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New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Lieutenant Governors of New Brunswick to Confederation; Part 1 of 2

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By JohnWood1946@hotmail.com

 Lieutenant Governors of New Brunswick to Confederation; Part 1 of 2

1. Colonel Thomas Carleton (1735-1817)

Thomas Carleton was born in Ireland in 1735 and was a brother of Guy Carleton who went on to become Lord Dorchester. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick in May of 1786, following a career in the military. Thomas Carleton was New Brunswick’s first Governor and, as such, has a special place in our history. That said, his administration was not inspired.

Carleton strongly supported the role of prerogative in the governing of colonies. The loyalist elite flourished under his administration and he made important decisions and expenditures without consulting the Assembly. He was ruthlessly and publicly harassed by those who would have limited his executive power. This, combined with the failure of his administration to bring prosperity made his New Brunswick career difficult. Finally, in October of 1803, he and his family sailed for England and never returned. He was an absentee governor for the last fourteen years of office and until his death in 1817.

 2. Major General George Stracey Smyth (1767-1823)

George Smyth was born in England in 1767 and spent almost his entire life in the military before becoming Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick. He was appointed commander of forces in New Brunswick during Thomas Carleton’s latter years in England and was, in effect, acting Lieutenant Governor until the title was officially bestowed on him in 1817.

Smyth’s tenure as Lieutenant Governor began with a sense of promise. Provincial revenues had increased and Smyth set about to improve education and water and road transportation. Of these, the need for better education seemed to be closest to his heart. He also sought improved conditions for the poor and for the blacks.

Smyth was in office when control of timber on crown lands was placed in the hands of the Lieutenant Governor and Council; which began a long battle with the Assembly who sought a system having less executive power. His poor reputation also arose from his impolitic relations with the Assembly by questioning whether they should be paid and by alternately ignoring and baiting the Loyalist elite with unpopular measures.

Relations with the powerful families of Fredericton were especially poor. Not only had he marginalized them in politics, but he was also criticized for being un-gubernatorial. He hosted too few balls and lived too simple a life; all in addition to being disagreeable. His death in 1823 was actually greeted by some as good news!

 3. Sir Howard Douglas (1776-1861)

Howard Douglas was born in England in 1776 and entered a military career. He was a distinctly intelligent person and published a number of papers on military arts and on subjects that would today be called civil engineering.

Douglas was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick in 1824 following the death of George Smyth, and was very well suited to the task. He was amiable, talkative and famously optimistic. Even before his appointment he toured parts of the province where no Lieutenant Governor had ever been.

Douglas directed the fire department in Fredericton and took a very visible public role in fighting the Miramichi fire in 1825, winning him the admiration of the people.

Notable accomplishments of his tenure included a strong defense of the yet to be defined border with Maine; opposition to a system of schooling for Indian children which would have amounted to residential schools; improvements in education; and opposition to sending Protestant missionaries to the Indians when Catholic missionaries were wanted. A number of stone buildings were also erected at this time, including at King’s College. He also accepted Assembly demands that entrance to King’s College be free of religious tests. This is not how it turned out, but in this as in many other matters he managed to remain aloof from personal controversy.

Douglas was adept in political affairs. He opposed actions by the British government to abolish colonial timber preferences, for example. He was also aware that proposals to force colonies to pay the salaries of officers appointed by the crown could only lead to greater calls for appointments to be approved by the Assembly.

Douglas resigned in 1831 in order to concentrate on other pursuits.

 4. Major General Sir Archibald Campbell (1769-1843)

Campbell had a successful military career and was especially celebrated for his service in Portugal and Burma. He became Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick in September of 1831 and immediately had to deal with American incursions into the Madawaska. Following this, he proposed that the number of troops in N.B. should be increased and that the militia should be strengthened but he found little support for these measures.

Thomas Baillie was a thorn in the side of the administration, but Campbell dealt with him in an unusual way. Firstly, he had some imperial decisions that would have greatly increased Baillie’s power reversed. Secondly, and on the other hand, he promoted Baillie to a senior position on the Executive Council. He was dismissive of the Assembly and rejected all complaints as mere disloyalty.

He also refused the Assembly any representation on the Executive Council, with the exception of one appointment who refused to serve in the midst of ongoing arguments about the form of government in general. He also opposed transfer of power over the timber revenues to the Assembly which was, once again, at the heart of ongoing debates.

The Assembly then sent a delegation to London to argue the question of timber revenues and obtained a compromise agreement from Lord Glenelg which Campbell did not implement. A second delegation was dispatched and Campbell made it clear that if London did not accept his views on the matter then he would resign. His resignation was accepted and he was replaced by Sir John Harvey in 1837.

 5. Sir John Harvey (1778-1852)

John Harvey did not have influential family ties, and this made him unusual for a military officer who would become a Lieutenant Governor in three North American colonies. He was also unusual in that his advancement within the military was on account of his reputation as an able administrator. 

His first appointment as a Lieutenant Governor was in Prince Edward Island, where a popular movement against absentee landowners dominated the political scene. Harvey worked not only diligently but also with finesse to balance the competing interests of landowners and of tenants. This would not have worked but, fortunately for John Harvey, he was appointed Lieutenant Governor for New Brunswick in May of 1837, replacing Major General Sir Archibald Campbell.

New Brunswick politics, or at least Fredericton politics, was dominated by the struggle between the Assembly and the Governor and Council. Harvey immediately moved to implement the Lord Glenelg compromise-agreement (on revenues from the sale of Crown lands, in return for a permanent civil list) which Archibald Campbell had avoided. He also placed himself in opposition to Thomas Baillie’s management of the woods. Assembly members were also brought into the Council. These measures did not quiet the Assembly, but went some way to achieving peace.

Harvey’s downfall came with his handling of the dispute over the Maine-New Brunswick border. Maine had been sending census takers and political organizers of all kinds into the north of the province for years, so Harvey sent troops to dissuade their meddling without bringing on armed conflict. He then vacillated between ignoring incursions and shows of force. At one point he signed an agreement with the governor of Maine establishing a sort of demilitarized zone; but Maine did not comply as he had hoped. Troops were then sent north again, but Harvey communicated to the governor of Maine that they would not remain for long.

These peace-keeping measures were seen as weakness by the Colonial Office, and John Harvey was replaced as Lieutenant Governor by Sir William MacBean George Colebrook in April of 1841.

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Written by johnwood1946

August 8, 2012 at 3:15 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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