The Formation Of Pei

George Wright, Administrator--Court of Escheat refused--Central

Academy--Severe Frost in September--Death of William the

Fourth--Educational Condition of the Island--Forcible Resistance

to Rent-paying--Rebellion in Canada--Able Report of Committee of

Legislature on Land Question--The Coronation of Queen

Victoria--Mechanics' Institute formed--Lord Durham on Land

Question--The formation of an Exec
tive, separate from a

Legislative Council ordered--Mr. Cooper a delegate to London.

On the death of Governor Young, the Honorable George Wright was sworn in

as administrator of the government until the appointment of a new

governor. In February, 1836, Colonel Sir John Harvey was appointed

governor, and arrived in the island in August, when the usual addresses

of welcome were presented. There had been a popular agitation for some

time for the establishment of a court of escheat, and despatches were

received from the colonial secretary intimating that the prayer of

certain petitions, presented to His Majesty on the subject, could not be

granted. As we intend to devote, at a more advanced stage of the

narrative, a chapter to the elucidation of the land question, we refrain

at present from any lengthened remarks on the subject.

In January of this year the Central Academy was opened. Its first

teachers were the Rev. Charles Loyd and Mr. Alexander Brown, formerly

teacher of the grammar school. Mr. Loyd, having retired on account of

ill health, was succeeded by the Rev. James Waddell, son of the Rev.

John Waddell, of Truro, N. S.

The governor made a tour through the island for the purpose of becoming

acquainted with its principal inhabitants, and observing its

capabilities and resources. He was received everywhere with that degree

of respect to which his position entitled him; and, in replying to the

numerous addresses presented, expressed himself as highly gratified by

the hospitality of the people, and the indications of progress


On the seventh of September, 1837, a frost of unprecedented severity for

the season set in, by which the potato crop was greatly injured, and

cereals were much damaged. Thus the prospect of a plentiful harvest was

blighted in a night throughout the entire island. The loss thus

sustained was referred to by the governor on opening the assembly in the

spring following; and he called attention to the expediency of granting

pecuniary aid for the purpose of supplying seed-grain and potatoes to

such of the sufferers as required them.

In March, 1837, Colonel Sir J. Harvey, after being promoted to the rank

of major general, was appointed Governor of New Brunswick, for which

province he left towards the close of May. After the departure of the

governor, the Honorable George Wright, as senior member of the council,

took the oath of office, as administrator of the government until the

arrival of Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, who was appointed to succeed

Sir John Harvey. The new governor arrived in June.

On the twentieth of June, William the Fourth died. Intelligence of His

Majesty's death reached the island towards the close of July. On the

twenty-first of July, Queen Victoria was proclaimed in London.

The first official visitor of schools was appointed this year, in the

person of Mr. John McNeill, who, in his report for the year, gave the

number of schools in the three counties as fifty-one, and the number of

scholars as fifteen hundred and thirty-three. In his report, Mr. McNeill

gives us an interesting peep at the educational condition of the country

at this period, specifying the various causes to which the extreme

deficiency of the educational machinery was attributable. In many of the

settlements the inhabitants were poor, and having to struggle with

numerous difficulties in procuring subsistence for their children, their

education was regarded as a matter of secondary importance. Little

encouragement was, in most cases, held out to teachers of character and

qualification, and the precarious mode in which their salaries were paid

operated powerfully as a bar in the way of educational advancement.

Hence it not unfrequently happened, when the necessary literary

attainments were wanting, that it was only persons of shipwrecked

character, and blasted prospects in life, who had assumed the important

office of schoolmaster. "I must also mention," reported Mr. McNeill,

"another practice which is too prevalent in the country, and which, I

conceive, is exceedingly injurious to the respectability of the teacher

in the eyes of his pupils, and, consequently, hurtful to his

usefulness,--that is: receiving his board by going about from house to

house; in which case he is regarded, both by parents and children, as

little better than a common menial." Mr. McNeill's suggestions, by way

of reformation, were judicious and well put. He held the situation of

visitor for ten years, and seems to have been well qualified for the

post. When he vacated the situation, in 1847, there were one hundred and

twenty schools, of all grades, and over five thousand scholars.

The new governor visited all the principal districts of the island, and,

as the result of his inquiries and observations, addressed a circular to

the proprietors of land, in which he advocated the granting of important

concessions to the tenantry, with a view of allaying the agitation for

escheat, and removing any just grounds of complaint. The governor stated

to the proprietors that it was impossible for any one, unacquainted with

the local circumstances of a new colony, to form a correct estimate of

the difficulties and privations which the past settlers on wilderness

lands had to encounter. He said it was a long series of years before he

could obtain from the soil more than a bare subsistence for himself and

his family, notwithstanding the most unwearied perseverance and

industry. It ought not, therefore, to be matter for surprise that,

although he might be ready and willing to pay a fair equivalent, either

in rent or otherwise, for the land occupied, he should feel dismayed at

the prospect of being deprived of the hard-earned fruits of the labor of

the earliest and best years of his manhood, whether from an accumulation

of heavy arrears of rent, which he was unable to realize from the land,

or from the refusal of the proprietor to grant him a tenure of

sufficient endurance to ensure to his family the profits of his

industry; and this, probably, in the decline of life, with a

constitution broken, and health impaired by incessant toil. In these

circumstances it could not be matter for surprise that he should be

discontented with his lot, or that he should instil hostile feelings

into the minds of his family, and be ready to lend a willing ear to

proposals, however fallacious, which held out a hope of relief.

After alluding to the fact, that the high sheriff of King's County had

been recently resisted by a considerable body of armed men, while

engaged in enforcing an execution on a judgment obtained in the supreme

court for rent, and had his horses barbarously mutilated, he

recommended, as a remedy for the evil, that land-agents should have a

discretionary power to relieve tenants of arrears of rents, in cases

where it was impossible they could ever pay them; and that long leases

should be granted at the rate customary in the colony, the rent to be

payable in the productions of the soil at the market prices. He also

recommended that, in cases where long leases were objected to, the

tenants should be allowed to purchase the fee simple at twenty years'

purchase, or that payment for their improvements, at a fair valuation,

should be ensured on the expiration of their terms.

The governor forwarded a copy of the circular containing these

reasonable suggestions to the secretary of state for the colonies. This

mode of dealing with the tenantry, it may be here remarked, had already,

in numerous instances, been acted upon with the best results, so that

the efficiency of the change recommended in securing harmony between

landlord and tenant had been most satisfactorily tested.

Towards the close of 1837, a rebellion broke out in Canada. The

insurgents mustered in considerable numbers, but without sufficient

organization, and their leaders--utterly incompetent and cowardly--were

the first to escape after a few shots were fired. The militia of the

island offered their services in vindication of the King's authority;

but the troops in Canada were quite sufficient to extinguish the

rebellion, ere it had attained to any formidable dimensions.

The colonial secretary, Lord Glenelg, transmitted to the governor the

copy of a memorial from the proprietors of land, protesting against the

royal assent being given to an act of the legislature of the island for

levying an assessment on all lands in the island, and demanding an

opportunity of stating their objections to it, by their counsel, before

the judicial committee of the privy council. This document was referred

to a joint committee of the legislative council and assembly, who, in

April, 1838, produced an able and elaborate report in justification of

the law. The committee, of which T. H. Haviland, R. Hodgson, John

Brecken, Joseph Pope, Edward Palmer, and others were members, showed

that the local expenditure of the government for the last twelve years

had been $107,643, of which $27,506 had been expended on roads and

bridges, to the great advantage of the property of the memorialists;

$13,556 on public buildings and wharfs; and $66,562 for other local

purposes. And of these large sums, the whole amount contributed by the

proprietors of the soil had been only $7,413, leaving the balance of

$100,000 to be borne by the resident consumers of dutiable articles. The

committee fortified their position by extracts from despatches sent by

Lords Stanley and Glenelg, and completely justified the imposition of a

tax of four shillings currency on wilderness lands. The report, when

printed, occupied upwards of five newspaper columns, set in minion type,

and bore striking evidence of the industry and ability of its framers.

It appears from a despatch from Lord Durham, then governor general of

British North America, which we found at Government House in

Charlottetown, and which was not published either at the time or

subsequently, that Lord Glenelg forwarded this able report, along with

other documents bearing on the subject of escheat, in September, 1838,

to his lordship, for the purpose of obtaining his special opinion on the

subject, for the guidance of the home government. It is scarcely

necessary to premise, before giving this important state document, that

Lord Durham is considered the highest authority on those colonial

subjects of which he treats in his celebrated report,--a document which

will stand for successive generations as a lasting monument of his

ability as a statesman, and which has been and is now recognized as

embodying the most masterly exposition of colonial questions which has

ever been published.

"Castle of Saint Lewis, Quebec,

8th October, 1836.

"My Lord,--I have had the honor of receiving your despatch of the

fifth October, whereby you desire that I will express to you my

judgment on the whole subject of escheat in the Island of Prince

Edward. After perusing the voluminous documents with your

lordship's despatch, I do not feel that it is in my power to add

anything to the very full information on the subject which these

documents comprise. The information before me is now so ample

that upon no matter of fact can I entertain a doubt. Nearly the

whole island was alienated in one day by the Crown, in very

large grants, chiefly to absentees, and upon conditions of

settlement which have been wholly disregarded. The extreme

improvidence--I might say the reckless profusion--which dictated

these grants is obvious: the total neglect of the government as

to enforcing the conditions of the grants is not less so. The

great bulk of the island is still held by absentees, who hold it

as a sort of reversionary interest which requires no present

attention, but may become valuable some day or other through the

growing want of the inhabitants. But, in the meantime, the

inhabitants of the island are subjected to the greatest

inconvenience--nay, the most serious injury--from the state of the

property in land. The absent proprietors neither improve the

land themselves, nor will let others improve it. They retain the

land and keep it in a state of wilderness. Your lordship can

scarcely conceive the degree of injury inflicted on a new

settlement hemmed in by wilderness land, which has been placed

out of the control of government, and is entirely neglected by

its absent proprietors. This evil pervades British North

America, and has been for many years past a subject of universal

and bitter complaint. The same evil was felt in many of the

states of the American Union, where, however, it has been

remedied by taxation of a penal character,--taxation, I mean, in

the nature of a fine for the abatement of a nuisance. In Prince

Edward Island this evil has attained its maximum. It has been

long and loudly complained of, but without any effect. The

people, their representative assembly, the legislative council,

and the governor have cordially concurred in devising a remedy

for it. All their efforts have proved in vain. Some influence--it

cannot be that of equity or reason--has steadily counteracted the

measures of the colonial legislature. I cannot imagine it is any

other influence than that of the absentee proprietors resident

in England; and in saying so I do but express the universal

opinion of the colony. The only question, therefore, as it

appears to me, is whether that influence shall prevail against

the deliberate acts of the colonial legislature and the

universal complaints of the suffering colonists. I can have no

doubt on the subject. My decided opinion is, that the royal

assent should no longer be withheld from the act of the colonial


"At the same time, I doubt whether this act will prove a

sufficient remedy for the evil in question. It was but natural

that the colonial legislature--who have found it impossible as

yet to obtain any remedy whatever--should hesitate to propose a

sufficient one. Undeterred by any such consideration,--relying on

the cordial cooperation of the government and parliament in the

work of improving the state of the colonies,--I had intended,

before the receipt of your lordship's despatch, and still

intend, to suggest a measure which, while it provides a

sufficient remedy for the evil suffered by the colonists, shall

also prove advantageous to the absent proprietors by rendering

their property more valuable. Whether the inhabitants of Prince

Edward Island prefer waiting for the now uncertain results of a

suggestion of mine, or that the act which they have passed

should be at once confirmed, I cannot tell; but I venture

earnestly to recommend that Her Majesty's government should be

guided by their wishes on the subject; and in order to ascertain

these, I propose to transmit a copy of the present despatch to

Sir Charles FitzRoy, with a request that he will, after

consulting with the leading men of the colony, address your

lordship on the subject.

"With respect to the terms proposed by the proprietors, I am

clearly of opinion that any such arrangement would be wholly

inadequate to the end in view.

"I am, &c.,


"Lord Glenelg."

The reference in the closing paragraph of the despatch is evidently to a

memorandum of terms proposed by the proprietors for the sale and

settlement of land in the island, and forwarded to Lord Genelg by Mr. G.

R. Young, their talented solicitor and counsel, in January, 1838.

The very decided opinion expressed by Lord Durham led to the

confirmation by Her Majesty of the act passed in 1837 for levying an

assessment on all lands in the island, which confirmation was effected

at a meeting of the privy council, held on the twelfth of December,

1838; but his lordship's despatch was not communicated to the assembly

by the governor. Its publication would have gratified the inhabitants of

the island, and mightily strengthened the agitation which had been

prosecuted for so many years with so comparatively little success.

Lord Durham, in his report, has repeated many of the arguments contained

in the despatch which we have given, and the valuable evidence given by

John W. Le Lacheur, Robert Hodgson,--now Sir Robert,--Sir Charles FitzRoy,

George Wright, Thomas Haviland, John Lawson, and G. R. Goodman is

published as a portion of the appendix to His Lordship's

report,--evidence which presents a clear and most reliable account of the

land question, and exhibits within a moderate compass, with startling

effect, the evils which had their origin in the reckless disposal of the

island to non-resident proprietors, who disregarded the conditions on

which it had been granted.

The coronation of Her Majesty the Queen took place on the twenty-eighth

of June, and the event was celebrated in Charlottetown in a manner

becoming the loyalty of the inhabitants. The prison doors were thrown

open and the debtors set free. A plentiful repast was provided for the

poorer classes, of which they joyfully availed themselves. The city was

illuminated in the evening, and large bonfires kindled. At a county

meeting, held in the court-house, a congratulatory address to the Queen

was adopted, and forwarded to London by the governor.

Towards the close of the year 1838, a Mechanics' Institute was

established in Charlottetown, mainly through the instrumentality of Mr.

Charles Young,--now the Honorable Judge Young, LL. D. The introductory

lecture, which was subsequently published in the Gazette, was

delivered by that gentleman. The Lieutenant-governor, Lady Mary FitzRoy,

the chief justice, and a large number of the leading people of the town

were present. A course of lectures was thus inaugurated which for many

years furnished entertainment and instruction to those who availed

themselves of the privilege of attendance. In Charlottetown, as well as

in other towns, there is a good deal of latent talent which might be

beneficially elicited in the delivery of lectures during the winter

evenings. It not unfrequently happens that lecture-committees apply for

lecturers in quarters where more able ones than can be found with

themselves do not exist.

"'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view."

In the year 1838, the chief of the Micmac tribe presented a petition to

the governor, praying for a grant of land to his tribe, which he

represented as consisting of five hundred souls. This number seems to

have been exaggerated; for the governor, in writing to Lord Glenelg, in

reply to an application for information, states that the number of

Indians on the island did not exceed two hundred. The governor

recommended a grant of Lennox Island--the property of Mr. David

Stewart--to the tribe.

Two sessions of the assembly were held in 1839. Whilst the first was

proceeding with the public business, a despatch arrived ordering the

governor to form an executive, separate from a legislative council. He

immediately prorogued the house, and made the necessary nominations to

both the councils. The house again met in March, in order to complete

the business which remained unfinished at the recent prorogation. During

the short interval which had elapsed since the termination of the late

session, intelligence had reached the governor that active measures had

been taken by the State of Maine to enforce by arms their alleged claims

to the territory in dispute between that state and the province of New

Brunswick. The season of the year did not admit of any active assistance

being rendered in the emergency; but the island authorities determined

to respond to the feelings and sentiments expressed by the council and

assembly of the neighboring province of Nova Scotia.

W. Cooper was the speaker of the house of assembly in 1839, and was sent

as a delegate to London on the land question. Three propositions were

made on the subject, namely, the establishment of a court of escheat;

the resumption by the Crown of the rights of the proprietors; and a

heavy penal tax on wilderness land. The home government rejected the

project of escheat, and did not feel at liberty to recommend the advance

of two hundred thousand pounds from the treasury. With respect to the

third proposal, Lord John Russell, the colonial secretary, expressed his

unwillingness to adopt it at the moment, so soon after the imposition of

a tax of the same description, and until it had been clearly proved that

no remedy was to be expected from the imposition of that tax, and from

the disposition of the proprietors to come to an equitable arrangement

with the tenantry. The colonial secretary declined to discuss the

question with Mr. Cooper, and made his decision known, through the

governor of the island, in a despatch dated the seventeenth of

September, 1839, in which he expressed his approval of the terms

proposed by the proprietors, through their agent, Mr. Young,

recommending them as the basis on which Her Majesty's government desired

that the question should be arranged.