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Memorable Manitobans: Lewis Wallbridge (1816-1887)


Born in Belleville, Ontario, son of William H. Wallbridge, lumber merchant, and grandson of Elijah Wallbridge, a United Empire Loyalist. He received his education under Dr. Benjamin Workman in Montreal and at Upper Canada College, Toronto. He studied law in the office of Robert Baldwin and was called to the Bar in 1839. He was one of the oldest barristers in the Province of Ontario, an ex-officio Bencher of the Law Society, and was created Queen’s Counsel in 1856. He was elected to Parliament in 1858 for North Hastings, and became Solicitor-General in the then celebrated Macdonald-Dorion government. In 1863 he was chosen Speaker of the House. He won the riding of Hastings South as a moderate Reformer in 1857, especially advocating representation by population. He became Speaker of the Canadian House in 1863, presiding over the historic debates on Confederation in 1865 before retiring from politics in 1867. He re-entered the political arena 10 years later as a Conservative but was defeated in Hastings West.

In 1882 he was appointed to the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, and also named chief justice, ostensibly because he was familiar with many Manitoba lawyers and understood land law, but probably more because he was a crony of Sir John A. Macdonald. His appointment provoked the resignation of Mr. Justice Miller. His early involvement in the trial of Louis Riel before improperly sitting on the Appeal Court panel has recently provided a legal argument for parliamentary reversal of the 1885 sentence of treason against Riel. He acted as a mediator between John Norquay and Sir John A. Macdonald until his death. Wallbridge had a nasty temper and on one occasion threw a statute book across the courtroom.

Wallbridge died on 19 October 1887 in Winnipeg. There are family papers in Library and Archives Canada.

See also:

“Louis Riel and the Crown Letters” by Ronald J. Olesky, Canadian Lawyer (February 1998): 12-15.

Lewis Wallbridge, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XI, 908-9.


Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 21 March 2017

Memorable Manitobans

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