Duncan Campbell's History of Prince Edward Island - Ch. 3


Proprietors indifferent to their engagements - Extent to which settlement was effected - Complaints of the People of nonfulfilment of engagements - Character of the Reply - The influence of the Proprietors with the Home Government - The Duke of Kent - Proposal in 1780 to name the Island New Ireland - The name adopted - Formation of Light Infantry, and Volunteer Horse - Immigration of Highlanders - Memoir of General Fanning.

As proof that the great body of the proprietors were utterly indifferent to the engagements they contracted when they obtained their lands, it is only necessary to state that in only ten of the sixty-seven townships into which the island was divided were the terms of settlement complied with, during the first ten years which had elapsed since possession was granted. In nine townships settlement was partially effected, and in forty-eight no attempt whatever at settlement seems to have been made. In 1797, or thirty years after the grants were issued, the house of- assembly, sensible of the necessity of taking action for the more effectual settlement of the island, passed a series of resolutions, - founded on a deliberate and painstaking investigation of all the townships, - which were embodied in a petition to the home government, praying that measures should be taken to compel proprietors to fulfil the conditions on which the land had been granted. The assembly drew attention to the following facts: That, on twenty-three specified townships, consisting of four hundred and fifty-eight thousand five hundred and eighty acres, not one settler was resident; that on twelve townships the population consisted only of thirty-six families, which, on an average of six persons to each family,

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numbered in the aggregate two hundred and sixteen souls, who thus constituted the entire population of more than half of the island. On these and other grounds, it appeared to the house that the failure of so many of the proprietors in implementing the terms and conditions of their grants was highly injurious to the growth and prosperity of the island, ruinous to its inhabitants, and destructive of the just expectations and views of the government in its settlement. The house contended that the long forbearance of the government, towards the proprietors who had failed to do their duty, had no other effect than to enable them to speculate on the industry of the colony. The house was of opinion that the island, if fully settled, was adequate for, the maintenance of half a million of inhabitants, and it prayed that the proprietors should be either compelled to do their duty, or that their lands should be escheated, and granted to actual settlers.

The petition embodying these views was forwarded to the Duke of Portland, - the colonial secretary at the time, - and the force of its facts and arguments seems to have been felt by the government, for a despatch was sent to Governor Fanning, intimating that measures would be adopted to rectify the grave evils enumerated in the petition. The process of escheat was not, however, acceptable to the proprietors who had done their duty by settling their lands, for the obvious reason, that in the event of free grants being made of the forfeited property, the tenants on the already-settled land would prefer to give up their farms and become proprietors. In conformity with the promise made by government, Governor Fanning, in his speech to the assembly in November, 1802, said that he had the satisfaction to inform them, on the highest authority, that the public affairs of the island had been brought under the consideration of His Majesty's ministers in a manner highly favorable to the

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late humble and dutiful representations made on behalf of the inhabitants, respecting the many large, unsettled, and uncultivated tracts of land in the island. In order to give effect to the measures which had been adopted by His Majesty's ministers, it would be necessary that the government of the island should be prepared to adopt, when circumstances should render it advisable, the requisite and legal steps for effectually revesting in His Majesty such lands as might be liable to be escheated. The house, in their reply to the address, requested a more explicit statement from his excellency as to the information which he had received on this important subject; to which his excellency replied, that he had already presented all the information which it was in his power to furnish. It does indeed seem strange that the governor should have been instructed to refer officially to measures which "had been adopted" by the home government for the rectification of an admitted evil, and yet was apparently unable to explain the character of these measures for the guidance of the assembly in a branch of legislation which they were unequivocally invited to adopt. Such mysterious reticence was in direct opposition to ordinary governmental procedure in similar cases. But the local government., never dilatory in business connected with escheat, prepared a bill entitled "An act for effectually revesting in His Majesty, his heirs and successors, all such lands as are, or may be, liable to forfeiture within this island," which was passed by the assembly and assented to by the governor on the second of April, 1803. It did seem a mockery of the assembly when that bill was, contrary to the expectations of the people, disallowed by the home government, without any reason assigned. A committee on the state of the colony accordingly drew up a strong and spirited remonstrance, in which they boldly said:

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"It appears to the committee, and they have the strongest reason to believe, that the royal assent to the said act for reinvesting His Majesty with such lands as are or may be liable to forfeiture within this island, has been graciously approved by His Majesty." They then expressed their conviction, which was well founded, that the formal royal allowance had been withheld by means of unfounded representations of interested individuals in England. The committee sent these resolutions to 'William and Thomas Knox, the agents for the island in London, with instructions to use their utmost efforts to give effect to the remonstrance; and the house of assembly also presented an address to the lieutenant-governor, complaining of the efforts that had been made to render His Majesty's intentions abortive, requesting him to transmit their petition and resolutions to Lord Castlereagh, and duplicates to the Earl of Liverpool, president of the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Plantations. The house also appointed a committee, consisting of Holland, Macgowan, Stewart, Palmer, and Macdonald, to draw up a new bill, substantially the same as the former, which was duly passed. Nothing was wanting on the part of the assembly to neutralize the influence brought to bear in London in order to frustrate their intentions; and if the British government had not on this occasion lost its usual character for consistency and adherence to principles, so explicitly enunciated, the royal intentions, as intimated by the lieutenant-governor, would have been honestly carried out. The period was one of great political excitement in London. Lord Hobart, through whom the governor had received a solemn promise that the evil complained of would be rectified, had given place in the colonial secretaryship to the exciteable Castlereagh, and the solemn obligations of office appear to have been forgotten in the political fermen-

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tation of the moment. It would be difficult to point out, in the history of the British colonial administration, another instance where the dictates of political consistency and honor were so flagrantly disregarded as in the case under review.

The influence exerted on government by the proprietors resident in London seemed irresistible, and was such as no government of our time could tolerate. The key to their power seems to be found in the circumstances that they were, for the most part, men in intimate social relations with parties in office, and, moreover, mainly consisted of officers who were supposed to have rendered good service in time of war, and whose complaints or representations, therefore, commanded at all times the royal consideration and sympathy. The proprietors, besides, cultivated the good-will and friendship of the under-secretaries, and other secondary government officials, who kept them informed of what was going on. and contributed in many indirect ways to promote their views. Mr. Stuart, in his letters to Governor Patterson, - who was by no means distinguished for the suaviter in modo, - frequently urged him to write certain persons in the government offices in a conciliatory and friendly manner, as he was convinced that they could exert no small influence in behalf of his interests. The proprietors not only succeeded in preventing the resolutions commended by the Duke of Portland from leading to any practical result, but also in obtaining, in 1802, an important reduction in the quitrents which remained unpaid, and which now amounted to the large sum of fifty-nine thousand one hundred and sixty-two pounds sterling; the sum due on some of the townships being actually more than their estimated value. In order to discriminate between the proprietors who had exerted themselves to carry out the terms of their grants,

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and those who had not, the government divided the commutation into four classes, requiring from the proprietors who had on their property the necessary number of settlers only five years' quitrents, instead of thirty-two years, - namely, from 1769 to 1801 , - and making a proportionate deduction in the case of the four other classes. But as evidence of the determination of many of the landowners not to conform to the law, and their confidence in their own power to set the regulations of government at defiance, - as they had hitherto systematically done, - it may be here stated, that even the reduced amount does not seem to have been paid; and it was mainly in consequence of such daring and long-continued violation of obligation that the people, from time to time, in paroxysms of just indignation, demanded the establishment of courts of escheat.

In 1794, Prince Edward - afterwards Duke of Kent, and father of Her Majesty the Queen - arrived in Halifax. In that year two provincial companies were raised for the protection of the island, and when His Royal highness became commander-in-chief of the forces in British North America, he ordered new barracks to be erected at Charlottetown, and defensive works for the protection of the harbor to be constructed. The Duke never visited the island, but its inhabitants were duly sensible of the practical interest he took in its welfare; and having determined that its name should be changed, on account of the mistakes incident to other towns bearing the same designation, a local act was introduced in 1798, which changed the name to Prince Edward Island, which act received the royal allowance on the first of February, 1799. We find that in the year 1780, an act for altering the name of the island from Saint John to that of New Ireland was passed in the assembly with a suspending clause. In a letter addressed by Mr. Stuart to governor

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Patterson, dated the third of March, 1781, he says: "Your passing an act to change the name of the island is considered as a most unprecedented instance of irregularity. The reasons you give why it should be changed are admitted to be of some force, but they insist upon it that you ought, in common decency, to have set forth those reasons in a petition to the King, instead of passing a presumptuous act which is neither warranted by law nor usage." This act was, of course, disallowed; but the governor did not lose sight of the hint as to petitioning, as appears from a passage in another letter from Stuart to Governor Patterson, dated October, 1783, in which he says: "I am not unmindful of your petition for changing the name of the island, but I keep it back till we shall have carried points of more importance. When they are accomplished, I shall bring it forward." Had the first application been made by petition to the King, it is extremely probable that the proposed change of name would have been adopted.

Besides the two companies mentioned, a light infantry company and three troops of volunteer horse were formed in the island, who were handsomely clothed and mounted at their own expense, and armed at the expense of the government; at this time every man from sixteen to sixty years of age was subject to the militia laws. These wise precautions prevented any hostile descent on the island during the war, and tended to infuse a spirit of self-reliance and patriotic ardor into the community.

If the reduction of the quitrents failed as an inducement to the proprietors to pay what was now really due to government, it did not fail to lead to brisk business in the sale of property, for from the commutation to the year 1806, nearly a third of the entire land in the island had been transferred by purchase to persons, many of whom were really deter-

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mined, by industry and strict regard to law, to make the venture permanently profitable.

The year 1803 was remarkable in the history of the island for a large immigration of highlanders from Scotland. The Earl of Selkirk brought out to his property about eight hundred souls. They were located on land north and south of Point Prim, which had been previously occupied by French settlers, but a large portion of which was now again covered with wood, and thus rendered difficult of cultivation. Many of his lordship's tenants became successful settlers.

Lieutenant-General Fanning's connection with the island, as governor, terminated in 1804. During his administration the island did not make any remarkable progress in its various interests; but Mr. John McGregor, - a native of the island, and of whom we shall have more to say by-and-bye, - in his work on British North America, has hardly done the general justice, in representing him as of very "obscure origin, and owing his future to circumstances, the advantages of which he had the finesse to seize." General Edmund Fanning was a native of America, and was born in the Province of New York, on the twenty-fourth of April, 1739. He was the son of James Fanning, a captain in the British service, and of his second wife Mary Smith, daughter of Colonel William Smith, who for some time administered the government of New York, and was sole proprietor of Smith Town, on Long Island. The paternal grandfather of General Fanning came to America, from Ireland, with Earl Bellemont, in 1699.

Captain James Fanning, having disposed of his commission while in England, returned to New York in 1748, when his son Edmund, then in the ninth year of his age, was sent to a preparatory school, and thence removed to

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Yale College, New Haven, where, after going through the regular course of collegiate studies, he received the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts; and in 1774 he was honored by the University of Oxford, England, with the degree of Doctor of Civil Law. From college he proceeded to North Carolina, where, after studying two years under the attorney general of that province, he was, in 1762, admitted to the bar. He was successful in his procession; but the troubles of the eventful period in America which followed the passing of the Stamp Act by the British Parliament, induced him to enter the civil and military service of his country. In 1765 he was appointed by Governor Tryon of North Carolina one of the Judges of the Supreme Court in that province in the room of Mr. Justice Moore, who was dismissed from office upon the supposition of his favoring the public commotions at the time existing in North Carolina. In 1768 he raised, at the request of Governor Tryon, a corps of eight hundred provincials to oppose and put down a body of insurgents who styled themselves regulators, whose object was to rescue from trial and punishment leading rebels. In 1771 he was again called upon by Governor Tryon to raise and embody a corps of provincials to suppress an insurrection in North Carolina, and was second to Governor Tryon at the battle of Allamance, in which action the insurgents, to the number of twelve thousand, were totally defeated.

In the year 1773 Colonel Fanning went to England, strongly recommended to His Majesty's ministers for his services in North Carolina. Having applied for the office of Chief Justice of Jamaica, he received a letter from Lord Dartmouth, then secretary of state for the American department, stating that it was impossible in this case to comply with his wishes, but that he should have the first vacant post that

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might be deemed worthy of his services. Having received this assurance, he returned to America. Two months after his arrival at New York, he was appointed to the office of surveyor general of that province, the annual fees of which were said to be worth two thousand two hundred pounds sterling. But in the following year Colonel Fanning was driven from his house in New York, and took refuge on hoard the Asia, ship of war. He afterwards served in the army, having raised a regiment called "The King's American Regiment." During the war he was twice wounded. There is ample proof that he discharged his military duties with courage and ability.

On the 24th of February, 1783, Colonel Fanning was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, an appointment which he accepted with a promise from Lords Sydney and North that it should lead to something better. Subsequently John Parr was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, and, as previously stated, Governor Fanning was ordered to relieve Governor Patterson, of Prince Edward Island, which he did in the confident expectation that he should succeed to the government of Nova Scotia on the retirement or death of Parr. In 1791 Fanning was informed of the death of Parr by a letter from Richard Buckeley, president of the council of Nova Scotia, who concluded by saying, "as the government of this province, by His Majesty's late instructions, devolves on you, as senior lieutenant-governor, I accordingly give you early notice of the vacancy." This information was received too late in the autumn to admit of Governor Fanning's proceeding to Halifax, and while making preparations for going thither, he was informed that the position was conferred on Mr. Wentworth, - intelligence which caused him great disappointment, as he had well-founded expectations of succeeding to the govern-

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ment of Nova Scotia. The governor applied immediately for leave of absence, but was politely refused, on the ground that his absence might, in time of war, prove dangerous to the island. After repeated applications, he at last received a letter from Lord Hobart, dated the 6th of May, 1804, granting him liberty to return to England after the arrival of Colonel DesBarres, and informing him that His Majesty had directed that, in consideration of his long and faithful services, a provision at the rate of five hundred pounds sterling should be made for him yearly in the estimates of the island. Addresses were presented to the governor before his departure, by the council, the respective counties, and the grand jury of the Island. In 1816 General Fanning closed his accounts at the audit office, when His Majesty's ministers, to mark their approval of his administration of the government of the island, directed a retrospective increase of his salary from the period of his appointment to the colony, in 1786, to that of his retirement. General Fanning died at his residence in Upper Seymore Street, London, on the 28th of February, 1818, in the seventy-ninth year of his age.

Here we introduce to our readers the Rev. Theophilus DesBrisay, who, by royal warrant, dated the twenty-first day of September, 1774, was appointed to "the parish of Charlotte." Mr. DesBrisay was the son of the gentleman who has been mentioned as administrator of the island during the absence of Governor Patterson. He was born in Thurles, in the County of Tipperary, Ireland, on the ninth of October, 1754, arrived in the island in the year 1775, and was rector of Charlotte Parish till his death, which occurred on the fourteenth of March, 1823. He was the only protestant clergyman on the island till the year 1820; was a man of sterling character, and a faithful servant of the Divine Master. Like Bishop McEachern

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and others, he was subjected, in the faithful discharge of his sacred duty, to privations of which the present generation have no adequate conception.*

* In Dr. Patterson's memoir of the late Rev. Dr. James Macgregor, there is an interesting reference to an interview which the latter eminent missionary had with Mr. Desbrisay. "I afterwards," wrote Dr. Macgregor,. "became acquainted with him, and was always welcome to preach in his church, which I uniformly did when I could make it convenient. His kindness ended not but with his life." Dr. Macgregor states incidentally that at this period Charlottetown was a wicked place. We may safely affirm, that it was not more wicked than any other seaport of its population...

Chapter End

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History of Prince Edward Island

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