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Chapter II - Elected to the Legislature

SHORTLY after the general election, Chief-Justice Chipman, who had been in infirm health, resigned his office, and a vacancy was thus left on the bench of the supreme court of the province. In the natural course, this office ought to have gone to the attorney-general, Mr. L. A. Wilmot, but this appointment was not made. The council were unable to unite in any recommendation to the governor, who consequently laid all the facts before the home government and in reply received instructions to give the chief-justiceship to Judge Carter and to offer the puisne judgeship to Mr. Wilmot, or, if he should refuse it, to Mr. Kinnear, the solicitor-general. The executive council complained that the appointment of Mr. Wilmot to a seat on the bench by the authority of the secretary of state without the advice or recommendation of the responsible executive within the province, was at variance with the principles of responsible government \vhich were understood to be in force. They, however, had only themselves to thank for this, for they were continually appealing to Downing Street. As a majority of the House had been elected as opponents of the governments it was supposed there would be no difficulty in bringing about a change of administration. Mr. Simonds, of St. John, who was reputed to be a Liberal, was elected speaker without opposition, and at an early day in the session Mr. Ritchie, of St. John, moved, as an amendment to the address, a want-of-confidence resolution. This resolution, instead of being carried by a large majority as was expected, was lost by a vote of fifteen to twenty-two, Messrs. Alexander Rankine and John T. Williston, of Northumberland, Messrs. Robert Gordon and Joseph Reed, of Gloucester, Mr. A. Barbarie, of Restigouche, and Mr. Francis McPhelim, of Kent, having deserted their Liberal allies. Had they proved faithful, the government would have been defeated, and the province would have been spared another three years of an incompetent administration.

In this division, Tilley and Needham, who represented the city of St. John, and Messrs. R. D. Wilmot and Gray, two of the county members, voted for Ritchieís amendment. As Wilmot and Gray showed by their votes that they had no confidence in the government in February, 1851, it was with much surprise that the people of St. John, in the August following, learned that they had become members of the administration which they had so warmly condemned a few months before. Their secession from the Liberal party destroyed whatever chance had before existed of ousting the government. Mr. Fisher had seceded from the government in consequence of their action in reference to the judicial appointments, and John Ambrose Street, who was a member for Northumberland, became attorney-general in place of Robert Parker, appointed a judge. Mr. Street was a ready debater and a strong Conservative, and his entrance into the government at that time showed that a Conservative policy was to be maintained.

Mr. Street, as leader of the government in the assembly, presented a long programme of measures for the consideration of the legislature, none of which proved to be of any particular value. The municipal corporation bill was passed, but it was a permissive measure, and was not taken advantage of by any of the counties. A bill to make the legislative council elective, which was also passed in the Lower House at the instance of the government, was defeated in the Upper Chamber. The bill appointing commissioners on law reform was carried, and resulted in the production of the three volumes of the revised statutes issued in 1854. The most important bill of the session, introduced by the government, was one in aid of the construction of a railroad from St. John to Shediac. This bill provided that the government should give a company two hundred and fifty thousand pounds sterling, to assist in the construction of the fine referred to. There was also a bill to assist the St. Andrews and Quebec Railroad to the extent of fifty thousand pounds, and a bonus or subvention to the Shediac line amounting to upwards of eleven thousand dollars a mile, for which sum a very good railway could be constructed at the present time. It may be stated here that, although the company was formed and undertook to build a railway to Shediac under the terms offered by the government, the province had eventually to build the road at a cost of forty thousand dollars a mile, or fully double what a similar road could be constructed for now.

One of the measures brought forward by the government at this session was with reference to the schools of the province. The idea of taxing the property of the county for the support of public schools had not then found any general acceptance in New Brunswick; indeed, it was not till the year 1872 that the measure embodying this principle was passed by the legislature. The government school bill of 1851 provided that the teachers were to be paid in money, or board and lodging, by the district to the amount of ten pounds for six months, in addition to the government allowance. This bill was a very slight improvement on the Act then in force, and as the government left it to the House to deal with, and did not press it as a government measure, it was not passed. A private member, Mr. Gilbert, of Queens, at this session proposed to convert Kingís College into an agricultural school, with a model farm attached. Kingís College had been established by an Act passed in 1829, and had received a large endowment from the province, but it never was a popular institution because of its connection with a single Church. The original charter of the college made the bishop of the diocese the visitor, and required the president to be always a clergyman of the Church of England; and, although this had been changed in 1845 by the legislature, the number of students who attended it was always small, and it was shown in the course of debate that it had failed to fulfil the object for which it was created. The college council consisted of fifteen members, of whom ten were Episcopalians; and the visitor, the chancellor, the president, the principal, five out of seven of the professors and teachers, and the two examiners were members of the same Church. The services in the college chapel were required to be attended by all resident students, and of the eighteen students then in the college, sixteen were Episcopalians. It was felt that this college required to be placed on a different footing, and Mr. Gilbertís bill, although it provoked much hostile comment at the time, certainly would have been more beneficial to the educational interests of the country, if it had passed, than the state of affairs which resulted from the continuance of the old system. An agricultural school was the very thing the province required, while, judging from the limited attendance at the college at that time, the people of this province were not greatly impressed with the value of a classical education. In 1851, however, any one who proposed to replace a college for the teaching of Greek and Latin with a college of agriculture, and the sciences allied to it, was looked upon as a Philistine. Then youths were taught to compose Latin and to read Greek who never, to the day of their death, , had a competent knowledge of their own language; and agricultural studies, which were of the highest importance to more than one-half of the people of the province,, were totally neglected. Mr. Gilbertís bill was defeated, as it was certain to be in a legislature which was still under the domination of old ideas. Had it passed, New Brunswick might at this time have had a large body of scientific farmers capable of cultivating the soil in the most efficient manner, and increasing its productiveness to an extent hardly dreamed of by those who only consider it in the light of the present system of cultivation.

During this session, Mr. Ritchie of St. John moved a series of resolutions condemning the government, and complaining of the colonial office and of the conduct of the governor. These resolutions declared: first, that the House was entitled to full copies of all despatches addressed to or received from the colonial office, and that it was not enough merely to send extracts from a despatch which had been received by the governor. They declared that the power of making appointments to offices was vested in the governor by and with the advice of the executive council, and that the appointment of Ľ the chief-justice and a puisne judge by the governor, contrary to the advice of his council, was inconsistent with the principles of responsible government. They complained that the salaries were excessive, and condemned the refusal of the British government to allow the colonies to grant bounties for the development of their resources. These resolutions, after being debated for about a week, were rejected by a vote of twenty-one to nineteen, the smallness of the majority against them at the time being looked upon as virtually a Liberal victory. If the nineteen had been made up of men who could be relied on to stand by their colours in all emergencies, it would have been a Liberal triumph, but, unfortunately, among the nineteen there were some who afterwards deserted their party for the sake of offices and power.

Early in August it was announced that John H. Gray and R. D. Wilmot, two of the Liberal members for the county of St. John, had abandoned their party and their principles and become members of the government. The Liberals of St. John, who had elected these gentlemen by a substantial majority, were naturally chagrined at such a proof of their faithlessness, and their colleagues were likewise greatly annoyed. Messrs. Gray and Wilmot made the usual excuses of all deserters for their conduct, the principal one being that they thought they could serve the interests of the constituency and of the province better by being in the government than out of it. The friends of the four members who still remained faithful, Messrs. Tilley, Simonds, Ritchie and Needham, held a meeting at which these gentlemen were present, and it was agreed that they should join in an address to their constituents condemning the course of Messrs. Wilmot and Gray, and calling on the constituency to pronounce judgment upon it. As Wilmot, who had been appointed to the office of surveyor-general, had to return to his constituency for reelection, the voice of the constituency could only be ascertained by placing a candidate in the field in opposition to him. This was done, and Mr. Allan McLean was elected to oppose Mr. Wilmot. The result seemed to show that the people of St. John had condoned the offence, for Wilmot was reelected by a majority of two hundred and seventy-three. As this appeared to be a proof that they had lost the confidence of their constituents, Messrs. Simonds, Ritchie and Tilley at once resigned their seats and did not offer for reelection. This act was, at the time, thought by many to indicate an excess of sensitiveness, and Needham refused to follow their example, thereby forfeiting the regard of most of those who had formerly supported him. The sequel proved that the three resigning members were right, for they won much more in public respect by their conduct than they lost by their temporary exclusion from the House of Assembly.

The gentlemen returned for the three seats in St. John which had been vacated by the resigning members were James A. Harding, John Goddard and John Johnson. Mr. Harding, who ran for the city, was opposed by S. K. Foster. Harding was a Liberal, but this fact does not seem to have been kept in view when he was elected. The net result of the whole affair was that the constituency of St. John could not be relied upon to support a Liberal principle, or any kind of principle as against men. That has always been a peculiarity of the St. John constituencies, men being more important than measures, and frequently a mere transient feeling being set off against the most important considerations of general policy.

Tilley was not in the House of Assembly during the sessions of 1852,1853 and 1854; that period was one, however, of development in political matters and of substantial progress. The governorís speech at the opening of the session of 1852 was largely devoted to railways, and it expressed the opinion that a railroad connecting Canada and Nova Scotia, and a connection with a line from St. John to the United States, would produce an abundant return to the province, and that by this means millions of tons of timber, then standing worthless in the forest, would find a profitable market. It was during this session that Messrs. Peto, Brassy and Betts proposed to construct the European and North American Railway, on certain conditions. The subsidies offered by the province at this time were twenty thousand pounds a year for twenty years, and a million acres of land for the European and North American Railway, as the line to the United States was termed; and for the Quebec line, twenty-two thousand pounds sterling for twenty years, and two million acres of land. A new company, which included Mr. Jackson, M. P., offered to build the New Brunswick section of both railroads, upon the province granting them a subsidy of twenty thousand pounds a year for twenty years, and four million acres of land. Attorney-General Street introduced a series of railway resolutions favouring the building of the Intercolonial Railway jointly by the three provinces, according to terms which had been agreed upon by the delegates of each. The arrangement was that the Intercolonial Railway should be built through the valley of the St. John, and for favouring resolutions in the House confirming this arrangement, Mr. Streetís Northumberland constituents called upon him to resign his seat, a step which he refused to take.

The government railway resolutions were carried by a large majority. During the recess Mr. Chandler, as a representative of New Brunswick, and Mr. Hincks, a representative of Canada, went to London to endeavour to obtain from the British government a sum sufficient to build the Intercolonial Railway. The request of the delegates was refused on the ground that such a work had to be one of military necessity, and that the route which had been selected, by the valley of the St. John, was not a proper one for military purposes. As Mr. Chandler could not obtain what he wished from the British government, he applied to Messrs. Peto, Brassy and Betts, who said they were prepared to build all the railroads that New Brunswick might require, upon the most advantageous terms. Mr. Jackson visited the province in September of the same year, and it was agreed that his company should build a railway from St. John to Amherst, and from St. John to the United States frontier, the distance being then estimated at two hundred and fourteen miles, for the sum of sixty-five hundred pounds sterling per mile. The province was to take stock to the extent of twelve hundred pounds per mile, and to lend its bonds to the company for one thousand eight hundred pounds additional per mile. The completion of this arrangement caused great rejoicing in the province, especially in St. John, a special session of the legislature being called on October 21st for the express purpose of amending the Railway Act so that it might conform to the new conditions. As both branches of the legislature were strongly in favour of the railway policy of the government, the necessary bills were speedily passed and the legislature was prorogued after a session of eight days.

The meeting of the legislature in 1853 derived its principal importance from the fact that much of its time was taken up with the discussion of the question of a reciprocity treaty with the United States of America. The discussion disclosed a strong disinclination on the part of many members to any arrangement by which the fisheries would be surrendered. An address to the queen was agreed to by both branches of the legislature in which it was stated that the exclusive use of the fisheries by the inhabitants of British North America would be much more advantageous and satisfactory than anything which the United States could offer as an equivalent. It was also stated that no reciprocity treaty with that country would be satisfactory to New Brunswick which did not embrace the free exchange of raw materials and natural products and the admission of colonial built vessels to registry in American ports. The tone of the discussions on this subject, both in 1853 and 1854, shows that reciprocity with the United States was not generally regarded as being an equivalent for the giving of the fisheries to our neighbours, and it is quite clear that, so far as New Brunswick was concerned, the reciprocity treaty would not have been agreed to had it not been that the matter was in the hands of the British government, and that the legislature of the province was not disposed to resist strenuously any arrangement which that government thought it wise to make.

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