Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Chapter XII - Finance Minister and Governor

MR. TILLEY took up his residence in the old Government House, Fredericton, and he must have been struck with the changed aspect of affairs from that presented under the old regime, when lieutenant-governors were appointed by the British government and sent out from England to preside over the councils of a people of whom they knew little or nothing. Most of these former governors had been military men, more accustomed to habits of command than to deal with perplexing questions of state. They looked with a very natural degree of impatience on the attempts which the people of the province were making to get the full control of their own affairs. Under the old regime the governor was surrounded with military guards, and sentries paced the walks and guarded the entrances to the Government House. The withdrawal of the British troops from Canada before the lieutenant-governorship of Mr. Tilley commenced relieved him of any embarrassment in regard to dispensing with military guards and sentries; but all pretentious accompaniments of authority were foreign to his nature, and he always showed, by the severe simplicity of his life, that he felt he was-one of the people, and that it was his duty as well as his pleasure to permit all who had any occasion to see him to have free access to him, without the necessity of going through any formal process.

When Mr. Tilley became lieutenant-governor of . the province, he was fifty-five years of age, and he seems to have thought that his political career was ended, because, by the time his term of office expired in its natural course, he would have reached the age of sixty, a period when a man is not likely to make a new entrance into public life. But circumstances, quite apart from any desire on his part, made it almost necessary for him to change his determination, and during the summer of 1878, when the general election was imminent, he found himself pressed by his old political friends to become once more the candidate of his party for his old constituency, the city of St. John. There was great enthusiasm amongst them when it was announced that he would comply with their wishes, and that he had resigned the lieutenant-governorship. The result of that general election is well known. The Liberal party, which had succeeded to the government less' than five years before with a large majority in the House of Commons, experienced a severe defeat, and the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, seeing this, very properly did not await the assembling of parliament, but sent in the resignation of the ministry, and Sir John A. Macdonald was called upon to form a new government. In the cabinet thus constructed Mr. Tilley resumed his old office of minister of finance, and one of his first duties was to assist in the framing of a new customs tariff which was to give effect to the principle, upon which the election had been run, of protection to home industries. This idea of protection had not been heard of in the Canadian confederation as the policy of any political party until Sir John A. Macdonald took it up about a year before the general election, but it proved a winning card and was the means of giving the new government a long lease of power.

Sir Leonard Tilley’s speech in introducing the new tariff was well received and made a strong impression upon all who heard it. It was admitted, even by those who were opposed to the views he held, that he showed a great mastery of the details, and that he illustrated in a very clear manner the view that the country was • suffering because the duties imposed upon foreign goods were not sufficiently high to protect Canadian manufactures.

It is not the intention of this volume to deal to any full extent with the career of Sir Leonard Tilley during his second term of office as minister of financc of Canada. To enter into that phase of his career would be to relate the history of Canada, for he was but one member of the government, and not its leader. It is admitted that, in respect to financial questions, Sir Leonard showed the same ability that had characterized his career during his previous term of office, and he was looked upon by his colleagues as a man in whose judgment the utmost confidence could be placed. At this time, however, his health began to fail, and the disease which finally carried him off developed to such an extent that he was told he must cease all active work or his days would be shortened. Under these circumstances, it became necessary for him to retire from the severe duties of his very responsible and laborious office, and on October 31st, 1885, he was again appointed lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, an office which he had filled with so much acceptance between 1873 and 1878. Sir Leonard Tilley continued lieutenant-governor during a second term, for almost eight years, or until the appointment of the Hon. John Boyd to that position. He was lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick for considerably more than twelve years, a record which is not likely to be equalled by any future lieutenant-governor for many years to come, if ever. .

There was no event of particular importance to distinguish Sir Leonard Tilley’s second term as lieutenant-governor. The Hon. Mr. Blair was premier of New Brunswick during the whole period, and there was no political crisis of any importance to alter the complexion of affairs. The only event in connection with the governorship which is worthy of being mentioned is the change that was made by the abandonment of the old Government House, at Fredericton, as the residence of the lieutenant-governor. This building had become antiquated, and in other ways unsuitable for the occupancy of a lieutenant-governor, and its maintenance involved a very large expenditure annually, which the province was unable to afford. It was therefore determined that in future the lieutenant-governor should provide his own residence, and that the amount spent on the Government House annually should be saved. Sir Leonard Tilley built a residence in St. John, in which he lived for the remainder of his life, and the seat of government, so far as his presence was concerned, was transferred to that city. Sir Leonard Tilley was always on the most cordial terms with the various premiers who led the government of New Brunswick during their terms of office. He knew well the strict constitutional limits of his office, and was always careful to confine his activities within their proper scope. The lessons of responsible government which he had learned in his early youth, and which had been the study of his manhood, enabled him to avoid those pitfalls which beset the steps of earlier lieutenant-governors.

During Sir Leonard Tilley’s last term of office, and after its close, he abstained wholly from any interference with public affairs in the Dominion, and although he still remained steadfastly attached to the Liberal-Conservative party, he gave no outward sign of his desire for their success. This neutral position which he assumed in political matters had the effect of drawing towards him thousands of his fellow-countrymen who, in former years, had been accustomed to regard him with unfriendly feelings. They forgot the active political leader and saw before them only the aged governor, whose venerable figure and kindly face were so familiar at social or other gatherings, or whenever work was to be done for any good cause. In this way Sir Leonard Tilley grew to assume a new character in the public estimation, and at the time of his death the regret was as great on the part of those who had been his political opponents as among those who had been his associates in political warfare. This was one of the most pleasing features of his declining years, and one that gave him the greatest satisfaction, because it enabled him to feel that he enjoyed the affectionate regard of the whole body of the people.

Sir Leonard Tilley throughout his life gave great attention to his religious duties. He was a devoted member of the Church of England, and his attendance at its services was constant and regular. For several years before his death he was connected with St. Mark’s congregation, and no cause, except severe bodily illness, was ever allowed to prevent him from going to church on Sunday morning. On many occasions, when his steps had grown feeble and his strength was failing, it was suggested to him that he should drive to church, but he always replied that he would walk to church as long as he had strength left to do so, and that he would not have people harnessing up horses on the Sabbath Day on his account. This resolution he maintained to the end of his life. Sometimes, when he met an old acquaintance, as he toiled up the street which led to his favourite church, he would cheerfully greet him by saying, “John, this hill has grown steeper than it used to be,” but he climbed the hill to the end, and the last Sunday he was able to be out of his bed he walked to church as usual. He also took a deep interest in all humane and philanthropic objects as well as in the great work connected with the spread of the Gospel. He was a constant attendant at the annual meetings of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and was a life member of that admirable association.

The honours that Sir Leonard Tilley received from Her Majesty, in recognition of his great public services, were very gratifying to his friends as well as to himself, and when he was made a Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George, in 1879, his temperance friends embraced the first opportunity on his return to St. John to have a banquet in his honour, at which he wore, for the first time in public, the insignia of the knightly order of which he had become a member. There was probably no public event in the whole course of his life which gave him greater pleasure than this proof of the attachment of his old friends.

Sir Leonard’s last visit to England was marked by an extremely gracious invitation to visit the queen at Osborne, in the Isle of Wight. While he and Lady Tilley were sojourning at Cowes a message was sent summoning them to Osborne House, where they were received by Her Majesty in the beautiful grounds that surround that palace. The Princess Louise and Princess Beatrice, with an equerry in waiting, were the only other persons present. After an interesting conversation they were permitted to visit the private apartments of Her Majesty, and the Prince Consort’s farm.

Sir Leonard Tilley was first married in 1843 to Julia Ann, daughter of the late James T. Hanford, who died in 1,862. By her he had seven children, two sons and five daughters. In 1867, he married Alice Starr, daughter of the late Z. Chipman, of St. Stephen. By this marriage he had two sons, Mr. Herbert C. Tilley, of the Imperial Trust Company, who resides in St. John, and Mr. L. P. DeWolfe Tilley, barrister, who is also a resident of St. John. These two sons, Herbert and Leonard, were the prop and comfort of his declining years and were devoted wholly to him to the end.

Sir Leonard Tilley’s second marriage, was contracted at the time when he was exchanging the limited field of provincial politics for the wider sphere which confederation opened up to him in the parliament of Canada. It was a fortunate union, for it gave him a helpmeet and companion who was in full sympathy with him in all his hopes and feelings, and who was singularly well qualified to preside over his household, which, in his capacity of a minister of the Crown, had become, to a considerable extent, a factor in the public life of Canada. Lady Tilley had a high ideal of her duty as the wife of a cabinet minister and of the governor of New Brunswick, and was not content to lead a merely ornamental life or confine her energies within a narrow range. She saw many deficiencies in our appliances for relieving human misery, and with a zeal which could not be dampened, she sought to remedy them. The Victoria Hospital at Fredericton is her work; hers also is the Nurses’ Home in connection with the Public Hospital in St. John, and the Reformatory for the care of bad or neglected boys, who are in danger of becoming criminals if they are not educated and disciplined when they are young. In every work of philanthropy Lady Tilley has always taken not only an active, but a leading part, and her position has enabled her to enlist in the cause of humanity the energies of many who, under other circumstances, might not have given their attention to philanthropic work.

Sir Leonard Tilley for many years had suffered from an incurable disease, which had been mitigated by rest and medical treatment, but not removed. It was the knowledge of the fact that his days would be shortened if he continued in active political life that compelled him to leave the government in 1885. For many years before his death the malady had been so far subdued that it gave him comparatively little trouble, but any unusual exertion on his part was almost certain to arouse it again to activity, so that he was prevented on many occasions from taking part in public functions which, under other circumstances, he would have been glad to attend. Still, he always contrived to take his daily walk, and few who saw him ever suspected that he was constantly menaced by death. For three or four years before his decease his strength had been failing, he stooped more as he walked, and it was evident that he was not destined to enjoy many more years of life. Yet during the spring of 1896 there was nothing whatever to indicate that the end was so near, for he went about as usual, and was able to preside at the annual meeting of the Loyalist Society which was held during the last week in May. On that evening he appeared very bright and cheerful, and he entered with much interest into the discussion of the details of an outing which it was proposed the society should hold during the summer. “Man proposes, God disposes.” Sir Leonard had gone to Rothesay early in June to spend a few weeks in that pleasant spot, and he appeared to be in his usual health until the night of June 10th, when he began to suffer great pain from a slight cut which he had received in the foot. The symptoms became alarming and gave indications of blood poisoning, a condition due to the disease from which he had suffered so many years. On June 11th, he was taken to Carleton House, his town residence, and from that time the doctors gave no hope of his recovery. It was one of the sad features of his illness that his life-long friend and physician for many years, Dr. William Bayard, was unable to attend him, being himself confined to his bed by illness.

After Sir Leonard Tilley reached his home in St. John he never rallied, and he was well aware that his end was near. He was attended by Dr. Inches and Dr. Murray McLaren, but he was beyond medical aid, and therefore the people of St. John, for several days before the event took place, were aware that their foremost citizen was dying. The time was one of great excitement, for the general election was near, yet the eyes of thousands were turned from the moving panorama of active life which passed before them to the silent chamber where the dying statesman was breathing his last. The regret and sympathy that was expressed was universal, and in their kindly words those who had been his life-long political opponents were not behind those who had been his friends. Sir Leonard Tilley died at three o’clock on the morning of June 25th, the second day after the general election which brought about the defeat of the party with which he had been so long identified.

His death evoked expressions of sympathy and regret from all parts of the empire and from many states of the union. The letters and telegrams of condolence which Lady Tilley received during the first days of her widowhood would of themselves fill a volume, showing how widely he was known and respected. The funeral, which took place on the Saturday following his death, was one of the largest ever seen in St. John, and was attended by the Board of Trade, the Loyalist Society, the various temperance organizations, the members of the provincial government, and a vast concourse of prominent citizens. The services took place at St. John’s Episcopal Church, and were conducted by the rector, the Rev. John deSoyres, assisted by the Rev. R. P. McKim, rector of St. Luke’s Church, with which Sir Leonard had been identified in his earlier years. The interment took place in the Rural Cemetery. Many references to the decease of this eminent man were made from the pulpits of St. John and other parts of the province on the Sunday following his death, and all the newspapers had long notices of the event and editorials on his life and character. We may fittingly close this work by quoting a portion of what was said of him by the St. John Telegraph, a paper that was politically opposed to him for many years:—

“It is greatly to the honour of Sir Leonard Tilley that no scandal, public or private, was ever attached to his name. A consistent temperance man to the end of his life, he was faithful to the cause which he had espoused when he was young, and he enjoyed the confidence and received the steady support of a vast majority of the temperance men of the province, who looked upon him as their natural leader. His capacity for friendship was great, and his friends might be numbered by thousands, for he had a peculiar faculty of strongly attracting men to himself. This may be ascribed, in part, to the magnetism of a buoyant and strong nature, but it was more largely due to the extreme simplicity of his character, which remained wholly unspoiled by the favours which fortune had showered upon him. No man, however humble, had any difficulty in obtaining an interview with Sir Leonard Tilley; he was every inch a gentleman, and was, therefore, as polite to the poorest labourer as to the richest in the land. Such a man could not fail to be loved even by those who had been his most bitter opponents in former years, when he was in active political life.

“It is one of the drawbacks of this human life that the wise, the learned, the good, and those whom we most love and honour, grow old and feeble, fall by the wayside and pass away. So while we lament the death of Sir Leonard Tilley, we must recognize it as an event that was inevitable, and which could not long have been postponed. His lifework was done; his labours were ended; his active and brilliant career was closed; he was but waiting for the dread summons which sooner or later must come to all. The summons has come, and he has gone from among us forever. His venerable, noble face will no longer be seen on our streets, his kindly greeting will no longer be heard. But his memory will live, not only in the hearts of all his countrymen, but enshrined in the history of this his native province, and of the great Dominion which he did so much to create, and which he so fondly loved.”

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus