History of New Brunswick
Volume II Chapter XXX


THE session of 1841 was the last occasion on which Sir John Harvey met the Provincial legislature. Great changes had taken place in the condition of the Province during the year that had elapsed since the last meeting. There had been much commercial embarassment due to losses by fire, and bad markets in England for the staple products of the colonies. But the country had enjoyed the advantage of a good harvest, and that compensated in part for the commercial depression. He was able to announce that arrangements were being made for the improvement of the postal communication in British America, and the reduction of the rates of postage. The post office at that time was an Imperial institution, and the postal facilities of the Province were on a very limited scale, in comparison with those of the present day, The postage on letters was so high that it cost seven pence to send a letter from St. John to Fredericton, and a shilling to send one to Richibucto. The postage from St. John to Dorchester, was nine pence, and the same rate took a letter to Halifax. But it cost one shilling and three pence, to send a letter to Dalhousie, one shilling and six pence, to send a letter from St. John to Quebec, and one shilling and eight pence to forward it to Montreal. These excessive rates of postage existed until the year 1850, when the post office department was transferred to the Provincial Government. A curious light is thrown on these high rates of postage by some correspondence which passed between the post office authorities and the Government of New Brunswick in the year 1843 in regard to the postage charged on certain public documents which had been forwarded to the Government of this Province from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. A copy of tbe laws of Prince Edward Island, which had been sent from Charlotte-town for the use of the Provincial government, was charged 34 16s. 8d. postage, upon which the Provincial authorities here refused to take it out of the post office, and a long correspondence ensued in regard to it. The packet in which the law book was contained being closed, it was subject to letter postage, and the Postmaster-General or his deputy, was unable to reduce the rate, so that the book in question probably never reached its destination. It is impossible to exaggerate the inconvenience which must have resulted from such excessive rates of postage. Nor was this the only evil from which the Province suffered in connection with the post office department. Mails, which now go daily, or twice or three times a week, at that time seldom went oftener than once a week, and these mails were usually so small that a courier, on horseback, was able to carry them with him. Those who had friends at a distance seldom resorted to the post office for the purpose of communicating with them, and depended on sending letters by private hand, when some casual traveller journeyed between the places. The same difficulty, with regard to postage, retarded the circulation of newspapers, and prevented the transmission of intelligence throughout the country. The reduced scale of duties, to which the Lieutenant-Governor referred, did not apply to internal colonial postage, but to the transmission of letters from Great Britain to British North America. Heretofore the rate on a single letter had amounted frequently to three or four shillings, a sum much greater than most people were able to pay, and which discouraged correspondence between immigrants and their friends in Great Britain. The new rate was one shilling and three pence, which, although we should consider very high at the present time, was then looked upon as a great boon. The Province had yet to wait for a long time for a really low rate of postage between Great Britain and the colonies, and the present two cent, rate was something of which the wildest imagination at that time, had never dreamed.

The most important act of 1841, was a measure to establish a Provincial House of Correction. The need of this had been forced on the attention of the Legislature by the bad condition of the gaok of the Province. Two of the judges, Botsford and Parker, had been requested by Sir John Harvey, in 1839, to inspect the St. John gaol, and they found the building entirely too small for the needs of the city, and the proper care of the prisoners. There were no means of separating convicts from those committed for trial, or between felons and those convicted of minor offences, while juvenile offenders were mixed up with those who were hardened in crime. The condition of the debtors who were confined in gaol was no better than that of a convict, because, in many cases, they were destitute of the means of procuring the necessaries of life, and had to rely on the charity of the jailer or of their fellow prisoners, for the means of sustenance. It was evident that a place ought to be provided for convicts undergoing sentences, and this act was the result. The building which had been erected by the county of St. John, was taken over by the Province, and made available for prisoners from any county. This was the beginning of the Provincial penitentiary at St. John, which was taken over by the Dominion Government under the terms of confederation, and continued to serve as a prison for convicts until the building of the large penitentiary at Dorchester, for the accommodation of all the convicts of the Maritime Provinces.

At this session a despatch was laid before the Legislature, from Lord John Russell, with regard to the coasting trade between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Regulations had been made the previous year by the Imperial authorities, permitting all British vessels to carry goods between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the produce of either Province, without entry or clearance. This relieved the coasting trade from a serious impediment and greatly facilitated business between the two Provinces. At this time the distress in England was sending emigrants abroad in large numbers and many of them came to New Brunswick. An emigrant agent had been appointed some years before, who was charged with the business of assisting these poor people to find homes for themselves in this Province. In 1838, 893 emigrants arrived from the British Islands; in 1839 the number was 3,103, and in 1840 no less than 7,777 emigrants came to New Brunswick. This was a larger number than the Province could properly absorb in one year, and many of them drifted away to the United States, yet there was at the same tiine> a complaint of the lack of skilled labor in several departments of industry, especially of persons fitted to work on the farms. The average emigrant was not capable of competing with the native born settler in the rough work of clearing up the forest, yet about this time, some settlements of emigrants that aftewards became prosperous were established. A company had been formed in England, called the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Land Company, ostensibly for the purpose of introducing settlers into New Brunswick. The government sold this company five hundred thousand acres of excellent land, for 2s. 6d. an acre, and some settlements were founded by the company in the course of time. A party of settlers came out from England in 1837, intending to settle on the lands of this company, but were unable to make satisfactory arrangements. Many of them were in destitute circumstances, and their condition was brought to the attention of the Government, who took measures to place them on Crown lands. Commissioners were appointed to carry out this work, and, three years later, they were able to report that they had settled twenty-six families on Crown lands on the road between Fredericton and St. Andrews, every one of whom had a comfortable liouse to live in, and that 10,279 bushels of grain and root crops had been grown in 1840, on ground that in August, 1837, was a dense forest. This was the Harvey Settlement, which was very properly named after its founder, and when Sir John Harvey took his departure from the Province, none of the numerous addresses which he received, was more pleasing to him than that from the Harvey settlers, whose future prosperity he had secured by his care for their welfare.

At the session of 1840, Sir John Harvey had laid before the Legislature a despatch from Lord Russell, on the tenure of public offices. This despatch may be said to have been the beginning of a new era in the relations between the officials and the people. His Lordship said that the time had come for a change in the method of holding office under the Crown. Hitherto offices had been held practically for life or for good behavior, but now he thought that heads of departments, such as he Colonial Secretary, the Treasurer or Receiver-General, the Surveyor-General, the Attorney and Solicitor-General the Sheriff and other officers entrusted with similar duties, should be called upon to retire as often as any sufficient motive of public policy might suggest the expediency of that measure, and that a change in the person of the Governor should be considered a sufficient reason for any alteration which his successor might deem it necessary to make in the list of public functionaries. The same rule was to be applied to members of the Executive council whenever the public good seemed to demand it. Here was the first germ of responsible government, for, if the public good was made the motive for changes in public offices, the public in time would demand that these offices should be under their own control. This despatch was referred to a committee of the whole house, where a resolution was moved that it was highly satisfactory to the house, and afforded a gratifying proof of the sincere desire of the Queen and her Government, to infuse principles into the administration of the council, strictly analogous to the principles of the British constitution. An amendment was moved to this to the effect that there was nothing in the despatch to call forth any expression from the house on the subject of Colonial Government, and that in the event of any occurrence taking place to disturb the political peace of the Province, the house believed that any loyal and dutiful representation would receive, as they had always done, the Royal consideration. This amendment was carried by the casting vote of the chairman, Mr. Taylor. All the ancient Toryism of the House was, of course, opposed to the resolution which favored the principle of responsible government. Such men as Mr. Partelow and Mr. Brown, who had been active in obtaining the control of the casual and territorial revenues for the Province, were hostile to any further change in the constitution. It is evident that Sir John Harvey did not favor the views of these opponents of responsible government, for when the despatch was received in December, 1839, he published it in the Royal Gazette, so that every one could be made aware of the intentions of the British Government towards.

the colonies. Such a despatch was, of course, very obnoxious to the family compact who had held all the offices since the foundation of the Province, and who had grown to believe that they alone were entitled to them.

In the spring of 1841, Sir John Harvey was recalled, after having filled the office of Lieutenant Governor for about four years. The causes of his recall were not disclosed at the time, but an explanation of this change was soon found in his appointment to the Governorship of Newfoundland, where a man of firm character and yet in sympathy with the people, was required. Sir John Harvey received more tributes from the people of the Province, to his worth and character, than any of his predecessors or successors. Although not so able a man as Sir Howard Douglas, his popularity was even greater, which perhaps was due to the effect of his management of the boundary difficulty. There were indeed some newspapers, in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, who criticized his conduct in this matter, but these papers did not represent the views of the people generally. The Legislature of New Brunswick voluntarily increased his salary to the extent of 500 sterling, annually, and when he took his departure they voted 1,500 for the purchase of a service of plate. On leaving the Province, he received addresses from every county, from the cities of St. John and Fredericton ; from all the national societies, and his departure was sincerely lamented by everyone. It was felt that in losing him, the Province had been deprived of the services of a sincere friend of its people, and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a successor in every way equal to him.

This was a period of development throughout the Province, and in fact all over North America. The introduction of steam-ships to cross the Atlantic, had brought New Brunswick into easy communication with the mother country. Correspondence, which formerly took two or three months to reach the Province from England, now was received in about fifteen days. This produced a change in the business arrangements of the people, in their ways of thinking, and corresponding improvements were demanded with respect to the internal communications of the country. The demand was now made for a daily mail between St. John and Halifax, and this was achieved in due time. Stage coaches began to run between the principal centres of population, so that travelling became not only quicker but less expensive. The old ways and the old systems, both in respect to the business of the country and its political institutions, were beginning to change, so that in the course of the next ten or twelve years the old order of things had uttterly passed away.

The new Lieutenant Governor, Sir William Colebrooke, arrived at Fredericton, in April, 1841, before the departure of Sir John Harvey. This gentleman, like his predecessors, was an officer of the army. He had served mainly in India, and had been Lieutenant Governor of the Bahamas, and Governor General of the Leeward Islands. This was not a very good training for a constitutional Governor of a Province like New Brunswick, yet Sir William Colebrooke appears to have endeavored to govern the Province in a constitutional manner, as he understood it, and if he did make mistakes, that must be attributed rather to his imperfect knowledge than a desire to act improperly. He did not engage in quarrels with the House of Assembly as Sir Archibald Campbell and General Smyth had done, nor did he endeavor to set up one house against the other, as was the case with the first Governor of the Province, Thomas Carleton. Sir William Colebrooke filled the office of Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick for seven years, and from thence he was transferred to British Guiana and Barbadoes.

During the summer of 1841, St. John was visited by another disastrous fire, which swept away a great deal of property, and there was reason to believe that this was a work of an incendiary. Several attempts were made during that summer to set the city on fire, and the people became very much alarmed in consequence, and organized themselves into a regular night watch for the purpose of putting a stop to such attempts. The same thing was done after the great fire of 1877. It seems as if some minds become disposed to crime under the pressure of excitement, so that after a great fire, attempts at incendiarism become more frequent. These fires produced a very depressing effect on the city of St. John, and, joined to the commercial distress which before prevailed were ruinous to many worthy people.

Sir William Colebrooke opened the Legislature on the 19th of January, 1842, with a speech in which he dealt with many important topics. He recommended the introduction of those principles of municipal government which were recognized in the constitution of England, and which he believed would be found well adapted to the situation of the Province. He suggested the creation of a Board of Works, for the efficient execution of works of a public character. He directed their attention to the necessity of completing the communication with Canada ; the geological survey; the state of education; the revision of the laws ; imprisonment for debt, and many other matters were likewise referred to. Most of these subjects received the attention of the Legislature. The most important act of the session was that, to vacate the seats of members of the Assembly in certain cases. It provided that any member who occupied the office of Executive councillor, or any office of profit or emolument under the Crown, should be incapable of taking or holding a seat in the general assembly, while in such office, unless re-elected after his acceptance thereof. Any member who entered into a contract with the Government for the performance of any public work also had his seat vacated. This measure was more stringent than the law of the present day, which only requires Executive councillors who are heads of departments and receive salaries, to go back to the people for re-election, yet it does not seem to have been applied to the case of members who held such offices as that of clerk of the peace or judge of probate or deputy treasurer, which were strictly under the control of the executive, and the emoluments of which were paid in fees. The bill was introduced by Mr. Charles Fisher, but a glance at the division list shows that it was opposed by L. A. Wilmot, who became so prominent an advocate of responsible government. We can only infer from this, that the bearings of the measure on the constitution, were not fully realized, for among those who voted for it were J. W. Weldon, the member for Kent, who was looked upon as the leader of the party opposed to responsible government. Mr. Weldon was a member of the executive council when the bill was introduced, but he resigned his seat before it became law.

Another measure passed at this session, dealt with the term of the House of Assembly, which was reduced from seven years to four. This bill went through without much opposition, only five members being found to vote against it. It was reserved for Her Majesty's consideration, and became law in the course of the summer. The length of the term of the House of Assembly continued to be four years from that time until the session of 1902, when an act was passed, extending the term to five years, which is the same as that of the Parliament of Canada.

Among the numerous despatches from the Home Government which were laid before the Legislature at this session was one from Lord Stanley, the Colonial Secretary, in which it was stated that the disordered state of the finances of the Province demanded an early remedy, and asking the Governor to bring the subject under the serious notice of the Legislature, with a view to the establishment of a more regular system, by which the revenue and expenditure might be equalized. Five years before, the Province had possessed a balance to its credit of about 150,000, but this had all been spent, and now it was heavily in debt. This was a natural result of the system of making appropriations, and the only true remedy for it was the surrender, by private members, of the right to initiate money votes. This despatch was considered in committee of the whole house, and a resolution moved that no appropriation of public money should be made at any future session until there was a particular account of income and expenditure for the previous year, together with an estimate of the sums required to be expended, and the probable revenues for the ensuing year. This was coming too near responsible government to suit the upholders of the old system, and accordingly an amendment, which was moved by Mr. John R. Partelow, was carried by a vote of eighteen to twelve. This declared that "whereas the present mode of appropriation tested by an experience of more than fifty years, has not only given satisfaction to the people of this Province, but repeatedly attracted the deserved approbation of the colonial ministers, as securing its constitutional position to every branch of the Legislature, therefore resolved as the opinion of this committee, that it is not expedient to make any alteration in the same. "

This amendment was utterly absurd as well as wholly untrue in its statements, for a system which had dissipated a large surplus, and run the Province heavily in debt, was certainly not deserving of the approbation of any colonial minister, and as a matter of fact, no such approbation had ever been extended to it. On the contrary the very despatch which the committee were considering, contained a direct censure on the House of Assembly for its method of making appropriations. Among those who voted against this amendment, was the Speaker, the Honorable Charles Simonds, and Messrs. L. A. Wilmot, Fisher and Hill. The effect of this vote was to postpone for some time, the movement in favor of responsible government.

In December, 1842, the general elections took place and the question of responsible government was largely the ground upon which they turned. This was particularly the case in the city and county of St. John, and in the county of York, where the people had a better opportunity of familiarizing themselves with the question, than in other parts of the Province. Yet the state of political education must have been extremely backward when an able lawyer and a man of education, like Robert L. Hazen, of St. John, was not ashamed to state on the hustings that he never met with any one who could explain to him satisfactorily, what responsible government meant. His ignorance was shared by his colleague, Mr. Burns, who was elected with him, for the City of St. John, the two defeated candidates being Isaac Woodward and W. H. Street, both of whom had voted against Mr. Partelow's amendment. The City of St. John,, therefore, if the votes of its citizens were any criterion, placed itself squarely against responsible government. On a scrutiny Mr. Street obtained the seat in place of Mr. Burns, so that the representation of the city stood one against responsible government and one in favor of it. For the County of St. John, the members elected were John R. Partelow, John Jordan, Robert Payne, and the Honorable Charles Simonds. Mr. Partelow was the ablest opponent of responsible government in the legislature, while his three colleagues were in favor of that reform. Among the defeated candidates was William J. Ritchie, then a young barrister, who afterwards rose to great eminence and became Chief Justice of Canada. Mr. Ritchie was a thorough reformer and an advocate of responsible government. In the County of York, Messrs. Wilmot and Fisher were re-elected, but Messrs. Allan and Taylor, both of whom were opposed to reform, stood higher on the polls, so that the opinion of York County seemed to be divided on the question. Taking the whole Province together, the opponents of reform had a decided majority, a result that must be attributed largely to the people not having a clear understanding of the principle involved. It was easy for a self-seeking member to persuade his constituents that to place the initiation of money votes in the hands of the executive would lessen their chances of receiving grants for their local needs, and place the executive in a position to treat their claims with indifference or contempt. Nor was the composition of the executive council of that day such as to invite confidence, for, of the ten members who composed it, only four were in the House of Assembly. Its members were appointed by the Governor and could be removed by him at liis pleasure, so that they were responsible to the Governor, and not to the people or to the represntatives of the people in the House of Assembly. There was no way in which the House of Assembly could bring about the retirement of an obnoxious member of the executive, and not one of the heads of departments had a seat in the House of Assembly. The Attorney General, Solicitor General, Provincial Secretary, Surveyor General and Receiver General, were all members of the Legislative council, which was considered a more respectable, as well as more influential body than the House of Assembly. These facts show that while it was necessary to good government that the initiation of money votes should be placed in the hands of the executive council, a great deal more than that required to be done before the constitution of New Brunswick could be placed on a satisfactory footing.

When the Legislature met in January, 1843, the friends of the old system felt so confident of their increased strength, that they determined to emphasize it by electing a Speaker of their own party. The Honorable Charles Simonds, of St. John, had filled the office of Speaker for several years with much acceptance, but it was determined to displace him, and elect the Honorable John Wesley Weldon to fill the chair. The intention of the opponents of reform was sufficiently shown by the speech of Mr. Partelow in nominating Mr. Weldon, when he declared that he would throw down the gauntlet in opposition to what was called Responsible Government. Mr. Weldon was elected without opposition, and he was a good representative 2f of the old order of things. This gentleman when he was appointed Speaker, held several other offices which at the present day would prevent him from being elected to the Legislature. He was post-master of Richibucto, deputy-treasurer of Richibucto, issuer of marriage licenses for the county of Kent, keeper of the seals, and Clerk of the Peace, and of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for the county of Kent, and Registrar of the Probate Court for that county. The holding of such a plurality of offices was common enough in New Brunswick at that time, and it emphasizes the difference in the way that things were viewed by the people then, as compared with the present day.

The Lieutenant Governor in his opening speech, recommended a revision of the election laws, the renewal of the laws for the support of the parish schools, and the timely adoption of such a system of finance as would restore confidence in the integrity of the Province, and retrieve public credit. The reference he made to the necessity of measures which appeared to be called for " to improve, on English principles, the institutions of the Province," shows that the Governor was in advance of a majority of the Legislature in his views as a reformer. There had been a great failure in the revenue in consequence of the commercial distress, and the credit of the Province was very low. A message from th Lieutenant Governor showed that the debts and liabilities of the Province, exceeded by about 33,000 its revenue and resources, so that the Provincial funds were liable to a heavy charge for interest. A despatch from Lord Stanley was placed before the Legislature, which attributed the financial embarassment of the Province, to the lack of a proper executive control over the expenditure. Lord Stanley thought that the remedy for the embarassments of the Province, rested with the Provincial Legislature, and not with the Imperial Government, and he thought that there was an urgent necessity for decided measures to check the growing and formidable evil. This was rather a cold douche for those who had voted the previous year that the old system was so perfect that it had repeatedly received the praise of colonial ministers, but it had not the effect of bringing about any change in their views.

Mr. Charles Fisher was the most active advocate of reform at this period and took the lead in bringing to the attention of the House many important measures. One of these was a bill to fix the qualifications of members of the Legislative Council. The members of the House of Assembly were required to possess a qualification in land, to the value of 300 above all encumbrances, but there was no qualification required of a member of the Legislative Council. A bill to fix the qualification at 500 was passed by the House, but defeated in the Council. Mr. Fisher also introduced a series of resolutions which were carried unanimously in the House. The first declared that a petition should be presented to the Queen for a reduction of the charges on the Province under the civil list bill; the second limited the salary of the heads of departments to 600 per annum ; the third declared that all fees of office should go into the public treasury, and not into the pockets of the holders of the office, as had been the case previously. These reforms were all achieved in time, but not immediately. There were too many influences at work to keep the salaries of the departmental officers at a high figure, for every one who held an office, thought that he had a vested right to the same emoluments that had been enjoyed by his predecessors. The Lieutenant Governor laid before the House, the report of the Auditor on the accounts of the Provincial Treasury, and a report from the treasurer, with an estimate of the revenue for the current year, which had been calculated on the scale of duties recommended to be levied. This was intended by his Excellency to assist the House in calculating its expenditures, but it was looked upon apparently by a majority of that body as an insult. The House went into committee upon it and passed a resolution by a vote of 21 to 10, that the House should view any recommendation for laying duties on the people, as an interference with its acknowledged rights and privileges. There was a very hot debate over this resolution which was upheld by men who had been very prominent in supporting former Governors in their illegal and arbitrary measures.

At a later day in the session, Mr. Brown of Charlotte, moved a resolution, requiring that a statement of the finances of the Province should be made up before the opening of the annual session of the Legislature, under the direction of the Governor, and laid before the House, and that the amount granted in supply, should not exceed the estimated amount of revenue set forth in this financial statement. This was a very reasonable resolution, for certainly the practice of granting money which the Province did not possess and could not obtain, was very detrimental to its credit. This was met by an amendment moved by the Speaker, Mr. Weldon, that nothing had transpired which should induce the House to depart from its recorded opinion on the subject of the initiation of money grants, in February of 1842. This was carried by a vote of twenty-four to seven, the only persons who voted against it, being the Honorable Mr. Simonds of St. John, Messrs. Hill and Boyd of Charlotte, Mr. Rankine of Northumberland, Messrs. Fisher and Wilmot of York, and Mr. Barker of Sunbury. Mr. Brown, the mover of the resolution, actually voted for this amendment which was intended to destroy its effect, a sufficient proof, that even those members who were in favor of reform had a very poor grasp of the question in all its bearings,

It had been a subject of complaint against the Legislative Council that it was composed mainly of members of one denomination, the Church of England, and that in other respects it did not represent properly, the interests of the people. An address, setting forth a number of reasons why the composition of the Council was unsatisfactory, was prepared and forwarded to her Majesty during the session of 1843. This address stated that the Legislative council should be composed of persons representing not only all the leading interests of the Province, and connected with the principal denominations of Christians, but of independent property and free from official influence. One great objection to the Council was, that a great proportion of its members held offices at pleasure, under the Crown, and the principal officers of the Government generally formed a majority of the members present. This address met with a prompt response from the home authorities, and one result of it was, the retirement of four members of the council, Mr. Baillie, the Surveyor General; Mr. Lee, the Receiver General; and Messrs. Allenshaw and Harry Peters. In their places were appointed Messrs. Minchen, Crane, T. H. Peters and Captain Owen. These changes produced a considerable amount of indignation in the Legislative Council, for every member felt his own seat was in danger, and it was rather galling to the pride of the members, to think that such changes should have been made at the demand of the House of Assembly. The new members were not thought to be much improvement on the old.

There were a number of changes in the executive council during the latter part of 1843. Messrs. Black, Shore, Robinson, and Crane retired, and their places were filled by Messrs. Hugh Johnston, E. B. Chandler, John Montgomery, Robert L. Hazen, John R. Partelow, William H. Street and L. A. Wilmot. As most of the members of the council were opponents of responsible government, it is singular that Mr. Wilmot should have consented to become a member. He ought to have known that no large measure of reform was possible while the executive council was constituted as it was, and that by becoming a member he was only assisting to postpone the cause of reform. Mr. Wilmot certainly lost prestige by his action on this occasion, as he did subsequently from the display of a similar weakness.


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