the Saint John Daily Sun, 26 July 1880; the Montreal Herald and Daily Commercial Gazette, 22 July 1880; and the Morning Chronicle (Quebec), 29 July 1880.

In addition to the items mentioned in the text, Jack’s publications include Our wildflowers (Saint John, 1896), George ASchofield ([Toronto?, 1901?]; copy in N.B. Museum), and “A sculptured stone found in St. George, New Brunswick,” Smithsonian Institution, Annual report (Washington), 1881: 665–71. He is also the author of two autobiographical accounts: “King’s College in the early sixties,” King’s College Record (Windsor, N.S.), 19 (1896–97): 19–21, 40–42, 55–59, 75–77, 94–96; and “Old times in Victoria Ward,” New Brunswick Magazine (Saint John), 2 (January–June 1899): 64–72, 132–40, 195–204.

The I. A. Jack papers at the N.B. Museum include his journal (A20), a scrapbook containing clippings of his anonymous journalism (C36), the manuscripts of eight occasional lectures (A246–50 and A294–96), and the family bible (B182a).  d.g.b.]

N.B. Museum, Loyalist Soc. papers. PANB, RS32, C. Univ. of King’s College Library (Halifax), Univ. of King’s College, board of governors, minutes and proc., 6 Sept. 1892 (mfm. at PANS). Colonial Empire (Saint John), 14–28 March 1861. Daily Tribune (Saint John), 15, 17 Jan. 1872. Nation (Toronto), 6 Aug. 1874. Saint John Globe, 24 Sept. 1875, 11 Jan. 1895. StJohn Daily Telegraph and Morning Journal, 1 Sept. 1873. StJohn Morning Telegraph, 27 Oct. 1868. D. G. Bell, “Slavery and the judges of loyalist New Brunswick,” Univ. of New Brunswick Law Journal (Fredericton), 31 (1982): 9–42. History of the Mission Church of SJohn Baptist, Saint John, N.B., 1882–1932, [comp. J. V. Young] (Saint John, 1932), 10. D. R. Jack, “The late Isaac Allen Jack,” Acadiensis (Saint John), 3 (1903): 151–54. New Brunswick Reports (Fredericton and Saint John), 12 (1867–69): 556. M. B. Taylor, Promoters, patriots, and partisans: historiography in nineteenth-century English Canada (Toronto, 1989). Univ. of King’s College, Windsor, School of Law (Saint John), Calendar (Halifax), 1892/93–1895/96 (copies in UNBL, Law Library).

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Cite This Article

D. G. Bell, “JACK, ISAAC ALLEN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 18, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jack_isaac_allen_13E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jack_isaac_allen_13E.html
Author of Article:   D. G. Bell
Title of Article:   JACK, ISAAC ALLEN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   June 18, 2024