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d. 3 Oct. 1881 at Saint John, N.B.


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MARKLAND, GEORGE HERCHMER (Herkimer), public servant; b. about 1790 at Kingston, Upper Canada, the only child of Thomas Markland* and Catherine Herchmer (Herkimer); his wife Anna died in 1847; d. 17 May 1862 at Kingston.

George Herchmer Markland, son of a prominent Kingston merchant, was educated by John Strachan at Cornwall. In 1810 the Reverend John Stuart* wrote of him as “a good, indeed an excellent young man” who wished to enter the Anglican ministry. In the same year John Beverley Robinson described Markland, then 20 years old, as “a good fellow, and very friendly,” but added: “I prefer seeing a person at his age rather more manly and not quite so feminine either in speech or action.” Markland did not enter the ministry. During the War of 1812 he served as an ensign in a company of Frontenac militia commanded by his uncle, Lawrence Herchmer (Herkimer).

In 1820 Markland unsuccessfully contested the riding of Kingston against fellow Tory, Christopher Alexander Hagerman*. Within a few weeks of his defeat he was appointed to the Legislative Council, probably through the influence of Strachan. Two years later, at age 32, he was made an honorary member of the Executive Council and, in 1827, a regular member. He was also appointed to the Provincial Board of Education in 1822. Though Markland spent several years in England in the mid 1820s, his absence from Upper Canada did not slow his advancement in the government. In 1828 he was appointed secretary receiver of the Upper Canada Clergy Corporation which administered the leasing of the clergy reserves. In the same year he became registrar of King’s College, chartered in 1827, and was later involved with Sir John Colborne in the creation of Upper Canada College. From 1831 to 1838 he was also secretary and treasurer of the board responsible for the collection of money from the sale of school lands, and from 1828 to 1836 he served as an Upper Canadian arbitrator in the division of customs revenue between Upper and Lower Canada. In his positions of trust and in his roles as legislative and executive councillor Markland completely supported Strachan’s religious and educational goals. In 1836, for example, he, Peter Robinson*, and Joseph Wells* formed the Executive Council which assented to Colborne’s endowment of 43 Anglican rectories. In May 1833 he reached the apex of his career when he was made inspector general of public accounts. As in his previous positions of fiscal responsibility, he worked diligently and efficiently; he was, to all appearances, a model bureaucrat deserving the emulation of his fellow officials.

In June 1838 reports began to circulate in Toronto that Markland’s habits were “derogatory to his character as a public officer.” Lieutenant Governor Sir George Arthur* determined upon an investigation by executive councillors Robert Baldwin Sullivan*, William Allan*, Augustus Warren Baldwin, John Elmsley, and William Henry Draper*. Markland agreed that an inquiry was necessary to clear his name and unsuccessfully attempted to have Strachan made the sole investigator. Largely through circumstantial evidence, Markland was accused of having had sexual liaisons with a number of young men. Two witnesses stated during the inquiry that he had purchased the discharges of several young soldiers and had supported a law student allegedly in return for anticipated sexual favours, although those who had accepted his financial aid denied having been parties to illicit relationships. The law student, Frederick Creighton Muttlebury, stated that he had ended his financial dependence upon the inspector general because of Markland’s increasingly bold and possessive attitude but he too denied any “criminality” on Markland’s part. Margaret Powell, housekeeper of the government buildings, claimed that Markland had often met young men in the evenings at his office, and that on one occasion, while listening at his door, she had heard “such movements as convinced me that there was a female in the room, with whom some person was in connection,” but only Markland and a young drummer emerged from the office. Another witness claimed that during a walk on the outskirts of town in 1835 “Markland had . . . put his hand in an indecent manner on my brother’s person.” Markland maintained his innocence to Arthur, and defended his private acts of benevolence, but did not testify on his own behalf. The week-long inquiry was quietly dropped in return for Markland’s resignation as inspector general. His career in ruins, Markland returned to Kingston to live in virtual isolation. In the following month, after being pressed by his fellow officers, he resigned his commission as colonel in the Frontenac militia. He had resigned from the Executive Council in 1836 and was not re-appointed a legislative councillor in 1841. He never again held any public office.

Markland’s problems did not end with his virtual banishment. In 1841 a legislative committee, chaired by John Simcoe Macaulay*, discovered that Markland as treasurer of the school lands fund was in default almost £5,000 for the period 1831–38. He did not deny responsibility for the deficit; the government was reimbursed through occasional payments and provisions in his will. In the mid 1840s Markland barely escaped civil suit by the council of King’s College for his role in using college funds for the erection of Upper Canada College. Strachan intervened on his behalf and convinced the council that Markland had merely been acting on the orders of Sir John Colborne.

In 1838 Markland was a leading member of the Family Compact, probably ranking second only to J. B. Robinson among Strachan’s protégés. His political and social eclipse was abrupt. No hint of the sexual scandal appeared in the contemporary press, and the account of it rests on official reports. Today only a few of Markland’s letters remain, scattered in the correspondence of his friends and associates. Whether the charges made against him in 1838 were accurate or the result of gossip and innuendo will probably never be known with certainty. The witnesses, including two labourers, a gardener, a soldier, a servant, and a housekeeper, as well as a merchant, a law student, and a government clerk, seemed as shocked by the familiarity with which Markland, a gentleman, treated members of the lower class, as they were by the nature of the conduct of which he stood accused. Even the exact circumstances surrounding his defalcations from the school lands account remain unknown. He may have been guilty of no more than careless accounting, a common fault among 19th century Canadian officials. His sudden departure from office could have prevented him from balancing his accounts and led ultimately to charges being laid against him. The passing of his peers in the Family Compact elicited glowing eulogies from Reform and Conservative newspapers alike, but Markland’s death in 1862 was noted in the Kingston Daily British Whig and in the Globe by identical two-line obituaries. Almost a century later W. S. Wallace* noted “the almost Egyptian darkness” which has obscured Markland’s career.

Robert J. Burns

PAC, RG 1, E1, 56, pp.22–23, 25–26, 299; 57, p.78; E3, 50, pp.210–311; RG 5, A1, 201, pp.110995–1001, 111051–53; 203, pp.112399–403; 204, pp.113075–77; C1, 61, p.485; 62, p.515; 63, p.664; 66, p.1097; 140, p.8980; 143, p.9239; 540, p.182; RG 9, I, B7, 10, pp.51, 56, 58; 11, pp.285–92a. PAO, Irving (Æmilius) papers, box 59, pkg.62, item I, Markland mortgage; Macaulay (John) papers, J. B. Robinson to Macaulay, 24 July 1810; G. H. Markland to Macaulay, 2 May 1824, 23 Sept. 1825, 10 April 1843; Macaulay to Ann Macaulay, 5, 31 Aug. 1838; John Kirby to Macaulay, 25 Nov. 1838; Macaulay to J. Kirby, 27 Jan. 1839; Strachan (John) papers, letterbook, 1844–49, Strachan to G. H. Markland, 29 Dec. 1845; Strachan to Henry Boys, 28 Feb. 1848; RG 22, ser. 6–2, Frontenac County Surrogate Court, will of George Herchmer Markland, 30 July 1858. St George’s Anglican Church (Kingston, Ont.), parish register of burials, 5 Jan. 1857–5 Nov. 1924, no. 271, 19 May 1862; vestry book, 1835–49, 23 March 1841. A. N. Bethune, Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan, D.D., LL.D., first bishop of Toronto (Toronto and London, 1870), 16–17. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1841, I, app.K.K.; 1854–55, XI, app. S.S. The parish register of Kingston, Upper Canada, 1785–1811, ed. A. H. Young (Kingston, Ont., 1921). Church, 11 June 1847. Daily British Whig (Kingston, [Ont.]), 19 May 1862. Globe, 22 May 1862. Upper Canada Gazette (Toronto), 4 Oct. 1838. Directory of the city of Kingston, for 1857–1858 . . . , comp. Thomas Flynn (Kingston, [Ont.], 1857). Wallace, Macmillan dictionary. Wilson, Clergy reserves of U.C., 99–101, 123. Alison Ewart and Julia Jarvis, “The personnel of the Family Compact, 1791–1841,” CHR, VII (1926), 209–21. W. D. Reid, “Johan Jost Herkimer, U.E., and his family,” OH, XXXI (1936), 215–27. W. S. Wallace, “Two early officers of the university,” University of Toronto Monthly, XXVII (1926–27), 207–8. S. F. Wise, “Tory factionalism: Kingston elections and Upper Canadian politics, 1820–1836,” OH, LVII (1965), 205–23.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Robert J. Burns, “MARKLAND, GEORGE HERCHMER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 3, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/markland_george_herchmer_9E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/markland_george_herchmer_9E.html
Author of Article:   Robert J. Burns
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   October 3, 2023