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Canada's Fathers of Confederation were a turbulent crew. They spoke frequently and bitterly about each other's short-comings. Therefore, when Confederation became a fact and many fathers were elected to the House of Commons, the task of keeping these verbal assaults in check would require patience, skill and even courage.

The task fell on James Cockburn, Speaker of the House, a Cobourg, Ont., lawyer who had been himself one of the founding fathers. He managed to keep such volatile characters as Sir John A. Macdonald and Thomas D'Arcy McGee in check and at the same time retain their respect for the seven years he held the job.

Cockburn, born Feb. 13, 1819 at Berwick-on-Tweed in Britain came to Canada in 1832. The next year his mother enrolled him at Toronto's Upper Canada College. Eventually he chose law as a career, was called to the bar in 1846 and set up shop in Cobourg. He entered the legislative assembly  of Canada in 1861 and stayed there until Confederation.

He became solicitor-general for Upper Canada in 1864. In 1867 he entered the federal parliament and kept office until 1874. In 1878 he was re-elected and kept in office until 1874. In 1878 he was re-elected and kept in office until 1881. He died at Ottawa on Aug. 14, 1883.