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The Scot in British North America
Chapter VI. The Maritime Provinces from 1837 to 1867 Part B


The local events of the years up to the period of Confederation need not be detailed at length, since they possess but little general interest, and would not now excite more than a languid curiosity in the Province itself. Some of the more salient occurrences will be more conveniently brought out in the biographical sketches which are to follow. New Brunswick, unlike Nova Scotia and the other Provinces of the Dominion, was not largely of Scottish origin, and, therefore, with a short account of Confederation from a Provincial point of view, and a few sketches of prominent men whose nationality is our immediate topic of interest, the scene will change to Prince Edward Island.

The attitude of New Brunswick at the outset seriously imperilled the success of the Union scheme. The Quebec Conference had come to an agreement as to the federative constitution on the 27th of October, 1864. Not a cloud was then visible above the horizon, and it appeared certain that all the Provinces would acquiesce in the terms without delay or demur. But in March of the following year, a general election took place in New Brunswick, and it was soon ascertained that a majority opposed to the Quebec plan had been returned to the Assembly. Not one of the delegates who attended the Conference was returned, and an avowedly anti-confederate Government was formed under the Hons. Albert J. Smith and George Hatheway. The effect of this obstacle, so unexpectedly interposed, was mediate and striking. In Nova Scotia, Dr. Tupper, an ardent friend of the Union scheme, at once proposed to substitute for it the more limited measure originally contemplated at Charlottetown. Had no trouble arisen in the sister Province, it is likely that the after-clap of agitation would never have been heard at Halifax. In like manner Prince Edward Island held aloof and refused to enter the Dominion until 1873, whilst Newfoundland definitively set itself against the scheme.

Yet, although the New Brunswick House started out with strong anti-Union opinions, it did not long continue of the same mind. The Upper House being warmly in favour of Confederation, there resulted, of course, a legislative block. In England, the efforts of the Canadian Government and of the Unionists in the Maritime Provinces set the machinery of Downing Street to work, and the usual pressure was brought to bear upon New Brunswick by Colonial despatches. At the opening of the Session in 1866, Lieut. Governor Gordon strongly represented the urgent feeling of the Home Government in favour of the movement. Singularly enough, his Ministers, who were constitutionally responsible for the Speech from the Throne, gave way apparently without making a show of resistance. Elected to oppose the Union, and appointed to office in order to resist its consummation, Mr. Smith and his colleagues at once surrendered, stipulating, of course, that justice should be done to New Brunswick. [Campbell observes (History of Nova Scotia, p. 444): - "The Government of New Brunswick, which had been formed for the purpose of opposing Confederation, having, by one of those wonderful processes of political alchemy of which the modern history of these Provinces presents not a few remarkable instances, became warm advocates of union, committed themselves to the policy of Union in the speech with which the Legislature was opened in 1866," etc.] The Government, however, were not allowed to carry out their new opinions in person. On general grounds, a vote of non-confidence was carried, and Ministers went out of office. The mischief elsewhere, however, had been done. The recalcitrancy of New Brunswick had fired the Opposition in Nova Scotia with energy, and, just when the one set of anti-confederates were announcing their conversion in the one Province, another set of converts, or perverts, were raising the standard of secession in the other.

In spite of all obstacles, however, the Dominion was constituted on the 1st of July, 1867, and the last effective notes of dissent gradually faded on the ear. Perhaps there still lingers in the Eastern Provinces some feelings of dissatisfaction at the methods used to secure so great an end; but the issue may be safely left to the reason of Provincial leaders, and the honest fulfilment of Dominion pledges at Ottawa. Our list of eminent Scots in New Brunswick, during this period, will not be a long one. Unlike Nova Scotia, the population of this Province was never, to any great extent, of Caledonian origin. On the boundary and throughout the bulk of the Province of New Brunswick, the U. E. Loyalist element predominated, and up in the north-west, on the Quebec line, there is a large settlement of French Canadians. At the same time, some Scots, worthy of record, must not be passed over, and, therefore, will be given in so far as the necessary materials have been accessible.

The Hon William Johnston Ritchie, Chief Justice of the Dominion Supreme Court, is a son of the late Judge Ritchie, of Nova Scotia, and of his wife, a daughter of the late Hon. James W. Johnston, already noticed as the leader of the Conservative party in that Province. Born at Annapolis, in October, 1813, and educated at the Pictou Academy, Mr. Ritchie studied law with his brother, to whom reference has already been made in connection with Nova Scotia. In 1838, he resolved to enter the bar of New Brunswick, having already practised as an attorney at St. John, for some time. So far back as 1842 he contested St. John at the general election, but was defeated. Four years afterwards he succeeded, and, for the first time, entered public life. It would appear, however, that Mr. Ritchie’s devotion to his profession was superior to any political aspirations, for after four years he retired from the legislative arena. In 1853, what would now appear a somewhat anomalus position was assumed by him. He had been offered the dignity of Queen’s counsel, but refused to accept it unless it left him untrammelled politically. His fear was that if the appointment were made, it might be construed as a bribe for desertion to the party in power. The matter was referred to the Colonial Secretary, and apparently the condition stipulated for was yielded, since in the beginning of 1854 the appointment was made. It seems strange, now-a-days, that Mr. Ritchie’s scruples should have been raised; since, whatever political motives may influence appointments to the silk, they are always made ostensibly on professional grounds. During the same year, and perhaps partially in consequence of what had occurred, Mr. Ritchie again entered the Assembly, and in the October following, the Executive Council. In August, 1855, he was elevated to the Bench as a puisne judge of the Provincial Supreme Court. After serving in that capacity for a little over ten years, he succeeded Chief Justice Parker as head of the Court. Then after another decade, he was transferred to the Supreme Court of the Dominion when it was constituted in 1875. Removing in consequence to the capital, he has since resided at New Edinburgh in the county of Russell, Ontario. The indisposition of Chief Justice Richards necessitating the absence of that distinguished judge in Europe, it fell to the lot of Mr. Justice Ritchie to administer the oath of office to his Excellency the Marquis of Lorne, on his landing in the Dominion. On the superannuation of the Chief Justice, the presidency naturally fell to him, and he was sworn in by the Governor-General early in 1879. Chief Justice Ritchie’s whole career exemplifies the abiding power of steady application. Of all the professions, the law requires entire devotion from those who would succeed. Charlatanism and pretence are sure to be unveiled in the long run. It is true that, by adroit political strategy, a badly-grounded lawyer may reach the bench; but his seat there can only be a protracted misery to himself and to all concerned in the administration of justice. Chief Justice Ritchie, however, had the solid foundation on which alone judicial honours may rest, and he has approved himself no less a sound lawyer than a scholarly gentleman.

The Hon. Peter Mitchell, unlike many, if not most, of our successful public men, is not properly "a limb of the law," yet he has done much as a toiler in the path of material progress. His parents came out from Scotland nearly sixty-five years ago and settled on the Miramichi in New Brunswick. There at Newcastle, Peter Mitchell was born in 1824. After a sound grammar school education, he first turned his attention to the legal profession; and was actually admitted to the bar in 1848; but his successes in life have been in a different direction, since he is chiefly known as an extensive shipbuilder. In 1856, Mr. Mitchell was returned to the New Brunswick Assembly, and in 1858 became a member of the Government. After seven years’ service as Minister, his party succumbed before the anti-confederation blast of 1865, but Mr. Mitchell was practically independent of popular caprice, since he had, in 1860, been called to the Legislative Council. The anti-confederate Cabinet, as we have seen, was ousted by a vote of non-confidence in the following year, and Mr. Mitchell aided Mr. Wilmot in forming a new Administration, in which the former held office as President of the Council up to the time of the Union, when he was called to the Senate. During the previous years his public services had been many. In 1861, and in the following year, he was a delegate to Quebec in the Intercolonial Railway negotiations. In 1864, he was a representative of New Brunswick at the Conference, and subsequently in London where the terms of the Union were finally arranged and crystallized in the form of an Imperial Act. On the 1st of July, 1867, Mr. Mitchell was naturally and properly appointed Minister of Marine and Fisheries. He was President of the Mitchell Steamship Company, whose vessels plied between Montreal and Quebec and the sea-board, and between St. John and Portland, and his interest in the fishery question, which was of vital moment to New Brunswick, had more than once been exemplified. In 1872, the atmosphere of the Senate appears to have become oppressive to the Minister, and he resigned once more to enter the lists for Northumberland. He was returned by acclamation, and re-elected in 1874 by a majority of nearly five hundred. In 1878, however, he was less fortunate, being defeated by his former opponent, Mr. Snowball, a merchant of Chatham, who received fifteen hundred and eighty-five votes to his thirteen hundred and eighty-four. For the present, therefore, Mr. Mitchell is out of public life. A man of great energy and enterprise he is well liked by both parties, and the amicable feelings which are cherished towards him by his Provincial rival, Sir Albert J. Smith, are highly creditable to that honourable gentleman. His defeat in 1878 was certainly not regarded with unalloyed satisfaction even by those who differ politically from him.

A younger political aspirant is the Hon. John James Fraser, Q.C., one of the most successful lawyers in the Province. His father, who came from Inverness, settled in Northumberland county, after a temporary sojourn at Halifax. Like Mr. Mitchell, the senior Mr. Fraser was a shipbuilder, and likewise resided on the Miramichi. The son turned his attention to law, and became an attorney in 1850. From 1851, he resided at Fredericton, the capital of the Province, was called to the bar in 1852, and made Queen’s Counsel in 1873. Mr. Fraser did not, at first, take any public interest in politics, but the Confederation question appears to have excited him and he was returned on the anti-Union wave of 1865 from York county. In the following year, however, he suffered defeat, and after another unsuccessful effort a twelvemonth after, Mr. Fraser, for the time, remained out of public life. In June, 1871, the party passions having been largely extinguished he was nominated to the Legislative Council, and joined the Hatheway Cabinet as President of the Council. In the following year, the Premier died, and a colleague, Mr. King, called upon to form a Government, Mr. Fraser was offered the Provincial Secretaryship, which he accepted, resigning his seat in the Upper House to appeal once more to the electors of York. On Mr. King’s retirement in 1878, he became Attorney-General and Premier—positions he still occupies. More than once Mr. Fraser’s attachment to his native Province and its interests has caused an effort on his part for better terms at Ottawa.

The Hon. William Muirhead belongs, so far as public life is concerned, to a later period. Yet as a merchant and shipbuilder he deserves special mention. His father, who emigrated from Dumfriesshire in 1817, settled in Nova Scotia, and there at Pictou, his son William was born in April, 1819. His education at Miramichi probably led him to make New Brunswick his future home. Residing at Chatham, he has engaged in various branches of business, including mill-owning, in addition to mercantile and shipping enterprises. In politics, Mr. Muirhead is a Liberal. He was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1867, and called to the Senate, of which he is still a member, early in 1873. Another Senator who has disappeared from the list was Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. John Robertson, a merchant, banker and capitalist. Of the facts of his life nothing is on record, but he was well known at St. John in many useful and honourable positions. He sat in the Legislative Council from 1837 to the Union, and was called to the Senate in 1867. He also was a Liberal in politics. Lieut.-Colonel John Ferguson is still a member of the Senate, and was by birth a Scot, having seen the light first in Ayrshire, about 1813, and was educated in his native land. In 1836, he settled at Bathurst, N.B., where he has ever since resided. The mercantile firm of which he is a member, has its headquarters at Glasgow, in Scotland. As an officer of the volunteers, he always took a prominent part in militia affairs, and has served on the Council of the Dominion Rifle Association. Mr. Ferguson sat in the Provincial Legislative Council for several years before the Union, and was called to the Senate at Confederation. In party views, he is a Conservative.

Another native Scot is the Hon. John McAdam, who has long been in public life, although fortune has been against him. He is an extensive lumber merchant, residing at Milltown, N.B. In 1854 he was elected a member of the Assembly for the county of Charlotte, and continued to represent it until the anti-confederation reaction of 1865, when he was defeated. In the next year, however, he returned to his post, and remained in the house until 1872 when he resigned in order to sit for the county in the Commons. He was returned by a majority of over two hundred, over an opponent who was afterwards more successful. During three years Mr. McAdam had served as a Provincial Minister, at first as Commissioner of Public Works, and then as President of the Council. In 1874, he was defeated by Mr. Gillmour, of St. George, by nearly three hundred majority, and again, in 1878, by about two hundred and forty. He has always been a Liberal, and during his short term at Ottawa, supported Mr. Mackenzie’s administration. Mr. Gillmour, it may be added, is of Irish parentage and is a Liberal.

The Hon. Robert Marshall, now a member of the Executive Council and M.P.P. for the city of St. John, is a member of a Dumfries-shire family originally settled in 1773 in the county of Pictou, Nova Scotia. In 1837, our present subject removed to Chatham, New Brunswick, where he was educated, and served under the lumbering and shipbuilding firm of Johnson and Mackie at Miramichi. In 1859, he settled down at St. John, where he became accountant of the Intercolonial Railway. On the subject of life, fire and marine insurance, Mr. Marshall has long been a great authority, and represented a number of companies, English and American. He is the author of a series of pamphlets on shipping and insurance, and has lived an active business life from youth upwards. Although not a native Scot, he has served as President of the St. Andrew’s Society, and also as Director of the Highland Society; and besides as trustee of St. Andrew’s Church, and Managing Director of a number of charities. Although Mr. Marshall is fifty years of age, he is comparatively a novice in parliamentary life. In 1874, he contested St. John as an independent candidate, taking his stand on the unsectarian School Law of the Province, but was defeated by a large majority. Two years after he was more successful, although his seat was gained on the narrow margin of fifty-three. Two other public men of the later time may be mentioned here. The Hon. Benjamin R. Stevenson, Speaker of the Assembly, whose grandfather came from Renfrewshire and settled at St. Andrews, N.B., where Mr. Stevenson was born in 1835. He is a member of the bar, and was Registrar of Probate in Charlotte County. At Confederation, however, he resigned, and became a member of the Assembly, and, in 1871, Surveyor-General, and consequently one of the Executive Council. In 1879, he was elected Speaker of the House. The Hon. William Wedderburn, Q.C., the senior member for St. John city, is the son of a native Aberdonian, who occupied the position of Immigration Agent for some years in New Brunswick. He was born in the city in the autumn of 1834 and educated with a view to the legal profession. Called to the bar in 1858, he has varied the tedium of the law by journalistic labours, as editor and contributor to the press. In his own profession, Mr. Wedderburn performed essential service as a Commissioner for consolidating the Provincial Statutes. He has always been, like his colleague, Mr. Stevenson, a Liberal, and also a strong advocate of the temperance cause. In 1876, he was elected Speaker of the House, but resigned in 1878 to accept the office of Provincial Secretary. Mr. Wedderburn has long been a staunch supporter of Confederation, having lectured in its favour so far back as 1857. Still, in the interests of his Province, the "better terms" movement met with his cordial support, and he served as member of several delegations to Ottawa on the subject. He is yet in the prime of life and may possibly enter the Dominion arena within a few years. As a Provincial politician, he is an uncompromising champion of the non-sectarian school system.

The position of affairs in Prince Edward Island at the beginning of our present period was materially different from that of Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. With the Islanders the salient grievance which pressed upon them may be summed up in three words—the land system. Into the details of the question it is not necessary to enter fully, here, but few extracts from a despatch written by Lord Durham from Quebec will explain, in general terms, the cause and nature of the trouble: "Nearly the whole island was alienated in one day by the Crown, in very large grants, chiefly to absentees, and upon conditions of settlement which have been wholly disregarded. The extreme improvidence—I might say the reckless profusion—that dictated these grants is obvious; the total neglect of the government as to enforcing the conditions of the grants is not less so. The great bulk of the island is still held by absentees who hold it as a sort of reversionary interest which requires no present attention, but may become valuable some day or other, through the growing wants of the inhabitants. But in the meantime, the inhabitants of the island are subjected to the greatest inconvenience—nay, the most serious injury—from the state of property in the land. The absent proprietors neither improve the land themselves, nor let others improve it. They retain the land and keep it in a state of wilderness." [This dispatch, dated from Quebec, October 8th, 1836, will be found complete in Campbell’s History of Prince Edward Island, p. 89.] His Lordship affirmed that the Home Government had done grievous injustice by vetoing the Colonial Acts on this subject, and hinted that even these were inadequate as drastic remedies for a chronic evil. He clearly indicated a similar opinion of the proprietors scheme, framed by Mr. G.B. Young, their solicitor.

The immediate consequence of Lord Durham’s despatch was the confirmation of a Provincial Act passed in 1837 "for levying an assessment on all lands in the Island"; but this was not done till the close of 1838, and the fact was not even then communicated to the Assembly by the Lieutenant-Governor. The reason for withholding it is obvious. Had it been promulgated then, the agitation on the subject of land tenure would have been raised to fever-heat by the concession, and, apparently, the Queen’s representative had come to regard himself as, in some sense, the agent of the proprietors. In 1839, the vexed question cropped up again, and the Speaker of the Assembly was sent home to press the views of the colony. The proposals submitted were clear and explicit enough: "The establishment of a court of escheat, the resumption by the Crown of the rights of proprietors, and a heavy penal tax upon wilderness lands." [Campbell, p.93.] Lord John Russell was, at that time, Colonial Secretary, and to his aggravating vacillation where colonial autonomy was in question, reference has already been made. The first demand—that as to escheat—was summarily rejected; and it was thought at Downing street that the two hundred thousand pounds necessary to carry out the second was too heavy a penalty for the mischief wrought by the reckless grants of which Lord Durham complained. The penal tax was waived off for the moment by the remark that one had already been imposed, and it would be better to wait until its effects were proved. Procrastination no less than "finality" was already a characteristic of Lord John Russell. He would not even discuss the matter with the Colonial Speaker but in September, 1839, sent a despatch to the Governor, approving of the proprietors’ terms submitted by Mr. Young, and condemned, in advance, by Lord Durham, as the basis of any settlement.

In this unsatisfactory position the land question remained for some years. But in March, 1843, an agrarian disturbance occurred which seemed to promise a state of affairs not unfamiliar to people in our day, nearer England than her island Province on the west Atlantic coast. A farmer named Haney, presumably an Irishman, had been ejected from a farm by due process of law. The crowd reinstated the evicted tenant, and burnt a dwelling-house, but were eventually overpowered by the strong arm of authority. This occurrence is noteworthy, since it shows the bitter dissatisfaction of the people with the existing system of land tenure. The squabbles between Lieutenant-Governor Huntley and his opponents need not detain us; but there were sometimes national conflicts in those days. On the first of March, 1847, an election was held for the district of Belfast, which unfortunately became a struggle between the Scottish and Irish voters. Messrs. Douse and McLean were the champions of the thistle, and Messrs. Little and Macdougall of the shamrock. A riot ensued around the polling-booth, in which one man, Malcolm Macrae, lost his life. And yet the standard-bearers of the Scotch party, strange to say, were returned ultimately without opposition. From eighty to a hundred persons, however, were more or less injured in the fray. Happily as Mr. Campbell observes, the evil spirit of national jealousy has been exorcised, and "there is not now a more peaceable locality in the island."

During the Session of this year, the question of Responsible Government began to assume importance. An address was adopted to the Queen praying for the adoption of a settled system of constitutional rule, but for the present without effect. Meanwhile, Sir Donald Campbell, a true blue Highlander, [Unfortunately he did not long enjoy the high office, for he died in October, 1850, at the age of fifty. "In Sir Donald Campbell were united some of the best qualities of a good Governor. He was firm and faithful in the discharge of duty; at the same time of a conciliatory and kindly disposition." – Campbell’s History, p. 108.] became viceroy, and was received with great enthusiasm. The subject of responsible government which had been temporarily shelved by Mr. Gladstone, was again pressed; and, in 1848, Earl Grey still declined to yield to the popular wishes. The chief reason assigned was the small extent and population of Prince Edward Island, and its poverty in commercial resources. Yet the Colonial Secretary was not backward in urging that the Assembly should provide for the civil list; and hinted that responsible government would be conceded in time. His Lordship seems to have lacked prescience in placing so potent a lever in the hands of the Assembly. By demanding a civil list, Earl Grey at once gave the advocates of free government the opening they required. The House resolved forthwith to accede to the request, provided the permanent revenues were granted in perpetuity, all claims to quit-rents and crown lands abandoned, and a system of responsible government granted. The first two conditions were at once conceded in substance, the last was again refused. The Assembly was dissolved, but its successor proved quite as refractory The first act of the new House was to pass a vote of want of non-confidence in the Executive Council, and to resolve that no supplies should be granted until the Ministry was placed in harmony with the majority. The members of the Council all resigned, and the Legislature was prorogued to meet again within a month During the second Sessions, some supplies were doled out for immediate needs, but the House distinctly refused to proceed with any legislation whatever, until the constitutional reforms they insisted upon were finally brought about.

In 1851 a new Governor, Sir Alexander Bannerman, arrived, and the Legislature was again called together. He announced that responsible government would be conceded, if provision were made for certain retiring officers. The Assembly agreed to this proposition, and the Ministry was moulded in harmony with the majority. Legislation thereafter proceeded rapidly, and in 1853 the franchise was practically made universal. The result, however, was much the same as in England after the Reform Bill of 1867, for the Government fell after an adverse vote at the polls. In 1854 one of those strange freaks which seem to have regularly taken possession of one Governor in each British North American Province; entered the head of Sir Alexander Bannerman. A new Ministry had been formed which possessed the confidence of the Assembly, but there was a majority against it in the Upper House, and matters did not proceed with the necessary smoothness. The Legislature was prorogued until May; but in the interim the Lieutenant-Governor, in distinct opposition to the advice of his Council, suddenly dissolved the House. The alleged cause was that the Reform Act of 1853 had not been fully applied and that, therefore, it was necessary to secure the verdict of the entire electorate at once. Still nothing could have been more contrary to the first principles of constitutional rules than a dissolution by His Excellency without advice and contrary to the wish of sworn advisers whom he still kept in office. There can be little doubt that however in theory the act may be excused or extenuated, such a high-handed use of the prerogative was substantially a violation of the constitution.

Nevertheless the purpose in view was attained as elsewhere in the Provinces. The Government was overthrown and Sir Alexander Bannerman left Prince Edward Island for the Bahamas with the satisfaction natural to a ruler who has discomfited his political foes. Mr. Dominick Daly reigned in his stead, arriving in June, 1854. A new Cabinet was formed and matters once more ran on placidly. [In 1855, amongst other business of the session, the Bank of Prince Edward Island was incorporated, an institution which has recently suffered shipwreck in a lamentable way.] Once more the land question began to loom up, as might have been expected after so broad an extension of the franchise. Mr. Daly openly disapproved of any further agitation regarding escheat; but approved of the Lands Purchase Act, invoking the co-operation of the tenants. Almost up to the present moment this unhappy land system has continued to vex Governors and Legislatures as we shall see in brief presently. In 1855, Acts were passed to impose a tax on the rent-rolls of certain absentee proprietors, and to provide for compensation to tenants. Both these measures were vetoed by the Home Government, but the House promptly informed His Excellency of their dissatisfaction and stated their belief that the disallowance had been brought about by the back-stairs influence of non-resident proprietors. Certainly the language used by Mr Labouchere, the Colonial Secretary, in vetoing the legislation referred to, breathed rather the spirit of counsel with a brief in hand from the proprietors than of a mediator between landlords and tenants. In 1856, a petition was sent to the Queen soliciting the guarantee of a loan to the amount of one hundred thousand pounds in order to facilitate the conversion of leasehold into freehold tenures. The Colonial Secretary approved of the security provided for interest and sinking fund, and authorized the loan to be employed, on certain conditions, for the purpose suggested; and yet in 1858, the Governor stated that the Imperial authorities had finally decided not to guarantee the loan.

There had been a change of government meanwhile owing, in part at least, to a bitter controversy regarding the compulsory use of the Bible in the schools. The perplexing land question was taken up anew. One of the new Ministers, Colonel Gray, proposed a series of resolutions, praying for the appointment of a Commission or Board of Arbitration, and propounding a basis for its action. Meanwhile, Sir Dominick Daly had retired, and been succeeded by a Scot, Mr. George Dundas, at the time of his appointment, M. P. for Linlithgowshire. The first work before him was to harmonize the two Houses, and this was effected, under Home instructions, by the addition of five new members to the Legislative Council. The next topic for consideration was necessarily the proposed Land Commission. Sir Samuel Cunard and other large proprietors had resolved to meet the colonists half way; but they proposed that the Assembly should have one Commissioner for the tenants, the proprietors a second, and the Crown a third. The Duke of Newcastle, now Colonial Secretary, proposed the adoption of this plan, on condition that the House should pledge the tenants to abide by the decision. This was done, and Mr. Howe, of Nova Scotia, received the Assembly’s nomination. The other Commissioners were Mr. John Hamilton Gray, for the Crown, and Mr. John William Ritchie, for the proprietors.

The report of the Commission, dated the 18th of July, 1861, was a document of great value and importance; but could hardly be given even in abridged form here. It must suffice to say that the inquiries made were thorough and exhaustive. The Commissioners touched upon the long and tedious history of the subject; censured the improvidence by which an entire colony was granted away in a single day in large blocks of twenty thousand acres each; believed that all the grants might have been properly escheated for non-fulfilment of settlement conditions, and effectually annulled by an enforcement of the quit-rents. At the same time they admitted that as the Crown had repeatedly confirmed the grants, no such step could be equitably taken now. The only feasible proposal was to turn the tenants into freeholders by a compulsory compromise. Into details it is not necessary to enter, inasmuch as even a concise statement of them would occupy a considerable space. [A tolerably full account, with critical remarks, will be found in Campbell’s History of P.E. Island, pp.131-146.] But the trouble was not yet over. Once more, notwithstanding two distinct offers from the Colonial office to guarantee the loan of one hundred thousand pounds, that measure of assistance was curtly and peremptorily refused. The Legislature at once passed Bills to accept and facilitate the award, although, in some respects, it was far from satisfactory; and yet in 1862, the Colonial Secretary transmitted a draft Act drawn up by the proprietors, in which an equitable proposal of the Commission for the appointment of arbitrators in disputed cases, was cut out on the plea that it would stimulate litigation. The Island Government curiously enough, anticipated the line of argument urged on behalf of the Irish Land Act, twenty years later. They did not believe that there would be many arbitrations "In their opinion two or three cases in a township would have the effect of establishing a scale of prices which would become a standard of value." The Duke of Newcastle, however, was not to be moved, and disallowed the two Acts, on the avowed plea that the award did not meet the wishes of the proprietors.

It was announced at the opening of the Legislature that the measure to make the Legislative Council elective had been sanctioned, and the House was at once dissolved. The elections resulted in a large majority in favour of the award of the Land Commission. The first step, on the meeting of the House, was an address to the Queen touching the award. Her Majesty was requested to notify the proprietors that unless they could show cause before some judicial tribunal to the contrary, the Royal Assent would be given to the two Acts of the Legislature. The Colonial Secretary was inexorable, and fortified by the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, positively declined to recommend compliance with the prayer of the Address. Delegates were sent to England; but, after a long parley with the Duke, who was in communication with Sir Samuel Cunard, the result was eminently unsatisfactory. Some partial relief was given by an Act of 1864—suggested by the proprietors—which enabled tenants in some townships to purchase at fifteen years’ rent.

Thus the matter stood until after Confederation, when the Land Purchase Act of 1875 was assented to by the Governor-General of the Dominion. It provided for Commissioners to determine the value of the estates whose sale was under this statute to be compulsory. In this law, the old plan adopted in the selection of the old Land Commission was again employed with the necessary variations. One member was to be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor, one by the Governor-General, and a third by the proprietors whose land was to be appraised. This Commission was duly named and entered upon its labours; but other Provincial Acts have been passed since then, some of which have been amended at the instance of the Dominion Government, and one at least disallowed. It can hardly be said that this complicated question has even yet been thoroughly adjusted. Still it is in a fair way of settlement, and the long and wearisome conflict at last approaches its end. The folly of the original land grants is patent on the surface, and it is only to be regretted that the Imperial Government did not long since aid the Islanders in throwing off an incubus caused by the reckless and improvident conduct of Imperial rulers in the past.

The preliminary steps towards the accomplishment of a federal union between the Provinces have already been traced. The conference at Charlottetown, P. E. Island, was originally proposed with a view to a smaller measure, covering the Maritime Provinces. By general consent, however, the Canadian delegates were admitted. From the published account of the proceedings, it would appear that the union of the Eastern Provinces under one legislature, "was deemed impracticable; but the opinion of the delegates was unanimous that a union upon a larger basis might be effected." The members of the Conference visited the chief cities of the other Maritime Provinces, and there was a round of banquets from Charlottetown to St. John. The Quebec Conference, in October, virtually settled the terms of Confederation, after a succession of festivities in Canada, the delegates separated. The people of Prince Edward Island were not in favour of the measure, and a series of public meetings resulted in strong expressions of hostility. The Provincial Secretary, Mr. W. H. Pope, and his colleague, Mr. Haviland, were the chief supporters of Confederation; but arrayed against them were Messrs. Laird, Coles, Kenneth Henderson, Hensley, McNeil and a number of others.

The Assembly met early in 1865, and, on resolutions favourable to the Quebec scheme being submitted, they were defeated by twenty-three to five. At the next Session, it was found that the Colonial Secretary had moved in the matter, and a despatch was read in which he strongly urged the claims of Confederation upon the Province. In answer thereto a still stronger motion than before was passed against the proposal by a vote of twenty-one to seven. It set out that however advantageous such a union might be to the Provinces generally, nevertheless it could never be effected "on terms that would prove advantageous to the interests and well-being of the people of this Island, separated as it is, and must ever remain, from the neighbouring Provinces by an immovable barrier of ice for many months in the year." The resolution concluded by declaring that any such union "would be as hostile to the feelings and wishes, as it would be opposed to the best and most vital interests of its people." In the autumn of the same year (1866), the Hon. J. C. Pope, the mover of the above motion, was in London during the sittings of the delegates from the other Provinces. It was proposed that the Island should receive eight hundred thousand dollars "as indemnity for the loss of territorial revenues, and for the purchase of the proprietors’ estates, on condition of its entering the Confederation." Public opinion in the Province, however, was for the present settled against the measure.

In 1868, other terms were offered through Sir William Young, the Governor-General, and approved of by the Lieutenant-Governor; but the Executive Council declined to entertain them because they did not "comprise a full and immediate settlement of the land tenures, and indemnity from the Imperial Government for loss of territorial revenues." In a reply dated the seventh of March, 1870, Earl Granville regretted that the Island government should neglect their own real interests, "for the sake of keeping alive a claim against the Imperial Government which, it is quite certain, will never be acknowledged." The reply of the Assembly was a distinct affirmation that the people of the Island were "almost unanimously opposed to any change in the constitution of the colony."

A long pause followed, and finally the Provincial Government took the matter up in 1873. Messrs. Haythorne and Laird proceeded to Ottawa. After considerable haggling over the terms, a final agreement was come to on pecuniary conditions highly favourable to the Province. No such difficulty could arise in future as that which had occurred in Nova Scotia. The terms were practically submitted to the people in a plebiscite, and the new Assembly at once acceded to the proposals of the Ottawa Government by a vote of twenty-seven to two. Prince Edward Island consequently became a member of the Dominion of Canada on the first of July, 1873.

It only remains to sketch, in brief, the careers of some of the more prominent Scots who have figured in public life during the period under consideration, taking in, as before, a few who are of more recent date. The account already given of Sir William Young naturally suggests his brother as an opening subject.

The Honourable Charles Young, LL.D., Q.C., was born at Glasgow, Scotland, on the last day of April, 1812. A son of the Hon. John Young ("Agricola") he came out with his parents at an early age, and settled in Nova Scotia. He received his education at Dalhousie College, Halifax, and studied law with his brother, the future Chief Justice. Was called to the bars of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in the same year (1838). For a long period he practised his profession in partnership with his brothers, Sir William, and the Hon. George R. Young. Removing to Charlottetown, he entered public life in 1840 as member for Queen’s County, P.E.I.; but before the close of the year he was called to the Legislative Council in which he sat until 1863, and for the last ten years of the time as its President. In 1847 Mr. Young was made a Queen’s Counsel—the first appointed in the Island. For two years from 1851 to 1853, he was Attorney-General, and again from June, 1858 to 1859, and also served as Administrator of the Government more than once. It is said that he was the first public man in the Island to advocate responsible government, and he certainly largely aided in its establishment. On other subjects connected with the progress of the colony he was equally active, notably in favour of free schools, free lands, and savings banks. Mr. Young was made Judge of Probate in 1852 and Judge in Bankruptcy in 1868. At the bar, his practice was highly remunerative, and he was an especial favourite as counsel against the landlords, and on behalf of "the bleeding tenantry," as he termed them. In 1838, he promoted the establishment of a Mechanics’ Institute, delivering the inaugural address; in addition to that he is a prominent member of the Methodist Church, President of the Bible Society, a Royal Arch Mason, and ex-grand Worthy Patriarch of the Sons of Temperance. He has, like the other members of his family, lived an honourable and eminently useful career. The father and his three sons have all been men of vigorous intellect, sterling integrity and unswerving patriotism.

One of the best known men of Prince Edward Island, outside of that Province, is the Hon. David Laird, until very recently Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories. His father, however, first demands notice. The Hon. Alexander Laird was a Scottish farmer who left Renfrewshire in the year 1819 to settle in Prince Edward Island. A practical agriculturist of sterling character and intelligence, he at once went to work upon his land in Queen’s County, a short distance from Charlottetown. Mr. Laird, as have been expected, never swerved from the Liberal and was an unflinching advocate of responsible government. He represented the first District of the County for sixteen years. In 1847, he promoted a petition on behalf of constitutional rule, and, in 1851, as a member of the House, heard the announcement made that the request had been acceded to. For four years he served as a member of the Reform Government of Mr. Coles, the recognised leader of the party. The hon. gentleman’s political services, however, were not his only title to grateful remembrance. He was a scientific farmer, and an active officer of the Agricultural Society, and performed much valuable work in elevating the character of agriculture and in the improvement of stock.

The Hon. David Laird, though not the eldest son of Alexander, is, as has been said, the best known throughout the Dominion. Born near New Glasgow, in 1833, he was educated in the Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Truro, Nova Scotia. Whether he ever entertained the purpose of entering the ministry does not appear. If he did, the idea was abandoned, since immediately after finishing his academic course, he repaired to Charlottetown and established the Patriot newspaper. Like his father, Mr. Laird proved to be an ardent Liberal, but was for some time at variance with the leaders of his party because of their desire to exclude the Bible from the schools. When the terms of Confederation had been virtually settled at Quebec, he at once objected to the scheme as not merely unfair but disadvantageous in every respect to Prince Edward Island. The bone of contention, of course, was the interminable land question, as well as the further grievance that no provision was submitted for the expenditure of money on provincial public works, especially railways. Yet notwithstanding Mr. Laird’s prominence as a journalist and public speaker outside the legislature, it was not until 1871 that he found a seat in the House for Belfast. The election was a casual one caused by the sitting member’s acceptance of office. Mr. Laird opposed the Hon. George Duncan, and defeated him. Dissatisfaction with Mr. Pope’s railway policy had arisen, and at the next general election the Ministry suffered defeat. Mr. Haythorne succeeded as Premier, and towards the end of 1872 Mr. Laird joined the Executive Council. Once more in 1873 the union question came up for the last time, and Mr. Laird, with Mr. Haythorne, were despatched to Ottawa to confer with the Dominion Government, with the result, already noted, of the admission of P. E. Island into the Confederation. Both parties concurred in the arrangement, and, therefore, there was no party division. Mr. Laird was now elected, by acclamation, to the Commons, with the Hon. Peter Sinclair as his colleague. He entered the larger arena at a fortunate time, since the Pacific Railway trouble brought about a change of Ministry during the second year, and when Mr. Mackenzie formed his Ministry in November, Mr. Laird was gazetted as Minister of the Interior. On his offering himself before his constituents he was again elected without opposition. During the following years he served as a Commissioner to the North-West, and concluded with the Indians the Qu’ Appelle treaty, under which the title of certain tribes in the soil was extinguished by purchase. The territory thus surrendered covered 75,000 square miles, on the line of the Pacific Railway. In 1876 Mr. Laird received his appointment as Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, a position he continued to hold during a full term, until near the close of 1881. Mr. Laird is a man of great energy and public spirit, and, as he is still on the sunny side of fifty, has possibly many years of public usefulness before him.

The Hon. Alexander Laird is three years older than his brother David, having been born in 1830. He was elected for the first time in the fourth District of Prince County, and sat for it from 1867 to 1870. He has been a member of the Government under three Premiers, and served on the Board of Works for two years. In 1874 he was elected as representative of the second District of the same County, in the Legislative Council. A Liberal colleague of Mr. Laird’s in the Legislative Council was Lieutenant-Colonel, the Hon. William McGill. The family was originally Highland, but a couple of centuries since three brothers moved south and settled on an estate in Kirkmichael, Dumfries-shire. There in November, 1819, Mr. William McGill, the son of James, was born. His education was conducted at the parish school and the Dumfries Academy; but in 1835, he left "auld Scotia" for Prince Edward Island, where he carried on business as a merchant at Charlottetown. In 1853 he was elected for a District of Queen’s to the Assembly and sat for nine years. In 1858, and again for two years (1869-70), he was High Sheriff of the County. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1873, but did not long sit as a member of the body. Mr. McGill was an early advocate of confederation, and is described in the Parliamentary Companion as "an advanced Liberal both in English and Colonial politics."

The Hon. Peter Sinclair, already mentioned as Mr. Laird’s colleague in the representation of Queen’s County at Ottawa, was born and educated in Argyleshire, Scotland. Of his early career we have no record, except that he was a farmer and took up his residence at Summerfield, Prince Edward Island. Mr. Sinclair did not enter public life until 1867, when he was returned for the First District of Queen’s, and continued to represent that constituency until September, 1873, when he resigned to become a candidate for the Commons. In 1868, he was placed upon the Board of Education, and served on the Executive Council from 1869 to 1871, when the Government resigned. In the following year he entered the Haythorne administration, and was its leader in the Assembly. From 1873 to 1878, he sat for his county in the House of Commons; but in the latter year he suffered defeat by a majority of over seven hundred. Mr. Sinclair is a Liberal, in favour of reciprocity with the United States, and of a prohibitory liquor law.

The Hon. Daniel Gordon was a native Islander, having been born at Brudenell River, King’s County, in 1821. His father, Henry, was a farmer from Perthshire, who had settled and married in the colony. Educated at the grammar school, he at first engaged in teaching; but, after two years’ experience, he went into business. For over forty years, Mr. Gordon has conducted a store in Georgetown, adding to it, however, ship-building and ship-owning. He has been a magistrate ever since 1851, but did not enter public life until 1866, when he was elected to the Legislative Council for a district of King’s. In 1872, he resigned his seat; but, in 1876, was elected as M.P.P. for Georgetown and Royalty, and entered the Government formed by Mr. Davies. Reelected in 1879, he is recognised as a legislator of great value, not merely from his business capacity, but also for the great interest he takes in agriculture and the material interests of the Island. In religion, Mr. Gordon is a Presbyterian, and in politics a Liberal-Conservative.

The number of Scots who have figured, or who still take part, in public affairs in Prince Edward Island is very large. In addition to those already mentioned, a brief reference may be made to a few of these. Hon. Herbert Bell, who was Speaker of the Legislative Council for a time, sprang of a Dumfries family, and was born at Middlebie in that shire, in 1818. He came to the Island when twenty-three years of age, and devoted himself, like Mr. Gordon and others, to mercantile and shipping business. For some time he filled a collectorship of Customs, and served for several years as Grand Worthy Patriarch of the Sons of Temperance. It was only in 1867, however, that he made his appearance in the Legislature, having been elected for a district of Prince County. In 1870, he was returned for the same constituency to the Legislative Council, and was Speaker of that body in 1874. He dropped out of the lists in 1878. One of the oldest living legislators in Prince Edward Island is Lieutenant-Colonel, the Hon. Joseph Wightman, who came from Dumfries-shire in 1823. He also is a merchant, and shipbuilder, and has been High Sheriff of King’s County and Lieutenant-Colonel of volunteers. He sat in the Island Assembly for thirty-two years, from 1838 to 1870, when he was elected to the Legislative Council. In 1874, he was reelected by acclamation. For some years, Mr. Wightman was a member of the Government, and filled also, subsequently, the Speaker’s chair. In respect of party, he has always been a Liberal. The Hon. Archibald J. Macdonald is comparatively a young member, not having entered the Assembly until 1872. But his father, Hugh, was for a long time an M.P.P., and served in various public capacities. The son has risen to the honours of the Executive Council, and was, from the first, an advocate of Confederation. He is a Liberal-Conservative.

Mr. William S. McNeill belonged to an Argyleshire family which came to this country so far back as 1773. His father, the Hon. William McNeill, sat in the Assembly for twenty-five years, and was Speaker of the House for some time. The son was born at Cavendish, in March, 1814, but did not enter the House until 1866. He was subsequently re-elected six times. Dr. Peter A. McIntyre, who sat in the last House of Commons as a Liberal, sprang from an Inverness-shire family. In 1788, his grandfather arrived thence, and settled at Cable Head, in King’s County; and his maternal grandfather had fought under Wolfe at the capture of Quebec. His uncle is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Charlottetown. He himself was born in 1840, and is a graduate of both Laval and McGill Universities. In 1873, Dr. McIntyre succeeded in defeating the Hon. Augustus C. Macdonald for the Commons, but only by a majority of thirty-four. At the last general election the tables were turned, however, and he lost his seat by a majority against him of seventy-eight.

The Hon. Donald Montgomery, Senator, is one of the "old stagers." His father, Daniel, hailed from Argyleshire, and settled in P. E. Island more than a hundred years ago. He represented Prince County for thirty-five years and upwards. Donald was his sixth son, and was born at Princetown early in 1808. He also had a long term in the Assembly, sitting there from 1838 to 1862. In the latter year the Legislative Council was made elective, and he was not only returned but became Speaker. He remained in the chair until 1874, so that he was continuously a member of one or other branch of the Island Legislature during the whole of thirty-six years. In 1873, when the Province entered the Dominion, Mr. Macfarlane became a member of the Senate, and sits there now in 1882. He has thus been in public life, without a break, for the almost unprecedently long period of forty-four years. Another Islander who, though he has never figured in the Legislature, has nevertheless been a public man, is Mr. Archibald McNeill, at present Chief Clerk of the Provincial Assembly. His father, Charles, was an Argyleshire farmer—one of the pioneer settlers—who died in 1879, at the age of eighty-nine. Archibald was born at West River in 1824. After receiving his education, he engaged for fifteen years or so in teaching, and also wrote for the Examiner, then controlled by the Hon. Mr. Whalen. In 1854, he entered the public service, and filled successively a number of important offices. He was an ardent advocate of responsible government, free schools, the lands purchase scheme, and confederation. He was present at the Charlottetown Conference, and reported some of the principal speeches. As we have seen he also took part in public meetings held upon that exciting subject. Mr. McNeill’s interest in agricultural and industrial subjects has given him a prominent position in connection with the Island expositions. For thirteen years he has filled the post of secretary of the Provincial Exhibition Commission. In 1876 he acted as Secretary of the advisory board in connection with the Centennial at Philadelphia, and of the Dominion exhibitions held at Montreal in 1880, and at Halifax in 1881. Since 1873, Mr. McNeill has been Chief Clerk of the House of Assembly at Charlottetown.

In bringing this chapter to a close, it is impossible to avoid an expression of regret that the sketches of public men in the Maritime Provinces have necessarily been incomplete. The writer, notwithstanding all the efforts made to secure information, has been forced to rely almost wholly upon a few books of reference. The difficulty of ascertaining the national origin of some public men, and the scattered hints gathered about others cannot fail to be as unsatisfactory to the reader, as they are to himself. In addition to that, there is the grave apprehension, practically amounting to a certainty, that important names have been omitted. In some cases, at all events, this is owing to the fact that there is no mention of the men who bore them, save the references occurring here and there in the pages of Provincial histories. It may be well to add that other classes of distinguished men, such as the clergy, professors, teachers and editors, or those connected with material interests will be placed under appropriate headings in future chapters.

The slight accounts given here of public affairs in the three Provinces may not, at first sight, appear germane to the purpose of this work. But a bare catalogue of eminent Scots, even with tolerably full biographies, must necessarily have been disjointed and jejune. It seemed more useful, as well as more interesting, to sketch lightly the progress of events in each of the Maritime Colonies marking the similarities and diversities in the political struggles of those three important decades. Throughout the course of constitutional development in the Canadas and in the East, there runs a common thread, or rather a series of threads running parallel. Even the varying, and often tortuous course of the different streams of tendency has the same issue at the last. The water-shed whence they took their origin was in the snow-clad clefts of stiff and gelid oligarchy. Yet in every case, sometimes as mountain torrents, anon gliding peacefully across the sloping plains, each branch of the great river of public life was destined at last to roll majestically along, every ripple brightly gleaming in the generous sunlight of perfect freedom.

Having thus followed each of the Provinces until it had been united with the rest, it will be necessary now to complete the political part of the work by bringing down the general record to the present year.


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