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Sir Howard Douglas
Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick

Governor of New Brunswick.

Sir Howard had now attained the rank of Major-General, and in 1824 was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, and Major-General in command of the troops in that province, together with those :n Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. He embarked with his family in the frigate ‘Samarang,’ Captain Sir William Wiseman, Bart., and had a rough passage to Halifax, where he had lauded thirty years before in a blue jacket and tarpaulin, but now came with decorations on his breast, and received almost royal honours. The vessels :n the harbour were dressed with flags, officers in uniform waited his arrival on the beach, and cannon gave a salute as he left the ship. Little did those around dream what was passing through his inind in the midst of this pageant; for his thoughts had turned to the incidents of his first visit, and his heart swelled with gratitude to the Power which had given it this sequel. He used to say that the contrast struck him the more from his encountering on the beach a member of the Council whom he had met there in 179G a subaltern in the Royal Fusiliers. This was the Honourable Justice Haliburton, the author of ‘Sam Slick,’ but Sir Howard mistook him for some one else at the moment, and asked him what had become of little Haliburton of the Fusiliers. “Little Haliburton!' said the humourist, thoughtfully. “Oh, yes, I know ! lie left the Fusiliers, sold out, turned lawyer, got made a judge, came out to Halifax, and here he is to meet the Governor when again he stretched out his hand, which Sir Howard shook with a hearty laugh.

Sir Howard inspected the troops in the province, and then proceeded to St. John’s, in the Gulf of Fundy. Here he was received with every mark of respect, and entered on the duties of his government.

The colony of New Brunswick dates its origin from 1764, when it -was established by a body of New Englanders, who settled at the mouth of the River St. John, in what is now called the county of Sunbury. The population received an addition in 1783 from an influx of American Royalists, who abandoned their homes in New York and Boston on the Declaration of Independence, and came to live under English rule. The numbers were further increased by emigration, and Sir Howard found them amount to upwards of 74,000, of whom only 3227 claimed descent from the New Englanders.

The Governor of a colony then held a different position from at present, when he merely represents the Sovereign, the government being vested in Ministers nominated by a Parliament. Sir Howard was associated with a Parliament, but responsible to the Ministers at home, who formed their views on his reports. The weal of a colony thus depended greatly on the Governor’s abilities; and his proved equal to the post. He came to a wilderness, carried it through a terrible visitation, and left it a thriving province.

The New Brunswick of 1824 could boast of only five roads, and these were but roads by courtesy. Three led severally to St. John’s, St. Andrew’s, and Chatham, from the capital Fredericton; another ran i.i the direction of Quebec, and the fifth led to Halifax. They were constructed on the Roman plan of going up hill and down, and attracted little tratlio, the colonists preferring to settle on the banks of the rivers, where they had the advantage of water communication. Sir Howard turned his first attention to this deficiency, and designed a road to connect Fredericton with the port of St. John’s, by the Nara-pia river, pushing it forward with great rapidity; and the colonists were astonished to see a way opened that saved a third of the distance. It was so constructed that horses could trot the course without danger or distress, though it crossed a lofty ridge of slate. "In fact,” writes a clergyman of New Brunswick to the author of this work, “Telford or M‘Adam could hardly have designed a better.” Comfortable inns garnished the wayside, and insured the traveller good entertainment, whether he stopped at the sign of the “Government House,” or that of the “Douglas Arms.” The St. John’s road was but the beginning of a system, and was soon followed by others, which opened up New Brunswick iu every direction, while he contracted for the navigation of the St. John by a steamer, almost the first introduced in a British colony.

But it struck him that he could know little of the deficiencies of his government unless he visited its remotest parts, and he waited for neither roads nor steamers to carry him through. His old Indian habits made the task easy, and he penetrated forests and forced his way up streams to back settlements, hardly known by name, startling the inhabitants with a sight of the Governor. “I have received accounts of his visits to every part of the country,” writes the Bev. Dr. Jacob to the author. “It has been especially observed to me, by persons likely to have taken particular notice of his peculiar habits, that Sir Howard showed himself determined to know men and things as they really were, and was accustomed to go in all directions, closely inspecting the abodes and occupations of the rich and the poor, and discovering a kind interest in the welfare of all classes.”

His progresses brought him to perceive that the colonists were very backward in farming, and conducted its operations in the most primitive manner, whence he applied himself to promote a better system. He had not the advantage of personal experience, but he took counsel of the best agriculturists at home, and disseminated their suggestions. He also established agricultural societies, and obtained them the support of public grants, while he encouraged improvements by prizes, which he often distributed himself. He introduced a better arrangement in the construction of dwellings, affording more accommodation and domestic comfort, and he extended the same principle to churches and schools. These measures resulted in a general elevation of the papulation. Farmers multiplied their crops, and carried on their work with superior implements, and the regenerating influence was apparent both in their stock and seeds. The remotest settler felt a stimulus to exertion, when any moment might bring the Governor into his cabin, with a greeting for each of his household, and an interest in all his proceedings.

At the Great Fire

The impulse Sir Howard had given the province met a sudden check in 1825. The season was advancing, and no rain had fallen for two months, which excited uneasiness for the harvest, and he visited some of the settlements to ascertain their prospects. An urgent letter recalled him to Fredericton, and he returned to find himself houseless, a fire having broken out at Government House on the 19th of September, and almost burnt it to the ground before it could be arrested. Happily it occurred in the daytime, and the courage and devotion of Lady Douglas nerved her to supply his place, which led to the preservation of the most valuable part of the effects; and the author is the more bound to mention this, as it secured him the materials for the present work; for nothing seemed more precious to Lady Douglas than the memorials of her husband’s services.

But his own misfortune was forgotten by Sir Howard in a calamity which fell on the community. The long drought continued, and October came in with midsummer sultriness, keeping the thermometer at 86° in the shade, and 126° in the sun. On the morning of the 7th he expressed his belief that a large fire prevailed in the woods, as a breeze had risen, and blew warm and parched, bringing in clouds of smoke ; but this was ascribed to the burning of the brushwood by the lumberers. The explanation did not allay his apprehensions, and he directed the engines to be in readiness, and the military prepared to assist, fearing that brands might be blown into Fredericton. The wisdom of his precautions too soon appeared, for the afternoon brought an alarm that fire had broken out in the wood round the house of the Hon. John Baillie, about a mile from the town ; and he ordered out the engines and troops, and galloped off at their head, followed by nearly the whole population.

The air brought an odour of burning as they advanced, but they saw nothing of the fire except a cloud of smoke, till a gust blew it aside and showed the flaming trees. The house rose behind, and appeared uninjured; nor had the trees caught beyond a few yards, where a gap imposed a boundary. Sir Howard directed the engines to play here and on the house, though this presently seemed doomed, as the trees began to fall and covered it with flakes of fire. Indeed, it excited less interest than the wood, for there the fate of the province was at stake, as a spark winged across the gap might spread the fire to the interior. Sir Howard watched both points, ar.d so posted the firemen that they got the mastery of the flames, and less than an hour found the house preserved, and the fire extinguished.

All were rejoicing at the result, when danger presented itself in a new quarter, a messenger spurring up to report a fire in Fredericton. Sir Howard pushed on the engines to the spot, and ordered up the troops at the double, while he hastened to be first himself; for the breeze had increased to a gale, and blew in a direction to imperil the town. The flames burst on his view as he galloped up, rising from the house and barn of Mr. Ring, which they had half consumed, and they now threatened a range of wooden houses beyond. The engines played on the nearest; but the gale blew about burning flakes, which rendered precaution futile; and smoke rose from two or three houses at once—then from a dozen; and a whole street w as in flames. They spread like lightning, not from building to building, but in forks; and roofs lit up a dozen houses off as if they kindled spontaneously. A large area was one flame, crackling and crashing, as it shot over rafters, split walls, and brought down floors and beams, whirling smoke through the town till the whole seemed on fire. The torrents of water poured in had no effect; for the smoke and flame thickened where they fell, as if they supplied fuel, and house after house caught like tinder. But the engines worked on, the soldiers and population manning the pumps, and relieving each other, while parties kept back the crowd of women and children who watched their burning homes with frantic emotion. Nothing could be saved; for buildings caught at a distance where they appeared secure, and blazed in an instant, throwing out flames like arms, and dragging the next houses into the vortex. Night added its shadows to this scene; and some of the most respectable families of the town crouched destitute in the streets, reduced to beggary in a moment. All seemed lost; and all had been lost indeed, but for one man.

Sir Howard marked a point where he thought the fire might be arrested, as it was occupied by a brick building less in front of the wind, and here he concentrated a large force, and so saturated the adjacent houses with water, that flakes fell on them without igniting. How long this might have continued is doubtful; but the wind gradually veered further round and blew in the opposite direction, which turned the fire in upon itself, and a third of the town was a burning mass while the rest stood clear.

The deliverance was not understood at first, but the report spread, and families returned to their homes, carrying back their furniture which they had brought into the streets. Sir Howard remained at the angle, and urged the firemen to renewed exertion; for the wind grew more and more boisterous, and might shift any moment, when the flames would again be driven forward if not extinguished. The continuous stream of water began to abate their fury, or nothing remained to consume, for they now vanished in smoke, which rolled away from the town, and showed the sky above. Yet the air was so hot that it became difficult to breathe; a suffocating odour pervaded every quarter; and a belief arose that the fire smouldered somewhere, and would break out again. But imagination never dreamt of the conflagration at hand, the most stupendous ever witnessed by man.

A roar of thunder came from the forest, and a column of smoke shot up, followed by blaze on blaze, and then a burst of fire, like the eruption of a volcano. The flames fell in a shower, which the gale blew wide, hurling them about like darts; and here they might be seen on the tops of trees—there flaring in the branches—there running up or down the trunks, or from base and summit at once. The smoke blew back on the unkindled woods, making them darker than before—blacker than the blackest night; and the fire raged in the middle, imaging the mouth of hell. But this was only for a moment. Blazes gleamed at the sides, behind, in the depths of the woods, on the river’s brink ; trees of centuries’ growth lit up in the midst of the darkness; fire rained from above, soared up from below, spread from the centre, and closed in from the distance. It burst in a hundred eruptions, mounting, declining, and mounting again, throwing up spouts, falling in showers or sheets, or glaring in mid-air. A thousand miles of forest had caught!1 The river was crimson with the reflection; the clouds took the form of flames ; the very heavens seemed on fire.

The intense heat deranged the strata of the atmosphere ; and the gale burst into a hurricane, tore through the town, wrenched up trees, and carried strong men off their feet. Horses broke from the fields, and galloped about in troops, snorting and neighing, their eyes starting from their heads and their manes on end, while the wind swelled the clatter of their hoofs to the rush of hosts. All occurred in an instant, and inspired a religious people with an impression akin to the spectacle—that it was the Day of Judgment. They threw themselves on their knees in the streets, or buried their faces to shut out the scene, as if they made the appeal foretold to the mountains and hills. And it did seem a burning world, with the fire raging like a sea, in mountainous waves; the sky glowing like a furnace; the hurricane breaking in peals and crashes; and the scorched air flapping as with a million wings.

Sir Howard kept moving through the town, or paused only in the centre, where he had posted a reserve of the 52nd Regiment under Colonel M‘Nair, and a body of firemen; while the remainder were stationed at different points, ready to operate on the first alarm. Only the greatest vigilance could preserve the remaining houses, and he went from post to post, giving directions and overlooking all. He was nobly supported by Colonel M‘Nair and the other officers, as well as the gentlemen of the town, who formed parties to drive back the horses and patrol the streets. This reassured the crowd, whose terrors calmed as they felt the presence of authority, and more as they saw the light of another day.

But now they began to realise their destitution, which horror had made them forget; and hundreds cried for bread. Sir Howard organised a system of temporary relief, and formed a committee to carry it out, but charity could do little in a case so desperate. Thriving men of yesterday had lost all they possessed ; honoured families were beggars; and delicate women and children stood unsheltered before their ruined homes. It terrified him to think that they reflected a distress as wide as the province ; for it could not be doubted that the fire had ravaged the interior, and left thousands without a roof. He considered that it must have destroyed the harvest, and that the navigation might close before they obtained supplies—so far did he look forward in a moment, and with courage to act on his forethought. He sent for an active merchant of the town, and ordered him to proceed to Quebec, and buy up food and clothing, furnishing him with bills on the Treasury, which he drew at his own risk. He then took measures for the relief of the misery in the town, calling a meeting of the inhabitants by proclamation ; and this brought up the whole community—the rich and destitute together. He presided himself, and made a touching appeal to the more fortunate, while lie set an example of liberality by subscribing 201. from his own purse, and 200/. in the name of the King, appropriated from the casual revenue on his own responsibility. “Such conduct as his speaks volumes in his praise,” says the New Brunswick Courier. “It endears him to our hearts, and throw s a moral splendour around his character, that the adventitious distinctions of birth, rank, and fortune cannot confer; and much as we admire his bravery as a soldier, his indefatigable endeavours to make himself acquainted with the real state of the province, and his profound political sagacity, we admire still more the distinguished efforts he has made in the cause of suffering humanity on this occasion.”

He did not confine his solicitations to the colonists, but addressed letters to the Governor-General of Canada, his friends in England, and the Colonial Secretary, claiming their succour; and his official despatch stated the need so forcibly that the Government inserted it in the ‘Gazette’ to stimulate the public bounty. The result was a subscription of 40,000/. collected in England and the colonies, and the presentation of large supplies of food and clothing.

Several days elapsed before the Are subsided, and then it became masked by smoke which darkened the whole country. But night proved that it had not burnt out: for showers of flame shot up at intervals, and trees stood glaring in the dark, while the mingled black and red of the ‘sky seemed its embers overhead. Thus a week passed, when Sir Howard determined to penetrate the forest, and visit the different settlements. A friend has described his parting with Lady Douglas and his daughters, whose pale faces betrayed their emotion, though they forbore to oppose his design, knowing that nothing would keep him from his duty. But this was not understood by others, and the gentlemen of the town gathered round his rough country waggon at the door, and entreated him to wait a few days, pointing to the mountains of smoke, and declaring that he must be suffocated, if he escaped being burnt. He thanked them for their good feeling, grasped their hands, and mounted the waggon. It dashed off at a gallop, and wondering eyes followed it to the woods, where it disappeared in the smoke.

The devastation he met exceeded his worst fears; for the settlements he went to visit no longer existed. The fire seems to have burst in every quarter at once, for it broke out at Miramichi the same moment as at Fredericton, though a hundred and fifty miles lay between. But here its aspect was even more dreadful, and its ravages more appalling, as Miramichi stood in the forest, completely girt round, except w here escape was shut off by the river. Many were in bed when they heard the alarm ; many were first startled by the flames, or were suffocated in their sleep, leaving no vestige but charred bones. Others leaped from roof or window, and rushed into the forest, not knowing where they went, or took fire in the street, and blazed up like torches. A number succeeded in gaining the river, and threw themselves in boats or on planks, and pushed off from the bank, which the fire had almost reached, and where it presently raged as fiercely as in the town. One woman was aroused from sleep by the screams of her children whom she found in flames, and caught fire herself as she snatched up an infant and ran into the river, where mother and child perished together. Then came the hurricane, tearing up burning trees and whirling them aloft; lashing the river and channel into fury, and snapping the anchors of the ships, which flew before it like chaff, dashing on the rocks, and covering the waves with wreck. Blazing trees lighted on two large vessels, and they fired like mines, consuming on the water, which became so hot in the shallows that large salmon and other fish leaped on shore, and were afterwards found dead in heaps along the branches of the river. What can be said of such horrors, combining a conflagration of a thousand miles with storm and shipwreck, and surprising a solitary community at midnight. Happily, the greater number contrived to reach Chatham by the river; but floating corpses showed how many perished in the attempt, and nearly three hundred lost their lives by fire or drowning.

A harrowing spectacle presented itself on the subsidence of the flames. Scarcely a house remained standing; not one uninjured; and the road was strewn with black heaps, which proved to be the ashes of men and women. One of these claims mention as the remains of a woman who had so disposed herself as to cover her infant while she burnt to a cinder above, and the child was taken from beneath alive — a witness to the sublimest instance of maternal devotion ever recorded. The devastation struck the survivors with despair, and they made no effort at retrieval, but wandered about the ruins bewildered, or crouched down wherever they found shelter. Suddenly there was a general movement; everybody hurried out — some without knowing why —and they hardly believed their eyes as they looked up the forest, and saw Sir Howard walking down, his waggon being blocked by a fallen tree. He had come a hundred and fifty miles through the woods where the fire si ill burnt, and received no injury, though he was often in danger, and once all but suffocated. Simultaneously the whole crowd went forward, and every one uncovered as they met, receiving him with a silence more eloquent than cheers. But he spoke out; for he knew what to say, and raised courage and hope in their breasts, if he brought tears to no few eyes. Soon the axe and the hammer were at work; spades were throwing up the ground; men bustled about with loads on their backs; a vessel came round from St. John’s with supplies; and the cloud began to pass from Miramichi, like the smoke from the forest. He remained through their trial, and shared its privations, while his presence allev iated its bitterness; and they followed him with blessings on his departure. He had distributed amongst them 1000 barrels of flour, 500 barrels of pork, and 1700/. worth of clothing, which he purchased on his own responsibility, though he was afterwards indemnified by the Government. Well and truly did Lord Sidmouth write to him:— “Happy was it for the province that such a person as yourself was on the spot. All its hopes of protection, relief, and redemption depended on the resources and energies of your judgment, fortitude, activity, and benevolence.” He refers to the account Sir Howard had sent him of the fire in the following words:—“I was at a large dinner-party at Lord Stowell’s, and your detailed communication had the effect of exciting all present to contribute and to promote the means of relief to the utmost of their power. In reflecting upon the ruin which surrounds you, I rejoice that it has been your lot to be the instrument of performing such duties as, T truly think, you, of all the men I have ever known, are the best calculated to discharge. The affectionate solicitude of every member of my family constantly attends you.”

On the Coast.

The duties of his government never diverted Sir Howard from those of his command. He inspected each division of the troops in turn, and made voyages to Halifax for this purpose, visiting every military post. He took the deepest interest in the soldiers, and was as anxious to promote their welfare as their efficiency. One of the measures he originated was Soldiers’ Savings Banes, which worked so successfully that he thought it his duty to lay the result before the Horse Guards, and he made a report setting forth the effect produced on the character of the soldiers, particularly in checking desertion and drunkenness. He received a sharp reproof in reply, and was told that lie had exceeded his authority in establishing the savings-banks, which he was ordered to suppress, but he afterwards had the satisfaction of seeing them introduced by the Government.

His voyages between St. John’s and Halifax were attended with his usual fortune at sea, and his association with bad weather became a proverb, so that sailors began to look upon him as a sort of Jonah. The impression should have been just the reverse,' for proofs continually arose that he was not born to be drowned. He went to Halifax for a spring inspection in His Majesty's frigate ‘Niemen,’ Captain Wallace, and intended to go from there to Prince Edward’s Island, and then visit the military posts along the shore of New Brunswick. All went well till he left Charlotte Town, whence he passed along the coast to the Miramichi, and was entering the river in fine weather under the guidance of a pilot, when the ship struck. No bank appeared in the chart, but they found that the frigate had run on a ledge of rocks presenting such a slope that she did not stop till she had been carried high up. Her position was most critical, and excited as much alarm on shore as on board. Several large fishing-craft put off to her assistance, but the tide was falling, and the crew could do nothing but lighten the ship. This they effected in the promptest manner, the boats being got away, the water started and pumped out, the yards and topmasts struck, and the guns hoisted up and stowed in the fishing-craft. Every one waited for the rise of the tide, and then worked together, when the frigate, was hauled off by an anchor laid out astern, and floated.

Sir Howard watched these operations with deep interest, and often expressed his admiration of the judgment displayed on the occasion by Captain Wallace, as well as the zeal of his officers, and the steadiness of the crew. The frigate was accompanied by the colonial brig ‘Chibuctu,’ which attended on the Governor, but he would not leave the ‘Niemen’ in her distress, and remained on board till a leak showed that she had sustained injury in her bottom and must go into dock.

The ‘Niemen’ again brought him in peril in 1826. The October of that year found him at Halifax in company with Lady Douglas, and he proposed returning home by way of Hemapolis, to avoid exposing her to the risk of a long sea passage so late in the season, but Captain Wallace prevailed upon him to break this arrangement and embark in the ‘ Niemen.’ They left Halifax with a fair wind, and the first day passed very agreeably, promising a good passage. But no such promise appeared next morning, when they found themselves enveloped in a fog, such as only that latitude presents. The fogs of Newfoundland surpass the imagination of Europeans, and that of October, 1826, was one of the densest on record. The ship might be thought to be in the clouds, for above, around, and beneath, nothing else could be seen, and it was equally vain to look for the topmast or the waves. Sailors describe such fogs as being “ what you may cut with a knife,” but they defy cutting and must be swallowed whole. The atmosphere is one impervious cloud, and so it remains for hours, for days, and for weeks. Now it is a bright white, as if day were struggling through; now it becomes shaded, and now almost night. It is the same hue everywhere one moment, and the next shows it with dark patches like shadows. Then come the little openings called fog-gaps, so familiar to seamen, and which raise delusive hopes of a clear up, sometimes cutting through like a vista, or a chasm between two precipitous cliffs, with the. sea clear in the midst, and filling up with fog rolled in from the distance as you look. Sometimes the gaps take the form of galleries or caverns, as steady as if hewn out of granite. We seem to be in a ghost-land, where nothing is real except the danger. But the solemn time is night, when the fog is thickened by darkness, and may be felt. You hear the waves lashing the ship, and reflect that you are sailing you know not whither, while imagination is haunted by unknown arctic seas or hidden rocks, and the leadsman goads it with his dismal chant as he gives out the soundings.

The ‘Niemen’ felt her way alongshore by the deep-sea lead, and kept between eighty and a hundred fathoms, so working round Cape Canso, as they judged from the reckoning, and entering the Bay of Fundy, for the soundings began to mark deeper water. Thus they went on for day upon day, and were now closing a third week without having seen sun, moon, or stars, or met a ship, or caught a glimpse of land. They passed out of the deep water, and its gradual shallowing led Sir Howard and the. Captain to conceive that they were approaching the coast of the United States, which placed them in great danger, and their anxiety was becoming intense when the fog suddenly cleared, revealing a shore. An officer hurried off in a boat, and ascertained the position of the ship, which was where the Captain had supposed, but his report had hardly been made when the fog returned, and shore, sea, and sky again disappeared. A clear-up now seemed hopeless, and nothing remained but to grope their way to St. John’s, an enterprise that the most faultless seamanship could not divest of terrors. But Captain Wallace never seemed more himself, and was perfectly calm and collected, even when the reckoning marked the offing of the port, a spot fraught with peril. Here there was a sudden burst of moonlight: they saw the masts and the waves, the dim outline of the cliffs, and the opening harbour, and then the fog rolled up like a curtain, and the shore appeared, like a scene in a play. All danger seemed over; and they were swept on by a fine leading wind, in spite of the falling tide.

Ten o’clock found them entering the Narrows, where the breeze fell off, and the tide gathered increased force, rushing out with such violence that the frigate could hardly bear up. It was now at flood, and came on at the rate of six or seven knots, every moment getting more power over the ship, as the wind blew less home, and allowed her to be hustled towards a shoal. The Captain thought to keep her 'n check by letting go the starboard anchor, but it was impossible to give off a sufficient service of cable in time, and she settled on the bank.

Lady Douglas might now see the advantage of being in a well-manned ship, under a good Commander; for there was no confusion or outcry as the frigate struck, and all relied on the Captain, awaiting his orders. Nor could the example of Sir Howard fail to have an effect, and his calm bearing gave confidence to others, as they knew that he understood the position of the ship, and her chance of extrication. No attempt to float her could be made by hauling, as the bank was discovered to be very steep, with little water on the port side, and a great depth to starboard; and destruction must follow any haul upon the anchor in a falling tide. Captain Wallace fired a gun of distress to bring off help from the shore, but to little purpose; for none arrived till the ladies had been placed in a boat and sent away. Sir Howard remained to share the fortune of the ship, and watched the arrangements with his old interest. Soon all was ready, the starboard guns being hauled to port, and all movable articles passed to the same quarter, as the smallest list to starboard must heel the ship over in deep water, when every one would perish; for the sturdiest swimmer must yield to the rushing tide. The crisis arrived, and they stood between life and death, but the frigate took the proper list to port, and low water left her high and dry. They were out of danger, and the tide set her afloat.

The following day brought Captain Wallace to dine with the Governor, and it came out that he had been hearing tales about his Excellency which he did not consider to his advantage; for he suddenly asked him if he had not once been shipwrecked. Sir Howard replied by telling the story, and the Captain’s face became longer as he proceeded, though he made no remark tili the close. He then observed that his regard for him was very great, and he valued their interchange of hospitality in port and ashore, but should never like to take him to sea again; for he had been twenty years afloat without mishap, except on the two occasions when they had been together, and he should now look upon his appearance in his ship as a passenger as a very bad omen indeed.

Restores the Prosperity oi the Colony.

Sir Howard's adventures on the coast led him to more practical conclusions than those of his friend Captain Wallace. He had experienced its dangers, and sought to provide a remedy by the erection of lighthouses, beginning by a recommendation to the House of Assembly to place one on Point Escuminac, at the entrance of Miramichi Bay, and requesting a contribution towards the establishment of another at St. Paul's Island, at the southern entrance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Both these suggestions were adopted, and he then procured the erection of lighthouses on the Ganet Rock, the Eastern Seal Island, East Quaddy Head, and Point Le Beau, in the Bay of Fundy. Thus his disasters probably led to the preservation of hundreds of lives.

But his energies were chiefly employed in retrieving the colony from the ruin caused by the fire, and he made surprising progress, giving expansion to every resource, and introducing regulations to extend the sale of lands and their cultivation, and to develop the customs, the exports, and the shipping. Nor is it least creditable to him that he started a fund for assisting a number of poor Irish emigrants who arrived in the midst of these changes, and addressed an appeal to the Colonial Secretary in their behalf. He carried out further improvements in the roads, and projected a canal for linking the Bay of Fundy with the water-communication of the Canadas, and so opening up a traffic which should embrace both the coast and the interior. He drew plans of the undertaking, and made an estimate of the expense, with a statement of his views and expectations, and submitted the whole to the Earl of Dalhousie, the Governor-General of Canada. The following letter shows that they obtained the approbation of that statesman :—

“My DEAR Sir Howard,“ Quebec, 11tb May, 1827.

“I have had much satisfaction in the perusal of your proposed application to H. M.’s Government on the subject of the Bajr Yerti Canal. It would be useless, indeed, to offer any observations upon it, except such as may express my own individual opinions, which coincide entirely with yours, and I think it suffices merely to say so.

“A communication to establish a coasting-trade with, these provinces is to draw forth their natural resources in many ways yet unforeseen—impossible to foresee. One occupation for the lower orders produces another, creates industry, and multiplies the objects of it. On that view alone of our more immediate intercourse, I think it highly desirable, and deserving the attention of the Government, Imperial and Provincial.

“I have retained copy of your manuscript, and copy of Plan No. 5 with the line level of the canal ....

“My dear Sir Howard, faithfully yours,


In nothing did Sir Howard more evince his zeal for the progress of the colony than his efforts to promote education. Fredericton owes to him its college, which he expanded from a grammar-school, and then obtained for it a royal charter, conferring the privileges of an university. The project involved him in controversy, and imposed endless trouble, but he was not to be vanquished by obstacles. His first difficulty was to provide an endowment, and this he met by appropriations from the revenue arising from the sale of unoccupied lands, of which he possessed the disposal, and by inducing the House of Assembly to grant an equal sum. Hut the colonists remembered their “pilgrim fathers,” and stipulated for the suppression of the Thirty-nine Articles and the admission of Dissenters. This aroused opposition, and the application for a charter was resisted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, while it had a local adversary in the Bishop of Nova Scotia, who not only opposed it on religious grounds, but because he favoured a rival scheme, which contemplated a college for the whole of British America in his own diocese.

No one could be less disposed than Sir Howard to disturb a barrier of the Church, but he also attached weight to the religious scruples of others, and the influence of associations. He saw there must be a compromise, and framed one undeniably fair—opening the college to all, but reserving the direction to the clergy, and limiting the stipulation of the Assembly by exacting subscription for degrees of divinity. Objections were more easily overcome in the colony than at home, where they could only be answered in letters, and it took reams of persuasion to gain over the Trimate, and the same measure to convert the Bishop. At last the charter was won, and the King gave his name to the college, commemorating its obligations to Sir Howard by appointing him its first chancellor.

He was installed in the office on the 1st of January, 1829, the day of the opening. The solemnity began with divine service, when the masters and students assembled in the hall, and were joined by the members of the Legislature and the Koval Council, who took possession of seats, leaving a space for the public. All rose on the appearance of Sir Howard, and he advanced to his place amidst a burst of cheers, which were renewed when he announced that the institution had been established by the King, and that His Majesty conferred upon it the name of “King’s College, New Brunswick.” He delivered an oration worthy of his office, and designed both to excite the emulation of the students and enlist the liberality of the colonists, which he sought to stimulate by his own. “I shall leave with the College,” he said, “I trust for ever, a token of my regard and best wishes. It shall be prepared in a form and devoted to an object which I hope may prove an useful incitement to virtue and learning; and at periodical commemorations of the commencement it may serve to remind you of the share which I have had in the institutions and proceedings of a day which I shall never forget.” Thus modestly did he speak of his donation of a gold medal as an annual prize. So late as 1859 the Principal of the College bore testimony that his promise to “never forget” had been fulfilled. “This ever-watchful and indefatigable friend,” said Dr. Jacob, at the commemoration of that year, “has persevered in his endeavours to maintain our existence and promote our prosperity; By a very recent mail I have received the counsel of his experienced wisdom, with the assurance of his yet unfailing efforts for objects which, as long as life and light remain, he will not cease to regard with unabated solicitude:—

“Then from his closing eves thy form shall part,
And the last pang shall tear thee from his heart.”

In truth, neither time nor distance weakened his attachments, nor lessened his interest in objects he had taken up. His constancy is attested by his friendships, many of which extend over sixty years, and have been preserved through separations of half a life. The Atlantic did not divide him from his friends in England, and he was in their minds as often, deepening their regard and making every letter that passed an interchange of confidence. This would forbid their publication if the grave had not closed over the writers, and events dispersed their secrets; so that they no longer claim to be suppressed.

His chief correspondents were His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, Lord Sidmouth, and the Earl and Countess Harcourt. They send him the gossip of their different sets, and it is amusing to compare their sentiments as each comes into the confessional with thoughts begotten by the wish. The Duke of Gloucester holds by Mr. Canning, and augurs for him a long tenure of office: “Great changes have taken place in this country in the last few months. Happily for Great Britain and for the whole world we have now an administration in which there are many Whigs, composed of our ablest men, headed by our greatest statesman, and founded upon liberal and tolerant principles. Mr. Canning has certainly done more for England in the last three years than almost any Minister we have ever had. The nation and the House of Commons are, I conceive, very decidedly with the present Government, which will long remain in power.”

But it is dangerous to prophesy smooth things. The letter of His Royal Highness is dated July, 1827, and the Ministry changed several times before the July following. Earl Harcourt writes to Sir Howard on the 4th of June, 1828,—“I have more than once intended to write to you upon the late extraordinary situation of this country, which has, I think, had not fewer than three or four different administrations in the course of the last twelve months; but now has one which is, I trust, likely to be more permanent— thanks to the Duke of Wellington’s firmness and decision, which bids fair to carry us through all our difficulties; as the new arrangement of offices, with your friends Sir George Murray for the Colonial Department and Sir H. Hardinge for the War Office have actually kissed hands. The disfranchisement of the borough of East Retford, and the transfer of the elective privilege to the neighbouring hundred, as proposed by Peel but objected to by Huskisson, who named Birmingham for the purpose, was the ostensible cause of the disagreement which produced the resignation of the latter; but the real fact is that Huskisson, who is a thorough intriguant, and who has a powerful following in the House, is labouring to overset Ilis Grace’s Government, which, notwithstanding all the disadvantages it labours under from a very formidable opposition of talent and practice in public speaking, will, it is thought, ultimately prove successful."

Lady Harcourt does not feel so confident. She looks at the political world with the minute perception of a woman, and seems to have a foreshadowing of the convulsions about to shake Europe, and which began with the Roman Catholic Relief Bill in England, soon followed by the French and Belgian Revolutions, and the English Reform Bill. Her remembrance of the Church is equally characteristic, and a late event gives an interest to the reference to Dr. Sumner. Nor is there wanting a hit of scandal as a further mark of a lady’s letter, and giving the moral of a painful story :—

“My DEAR FRIEND,“ St- Leonard's, 2nd Aug. 1828.

“Your letters of late have made us very anxious, and we feel more than usually uncertain respecting the health and situation of yourself and Lady Douglas and your family The changes that take place here must be always against the interest of those abroad, and not advantageous at home. It is to be hoped that all will remain now as it is, but it depends on one life alone. Should anything happen to the present Premier [the Duke of Wellington], all will again break up. His health, however, I am happy to say, is better than it was. There seems to be a general uncertainty respecting the fate of nations, as if some change was likely to take place. In respect to the Church, Bishops have died, and London [Dr. Howley] goes to Canterbury—a popular measure; not so the translation of Bloomfield to London. But Dr. Sumner to Chester every one approves of. The Sumners have been a fortunate family. Dr. Sumner has been allowed to keep his Deanery of Durham with his Bishopric of Chester.

“Poor Lord Liverpool’s health is as bad as ever, and there seems no prospect of his dissolution. Lord Grenville also is declining fast.

“About Sandhurst I can tell nothing but that Sir E. Paget is very popular, and something has happened respecting ....., about which we can get no distinct information. There has been some inquiry respecting some pecuniary arrangements, which were extremely trifling, yet he was somewhat to blame; and it is said that his wife, who was a most amiable woman, has died of the vexation it has caused her.

.....I find it is perfectly true that the poor woman died of a broken heart. She said that the mortification she experienced from the Court of Inquiry was more than she could bear. I was told * * * * * was a most pitiable object. It was, I believe, proved that he had made about thirty or forty pounds a year by selling the boys’ clothes and trifling things.

“With my best love to your ladies, I am, my dear friend, yours very affectionately,

“Mary Harcourt.”

The opinions of Lord Sidmouth may be omitted, as they coincide with Earl Harcourt’s; but one of his letters contains a reference to two illustrious characters who were highly esteemed by Sir Howard, and the passage may be introduced here as bearing on the complications in which we were continually involved with the United States, one of the most serious of which forms the subject of our next chapter:—“It is probable that before you receive this letter you will have seen Lord Stowell’s recent judgment on the slave case. On no occasion has he been more powerful and convincing.....

This judgment, I sincerely hope, will close his splendid and eminently useful judicial career. He met his daughter and Mary Anne and myself yesterday at Lord Powis’s, and was well and cheerful; but he becomes very naturally more and more restless, and impatient for the society of his daughter, as his disposition and powers to engage as formerly in social intercourse diminish. Lord Eldon gives a very good account of himself.’

The following were the resolutions adopted on the subject in the sitting of the 6th March, 1826 :—

“Resolved unanimously, that an humble address be presented to his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, thanking his Excellency for the active measures he had taken to promote the establishment of a lighthouse on Saint Paul’s Island; and whereas the erection of a lighthouse on Point Escuminac is recommended by his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, and would afford great security to vessels navigating those waters, from whence such light could be discerned,—

“Resolved, that an humble address be presented to his Excellency, praying that be would be pleased to cause plans and estimates of the proposed establishment to be prepared, and that he would take such other measures as he may deem most conducive to the furtherance of this very desirable object.”—Resolutions of the House of Assembly, in the ‘Douglas Papers.’

The above was taken from the Life of Sir Howard Douglas

See also...

Naval Warfare with Steam
A Treatise on Naval Gunnery (5th edition)
A postscript to the section on iron defenses
Contained in the fifth edition of Naval gunnery
Naval Evolutions
A Memoir by Maj,-Gen. Sir Howard Douglas, Bart., K.S.C., C.B., F.R.S. &c.

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