||Manuscript notes verso: “[swp?] / 1833-1878 / chief justice of / Queens Bench Ontario”
Note that in the original collection, the bookplate was kept with a separate handwritten paper note that reads: “Coburn Haskell / Montreal. / [Cox?]”
Robert Alexander Harrison was a Canadian lawyer, author, politician, and judge. He was born on August 3, 1833 to Richard Harrison and Frances Butler in Montreal, Lower Canada. Robert Harrison married Anne E. Muckle in June 1859. The couple had one daughter and Muckle died in March 1866. Harrison remarried in January 1868 to Kennithina Johana Mackay; the couple had one daughter.
Shortly before his birth, Harrison’s parents emigrated to Canada from Skegarvey, County Monaghan, Ireland. They moved to Cookstown and then settled in Toronto. Harrison studied at Upper Canada College and Trinity College, receiving a BCL in 1855 and a DCL in 1859.
Harrison began studying law with the Toronto law firm of Robinson and Allan when he was 17 and then moved to Crawford and Hagarty. In 1855 he was called to the bar of Upper Canada and became a QC in 1867. Between September 10, 1854 and February 28, 1859 he was appointed chief clerk of the Crown Law Department by the attorney general John Ross and then John A. Macdonald. Harrison then left this position to go into private practice with Hames Paterson. The pair was later joined by Thomas Hodgins and John Bain. After the death of Paterson, Harrison established Harrison, Osler and Moss with Thomas Moss and Featherston Osler.
Harrison was incredibly successful and his firms frequently worked on crown business. Harrison was often a counsel for the crown, including the notable case of defending ministers of the crown from accusations of violating the Independence of Parliament Act in 1858. He also conducted, alongside John Hillyard Cameron, many cases for the crown during the Fenian trials between 1866 and 1867. Harrison was elected a bencher of the Law Society and was appointed chief justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Ontario on October 8, 1875.
In addition to working as a lawyer and judge, Harrison was also an eminent author in the field of law. His publishing career began when he was 18 with "A digest of reports of all cases…" with James Lukin Robinson. Harrison also contributed to periodicals and newspapers, such as the Merchant’s Magazine and Commercial Review (New York) and the Daily Colonist (Toronto). He was a founder and editor of Toronto’s Local Courts’ and Municipal Gazette, joint editor of the Upper Canada Law Journal, and editor of the humourous journal Poker from 1859 to 1860.
Outside of the law, Harrison was also a member of the Corporation of the City of Toronto and a director of the Royal Canadian Bank and of the Life Association of Scotland. He was one of the arbitrators appointed in 1876 to decide the northwestern boundary of Ontario. He also got involved in politics; Harrison was a Conservative and a loyal supporter of John A. Macdonald. Harrison served as an alderman for Toronto in 1867 and 1868. He was elected as the representative for Toronto West in the House of Commons on September 20, 1867 and served until 1872. He did not run in the 1872 election to devote his time to practicing the law. While serving as a member, he was chairman of the Special Committee on the construction of the Huron and Ontario Ship Canal. He was involved with several initiatives, including bills for amending stamping promissory notes law, bills of exchange, and bills for collecting criminal statistics.
Harrison supported the expansion and unification of the dominion, including the construction of railways. He became the director of the Toronto, Grey, and Bruce Railway in 1869.
Harrison died on November 1, 1878 in Toronto, Ontario.