M987.252.103 | Judge Armstrong of Sorel, recently appointed chief justice of St. Lucia

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Judge Armstrong of Sorel, recently appointed chief justice of St. Lucia
1871, 19th century
Ink on newsprint - Photolithography
40.4 x 56.1 cm
Gift of Mr. Colin McMichael
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , portrait (53878) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

This portrait of Judge James Sherrard Armstrong (1821-1888) was published in 1871, the year in which Prime Minister John A. Macdonald named him Chief Justice of St. Lucia in the West Indies. This island, formerly a French colony, was ceded to Britain in 1803.

In 1886, back home after having resigned his post in 1881, Armstrong was asked to chair one of the 19th century's most important government investigations, the Royal Commission on Capital and Labour.

The commissioners in charge of this inquiry were divided into two groups: on one side journalists and businessmen, and on the other the spokespeople for the working class. Armstrong, who was unable to hide his conservative influences, came in for criticism and saw his impartiality called into question, particularly by journalists from the anglophone working class community, who accused him of favouring company heads.

Despite this, however, the Commission revealed the abusive situations experienced by children and women working in certain sectors of industry: long work hours, meagre salaries, poor health conditions and physical cruelty.

  • What

    Judge Armstrong was 50 years old in 1871 when this portrait was published in the Montreal newspaper L'Opinion publique.

  • Where

    Although Armstrong spent 10 years in the West Indies, he was born and died in Sorel in Lower Canada.

  • When

    James Sherrard Armstrong was born on April 27, 1821 and died on November 23, 1888 in the course of his mandate as chairman of the Royal Commission on Capital and Labour.

  • Who

    James S. Armstrong was called to the bar 1844. In 1871, he became Chief Justice of St. Lucia. He would subsequently chair the Royal Commission on Capital and Labour over a two-year period.