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Griffin, Frederick

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Griffin, Frederick

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Dates of existence

1798-1877

History

Frederick Griffin (4 Nov. 1798-3 Apr. 1877) was born in Montreal to Robert and Mary Griffin, after whom the Griffintown area of Montreal was named. Griffin studied law and was called to the bar of Lower Canada on December 23, 1824. Early on in his career, he was part of the firm of Sewell & Griffin with Stephen Sewell. He served as the first solicitor to the Bank of Montreal and was also counsel to the Board of the Royal Institution during the principalship of John Bethune.
In the 1840s and 1850s, Frederick Griffin was involved with the “freedom suits” of two Missouri slaves, adult children of a former Montreal slave, which took place in the Circuit Court of St. Louis. As part of the suits, the court queried three Montreal judges on the question of the historical legal status of slavery in Canada. In 1846 as part of Pierre v. Gabriel S. Chouteau, James Reid, retired chief justice of the Montreal Court of King’s Bench, and Samuel Gale, judge of the Court of King’s (Queen’s) Bench, were examined on the part of the plaintiff, Pierre. In 1856 as part of Mary Charlotte v. Gabriel Chouteau, William Badgley, judge of the Superior Court of Canada East, was examined on the part of the plaintiff, Mary Charlotte. Frederick Griffin served as counsel for the plaintiffs in these examinations.
In 1853, the Canadian Loan Company was incorporated by Frederick Griffin, along with Alexander Simpson, Jesse Joseph, Alexander Urquhart, William Henry Tilstone, William Rhodes, James Bell Forsyth, Henry Joseph, the London law firm of Tyrrell, Paine and Layton, and J. R. Graves of Liverpool. The company’s mission was to bring more capital into Canada via funds from England.
Griffin, along with his brother, notary public Henry Griffin, was a member of the Brothers in Law Association, a dining club for lawyers founded in 1827. He was also a member of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society, the Natural History Society of Montreal, served on the board of the Montreal Advocates’ Library, was a director of the Montreal Library, was secretary of the Commissioner for Improving the Harbour of Montreal, and was secretary, treasurer, and toll collector of the Commissioners of the Lachine Canal. Griffin was also a member of the Masonic order and was part of the Grand Lodge for the District of Montreal and Borough of William Henry. Griffin authored the book “Junius Discovered,” published by H. Ramsay in 1854, about the identity of an anonymous contributor to London’s “Public Advertiser.”
Griffin married Jane Porteous (29 May 1805-16 May 1828), daughter of Thomas Porteous, in 1823. The couple did not appear to have any children. Upon his death in 1877, Griffin bequeathed his substantial private library of 2,692 volumes to McGill University.

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