New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

Two Documents Relating to the Fenians in New Brunswick

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Two Documents Relating to the Fenians in New Brunswick

The ‘Fenian Brothers’ were organized following the American Civil War, and had the intention of fighting and harassing the English in all ways possible in order to gain the independence of Ireland. The Fenian raids on Canada began in 1866 and continued to 1870. Four of these raids were upon the Province of Canada, both East and West, but the first of them was upon the islands of Passamaquoddy Bay.

On March 16, 1866, Lieutenant Governor Arthur Hamilton Gordon petitioned the New Brunswick House of Assembly for an increased military budget to deal with possible hostile incursions from the United States. He made it clear that he was not concerned that the government of the U.S. might invade but, rather, that other ‘evil men’ could be disposed to invade from that direction. The first documents following include his petition, with an attached memorandum, and the reply of the House. This clearly deals with the Fenian threat.

Gordon did not know what was going to happen when he wrote to the House. He only knew that there was a danger that something could happen. That the appeal was made on March 16, 1866 is an interesting coincidence, since the intention of the Fenian Brothers to attack Campobello was apparently leaked to the press on that date in the United States. Gordon could not have known about this intention and reacted so quickly, however.

A force of Fenians gathered at Eastport, Maine in the spring, and commenced drills which could be observed even from Indian Island in Passamaquoddy Bay. On April 14th, a raiding party in search of a trophy landed on Indian Island and stole the Union Jack from the customs house. This attempt was sophomoric, but was followed a week later by another raid which burned several stores. Alarms were raised, troops were brought in, and war ships were made available. The plan to take Campobello, or Indian Island for that matter, came to an inglorious end.

The second document following is a public notice by the “Republican Committee of St. John” calling on New Brunswickers to reject Confederation, to free themselves from the monarchy, and to form a republic. This document is undated, and some libraries have it mis-catalogued under ‘1800’. From the content, however, it is clearly from 1866, or very nearly so. There were enough people in New Brunswick that there must have been a few republicans but, to me, the “Republican Committee of St. John” was a cover for the real authors, the Fenian Brothers.

The first documents: Lieut. Gov. Gordon’s initiative

“New Brunswick”

“Message to the House of Assembly”

“Arthur Gordon”

“His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor desires to call the attention of the House of Assembly to the expediency of furnishing means to enable him to provide more efficiently for the protection of the Frontier of the Province from possible insult.

“The Government of the United States is fully determined to discharge the duties imposed by International obligations, and the relations of amity happily subsisting between that Power and Great Britain; nor does His Excellency believe it possible that an hostile expedition of any magnitude can be organized in the Territory of a neighbouring and friendly State, and permitted to cross its Frontier, or leave its Ports.

“The vigilance of the authorities of the United States may, however, at some point be eluded, and as an intention to commit depredations on Her Majesty’s Dominions on this Continent has been openly avowed by evil disposed persons, it is manifestly expedient that additional security should be given throughout the whole extent of Her Majesty’s American Provinces, to such points as, from the importance of their position, or the weakness of their means of defence, may appear to invite attack.

“The Lieutenant Governor’s attention has already been directed to this subject, and he has, from time to time, taken such steps as appeared necessary for that purpose; but in order fully to carry out the precautionary measures necessary to obviate danger, it may be requisite to call upon a portion of the Provincial Militia Force to co-operate with Her Majesty’s Regular Troops in New Brunswick.

“Before taking this step, however, which may involve a considerable outlay. His Excellency has deemed it expedient to communicate with the House of Assembly, in the firm confidence that any measures needful for the protection of the Province from marauding bands, will meet with the most hearty concurrence and support of the Legislature and loyal people of New Brunswick.

“The Lieutenant Governor lays before the House a brief Memorandum of the amount which will probably be required for the Military Service of the year.”



“The expenditure required to carry out the provisions of last year’s Militia Act, was a little over $30,000 for 1865.

“For 1866 about $40,000 will be needed, owing to the great increase of Volunteers, the allowance, per head, to whom, is definitely fixed by the Law.

“It would be most injudicious to disturb the arrangements for the Military Education of Officers and Non-commissioned Officers which have already worked so well.

“The amount required for the ordinary Militia Service, and the sums paid in connection with the apprehension of Deserters from Her Majesty’s Forces, may be accordingly estimated at about $40,000.

“The amount of extraordinary expenditure to be incurred in measures of precaution, it is of course difficult to estimate, as it must mainly depend on the greater or shorter length of time during which they may have to be maintained. So far as can at present be calculated, it need not exceed from $30,000 to $50,000. This of course is on the supposition that no hostilities actually take place, and that the expenditure is limited to measures of precaution; for, of course, in the event of active operations, it is impossible even to guess at the amount which might be required. It would be manifestly inexpedient to state the items of proposed expenditure, but they include measures of Defence for particular points, and the pay of a certain number of embodied Volunteers for three months;—should they not be embodied for so long a period, the money would of course not be drawn.

“That a rigid economy may be exercised in this expenditure is manifested by last Year’s Accounts, which show at how low rates Contracts were entered into, and satisfactory arrangements for transport and other services of this department made.”’


To His Excellency The Honorable Arthur Hamilton Gordon, C.M.G., Lieut. Governor and Commander in Chief of the Province of New Brunswick &c. &c. &c.

May it please Your Excellency,—

Her Majesty’s faithful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of New Brunswick, having had under consideration the Message of Your Excellency, laid before the House this day, calling the attention of the House to the necessity of making provision for the defence of the Frontier of this Province from possible insult, most respectfully assure Your Excellency that the House of Assembly, representing the whole people of this Province, will cheerfully provide for all precautionary measures that the Executive Government may deem necessary in the present emergencies for the defence of this country.


“I thank the House of Assembly for the fresh proof they have afforded that the ancient spirit of loyalty which animated the first founders of this Province, has neither diminished nor decayed.

“I deeply regret that the machinations of evil disposed men should render necessary a considerable expenditure for defensive purposes; but your liberality will have been wisely bestowed, should it show to the plotters who dream of a descent upon our borders, how little they can hope for success in such an enterprise.

“The most rigid economy shall be exercised in the expenditure of the resources you have placed at my disposal.

“Confiding in the protection of Almighty God, and assured of the support of a gallant and united people, I await, the future without anxious care.”

The second document: The call for a republic

Citizens of New Brunswick!

Republican institutions have become a necssity (sic) to the peace and prosperity of your Province.

English policy, represented in the obnoxious project of Confederation, is making its last efforts to bind you in effete forms of Monarchism.

Annexation to the United States is not, necessarily, the only means of escape. Independence for the present is the best one, and will assure you the supreme and sole management of your affairs.

Mercenary bayonets cannot – shall not prevent you asserting this independence if you desire it. Signify your wishes and you become the founders of a Free State, untrammelled by Royalty, unchecked by Misrule, and certain to secure all the lost benefits of Reciprocity.

By Order of Republican

Committee of St. John


Written by johnwood1946

August 13, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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