The Honourable Alexander Morris was the last Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories and is considered one of the ablest Lieutenant Governors of the territorial period. During his term of office, he oversaw the introduction of the first form of responsible government to the Territories. As well, he negotiated Treaties Three through Six with the Native people of western Canada.
Alexander Morris was born at Perth, Upper Canada (Ontario), on March 17, 1826. He was the eldest son of The Honourable William Morris, a member of the Legislative Council and later, Executive Council of Upper Canada.
Alexander Morris began his education at the Perth Grammar School and then attended Madras College, St. Andrew's, and the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Following his return to Canada, he worked for the firm of Heward and Thorne, Commission Agents, in Montreal. Two years later, he articled as a student of law in John A. Macdonald's office at Kingston, Upper Canada. He then enrolled at McGill College where he had the distinction of being that institution's first arts graduate. He then went on to earn Master of Arts, Bachelor of Civil Law, and Doctor of Civil Law degrees at that college. He was then called to the Upper Canada Bar and the Lower Canada (Quebec) Bar in 1851.
On November 6, 1851, Alexander Morris married Margaret Cline, daughter of William Cline of Cornwall, Canada West (Ontario). They had eleven children: William, Alexander Cline, Arthur Henry, AIfred Vankoughnet, Robert Cochran, Edmund Montagu, Christine Vankoughnet, Elizabeth Cochran, Margaret Cline, Ann Eva, and Emily Murney.
A Conservative and strong supporter of Canadian confederation, Alexander Morris was elected to his father's former seat of South Lanark, Upper Canada, in 1861. He represented that electoral district, first in the Union Government (i.e. Upper and Lower Canada) until 1867, and then in the new Canadian government until 1872. In 1869, he was appointed to the federal Cabinet to serve as Sir John A. Macdonald's Minister of Inland Revenue. In May, 1872, he relinquished that position and was appointed the first Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench in July of the same year.
On the advice of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, Alexander Morris was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories effective December 2, 1872. This appointment was made by the Earl of Dufferin, Governor General of Canada.
As noted previously, Alexander Morris presided over the introduction of the first form of responsible government to the Territories and facilitated that jurisdiction's development toward autonomy. He also negotiated Treaties Three through Six with the Native people of western Canada and, in 1876, concluded a treaty with refugee Sioux fleeing the United States Army. His term as Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories ended on October 7, 1876, with the implementation of the Northwest Territories Act. However, he continued to be Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba until November 7, 1877. In that capacity, he was one of the prime movers in the passage of an act which provided for the establishment of a provincial university in Manitoba.
Following his tenure as Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, he contested the electoral district of Selkirk in Manitoba and lost to Donald A. Smith. Returning to Ontario, he ran as the Conservative candidate for East Toronto, was elected, and served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1878 to 1886.
In 1855, Alexander Morris's prize-winning essay entitled Canada and Her Resources was published. In 1858 and 1859, his lectures Nova Britannia and The Hudson's Bay and Pacific Territories were printed. And finally, in 1880, his work The Treaties of Canada With the Indians of the North-West was also published.
Like his father before him, Alexander Morris served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Queen's College in Kingston, Ontario. He also served as Governor of McGill College in Montreal, Quebec. Alexander Morris was a Director of the Toronto General Trust Company, the North American Insurance Company, and the Imperial Bank.
He died on October 28, 1889, at Toronto, Ontario, and was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in that city.