Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/White, Thomas (1830-1888)

947311Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61 — White, Thomas (1830-1888)1900James Ramsay MacDonald

WHITE, THOMAS (1830–1888), Canadian politician, born in Montreal on 7 Aug. 1830, was son of Thomas White, who emigrated from co. Westmeath in 1826, and carried on business as a leather merchant in Montreal. On his maternal side he belonged to an Edinburgh family. He was educated at the High School, Montreal, and began life in a merchant's office, but soon turned his attention to journalism. A paper read by him at a discussion class introduced him to the editor of the ‘Quebec Gazette.’ In 1853 he founded the ‘Peterborough Review,’ and conducted it until 1860, when he temporarily left journalism to study law as a preparation for public life. At the end of four years he returned to journalism, and, in partnership with his brother, founded the ‘Hamilton Spectator.’ His last journalist connection was made on his return from England in 1870, when he assumed control of the ‘Montreal Gazette.’ This lasted for fifteen years.

His first public work was as a member of the school boards of Peterborough and Hamilton, Ontario; and he was for some time reeve of Peterborough. In 1867 he made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Ontario provincial parliament, and in 1874, 1875, and 1876 he made three fruitless efforts to be returned to the Dominion House of Commons. In 1878 the constituency of Cardwell elected him, and he represented it for the rest of his life.

His special interests were commercial, but the work with which his name will be permanently connected in Canadian politics is the opening up of northern and western Ontario and the prairie beyond to emigrants. He was sent to Britain in 1869 as the first emigration agent, and from his mission dates the diversion to Ontario of the stream of emigration which till then flowed from Canada westwards over the borders of the United States. In furtherance of his emigration schemes he was one of the pioneers of Canadian railways, and as minister of the interior, an appointment he received in 1885, he was responsible for the political reorganisation of the centre of the country after the second Riel rebellion. He died at Ottawa on 21 April 1888. Both Canadian houses adjourned out of respect for his memory.

[Canadian Parliamentary Companion, 1887; Montreal Gazette, 23 April 1888.]

J. R. M.