John Elmsley was born in London, England, and educated at Oxford. In 1796 he was appointed chief justice of Upper Canada and held that office until 1802. He served as a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada from 1796 and became speaker of the Legislative Council in 1799. From 1802-1805 he was chief justice of Lower Canada and speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
John Simcoe Macaulay was born in England and came to Upper Canada with his father, a British army surgeon. He was educated at William Cooper's elementary school in York, and at Bishop Strachan's school in Cornwall before attending the Loyola Military Academy in Woolwich, England, where he was commissioned an officer in the Royal Engineers. In 1825 he married the eldest daughter of John Elmsley. He acquired considerable property in what became downtown Toronto and was a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada from 1839-1841. He returned to England where he died.
The reel contains the papers of John Elmsley (1762-1805) and of his son-in-law John Simcoe Macaulay (1791-1855). Both collections are arranged in chronological order and deal with official, military and political affairs, as well as personal financial matters. The papers of John Elmsley, 1792-1842, appear at the beginning of the reel and consist of correspondence referring to clergy reserves; the school fund; the valuation of lands once owned by Benjamin Hollande in Nova Scotia; and the judicial system in Trois Rivière. Also included is, Memoirs of the Elmsley Family, Toronto, 1 January 1842. The papers of J.S. Macaulay, 1835-1857, include correspondence offering his services to the colony; border disturbances with the Americans; and the building of a church in Toronto which he discusses with Bishop Strachan; indentures; a plan of Toronto, 1854; stocks; and a list of lands belonging to the estate of the late Hon. J.S. Macaulay, 1857.