Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Fort Havoc (Wallace Hale)

Info The language of the text is the original used by Wallace Hale. Records acquired by the Provincial Archives are not translated from the language in which they originate.

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Early Legislation Affecting the Upper St. John


After the close of the war with France, to which we referred in the last article, the House of Assembly directed its attention to the development of the resources of the province. The great requisite was a larger population and this could only be supplied by encouragement of immigration. Accordingly the house on February 5, 1802, appointed a committee to report upon the subject and later in the session eleven emigration commissioners were appointed. That some progress had already been made however in the settlement of the country will be seen in the following extract from an old newspaper printed in 1802.

"It is an established fact that the province of New Brunswick has been principally settled by an order of men who called themselves Loyalists — men who fought in the service of the King during a long war, and who at the unfortunate termination of it, made an election to plunge into a wilderness with their wives and children rather than submit to the humiliating and degrading necessity of soliciting mercy from those whom they were in the habit of considering as Rebels. Lands were assigned them, and cherished by a temporary bounty from a benevolent sovereign they went to work with an agree of alacrity which was never exceeded. Huts were erected, which at first were hardly sufficient to shelter their families, and little holes were cut in the forest; a few potatoes and a scanty crop of rye were the only rewards for the immense labor of the first and second years. During the next few years although the prospects brightened the difficulties were great and many discouragements were met. But under all this pressure of care and perplexity the voice of murmur could scarcely be heard among them. At the expiration of fifteen or sixteen years the scenes are materially changed. Enter the habitations of the farmers in almost every part of the province now and, with very few exceptions, you'll find them tight, warm and comfortable; you'll see the man and woman surrounded by a flock of children, robuts, hearty and useful, clad in homespun, feeding upon their own mutton, with bread, butter and cheese in abundance. In many instances you may discover not only the comforts of life but luxuries procured by their over plus produce, which never fails to find an easy and sure market, or by their winter's exertion in masting, getting timber, wood, etc., for which they receive the most liberal wages."

For some years the acts passed by the legislature for the benefit of the farmers were few and comparatively unimportant. The following are specimens of the attempts made to foster the raising of certain products.

March 10, 1803:— Bounties were offered to encourage raising hemp, viz., £30 to the person who in four years should raise the greatest quantity of merchantable hemp, the same to exceed one ton; £20 to next competitor, amount to be not less than half a ton; and £10 to third competitor, amount to be not less than one quarter of a ton.

March 4th 1805:— The House of Assembly offered a bounty of 2s. 6d. for every hundred pounds of merchantable wheat flour made of grain raised in the province and sold at St. John, Fredericton or any other county town or market. The said flour was to be over and above the quantity required by the family of the producer for home consumption and must be grown on his own land. It was further provided that no bounty should be given when the price of flour exceeded 25 shillings per hundred pounds.

It is not at all probable that the farmers derived any benefit from an act having so many provisions.

January 30, 1807:— Hon. Gabriel G. Ludlow, President and Commander in Chief, in his speech at the opening of the legislature throws some light upon the convivial habits of the day. He said:--

"It is a subject well deserving your consideration how far the increasing consumption of Rum which threatens to enervate the present rising generation may be safely checked, and whether it will be possible to apply such a duty as will contribute to this desirable end. High port duties increase the temptation to smuggling (a practice already too prevalent) and instead of lessening the consumption of the article only injure the fair importer. Perhaps the most effectual way to answer the double purpose would be to have recourse to the place of consumption by rating the retailer of spirituous liquors according to the quantity he sells. The success attending the interior duty on malt and wine in Great Britain holds out sufficient encouragement for us to adopt a similar practice. And as the growing burthen of the poor rates is much augmented by the free use of spirituous liquors, it may perhaps be thought a relief to the country should the produce arising from this source in each county be approximated to the support of its poor. Taxation will then contribute to guard the morals of society as well as be the means of its support."

The only practical result of the suggestion thus made was an increase in the duty paid on rum which by a vote of 11 yeas to 9 nays was fixed at 7 1/2d. per gallon.

In the course of the same speech from which we have already quoted, Col. Ludlow observes that, "The autumn of the year 1804 was ushered in with such premature and severe frosts as occasioned a great diminution of the crops and in some parts of the province the inhabitants suffered much distress throughout the spring and summer following. The evil appeared too general for the hand of private charity." His Honor goes on to say that he had endeavored by a small loan of provisions to the most indigent to enable them to support their families till the next harvest.

Another war with France was now in progress and a regiment was enrolled for the defence of the province by the efforts of Major General Hunter, Col. John Coffin and others, known as His Majesty's New Brunswick Fencibles. The corps was a source of pride to its promoters, and the House of Assembly donated fifty guineas to Lt. Col. Geo. Johnstone, its commander, to provide a silver trumpet with the arms of the province engraved thereon. Col. Johnstone gracefully acknowledged the gift, saying, "I trust whenever the regiment is more actively employed they will imitate the conduct of the donors, whose valor was proved in innumerable instances, and whose attachment to his majesty's person and the British constitution led them to forsake their dearest interests."

The journals of the Assembly record the expenditure of small sums of money on the roads and bridges during the early years of the century. The following is an example. "Voted £25 to assist the inhabitants of Northampton to level and improve a road across the unlocated [unallocated] lands leading from Captain McKay's near Necawigack to Woolverton's in the same parish." In the session of 1810 Peter Fraser of York County introduced a bill in the same house of Assembly to extend the franchise to Roman Catholics which they had not always been able to enjoy owing to a provision in the election act of 1791 which obliged the voter, if required by the candidates or their agents, to take an oath to which the Roman Catholics had conscientious objections. The act passed at this session for their relief received the royal sanction the following year and became law. Mr. Fraser's zeal in this matter increased his popularity with his Madawaska constituents, whose interests doubtless he had in mind in promoting it.

On February 13, 1812, Attorney General Wetmore brought in a bill with the curious title of "A bill to restrain all persons from marriage until their former wives and former husbands be dead."

The outbreak of the war with the United States in 1812 again checked the progress of the province, and during the next three or four years the journals of the House of Assembly are largely concerned with matters pertaining to the defence of the country. The grants for roads and bridges remained in abeyance, and militia law enactments, provisions for the organization of volunteer corps, for transmission of dispatches, for the billeting of troops when on the march, etc., occupied the attention of the legislature.

On February 13, 1813, Gen. Smyth, the administrator of the government, submitted an estimate of the probable expenses for the defence of the province, and expressed the hope "that the representatives of a brave and loyal people will on this ocasion employ every practicable means in aid of the exertions made by the mother country for the protection of this colony."


W. O. Raymond


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[Published 4 August 1897]