Gourlay, Robert Fleming (gŏrˈlē) [key], 1778–1863, Scottish writer and agitator, b. Fifeshire. He emigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1817 and at Kingston attempted to establish himself as a land agent, but he quickly discovered that land grants were largely controlled by the powerful clique known as the Family Compact. At his instigation a convention of pioneer farmers from all over Upper Canada met (1818) at York to discuss their grievances. Alarmed at this threat to their power, the Family Compact contrived to have Gourlay arrested and imprisoned. His trial led to his banishment (1819) as a seditious alien, a sentence nullified in 1842. He returned to Canada in 1856, but after he failed to gain a seat in the Legislative Assembly in 1860, he went back to Scotland. During the years of his banishment, which he spent in the United States and Scotland, he wrote a Statistical Account of Upper Canada (1822) and the autobiographical Banished Briton and Neptunian (pub. in 38 parts, 1843–46).
See biography by L. D. Milani (1971).
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