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KINNEAR, DAVID, journalist; b. in 1805 or 1807 in Edinburgh, Scotland; d. 20 Nov. 1862 at Montreal.

Son of a celebrated Scottish banker and educated for the law, David Kinnear came to Lower Canada after a youthful involvement in the literary circle of Sir Walter Scott, John Gibson Lockhart, James Hogg, and John Wilson, a brief experience in London business, and a quick tour of the United States and Upper Canada. He settled in 1835 near Sherbrooke, bore arms against the rebels in 1837, and took part in the restoration of order as justice of the peace and stipendiary magistrate, 1839–40. In later years he lived in Montreal, but maintained a residence also at Napierville.

Montreal in the 1830s had two conservative, pro-British, “anti-patriot” papers, the Montreal Herald, owned by Robert Weir and edited after 1838 by Robert Weir Jr, and the Montreal Gazette, owned by two more Scots, Hew Ramsay and Robert Armour Jr. Kinnear, a friend of Ramsay, joined the Montreal Gazette as a reporter in 1838 and became editor-in-chief in 1839. He moved to the Montreal Herald in 1843 when Robert Weir Jr died, and became its editor-in-chief in 1844. The Herald and the Gazette both battled against the Pilot and Journal of Commerce and the Toronto Globe, the Reform position, and the “rebel-paying measures” of the Rebellion Losses Bill.

In 1846 Robert Weir Sr retired and D. Kinnear and Company bought the Montreal Herald, the co-owners being Kinnear, Andrew Wilson, James Potts, printer, John Stewart, and Edward Goff Penny*, reporter on the Herald since 1842. The Gazette had a new editor and proprietor in James Moir Ferres, and the two papers were growing politically distant. By 1848, Kinnear, now senior partner and editor of the Herald, had become the mouthpiece of the Montreal mercantile interests. In particular, he voiced their dismay at British free trade measures and changes in the British navigation laws that seemed to put Canadian merchants at a disadvantage in competition with American shippers. Sir Robert Peel’s free trade bill of 1846, for instance, was interpreted as destroying Canadian revenue from a protected trade.

The 1849 movement for annexation grew in part out of this dismay, and Kinnear became a leader of the movement. In June 1849 the Herald discussed cautiously in editorials the possibility of joining the United States, in light of the belief that Britain was “prepared to bid adieu to the colonies.” In October, Kinnear was one of the first to sign the Annexation Manifesto, and the Herald printed full news of annexation meetings in rural ridings. Kinnear was elected a councillor of the Montreal Annexation Association, on an executive which included John Redpath, John Torrance, Jacob De Witt*, and Antoine-Aimé Dorion*. When some annexationists were demoted from judicial and administrative positions, the Herald in January 1850 objected bitterly. Indignantly, Kinnear also protested that the Herald had not been financed from the United States: “Not one farthing!” he thundered. In March, Kinnear accepted nomination for a municipal office on an annexationist platform, but withdrew before election day, recognizing that the annexation issue did not fit into municipal politics.

The Herald gradually shifted from supporting annexation to urging protection by tariffs. Kinnear’s editorials reflect the turning of his attention to more perennial, though still urgent matters: the new temperance laws, capital punishment, pot-holes in local roads.

In the 1850s sharper competition with the Gazette led Kinnear to put in the first steam press in Canada East and make a new drive for business patronage. The Herald outstripped its rivals in advertisement: between 1845 and 1863 it attracted 97,141 new advertisers, much the highest aggregate of any Montreal paper. As editor of an increasingly commercial paper, Kinnear turned his interest to the Welland Canal and railways. By 1860 he had five steam presses, capable of printing 12,000 copies per hour.

David Kinnear died of dysentery in Montreal on 20 Nov. 1862, leaving behind his wife Mary and a large family. After his death ownership of the paper went to Penny, Andrew Wilson, and Mary Kinnear, operating as Penny, Wilson, and Company.

From the Scotland of Blackwood’s Magazine and the Edinburgh Review, David Kinnear had brought a tradition of firmness and eloquence to the conservative cause. His swing to annexationism and away again, traceable in the daily editorials of the Herald, illuminates one unexpected shift in conservative views during the mid-Victorian period.

Elizabeth Waterston

“The annexation movement, 1849–50,” ed. A. G. Penny, CHR, V (1924), 23661. Montreal Gazette, 183862. Montreal Herald, 183862. Beaulieu et Hamelin, Journaux du Québec, 100. Canada, an encyclopædia, V, 165, 186, 226. The Canadian newspaper directory . . . (Montreal, 1892). Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis, 212. C. D. Allin and G. M. Jones, Annexation, preferential trade and reciprocity; an outline of the Canadian annexation movement of 1849–50, with special reference to the question of preferential trade and reciprocity (Toronto and London, [1912]), 74, 82, 11820, 269, 274, 282, 289, 293. A history of Canadian journalism . . . (2v., Toronto, 190859), I. W. H. Kesterton, A history of journalism in Canada (Toronto, 1967). S. M. E. Read, “An account of English journalism in Canada from the middle of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth, with special emphasis being given to the periods prior to confederation” (unpublished ma thesis, McGill University, Montreal, 1925), 144. Rumilly, Hist. de la prov. de Québec, I. Thomas White, Newspapers, their development in the province of Quebec (Montreal, 1883).

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Cite This Article

Elizabeth Waterston, “KINNEAR, DAVID,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 2, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/kinnear_david_9E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/kinnear_david_9E.html
Author of Article:   Elizabeth Waterston
Title of Article:   KINNEAR, DAVID
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   March 2, 2024