New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

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

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


6. Sir William MacBean George Colebrooke

Colebrooke was a successful and life long military man. He was then knighted in 1834 and served as Lieutenant Governor of the Bahamas. He was also a modern man, by comparison with some of his predecessors, with liberal views that had become popular in England. It was with this reputation, and the expectation that he would introduce responsible government, that he arrived in New Brunswick in 1841.

New Brunswick was at a special stage in its political development. Money bills were being passed by the Assembly, rather than by the Governor and Council, and the budget had become a collection of local self interest projects with little regard to the greater good of the province.

Recession struck, and Colebrooke proposed to reignite the economy through public works. He also proposed a system of municipal government and a works department. Appropriations for the public works were to be introduced to the Assembly by the Governor and Council. This proposal failed utterly, as it would have sidestepped the Assemblymen’s ability to distribute government largess to their local constituents and supporters. Colebrook dissolved the uncooperative Assembly, but the new one was no more amenable to his proposals. Colebrook assembled a new Executive Council with more representation from the elected Assembly but this only broadened opposition to his proposals.

The events for which Colebrooke is mostly remembered were initiated by the death of William Odell in December of 1844. Odell was the provincial Secretary and his position would surely be given to a member of the loyalist elite who, by this time, had become the ‘family compact.’ Colebrooke, however, appointed his English son-in-law Alfred Reade. The establishment and the Assembly were outraged and most of the Assembly representatives on the Executive Council resigned in protest. Colebrooke tried to reassemble a Council but was only able to induce Assembly members to join it by dismissing his best supporters from it.

Many of the changes that Colebrook hoped to bring to New Brunswick would have been of enduring benefit, but only his successors would be able to implement them. Colebrooke left New Brunswick in 1848 to become governor of British Guiana


7. Sir Edmund Walker Head (1805-1868)

Edmond Walker Head did not have a military background, unlike other Lieutenant Governors. He was an accomplished linguist and had broad interests in the arts. He took an administrative position under the Poor Act but, in 1847, was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick replacing William MacBean George Colebrooke.

Head began by trying to introduce a measure of responsible government to New Brunswick. This had been advocated for by the Assembly for many years. Still, it was not a simple matter to implement ministerial responsibility, for example, in a province where there were no cabinet ministers. Responsibility to the Assembly was also problematic in that there were no official parties and individual Assemblymen were more engaged in ‘bringing home the bacon’ to their constituencies rather than in benefiting the province as a whole. Head continued with his plan and named an Executive Council with broad representation from the Assembly.

Head knew that the construction of railways between New Brunswick and the Canadas; and improvement of trade ties with the United States were vital to the economy. The former required an infusion of cash which was not immediately forthcoming, while the latter took a lot of time and negotiation, however. He was also known for his interests in education.

Head’s administration was impressive enough that he was appointed Governor General in 1854, and left New Brunswick having served a six year term.


8. Sir John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton (1814-1877)

Manners-Sutton did not have a military background, as was the case with Edmond Walker Head. He began his career at the age of twenty five as a Tory member of the Commons and retired from politics about eight years later. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick in 1854.

Manners Sutton encountered the same political forces that had preoccupied many of his predecessors. The Assembly was not satisfied with the speed of changes toward responsible government, for example. A government measure was defeated in the Assembly on this matter and, for the first time in New Brunswick history, the government resigned as a result.

Laws were passed during Manners-Sutton’s time to accommodate the reciprocity agreement with the United States. Important steps were also taken toward a modern parliamentary democracy, such as secret ballots and reduced powers for the Legislative Council. It was soon required that no bill could become law without being passed by all levels of government including the Assembly. Significantly, Manners-Sutton opposed discussion of a united Canada. He only supported union of the Maritime provinces which, of course, never happened.

His term ended in 1861 and he was transferred to Trinidad.


9. Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon (1829-1912)

Arthur Hamilton Gordon was born in 1829, studied at Cambridge, and undertook a political career in 1854 by becoming an MP at a time when his father was Prime Minister. He lost the next election and, in 1861, was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.

Gordon’s first act was to establish a revitalized force to replace the untrained militia that had existed for some years.

The great political issue of the day, however, was the proposed union of the Canadian colonies. Gordon supported these talks but thought that a Maritime union might be a more likely initial first step. As the talks progressed, he accepted that some sort of union was coming but did not want to see a federation of provinces each with its own legislature. He wanted a strong central government with a single legislature to replace the existing colonial Assemblies. In particular, the New Brunswick legislature was too inward looking and filled with too much self-interest to adopt a national vision. Better, he thought, that they should deal only with local issues.

Efforts at railroad construction continued to be a problem. The British North American colonies could not agree on the financing; while talks of political union doomed any plans to build connections to the United States.

Gordon left New Brunswick in late 1866, and took a position as Lieutenant Governor of Trinidad in 1870.


Written by johnwood1946

August 15, 2012 at 9:41 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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