James FitzGibbon, Defender of Upper Canada, is the often poignant story of a poor man’s rise to authority in the Upper Canada of the 1800s.
Born the son of a tenant farmer in Ireland, FitzGibbon’s valour as a soldier brought him to the attention of those destined for power in the Canadas. Hero of the Battle of Beaver Dams in 1813, one o the decisive battles in the War of 1812, FitzGibbon’s brilliance as tactician and negotiator was needed time and again — whether to settle Irish unrest on the Cornwall Canal, or to organize Toronto’s defence against William Lyon Mackenzie’s rebel forces in 1837.
As a public administrator, FitzGibbon’s rise was slow and disappointing. Despite holding a multitude of offices, he was continually in debt. And despite repeated petitions, FitzGibbon’s tireless military and public services went unrecognized and unrewarded. His final reward as a ceremonial knight in Windsor Castle adds a tragicomic touch to a fascinating tale.