[b.circa 1749 - d.1818]
History is an exercise in remembering.
The election contest was not even close. The campaign in the riding of 2nd Lincoln was a hard fought one, but the outcome was never in doubt. By 148 to 48 votes, Benjamin Pawling, farmer, printer, publisher and former officer in Butler's Rangers soundly defeated leading merchant Samuel Street for a seat in Upper Canada's first Legislative Assembly. Because records of the first assembly are scant, the extent of Pawling's participation in the legislature is unknown. However, based on an almost total lack of interest in most of his other official responsibilities, one might safely hazard a guess that his attendance in the Assembly was sporadic and his involvement in the legislature's deliberations minimal.
In the early days of Upper Canada, most politicians were anxious to add to their prestige and their purses by petitioning for as many appointments as possible. Not so Benjamin Pawling. He grew to resent the demands on his time of the various offices he held and actually requested release from the pressures of his official duties. In 1793, he appealed directly to Lieutenant Governor Simcoe to relieve him "from the weight of his public occupations" which "encroached upon the management of his own private concerns." Undoubtedly, Undoubtedly, Simcoe was somewhat taken aback by this unusual request when normally he was beset by pleas for appointments.
Benjamin Pawling was born in 1750, the son of Henry Pawling of Providence (now Montgomery County) Pennsylvania, where his parents settled after they had emigrated from Wales. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, the Pawlings' Loyalist leanings resulted in the confiscation of their lands. With his brother Benjamin fled to Quebec and joined Butler's Rangers, serving with the rank of captain for seven years before retiring on half-pay in 1784. The Rangers' records list his occupation as `farmer' and that of his brother as `private gentleman.' For his service as a Loyalist captain Benjamin received a land grant in Upper Canada. He settled in the Niagara region in Grantham Township on the Lake Ontario front near Twelve Mile Creek. By 1783 he had cleared eight acres of land, and four years later the forest had fallen on twelve more acres, ten of of the rich, wilderness soil sown with wheat.
Indian superintendent Sir John Johnson recommended Pawling for various `civil trusts' including appointment to the Lincoln County land board in 1788 and justice of the peace for the Niagara district. Pawling was also named to the Court of Common Pleas and to the Heir and Devisee Commission which was responsible for approving Loyalist land claims. Pawling's preoccupation with his own problems resulted in rare appearances at land board and court meetings. Over a 3 to 5-year period, he attended only 3 out of 36 and 4 out of 23 meetings respectively. In 1794 the county land boards were discontinued thereby lightening Pawling's civic duties. Benjamin became a major in the Lincoln Militia in 1794, a commission he resigned in 1806. He does not seem to have participated actively in the War of 1812.
In addition to his other occupations Benjamin shared ownership of the Niagara Spectator, his name appearing with that of Bartemas Ferguson's on the newspaper's masthead, as printers and publishers. The Spectator's frank and forthright motto was: `Nugas egit unusquisque invicem' (Each of us in turn has played the Fool). In later years the motto was omitted.
In 1818 Robert Gourlay, a highly independent thinker and controversial dissenter was bitterly critical of the government in Upper Canada. His agitating articles against the establishment appeared regularly on the pages of the Spectator. In one long and particularly tough tirade, written after the Assembly at the Governor's urging had banned all 'seditious' meetings, Gourlay complained that he had been "Gagged, Gagged, By Jingo." With the publication of this critical complaint, the stage was set for confrontation. The government proceeded to lay charges of seditious libel against both Pawling and Ferguson.
On the 16th of December, 1818 it was claimed by the Isaac Swayze, a member of the Legislative Assembly and hireling of the Family Compact, that because of the Spectator's support of Gourlay's seditious cause, Ferguson was "in close custody," when Ferguson had actually been released on a technicality. He was, however, re-arrested the following July and his case came to court in August. According to Gourlay, a "weak jury" found Ferguson guilty and he was sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months and fined 50 pounds. The additional indignity of placement in the pillory [See Below *] for an hour a day during the first month's sentence was waived by the governor.
But for good measure, Ferguson had to pledge 500 pounds as a guarantee of his "good behaviour" for the next seven years.
On the sixteenth of December Swayze also fallaciously reported that Benjamin Pawling was being "held to bail for appearance at court in the sum of 500 pounds." In fact, on the very day Swayze said Pawling was being held to bail Pawling was being buried at the "12" Mile Creek in Grantham Township, the service conducted by the Reverand Addison of St. Mark's Church. He had died a few days before. In Benjamin's 1814 will, he specified that he wished "to be buried on his own farm in Grantham."He left his eldest son Henry lots 17 and 18 in the 1st concession in Grantham. Possibly this is where he was buried. About 1960 a local resident identified a site in Louth Townwhip just to the south of the Lakeshore Rd to the west of 5th Street Louth as being Pawling's burial place. Pawling was married three times, his wives being: Susannah who died in 1802 and was buried in Butler's Burial Ground; Hannah; and Sarah Young of Crownland in 1806. Pawling had five children and a sixth by Sarah. [*] The pillory was intended as a social corrective combining public humiliation and discomfort and occasionally death. The spectators' mood could vary; some were kind, but taunts and pelting with eggs, vegetables and vermin were common. If real anger prevailed among the public onlookers, stones could prove fatal. The pillory was abolished in 1837
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