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History of New Brunswick
Volume II Chapter XXXIX


THE Confederation of the Provinces made a great change in the political condition of New Brunswick. Nearly all the leading men who had taken an active part in public affairs, desired to enter the new field which was opened up to them by the Union. They could not do so without severing their connection with the local Legislature, for in 1867, an Act had been passed, which vacated the seat of any member of the House of Assembly or Legislative Council who became a member of the House of Commons or Senate of Canada. This was a wise arrangement, because it kept the Provincial Government independent of Ottawa, and insured a closer attention to the affairs of the Province on the part of those who were chosen to administer them. In this respect New Brunswick set an example to the western Provinces, which they followed at a later day.

As twelve members of the Senate of Canada were assigned to New Brunswick, the Legislative Council, from which they were mainly taken, was to a large extent, depleted of its leading members. One man only of those members of the council who were called to the Senate, refused that honor. This was the Hon. E. B. Chandler, who afterwards became Governor of the Province, in which office he died in the year 1880. Of the forty-one members of the House of Assembly, no less than sixteen resigned their seats, either to become members of the Parliament of Canada or to accept office. The Hon. R. D. Wilmot and the Hon. A. R. McClellan were called to the Senate. Messrs. Chandler and Stevens of Charlotte, and Mr. Williston of Northumberland became County Court judges ; while Mr. Connell of Carleton, Mr. Fisher of York, Mr. Farris of Queens, Mr. Ryan of Kings, Messrs. Tilley and Grey of St. John, Mr. Smith of Westmorland, Mr. Johnson of Northumberland, and Mr. McMillan of Restigouche, were elected to the House of Commons. The only member of the Government which had existed up to Confederation, who was left in the House of Assembly, was the Hon. John McAdam of Charlotte, while the Hon. Edward B. Chandler alone remained to represent the Government in the Legislative Council. As Mr. McAdam was not ambitious to be Premier, and as Mr. Chandler could hardly take that position as a member of the Upper House, it was necessary to place a new and untried man in that important office. The leading aspirants for the position were Mr. A. R. Wetmore and Mr. C. N. Skinner of St. John, and the former was selected. The Government formed by him consisted of the Hon. A R. Wetmore, Premier and Attorney General; the Hon. John A. Beckwith, Provincial Secretary; the Hon. John McAdam, Chief Commissioner of Public Works ; the Hon. Richard Sutton, Surveyor General; the Hon. Charles N. Skinner, Solicitor General, and Hon. W. P. Flewelling, Hon. A. C. DesBrisay, and Hon. B. Beveridge, without office. The members of this Government had all been strong supporters of Confederation, and the change of administration involved no change in the policy which was to be pursued with reference to the Province. Mr. Beckwith, the Provincial Secretary, was a gentleman of good business ability, who had held a leading position in the Crown Land Office at the time that the Hon. Thomas Baillie was Surveyor General. Mr. Sutton was one of the representatives of Northumberland, but had no special claims to preferment except those which he derived from his connection with that county. Mr. McAdam, who was a member of the Government prior to Confederation, was a representative of Charlotte, he had acquired the enviable nick-name of " Honest John." His abilities were good and had made him a successful lumberman, but they were not of the kind which show to any great extent in the Legislature or in the council. Mr. Skinner of St. John, was a man of much ability, whose early retirement from the political field alone prevented him from taking a leading position among the public men of the Province. It was his misfortune to be able to see both sides of a question with equal clearness, so that he was seldom a good partisan, and therefore at times, lost the favor of those who thought it the best characteristic of a statesman to always go with his party, right or wrong. Mr. Skinner filled the office of Solicitor General for nearly six months, resigning his seat during the session of 1868, to accept the office of Judge of Probates for the City and County of St. John.

The change in the constitution caused by Confederation, abolished the office of Post Master General and relieved the Province of the care of its railways, they having passed to the Dominion, under the terms of the British North America Act. After the resignation of Mr. Skinner, it was thought that the Province could dispense with the services of a Solicitor General, and that office was abolished. It may be said here that this is a question which has provoked much discussion without any very satisfactory conclusion being reached. During the most of the years since Confederation there has been a Solicitor General, but at times the office has been abolished or held in abeyance. It does not appear that any money has ever been saved by leaving this office vacant, for the Attorney-General cannot be expected to do all the criminal business of the Province, and the work of the Solicitor General has had to be given to other lawyers not connected with the Government. As there are many questions of law arising which have to be decided by the Attorney General, it is manifestly desirable that he should have the assistance of an able lawyer as Solicitor General.

As under the British North America Act the appointment of Lieutenant Governor passed into the hands of the Government of Canada, it was thought that a native of New Brunswick would be immediately selected to fill that high office. The name that suggested itself to most people was that of the Hon. L. A. Wilmot, who for many years had been a Judge of the Supreme Court. The immediate appointment of this talented gentleman to the office of Lieutenant Governor, would have been looked upon as a very proper act, but for some reason, which is now difficult to explain, this step was not taken. Major General Charles Hastings Doyle was appointed Lieutenant Governor on the 1st of July, 1867, the day when Confederation came in force, and on October 18th following he was succeeded by Colonel Francis Pim Harding, who was in command of the 22nd Regiment then stationed in the Province. Colonel Harding was duly commissioned as Lieutenant Governor and held that office until the 14th of July, 1868, when the Hon. L. A. Wilmot became Lieutenant Governor.

The Legislature met on the 13th of February, 1868, seventeen members, or almost one-half of the total number in the House of Assembly being new men. Among these were several who afterwards took a leading part in the Government of the Province. St. John sent George E. King, a young lawyer who rose to be Attorney-General and Judge of the Supreme Court of New Brunswick, and afterwards a member of the Supreme Bench of Canada. Charlotte sent Benjamin R. Stevenson, who was for a long time Surveyer-General of the Province ; while Northumberland was represented by William M. Kelly, who at one time, as Chief Commissioner of Public Works, was the most influential and popular member of the Government. The idea which had been prevalent at the time of Confederation, that the men who were then in power, or who were party leaders could not he replaced if they went to Ottawa, proved to he an entire delusion. It was discovered at the first election, as it has been at subsequent elections, that there was plenty of talent in the country available for public life. In point of ability Mr. King was equal to any man who ever had filled the office of Attorney-General, and he must be credited with some highly important legislation, which none of his predecessors had dared to attempt. The old leaders were missed, it is true, but the House did not suffer to any appreciable extent in consequence of their absence. The amount of ability that is required to make a successful member of a Government, is not so great as to make it necessary to lament the departure of any leading public man, and this Province has at no time suffered from a lack of men willing and able to undertake the work of administering its public affairs.

As this Government was virtually a continuation of the administration which had existed prior to Confederation, and which had carried that measure, there was no question with regard to its strength in the House of Assembly. None of the men elected at the bye-elections were brought out as opponents of the Government. Indeed it was too early to admit of any serious charges being brought against them. The question on which they had been returned to power was that of Confederation, and that question having been settled, new issues had to be raised before a successful opposition could be developed. The new Government showed a desire to promote harmony at the outset, for it sanctioned the election as Speaker, of Bliss Botsford of Westmorland, one of the strongest opponents of Confederation. Mr. Botsford was a grandson of the first Speaker of the House of Assembly, and this perhaps may have influenced the Government in selecting him to fill the highly honorable position which had been vacated by the resignation of the Honorable John H. Gray. Mr. Botsford, at a later period, became a County Court Judge, and added very considerably to the gaiety of the members of the Bar, by his eccentricities and blunders.

The speech from the throne contained nothing of particular interest, but recommended a rigid system of economy and retrenchment in every branch of the public service. It promised that measures would be submitted for tbe abolition of such public offices as were not absolutely required, and also for the more careful collection and management of the public revenue. The address in reply to the speech was moved by Mr. William Lindsay, a member for the County of Carleton, and seconded by Mr. W. H. A. Keans of St. John. Mr. Lindsay was a man of much natural ability, and although not an eloquent speaker, was able to take a hand in a debate against almost any opponent. He had a great gift of repartee, and the most brilliant orators never cared to enter the lists with him. He afterwards became a member of the Government and in the course of time retired to the dignified seclusion of the Legislative Council.

The Legislation of the session included a number of measures which had been rendered necessary by the change in the constitution. One of these related to the Legislative Council, and fixed the number of members of that body at 18. It also placed the power of appointment in the Lieutenant Governor and Council absolutely, under the great seal of the Province. This was a matter which had been left in some doubt by the British North America Act. The 88th section of that act provided, that the constitution of the Legislature of the Province should continue as it existed before the union, until altered under the authority of the act. The legislative Councillors of New Brunswick were, under a clause in the commission of the Governor General of British North America, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, subject to confirmation by the Queen. The commission which contained this clause, was revoked at the time of the union on the issuing to Lord Monk of his commission as Governor General of Canada. This important power of appointment was therefore dependent on a clause in a revoked commission, so that the need of Legislation was very manifest. Another act abolished the office of Solicitor General, and a third made the Provincial Secretary the Receiver General by virtue of his office. Considering the great change that was involved in the constitution of the Province by Confederation, the amount of legislation required to give effect to the British North America Act was very slight.

At this time the Federal Government was moving in the matter of making a survey of the Intercolonial Railway, for the purpose of determining the route to be adopted. The Legislature of Quebec had passed resolutions for the purpose of influencing the Government to select the Major Robinson line. On motion of Mr. Hartley, one of the new members for Carleton County, a resolution was passed, affirming that in the selection of the route, regard alone should be had to the conditions of cheapness, directness and general utility, and that in the opinion of the House, a more direct, better, and cheaper line could be had than that known as Major Robinson's, or its modification known as The Northern Central. This resolution was carried by a vote of 26 to 12, all the representatives of the North Shore voting against it. The voice of New Brunswick, therefore, was divided on this important question of route. One result of this was, that the route finally selected was the worst possible, if it was intended to make the Intercolonial Railway a commercial success. This is emphasized by the fact that the Dominion" Government is now constructing another line through New Brunswick to Quebec, to take the place of the Intercolonial Railway, as a means of bringing traffic from the Western Provinces to the sea.

At this time the railway, known as Eastern Extension, was being constructed under the Provincial Government subsidy of $10,000 a mile from Painsec Junction to the borders of Nova Scotia on the Misseguash River. This line passed through the towns of Dorchester and Sackville and thence to Amherst. As the Intercolonial Railway was about to be built under the authority of the British North America Act, it was felt to be very desirable that Eastern Extension should be made a part of it. In October, 1867, the Privy Council of Canada adopted a memorandum of the Minister of Public Works, informing the Government of New Brunswick that Eastern Extension would not be recognized or adopted by the Government of the Dominion as a part of the Intercolonial Railway, unless it was found to be in respect to its location, manner of construction and cost, suitable for the purpose, and therefore that the work, if proceeded with, must be at the sole risk and cost of the Province of New Brunswick. The Chief Engineer of the Intercolonial Railway, Mr. Sanford Flemming, desired to carry it by way of Baie Verte, a route which would have entirely avoided the principal settlements in the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland. The excuse for this was, that a shorter line could be found by way of Baie Verte than by Moncton, Dorchester, Sackville and Amherst. But, if the shortest possible line had been desired, it certainly would not have been carried through New Brunswick by way of the North Shore and by the Metapedia Valley. After a long struggle Eastern Extension was finally adopted as a portion of the Intercolonial Railway, but the financial questions arising out of that matter, were not finally settled until the year 1901, 34 years after Confederation. The Dominion Government apparently tried to drive as hard a bargain as possible with the Government of New Brunswick, and refused to make them full compensation for the sums that they expended on the Eastern Extension Railway, until after a new generation had arisen and a new Government had come into power.


Hon. William Elder Hon. Peter Mitchell Hon. John R. Partelow
Sir Albert J. Smith Hon. W. W. Wedderburn Hon. John H. Grey

The line of railway known as Western Extension, was also being built at this time. This line extended from St. John to Bangor, but the portion for which New Brunswick was responsible was that from St. John to the border of the State of Maine, a distance of 88 miles. There was also a branch line 22 miles in length, to Fredericton, the capital of the Province. These lines were being built under the subsidy of $10,000 a mile, which had been granted in 1863. This was certainly a very liberal subvention, and it was supplemented by the Government taking $300,000 of the stock of the railway, and by grants, which were made by the cities of St. John and Fredericton, and other municipalities which were interested in the construction of the road. Western Extension was finally completed in 1869, and, after passing through various changes, became a part of the Canadian Pacific Railway, under the terms of a perpetual lease. A branch railway from St. Stephen to the St. Andrews railroad was also constructed and an extension of the same road to Woodstock was carried out. This line was known as the New Brunswick and Canada Railway, but it finally came into the possession of the Canadian Pacific, and now forms a part of that line. This road was the means of diverting to St. Stephen a large amount of the traffic which had formerly come down the St. John river.

The Session of 1868, was not allowed to pass without an attack on the Government. Dr. Dow, one of the members for York, presented a motion, calling upon them to resign, on the ground that they had declared their inability to carry on the business of the country or produce to the House a detailed statement of the public expenditure during the past year. As these statements had been actually presented, and as there had been no declaration on the part of the Government that they were unable to carry on the business of the country, the motion seemed to be based on false premises. Nevertheless it was debated, and a division taken upon it, with the result that the Government was sustained by a vote of 31 to 6. The six members who voted against the Government, were Dr. Dow, Mr. Babbitt of Queens, Mr. Bliss of Albert, Mr. Montgomery of Restigouche and Messrs. Hibbert and Stevenson of Charlotte. There did not seem to be any particular ground of opposition to the Government at this time, for they had only been in office for a short period and had followed in the path of their predecessors, who were in power prior to Confederation. It will be seen that in the course of a year or two the opposition developed more strength, which was a natural consequence of the unsettled condition of parties, the old lines having been in a measure obliterated by the accomplishment of Confederation When the Legislature met on the 4th of March, 1869, quite a number of changes had taken place in the personnel of the Government and House of Assembly. Mr. Sutton, the Surveyor General, had resigned that position, and his place had been taken by William P. Flewelling, one of the members for the county of Kings. Mr. King of St. John and Mr. Kelly of Northumberland became members of the Government without office. Mr. Glasier, one of the members for Sunbury, had been called to the Senate and Mr. Beveridge of Victoria, and Mr. Mclnerney of Kent, had been appointed members of the Legislative Council. Vacancies had been created in the counties of St. John, Carleton and York by the appointment to office of the Honorable Charles N. Skinner, the death of James R. Hartley, and the resignation of John Pickard. These changes brought six new members into the House of Assembly, one of them being Mr. W. H. Needham, who had been out of political life for several years.

The Lieutenant-Governor who addressed the Legislature on this occasion, was the Hon. L. A. Wilmot, who had been a prominent figure in the public life of the Province, and had been one of the judges of the Supreme Court for many years. This was the first occasion on which the Legislature of the Province of New Brunswick had been addressed by a Governor who was a native of the Province, and it was therefore a new era in the political development of the country. Since then, all our governors have been natives of New Brunswick, and the time will no doubt come when the same rule will be applied to the Governors of Canada. The principal subject referred to in the speech of the Lieutenant-Governor was the adjustment of claims which had been preferred against the Federal Government for balances due this Province under the heads of railways, post office, penitentiary, and light houses, as well as for railway stocks which had been transferred to the Federal Government, under the terms of the British North America Act.

The correspondence which took place between the two Governments at that time, shows that the Federal Government, was disposed to treat the Province in a very illiberal manner and to ignore its just claims. The Province had entered Confederation with a right to a debt of $7,000,000, but the larger part of this was covered by the existing debt, which had been incurred in the construction of a railway from St. John to Shediac, which became the property of the Federal Government, the balance had been exhausted in paying the subsidies on Western Extension and other railways, so that the Province was actually in debt to the Federal Government according to the calculations of the Auditor-General of Canada. This person estimated that on the 30th June, 1869, the Province had exceeded the amount of debt apportioned to it by about $320,000, and he deducted the interest amounting to upwards of $19,000 from the half-yearly subsidy of the Province of New Brunswick, and an additional $12,000 pending the settlement of railway accounts. It turned out afterwards that this $12,000 was deducted in error, it being a claim against a railway and not against the Province. The fact that such a deduction was made, was not very creditable to the book-keeping of the Government of Canada. As the revenue of the Province was very small, amounting to only $442,000 for the year 1868, the deduction attempted to be made from the subsidy by the Dominion Government, became a serious matter.

Very early in the session it was seen that the opposition to the Government was likely to be much stronger than it was at the previous session. Mr. Hibbard, one of the members for Charlotte, moved an amendment to the address, declaring that His Excellency's present advisers did not possess the confidence of the House. Mr. Hibbard was a gentleman who had been gifted by nature with a considerable amount of ability. His face was Napoleonic, and he had much force of character. His speaking was always interesting and vigorous, but he suffered from defects in his education. When the vote was taken on this amendment, it was supported by 10 members, while 24 voted confidence in the Government. The increase in the number of the Opposition from 6 to 16 in a single year had an ominous look and suggested that another session might find the Government in a minority. Among the 16 who voted against it was Mr. Sutton, who had recently been Surveyor General, and who was, therefore, responsible for its policy.

One of the results of Confederation had been to cause a number of persons who were dissatisfied with it, to utter sentiments favorable to annexation to the United States. In most cases the persons who yielded to such ideas were not really sincere, and their rash talk was merely the result of resentment at a union which they did not desire. Strange to say among the most loud voiced of these persons, were many who had been ultra loyal and excessively British, and who had previously professed to think that British connection would be endangered by a union with Canada. The successor of Mr. Skinner as a representative of the

County of St. John, was John W. Cudlip, an impulsive person, who at one time did an extensive business in that city. Before he had been many days in the House, he gave notice of a resolution in favor of the annexation of the Province to the United States. A highly dramatic scene ensued. As soon as he began to read it Attorney General Wetmore rose in his wrath, and Mr. Cudlip dropped his paper on the Clerk's desk and ran out of the House. On motion of the Attorney General it was resolved that Mr. Cudlip's notice should not be permitted to be entered upon the notice book of the House, in consequence of the disloyal sentiments contained in it. As for Cudlip himself, he fled to St. John, and did not again make his appearance in the House during the session. The people of that Loyalist city were highly indignant at the conduct of their representative and called upon him to resign his seat. Mr. Cudlip afterwards became an official of the Dominion Government and wrote no more annexationist resolutions.

During the session of 1869, the Province took a long step in advance, in the passage of an act which provided for the trial of election petitions before a judge of the Supreme Court. Up to that time all contested elections had been tried by a committee of the House of Assembly, a tribunal which was open to the charge of partisanship, and which did not always deal out even handed justice. The Province of New Brunswick was in advance of the Parliament of Canada in dealing with this matter,, for it was not until 1873, that the latter passed the Controverted Elections act, which provided a law common to the whole Dominion for the trial of election petitions.

Among the important acts of the session, was one relating to the right of married women to hold real and personal property. Under the Revised Statutes, passed in 1854, it was provided that the real and personal property belonging to a woman before or accruing after her marriage, except such as was received from her husband during marriage, should be held as her separate property, so as to be exempt from seizure for the debts of her husband, and in case of desertion or abandonment by her husband such married women might, in her own name and for her own use, recover and receive from persons indebted to her for services performed and debts due to her. Cases had arisen in which married women were living separate from their husbands in consequence of the latter becoming insane, or from similar causes, and the law was extended so as to cover such cases, and to make it clear that a married woman under such circumstances might enjoy the property which she had acquired. The extension of the right of married women to own and acquire property separate and apart from their husbands, is one of the interesting features of the legislation of the latter half of the 19th century. The other legislation of the session was not important.

At the instance of Mr. McQueen, one of the members for Westmorland, a select committee was appointed to whom was referred all matters connected with the Crown Land Department from 1861 to date with power to bring before them persons and papers. The result of the investigations of this committee, went to show that certain lumbermen in Charlotte county were obtaining Crown Land under the labor act. This act enables a person to acquire land on certain terms of settlement on paying for it in labor on the roads. It is a piece of legislation which appears to be highly favorable to the interests of the poor man, but in practice it has been much abused and the Crown Land Department has had to be continually on its guard against fraud. It appeared that one of the persons who had been obtaining lands under the labor act was the Hon. John McAdam, Chief Commissioner of Public Works, and this led to his resignation of that office and the appointment of the Hon. William M. Kelly of Northumberland to the position.


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