Francis Hincks

Sir Francis Hincks, KCMG, CB, PC (December 14, 1807 – August 18, 1885) was a Canadian businessman, politician, and British colonial administrator. An immigrant from Ireland, he was the Co-Premier of the Province of Canada (1851–1854), Governor of Barbados (1856–1862), Governor of British Guiana (1862–1869) and Canadian Minister of Finance (1869–1873).

Francis Hincks
Sir Francis Hincks.jpg
The Hon. Francis Hincks
Co-Premier of Province of Canada, for Canada West
In office
Serving with Augustin-Norbert Morin, Co-Premier for Canada East
Governor GeneralEarl of Elgin
Preceded byRobert Baldwin
Succeeded bySir Allan MacNab
ConstituencyOxford, Canada West
Governor of Barbados and the British Windward Islands
In office
1856 – January 4, 1862
Preceded bySir William MacBean George Colebrooke
Succeeded bySir James Walker
Governor of British Guiana
In office
January 7, 1862 – January 25, 1869
Preceded bySir Philip Edmond Wodehouse
Succeeded bySir John Scott
Minister of Finance
In office
October 9, 1869 – February 21, 1873
Governor GeneralLord Lisgar
Earl Dufferin
Prime MinisterSir John A. Macdonald
Preceded bySir John Rose
Succeeded bySamuel Leonard Tilley
Parliamentary groupLiberal-Conservative Party
ConstituencyRenfrew North (1869–1872)
Vancouver (1872–1874)
Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
In office
Preceded byNew position
Succeeded byRobert Riddell
Parliamentary groupReformer (pre-Confederation)
ConstituencyOxford, Canada West
Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
In office
Preceded byRobert Riddell
Succeeded byEphraim Cook
Parliamentary groupReformer (pre-Confederation)
ConstituencyOxford, Canada West
Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
In office
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byJohn Supple
Parliamentary groupReformer (pre-Confederation)
ConstituencyRenfrew County, Canada West
Member of the House of Commons of Canada
In office
Preceded byJohn Rankin
Succeeded byJames Findlay
Parliamentary groupLiberal-Conservative
ConstituencyRenfrew North, Ontario
Member of the House of Commons of Canada
In office
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byArthur Bunster
Parliamentary groupLiberal-Conservative
ConstituencyVancouver, British Columbia
Personal details
Born(1807-12-14)December 14, 1807
Cork, Ireland
DiedAugust 18, 1885(1885-08-18) (aged 77)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Cause of deathSmallpox
CitizenshipBritish subject
Political partyReformer (pre-Confederation)
Other political
Liberal-Conservative (post-Confederation)
Spouse(s)(1) Martha Anne Stewart (1832 – 1874 (her death))
(2) Emily Louisa Delatre (1875 – 1880 (her death))
RelativesEdward Hincks and William Hincks (brothers)
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin
OccupationImport business, banking, journalism
AwardsKnighted, 1869

Early lifeEdit

Born at Cork in Ireland, he was the ninth and youngest child of the Rev. Thomas Dix Hincks, a Presbyterian minister and scholar, and his wife Anne (née Boult). Two of his older brothers, Edward Hincks and William Hincks, followed their father's footsteps as noted scholars and clergy. Francis was also intended for a career as a clergyman and was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. However, he found himself more interested in business, starting in Belfast, with commercial ties to the West Indies. It was at Belfast that he married his first wife. Two weeks after their marriage, they set sail for the Canadas.[1]

Business careerEdit

Arriving in York, Upper Canada (now Toronto), Hincks set up a wholesale import business. He rented business premises from William Warren Baldwin and his son, Robert Baldwin. The Baldwins were a leading Reform family, opposed to the Tory Family Compact, which had run the government of the Province for many years. Hincks became friends with the Baldwin family, who were also of Irish descent.

He accepted a job as manager for the Farmer's Joint Stock Bank but left to become manager of the newly formed Bank of the People after the management of the Farmers' Bank became dominated by Tories. When even moderate reformers were being persecuted following the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, Hincks considered moving to the United States. However, the appointment of Lord Durham in 1838 provided new hope and he chose to continue in Upper Canada. That year, he established The Examiner[2] in Toronto, with the aim of promoting responsible government; this newspaper merged with The Globe, the predecessor of The Globe and Mail, in 1855.

After resigning from cabinet and government affairs in 1873, he became President of the Montreal-based City Bank of Montreal. This bank merged with the Royal Canadian Bank to form the Consolidated Bank of Canada, and Hincks was its first President. His signature appears on banknotes issued by these institutions.[3]

Political careerEdit

Reform Party and responsible governmentEdit

Hincks was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the 1st Parliament of the Province of Canada, sitting from 1841 to 1844, representing Oxford County. He was defeated in 1844, but elected in 1848 and subsequent elections, sitting from 1848 to 1855.

Bank notes and central bankEdit

During his first term, Hincks was the chair of a select committee which studied a proposal from the Governor General, Lord Sydenham, who advocated that the government should take over the issuing of bank notes. Up to that time, paper notes were issued by the banks. Sydenham proposed that the government take over that function, with control over the amount of paper money in circulation, a forerunner of the idea of a central bank. Issuing the notes would also give the government an important source of income.

Although Hincks personally supported the proposal, it was defeated in the committee, largely because of opposition from the banks who would lose a major source of income.[4]

Inspector generalEdit

In 1842, he was appointed inspector general of public accounts. In 1844, he became editor of a new newspaper in Montreal, the Pilot, which supported Reformers in both Canada East and Canada West. Because he sought subscriptions for his paper in Canada West, he came into conflict with George Brown, editor of the Globe. In 1848, he sold the paper and accepted the post of inspector general.[1]

Co-Premier of Province of CanadaEdit

Hincks was Premier of the Province of Canada from 1851 to 1854. Hincks' vision of a railroad linking British North America led to the establishment of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1852 and he helped negotiate the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 with the United States.

Decimal currencyEdit

During Hincks' time in office, currency reforms were a major issue in the British North American provinces. Although the British government wanted to keep all of its overseas possessions on the pound sterling, the North American provinces favoured a decimal currency, to facilitate trade with the United States. A compromise was reached in 1853 when the Canadian Parliament passed a Currency Act, allowing both pounds and American dollars to be used in the Province of Canada, at fixed exchange rates. New Brunswick passed similar legislation, the beginning of a common currency system in British North America.[5]

Fall of governmentEdit

A scandal developed in 1854 as a result of profits made by Hincks and Mayor John George Bowes of Toronto from the sale of railway stock.[6] The government fell as a result, but when this matter was reviewed in the next parliament, no basis was found for allegations of corruption against Hincks.

Governorships in the CaribbeanEdit

In 1856, he accepted an appointment as governor of Barbados and the Windward Islands, and, in 1861, became governor of British Guiana. He was knighted in 1869, upon the completion of his term in British Guiana.

Minister of FinanceEdit

On his return to Canada, he was elected to the House of Commons of Canada and became Minister of Finance from 1869 until 1874. Starting in 1870, he created the first government-issued fractional paper currency, popularly known as "Shinplasters".[7] This was intended to deal with the large amount of American silver coins entering the country, which were valued less than a Canadian dollar. While intended as a temporary solution, the shinplasters were popular, with subsequent issues in 1900 and 1923.[8]

Later lifeEdit

In 1878, he represented the federal government on the Ontario-Manitoba boundary commission.

He was also an editor of the Toronto Express newspaper.


Emily Louisa Hincks by William Notman

Hincks was married twice. In 1832, he married Martha Anne Stewart, in Belfast, Ireland. They remained married until her death in 1874 and had five children.

In 1875, he married Emily Louisa Delatre, widow of Judge Robert Baldwin Sullivan, another member of the extended Baldwin family. Lady Hincks died in Montreal, May 14, 1880, aged 69.[9]

Sir Francis Hincks died in Montreal, August 18, 1885, of smallpox.


Hincks Township in Quebec was named in his honour (but was officially renamed in 1975 to Lac-Sainte-Marie).[10]

Hincks Street, Bridgetown, Barbados: In February 1861 H.R.H. Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh visited Barbados. In a bout of excess jubilation towards the visit, authorities promptly renamed several streets in and around the capital city of Bridgetown. Among the changes, one of the city's oldest streets, Madeira Street was renamed to Hincks Street after Sir Francis, the then Governor of Barbados. [11]


  1. ^ a b "Francis Hincks". Dictionary of Canadian Biography (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 1979–2016.
  2. ^ Hopkins, J. Castell (1898). An historical sketch of Canadian literature and journalism. Toronto: Lincott. p. 227. ISBN 0665080484.
  3. ^ Clute, Stanley (April 26, 2022). "Early finance minister left mark on Canadian banknotes". Canadian Coin News. 60 (2): 8.
  4. ^ James Powell, A History of the Canadian Dollar (Ottawa: Bank of Canada, 2005), pp. 21–22.
  5. ^ Powell, A History of the Canadian Dollar, pp. 22–23.
  6. ^ W. G. Ormsby. "Bowes, John George". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved June 8, 2019. Hincks and Bowes were then able to exchange their depreciated bonds for new ones which they soon sold in England, through Hincks’ financial connections, at a discount of 2 per cent, giving a profit on the whole transaction of £8,237.
  7. ^ Clute, Stanley (April 26, 2022). "Early finance minister left mark on Canadian banknotes". Canadian Coin News. 60 (2): 8.
  8. ^ Clute, Stanley (April 26, 2022). "Early finance minister left mark on Canadian banknotes". Canadian Coin News. 60 (2): 8.
  9. ^ Morgan, Henry James, ed. (1903). Types of Canadian Women and of Women who are or have been Connected with Canada. Toronto: Williams Briggs. p. 158.
  10. ^ "Lac-Sainte-Marie (Municipalité)" (in French). Commission de toponymie du Québec. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved September 4, 2008.
  11. ^ Alleyne, Warren (1978). Historic Bridgetown. Barbados: The Barbados National Trust.

Further readingEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Joint Premiers of the Province of Canada – Canada West
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Finance
22 February 1873–5 November 1873
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by Governor of Barbados and the Windward Islands
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of British Guiana
Succeeded by
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by Member of Parliament from Renfrew North
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Riding created in 1872
Member of Parliament from Vancouver
Succeeded by