Chapter 5

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CHAPTER 5.
PROVINCIAL SOCIETY IN TRANSITION

The instinctive purpose of the leading Loyalists of New Brunswick to establish a society based on loyalty and permanency of British connection, and characterized by paternalistic government, class distinctions, and traditional lines of behaviour, formed an easily recognizable motif for the first fifty years of New Brunswick history, and the subordinating influences of that purpose stood out with a large degree of clarity. A central theme for the next two decades is less easy to perceive.
While the province had emerged as a whole from the frontier-stage, society continued to exhibit locally certain frontier characteristics, such as intemperance, rowdyism, and illiteracy. These manifestations of a lack of adjustment to new conditions were not abated by the increased tempo of immigration, particularly after the Irish famine of 1845, nor by the injudicious speculation, followed by periods of depression, which, as before, accompanied a persistent reliance on lumber as a staple industry.
During this period the province experienced a number of disasters, including a typhus epidemic in 1847 in which Saint John, as the port of entry for the majority of the immigrants, suffered particularly; an outbreak of Asiatic cholera in 1854; and severe fires in the city of Saint John in 1837, 1839, and 1841. Adverse weather conditions led to serious crop-failures in 1836 and 1845, and, in general, the status of agriculture continued to be rather depressed for the same reasons that had obtained earlier. There was, however, increased emphasis on the agricultural possibilities of the province by lecturers, editors, legislators, and governors. Lt.-Governor Sir John Harvey, in a letter to Lord John Russell in 1840, said that he had urged, and would continue to urge, on the people of New Brunswick a steady attention to agriculture in preference to lumbering pursuits, and expressed the opinion that the farmers of New Brunswick had only to adopt an improved system of agriculture in order to insure the fulfilment of every reasonable expectation.1 As an example of gubernatorial concern over the unfitness of the majority of the Irish immigrants for farming, we may note that Lt.-Governor Colebrooke wrote in 1842: “In regarding the colonies as a refuge for the indigent classes it is manifest that so arduous a mode of life” , (as farming), “requires that their previous habits and experience should in some degree have prepared them to encounter its trials, model colonies at home might thus be made a means of training for Emigration to the settlements abroad and if the habits of self dependence should thus be acquired and skill in the rude arts in which, the American settlers excel their difficulties would be abridged and their success more effectually assured.” 2 Incidentally, Cole-
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brooke's concern may have been sharpened by clashes between the Irish and Orangemen. In reporting such episodes at Fredericton, Saint John, and Woodstock in 1847, Colebrooke stressed the importance “of guarding against the adoption of any public measures which would have the effect at this time of promoting an extensive emigration from Ireland, without a corresponding increase of population from other parts of the United Kingdom” .3 Among the public speakers and newspaper men who were vocal on the subject of agriculture we note the Rev. W. T. Wishart, who gave a number of lectures before the Mechanics Institute of Saint John. Speaking in the hall of that body in 1845, Wishart, after showing how the agriculture of Scotland had been raised from a deplorable condition to a high state of efficiency by means of agricultural societies and meetings, the publication of useful practical works, the institution of a professorship of agriculture, the importation of seeds and plants, and the application of chemistry to an investigation of soils and manures, asked why might this not be done in New Brunswick. He declared that in a few years the province would be stripped of its timber, and that our legislators should be devising means by which new resources might be ready to supply the failure of lumber as a staple product.4 The same note was sounded by the editor of the New Brunswick Courier at a time when the end of the old navigation system had given rise to a feeling that Britain had deserted her colonies, and that the timber trade of the province would be ruined, The editorial in question commented favorably on the action just taken by the legislature in employing Professor Johnston to ascertain the agricultural capabilities of the province, but declared that something must be done to carry out Professor Johnston's views, and suggested that the science of agriculture might be introduced into our schools, especially in the country, and that Model Farms, which had proved of advantage in other parts of the world, might be established in New Brunswick.5 The scientist referred to, Professor J. F. W. Johnston, F.R.S., bore witness in his report that in New Brunswick a more general feeling appeared to prevail on the subject of agriculture among all educated persons than he had met anywhere else.6 Professor Johnston's report was a valuable document, although over-optimistic about the agricultural possibilities of the province. It is interesting to note that the year in which it was presented in the legislature the subject of converting King's College into an agricultural school, with a model farm attached, came up for discussion in the Assembly for the first time.
Carried over from an earlier day were other problems and concerns besides those to which brief reference has just been made. Among such was the question of the Maine boundary which vexed a good part of the governorship of Sir John Harvey, and was not settled until 1842 by the Ashburton Treaty. Another was a legacy of the imperial connection. We saw earlier that during the Napoleonic Wars the mercantile system of the Empire had become “heavily
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weighted in favour of the colonies” 7 through differential duties. Under the stimulus of the tariff favoring colonial wood, New Brunswick had built up a large trade with the United Kingdom in timber. The rise of a new manufacturing class in England and the trade depression which followed the Napoleonic Wars increased the numbers of those who championed freer trade. In 1821 there was a minor reduction of colonial protection. Others followed, and in 1849 preferential duties were abolished, and the ships of all nations might carry what they would from colonial ports. “All these drastic changes ended the old colonial system. It is hardly putting it too strongly to say that as they virtually all proceeded from English attention to English interests, . . . they constituted an attitude on the part of England to break away from her own empire.” 8 Naturally, the colonies bitterly opposed these changes, and in New Brunswick the lumber trade and the prosperity of the province seemed to face disaster, although possibly the correspondent, who signed the name Paul Jones to an article in the Courier in 1850, saw compensations in the abolition of the lumber preference. The article in question was in the form of a dialogue between Mr. Sharpe and Squire, in which the former set forth his opinion that the results of lumbering were disastrous to the welfare of New Brunswick. “It is a business, Squire, which is based on the most fictitious credit . . . Its foundation is cram and credit, the very worst two words in the English language for a new country.” The workmen were paid in goods and did not know until they settled what price was charged. Often when they settled they were in debt. It was bad, too, for agriculture. When the men should be on the land they were log-driving until the last of June. The crops, put in too late, were poor. Then the farmers cursed the country and said it would produce nothing.9 The Governor also wrote to Grey in 1850: “Your Lordship must not suppose that I myself or that the most intelligent men in New Brunswick look on the stimulus afforded to lumbering by the old protective duties as wholesome in itself, even if it were practicable to continue it. The habits of reckless speculation, and the preference of a wasteful and wandering mode of life to the quiet monotony of agriculture, are among the evils which the protective system has implanted in the province.” 10 When Lt.-Gov. Head opened the session of 1850 he expressed the belief that the effect on New Brunswick of the changes in the navigation laws would not be injurious,11 but the general view in the province was pessimistic, and it seemed to many people that there was now no advantage to the province in remaining a British colony.12 During that session, W. J. Ritchie, a member from Saint John, analyzing Lord John Russell's speech on the colonial policy of England, contended that if England would not depart from her free-trade policy, it was her duty to furnish the colonies with an outlet for their produce which might in some measure compensate them for that which they had lost; and even declared that if England did not so interfere the colonies
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would have to choose between annexation by the United States and starvation.13 Hannay has said: “There has been no period in the history of the British Colonies of North America when the tie between them and the Mother Country was so near being broken as during the years 1849 and 1850.” 14 The resentment lasted until it was found that the prosperity of the province had not been impaired by the offending British legislation. “The people of New Brunswick discovered that they could still go on building ships and sailing them, notwithstanding the competition of foreign nations, and that their market for the timber of the country bad not been seriously injured.” 15 In all the British North American colonies, however, one result of Britain's new trade policy was the emergence of the idea that closer commercial connections with the United States might prove advantageous,16 and in the early years of the fifties the question of Reciprocity became one of the controversial topics of the times.
No question, however, aroused more popular political discussion than that of Responsible Government, a question which agitated the whole of this period. This was the old controversy of Assembly versus Executive, but characterized by new vigor and more definite objectives and principles, and supplemented in its more critical stages by the “decentralizing, laissez-faire ideas of Lord Grey” .17 The struggle is seen to have not only extreme political significance but economic and social as well, when we consider that “awaiting the achievement of responsible government were many of the gravest economic problems of the century, accompanied, too, by the prosaic work of self-government - schools, and roads, fisheries and crown lands, 'rum and politics'.” 18 Thus the contest for popular control of government created much of the ferment of the forties and early fifties, and influenced, either positively or negatively, the other important issues of the period.
One aspect of the high degree of industrialization which had been taking place in England and in certain parts of the United States was progress in railroad construction. New Brunswick was not highly industrialized, although if we may believe an editorial in the Saint John Chronicle in 1837, there was considerable enterprise. This editorial declared “Proud are we to assert, that we know of no place of equal dimensions in His Majesty's widely extended territories, that can boast of so much enterprise and expediture of capital in praiseworthy and laudable pursuits, as are exhibited to the commercial world by our little Province of New Brunswick. Onward is the signal of our men of business . . . . No capital is here permitted to sleep, and the impetus that is given to all classes by its general circulation, is visible to every observing mind” .19 The year before this was written two new banks had been chartered, and the stock of two of the existing banks increased. The session of 1836 had also witnessed the first railway legislation of New Brunswick, in the incorporation of com-
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panies for the building of two railway lines.20 These circumstances may have helped to prompt the above expression of pride and confidence. We can make some allowance, too, for the note of complacency, by remembering that in 1837 New Brunswick, by contrast with Upper and Lower Canada, seemed a model province, “the brightest pearl in the chaplet of British American provinces” ,21 and fulsome self-praise was therefore in order. Unfortunately, the capital referred to was limited, and the business enterprises were on a small scale. Several of Lt.-Gov. Colebrooke's dispatches refer to this lack of capital and to the hampering effects of such limitations. In 1841, after making a circuit through the remote counties of New Brunswick, Colebrooke wrote: “The extent to which progress of the Americans has been accelerated by means of British capital obtained through the public credit is contrasted with the little encouragement in this way which the British Provinces have derived since the revolution; and the obvious inadequacy of their own means to the object, and their relative weakness compared with the neighboring states, have led the colonists to feel that the time has arrived when the realization of the advantages from British connection ought not to be longer delayed.” 22 Five years later Colebrooke wrote: “It is thus that in New England every Township is the seat of some manufacture suited to the locality and which is the source of the prosperity of the people of every class by creating a demand for employment and a market for produce, while in New Brunswick it is remarkable that with the exceptions of the encouragement given for the erection of mills for sawed lumber and some grist mills there has been scarcely an attempt made to establish any kind of manufacture —the peasantry being dependent in many cases on their own rude contrivances for the most ordinary conveniences.” 23 It would seem, therefore, that the early interest in railways in New Brunswick was not a direct result of the Industrial Revolution, but was an indication that the isolation of the province was breaking down, the continental pull was making itself felt, and a belief was beginning to prevail, especially after 1850, that prosperity depended on having the province fit into a progressive North American scheme of things.
In contrast with the isolation and insulation of the foundation years there was indeed a widening range of interests, influences, and contacts. The struggle for Responsible Government helped to broaden horizons, for it directed attention to those British provinces which had experienced, or were experiencing, a similar struggle—the Canadas and Nova Scotia; and from the latter province came weekly copies of Howe's Nova Scotian.24 Instead of the early antagonism against the United States there was now often open admiration of American municipal and educational institutions, and a tendency to refer to them as examples. In 1852 a New Brunswick legislator could quote Horace Mann and was able to describe the schools, not only of Toronto, but also of Boston. In the technical, cultural, and educational extremity of the province, men of science
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and learning were brought in to make reports, or to lay new foundations. We have already mentioned Professor Johnston. From 1838 to 1842 Abraham Gesner was engaged in making a geological survey of the province. Engineers, engaged to make surveys for the proposed railways, contributed to the technical knowledge of the colony. From Scotland came James Robb, a man of science, culture, and experience in travel, to serve as professor at King's College from 1837 to 1861. When at last Governor Colebrooke's cherished scheme of a Training School for teachers came to tardy fruition, Marshall d'Avray, a polished and cosmopolitan gentleman, was imported from England to be the first master, and remained in the province in various educational capacities until the day of his death. In 1854, Upper Canada and Nova Scotia lent Egerton Ryerson and William Dawson respectively, to act as members of a commission investigating King's College and New Brunswick education. These men, as Superintendents of Education in their respective provinces, had studied the best educational systems of the United States, and Ryerson had also visited Germany. Dr. J. C. Webster has said “Those whose vision never pierces beyond the confines of their own land are utterly unable to form an estimate of their own development, because they are lacking in standards of comparison” .25 By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, there was no excuse for the leading men of New Brunswick to plead ignorance of what other countries were doing in education. Even second-hand glimpses of what lay beyond the province could not fail to stir a spirit of reform. We find, therefore, that at the close of this period the most intelligent men of New Brunswick were quick to extol science, to give lip service at least to the idea of education for all, and to rejoice that they lived in an age of progress. Over against this, however, was the great weight of indifference which characterized a large proportion of the population. To the definitely poor, and there were many such, education seemed too much of a luxury to be considered at all. Others, in better economic circumstances thought of progress in terms of material gain, were skeptical of the value of a better education than they themselves had had, as a means of “getting on” , and strongly opposed any change which would mean a greater expenditure for schools. The existence of such attitudes meant that the most active of educational reformers in New Brunswick could, like Lincoln, “advance only a little ahead of the slow-moving mass be sought to draw after him” .26
This survey of conditions in New Brunswick between the years 1833 and 1854 has showed a province harassed by many serious problems, and stirred by a number of exciting possibilities, a province subjected to a number of old, and many new, forces from within and from without, a province reluctant to leave the past but not entirely content to remain in it. All this meant at least ferment, if not ebullience, a ferment which may be considered the motif of the period.
The characteristic spirit in which the major problems of these decades were faced kept the ferment below the pitch of ebullience, yet, paradoxically,
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added to it. When the pudding does not boil furiously, it must simmer longer in the pot. Responsible Government, a Training School for teachers, the reform of King's College, the adoption of the assessment principle, were questions which for years agitated, but did not convulse, the province. A people to whom cataclysm is unnatural will hail compromises, half-measures, and petty improvements as lengthy strides in the march of progress, and thus will postpone the improvement of conditions which require remedy.
The temper of the province during these decades exhibited an empirical strain in that there seemed to be an absence of clear philosophy, an inconsistency in attitudes and alignments, a failure to understand the true meaning of abstract principles, and a tendency to interpret such principles in terms of some practical effect on individuals, institutions, and practices.
Several writers, thinking about New Brunswick trends, have commented on various aspects of this trait. Professor A. G. Bailey, referring to the rugged individualism of New Brunswick's political and industrial leaders during the pre-Confederation period, has noted that the effect of the small-scale enterprise of the province and its geographical segregation induced a “highly particularist attitude to the problems of life” .27 Hannay has remarked that New Brunswick has always been slow to make constitutional changes, even when such changes were based on sound principles, and adds: “There has often been a great disposition on the part of our people to judge the merits of a question rather by its effect upon individuals than by its relation to the public interests” .28 Professor Chester Martin, commenting on the illogicalities in the development of responsible government in New Brunswick, has observed succinctly that there was “more of Martha than of Mary in the phlegmatic political temper of New Brunswick” .29 Finally, to pile quotation upon quotation, William Smith has said: “One cannot but be struck with the difference in the aims which the people of New Brunswick set before themselves, as compared with those sought in other provinces. While they were struggling to widen the sphere of self-government, New Brunswick confined itself to strictly practical objectives. The people instinctively accepted Pope's dictum, 'for forms of government let fools contest', and were quite satisfied with a government which administered their affairs as they wished, let its form be what it might. If a constitutional principle was cited, it was simply to reinforce a plea advanced on other grounds for some object they desired to obtain” .30
While we need not concern ourselves here with the details of the development of responsible government, it is well to keep in mind that there was a definite connection between political and educational developments in New Brunswick. For one thing, political questions, appearing more alluring and exciting than other developments, tended to occupy the centre of the stage and to leave only a modicum of time, interest, energy, and thought for educational problems. The most intelligent and liberal-minded men of the province were
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absorbed in the political struggle. While L. A. Wilmot served on education committees time after time in the eighteen-forties, his position as one of the leaders for political reforms demanded his best talents and much of his time. The same might be said of Charles Fisher. Moreover, with so many important constitutional issues hanging in the balance, even the most personally unselfish legislators hesitated to push unpopular questions, such as assessment for schools, lest they jeopardize, not only their own political careers, but also the cause of political reform. This negative effect of politics on education was perhaps more marked in New Brunswick than in the other British North American provinces, because here the achievement of full responsible government was such a long drawn-out process of fits and starts, retrogressions, delays, and half-measures.
There was still another link between politics and schools. Either because members of the Assembly failed to understand the real meaning of responsible government, or understanding it, preferred a partial application of the system to losing certain personal advantages, the majority of the House opposed transferring from the Assembly to the Executive the right to initiate money votes, even though the Executive of this period differed a good deal from the old Executives with which early Assemblies had clashed so frequently. According to the time-worn procedure, any member of the Assembly could propose on the floors of the House a grant for a bye-road or a school in his constituency, and gain support for his resolution by promising his support for similar resolutions by other members.31 That this was an inefficient method of doing business was proved when the sizable fortune, which had accrued to the province on Britain's surrender in 1837 of the casual and territorial revenue, was squandered in five years. Yet in 1842, when the province was heavily in debt, a resolution passed in the Assembly that it was inexpedient to alter the existing mode of appropriation, which, tested as it was by fifty years of exper ience, gave satisfaction to the people of the province.32 Not only did this way of making appropriations waste money, but time was also lost in what Lt.-Gov. Head called the “intrinsic absurdity” of discussing in detail votes of £ 10 for the repair of a bye-road or the relief of an aged widow.33 In spite, however, of the obvious defects of the system, and in spite of plain-speaking on the matter on the part of Lt.-Governors Colebrooke and Head, the Assembly, as a whole, continued to resent any suggestions for change that were put forward by the more liberal members. Outside the Assembly in 1849, but soon to be an important political figure, S. L. Tilley denounced the extravagance and inefficiency of the old way in an indictment which made particular reference to the schools of the province. Tilley, the Chairman of a special committee of the New Brunswick Colonial Association, in presenting a report of the committee recommending economy in provincial expenditures and a reduction in the salaries of public functionaries, scored the existing system of initiating money grants as corrupt, and declared that the school system was not only inefficient but discreditable to
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the province. He suggested that the schools of the Eastern States should be studied, and a competent person engaged to organize a corresponding system in New Brunswick, and stated that “it would be impossible to find in the history of any country a precedent for such a system of jobbing, gross corruption, electioneering and bribery, as our Legislators have introduced into their mode of making School and Bye-road appropriations” .34 Tilley, it is true, was in opposition to the government of the day, but there is evidence arising from other sources that he did not greatly exaggerate.
If the peculiarities of the New Brunswick temperament had influenced only political developments during this period, there would be little reason to emphasize those peculiarities as we have done. It is illogical, however, to suppose that a people who approached serious political issues without a clear conception of the principles involved would think very deeply in educational matters, or would care to look very far ahead. That educational reforms proceeded in the same halting and rather desultory fashion as political reforms will emerge later from a detailed study of educational measures, but to suggest at this point that educational developments in this period had little enough of clear policy back of them, and were generally of a last-minute stopgap nature will help us to distinguish these characteristics later, in the midst of a vast assortment of heterogeneous facts.
Some of the hesitation in effecting political and educational changes came, of course, from that other prominent New Brunswick trait conservatism. This quality, a legacy of the circumstances under which the province had been founded in 1784, had become deeply rooted during the long period of rule by the Family Compact. Expressions of pride in the loyalty and good-behaviour of the province, such as would have disgusted “A Manchester Turnout” 35 were current coin in the language of the press, the lecture hall, the assembly room, and the official dispatch. As we have seen, the ultra-Tories had been careful to identify innovation with disloyalty, but even those who were aware that change might sometimes be the practical expression of a high type of patriotism repudiated any methods of effecting reforms which might be considered unconstitutional, and not infrequently, when suggesting that the province might profit from the study of American municipal or educational institutions, hastened to declare a prejudice against a Republican form of Government, lest their loyalty be doubted. When, in 1850, the editor of the New Brunswick Courier stated that “the people of New Brunswick have always chosen to do their political work in the legal and prescribed manner” , he implied that this was so because they were “quiet and conservative by nature and education” .36 Inevitably, anything coercive, such as compulsory school assessment or insistence on the attendance of all teachers at a training school, seemed drastic to people of this temperament. The whole course of the struggle for responsible government reveals the fact, that, while they might be unpredictable in their reactions to the details
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of a question, they were invariably cautious and deliberate in making a great decision. So it was in education. Projects for improvement evolved by slow degrees, and the more rapid progress of other countries often failed to present a challenge, being quietly dismissed as unsuitable to New Brunswick conditions. Nevertheless, in these crowded years, these fermenting forties and fifties, a conservative people, prone to be more concerned with practical details than with profound philosophies, did move forward considerably in educational theory and practice. The separate steps in this adjustment to changing times and conditions must now claim our attention.

Notes

^1. P. A. of Canada, C0188, Vol. VIII, Harvey to Russell, Sept. 8, 1840, Disp. 66.

^2. Ibid., Vol. IX, Colebrooke to Stanley, Feb. 16, 1842, Disp. 20.

^3. Ibid., Vol. X, Colebrooke to Grey, July 30, 1847, Separate with Dispatch 73.

^4. Wishart, pp. 9-12.

^5. The New Brunswick Courier, Saint John, Feb. 2, 1850, Vol. 8, No. 36, p. 2.

^6. Johnston, p. 3.

^7. Lower (2), P. 103.

^8. Ibid., p. 104.

^9.The New Brunswick Courier, Saint John, Jan. 26, 1850, Vol. VII, No. 35, p. 1.

^10. P.A. of Canada, C0188, Vol. XI, Head to Grey, March 31, 1849, Disp. 32.

^11. Hannay (1), Vol. 2, p. 132.

^12. Ibid., p. 138.

^13. The New Brunswick Courier, Saint John, March 23, 1850, Vol. 8, No. 43, p. 2.

^14. Hannay (1), Vol. 2, p. 130.

^15. Ibid., p. 138.

^16. Lower (2), p. 106.

^17. Ibid., Footnote on p. 104.

^18. Martin (2), p. 361.

^19. Martell, p. 56.

^20. Hannay (1), Vol. 2, p. 31.

^21. P. A. of Canada, Can. Misc., Delancey-Robinson Papers, Vol. 1, Smith to Harvey. Dec. 26, 1837.

^22. P A. of Canada, C0188, Vol. 9, Colebrooke to Russell, July 15, 1841, Disp. 37.

^23. Ibid., Vol. 10, Colebrooke to Grey, April 27, 1847, Disp. 33.

^24. Baker, p. 58.

^25. Webster, Foreword to The Distressed Maritimes, p. 4.

^26. Parrington (2), p. 156.

^27. Bailey A. G. (1), p. 8.

^28. Hannay (2), p. 173.

^29. Martin (2), p. 358.

^30. Smith, Wm., p. 244.

^31. Hannay (1), Vol. 2, p. 48.

^32. Ibid., p. 78.

^33. P. A. of Canada, C0188, Vol. XI, Head to Grey, May 20, 1848, Disp. 27.

^34. The New Brunswick Courier, Saint John, Nov. 10, 1849, Vol. 8, No. 24, p. 2.

^35. See pp. 77, 78.

^36. The New Brunswick Courier, Saint John, March 9, 1850, Vol. 8, No. 41, p. 1.