James Baby

James Baby (baptized Jacques), politician, militia officer, member of the upper house of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada (1792–96) (born 25 August 1763 at Detroit, Michigan; died 19 February 1833 at York (Toronto), Upper Canada).



Early Life and Family

Son of wealthy Detroit merchant Jacques Baby, dit Dupéront, James Baby was educated in the province of Quebec under the supervision of his uncle François Baby, a fur-trader and politician.

John Baby and his family were part of what was known as the Family Compact, a network of men who dominated the legislative, bureaucratic, business, religious and  judicial centres of power in Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) from the early- to mid-1800s. The Family Compact’s roots are in a series of political appointments made to two unelected branches of government in Upper Canada during  John Graves Simcoe’s tenure as Lieutenant-Governor in the 1790s.

When Lord Dorchester recommended adding "one or two Canadians" from Detroit to the lists of executive and legislative councillors for the proposed province of Upper Canada, James Baby was appointed to both councils in 1792, where he spent the rest of his career.

Career

Described by John Graves Simcoe as a "French Gentleman of indisputable loyalty," Baby was regarded as the perfect liaison with the French-speaking, Roman Catholic community in the western extremity of the province. He held many offices during his lifetime. In 1815, Baby was appointed as Inspector General, arguably the most important position of his career, and moved to York to take up the post.

Diligent in his attention to duty, he was perceived by some as having limited abilities. "A man of most Gentlemanly manners tho' rather slow of apprehension" was how Bishop John Strachan put it. Baby was susceptible to Strachan's bullying on important issues. On one occasion, noted by William Lyon Mackenzie, Baby was allegedly reduced to tears by Strachan's tactics.

Slave ownership was prevalent among the members of the early Upper Canada Legislative Assemblies. Baby, who opposed Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe's efforts to prohibit slavery in Upper Canada, was himself a member of a slave holding family (see Black Enslavement in Canada and Chloe Cooley and the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada).