Robert Sympson Jameson (1796-1854)

Robert Sympson Jameson - A lawyer, judge, political figure and Vice Chancellor of Upper Canada. Born in Hampshire, England, then raised in the Lake District of northwest England. Called to the English bar in 1823, first practicing in London. In 1829, he was appointed Puisne Judge and later, Chief Justice of Dominica. In 1833, he returned to London after refusing the same post in Tobago. Soon thereafter, he emigrated to Canada, where in 1833 was first appointed Attorney General in Upper Canada, where later he became Vice Chancellor.

Robert Jameson was born in May of 1796 in Harbridge, Hampshire, England, the youngest child and son of Thomas and Mary (Sympson) Jameson. Robert's father Thomas Jameson died in 1800 and in 1804, his mother remarried, William Ross, an Ambleside Doctor.[1] His early life and education was in the Ambleside area of Cumbria, England, until about 1818, when he was invited to study law at Middle Temple in London. Robert practiced law for about the next six years in London as an equity draftsman, during this time co-editing two volumes of bankruptcy case reports. He also continued his literary interests through an association with the London Magazine and the preparation of an edition of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English language.

Robert Jameson, apparently unhappy and unfulfilled with his practice at the Bar, in London, in 1829 was, with the help and influence from his friends and patrons, able to obtain an appointment to a puisne Judgeship, on the Island of Dominica, in the British West Indies. However, by 1833 he returned to London, having turned down a similar position in Tobago, disparaging the difficult living conditions in the Caribbean. Then, again most likely with the help from his friends and contacts in London, he was very soon, appointed as Attorney General for Upper Canada and arrived in York (Toronto) in June of 1833. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada for the County of Leeds in 1834, but his election was later invalidated after it was found there were irregularities in the voting process. In 1837, he was named vice-chancellor of the Court of Chancery. He was appointed to the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada in 1841 and became its first speaker. He served on the councils for King's College and Trinity College. In 1842, he was named chief superintendent of education. He also was a member of literary clubs in Toronto and helped found the Toronto Society of Arts in 1847. In 1850, he retired from the Court and, in 1853, from the Legislative Council.

Robert Jameson married Anna Brownell Murphy in London, England on July 9, 1825. Theirs was a difficult and unhappy courtship and marriage. She was an accomplished author, artist and feminist, and although they lived together until 1829 when Robert moved to the West Indies, she did not join him again until about 1836, in Canada, then finding provincial society insufferable, returned alone to London in 1837. They never reunited and did not have any children.[2]

Robert Simpson Jameson died August 1, 1854, at the age of 58, in Toronto Canada, while under the care of Reverend George Maynard, an eccentric master at Upper Canada College.[3] He left considerable property in real estate, the house and premises on Brock Street, and several acres of valuable and land in what is now Parkdale, bordering on Jameson Avenue, named after him.[4] He is buried at St. James Cemetery, in Toronto, in the family vault of his friend, Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Wells.[3]

Y-DNA test, associated with this family, #: None Known


[1]     The Greaser and Alfoxden Journals, Dorothy Wordsworth, Pamela Woof, (Oxford World Classics - Oxford University Press), p.188.

[2]     Anna Jameson - Katharine Bassett Patterson, Department of English, University of British Columbia

[3]     Dictionary of Canadian Biography - Blackwell, John D. Lecturer in history, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

[4]     The Lives of the Judges of Upper Canada and Ontario - Toronto, 1888 - XVI - Robert Simpson Jameson, p.188