Geography and Governance: The Problem of Saint John (New Brunswick) 1785 - 1927

This essay was written as an attempt to explore the influence of location and political culture in New Brunswick, with particular reference to the province’s chief port and its largest city. Readers should be warned that it has developed into a book-length discussion, but still concludes that many issues must be regarded as unresolved.



Ged Martin                                   May 2016      (minor corrections, 26 June - 5 July 2017)



The problem of Saint John: some disclaimers * The Great Fire of 1877: a dramatic interlude? * The problem of success * The writing of history * Sources * Maps


The Harbour and the St John River * The problem of Saint John: three peninsulas * The problem of Saint John: hinterlands * Hinterlands: the Bay of Fundy * Defending the Fundy hinterland * Attempts to expand the Fundy hinterland * Hinterlands: the St John valley * The Reversing Falls and Indiantown * The Eastern Corridor hinterland * Saint John’s western hinterland * Saint John and its hinterlands


Urban governance: Portland (New Brunswick) * Urban governance: Carleton (Saint John West Side) * Urban governance: constitution and constituency * Freemen and Americans * ‘Little gifted with reflection and forethought’ * Paying for the piping * Harbour management and port development * External dimensions of urban governance: Fredericton * The political culture of New Brunswick * Ottawa: the first decade * Ottawa and the political culture of New Brunswick * Ottawa: New Brunswick in cabinet * Ottawa: the Harvey to Salisbury line





This essay forms part of a personal attempt to understand the dynamics of New Brunswick history in the nineteenth century. It argues that the province’s major port city, Saint John, constituted an interlocking ‘problem’, a combination of locational, political and social elements that combined to hamper positive response to change. Some of these difficulties were tackled, or at least temporarily mitigated, in the decade after 1889, and the main part of the essay focuses on the period to the late eighteen-nineties. (It also reflects in its emphasis a personal interest in the immediate decades before Confederation in 1867.) However, underlying challenges would remain: a concluding section outlines the themes through to 1927, when the port of Saint John finally came under full Ottawa control, and asks whether in tackling the problem of Saint John, its boosters had truly resolved the underlying problem. The opening sections discuss implications of the hypothesis, offering some disclaimers and identifying the major sources on which the discussion is based. Readers may prefer to move direct to the short section on Internet map references, which prefaces the two-part discussion of geography and governance. (For anyone reading on-line, it seems preferable to open a parallel screen and consult a decently drawn map. No attempt has been made to add sketch maps to this text.) The first main section (II: The Problem of Saint John: geography) explores challenges inherent in Saint John’s immediate location and wider hinterland. This, in turn, leads to an outline examination of issues of governance, both within the urban area itself and more widely, through the provincial seat of government at Fredericton and, after 1867, the Dominion capital, Ottawa (III: The Problem of Saint John: Urban Governance).

The problem of Saint John: some disclaimers

Some will undoubtedly feel that it can only be an exaggeration to categorise an entire urban community as a ‘problem’. Hence, the proposition is offered primarily to encourage discussion about nineteenth-century Saint John, within its New Brunswick and Canadian contexts. Motivational experts would no doubt define a problem as a challenge, and insist that a challenge is an opportunity.

Since the theme is a hypothesis rather than a pronouncement, it is appropriate that it should be prefaced with some disclaimers. First comes the obvious point, discussed below, that the problem of Saint John resulted from the success of Saint John, which in the mid-nineteenth century was the largest city in the Atlantic region of British North America. Moreover, it may seem perverse to include in the problem of Saint John two elements which were fundamental to that success, Saint John’s fine harbour, and the river system which gave it an extensive (but, in textbook terms, not precisely defined) hinterland: many coastal cities would have coveted either of them.2

             It is also important to stress that my discussion primarily relates to the nineteenth century, and is not intended as even an oblique commentary on contemporary issues. Modern-day Saint John often has to contend with negative perceptions: of Canada’s 27 Census Metropolitan Areas, it was rated 24th on lifestyle criteria in 2004, just ahead of the Quebec cities of Saguenay, and Trois-Rivières, plus Sudbury, in northern Ontario.3 It can indeed be argued that one challenge to the prosperity of Saint John in the past half century came from the reversal of a major late nineteenth-century success: the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway in 1959 undermined the port’s hard-won status as Canada’s winter trade outlet.4 It may also be contended that the channelling of Canadian export trade through the port was in any case dangerously dependent upon favourable freight rates, which proved to be politically unsustainable in even the medium term – causing shocks which triggered a rare attempt to create a common front of regional grievance in the nineteen-twenties.5 However, the severity of the impacts of these setbacks was itself testimony to the success of Saint John in positioning itself as a major Canadian winter port around 1900.

Two other potential weaknesses in the economic base of the twentieth century city can be traced back to the seventeen-eighties, when both the provincial university and the seat of government were located in Fredericton. It is not clear that Saint John suffered greatly from either of these decisions during in the nineteenth century. It is only with the explosion in higher education in the past half century that universities have become an economic asset to their host communities. Saint John did engage in occasional spasms of resentment about its loss of the provincial capital but, overall, the rarity of its challenges to the status of Fredericton seems to prove the unimportance of the issue – while the occasional campaigns to host the legislature and bureaucracy were chiefly notable for the city’s inability to construct pan-provincial alliances to realise its aspirations.6 It is hard to assess whether, and, if so, to what extent, Saint John suffered from not being the provincial seat of government. Despite having its own civic institutions, the city was remarkably dependent upon the provincial legislature for favours: one reason why legislators from northern New Brunswick resisted calls to transfer the legislature seems to have been the fear that Saint John was already too importunate in pressing its needs. As Tilley remarked in 1858, Saint John voters themselves were ‘indifferent’ to the issue. Even if the lack of a university and a legislature had caused problems in the nineteenth century (which seems unlikely), neither can be regarded as a serious disadvantage today. UNB Saint John has had half a century to evolve in response to the needs of its community, while the capital is within an hour’s drive of the city, and some planners favour the development of a Fredericton-Saint John corridor.

It should also be made clear that I do not seek to argue that Saint John was a problem by loading the case with drama. The city suffered three major disasters within thirty years: sectarian riots in 1849, cholera in 1854 (the disease had previously hit, in 1832) and, in 1877, the Great Fire – so called because parts of the city had burned before, but not on this scale. The city’s response to the cholera outbreak, and the continuing semi-exclusion of the Irish Catholic community from civic life are discussed as aspects of governance later in this essay. The Great Fire, however, merits consideration at this point. It would seem wrong to perpetrate a large disquisition upon nineteenth-century Saint John, and not give at least some attention to its most devastating episode.

The Great Fire of 1877: a dramatic interlude?

Popular history is a narrative of dramatic events; academic history seeks to identify trends and account for change. Their differing priorities help to explain why the Great Fire of 1877 seems poorly integrated into scholarly discussion of nineteenth-century Saint John. Historians have come to regard the disaster as a largely coincidental landmark rather than a cause of the city’s underlying problems, such as those associated with the decline of the wooden sailing ship.7 In a few hours on the afternoon of 20 June 1877, the fire devastated about eighty hectares of the main peninsula and killed nineteen people (compared with the legendary Miramichi fire of 1825, the death toll was mercifully small), but up to 15,000 people were left homeless.8 ‘Strong men wept as they beheld the scene of desolation.’9 ‘The business part of the city is nearly all gone...’ Tilley wrote to Sir John A. Macdonald. ‘You can scarcely imagine the extent of the present desolation in St. John at this moment. ... Politics in New Brunswick is for the present dead. People can think and talk of nothing but this fearful calamity.’10

Could the city recover? It had bounced back from fires before, but never on this scale. Observers from sleepy Halifax had been impressed by Saint John’s rebound from a disaster in November 1841. ‘It is but little more than a month since the fire took place, and the rapid erection of new buildings is but another example of the spirit and unconquerableness of the businessmen of the Sister City. ... One or two such fires would ruin Halifax; the sites of the houses would lay [sic] vacant, perhaps, for years; but no sooner is a block burnt down in St. John, than ... up goes another range, as if by magic.’11 But 35 buildings had been destroyed in 1841, compared with over 1600 in 1877. Property valued at between $27 and $30 million was destroyed in the Great Fire. Much of it was uninsured. Central government grants, supplemented by charitable donations from Canada and overseas, assisted the immediate relief effort, but it seems unlikely that anything like the entire capital shortfall was made good. Saint John had rebounded after previous fires because it had rebuilt in wood: clearly, the new city would have to be constructed of brick and stone. ‘The labouring men, the masons & carpenters will all soon be employed,’ Tilley predicted, but much of the building skill now required had to be imported, short term, especially from the United States. There was indeed a construction boom, but this short-term stimulus was followed by a sense of malaise in the early eighteen-eighties. In 1905, James Hannay contrasted the Chicago fire of 1876, which proved to be a springboard for urban growth with Saint John’s apparently long-term setback the following year. Hannay added that the city’s great rival, Portland, Maine, had also been swept by a devastating fire ten years earlier, and had gone on to flourish.12

Two instant histories of the disaster were rushed into print,13 but there seems to have been no modern scholarly study assessing the impact of the event. For instance, Saint John not only celebrated in 1883 the centenary of the arrival of the Loyalists, but infused the commemoration with ‘a decidedly pro-American component.’14 It is tempting to regard the Loyalist centenary as a way of asserting that the people of Saint John had recovered from adversity before, while the unexpected prominence of the Stars and Stripes surely represented appreciation for American support in the aftermath of the disaster. Chicago rallied to the relief cause, Boston contributed $50,000. The arrival of the United States revenue cutter Gallatin bearing relief supplies had been an especially moving sight, visible testimony that the ravaged city was not alone.15 However, historians have not yet sought to connect 1877 with 1883. Similarly, there is recognition of the dramatic pace of industrialisation in the Saint John of the early eighteen-eighties – a startling phase that to some extent undermined Hannay’s despondent challenge of 1905 – but apparently no speculation regarding any link with the Great Fire.16 One contributory element here is that academic historians tend to write overview history about the Maritimes as a region, a framework that leaves little room for specific examination of one of its largest cities.17

It seems plausible to suggest that the crisis of the Great Fire hampered Saint John’s ability to adjust to two major changes in transportation technology that were converging at this time. One was the decline of the wooden sailing ship, which became apparent in the mid-eighteen-seventies, precisely coinciding with the disaster. As C.M. Wallace pointed out, in a little-noticed survey article, the shift to iron-hulled, steam-driven vessels had extensive knock-on effects. Different kinds of skills were needed, and traditional crafts and merchant activities like ship-chandlery became irrelevant as the new ships turned around faster and made less use of port facilities.18 A commentator of 1874 noted that ‘the great rise and fall of the tides’ made Courtenay Bay an obvious location for a dry dock ‘sufficiently large to contain one half of the vessels in the world’, attributing the absence of ship repairing facilities not to ‘lack of funds, but because of the lack of enterprise on the part of the monied [sic] men of the place.’ 19 Mayor James H. Frink explained in 1914 that ‘we have taken advantage of nature’s dry dock, the rise and fall of the tide. Any minor repairs have been successfully made by putting the vessel in the slip at low water, and doing the work between tides.’ It is obvious that this practice could not facilitate major repairs to iron-hulled ships20 This essay argues that the city’s standard North American response, to rebrand itself through railway connections, was largely unsuccessful as a result of two key elements of the problem of Saint John – locality and governance. However, it was an unhelpful coincidence that the Intercolonial railway, completed in 1876, was establishing its traffic patterns – directed mainly towards Halifax – at precisely the time when Saint John was fighting for its existence.

             The question of the destruction of capital is touched upon in the concluding section of this essay. It may be that much of the capital stock destroyed would have required renewal within a few years anyway: machinery will always need to be upgraded, stock renewed. Here, again, a modern scholarly study of the Great Fire might throw light on the extent of the city’s losses.

The problem of success

Historians enjoy paradox. One obvious riposte to the ‘problem’ theory was that many of the difficulties facing mid-nineteenth century Saint John were by-products of rocketing success. It may be argued that the city lacked a satisfactory and an easily developed hinterland, but any such objection should be placed in the context of the obvious fact that the St John river and its tributaries were superbly efficient at floating fallen trees downstream. In 1866, New Brunswick exported over four million dollars’ worth of timber and processed lumber, two thirds of its total exports by value. Acheson reckons that in the preceding half century, Saint John had handled between half and two-thirds of this outflow. By 1840, the city exported one third of the province’s timber, but two-thirds of New Brunswick’s sawn lumber and manufactured wood products. The growth of Saint John’s sawmills after 1840 underpinned the shift from exporting rough hewn timber to more complex lumber products. The resolution of the Maine boundary dispute in 1842, which ceded sovereignty over the Aroostook country while effectively incorporating it into the economic orbit of New Brunswick, encouraged the exploitation of the northern interior, and hence reinforced the city’s dominant position within the St John basin.21 In 1866, five-sixths of New Brunswick’s tonnage was on the Saint John registry, and three-fifths of all shipping arriving in the province entered through its harbour. The discrepancy is probably explained by the fact that Saint John possessed a deep-sea fleet, which made fewer but longer voyages. In 1866, its ships averaged almost 320 tons, almost three times the typical North Shore vessel registered on the Miramichi or trading out of Passamaquoddy Bay from St Andrews.22 Deals and planks did not simply pass through Saint John on their way to Britain. As already noted, the city generated its own ship-building industry. In the early nineteenth century, British shipping interests had a low opinion of New Brunswick-built vessels, regarding them as poorly constructed, sometimes dishonestly certified and generally with short operating lives.23 The growth of the city perhaps helped overcome this problem, since a growing population made possible the development of specialist cadres of skilled tradesmen.24 By 1836, tonnage constructed in Saint John yards was claimed to equal one-fifth of the entire output of the United States.25 In March 1841, twenty-eight vessels were reported to be under construction in yards from Carleton and the Portland Straight Shore to the west to the Back Shore (Courtenay Bay).26 MacNutt regarded the eighteen-fifties as heralding a ‘golden age’ for New Brunswick ship-building.27 A visitor who spent two weeks in Saint John in the summer of 1862 ‘saw no less than half a dozen of stately, well-finished vessels launched,’ and noted that most were given names redolent of Scotland.28 Between 1830 and 1869, three quarters of a million tons of Saint John-built shipping were transferred to the British registry (i.e. exported), making a vital contribution to New Brunswick’s balance of payments.29 Ship-building was not the only economic activity related to the timber trade. In 1861, Saint John produced over one million dollars’ worth of smoked fish, the entire provincial output – an industry presumably made possible by the availability of sawdust and timber offcuts from the lumber mills.30 Nor was the Saint John economy entirely tied to timber and its by-products. The 1861 census included categories for iron castings, machinery and ‘Other Manufactures’ – evidently excluding the separately counted production of wood ware and furniture. Saint John produced seventy-eight percent of the provincial output in the three foundry-based categories.31 The origins of the city’s post-1880 phase of industrialisation may thus be discerned in the era when timber dominated the local economy.

As a result of its booming export of wood products and its burgeoning manufacturing economy, by 1850 Saint John was the largest city in the Maritimes: its 31,000 population well ahead of Halifax, with 20,000 inhabitants. Given that Halifax was a provincial capital, and that Fredericton and Charlottetown, each with 4-5,000 people, would probably have been little more than large villages without their government functions, it can be argued that Saint John was effectively double the size of its Nova Scotian rival.32 ‘The people at St. John are jealous of Halifax,’ New Brunswick governor Sir Edmund Head warned Joseph Howe in 1851.33 In fact, in the confident mid-century years, the city’s attitude was as much one of contempt as of insecurity. Timothy Warren Anglin in 1862 was ‘amused, rather than annoyed’ at Haligonian ‘malevolence’, arguing that ‘all real rivalry between a manufacturing, commercial ship-building city, and one which depends solely on its garrison and its fisheries, is simply impossible.’34 But that kind of confidence would soon become hard to sustain. As Acheson points out, between 1824 and 1861, the population of New Brunswick increased two-and-one-half times, while Saint John quadrupled.35 However, as Hannay complained in 1905, the city peaked at 41,000 people in the 1871 and 1881 censuses, and fell away slightly in the two head counts that followed. Hannay’s calculations neatly inverted Acheson’s: in the four decades since 1861, the provincial population had grown by 31 percent, the city by just five percent – and all of that in the first ten years. Moreover, Hannay was puzzled to note that the North Shore had grown fastest, while the lower St John valley and Charlotte County had stagnated. Indeed, Halifax had begun to narrow the gap in 1871 – before the arrival of the Intercolonial Railway – and actually overtook Saint John in 1902.36 ‘No one will pretend to say,’ Hannay asserted, ‘... that Halifax possesses the same natural advantages as St. John.’37 Moreover, the key years during which Saint John levelled off in population were also the decades in which the city experienced an industrial boom, one that created over three thousand additional jobs in manufacturing between 1880 and 1890: Saint John was running fast to stand still.38 Acheson dismisses the argument ‘that shipbuilding stimulated the development of other more sophisticated ancillary industries,’39 but it does seem that manufacturing industry, however vigorous in the last decades of the century, failed to step into the role as the driving force in the local economy. The tonnage on Saint John’s shipping registry peaked in 1877, and the subsequent decline has been attributed to the failure of ship-owners to replace ocean-going vessels.40 The precise year may seem symbolic: local capital may have been diverted short-term to rebuilding commercial premises in the fire-devastated city, but other Maritime ports experience the start of similar declines in registered tonnage around the same time. ‘Wooden ship building is now gone forever,’ admitted the New Brunswick Magazine in 1905. ‘It will never return, as wooden ships are a thing of the past.’41 Acknowledgement of the success of Saint John forms an essential part of identifying the problem of Saint John. A visiting writer, Fred J. Hamilton, nicely caught the paradox when he described Saint John in 1876 as ‘a strange mixture of rocks and water, of magnificence and squalor.’42 It was just at that time that the local economy began its downturn, underlining the key importance – of course widely recognised by historians – of economic change and technological challenge. The problem lay not so much in the causes of decline as in the limitations of possible responses open to Saint John.

The writing of history

Some academic historians may find the approach adopted in this essay to be old-fashioned, and hence failing to tell the fully rounded story of nineteenth-century Saint John. There is undoubtedly scope for a gendered history of the city: in stereotyped female roles, such as domestic service, home-making and child rearing, Saint John, with its steep streets crammed into a small area, must have been physically experienced in very different ways from Toronto, with its lower density and flat townscapes. Numerically, Saint John had a gender balance, with 10,439 women in the 21 to 60 age group in 1869, against 10,046 men. This no doubt made it a healthier environment than Vancouver, where the ratio of men to women was 187.6 in 1891, and had only fallen to 114.2 by 1931.43 (Of course, this is not to claim that Saint John was a perfect society.) In 1851, women headed roughly one household in every seven across the city, ranging from prosperous native-born widows (who were also well represented among the City’s bondholders) to poor Irish immigrants. Women from no doubt prosperous households seem to have attended educational lectures at the Mechanics’ Institute. Other women, no doubt from the further end of the social spectrum, worked in clothing factories.44 Yet this undoubtedly visible female presence in the city only marginally affected its governance throughout the nineteenth century. Indirectly, they may have exercised some influence through their presence in the mid-century Temperance movement. The National Council of Women established a Saint John branch in 1894, but the right to vote in provincial elections was only conceded in 1919, and was not accompanied by entitlement to election until 1934.45

             Major issues relating to race and ethnicity which are of concern to twenty-first century historians may also be regarded, rightly or wrongly, as largely invisible in the Saint John story. The city’s river port, Indiantown, recalled an Aboriginal presence, but the 1861 census recorded only 49 Native people in St John County. Many of the County’s 588 ‘Coloured’ residents lived at Loch Lomond, some distance from the urban area, although poor farmland there drove some into the city.46 They played no role in public affairs. It was a defeated candidate at Fredericton who denounced the depths of electoral corruption with the distasteful remark that the expenditure of £1,500 [$7,200] would elect ‘a man of color’ in York County.47 But in Saint John, Blacks were barred from achieving freeman status, a ‘relic of ancient barbarism’ that civic reforms failed to remove in the early eighteen-fifties.48 Although by 1860 Saint John had a railway to Shediac, an Acadian parish, and the city’s Catholic cathedral would have provided spiritual and if necessary charitable support, there is little indication of francophone in-migration, and Acadians left no mark in local politics and governance. Saint John’s relationship with its Catholic Irish population is examined at a later point.

            Academic historians concerned with class may be uneasy at the apparently uncritical acceptance in this essay of the local elite and business community at its own definition. Don Nerbas has cogently argued that the nature of the local elite – he terms them ‘the Saint John bourgeoisie’ – changed after 1918, with an increased emphasis upon the power of finance capital.49 However, in earlier decades, the Chamber of Commerce (reorganised as the Board of Trade in 1872) spoke for the business community with authority, and apparently their general support. Continuity of prominent personnel (one might even call it stagnation) is evident throughout much of the nineteenth century – J.V. Ellis, John H. Gray, John A. Harding, J.W. Lawrence, Alfred A. Stockton, S.L. Tilley are all names that straddle the decades. When the Saint John economy did change in focus, as with the shift towards industrialisation after 1860, the new enterprises grew from established local roots. William Parks, who built the city’s first cotton mill in 1861, had started as a grocer, before branching out into dry goods and shipping. William Harris had been thirty years in the foundry business when he geared up to making railway rolling stock.50 Nor did the elite operate as a conspiratorial clique. In 1880, when Saint John suddenly decided that it should become the provincial capital, 1200 signatures were collected to petitions within a few days.51 The involvement of around one eighth of the adult male population was an impressive exercise in the mobilisation of support across a relatively broad spectrum. Whatever the motives of dominant figures in endorsing Maritime Rights in the nineteen-twenties, Nerbas shows that it was still seen as useful to involve at least one token trades union official to project the idea of an alliance between capital and labour.

            Perhaps it is germane to ask at this point whether the elite, even if self-defined and uncritically accepted, showed itself especially far-sighted in the policies it endorsed. It is generally dangerous for the historian to criticise the economic decisions of people in the past, since it generally turns out that they knew their own business at least well as posterity. However, it may be that the constraints of geography and the frequent frustrations of governance inclined the city’s most articulate residents to the hasty embrace of relatively unprofitable schemes. Demands for protective tariffs in the eighteen-forties were surely unrealistic given the small size of the population, but stemmed from a Saint John desire to wall off its own hinterland. (An 1849 petition calling for ‘a higher and more decidedly protective tariff’ also attracted over 1200 signatures, suggesting a similarly sized politically articulate community within a smaller population.)52 This essay argues that Saint John’s rigid demand for the Western Extension railway was out of proportion to its possible benefits. Indeed, the city’s residents and its municipal authority both proved reluctant to invest in the scheme which they insisted that other New Brunswickers should deliver. The key point about Western Extension, unfortunately, was that there was precious little alternative by way of grand projects that the city could campaign for in that era. Hence part of the problem of Saint John was the way in which the civic community – however defined – swept itself into sudden and determined endorsement of successive miracle projects. ‘The dwellers in the city by the foggy Bay are a peculiar people,’ commented a Fredericton newspaper in 1880. ‘When an idea seizes upon them, they rush it with one consent; they are slaves of the sensation of the hour.’53 Since Saint John had abruptly decided to annex the provincial seat of government, it is of course understandable that Fredericton opinion set out to denigrate the profundity of their judgement. But a similarly negative impression was formed by E.J. Harding, a Whitehall civil servant who formed part of a travelling British commission of enquiry into imperial opportunities. He reached Saint John in 1914, after touring Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Newfoundland. He admitted that his impressions of the place were ‘very poor’: the city was ‘dingy’ and wrapped in fog. The published evidence given to the commissioners by Saint John interests reads cogently, and it must be unofficial social contact that explains Harding’s profoundly negative assessment of the Saint John business community. ‘The “commercial men”, as we saw them, were the stupidest lot, I think, that we have met in the whole of our wanderings.’54 A local elite might be powerful, but that does not guarantee that its members were collectively wise. Of course, it would be wrong to dismiss Saint John’s business community on the basis of one sour comment. It was not that they lacked intelligence, but rather that their city was trapped by a shortage of opportunities.

            Historians build up arguments through collages of contemporary quotations and other supporting evidence. A word of caution is appropriate regarding this methodology. Those who generated the comments that become historical evidence were rarely objective, and it is often the case that the memorable utterances came from the most partisan sources. An exploratory, overview essay may join up the dots to generate an unintentionally misleading picture. One example may be the community of Portland, nowadays the North End of Saint John, which for eighteen years from 1871 functioned as an autonomous municipality. The available evidence suggests that Portland was not a stellar example of urban self-government. However, this may not be entirely fair, not least because the condemnations come mainly from the main city next door. The investigating commission of 1889 certainly found a shortfall in the provision of infrastructure, but it is worth remembering that Portland contained a far smaller population (and tax base) than the City of Saint John, distributed over a larger area. Portland’s politics may or may not have commanded invariable respect, but much closer examination would be needed to assess its record in the provision of services.

            One further apology should be offered. This essay does not offer a chronological discussion of the Saint John’s nineteenth-century history. The division of the main part of the discussion between geography and governance means that intrepid readers may encounter a sense of déjà vu as the same episodes and themes recur, and are sometimes discussed in apparent defiance of linear time. For instance, an analysis of hinterlands, under the heading of geography, involves discussion of the impact of Saint John’s railway to Shediac after 1860; an exploration of governance examines how the city succeeded in launching the scheme around 1850. The inclusion of a timeline might have added some clarification at some points. However, this seemed a cumbersome addition to an already lengthy on-line publication, and would have involved issues of selection as well as inability to offer assessment of the impact and relative importance of the various dates included.


I write primarily as a consumer of New Brunswick history, an outsider who can contribute – if at all – only at the margins. In this essay, I rely on a relatively narrow range of scholarly work, all of a high quality that makes the reader wish for more. Two books stand out, both published for the 1985 bicentenary of the incorporation of Saint John. T.W. Acheson did not precisely identify the timeframe for Saint John: The Making of a Colonial Urban Community, but his discussions generally range over the ‘half-century following Waterloo’ (i.e. 1815-1865).55 At first sight, this would suggest a relay-race link to Elizabeth W. McGahan’s study of The Port of Saint John: From Confederation to Nationalization, 1867-1927, but the two books overlap rather than dovetail in focus.56 Acheson provided a series of sketches exploring economic and social aspects of urban growth, McGahan concentrated on the development of port facilities, although her approach necessarily gave more to attention to hinterland. W.S. MacNutt’s New Brunswick A History: 1784-1867 was relentlessly political and constitutional in its approach. Saint John appears (although not much in the index) mainly as part of the wider story of the coming of responsible government: the 1854 cholera outbreak merits a single (short) sentence, and – for all his emphasis upon the institutions of government – MacNutt showed no interest in urban reform or in the relationship between the province and its largest city.57 Acheson did not engage with the debate on Confederation, especially between 1864 and 1868, which provided Saint John with an opportunity to take stock of its prospects at the close of the booming half-century of his analysis. MacNutt relied substantially on the work of his UNB colleague Alfred G. Bailey (who had appointed him) which emphasised Saint John’s hopes for Western Extension, a railway link to the United States – an instance of a highly optimistic attempt to corral a largely illusory hinterland, which Bailey may have over-stressed in the artistic need to find a balancing element to pressures for the union of the provinces.58 The two volume team-written regional history associated with Acadiensis makes frequent allusion to Saint John within the wider and comparative context, although it is rarely able to devote extended coverage to the city.59 Scott W. See’s examination of sectarian violence throws important light upon Saint John in the 1840s.60 In the absence of a full-scale published economic history of the province, Graeme Wynn’s Timber Colony: A Historical Geography of Early Nineteenth-Century New Brunswick gives a valuable overview of the province, and Saint John’s place within it, in the years leading to 1850.61 Unfortunately, the city has not been well served by modern scholarly biography, although essays in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography whet the appetite.62 One of the few New Brunswick politicians to have received a modern biography, T.W. Anglin held aloof from the Saint John business elite, represented Gloucester, a North Shore riding, at Ottawa, saw himself primarily as the voice of the province’s Catholic community and was passed over for cabinet office in 1873. Ultimately he came to personalise the problem of Saint John by relocating to Ontario.63 One regrettable result of the sparsity of biography is that it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of New Brunswick political representation at Ottawa after 1867 – with the concomitant implied deductions that it was ineffectual both for the province and especially for its largest city.

Writing at my desk in Ireland, I am of course uneasily aware that there is much information contained in theses and specialist publications to which I do not have access: a useful reading list from the New Brunswick Museum reminds me of the material to be gleaned from local history works.64 But, on a more positive note, there are rich resources available, even via a laptop in County Waterford, from Internet sources. Many nineteenth-century travel accounts have been digitised, and sample runs of newspapers can also be consulted. Useful sources include the two volumes of Political Notes assembled by George E. Fenety,65 and James Hannay’s 1909 History of New Brunswick.66 This essay draws in particular upon two valuably timed booster publications. St. John and its Business voices the city’s hopes in 1875, on the eve of the completion of the Intercolonial Railway, and shortly before the devastation of the Great Fire.67 Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port was issued jointly by the City and the Board of Trade (two organisations that did not always co-operate) in 1898, to vaunt the advantages of the recently constructed and even more recently exploited Short Line to Montreal.68 It is argued below that two important aspects of the problem of Saint John – urban governance and the creation of a western hinterland – were tackled from the landmark year of 1889, when an enlarged City council was created, and connection was established with the Canadian Pacific Railway ‘Short Line’ through northern Maine. However, in 1905, continuing underlying challenges were explored when veteran New Brunswick scholar, James Hannay, posed his question, ‘Why does St. John not grow?’69 No comprehensive answers were offered but, a century later, a distant observer can feel reassured by the parallel enquiry from so close and committed observer of New Brunswick affairs. Hannay perceived that there was a problem with Saint John, even if he did not go so far as to postulate that Saint John itself constituted that problem. One major historian who did write about Saint John, J.M.S. Careless, pointed to ‘clear limits’ in its metropolitan role, and drew a distinction between difficulties that arose from global economic crises and ‘Saint John’s essential problems.’70


Since this essay is designed for the Internet, it seems preferable to abandon any plans for necessarily primitive sketch maps and invite readers to open additional screens to consult contemporary sources. Baedeker’s 1894 map of Saint John is a handsome piece of cartography which shows the harbour and the two peninsulas on which the city was built.71 Unfortunately, it does not include much of Portland, the former parish to the north, which had been merged with the city in 1889: it does indicate the road to Indiantown, the river port, but does not show how close it was. The map in the opening frame of Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port, dating from 1898, covers more ground, but attempted to impose the concept of an integrated urban area through the use of ‘South End’ (main city), ‘West End’ (Carleton) and ‘North End’ (Portland). Indiantown, not named, is the block of streets north of Marble Cove.72 The 1875 Atlas of Saint John City and County New Brunswick provides detailed snapshots of the urban area on the eve of the Great Fire, and shortly before the Intercolonial railway had reached tidewater at the north of the harbour, or completed its circuit to the Breakwater further south. The bridge linking eastern and western rail communications also lay almost a decade in the future. Especially useful is Frame 3, which shows the inconvenient pre-1891 boundary with Portland, which ran a few metres south of the Straight Shore, presumably at low-water mark.73

            Saint John’s relationship to the province is well captured by an 1873 map of New Brunswick’s natural resources, which portrays the city’s rail links (and the rival line from St Andrews to Woodstock) at a formative moment.74 A regional map of 1896 shows the rail network at a later stage, and also marks more places and supplies county names.75


The geographical problem of Saint John may be divided into two, the city and its harbour on the one hand, and relationships with hinterlands on the other.

The Harbour and the St John River

The key to the existence of Saint John was its harbour – ‘safe, though not extensive’, J.F.W. Johnston called it in 185176 – which gave access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Bay of Fundy.77 Thanks to the famous Fundy funnelling effect, sea levels in the port dropped by around eight metres between high and low tides, a dramatic cycle that kept the port free of ice.78 The Loyalist advance party that selected the site for a city in 1783 was impressed that Saint John was ‘accessible at all seasons of the year – never frozen or obstructed by the ice’ – a phenomenon which they attributed to the effect of the Reversing Falls in breaking up the frozen river.79 In a sense, Saint John’s claim to the uniqueness of its ice-free status was not so much a thing of smoke and mirrors as an assertion that ignored fog and lighthouses, plus the inconvenient fact that its regional rival, Halifax, was only rarely subject to closure by cold weather. The 1875 booster pamphlet, St. John and its Business, had to go back to the winter of 1817-18 to cite a closure of thirteen days.80 ‘Fancy steamers calling at St. John and navigating the Bay of Fundy, with the tremendous storms they have on that bay in the months of January and February!,’ scoffed a Nova Scotian politician in 1889, adding that ‘no captain would go up there who had any regard for his vessel or the cargo’ when he had the alternative of ‘the best harbour in America’ on the coast of Nova Scotia.81 Saint John promoters wisely invested effort in publicising their port’s safety record in winter: Sir John A. Macdonald’s lieutenant, Alexander Campbell, acknowledged that deputation had ‘cleared up a good deal of prejudice about the Bay of Fundy’82 – but it was an uphill battle: Campbell, for instance, left politics soon afterwards, so lobbying him proved to be effort wasted.

            There were some disadvantages to the extreme tidal fall, which at the west side of the harbour and in Courtenay Bay, east of the main peninsula, left large areas of exposed mud at low water.83 Saint John was certainly not unique in dumping its sewage into the sea, but the exposure of mud at low water made it ‘one of the most unhealthy places in our North American provinces,’ according to a visitor in 1829, especially when ‘the intense heats of summer’ got to work. ‘Towards the wharves the filth is excessive.’84 The tidal fall also meant that those wharves had to be built out at right angles from the shore to reach the deep channel. By 1839, there was concern that silt was extending the low water mark beyond the wharves, and dredging became a priority.85

           In assessing the problem of Saint John, it is important to note that there is a considerable area of definitional overlap between a harbour and a port. A harbour is a natural feature in which, given adequate area and depth, ships may anchor and trade be carried on. A port is man-made project, which involves provision of wharves, terminals and transport links. Of course, there is a considerable overlap between the two definitions: Saint John required pilotage from its earliest days, and the transfer of responsibility for this service to the Dominion in 1873 marked the earliest intervention of central Canadian authority in the city.86 Ports generally evolve from harbours, as at Saint John, although there are examples of major trading outlets developed from very slight natural origins: the development of Courtenay Bay, to the east of the city, after 1912, was based on dynamite and dredging. A rough historical ‘law’ might postulate that the better the harbour, the greater the reluctance of the surrounding population to confront the need for its modernisation. At Saint John, the provision of port facilities involved challenges to which local leadership and institutions did not always respond effectively. The challenges may be seen in outline statistics of ship movements. In 1864, 1692 vessels entered Saint John, with an average displacement of 204.6 tons. By 1913-14, the annual number was 2838, averaging 577.7 tons. These averages do not tell the full story: the 389 ocean-going steamships were far larger, with an average size over 2700 tons, while some ships as large as 8000 tons called.87 Port installations had to be maintained and upgraded on an ongoing basis in response to changing economic, environmental and transportation needs. In the early nineteenth century, ships settled in the mudflats at low water on Saint John’s West Side, and loaded timber floated in the tidal lagoon of the Carleton Mill Pond.88 By 1900, Carleton was exporting railway-hauled grain, the Mill Pond had been replaced by massive wharves, and the whole operation was dependent upon large-scale elevator facilities. Unusually for Canadian ports, which were generally managed by independent commissions, much of the infrastructure had been provided by the City itself, adding greatly to the municipal debt. By 1914, the mayor could firmly state that ‘the municipality has spent all the money that it intends to spend on works of a public character which are for the benefit of the whole Dominion.’89 A commentator of 1874 noted that ‘the great rise and fall of the tides’ made Courtenay Bay an obvious location for a dry dock ‘sufficiently large to contain one half of the vessels in the world’, attributing the absence of ship repairing facilities not to ‘lack of funds, but because of the lack of enterprise on the part of the monied [sic] men of the place.’90 Forty years later, the City hoped the National Transcontinental would use Courtenay Bay, but the railway was only prepared to consider the option after the dredging of the access channel and the construction of grain elevators.

            Whatever the requirements for maintenance and improvement, there was much that was positive that could be said about Saint John’s harbour, and the 1898 publication beat the drum enthusiastically. Although the city was notorious for its fogs (an exaggeration, defenders claimed),91 there was a direct and safe run into the port across the Bay of Fundy from the south-western extremity of Nova Scotia, guided by a lighthouse and fog whistle on Partridge Island. (The Partridge Island installation is claimed as the world's first fog warning, the invention of a Saint John resident, Robert Foulis.92) Ships with a draught of 27 feet (8.23 metres) could enter the harbour three hours after low water, and berths at the recently constructed Canadian Pacific terminus provided around 9 metres of water even ‘at dead low tide’. The main channel had a depth of between 6 and 15 fathoms (10.9 to 27.4 metres).93 Such information rarely seems to inform textbook assessments, although it contributes to the basic definition of the problem of Saint John. Evidently, the port required a higher degree of maintenance than Halifax, largely because the tidal range in the Nova Scotian port rarely exceeded two metres, and so did not require the construction of projecting deep-water wharves. Defending the management of Saint John’s harbour ferries in 1863, Anglin’s Morning Freeman argued that it was unfair to make comparison with services in Halifax, ‘where they have low tides and no great river to contend with’.94 These natural advantages, in turn, may help to explain why Halifax seems to have been slower than its rival in developing major terminal facilities in the period before the First World War:95 once again, the better the natural harbour, the less pressing the perceived need for its upgrading.

            The main part of Saint John’s harbour extended about two kilometres northward from the open sea. About half a kilometre wide at its mouth, it broadened into a wide and deep pool, with the result that major port activity concentrated from earliest times in its north-east corner, around the Market Slip.96 The north-south orientation of the main Harbour gave place to an east-west stretch upstream of Navy Island, about one and a half kilometres in length. Generally regarded as the estuary of the St John river, it had some features of an inner harbour.97 Then the orientation of the river turned sharply to the north-east, with a half-kilometre of rapids, the celebrated Reversing Falls, obstructing access inland. The zigzag waterway created three peninsulas, across which the Saint John urban area developed.

The problem of Saint John: three peninsulas

The main part of the city was located on north-south protuberance on the east side of the harbour, egg-shaped on maps and with a ‘turtle-shell contour’ to observers.98 Known in the seventeen-eighties as Parrtown, it came to be thought of the city proper, and sometimes the East Side.99 Across the harbour was the cartographically fist-shaped West Side peninsula known as Carleton. Originally focused upon the St John river and estuary, the orientation of Carleton steadily altered throughout the nineteenth century to a west-east focus as its waterfront developed into an Atlantic outlet.100 North of the estuary, and adjoining the main city area, was the Portland peninsula, defined by the zigzag course of the St John river. While there was economic activity, notably ship-building, along the estuary, known as the Straight Shore, urban settlement mostly spread across the collar of the peninsula north towards Indiantown, a terminus for inland trade.

            This tri-peninsular topography forms an essential context for understanding the problem of Saint John, and four further aspects of the locale need to be noted. First, the site was very constricted, especially the east side urban core, which was little more than three square kilometres. Toronto, awarded city status in 1834, was allocated a similar municipal area stretching three kilometres along the Lakefront, and about one kilometre inland, but it was also given large ‘liberties’ for the expansion of its 9,000 population – unlike Saint John, which was hemmed in to the north by Portland. By 1881, Toronto had twice as many people as Saint John, but its civic limits comprised around twenty square kilometres, seven times the size of the New Brunswick city’s core urban area.101 The high density of the East Side contributed to the severity of the Great Fire of 1877.102 However, the major and enduring legacy of the crowded nature of East Side Saint John was the limitations that it placed upon railway access. Saint John’s railway to Shediac wormed its way into the urban area along the narrow valley that separated the East Side peninsula from Portland. The steep and crowded streetscape severely limited railway access to deep water – hence the pressure on the City to permit rails to be laid along the already congested waterfronts. As early as 1863, when the European and North American (Saint John to Shediac) railway sought access to the Market Slip area, there was a suggestion of a ‘tunnel through Chipman’s Hill into the Market Square’.103 The mere fact that such a massively expensive project could even be mooted indicates just how limited were the options for linking railway and port facilities. In the event, the railway was only extended to serve the major wharf facilities at Reed’s Point after 1892, by which time attention was shifting to developing what was virtually a wholly new port area across the harbour in Carleton.104 As late as 1914, heavy locomotives of the Intercolonial railway could not operate on some of the smaller East Side wharves, and light shunting engines were used instead.105 The bottlenecks in Saint John’s railway access may be contrasted with Toronto, where a strip of land along Lake Ontario had been reserved in early surveys for an Esplanade, which was allocated in 1857 – after some controversy – to the Grand Trunk railway, a decision that marks the Toronto waterfront to this day. It is perhaps best not even to contemplate the founding of Vancouver – where railway and city began more or less simultaneously. There, the Canadian Pacific was granted over 2500 hectares of public land.106

            Second, much of the city area was solid rock. Loyalist diarist Sarah Frost called it ‘the roughest land I saw’ when she arrived in 1783, ‘but it is to be the city they say!’107 Peter Fisher in 1825 claimed the streets were ‘rapidly improving; hollows have been filled up, and rocks cut away’.108 Creating an urban road network required major engineering work. A visitor was surprised to note in 1832 that some houses on the crests of the East Side ridge were twenty feet above street level, while lower down, passers-by could peer in to the upstairs windows of buildings dominated by raised carriageways.109 ‘A great deal of labour has been employed in cutting down the hills and levelling the streets,’ Abraham Gesner noted in 1847.110 Nonetheless, the touring English lecturer James Silk Buckingham found strolling around the city ‘a toilsome labour’.111 Thirty years later, a tourist disclaimed profanity when he called Saint John the ‘blasted’ city.112 The streets of Saint John had been ‘hewed [sic] out of the solid rock’, at enormous expense,113 but that was not the end of the infrastructure investment. The arrival of services, such as water (from 1837) and gas (from 1846) meant that the obstacles had to be tackled all over again, trenches dug into rock so that pipes could be laid.114 By the eighteen-eighties, rising civic expectations demanded sidewalks, involving an additional round of expenditure. As a result, local taxation was high, limiting the ability – let alone the enthusiasm – of municipal authorities to respond to health challenges while simultaneously also modernising port infrastructure. In the case of sewerage, poorer residents simply could not afford the connection charge even where pipes had been installed, and their wealthier neighbours were reluctant to allow free provision of a service for which they had paid no small fee themselves.115

Third, the Saint John urban region included several different trading centres. (Given effective integration of their various functions, this would by no means constitute a ‘problem’: any major port will comprise areas with distinct specialist functions.) Not surprisingly, the main peninsula was the scene of the principal activity. Some ship-building aside, there was relatively little commercial activity along its eastern shore, Courtenay Bay, away from the harbour, where – as late as the eighteen-seventies – the Intercolonial railway could be granted permission to run tracks along the waterside.116 Within the harbour itself, McGahan discerned two distinct zones, the deepwater facilities around the Market Slip in the north-east corner, and wharves serving smaller vessels docking in the Lower Cove area around Reed’s Point, to the south.117 The latter area also developed as the terminus for steamboat services across the Bay of Fundy and coastwise to Portland, Maine, and to Boston.118 Rivalry between these two nodal points, expressing itself in a clash between large and small traders, may contribute to an explanation of the violent clashes between the Upper and Lower Coves in the riotous election of 1785.119 As late as 1872, the City Council was reluctant to allow railway extension around the south-west corner of the peninsula because trains would interfere with access to moorings by small craft.120 Across the harbour, Carleton offered alternative facilities and, as noted above, became increasingly focused during the nineteenth century on external trade through the harbour rather than its earlier role handling principally inland traffic. Lastly, two kilometres north of the central business district lay Indiantown, classified by McGahan as a ‘secondary harbour’ which was a focus for upriver trade.121 As such, Indiantown merits further examination below as part of the discussion of Saint John’s hinterland.

            Fourth, the linkages connecting the peninsulas also contributed to the framing of the problem of Saint John. The route to Portland seems straightforward, since its boundary with the City was generally regarded as entirely artificial.122 In 1844, the suburb was described as ‘a thriving place, connected with St. John by a wooden bridge’.123 In fact, the bridge was necessary to cross a small valley which formed a ravine, at the north-east corner of the harbour.124 Part of this became a mill pond, which was identified as a health hazard after the 1854 cholera epidemic, and filled in a decade later: the 1894 Baedeker map shows it as the site of the train station. The bridge, which had been built around 1787,125 funnelled traffic along Mill Street. Nearby York Point became the poorest district in the city, and a stronghold in the eighteen-forties of Irish Catholic immigrants. When the Orange Order decided in 1849 to celebrate the Twelfth of July by marching to and from Indiantown, Mill Street became the flashpoint for trouble. Catholics erected an arch across the street crowned by the nationalist symbol of a green bough, this forcing the Orangemen to dip their banners in symbolic humiliation. Reinforced by upriver contingents on their return march, the Orangemen refused to make a circuitous diversion (other routes gave access to Portland, but the obstacle of the mill pond meant of a detour of around one kilometre). There followed one of the worst outbreaks of urban violence in Canadian history.126

            From about 1840, basic communication with Carleton was provided by harbour ferries.127 The City tried various devices to maintain the service, direct provision, leasing, handing over the service to a railway company. In 1875, boats ran every fifteen minutes until 9.30 p.m., charging three cents for a pedestrian crossing one way, and fifteen cents for a two-horse carriage – a rate that undercut the upriver suspension bridge.128 An 1878 campaign demanded a free ferry service: predictably, it came from Carleton, but based its case on the disruption caused by the Great Fire. In fact, increased ferry traffic caused by the Fire had temporarily made the service profitable, and the campaign failed.129 Providing a suitable bridge between the two peninsulas was a longer-running challenge. In 1853, a suspension bridge was completed across the St John river at the Reversing Falls. Two earlier attempts to provide a river crossing had failed, the first of them ending in disaster in 1837 when the structure collapsed and seven workmen plunged to their deaths.130 With a 200-metre main span and a roadway seven metres wide, the suspension bridge was certainly one of the sights of Saint John. Unfortunately, its location was inconvenient, two kilometres by road west of Carleton’s waterfront, and over four kilometres from the East Side’s business district. It was also built as a toll bridge, charging fifteen cents for a one-horse vehicle and twenty cents for a carriage drawn by two.131 The tolls were removed in 1875.132

            The question arises: should the location of the suspension bridge be regarded as part of the problem of Saint John? The ravine at the Reversing Falls provided both a narrow crossing point and a convenient height about water. However, other possible sites were considered. The 1834 bridge project was attempted about half a kilometre downstream, and would have connected with Watson Street, one of Carleton’s north-south routes. As already noted, the engineering challenge proved too great at that time, although the distance involved was not notably longer than at the Falls.133 The bridge issue revived in the eighteen-eighties as the City sought to link its western and eastern rail connections. Governor Arthur Gordon had warned in 1862 of ‘the frightful cost’ of constructing a railway bridge across the St John river.134 (The engineer Edward R. Burpee estimated in 1864 that a suspension bridge ‘would not exceed $200,000’.135) For a decade after the construction of the Western Extension line, the City’s two sub-hinterlands relied on the harbour ferry to transfer through passengers and freight.136 Another alternative location was a more ambitious crossing at Navy Island, the meeting point of estuary and harbour. This was not necessarily beyond the construction technology available by the eighteen-eighties, the more so as the island was joined to the West Side at low water. It also had the advantage – especially in the eyes of West Side representatives – of connecting direct to the waterfront terminus of the Carleton branch railway, which would be bypassed by a railway bridge at the Falls. Their proposal was in fact for a dual-function crossing, combining rail and road, and so finally integrating the two sides of Saint John with a nearly-direct link.137 In the event, the Falls location was chosen, and the bridge completed in 1885. 1885 also the year that saw the completion of the transcontinental railway: the east and west sides of Saint John were joined by rail in the same year as the two sides of Canada. Pressure for a Navy Island crossing continued. ‘There seems to be no serious difficulty in constructing such a bridge,’ the Commissioners overseeing the Saint John-Portland merger concluded in 1889. Lacking any estimate of cost, they abstained from a formal recommendation, but made it clear that the project should be taken forward by the enlarged City authority.138 It took three-quarters of a century: the Saint John Harbour Bridge was opened in 1968, as part of the urban renewal Throughway project.

The problem of Saint John: hinterlands

In 1955, the geographer Marion H. Matheson published a comprehensive article, ‘The Hinterlands of Saint John’, which remains an impressive analysis of the pattern of its trading connections in the post-Second World War era. Matheson used the term ‘hinterland’ in two general senses, to describe areas from which a port derived its export goods, and regions to which it despatched them. Essentially, this approach identified a Canadian hinterland, comprising overlapping sub-regions depending on the nature of the product handled, which extended like an airfield windsock through central Canada and out into the prairies.139 In addition, long-range tentacles of international trade extended across the Atlantic to Britain and Europe, into the north-eastern United States, the Caribbean and even, through the Panama Canal, to Australia and New Zealand. A subsequent generation of geographers evolved a new approach – albeit one with roots that could be traced to the seminal work of Harold Adams Innis – which coupled together the concepts of heartland and hinterland in a manner that undermined the theoretical structure of Matheson’s work although it in no way devalued its descriptive importance. Central to this approach was what L.D. McCann called the ‘notion’ of a heartland – usually a major city or urban region – ‘holding sway over a vast resource hinterland’.140 Evidently, Matheson’s hinterlands would not fit comfortably into this approach. Far from Britain and Europe forming part of an area controlled or dominated from Saint John, the city itself functioned more as a sub-metropolitan centre for the English port of Liverpool. Most important of all, Saint John exercised no form of ascendancy over the elongated transportation zone that stretched westward to Alberta – indeed, the city was peculiarly at the mercy of larger, national forces which were perfectly capable of diverting trade through other outlets. (McCann himself regarded late-nineteenth century Saint John as a kind of branch plant of Montreal.141) In the spirit of Matheson’s work, the discussion of Saint John’s relationship with its neighbourhood offered here ought perhaps to be defined in terms of sub-hinterlands. Indeed, one of the areas identified, the unpromising territory to the west of the city, became dramatically extended into Matheson’s cross-continental transportation zone by the successful exploitation of the Canadian Pacific Short Line after 1889. However, the term seems cumbersome, but it may be useful to make the point that the four hinterlands reviewed here were far more localised than the long-range categorisation offered in Matheson’s still valuable basic work on the regional geography of Saint John.

            At first sight, the hinterland of Saint John divided into two sections, an inland region based on the valley of the St John river and the maritime zone of the Bay of Fundy, including much of western and central Nova Scotia. Acheson estimated that by 1861, the valley counties were home to nearly 140,000 counties, while Fundy counties numbered over 165,000 – a total hinterland population, exclusive of the 40,000 people of the city itself – of 310,000.142 (In terms of Atlantic region demography, this was an impressive number but, placed alongside Upper Canada’s 1.6 million people – even if they were not all dependent upon Toronto, perhaps it did not bode well for the future.) However, two other segments of hinterland may be identified. One was an eastern corridor along the Kennebacasis and Petitcodiac river valleys, through the farming country of Hampton and Sussex that supplied Saint John with much of its food. At its western extremity it was virtually an extension of the St John valley, while generally it formed part of the Fundy zone (although cut off from the Bay itself by the narrow rocky strip of St John County), but this specific corridor became the route of the railway to Moncton (The Bend) and onward to Shediac on the Strait of Northumberland. The fourth area of hinterland was to the west of the city, poor country with few resources other than timber. Its negative value to Saint John was compounded by the problem that the city shared this south-western quadrant of the province with the ambitious and potentially rival Charlotte County ports of St Andrews and St Stephen. Ironically, this unpromising district would become the jumping-off point for Matheson’s huge western trade zone thanks to the Canadian Pacific Short Line to Montreal.

Three general points may be made about these hinterlands. One is that their relationships with Saint John probably functioned at different levels in relation to specific activities. Thus, until the late nineteenth century, the entire St John basin, tributaries included, supplied the port with timber, but the city’s dominance over farm produce and its role as wholesale supplier to local storekeepers and lumber camps were almost certainly less comprehensive, especially after St Andrews succeeded in intruding its railway into the upper valley. Second, hinterland zones could expand and shrink, especially in response to developments in communications – mainly railways, although Saint John invested a good deal of emotional energy in the largely fantasy project of a canal through the Chignecto isthmus. In this context, it needs to be noted that, with the exception of the dramatic expansion of its western hinterland thanks to the CPR Short Line, Saint John was predominantly on the defensive throughout the nineteenth century, as rival ports, notably Halifax and St Andrews/St Stephen ate into its economic sphere. The third point is to note a mysterious element in nineteenth-century banking practice. The Saint John-based Bank of New Brunswick did not operate a branch structure, leaving the historian unsure how the Saint John financial sector defined the city’s hinterland, let alone how its economic zone was serviced or exploited.143 Indeed, it seems difficult to understand how country storekeepers, lumber contractors and prosperous farmers handled their banking affairs at all: possibly ledgers and diaries would throw light on the question? There was a savings bank network, with fourteen offices across the province in 1888, but the only bank to operate anything like a branch network was the Bank of Montreal. This institution had arrived in the province with Confederation, and by 1888 had outlets in Chatham, Moncton and Saint John – a symbolic reflection of the role of the Intercolonial railway in advancing central Canadian interests.144

            One basic element in the problem of Saint John was that its economic and political hinterlands overlapped but were not coterminous. Taking Acheson’s 1861 estimate, one third of the population of its economic zone lived in Nova Scotia, where they might cheer for Saint John interests but could not vote to give them practical support. (This would be the case, at any rate, before Confederation: how far western Nova Scotia MPs backed the city after 1867 in Ottawa is a question that calls for further research.) By contrast, around one fifth of New Brunswickers, mainly in the North Shore counties, lived in areas that had very little trading contact with Saint John, but who elected representatives to the provincial Assembly who could – and sometimes did – oppose its interests. The internal battle lines that characterised New Brunswick politics were also fluid: on certain issues, the city might lose the support of the upper St John valley or of Charlotte County, while the political orientation of Westmorland was always a toss-up between attraction to the North Shore and Nova Scotia on the one hand, and solidarity with the Fundy counties on the other. Hence, in seeking to understand how Saint John’s hinterland relationships functioned, it makes sense to begin with the Bay of Fundy.

Hinterlands: the Bay of Fundy

In one of his characteristic ruminations, Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s Sam Slick predicted in 1837 that Saint John would become ‘the largest city in America, next to New York.’ The reason, he explained, lay in the geography of Nova Scotia, whose Atlantic coast was ‘all stone ... enough to starve a rabbit,’ while ‘tother side on the Bay of Fundy is a superfine country, there aint the beat of it anywhere.’ The province was like an apple sliced into two: the Halifax half was rotten, while ‘the other and sound half belongs to St. John.’ The people of western Nova Scotia would be ‘pretty fools to go to Halifax, when they can go to St. John with half the trouble.’145 The Great Fire of 1877 gave a glimpse of the variety and dynamism of the port’s Nova Scotian connections as it swept along the Market Slip. Nine of the sixteen vessels destroyed had come across the Bay, five of them carrying fish, and one a cargo of salt. Three were based at Westport, the tiny settlement on Brier Island, which formed a direct link on the maritime approach to Saint John, a fourth came from nearby Barrington, a fifth from Canning, further up the Bay. All were small ships, ranging from 27 tons down to 12.146 Well might Sam Slick describe Saint John as ‘the natural capital of the Bay of Fundy,’ but it seems to have made just one, faint bid to become the political centre of the region. In 1858-9, an official enquiry examined the likely costs of moving the seat of government downriver from Fredericton. Although the commission, which reflected Saint John interests, manipulated its estimates, the expense of the projected move proved too great for the idea to be taken forward. However, there was one exception to the generally cautious costings. New Brunswick’s 41-strong Assembly was to move into a purpose-built parliament building, with a 150-seat debating chamber. Although the implication was not spelled out, this could only make sense if the city hoped to become the seat of government for a union of the Maritime provinces – an issue that was vaguely on the political radar although hardly on anybody’s practical political agenda.147 This seems to have been the sole gesture throughout the nineteenth century towards converting Sam Slick’s ‘natural capital’ into a regional seat of government.148

Defending the Fundy Hinterland

As W.S. MacNutt put it, ‘Halifax and Saint John sought to enlarge trade at one another’s expense’. Nova Scotia’s original strategy for enlarging its capital’s economic zone was the Shubenacadie Canal, begun in 1826 but not fully operational until 1861. It is hard not to view the canal as the Haligonian attempt to emulate Saint John’s great interior river. Rosemary Ommer has called it ‘a sadly mistimed commercial venture,’ since it was overtaken by the coming of railways. Abandoned by 1870, its failure formed the backdrop to the discouragement of Saint John’s own favoured scheme, a canal across the Chignecto isthmus.149 Railways from Halifax to Truro and Windsor represented a greater potential threat to Saint John’s ascendancy in the Bay of Fundy. These too proved expensive and unpopular within the province. ‘A funeral procession would not have been observed more quietly,’ one newspaper said of the opening of the line to Windsor in 1858,150 and there was little immediate enthusiasm to lay tracks further into the Annapolis Valley.

            Nova Scotia’s rail penetration to Cobequid Bay had an immediate but unnoticed effect on the channels of trade, and its implications both for New Brunswick politically and for Saint John economically were considerable. New Brunswick derived two thirds of its public revenue from import duties.151 The province was self-sufficient in the production of basic homespun: the 1851 census reported over five thousand handlooms, producing nearly 570,000 metres of cloth, ‘chiefly coarse woollen, for farmers’ use’. This equalled about three metres of material per heads of population, perhaps enough to allow each a new suit for every inhabitant each year.152 Alexander Munro in 1855 praised the ‘durability, warmth, appearance, and real utility’ of the homespun cloth made by ‘the females of our country’.153 In 1861, William Park built the New Brunswick Cotton Mill in Saint John’s neighbouring community of Portland.154 Park based his venture on the ‘confident’ belief that ‘he will be able successfully to compete with imported cotton manufactures’ so long as the 15.5 percent tariff rate was maintained.155 He had every reason for the confidence that the duty would remain in place. British textiles were generally of higher quality than colonial manufactures, and remained in demand. Import duties on ‘haberdashery’ netted around a quarter of a million dollars annually, almost half the province’s income from tariffs – or one third of total government income.156

However, by the early eighteen-sixties, a curious anomaly was developing in the official returns. Textile imports originated overwhelmingly in Britain and the United States. In 1869, for instance, there were just three ‘cloth factories’ in Nova Scotia, with a total output valued at under $15,000. ‘Nova Scotia imports the greater part of what she needs of textile manufactures’.157 Yet, in 1863, almost thirty percent of New Brunswick’s haberdashery imports were recorded as entering the province from Nova Scotia.158 This trend had been evident for several years, and the mystery was explained in the Custom House returns for 1860. ‘The Imports from Nova Scotia into this Province are much increased by quantities of British Haberdashery being imported into Saint John via Halifax and Windsor, by Rail and Steamer.’159 In 1861, overall trade with the neighbouring province apparently fell ‘principally owing to the reduced importations of British haberdashery via Halifax and Windsor, such goods coming by this route appearing as imports from Nova Scotia.’160 Evidently, the goods were travelling through Nova Scotia effectively in bond, since it seems that they were only paying import duty when they arrived in New Brunswick. However, within a few years, the gap between two railway systems would be filled by a line linking Truro and Moncton, and light-weight, high-value merchandise – haberdashery in particular – could be imported to the region via Halifax, paying its tariffs to the Nova Scotian treasury, and distributed direct to country stores across New Brunswick. It becomes easy to grasp why Tilley rejected intercolonial free trade in 1862: a customs union with Nova Scotia would be impossible without some form of political structure to redistribute revenues from imports.161 Saint John, with its regular links to Windsor, presumably remained the province’s main port of entry for haberdashery, the goods now arriving in smaller vessels. That, too, would come to an end once an integrated Maritime railway network allowed goods to be distributed throughout the region directly from Halifax. The fact that Halifax gradually narrowed the demographic gap, drawing level in population with Saint John by the end of the nineteenth century, suggests that the two halves of Haliburton’s Nova Scotian apple were steadily reunited, tapping into Saint John’s Fundy economic hinterland.162

Attempts to expand the Fundy Hinterland

Twenty years earlier, it had seemed likely that any shift in the balance between the two cities would be the other way about. Haliburton’s Sam Slick had warned the people of Halifax that ‘the rail roads and canals of St. John are goin [sic] to cut off your Gulf Shore trade to Miramichi, and along there.’163 The muted results of Saint John’s railway to Shediac are noted below. Here should also be recorded the near-total failure of its hopes and schemes to establish a trade route through the Chignecto isthmus. Saint John had begun to agitate for a canal across the isthmus as early as 1825 and, by the end of that decade, most of the arguments in its favour had been outlined, emphasising the advantages that it would bestow upon the city – trade with Canada, direct access to the Gulf fisheries, improved opportunities to function as an entrepot between the St Lawrence and the Caribbean. Yet, time and again, the Baie Verte canal scheme went nowhere. One engineer imported from Britain in 1825 estimated that that an artificial waterway could be built for £45,000. His costings were reviewed by the famous canal builder Thomas Telford, who proposed a considerable increase both in the depth -- to thirteen feet (just under four metres) and in the budget, now estimated at £156,000 – roughly two-thirds of a million dollars. This was simply out of range for a channel that could only transport small vessels. A later engineer, commissioned by the British government in the early eighteen-forties, doubted whether such a canal would retain any water at all. The Shebenacadie canal could draw upon Nova Scotia’s interior lakes, but low-lying Chignecto offered no opportunities to provide fresh-water reservoirs. Using sea water to make up the deficiency was rejected because the Bay of Fundy contained high levels of mud in suspension, which would cause the canal to silt up. Westmorland County pressed for a revival of the project in 1867. Some New Brunswick representatives in Ottawa insisted that the Baie Verte canal had been promised as part of the Confederation package – a claim that cannot be documented – while the provincial government formally demanded action in 1869. The Dominion government undertook a fresh round of surveys, which revealed more inherent problems. The earlier blueprints had envisaged a canal that was not only shallow but too narrow to facilitate traffic in both directions: most paddle-steamers, for instance, were driven by side wheels, which added considerably to their breadth. More generally, nobody seemed to have taken full account of one of the most basic aspects of the Bay of Fundy, the enormous rise and fall of its tides. Any canal at the head of the Bay could only operate for half the day because it would lose all contact with the sea as low water approached. (Furthermore, tides on the Bay of Fundy rarely synchronised with those along the Gulf coast.) Since in addition the canal would be frozen for around half the year, its likely cost – now over $8 million, ten times Telford’s estimates sixty years earlier – did not look like an attractive investment. By the eighteen-seventies, New Brunswick partisans were fighting a rearguard action, arguing on the one hand that nobody expected similar projects in central Canada to make money (‘what public work pays?’, asked J.W. Lawrence in 1875) and, on the other, that the Baie Verte canal would encourage trade and harmony among the discordant segments of the Dominion.164 The completion of the Intercolonial railway in 1876 marked the disappearance of the canal from the mainstream political agenda.

            However, Saint John continued in its fervent belief that the canal was ‘a work to which Nature has pointed the way and which the commercial necessities of the Dominion imperatively demand should be built’ – both assertions that independent assessors routinely rejected. The 1875 booster publication, St John and its Business, confidently asserted that its impact on the port would be ‘great and startling,’ comparable with the effect of the Erie Canal on New York. Saint John would supplant its Nova Scotian rival as the centre for trade with the West Indies, while the entire Gulf trade would ‘no longer tempt the dangers of the Atlantic coast to reach Halifax.’ It was more likely that the canal, if built at all, would have handled mainly barge traffic, which would have made Sackville into a trans-shipment port, where cargoes were loaded on to larger ships. These would have had little reason to call at Saint John but would have sailed direct to New England. Overall, it seems likely that the main impact of the Baie Verte canal project was upon the psyche of Saint John, on the one hand wedding it to the miracle solution of an increasingly imaginary megaproject while, on the other, feeding a local sense of paranoia, expressed in the belief of the boosters of 1875 that only the ‘blind hatred and terror’ of Halifax was blocking its realisation.165 The following year, the Mackenzie Liberal government reduced the budget appropriation for the Chignecto canal project to a token $20,000.

             Both in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, major canal projects had been overtaken by the railway age, which might have been appealed to as a tactful means of burying the vision of an isthmian crossing. In fact, the new transportation technology was conscripted to transmute the dream into a revised form, a ship railway, the product of the enthusiasm of H.G.C. Ketchum, UNB’s first engineering graduate.166 His project was taken up by Charles Tupper, minister of railways and canals in the Macdonald government, whose political base was Cumberland County.167 In 1882, the Dominion government agreed to subsidise the project during its construction phase and its early operating years, support that was renewed until parliament finally rebelled in 1896. ‘Like all novel enterprises, this ship railway has encountered its full share of scepticism and hostility,’ wrote Ketchum in 1893,168 and the historian should avoid the temptation to join in. (Indeed, few historians could compete in sarcasm with the Ontario MP who claimed public money would have been more usefully spent searching for the lost continent of Atlantis.) In fairness to Ketchum, it should be noted that Tupper only came aboard after the scheme had been endorsed by Collingwood Schreiber, one of Canada’s leading engineers and railway specialists.169 And the project came tantalisingly close to realisation. When money effectively ran out in 1891, docks had been constructed at each end, and Ketchum had completed sixteen of the seventeen miles of roadbed (i.e. all but 1.6 kilometres), specially reinforced across marshland, with thirteen miles (20.9 kilometres) of track in place. The key question is not whether the Chignecto ship railway was feasible but whether it was worthwhile. Ships of up to 2,000 tons displacement, 235 feet (71.63 metres) in length and 56 feet (17.1 metres) wide,170 would sail into a cradle, and then be raised by twenty hydraulic rams, ten on each wide, like a gigantic shrimping net. The ship would then be transferred to the railway, and carried to the far shore, where the process would be repeated in reverse.171 As a technical feat, this would be impressive, but it was far from obvious that shifting such a huge mass of metal – cradle, hull, engines – was necessary, when far smaller amounts of freight could be sent across the isthmus by rail from Shediac and, after 1886, from Cape Tormentine to Sackville.172

          In 1886, the octogenarian Senator Amos E. Botsford recalled accompanying the engineer who had surveyed the Baie Verte canal route in 1825, telling the Red Chamber that it had been ‘the dream of the people of New Brunswick for sixty years to have some communication across the Isthmus to facilitate the trade of their province’.173 Botsford, a lifelong resident of Westmorland, was an enthusiastic convert to the ship railway. In this, he may not have been typical. From a Saint John point of view, the project may have produced few benefits. In a promotional pamphlet produced in 1887, Ketchum listed fifteen types of trade which he predicted would be encouraged by his isthmian transit, but only eleven of these were specifically linked to Saint John, and some of those appeared to be optimistic afterthoughts.174

          A cursory survey of parliamentary debates on the subject suggests that the city’s representatives in Ottawa showed little interest in the project. C.W. Weldon, Liberal MP for Saint John, even dismissed it as ‘practically useless’: since he favoured a ‘subway’ to Prince Edward Island, he can hardly be accused of lacking in imagination.175 Other New Brunswick representatives were even more dismissive. Peter Mitchell, sitting as an Independent for Northumberland, was a consistent and sharp critic. From Charlotte County, A.H. Gillmor condemned it as ‘foolish expenditure and waste of public resources’.176 R.C. Weldon, the Dalhousie law professor who double-jobbed as Conservative MP for Albert, stated in 1896 that ‘I have not yet met a single man in Albert county who has ever spoken even respectfully of the commercial prospects of this enterprise.'177

In an authoritative article, C.R. McKay argues that the ship railway almost certainly diverted public funds from potentially more useful projects. McKay suggests that it was only after the project failed that it became incorporated in a Maritime mythology that blamed Ottawa duplicity for all regional ills. Here, again, he inverts the conventional argument, contending that Ottawa subsidies made the scheme possible, but the failure of overseas investment ensured its ultimate failure.178 Ketchum’s railway tracks were recycled during the First World War, when steel was in short supply. Maritime opinion swung back to Botsford’s sixty-year dream, but a Chignecto canal was roundly rejected by a federal commission in 1933.179 A regional campaign to revive the scheme took off again after the Second World War, partly stimulated by a feeling that central Canada owed the Maritimes a major project to balance the planned St Lawrence Seaway, and also stimulated by a belief that Newfoundland’s adherence to Confederation would stimulate regional growth. One new element in the case was the potential to generate hydro-electric power, an argument which converted the turbulent Fundy tides into a positive factor, although it was not clear how the two aspects of the canal could be combined. In New Brunswick’s largest city, a Board of Trade official stated that ‘the Canal would undoubtedly benefit Saint John,’ and some even talked of doubling its population. In the light of a century of disappointments, the Chignecto canal was perhaps unlikely of realisation anyway, but its prospects were not helped by lack of enthusiasm in Nova Scotia. Halifax actively opposed the scheme, while the province as a whole was committed to demanding a causeway to Cape Breton.180

The upshot of the considerable amount of energy that went into the fantasy schemes of an isthmian transit was simple, and negative: Saint John never acquired the transportation facilities that might have enabled it to extend its water-borne Fundy hinterland into the Gulf of St Lawrence, to annex the trade of the North Shore, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. However, this failure merely echoed the equally meagre fruits which the city managed to reap through its eastern corridor hinterland, discussed below, beyond the railway terminus at Shediac.

Hinterlands: the St John valley

‘It has an immense back country as big as Great Britain,’ Haliburton’s Sam Slick remarked as he listed Saint John’s advantages, and its valley contained ‘a first chop river’.181 ‘No river on the Atlantic seaboard, south of the St. Lawrence, has such magnificent reaches or lakelike expansion as the St. John or can compare with it in the extent of navigable water,’ proclaimed pioneer provincial historian W.O. Raymond in 1910.182 To James Hannay, the river gave Saint John two key advantages which were absent in Halifax. First, the St John ‘brings down every year, millions of feet of timber to give employment to the mills ... and to add to its export trade.’ Second, it ‘furnishes agricultural products to feed the people of St. John.’183 It would be easy to follow Hannay and celebrate this huge hinterland valley, and reject any notion that it formed part of the problem of Saint John. However, closely examined, the St John valley was less than an entirely straightforward asset to the city. As with so many aspects of the story, the elements of success contained their own challenges, and some of these are so basic that they are too easily taken for granted. Three aspects of the St John valley – relating to vegetation, physical geography and climate – merit exploration.

              It is not difficult to guess that, in the New Brunswick context, vegetation means trees. In basic respects, the climate and topography of the St John valley were well suited to the shifting of vast quantities of felled timber. Logs were dragged over frozen roadways in late winter to be launched on to tributaries of the St John and floated downriver. Lashed together to form rafts, these passed easily over rapids (including the Reversing Falls at Saint John itself), since they had only a shallow draught and their value was not greatly affected by damage in transit: fifteen percent of timber was allowed as wastage.184 Just as the city’s Fundy hinterland took in part of Nova Scotia, so the St John basin extended into the United States. Since there was no alternative means of getting timber out of the Aroostook country, until railways penetrated the interior in the late-nineteenth century, the configuration of its river system made Saint John the only city in British North America that could tap into an American resource area without fear that Washington would impose restrictions on its access – although this advantage was purchased at the threat of war in the late eighteen-thirties. But there were downsides to sitting at the exit point of a staple bonanza. The rapid rise of the New Brunswick timber industry had been powered by British tariff protection. As one of Sam Slick’s interlocutors put it, ‘if the timber duties are altered, down comes St. John, body and breeches, it’s built on a poor foundation’.185 Britain’s moves towards free trade made the eighteen-forties a crisis decade for the city.186 Sam Slick had predicted that if Britain abandoned New Brunswick, the United States would make an alternative commercial and political offer, ‘and St. John, like a dear little weeping widow, will dry up her tears, and take to frolickin agin and accept it right off.’187 In the event, in the crisis of 1849-50, the Americans proved reluctant to concede trading privileges, while Saint John’s Loyalist culture inhibited pressure towards annexation.

The nature of resource exploitation within the timber economy changed too. As early as 1805, most of the potential mast timber had been cherry-picked from the colony’s forests.188 Veteran resident J.W. Millidge believed Saint John would have lost its shipbuilding industry even without the shift to iron steamships. ‘In the sixties ... it became difficult to obtain timber for a large ship,’ he recalled in 1919.189 J.M.S. Careless even regarded the exhaustion of timber supplies as a disadvantage to Saint John as New Brunswick entered the new era of railway technology. ‘Its hinterland did not provide fuel or raw material for new heavy industry.’190 But this was not entirely accurate. It was indeed true that travellers’ accounts of iron ore deposits and a Great New Brunswick coalfield proved to be, at the very least, exaggerated. But thanks to its Fundy hinterland, Saint John could tap into supplies of Nova Scotian coal from Cumberland County. In 1861, its foundries produced over $900,000 worth of iron castings, machinery and other manufactures, 78 percent of the total provincial output, using pig iron predominantly imported from Britain.191 It may also be misleading to impose an absolute distinction between the wooden sailing ship and the iron steamship. Sailing ships needed anchors and chains, and could incorporate metal fittings when suitable timber became scarce. Sager and Panting believe that local foundry manufacture began to supplant imports of finished iron products around 1870.192 By 1874, Saint John’s Harris works was producing 1200 tons of ‘ship knees’, which replaced the ultra-hardwood hackmatack as bracing for hulls. This may suggest that Saint John had more potential to adjust to changes in shipbuilding than has been acknowledged, but it may equally mean that the foundry section of the city’s economy committed itself to a declining form of shipbuilding.193 Saint John may not have experienced a full-scale industrial revolution, but there seems no reason why it could not have supplied its local market with manufactured goods (as indeed it did for some decades after 1880). Its development was not necessarily inhibited by the monocultural nature of its valley hinterland.

It is also misleading to generalise about New Brunswick’s forest cover. The early nineteenth-century logging industry concentrated on felling pine trees, which were mainly exported as logs. Around 1833, the emphasis shifted to spruce, which was more suitably sold in machined form, as deals. The result was the first phase of provincial industrialisation, with a boom in the erection of sawmills.194 In any case, cleared forest would regenerate, even if secondary growth might not replicate its original quality within any human timeframe. As early as 1850, J.F.W. Johnston calculated that fifty years’ growth on an acre (0.4 hectares) would yield fifty cords of firewood. In 1914, a spokesman for the provincial lumber industry estimated that spruce and fir could be successfully harvested every ten to twelve years, provided nine inches (23 centimetres) of stump was left for regeneration. He added that ‘to grow wood from a mere sapling or seedling to a big cuttable tree’ would probably take at least 35 years, his uncertainty on the point suggesting that full-scale reforestation was not on the practical agenda.195 Of course, and however banal it may sound, the basic point about the interior of New Brunswick remained that it was mostly covered with trees. As late as the early twentieth century, the National Transcontinental, crossing the province from Edmundston to Moncton, was projected to run through country that had no doubt been tapped by loggers but was so thickly forested that it was barely known to surveyors and cartographers. Aside from its role in the ecology and the economy of New Brunswick, the dense tree cover of much of the St John basin had one major implication: where there were thick forests, there were few people. Saint John’s valley hinterland might well be, as Sam Slick pointed out, equal in area to Great Britain, but its 100,000 population in 1860, as estimated by Acheson, fell notably short of the 23 million who packed into England, Wales and Scotland. This imposed severe limitations on Saint John’s potential for growth.

The city’s relationship with its valley hinterland took three forms. The St John basin functioned superbly in generating a staple which was processed in the city and exported from its harbour. But the physical geography of the St John river was less supportive of two other aspects of its economy, Saint John’s role as a centre of consumption and its function as a distribution centre. The city had to be supplied with food and fuel; in turn, it provided rations and other necessities to logging camps in the interior, and operated as a gigantic wholesale depot for country stores in small communities upstream. To those familiar with the topography of New Brunswick, what follows may seem elementary, but sometimes the most obvious aspects of any historical scenario are precisely those which become overlooked. Four basic aspects of the St John river – three of them geographical and one climatic – contributed to the problem of Saint John, not least by complicating its interaction with the new and alternative transportation technology of railways. The three geographical features relate to the overall course of the St John river, to the four lakes or fjords along the eastern side of its lower reaches and to the obstacle of the Reversing Falls. The climatic element is of course that permanent context to Canadian history, the winter, which froze the river for forty percent of the year.

Most of us, it may be ventured to suggest, make mental maps which simplify the world around us into straight lines and right angles. Canada’s four box-like western provinces obviously lend themselves to this process. In the Atlantic region, Nova Scotia and, to a lesser extent, Prince Edward Island are easily encapsulated as rectangles. So, too, are the populated areas of southern Ontario and Quebec. New Brunswick can be squeezed into a square, in which the informally designated North Shore happens to consist of coastline most of which faces east. In this imagined cubist cartography, the St John river flows at right angles from the interior, and especially downstream from Fredericton. In reality, this is not the case, and the peculiarity of its course may provoke wider reflection upon the formative nature of Canadian topography. Fresh water is of course fundamental to the Canadian experience and the Canadian identity: it is usually claimed that the country possesses half the world’s lakes and one fifth of its water, while devotees of the Laurentian thesis attribute Canada’s very existence to an underpinning of water-borne networks. Yet surprisingly few major rivers played formative roles in the country’s history, and a remarkable number of those do indeed have the good manners to flow in more-or-less straight lines. In central Canada, the St Lawrence and the Ottawa rivers take remarkably direct routes, as do the Richelieu and the Saguenay. The same is true in Manitoba, with the Red River flowing from south to north, and the navigable parts of the Assiniboine draining from west to east. The uniform efficiency with which most of Canada’s handful of historically important rivers seek to reach the sea makes it all the more important to note that the St John is an exception. A boat sailing upstream from the city will indeed travel for about 80 kilometres in a generally northward direction, through scenically impressive stretches with local compass variations. However, around Gagetown our boat will find itself heading west, along a latitudinal section past Fredericton which extends for over 140 kilometres – a fundamental reorientation which historians seem not to have noticed. Then, south of Woodstock, the route turns north again, perhaps struggling with shallow water, until it encounters the impressive obstacle of Grand Falls, 160 kilometres upstream. One key point here is that the fertile lands of Carleton County, around Woodstock, were potentially closer to Passamaquoddy Bay, directly to the south, than to Saint John at the mouth of their shared river.196 It was this zigzag peculiarity of its course that Charlotte County railway entrepreneurs set out to exploit from the eighteen-fifties.197

Because, like most New Brunswick railway projects, the St Andrews and Quebec railway (later the New Brunswick and Canada) was clothed in grandiloquent nomenclature, it has perhaps been regarded as a ‘grand idea’198 but a slightly dotty one. Its plans to run through the disputed Aroostook country helped stoke the boundary dispute in the eighteen-thirties, while as late as 1856, its promoters attempted to curry favour with the imperial authorities by portraying it as a step towards the union of the provinces.199 But this was window-dressing. Recording the extension of the railway in 1858 to a point 100 kilometres north of St Andrews, MacNutt briefly dismissed its progress of the line as ‘even less spectacular’ than the slow construction of Saint John’s line to Shediac.200 But in Saint John, where the purpose of the rival line was clearly understood, there was something close to panic at this invasion of its commercial hinterland. The temporary northern terminus at Canterbury was within twenty miles (32 kms) of Woodstock, to which it was linked by a daily stagecoach. Carleton County farmers were already sending hay, oats and butter to the coast over the incomplete line.201 Plans were in hand for a further extension to the edge of Woodstock itself, which came about in 1862. Meanwhile, freight trains would run three times a week, carrying flour, pork, molasses, sugar and tobacco to Carleton County customers. ‘We may expect this winter to see trade and travel commence turning in the direction of St. Andrews,’ observed the Woodstock Journal in November 1858. The process would be gradual. ‘The traders of Woodstock are attached to St. John by strong ties, more especially by the lumbering business, and it will take years before they are able to shake themselves clear of such entanglements.’ (The ‘strong ties’ were not those of customer loyalty but rather of imprisoning networks of extended credit which kept small-town storekeepers in debt to Saint John wholesalers.) But ‘those who sell for cash and buy for cash’ would soon use the railway to do business in the United States.202 ‘Of course upriver people will take advantage of this,’ commented the Fredericton Head Quarters, ‘and for the future deal in St Andrews instead of St. John.’ Railway and steamboat services would link the Woodstock area to Boston, where farmers ‘will sell in a better market, and buy in a cheaper one’ – the through trip taking ‘no more time than it is heretofore when the river is open to travel to St. John and back again.’203 According to the Saint John Daily News, some of the city’s merchants were already relocating ‘to carry on business in St. Andrews, in connection with the upper country.’ Ships carrying supplies, such as pork and flour, would soon sail straight to the rival port. ‘The St. John River will run sluggishly for awhile [sic]’ but, unless it proved possible ‘to secure the construction of a branch road to connect St. John with the St. Andrew’s [sic] Railroad, the town of St. Andrews is destined at a very early day to take the commercial position of St. John.’204

Five years later, T.W. Anglin returned to the theme in the Saint John Morning Freeman. ‘The St. Andrews Railroad was scarcely opened to Canterbury when the business men of that upper country, who formerly came to St. John to make all their purchases, began to be missed from the hotels and places where they usually resorted.’ And the process of erosion was continuing: ‘as the St. Andrews Road extends, assuredly it every day more and more turns away from St. John the trade of a vast and fertile district’ – and, worse still, was diverting a valuable part of New Brunswick commerce out of the province altogether. True, not many people travelled between Woodstock and St Andrews ‘but many of those passengers are traders on their way to purchase goods; the goods they do purchase are valuable, though not always bulky, and the trade they do is lost to St. John and the Province.’ Anglin estimated that the trade lost to the city through this invasion of its hinterland more than equalled anything gained along the Gulf through the railway to Shediac.205 As Saint John seemed to stagnate, so it became an article of faith that the contraction of its hinterland was partly to blame. James Hannay in 1905 cited a widespread view ‘that the first serious blow which the trade of St. John received was the construction of the railway from Woodstock to St. Stephen. That took away from St. John a large amount of the trade which it had with the up river counties.’206

How could Saint John protect its Valley hinterland? There was a talk of a seventy mile (112 kilometres) spur line heading off to Saint John fifteen miles (24 kilometres) north of St Andrews, but the Head Quarters scoffingly dismissed the scheme as too late. By the time such a railway was built – the province’s two existing projects suggested that four years would be the minimum construction period – upcountry trade would have diverted irrecoverably into its new channels. In any case, ‘produce or sawn lumber, intended for the United States or West Indian markets, when within fifteen miles of St. Andrews will not turn back seventy miles to St. John’.207 The city was probably too heavily committed to its eastern corridor railway to Shediac to take on a second project, but even so its mid-century failure to secure its lower Valley hinterland, a negative response not much noticed by historians, surely merits discussion. Fredericton had to wait until 1869 to hear the locomotive whistle, and its connection then was by-product of Western Extension, to which Fredericton investors themselves connected a branch-line.

It is worth pausing here to take account of another of the basic facts of New Brunswick life, the closure of the St John river every winter. Figures supplied to J.F.W. Johnston in 1850 showed that, between 1825 and 1849, the river was open annually for an average of 218 days – in other words, for forty percent of each year, this fine highway, hailed as one of Saint John’s natural assets, was frozen solid. Fredericton was isolated as early as November 5 some years, as late as December 16 in others. The average date was November 16, but usually the river froze during the last ten days of November.208 It was fortunate for Fredericton that the major downtown fire of 10-11 November 1850 occurred before the ice came, for essential supplies, such as flour, were destroyed: ‘if the river had been closed,’ wrote Ellen Robb, wife of a Fredericton professor, ‘it would have prevented any communication with St. John for some time, and we really might have been in great distress for provisions’.209 Unlike the river’s more dramatic spring thaw,210 the freeze-up occurred over a period of days, leaving the last of the wood boats to fight their way down river.211 For children’s writer Julia Ewing, wife of a British army officer, laying in winter stocks – butter, potatoes, four months’ supply of eggs – seemed like preparing for a siege. By April, the shops were becoming empty of goods. ‘In the bit before the river opens, you have to take what you can get, & do without what you can’t!!!’, she noted in April 1868. (Fredericton shops had run out of the poems of Tennyson, which suggests poor planning on somebody’s part.)212 But, as Professor Robb consoled himself towards the end of one grinding winter, ‘the river will break up and the steamers will come up before the 1st of May as certainly as the hand of the clock will come to XII.’213 In 1854, the St John was a little behind schedule, the ice only starting ‘to move itself from its winter lethargy’ on May 2, encouraging the Head Quarters to hope that ‘in a day or two, we shall in all probability be cheered by the welcome sight of our old friends’, the river steamers. Fredericton, it would seem, would have welcomed a railway, and it may seem puzzling that Saint John did not secure its own interests by backing one.

           Of course, Fredericton was not entirely cut off when the St John was frozen. The legislature generally met through the winter months, and in November 1850 the capital was linked to Saint John, and the wider world, by the telegraph.214 When the steamboats stopped running, stage coaches and sleighs took over. No doubt they carried far fewer passengers, but the New Brunswick winter hardly invited travel for pleasure. With a titular nod to the new technology, Charles L. Hartt’s ‘Railroad Line’ ran three days a week in each way via the Nerepis (roughly the route of modern Highway 7), ‘in its usual satisfactory manner’.215 In 1866, G. R. Atherton ran covered sleighs each way between Fredericton to Saint John every night except Sunday, with connections through his No Surrender Royal Mail stage to Woodstock. ‘The Stage will be driven by two experienced drivers, who can drive over the Nerepis Road the darkest night with perfect safety.’ Hudson Bay Buffalo Robes were supplied ‘expressly for the comfort of travellers.’216 Determined to make an impression, Israel R. Golding, who took over the Atherton livery stables in January 1868, drove the lieutenant-governor to Saint John in the impressive time of five hours and twenty minutes.217 Gleason’s Express used the steamboats when the river was open, but in winter substituted sleighs, operating ‘a Relay of Horses’ between Fredericton and Saint John, making two journeys each way each week. ‘Heavy freight carried on reasonable Terms, and a few passengers could be taken on the down trips.’ Nowadays we would regard Gleason’s as a courier service. The proprietor ‘personally superintends the forwarding of all Goods and Money’, and no doubt this was how commercial contracts and bank documents were transmitted around the province.218 Access to Saint John via the Nerepis road would have been facilitated by the opening of the Suspension Bridge in 1853. But an alternative route existed. ‘To St. John by the Ice,’ proclaimed Turner’s American Express, which had stationed relays of horses along the frozen river and was ‘prepared to convey all kinds of Freight on Reasonable Terms’. One shopkeeper used Turner’s Express to keep Fredericton supplied in winter with high quality sausages.219 The Ewings arrived Fredericton in late autumn 1867, but they feared their luggage trunks would not reach Saint John until after the river had frozen. ‘We can get them by land, but it is more troublesome,’ Julia assured her mother in mid-November. Early in December, her husband reported that snow had started to fall ‘and now the winter roads will soon be fairly formed, and all wheels discarded until spring. This will soon make a path for our boxes to come.’220 Spafford Barker, one of Fredericton’s most superior storekeepers, evidently used the sleighs to bring in high value, low bulk exotic fruit such as figs, oranges and raisins – but this was unusual, and Fredericton generally made do with a plainer diet in winter than was available to consumers in Saint John.221

            The obvious riposte to Fredericton’s winter woes was that they were Fredericton’s problem. Newspaper advertisements show that Saint John sourced much of its food supply year-round from across the Bay in Nova Scotia and from the United States. Nor was the city cut off from its immediate neighbourhood in winter. One old-timer recalled pre-railway days when Kings County farmers brought country produce to market by sled.222 Quality grocer R.E. Puddington sourced 1,000 pounds (454 kg) of ‘choice hams’ from Gagetown in late winter 1866, no doubt an example of bringing high-value goods down the frozen river.223 Hence, if Fredericton merchants were obliged to cram a year’s dealing with wholesalers into seven months, no Saint John interest was affected. At various times between 1850 and 1867, an Intercolonial railway came on to the British North American agenda. Saint John was determined that, if the Intercolonial was to be built at all, it should run down the St John valley. However, as Albert J. Smith pointed out, in a memorable phrase of 1865, this ‘would be like creating another river’.224 It was not merely that Saint John was happy with the river that Nature had given it. Beneath its complacency there lay a vein of insecurity. In an exceptionally angry editorial in May 1858, the Fredericton Head Quarters berated the merchants of Saint John for refusing to back a scheme first suggested fourteen years earlier to link their two cities by rail: ‘had they cordially supported this scheme instead of sneering at it, the iron horse would have been rattling along the course long ere this’. Instead, ‘the poor dolts whined, “we shall lose our upriver trade; construct that road, and flour will be brought down from Canada instead of going the round from New York, then shipped for this port, and then go up!”.’225 Albert J. Smith inverted the point in 1865: the construction of a Valley railway ‘would be to cause a flow of the productions of the up river Counties into Canada, instead of bringing them down to this City.’226

Nor was Saint John’s reluctance to embrace the new transportation merely an example of mean-minded paranoia. A through line would bring Madawaska as close to Quebec City as to Saint John. Historian Béatrice Craig has identified an Edmundston storekeeper who purchased flour in Rivière-du-Loup between 1846 and 1850 – before the railway era – and sold it at below Saint John prices, despite having to cope with a 120-kilometre overland haul.227 It was not until 1911 that the city steered the province into embarking upon ‘the long dreamed of railway link’ of the Valley line, through Grand Falls that would constitute the Saint John and Quebec line. The dream turned into disappointment, and New Brunswick begged to be relieved of the burden it had shouldered.228 The 1926 Duncan royal commission considered this grievance and, in appropriately diplomatic language, came close to saying ‘serve you right’. ‘We have had very great difficulty indeed in making up our minds on this matter.’ However, the commissioners found a pretext for recommending that the Dominion consider taking over the railway, although their report broadly hinted that in arguing its case, the province was stronger on outrage than on evidence.229

             Lack of enthusiasm for a rail connection upriver was linked to another feature of St John valley topography. The eighty kilometres of river north of the city were marked by three wide fjord-like bays – Kennebacasis Bay, Belleisle Bay and Washademoak Lake – each extending north-eastwards inland around fifty kilometres. Further upstream, a fourth stretch of water, the fifty-kilometre long Grand Lake, which gave access to potential coal reserves, was linked to the St John by the ten kilometres of the Jemseg river opposite Gagetown. As early as 1835, Saint John interests planned to improve access through this route.230 From the point of view of water-borne transportation, these inlets were a major asset, especially Kennebacasis Bay, which gave access to the agricultural country of King’s County. Unfortunately, in the railway era, these magnificent waterways became part of the problem of Saint John. The fjords were so wide that it was next to impossible to build any line down the east side of the valley and so enter the city from the north. Since seven-eighths of Saint John’s population lived on the east side, the location until the late-nineteenth century of its main harbour facilities, this represented a major difficulty. It was not until 1912 that the Valley line was seriously considered, as a feeder to the planned Courtenay Bay port facilities. The scheme involved constructing not only a second bridge over the St John river, to bring the line from the west bank over to the Kingston peninsula, but a further crossing of the wide expanse of Kennebacasis Bay. Even in peacetime, this involved expenditure from dreamland, and the fantasy did not survive the harsh economies of the First World War.231 The Valley line was constructed hugging the west bank of the river, entering Saint John by way of the railway bridge constructed in 1885. Its duplication of the more direct route from Fredericton opened back in 1869 helped ensure its financial failure.232 The key point about the geographical lay-out of the St John valley was that its interior fjords made it virtually impossible to bring any railway to Courtenay Bay – or, indeed, to the eastern side of the city at all – directly from the north.

             The four-lake obstacle directly inland from Saint John’s urban core represented a much more fundamental challenge to the city’s ambitions to fit into wider railway communications than seems to have been acknowledged. There was never much chance that the Intercolonial might run down the St John valley. Since it was conventionally viewed as a project to link Quebec to Halifax, any route that included Saint John would add unnecessarily to the distance. In any case, the British, whose financial guarantee was required to secure access to low-interest loans, refused to endorse any route close to the American frontier. Hence, it became all too clear that the Intercolonial would run along the North Shore, a route that was of no benefit of Saint John, and one that the city consistently opposed. ‘This would not be a sufficient reason to assign to the people of other parts of the Province if the trade diverted from St. John ... went to build up other towns and communities in the Province itself,’ Anglin sagely observed in 1863. Unfortunately, in terms of the generating revenue, it was Saint John or nothing. ‘Unless the trade can be brought to St. John it will be of little use to the Province, as it will merely pass through it, contributing indeed by the amount paid for passage or freight to the maintenance of the road, but doing little more.’ However, there was a theoretical alternative – it never got as far as actually being surveyed – that potentially appealed to both Saint John and Fredericton. Known as the Central Route, it was envisaged as crossing the province diagonally from the north-west, to meet the Saint John to Shediac railway around Sussex, about eighty kilometres east of the city. Echoing the mockery of the Fredericton Head Quarters for the city’s hopes to scramble a parasitic connection with the St Andrews line, Anglin dismissed the idea that such a route would make Canadian traffic to Europe prefer Saint John to Halifax: ‘no principle of arithmetic or common sense would warrant the assumption that ... passengers and freight should retrograde fifty miles to seek the nearest port indeed, but the longer and more dangerous sea voyage.’233 (The admission that there were hazards in sailing across the Bay of Fundy and around the Nova Scotian southern shore was unusual.) This same lack of confidence in Saint John’s ability to divert long-distance trade was privately expressed to Tilley in 1864 by C.H. Fairweather, one of the city’s most energetic businessmen. Fairweather thought it ‘very problematical whether a railroad, striking the Shediac line fifty or seventy miles east of St. John will be a benefit to the Commercial capital or otherwise. Will it not carry trade through & past to Halifax?’234 Apply the straight-line simplification of our mental cartography, and we might have expected an arterial railway to have evolved from central Canada straight through the centre of New Brunswick, meeting the Fundy coast at its major port. The long west-east stretch of the St John river through Fredericton made this difficult; Saint John’s interior fjordland rendered it physically impossible.

              As previously noted, Saint John’s valley hinterland operated through different functions, each of which may have operated within potentially shifting boundaries. In the eighteen-sixties, the railway from St Andrews to Woodstock had eroded the city’s wholesale distribution zone, and cut into its food supplies by providing farmers in the upper St John valley with an alternative outlet for their produce. However, at that stage, the St John basin still functioned as a single unit, focused upon the city, for the transportation of timber. Twenty years later, that situation began to change. The story was outlined in evidence to a visiting British commission on Empire development by a lumber industry spokesman, J. Fraser Gregory, in 1914.235 Until the eighteen-eighties, he explained, ‘all the lumber cut on the St. John waters had, of necessity, to come to St. John to reach foreign countries for shipment.’ The United States provided that ‘lumber cut in the State of Maine, and floated down the St. John River, manufactured at St. John, or at any point within the Province, and shipped back into the United States, was duty free.’ Until the provision was repealed in 1912, it gave an incentive for American interests to establish sawmills inside New Brunswick. However, the arrangement had been gradually undermined by the extension of railroads into northern Maine. In the eighteen-sixties, railway construction had not been especially linked to the exploitation of timber resources. Presumably locomotives became more powerful, and roadbeds better engineered and maintained. Whatever the causes, twenty years later timber could be as profitably hauled by rail as by water, especially in the value-added processed form of deals. Massive sawmills sprang up on the American side of the border: one, at Van Buren, could handle forty million feet a year, all of it freighted out by rail. The American sawmills also dammed the rivers flowing into the Saint John, either to generate power or to store their logs, thus making it impossible to gain access to the main river at all. ‘This has happened to one tributary after another of the St. John River, until they are being shut up.’ The Fish River at Fort Kent had been blocked, the Aroostook below Fort Fairfield ‘has been closed and no lumber is coming out of that tributary into the St. John.’ Gregory feared that the Quebec Central railway planned to extend through Témiscouata, similarly eating into New Brunswick timber reserves, although in the event its expansion was halted.

‘St. John is a favourite point to manufacture,’ Gregory explained, ‘because we can sell many of the by-products here that we could not if we were manufacturing up the river.’ (By the eighteen-eighties, offcuts from sawmills made an extensive contribution to Saint John’s firewood supply.236) In the mid-nineteenth century, water transport invariably undercut the cost of sending bulk freight by rail. Floating logs downriver from northern Maine, processing and trans-shipping them onward to United States markets made good business for the city, especially with the exemption of New Brunswick timber products from the American tariff. By 1914, the cost of bringing logs 700 kilometres to the city was itself equal to the cost of rail transportation to United States cities from Saint John’s former hinterland. Once again, the trajectory of the St John valley hinterland was towards contraction, not expansion.

The Reversing Falls and Indiantown

Although they are perhaps the best-known tourist feature associated with Saint John, it seems surprisingly difficult to discover much about the impact of the Reversing Falls on river traffic, and hence almost impossible to measure the relative importance of Indiantown and the main harbour. The feature was simply known as ‘the Falls’ throughout the nineteenth century. Baedeker’s authoritative guidebook noted in 1894 that ‘an American humorist’ had referred to them as ‘reversible’.237 By the early twentieth century, the modern name was firmly established as a tourism label.238 As R.M. Martin remarked in 1837, ‘what are called the falls of St. John’ were ‘merely a sluice on a grand scale.’239 W.O. Raymond pointed out in 1910 that the Falls protected the river upstream from the inrush of the tide that damaged the banks of the Petitcodiac: ‘were the gate of the river opened wide, as are those of other rivers, the tide would overwhelm miles on miles of the fertile meadows’ as far upstream as Grand Lake.240 The tidal variation at Indiantown was less than one metre; by Fredericton, it was barely perceptible. Thus, although the Falls obstructed access from the harbour, they also stabilised navigation upriver and protected agriculture on the intervales. R.M. Martin explained how the Falls were navigated: ‘the tide must flow twelve feet [from] below, before the river becomes passable for vessels – the time for such passage lasts about twenty minutes, after which the rise of the tide creates a fall from below; on the returning tide the water becomes level for the same space of time, and thus only at four times in the twenty-four hours can vessels enter St John’s harbour’ from the river.241 J.F.W. Johnston in 1851 reported that the brief periods of equalisation in water levels allowed ‘vessels of considerable tonnage to ascend and descend with safety,’242 but the passage was potentially dangerous. Bishop Inglis provided a rare example of a traveller’s impressions of the experience, which he found ‘awfully pleasing’. Even at slack tide, his boat was tossed about by the ‘violent boiling up of the water, and the strong whirlpools which repeatedly succeeded each other’.243 ‘A trip through the falls is fraught with peculiar sensations of pleasure, not unmixed with awe,’ commented a guidebook of 1883.244 Nineteen people lost their lives when a boat overturned in August 1838, and three fishermen were drowned in 1894.245 In 1906, an experienced boatman was credited with having saved 26 lives during the previous thirty years, by intercepting unwary sailors who strayed too close to the rapids. But once people ended up in the water, their chances of survival were slight.246

             Although they were open for only five percent of any twenty-four hour period, and for just sixty percent of the year, the Falls were able to handle the massive volume of timber floated down the St John river. According to Wynn, most of it arrived during the six weeks after the opening of navigation, towed downstream in huge rafts during May and June.247 Enough timber reached the harbour to provide year-round work for the city’s sawmills – there were 26 of them in 1851, although not all were around the harbour248 – although many of the rafts were retained upriver behind specially constructed booms, and may not have crossed the Falls immediately. Awkward though the Falls must have been, it is noteworthy that no attempt seems to have been made to circumvent them. Lumbermen talked of blasting out the Split Rock in 1807,249 but no action seems to have been taken. In the mid-century period, the St. John Mills & Canal Company spent a huge sum of money on a channel to divert water around the upper Falls, but this was to generate power, not to carry shipping.250 The Portland peninsula is barely 500 metres wide between the harbour and Indiantown’s lagoon, Marble Cove. The low ridge could easily have been crossed close to today’s New Brunswick Museum building by some form of transit – two staircases of locks, or by inclined planes, but it does not appear that any such scheme was mooted. Light freight was carried on the street railway which connected Indiantown to the core city area from 1869 until 1876, and again from 1887.251 However, no siding was ever constructed from the Saint John to Shediac railway to Indiantown, a distance of under two kilometres, although some form of railway connection was proposed to the Assembly in 1856. (There was a short siding to a wharf at Rothesay in the early eighteen-sixties, which suggests that the European & North American railway was originally intended to connect with river trade. However, it seems to have been abandoned at an early stage.252) Despite their inconvenience and even danger, the Falls evidently functioned efficiently enough as the link between Saint John and its valley hinterland.

             Discussing the proposed Falls railway bridge in the House of Commons in 1883, Tilley described Saint John was a river port ‘where a large number of vessels ply, conveying to market deals and firewood, and produce of various kinds’. Counties in the interior were ‘tenacious’ in lobbying to ensure that no bridge should interfere with navigation.253 It is clear that substantial numbers of ships, boats and timber rafts crossed the Falls, but it seems impossible to discover how the transit was organised. An early historian referred to a ship having been ‘piloted through the falls’ by a local mariner in 1786, but the verb seems to have been a synonym for ‘guided’.254 The harbour pilots apparently did not operate so far up river. Yet, presumably there must have been customs, informal protocols, that determined the order in which traffic crossed the Falls, and the intervals between each transit. Unfortunately, because the Falls formed part of the deep background of daily life, movements of vessels were not generally reported in the press. The St John Sun ran occasional paragraphs in the mid-eighteen nineties, but it is not easy to determine whether the paper was noting the humdrum or highlighting the unusual. Its reports do suggest that tugboat captains were the experts on navigating the turbulent waters. The tug Captain had ‘trouble’ attempting to bring the schooner Maggie J. Chadwick through the Falls one May evening in 1896, and it took the combined efforts of Captain and Hercules to pull her upstream two days later. The schooner was probably carrying a heavy cargo, but how the crew of Captain managed to abort the Saturday attempt was not reported. A few weeks later, the Sun reported that a tug had towed a line of scows (barges) through the Falls, before taking them upriver for delivery to ‘Boss’ Gibson, the Marysville entrepreneur.255 These episodes were probably only accidentally newsworthy, the result of a city newspaper taking reports from a local correspondent. The glimpses are illuminating, but represent only a tiny fraction of the traffic through the Falls. River steamers operated from Indiantown, but some also braved the Falls. In 1860, the Union Line advertised that its steamer to Fredericton, the Forest Queen, would load in the harbour during the summer months. ‘As soon as the freshet subsides the steamer will come through the Falls to receive freight.’ In 1886, the same company announced its steamer Acadia ‘will run below the Falls and receive freight at South Market wharf’ in the main harbour on three days a week, prior to its four o’clock departure for Fredericton, ‘when the tide permits’.256 Closer scrutiny of other newspapers would perhaps indicate whether this was standard practice.

Sizeable ships also navigated the St John river, some heading straight out to sea. At least 45 potentially sea-going ships were constructed in Sunbury County in the mid-nineteenth century.257 At Oromocto, well over one hundred kilometres upstream, an English traveller in 1839 noted ‘many large vessels on the stocks ... building for the trade of New Brunswick, foreign as well as coasting.’258 In the summer of 1850, the Forest Queen advertised a two-day pleasure cruise from Fredericton to Eastport in Maine. Not much time was allowed for a shore visit at the other end, but the excursion provided ‘an excellent opportunity for our people to have a breath of sea air at a trifling expence [sic]’.259 More to the point, the double transit of the Falls was taken for granted. The dismantling of the imperial trading system after 1846 prompted Fredericton to agitate to become a port of direct entry, with its own customs house, ‘which will not be a tributary to the port of St. John.’ In September 1849, it was claimed that between seventy and eighty woodboats had been loaded at Fredericton ‘with clapboards, boards and shingles ... for transhipment at Saint John to ports in the United States,’ with around forty more expected before the close of navigation. This lumber was ‘damaged and wasted by re-handling, re-landing and re-shipping in Saint John,’ where wharfage and handling added the costs. Fredericton had visions of its own ship-building industry, and of direct trade with the West Indies.260 The Falls, it seems, constituted no barrier to this dream – and, in this case, the hinterland was not prepared to subordinate its interests to the port city. The campaign was a success. ‘First Foreign Arrival at Fredericton,’ the Head Quarters announced in November 1850, when the schooner Olive Branch broke new ground by arriving from Boston – on 20 November, dangerously close to the winter freeze – ‘without breaking cargo’ (which consisted of pork and flour). Two customs officials had been collected at Saint John to supervise her unloading, and no doubt they enjoyed a pleasant river cruise. ‘This is the beginning of a new business, which we trust will be found advantageous to the City.’261 During Saint John’s Great Fire of 1877, the 74-ton schooner Brill was destroyed at the Market Slip, having part-unloaded before heading upriver with ‘the balance of a cargo from Boston to Fredericton.’262 The paradox was that Saint John might have maintained greater economic control over its hinterland had the Falls proved a great deal more impenetrable.

                Indiantown, at the north end of Portland, was the city’s gateway to the St John river. Originally called the Indian House, it was described by an early New Brunswick historian, Peter Fisher, as the place ‘where passengers from all parts of the river land, and frequently walk over the tongue of land to Saint John, which is a little more than a mile. Passengers likewise going up the river in the Steam-Boat or Sloops, usually ride or walk from Saint John to the Indian House, and baggage and goods of all descriptions, are transported above the falls by this route, which keeps the road continually thronged’.263 Steamers operated highly precise sailing schedules for passengers and freight. ‘A large proportion of the tonnage doing business on the Saint John River loads and unloads at Indiantown,’ reported the commissioners who examined local government in 1889.264 Much of the freight coming downriver was farm produce, including cattle and chickens.265 Indiantown also acted as a distribution and service centre for the valley. The firm of Austin brothers claimed in 1875 to be ‘the oldest house [business] in Indiantown, and, in the line of Groceries, it probably does the largest business of any house at the mouth of the St. John.’ Austin Brothers claimed to ‘have on hand about everything that is required for the supply of mills, ships, lumberers, and farmers,’ their headline specifying ‘Provisions, Flour, Meal, Pork, Fish, Lime, Cordage, Paints, Oils, Oakum, Tar, Pitch’ before subsiding into an exhausted ‘&c’. They claimed that ‘the up-river people who visit them usually find all they require without seeking further.’266 That same year, all six of the city’s lumber surveyors were based at Indiantown.267 But Indiantown was not just an emporium for river trade, but also a centre of sawmilling. In 1883, lumber baron A.F. Randolph was reported to have cut 28 million feet of timber in the upper St John country, and was planning to process 20 million feet of it at Indiantown.268 This industrial activity linked Indiantown to seaborne trade. In May 1896, for instance, one schooner was loading laths there for Boston, and two others had taken aboard cordwood to supply lime kilns at Rockland on the coast of Maine.269 Nonetheless, Indiantown primarily functioned as Saint John’s river port. The 1889 local government commissioners concluded that ‘the accommodation is not equal to the demands of the trade.’ They were particularly critical of the poor surface of the road into the city, which was ‘largely used by the inhabitants of the River Counties’.270

               If we were to combine Haliburton’s image of Saint John sitting at the mouth of ‘a first chop river’ with a popular image of the Falls as a gigantic two-way aboiteau, choking and controlling access, then we might reassuringly think of the city as possessing a monopoly stranglehold over the entire St John valley. The river basin certainly was a huge asset, especially for supplying timber, Saint John’s perennial export staple, and the business community does not seem to have been sufficiently inconvenienced by its prolonged winter closure to throw its weight behind upcountry railway construction. However, Saint John’s dominance over its valley hinterland was less than total, especially after 1850, when it began to erode. However dramatic, the Falls could be managed by navigational skills – even if we now seem to know little about them. Far more vessels passed the obstacle than might appear – journalists rarely regarded Falls traffic as newsworthy, while port authorities had no reason to keep permanent records of shipping that paid no customs duties. Thus (as would probably have happened with the Chignecto ship canal, had it been completed) some trade to and from Fredericton ignored the port of Saint John altogether after 1850. In addition, topography imposed a double handicap. The underlying zigzag course of the river meant that its upper stretches, around Woodstock in Carleton County, offered tempting pickings for the railway enthusiasts of St Andrews and St Stephen. The huge fjord-like lakes on the eastern bank immediately above the city made it impossible to build any railway directly inland from the most populous part of the city. On the plus side, the closest of those inlets, Kennebecasis Lake, gave access by water to a fifty kilometre stretch of farming country, from Hampton through to Sussex, which supplied Saint John with much of its food. When the city decided to enter the railway age, at the end of the eighteen-forties, it set its face against seeking to secure its valley hinterland with iron rails and locomotives, and invested its hopes and enthusiasms (and, even, some of its money) in a railway towards the east – the only direction from which any railway line could have access to the core city area – towards and beyond its agricultural hinterland. That project was completed to Shediac in 1860. It remained to be seen whether Saint John could compensate for the shrinkage of its upriver hinterland by expanding its influence to the east and north.

The Eastern Corridor hinterland

Saint John’s eastern corridor hinterland overlapped with the valley, thanks mainly to the St John river tributary, the Kennebecasis, and its long and convenient navigable lake. It was also closely linked to the city’s Bay of Fundy economic zone, especially at the Bend of Petitcodiac (increasingly known as Moncton from the eighteen-fifties), which was connected to Saint John by both sea and road, and – after 1860 – by rail as well. However, the corridor was separated from the sea by the long eastward extension of St John County, which observers generally noted as poor country. ‘The lands, in the county and along the sea-board are not so good for farming as those in the interior,’ wrote Peter Fisher in 1825. St John County’s coastal strip was ‘generally very rocky and uneven,’ although there were some ‘good spots intermixed, and many places that formerly appeared doomed to sterility have been brought under a good state of cultivation.’271‘The coast along the Fundy shore is almost a series of barren rocks,’ reported R.M. Martin in 1837, although he noted ‘owing to the contiguity of the capital [a casually revealing mis-reference to Saint John],’ pockets of land were ‘carefully cultivated’.272 Approaching Saint John through the handsome farmlands of the eastern corridor, J.F.W. Johnston was struck by a deterioration in the landscape eleven miles (17.7 kilometres) from the city, encountering ‘poor, sandy, and gravelly soils,’ interspersed with slate rocks and still mainly covered in pine. Johnston also noted farms, encouraged by the ‘good market’ of Saint John, ‘but they are on an old slate country, distinguished for thin, cold, poor, and gravelly soils,’ where only isolated spots proved fertile.273 Kings County, which also extended from west to east, parallel to St John County but inland, was a major source for the city’s food supplies. ‘Carleton [County] has the best soil,’ J.F.W. Johnston was told in 1849, ‘King’s the best market.’274 In 1861, Kings, with 9 percent of New Brunswick’s population, was home to 18 percent of its beef cattle, produced 15 percent of its pork and grew 27 percent of its buckwheat. Of course, much of this might just be down to fertile soil and good husbandry, but the fact that the county was the source of one quarter of the provincial carrot crop surely points to its market orientation.275 Sussex Vale, 100 kilometres east of Saint John, was the core of the farming district. As early as 1825, it was described as ‘highly cultivated and covered with excellent houses and barns.’276 ‘The whole valley is cleared and under culture,’ said Johnston, who had seen ‘few parts of the province which I should prefer as a place of permanent settlement to the neighbourhood of this beautiful valley.’277 The encomiums continued – ‘the snug village of Sussex’ in 1868, ‘the centre of the best cultivated section of the Province’ in 1884.278

Because the fertile districts were separated from Saint John by intervening areas of poor soil, the railway to the east, which eventually extended to the Gulf, had to cover a considerable distance before it could tap into profitable traffic. ‘We understand that on the first seventeen miles [27.4 kilometres], now complete,’ sneered the Fredericton Head Quarters in May 1858, ‘the cars average nearly one passenger per trip, and, by way of freight, semi-occasionally a fat old lady with a keg of butter!’ This was unfair, since even the incomplete section was running only experimentally.279 The tracks from Saint John reached Sussex in November 1859, and the first through trains to Shediac followed on 1 August 1860.280 (Technically, the line terminated at Pointe-du-Chêne, three kilometres beyond Shediac, which was of course specified in timetables. A visitor from Prince Edward Island jocularly noted in 1868 that Pointe-du-Chêne looked as if it had the ambition to become a large town, but ‘circumstances would seem to deny it that privilege.’281 The terminus was generally referred to as Shediac, which was also the name of the Bay. A lack in consistency in the annual reports the Railway Commissioners suggests that freight and passenger statistics may have been allocated arbitrarily between the two adjacent stations, and they are aggregated below. A guidebook of 1875 confirms that ‘the term Shediac is generally used for Point [sic] du Chêne.’282) Timetabling on the through line highlighted the dual function of the railway: it aimed to exploit the existing agricultural area of Kings County – which proved capable of further development – and it hoped to expand the economic zone of Saint John into the Gulf. Initially, there were two through trains daily in each direction, but there was also a return service that only ran as far as Sussex. In the summer of 1866, this left for the city at 5.30 in the morning, although departure was put back to 7.00 a.m. in winter.283 The function of this early train (with a return service in late afternoon) was evidently to deliver fresh foodstuffs to the city, and Saint John traders often advertised that their food produce was from Sussex, suggesting that this was a talisman of quality. It was tacitly accepted that the interests of Kings County were entwined with those of Saint John. When Sussex resident A.T.D. McElmen ran for the Assembly in 1865, he pledged his support for Western Extension, the city’s favoured scheme for a railway westward to the United States, because it would ‘build up the City of Saint John, the market for our Agricultural products.’284 Perversely, the cementing of links between the city and existing its agricultural hinterland would to some extent limit Saint John’s expansion of its economic zone into the Gulf.285

              As early as 1835, Saint John investors formed a company to operate fast steamships up the Bay of Fundy to the Bend of Petitcodiac (later Moncton), where they would connect with a railway to the Gulf at Shediac.286 Shediac became the target for Saint John’s expansionist vision mainly because it offered an accessible harbour at the end of a transportation axis projected from the alignment of the Kennebecasis valley. The town itself was no magnet, and even Shediac Bay represented future potential rather than a current bonanza. ‘Shediac is a small neat little town, where a few vessels are yearly loaded, but the trade is small, and the country around is but poor,’ wrote Peter Fisher in 1838. Reflecting a standard Anglo-Protestant prejudice, he was pessimistic about its prospects. Its local Acadian population possessed ‘very little enterprise,’ so Shediac ‘was not likely to make much of a figure among the commercial stations of the Province.’287 But institutional obstacles also hampered Shediac’s chances, as was pointed out by sixteen residents who petitioned the legislature in 1845, asking for a customs officer to be appointed to their port. With the nearest official stationed at Richibucto, a distance of 36 miles (58 kilometres), it was impossible to process cargoes, and hence not surprising that few ships were prepared to call. The politicians were sympathetic, but there was no way of funding the desired appointment. The previous year, the port of Saint John had generated over £58,000 for the provincial revenue, Miramichi had contributed £9,600, Richibucto had netted just short of £2,000 – while at Shediac, the government collected just £91, five shilling and fourpence.288 Not surprisingly, when J.F. W. Johnston passed through in 1850, he found ‘a village of some twenty houses, with a little-frequented harbour’. He did add that, ‘among New Brunswick gourmands,’ Shediac was ‘famed for its oysters,’289 but this hardly seemed enough to make it the terminus for a 170-kilometre railway line.

                Yet, by 1856, Shediac was the sixth busiest port in New Brunswick, clearing over 23,000 tons of shipping, its 152 vessels representing a departure almost every day during the season of navigation.290 Its sudden awakening was presumably caused by the construction of the railway, which opened its nineteen-mile (31 kilometre) eastern section from Moncton to the Gulf shore in August 1857.291 T.W. Anglin morosely recalled the impact of the construction phase upon Westmorland County. ‘A swarm of navvies overran the country for a time, and a small trade was done in supplying them with necessaries and Yankee rum.’ Anglin claimed that ‘the general impression was, that the people would have been better off if they [the construction crews] had never come.’292 But would that level of commercial activity be sustained once the supply ships had sailed away and the railway was in being? In no doubt that the purpose of the grandly named European & North American line was to extend Saint John’s eastern hinterland into the Gulf, Lewis Carvell, its first superintendent, waxed poetical. ‘’Tis not enough that the Railway has been built, the traffic must be brought to it,’ he insisted. Publicity and improved steamer connections were his solutions, and his target area was ambitious. ‘The 70,000 inhabitants of Prince Edward’s Island, the 14,000 in Kent, the 18,000 in Northumberland, the 14,000 in Gloucester, with the large and extensive District of Gaspe [sic], and the northern side of the Restigouche, the inhabitants of Newfoundland, Cape Breton,and the flourishing Districts along the northeastern shores of Nova Scotia, should be brought into immediate intercourse with Saint John, and the Northern States of America, by means of this Road.’293 How far was this vision achieved? For historian James Hannay in 1909, the railway to Shediac was a success of almost messianic proportions, ‘the commencement of a new era of transportation in this Province,’ a project which ‘gave St. John access to the North Shore, from which it had been practically shut out previously,’ so that ‘a community of interest was thus created between the most remote sections of the Province, which did not exist before.’294 This was an exaggeration.

             Any assessment of the success of Saint John’s new railway connection to the Gulf should be viewed in the context of Shediac itself, which definitely did not mushroom into a Vancouver-like metropolis. A visitor in 1862 called it a ‘village’ with ‘rather a scattered and irregular appearance. A few stores, a saw-mill or two, and a rail-road depot, constitute the chief features of business.’ The surrounding countryside was ‘neither possessed of beauty nor enriched by agriculture’ while the population consisted of fishermen and lumberers, who ‘live largely upon crabs and lobsters, if I may infer from the many heaps of decomposing offal.’295 Six years later, an arriving Prince Edward Islander called Shediac ‘a town of shabby-genteel appearance,’ a comment that was perhaps an echo of the attempt by a local hotel-keeper to promote it as ‘one of the best watering-places in the Provinces,’ a location designed for ‘health or pleasure’ -- provided, no doubt, the tourist stepped carefully around the rotting lobster carcasses.296 Landry notes that the population of Shediac grew from 2895 in 1851 to 5756 in 1871, but these were figures for the parish, and were partly driven by the Acadian demographic explosion: the population had already reached 4585 by 1861, before the railway could have made much impact. Landry himself notes that the local economy slowed down in the early eighteen-seventies.297 In 1884, the town was reported to contain 700 people.298

             Its very modest impact upon Shediac does indicate that the European & North American Railway was not a rocketing success, but this is a long way from concluding that it was a total failure. As already suggested, the 152 vessels that cleared the harbour in 1856 may be explained by construction traffic, but in 1863, 276 ships left Shediac, 41,773 tons in total. The port now ranked third in the province, well behind Saint John (which cleared 425,838 tons that year), but by 1866, when 346 ships (totalling 80,242 tons) cleared Shediac, the Gulf port was closing in upon second-placed St Andrews.299 With the average displacement rising from 151 to 232 tons, Shediac was attracting not only more, but also bigger, vessels. Opposite Shediac, Green’s Shore in Prince Edward Island’s Bedeque Bay became the town of Summerside at this time, its growth stimulated – according to New Brunswick historian W.S. MacNutt – by proximity to the European & North American Railway.300 Recorded as Bedeque in customs statistics, Summerside received 55 ships in 1856, mainly small vessels with an average size of 43 tons. The number doubled by 1863, to 106 ships, with an average size of 50 tons. Their combined tonnage was barely one eighth of the shipping leaving Shediac, indicating that the New Brunswick port was trading with many other places around the Gulf. MacNutt may have exaggerated the impact of Shediac’s railway on its Prince Edward Island twin town, for Summerside was experiencing a ship-building boom in the eighteen-sixties.301 The vigour of the shipyards can be seen from the fact that, in 1863, 25 more ships cleared Summerside than entered, and in 1866 the figure rose to 31 – and the newly launched vessels were notably larger, in the 200 to 300-plus ton range. Estimated in 1875 at 2,000, the population of Summerside was about three times that of Shediac. A guidebook, which noted the shipyards and the ubiquitous oysters, called Summerside ‘a small, unpicturesque, wooden town’ that ‘makes no impression on the memory.’302 The implications of its aesthetic limitations lie beyond the limits of this study, but it does seem that MacNutt exaggerated the impact of New Brunswick railway development upon the growth of Prince Edward Island’s second town. Summerside had an independent existence, making it something more than a mere bridgehead of an expanding Saint John hinterland.

            It is difficult to assess with much precision how far the European & North American Railway extended Saint John’s eastern hinterland into neighbouring provinces. The shared economic zone of the Bay of Fundy meant that it would be very difficult to disentangle trade figures for western Nova Scotia and Cape Breton from the published statistics. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island returned figures in different currencies, and the smaller colony tended to cut corners, for instance often grouping its trading partners under a general heading of ‘British North America’. New Brunswick’s Railway Commissioners, who ran the line to Shediac on behalf of the province, produced detailed tables showing categories of freight, where it was loaded and the direction in which it travelled.303 For instance, in 1863, 2,146 tons of freight were loaded at Sussex, over ninety percent of which was sent west. This may be taken as confirming that Kings County’s core agricultural district extensively supplied Saint John, but the actual destinations of the Sussex freight were not specified. Nor could the Commissioners realistically have been expected to reveal where the consignments had originated. Fortunately, the 1861 census offers some help, especially in suggesting whether unusually large consignments of foodstuffs loaded at Shediac might have been locally grown, and not imported.304 Two tentative conclusions may be postulated. The first is that the railway enabled relatively adjacent areas of Kings County to strengthen their grip upon the Saint John market. The second is that trade with Prince Edward Island did not massively increase. Indeed, it is hardly surprising that a fertile district with established links to the city would have exploited its lower freight costs to compete against more remote suppliers. In certain categories of produce, this left little room for Prince Edward Island to break into the market.

              Some light may be thrown upon the impact of the railway by comparing freight from the two Shediac stations with the combined traffic from Sussex and Apohaqui, about ten kilometres to the west. (If all the Kings County stations were aggregated, the increasing dominance of the near-hinterland would become even more apparent.) In 1861, the line’s full first year of operation, Shediac loaded 240,000 pounds (109,000 kg) of flour and meal made from oats, rye, corn (maize) and buckwheat. (New Brunswick was heavily dependent upon the United States for its supply of wheaten flour. While soil and climate militated against the growth of wheat, the annual report on provincial trade argued in 1864 that the real problem was the high wages paid in logging and shipbuilding, which made it difficult for farmers to hire labour, and hence forced them to operate on a basis of family self-sufficiency. Wheat crops were indeed raised along the North Shore, but this non-climatic argument does not explain how New Brunswick farmers were capable of growing large quantities of hardier grains, such as buckwheat.305) In that same initial year, Sussex/Apohaqui loaded 228,000 pounds (103,000 kg) of non-wheaten flour and meal. At this point, Kings County agriculturalists spotted an opportunity, for the following year, they supplied 366,000 pounds (166,000 kg) of flour and meal, relegating Shediac competitors to a mere 18,000 pounds (8,000 kg). Farm output was always subject to harvest fluctuations, and the exact volumes varied in succeeding years, but the overall proportions remained constant. In 1865 and 1866, Shediac recovered sufficiently to load 62,000 pounds (28,000 kg) annually, while Sussex/Apohaqui despatched over 400,000 pounds (over 180,000 kg) each year. Since neither New Brunswick nor Prince Edward Island seems to have noted any trade in flour and meal between the two colonies, it is impossible to know whether some part of the 109,000 kilograms sent from Shediac in 1861 had originated across Northumberland Strait. But with four grist mills and one grinding oats in Shediac parish, there seems no need to postulate imports of any kind to account for the volume shipped out in later years.

A slightly different picture emerges with butter and cheese. In this category, Shediac loaded 28,000 pounds (12,700 kg) in 1861, while Sussex/Apohaqui despatched 120,000 pounds (55,000 kg). In succeeding years, output via Shediac leaped considerably, reaching 107,000 pounds (49,000 kg) in 1864, before falling back slightly. Sussex/Apohaqui also increased its traffic, by about fifty percent to a peak of 183,000 pounds (83,000 kg) in 1865. In this case, both areas were able to increase output within an overall increase in demand, at least for railway-hauled produce, which saw E&NA dairy freight increase by sixty percent between 1861 and the middle of the decade. The historian may naturally wish to speculate on the origin of this dairy produce shipped from the Gulf. Westmorland County had been producing commercial quantities of butter for the Saint John market since the beginning of the nineteenth century,306 but the cattle-raising pastures were mainly located in the marshes to the east. Farmers in Sackville and Dorchester parishes, who produced 210,000 pounds (95,000 kg) of butter and cheese in 1861, would surely have found it more convenient to send their surplus produce through the station at Moncton, which did indeed handle dairy freight. Given that contemporary commentators were unflattering about the countryside around Shediac, did this imply that it was merely forwarding butter and cheese imported from Prince Edward Island? The answer is a resounding negative. New Brunswick imported just under 16,000 pounds (7000 kg) from the Island in 1863, and even that small volume fell to 6,000 pounds (2,700 kg) in 1866. Could the butter and cheese shipped from Shediac have been local produce? Acheson estimates consumption of butter at around 25 pounds per person in 1860.307 Census returns for 1861 show that Westmorland County overall fell just short of this figure, producing 538,000 pounds (244,000 kilograms) of butter for 25,000 people, slightly more than 21 pounds per head. Shediac parish produced 47,000 pounds (22,000 kilograms) of butter (plus a small amount of cheese). Theoretically, the locality could have supplied the 28,000 pounds that left by train, but with local production barely passing 10 pounds per head, this would have been a sacrifice. Three parishes to the east and south, Botsford, Sackville and Westmorland, generated a notional surplus of around 50,000 pounds of butter in 1861, but where it was sold official statistics do not reveal. The North Shore generally was not dairy country.

However, Prince Edward Island did export farm produce through the European & North American line, as the annual report on provincial trade noted in 1864: ‘since the opening of the Railway from Shediac to Saint John, considerable quantities of produce are imported into New Brunswick from Prince Edward Island, portions of which finds [sic] its way to the United States, via Shediac and Saint John.’308 The Island specialised in exporting substantial quantities of three items to New Brunswick – oats, barley and, not surprisingly, potatoes. Of course, it is important to bear in mind that Shediac and the railway were not the only routes by which Island produce could enter New Brunswick. Connections between the small harbours on opposite sides of Northumberland Strait must have been close, and North Shore logging settlements would have been hungry for Prince Edward Island foodstuffs. Customs and railway statistics can be compared for 1863. In that year, the equivalent of 85 percent of New Brunswick’s imports of oats from the Island passed through Shediac, 76 percent of barley and 47 percent of potatoes. In each case, the calculation must be qualified with the adjective ‘equivalent’: for instance, New Brunswick imported 19,800 bushels of Prince Edward Island potatoes, 9,400 caught the train at Shediac – but, two years earlier, the parish had grown 130,000 bushels (enough to provide 2 kilograms per person every day, but still sufficient to explain what passed across the local platforms). Some Island produce was probably shipped onward to the United States, but the available statistics are not sufficiently detailed to trace the amounts. Overall, it would be fair to conclude that the European & North American railway expanded Saint John’s penetration of the Gulf to some extent, but fell far short of annexing Prince Edward Island to its economic zone.

One observer who greeted the disappointing results of the line to Shediac with amiable irony was George Fenety, as he reviewed New Brunswick’s recent political history in 1867. Recalling the messianic expectations of the railway mania of 1849-50, he saw the outcome as ‘a lesson ... not to be too sanguine in our flights of fancy’. In particular, it had been confidently predicted that the European & North American Railway would stimulate the Gulf fishery, so ‘that the road would groan continually beneath the loads of Fish that would find their way to St. John for foreign exportation. There would not be wharves enough for the warehouses, and for the number of vessels that would be in port to convey away the freight.’309 The Saint John Morning News still clung to the fantasy after the line was opened: ‘thousands of barrels now carried round in fishing vessels will be transported by steamers and railroad to the States.’310 With tight-lipped mockery, Fenety commented in 1867: ‘the writer has not heard of the first car load’.311 Perhaps the situation was more complex than he allowed. Fish exported by rail from Shediac, especially if intended for onward transmission to Boston and New York, would have required large-scale packing in ice to ensure freshness. Northumberland Strait produced the raw material, but the trade would have required extensive ice-storage facilities, and ice houses, with their thick walls, perhaps required more capital investment than was readily available. Fenety also failed to take account of the fact that every community down the north-eastern seaboard of North America had its own local fishing fleets, many of which ranged widely. The European & North American Railway did enjoy modest success in two niche markets. Just over 80,000 pounds (36,000 kilograms) of salmon left Shediac in 1861, a quantity that rose to 532,000 pounds (240,000 kilograms) in 1864. This was a commodity that did undoubtedly travel chilled to the cities of the United States, for the trade was hard hit by the end of the Reciprocity Treaty in 1865, which knocked out two-thirds of the sales. The other specialist trade was in oysters, and here the Saint John consumer appears to have monopolised the delicacy. Even in the year ending 31 October 1859, before the railway was completed from end to end, Shediac despatched over 1400 barrels of oysters, more it might seem than the diners of Moncton (which was as far as the eastern arm of the line extended) could consume.312 Shediac shipments broke the 2,000-barrel mark in 1862, and passed 3,000 barrels in 1866. Oyster saloons in Saint John advertised their menu as of Prince Edward Island or sometimes specifically Bedique provenance. No doubt Saint John gourmands blessed the railway for enriching their diet, but – as is usual with luxury items – neither the salmon nor the oysters were sufficiently bulky to justify running freight cars along 170 kilometres of railway.

Passenger statistics also reveal how slight was Saint John’s impact upon its potential Prince Edward Island hinterland. In 1862, the number of passengers travelling the whole length of the line fell below 5,000, compared with over 127,000 local passenger movements.313 If it is assumed that few residents of Saint John would wish to visit Shediac for its own sake (although the contrary might not be true), then the long-distance travellers can be assumed to have been on their way to or from the Island, or by steamer along the North Shore, or perhaps to western Nova Scotia. However, there were barely a dozen through passengers, in each direction each day during the season of navigation. This would have been acceptable had the tiny cohort represented the shakers and movers of the Saint John economy, seeking to annex markets, parallel to the way that Anglin had detected the defection of Carleton County businessmen to St Andrews. Jedediah S. Carvell, brother of the railway superintendent, relocated to Charlottetown in 1860 to develop an import and export business. In accordance with the fluid boundaries between public and private enterprise in that era, J.S. Carvell doubled as the European & North American Railway’s agent on the Island, while Lewis gave ‘intermittent assistance’ in the running of the business, Carvell Brothers.314 The business itself was a massive and rapid success, but it does not seem to have done much to re-orientate the Island economy towards Saint John. In 1862, J.S. Carvell was promoting Albertine, a coal-oil used for lamps made in Albert County,315 but, four years later, New Brunswick exported just $864 worth of oil across Northumberland Strait – entered in the Island records as 1145 gallons (5200 litres).316 Some Prince Edward Island imports from New Brunswick did increase during those four years. The trade in dry goods (drapery and haberdashery) rose from £2277 by value to £14,077, while hardware experienced a more modest rise from £1641 to £3608. In both categories, New Brunswick’s share was less than fifteen percent of total imports. A small-scale intercolonial liquor trade had also flickered into life. Island imports of gin from New Brunswick rose nine times from 756 gallons (3446 litres) in 1862 to 5541 gallons (over 25,000 litres) in 1866. Brandy flowed five times more freely between the two colonies, from 313 gallons (1400 litres) in 1862 to 1553 gallons (7000 litres) four years later, while the trade in rum grew threefold, from 1905 gallons (8600 litres) to 5623 gallons (25,500 litres). But in none of these categories did New Brunswick succeed in grabbing as much as one-quarter of the Island’s total imports.

It is likely that most of the commodities imported by the Islanders would have made in Saint John, but equally it must be acknowledged that few of them were large-scale money earners: gin sales, for instance, were valued in 1866 at £573, something around $2,700 in fluid intercolonial exchange rates. No doubt the city’s cigar factories rejoiced at the 8837 pounds (4000 kg) of manufactured tobacco with which New Brunswickers assaulted Island lungs in 1866, but the total value was £375, and net profit would of course have been much less. In round figures, New Brunswick exports to Prince Edward Island were worth $60,000 in 1861. They climbed to around $100,000 in 1863 and 1865, and hit $225,000 in 1866. It is tempting to link this minor bonanza (which still only accounted for just 3.5 percent of the province’s external trade) with the ending of the Reciprocity Treaty in March of that year. However, Reciprocity was a form of sectoral free trade, mainly in natural products. Maybe the ending of the Treaty ruptured broader trading patterns, but it cannot automatically point to Saint John manufacturers filling a void in Island imports. Hence Anglin’s conclusion early in 1863 that the commerce lost to St Andrews in the upper St John valley was ‘nearly, if not quite equal, to all that we have gained by the opening of our Railroad to Shediac.’317 Prince Edward Island was indeed nearby, but the European & North American Railway itself reminded customers that intercolonial trade was a cross-border exercise. ‘Goods for Prince Edward Island must be accompanied with invoice or outward certificate of value, to prevent detention at Point du Chene [sic].’318 For many Saint John enterprises, especially small-scale workshops, the paperwork may not have seemed worth the potential profit.

Viewed from a Prince Edward Island perspective the picture seems equally undramatic. Recorded exports to New Brunswick actually fell marginally between 1856 and 1863 (from £24,492 to £23,340), while imports rose from £14,045 to £19,975 by value. In a small economy, an increase of around forty percent should perhaps not be entirely discounted. Even so, and allowing for annual fluctuations, New Brunswick accounted for no more than ten percent of the Island’s external trade in the early eighteen-sixties. Percentages may be misleading here, since the Prince Edward Island economy was closely linked to distant Britain, and Islanders also traded extensively with the United States. But the overall context hardly explains the disparity between the Island’s commercial relationships with its two mainland Maritime neighbours. The population of Nova Scotia was about one third larger than that of New Brunswick, but customs records suggest that it was far hungrier. Islanders supplied them with twelve times more potatoes, and four times the quantity of barley, oats and meal than they sent to New Brunswick. T.W. Anglin attributed this to the ease of sea communications between the Gulf and Halifax.319 A sea and rail link found it difficult to break into existing trade patterns.

                Official trade returns throw some light on intercolonial trading patterns, but nobody had any responsibility to record commercial movements within New Brunswick. Hence it is impossible to know how far the railway to Shediac facilitated Saint John’s economic penetration of the North Shore, but the overall impression is that it remained slight. (The fact that southern New Brunswick apparently nicknamed the region the ‘Black North’ does not say for their mutual acquaintance.320) ‘The trade of our North Shore counties with St. John has never been large,’ T.W. Anglin stated in 1863. ‘Until the Railroad was opened it was very trifling.... The merchants of Halifax, with which the water communication was easiest, supplied many of the lumberers and small traders, and all the light business followed this trade.’321 Anglin’s reference to ‘lumberers and small traders’ is important. Such enterprises formed part of a complex web of credit, with goods advanced by wholesalers on account, and then supplied to labourers, often through the ‘truck’ system, by which workers were paid, and sometimes cheated, in basic supplies.322 Most North Shore businesses probably lacked the flexibility of modern consumers to shop around and change suppliers. Once they were locked into commercial relationships with Halifax houses, they could not easily extricate themselves.

             Anglin’s allusion to communications by water is also illuminating. As a railhead, Shediac was only as effective as its onward transportation facilities would permit. Prior to the construction of the Intercolonial railway, its overland communications consisted of a daily stagecoach service through Buctouche and on to the Miramichi. Stagecoaches were restricted in the number of passengers they could accommodate, and since this service was specifically operated to carry mail, its capacity to handle additional freight must have been severely limited. (Stage coach services eastward along the coast, to a village called Little Shemogue, were understandably described in 1875 as infrequent.)323

By sea, Shediac was better – or, at least, regularly – served. In 1861, the Princess Royal left Pointe du Chêne on Wednesdays and Saturdays for Richibucto and the Miramachi, departing around 2 p.m. ‘after the arrival of the Morning Train from St John’. A larger vessel, the Arabian, sailed on alternate Wednesdays for Quebec, calling at Richibucto, Chatham, Bathurst, Dalhousie, Paspébiac, Gaspé and Rimouski. Both vessels presumably followed the same route in reverse on their return trips, which meant that Chatham would have had five sailings a fortnight to Shediac. However, the number of stops must also have constituted a deterrent to the supply of fresh produce to the railway.324 The Saint John storekeeper who triumphantly announced the arrival, in August 1862, of pickled salmon from Richibucto, was evidently trumpeting an exotic product.325 In 1861, the ubiquitous Lady Head, the Gulf’s commuter steamer, went direct from the North Shore ports to Pictou, bypassing the railhead, although by 1864, it included Shediac in its coast-hopping schedule.326 But some coastal trade was carried on independently of the scheduled steamer services, although a sample survey of shipping movements reported in the Chatham Gleaner in July 1861 does not reveal a single merchant vessel calling at Shediac. The schooner Annie from Shediac caught fire in Richibucto harbour in June 1864, losing $8,000-worth of merchandise, after water was spilt on barrels of unslaked lime.327 Thanks to its coal supplies, Pictou was a magnet for North Shore shipping well before its own railway link to Halifax opened in 1867. By 1875, the Gulf Ports Steamship Line operated two vessels on an extended and overlapping Quebec-Pictou service. Their schedule left Dalhousie, on the Bay of Chaleur, at 9 o’clock on Thursday evening, calling at Chatham and Newcastle on the Miramichi on Friday and reaching Shediac at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning. This inconvenient hour underlined the point that the primary purpose of the service was to go on to Pictou and connect with the afternoon train to Halifax. The same company owned four more steamers which ran between Quebec and Pictou, apparently as required, since they had no regular schedule. They called at intermediate ports, Shediac included, ‘as freight may offer.’328

The rival North Shore Line ran a smaller steamer, the City of St. John, on a weekly round trip which also called at Dalhousie, Campbellton and Richibucto, harbours inaccessible to their Gulf Ports rivals.329 A sample survey of reported ship movements from North Shore ports in the Chatham Gleaner does not suggest that any other sea captain sailed to Shediac. Thus it may be concluded that, during the season of navigation, regular and reliable means were available to transport freight along the coast to the European & North American railway, but it seems likely that they were neither very capacious nor fast enough to support the transit of fresh produce. In addition, in 1864 the mail steamer Prince of Wales operated a triangular service six days a week, linking Shediac to Summerside and Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, three days in each direction.330 Overall, in an era of dependent retail networks and in a region dominated by maritime communications, credit lines and shipping lines did more to determine trading patterns than railway lines.

             In April 1865, the challenge of a direct service from Charlottetown and Boston was thrown into this evolving and still fragile communications network.331 The Boston Colonial Steamship Line operated two steamers, sailing on alternate Tuesdays from Boston, reaching Charlottetown, for a quick turn-around, every Monday, ‘as near as the weather will permit’. The ships called at unspecified intermediate ports, presumably according to demand, but the service definitely took in Halifax. Although it could hardly compete with the railway route through Shediac for rapid passenger transit, the Charlottetown-Boston service was obviously successful enough to survive raising its freight rates by twenty percent at the close of the first season.332 Its arrival on the scene underlined two basic points. One was the crucial importance of the Strait of Canso in connecting the Gulf with the Atlantic Ocean. The other was that even very indirect communication by sea was still cheaper than straight lines of railway. New Brunswick’s Railway Commissioners regarded the interloper as a disaster. ‘The line of Steamers which has been established between Boston and Charlottetown has had the effect of drawing away a considerable amount of P.E. Island and North Shore traffic both in Passengers and Freight from the Railway.’ Their response was to cut out one of the two daily through trains, an economy that was ‘found sufficient to accommodate the business of the Road’.333 It is tempting to suspect that the rival enterprise provided an opportunity as much as a reason to downgrade Shediac, and the provision of one daily train in each direction was perhaps intended as much to serve the rising city of Moncton as to continue economic penetration of the Gulf. Whatever the motives, it was a symbolic retreat. Saint John no longer aspired to a massive extension of its hinterland into Prince Edward Island and along the North Shore.334 In 1905, Hannay recalled that the railway to Shediac had ‘opened up a large business with the northern counties which ought to have increased as they obtained better facilities for sending their products to market.’ Hannay’s wording is opaque, and it not entirely clear whether he referred to actual rather than potential North Shore commerce. However, there is no doubt that even he regarded the outcome as disappointing.335

              In the mid-eighteen seventies, the advent of the Intercolonial railway stimulated what seems to have been a brief revival of Saint John hopes for an expanded hinterland on the North Shore. As the line took shape – and before through trains could run from central Canada to Halifax – so it could be proclaimed that ‘the circle of country tributary to St. John is widening year by year.’ The Intercolonial was opening up ‘a vast extent of hitherto undeveloped country, second in fertility and natural resources to no other in New Brunswick’. Population would follow, generating trade ‘which will fall to St. John.’ Echoing an image invoked a decade earlier by Albert J. Smith, St John and its Business hailed the Intercolonial as ‘another river bringing down fresh streams of natural wealth from a district of country hitherto unopened and almost unknown. And of all of this St. John will reap the benefit.’336 There was a good deal of contradiction in this hyperbole. If the area was unknown, how could it be claimed that it contained such riches? If it was indeed so wealthy and fertile, why had it not been opened up before? But, even allowing for a reasonable degree of scepticism, it remains possible to ask: why did Saint John not gain more from the Intercolonial (with which its own railway to Shediac was now incorporated)? The distance from central Canada to Saint John was 98 miles (158 kilometres) shorter than the run to Halifax.337 Furthermore, the Nova Scotia section of the line had to pass through the Cobequid Mountains where, as Anglin pointed out in 1861, grades were so steep ‘that an assistant engine would be required to drag trains up the incline’.338 On the other hand, the line from Moncton to Saint John (‘the oldest, best built, and best paying section of the Intercolonial,’ it was called in 1884)339 runs through the gentle gradients of the Petitcodiac and Kennebecasis valleys, and is rarely subject to winter closure. One curious peculiarity of the alignment of the Intercolonial line at Moncton is that it actually enters the city along a ten-kilometre stretch from the west. (Although it is conventionally stated that the Intercolonial followed the North Shore route, in fact it was constructed up to fifty kilometres inland, to avoid the heavy cost of bridging the estuaries of rivers flowing into the Gulf.) A short cut-off line, perhaps no more than fifteen kilometres in length, might have linked the Intercolonial main line north of Berry Mills to the former European & North American at Salisbury. However, such a line would only have made sense if entire trains were operated from Montreal to Saint John, and the level of traffic on the Intercolonial made this unlikely. Once it was accepted that Saint John-bound cars would have to be decoupled from through trains to Halifax, the city became dependent upon shunting facilities in the railway yards at Moncton. Saint John never pressed for a more direct connection, and the fantasies of 1875 did not materialise. In this case, the problem of Saint John was not simply the product of location, but also the result of governance. The early eighteen-seventies were years when the Intercolonial encountered civic resistance when it pressed for improved rail access to the Saint John waterfront.340

             Saint John’s dreams of break out of its Fundy hinterland to the north failed to be realised because the cross-isthmian projects that were intended to open its access to the Gulf did not materialise. By contrast, the city’s determination to extend its eastern corridor hinterland did achieve 170 kilometres of railway at a time when the Maritime provinces were short of capital for major infrastructure schemes. Yet the results in terms of economic penetration were barely perceptible. One aspect of the problem of Saint John was that geography beckoned, but rarely delivered.

Saint John’s western hinterland

In one sense, Saint John’s western hinterland was the whole of the United States. Culturally, economically and politically, the relationship was fundamental to the New Brunswick identity. The Maritime provinces had taken shape in the eighteenth century essentially as extensions of New England.341 Their subsequent overlay of Loyalist values contributed to a profound complexity in provincial identity. Fredericton professor James Robb, himself a recent arrival from Scotland, was struck by the ambiguity when he visited Woodstock in 1838 (at the height of the Maine boundary dispute): ‘the people profess to detest the Yankeys [sic] but yet are half Yankeys themselves in their language and manners.’342 Temperance, one of the most notable social and political movements in the New Brunswick of the eighteen-fifities, was heavily influenced by New England, as encapsulated by the demand for the ‘Maine Law’ – the campaign entered the colony through the border town of St Stephen and was strongly backed by St John valley Baptists.343 Social and intellectual connections were underpinned by trade. In 1863, wheaten flour comprised one sixth of the province’s total imports by value, and ninety percent of it originated in the United States – one barrel for every New Brunswicker over the age of six. When the people of New Brunswick gave thanks for their daily bread, they were expressing appreciation for the existence of the United States.

             Yet, for Saint John, these powerful linkages to the west were overwhelmingly maritime. The city’s landward relationships to the west represented by far the least important of its four hinterlands. As with the eastern corridor, the hinterland to the west overlapped with both the Bay of Fundy and the St John valley, but to a much lesser extent. The coastal strip to the west of the city was ‘rough, rocky and undulating,’344 with few settlements before the small port of St George, seventy kilometres to the west. ‘The traveller will doubtless be amazed at the rudeness and sterility of these frowning shores,’ a guidebook of 1875 noted mournfully.345 The west bank of the St John river had no equivalent to the interior lakes which gave extended access by water to the north-east of the city, but blocked railway access to the main peninsula. A small agricultural district, along the Nerepis, ran inland from the main valley about thirty kilometres upstream from Saint John, and provided a stagecoach route to Fredericton. In the early nineteenth century, ‘many farmers living on the western side of St. John did all their business in Carleton and did not cross the harbour at all’, recalled John A. Bowes in 1904. Perhaps this pattern endured even after the opening of the suspension bridge in 1853, not least because it remained a toll crossing until 1875. Since Carleton, Saint John’s West Side, remained an urban backwater for much of the nineteenth century, it really did not much matter to the city as a whole that the western hinterland was dreary and disappointing.346 Hence Saint John’s muted enthusiasm for a railway on the Carleton side of the city. Code-named the Western Extension, in the absence of a railway bridge over the St John or, until the eighteen-eighties, even the prospect of such a bridge, tracks to the west would form a stand-alone line, serving an under-developed side of the harbour and – to add a further disadvantage – running through very poor country.

Charlotte County comprised much of Saint John’s potential western hinterland. Johnston in 1850 pronounced St John and Charlotte ‘the least agriculturally promising Counties of the Province.’347 With a regrettable lack of provincial solidarity, John McMillan, member for Restigouche, amused the House of Commons in December 1867 with the claim that if a blue jay decided to fly across Charlotte County, ‘it would have to take its provision with it.’348 An 1875 guidebook warned travellers on the St Andrews to Woodstock railway that they would pass through ‘one of the most irredeemably desolate regions in North America,’ the windows of their carriages revealing ‘a continual succession of dead and dying forests, clearings bristling with stumps, and funereal clusters of blasted and fire-scorched tree trunks.’349 Baedeker’s influential tourist guide similarly called the route ‘dreary and featureless’.350 This did not make the interior of Charlotte County promising country for railway construction. ‘There is a distance beyond which lumber cannot be carried on a Railway with profit,’ Anglin had warned in 1863,351 and there was little else that could create local traffic for a Western Extension railway.

Indeed, Western Extension was demanded not to open up the doubtful resources of south-western New Brunswick, but rather to establish rail links into the United States. Unfortunately for its projectors, in 1862 the province had committed itself to considerable expenditure in support of an Intercolonial railway and, although Canada had withdrawn from the deal, many continued to regard New Brunswick’s credit as still pledged to the support of a railway to Quebec. Clearly, it was impossible to fund both schemes. Hence, in the key years 1863-66, two rival railway projects became seen as a clash of loyalties and futures, between a ‘British’ orientation with Canada, and a commercial relationship with the United States which would inevitably, so it was claimed, develop into political subordination, and eventually outright annexation.352 Given the extent to which New Brunswick consumers were already dependent upon their American neighbours for basic supplies, this was an exaggerated fear.

Few took seriously the daydreams of the Portland (Maine) promoter John A. Poor, one of the few Americans to win a place in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography despite never actually living in the country.353 Poor cherished a vision of rapid transatlantic travel, with passengers from Europe limiting their exposure to sea-sickness by disembarking in Halifax and riding the train all the way to New York. As Anglin pointed out, even if twenty thousand passengers each year opted for the overland route – an optimistic estimate – ‘they would not materially contribute to the expenses of the railway.’ New Yorkers travelling to Europe did not take the train to Boston to shorten their voyage, and railway connections between Portland, Maine, and Boston had not dented the steamboat passenger trade.354 John A. Poor, as George L. Hatheway put it, was ‘a mere stockjobber with large brain and no money’.355 The honey-tongued Maine entrepreneur left his enduring mark in misleading railway names. The line that joined two of New Brunswick’s shores was blessed with the wonderfully pretentious name of the European & North American railway. The projected line from Saint John to the American border was presented as its Western Extension. Engineer Edward R. Burpee did indeed plan to bring the line across the Falls (courtesy of a bridge estimated to cost $200,000) and, as late as January 1869, railway president William Parks assured sceptical City aldermen that the company intended to establish its terminus on the East Side. Nonetheless, in practice and for the foreseeable future, Western Extension was a free-standing line with little chance of a through connection to the Gulf.356 For some, the long-term vision remained alluring: the Fredericton Head Quarters looked to the day ‘when the entire road becomes part of the great highway between Europe and America.’357 However, the immediate aim was to get trains running from New Brunswick into the United States.

MacNutt’s map of railway development, in his New Brunswick A History: 1784-1867, shows Western Extension as a dotted line close to the Bay of Fundy and skirting Passamaquoddy Bay to St Stephen.358 Alluding to New Brunswick politics in the Canadian parliament in 1865, John A. Macdonald referred to ‘the Coast Line or Western Extension Railway’.359 Both were misinformed. Early in 1864, something strange had happened to Western Extension, and the way in which it defined Saint John’s hinterland. In a report to the Saint John Chamber of Commerce (forerunner of the Board of Trade) in January 1864, engineer Edward R. Burpee argued for a new route for the railway,360 which he surveyed in detail soon afterwards.361 Abandoning the coast, Burpee proposed to head north for around 50 kilometres, up the Nerepis river as far as Welsford, where the line would begin to swing north-west along the tributary Douglas valley, which gave the route its popular designation (today’s Highway 101). At Hartt’s Mills (later Fredericton Junction), it would turn west, following the Oromocto and picking its way through rocky lake country to meet the St Andrews to Woodstock railway at a point which was later to be called McAdam Junction. Essentially, this was a revival of the city’s crisis response of 1858 to the St Andrews incursion into its upper St John hinterland. Western Extension was now to run north before turning towards the United States. Why?

What Burpee described as ‘the key of the whole work’ was a scheme being pressed forward in Bangor, Maine, for a railway up the Penobscot to its junction with the Mattawamkeag river (with commendable toponymic economy, the latter name would be adopted for the railway settlement at this point). The Bangor project then proposed to turn east into New Brunswick, making it possible to head through the Oromocto lake country to reach Saint John via the Douglas valley. Since this section would have to be built under provincial authority, both the railway and its route were in effect dictated by the American initiative. ‘If we meet them, and give them a connection with the trade of the lower Provinces and European travel,’ Burpee concluded, with a nod to the fantasies of John A. Poor, ‘they will naturally take the proposed route’. If New Brunswick did not co-operate, the next logical step for Maine ambitions would be to build up the Mattawamkeag, ‘to follow the course of that stream, and up the St. Andrew’s road a few miles below Woodstock station; thus appropriating to themselves the whole trade of the upper St. John.’362 Just six years earlier, Saint John had bewailed the St Andrews incursion into its northern valley hinterland. Now, the city demanded 130 kilometres of railway, through thinly settled country, to defend the upper St John against American usurpation. The western hinterland, such as it was, would be re-designated in an attempt to retain, for New Brunswick as a whole, the upper valley of the St John. It was a desperate remedy: if the Americans had decided to build north to Houlton, Woodstock’s twin town across the frontier, no power on earth and certainly none in New Brunswick could have prevented them.363

Apart from meeting linking directly with the Maine railway system, re-routing Western Extension on a swing to the north-west had several advantages. The St Croix was a less impressive river than the St John, but in its lower reaches it was still a feisty stream. Bridging the St Croix well upstream (at what became Vanceboro, Maine), required ‘an iron bridge of two spans of 80 feet (24 metres) each’, one of which would be built by the American company.364 Traversing the Oromocto also opened the way to constructing a 32-kilometre branch line to Fredericton, which investors at the seat of government would take the lead in funding. As discussed earlier, Saint John was ambivalent about a railway upcountry, seeing it as merely duplicating the river while opening the way to potential loss of hinterland traffic to Canada. However, once an Intercolonial line was on the policy agenda, it seemed worth seeking to fill in as much of the gap between the ocean and the St Lawrence as possible, in the hope that the Intercolonial would be routed to incorporate existing tracks. (Given British opposition to funding any railway close to the American frontier, this was in fact never very likely.)

Switching the route away from the Bay of Fundy also had several incidental advantages. Beyond directness, the coast route had little to recommend it. Twenty years earlier, Christopher Atkinson, who had ministered there as a missionary cleric, had commented that for fifty kilometres each of St George, ‘there is little worth noticing, as it is nothing more than a dense wood,’ with no more than thirty houses, occupied mainly by Irish families – a code phrase for poverty.365 As late as 1875, a daily stagecoach between Saint John and St Andrews fought its way ‘over roads which are rugged and tiresome’.366

Moreover, an additional motive for looping inland was probably a desire to avoid enriching the rival port of St Stephen. The New Brunswick and Canada Railway terminated at St Andrews, located on a peninsula in Passamaquoddy Bay, and it was St Andrews that was seen as the threat to Saint John’s mercantile ascendancy as the interior line began to push forward in the late-eighteen fifties. But within a few years, St Andrews found itself eclipsed by the ‘active and enterprising’ town of St Stephen, forty kilometres further up the St Croix. As a guidebook put it in 1875, ‘for many years St Andrews has been retrograding, until now the wharves are deserted and dilapidated, and the houses seem antiquated and neglected.’367 By 1894, those same wharves were ‘desolate and decayed’.368 For St Andrews, commercial decline may have been a blessing in disguise, since the town was able to reinvent itself as a relaxing vacation centre. Saint John, however, was probably wary about building too direct a rail link to this vigorous competitor, which might siphon off its trade. Within days of Burpee’s proposal of the inland route, a delegation from St Stephen arrived in Saint John and addressed a ‘respectable’ audience at a hastily convened meeting in the city’s courthouse. It was reported that the delegation secured the passage of a resolution insisting that Western Extension should run ‘as near St. Stephen, in the County of Charlotte, in this Province, as may hereafter be found practicable,’ but the status of the gathering was indeterminate, and the Morning Freeman was clearly suspicious of the initiative.369 Later, the Grand Southern Railway was built close to the Fundy shore – there were in fact ‘comparatively few views’ of the sea370 – to provide supply a connection between the two cities. ‘Grand’, it was not. 371 Trains ran six times a week, three in each direction, taking five hours to travel its narrow gauge track.372 The promotional claim in 1884 that the coast line was ‘rapidly gaining the favour of travellers and shippers’ seems unlikely.373 ‘In fine weather the steam boat voyage is preferable to the slow and imperfectly equipped service of the Shore Line Railway,’ advised Baedeker in 1894.374 Saint John had protected itself against economic poaching by the rival city on the St Croix.

Backed by provincial subsidies and $60,000 of Saint John taxpayers’ money, Western Extension crept forward. Fredericton was reached in 1869, and the St Croix successfully bridged in 1871. Until standardisation in 1875, a break of gauge at Bangor was an obstacle to through traffic.375 New Brunswick’s railway connection with the United States proved a modest success. In 1872, a travelling British army officer reported that the line to Bangor had freed St John valley farmers from dependence upon Fredericton prices, and that a ‘good deal’ of hay was being shipped to ‘distant markets,’ mainly in compressed form.376 For Saint John, the benefits may have been less obvious. It does not seem that through trains were ever operated to and from Woodstock, suggesting that farm produce from the upper St John valley mainly continued to travel to St Stephen and St Andrews. Business travel may have been easier, but the fact that McAdam Junction was noted for its restaurant (an unusual amenity, it seems, in a remote station) suggests that passenger connections were not well integrated.377 The fundamental limitation of Western Extension remained the challenge of distance. Reaching the Maine border was not the same as steaming into Boston, five hundred kilometres away. Maine covers about half the area of New England, and much of the State is thinly populated: even the main highway from St Stephen to Bangor was described in 1884 as passing ‘through a wide tract of unoccupied wilderness,’ and the railroad traversed equally unpromising country inland.378 For most practical purposes, Saint John had almost no hinterland at all on its western flank: indeed, the only centres of population – St Andrews, St Stephen and Bangor – were threats to its major economic zone in the St John valley.

Saint John and its hinterlands

An extended discussion points to a brief overview. Saint John’s two principal hinterlands were the Bay of Fundy and the St John valley. Its Fundy economic zone was physically accessible year-round, but much of it formed part of Nova Scotia, and could contribute no political support prior to 1867, and probably very little thereafter. The valley was largely closed in winter, and rivalry with Fredericton may have obscured shared economic and transportation interests. Both hinterlands depended on water transport; both were eroded by the intrusion of railways, with Halifax tapping in to Saint John’s trade on one side, and St Andrews and St Stephen eroding the city’s influence on the other. Despite decades of alluring visions, Saint John was never able to break through the Chignecto isthmus, either by canal or by ship railway, to expand its influence to the north. A third zone was largely defined by Saint John’s most successful transportation project. The railway to Shediac reinforced its relationship with Kings County, but did little to extend its eastern corridor hinterland into the Gulf. Its fourth and final area of contiguity, to the west of the city, was more like a derelict backyard than a potential resource zone. Yet the paradox was that the railway to the Maine border, that belated and contested project of the eighteen-sixties, suddenly and unexpectedly exploded into the largest hinterland of them, if we use Matheson’s definition of the term. The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Short Line at Mattawamkeag in northern Maine, combined with the largely fortuitous decision not to press the project on towards Halifax – discussed later in this essay – meant that Edward R. Burpee’s inland route made it possible to funnel prairie wheat through Canada’s newly discovered winter port of Saint John.

              Relationships between cities – especially great modern port cities – and their hinterlands vary, and no single model can be imposed upon them. It may be safely argued that no port city is entirely disengaged from its local region. Thus Hong Kong’s late-twentieth century economic boom was fuelled by immigration from nearby China for several decades before the British withdrawal in 1997. It has been argued that ‘Singapore does not conform to the theory of cities as surplus-extracting and concentrating machineries in relation to their hinterlands due to the fact that political controls over the city and its periphery are exclusively distinct.’ But Singapore depends upon nearby Malaya for its water supply, and the city also serves as a market for mainland farmers. Russia’s Baltic exclave naval base, Kaliningrad, shares limited cross-border travel and shopping arrangements with nearby Polish towns. Melilla, a Spanish foothold in North Africa, has similar links with nearby Morocco, although pressure from refugees and Morocco’s territorial claim have resulted in the imposition of limits upon access, both there and at the smaller enclave of Ceuta.379 Possibly Guantanamo Bay is the only territorial unit on the planet to be completely insulated from surrounding territory, and Guantanamo is neither a normal society nor a functioning economy. Nonetheless, by the late twentieth century, there were signs that some cities were becoming disconnected from their local regions. On Canada’s west coast, the economic cycles of the Vancouver area seemed to have become detached from those of the interior, and were increasingly linked to the rhythms of the Pacific rim.380 Graeme Wynn was struck by the lack of physical transition between the Atlantic region’s largest city and its surroundings. ‘Halifax... backs into scrub forest.... shopping centres, urban freeways, and spreading suburbs ... give way, abruptly, to a rough, rocky, and sparsely settled upland.’381

            These examples might be regarded as instances of globalisation, which have no obvious relevance to Saint John in the nineteenth century. However, there were colonial cities in that era which seemed to operate as their own economic drivers. The classic example is Melbourne which, by the eighteen-eighties, dominated the colony of Victoria and extended its economic control into the Riverina area of south-western New South Wales. ‘So far from being a meek client of the hinterland, Melbourne seemed to have become its smug proprietor.’382 However, Melbourne possessed advantages which Saint John lacked. It was the natural focus for almost all of Victoria. New Brunswick’s 1864 ‘Lobster Act’ was not especially successful in its aspiration to extend railway tentacles in all directions within the province; Victoria’s 1884 ‘Octopus Act’ confirmed Melbourne’s ascendancy. With almost half a million people by 1900 – ten times the population of Saint John – Melbourne was not only the capital of Victoria but the home of forty percent of its population. One aspect of its self-confidence was that it had succeeded in imposing a protectionist tariff upon the colony, something that Saint John had tried and failed to achieve when it sought to control the New Brunswick market back in 1849. Yet, however impressive Melbourne’s determination to create its own economy, there can be no denying that the spectacular wealth of its interior, especially the Victorian goldfields, underpinned its growth.383 A similar dichotomy has been observed in Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, a city closer in population to Saint John. ‘Christchurch from the beginning was the focus of its hinterland,’ the prosperous grazing country of the Canterbury Plains. But the city soon established ‘a high degree of social and economic independence from its hinterland,’ evidenced by a booming suburban property market during the depression years of the eighteen-eighties.384

             Can these examples throw comparative light upon Saint John in the period under review? Building upon the research of Elizabeth McGahan, L.D. McCann perceives the city’s redefinition of itself (thanks to the lobbying by its elite) as an ‘appendage’ of Montreal as the key development of the eighteen-nineties. By implication, Saint John had detached itself from its natural hinterlands. Furthermore, McCann was one of the most prominent Canadian scholars in arguing that hinterlands were defined by concomitant heartland domination. He argued that both Saint John and Halifax failed to achieve regional ascendancy in the eighteen-nineties. ‘Metropolitan centres attain such prominence by gaining the upper hand and dominating their hinterlands in such key sectors as transportation, commerce, manufacturing, and finance.’385 Faltering industrialisation and the loss of an independent banking sector prevented the emergence of a controlling urban centre for the Maritime region. Yet Saint John’s relationships with neighbouring areas surely indicate that a more nuanced picture of hinterlands is permissible. After all, the British Columbia historians J.D. Belshaw and D.J. Mitchell observe that, throughout the twentieth century, Vancouver ‘remained reliant on a hinterland it never completely dominated.’386 Many Maritimers would be grateful indeed to have a Vancouver in their region.

            Geography had endowed Saint John with a combination of advantages and challenges. In 2012, Greg Marquis noted that ‘its location in an outlying hinterland ... makes Saint John and its problems relatively unknown in Ottawa.’387 In the nineteenth century, the problem of Saint John was rather that it possessed several hinterlands, which were poorly integrated. However, Marquis is undoubtedly correct in concluding that it was not geography that constituted the key problem so much as the way in which its major components, location and hinterland, were interpreted and exploited. The next phase in assessing the problem of Saint John is to examine how successful was the city in manipulating the institutions and cultures and governance to maximise those advantages and overcome those challenges.


The fact that the city was located on three peninsulas constituted the context for the problem of Saint John, but it did not necessarily represent the problem itself. New York has managed to exploit a remarkably similar location, three separate units at the mouth of a major estuary, one of them, Staten Island, remaining isolated until the opening of the Verrazano Narrows bridge in 1964. It is unlikely that any responsible town planner would have recommended the establishment of a world-ranking metropolis in the Venice lagoon. Saint John’s location was a mixture of advantages and challenges. Governance would be the key to deciding which side of the balance emerged on top.

            At first sight, Governor Carleton’s decision in 1785 to create an instant city gave Saint John a considerable head start in planning its own economy, since for almost half a century it remained the only chartered municipal authority in British North America.388 In fact, as discussed below, the eighteenth-century constitution and the constituency that it created arguably limited the scope for elected representatives to tackle urban challenges and develop the port.389 However, perhaps equally significant were the restricted boundaries of Carleton’s new city. The east and west peninsulas were included, but not Portland to the north. Land here had been granted in pre-Loyalist times to three merchants, Richard Simonds, William Hazen and James White, who established a trading post at Portland Point, close to the north-east corner of the harbour. Although the partners later quarrelled among themselves, they complained strongly in 1777 when Fort Howe was constructed, as a war measure, on their property. Hazen was the only pre-Loyalist to be appointed to New Brunswick’s first Council and, as the principal established local settler, he played a guiding role in the settlement of refugees from the United States in the infant city.390 The 1785 boundaries gave the City of Saint John responsibility for, and jurisdiction over, the harbour and most of the estuary, but its northern boundary skirted the Portland Straight Shore, running along a low-water mark at some points barely twenty metres from the land.391 The scene was set for an amalgam of geography and history that would create, by the second half of the nineteenth century, two-and-a-half municipal authorities for an urban area inhabited by forty thousand people.

Urban governance: Portland (New Brunswick)

The suitability of the Straight Shore, on one side of Portland parish, for ship-building, and of Indiantown, at the other extremity, as a depot for upriver trade, helped draw population across a boundary that observers regarded as practically undetectable. ‘The whole shore of Portland is occupied by timber-docks and ship-yards, and, except for its lack of cleanliness and frequent disorder, it would be a valuable appendage to the city,’ wrote Gesner in 1847.392 Entrepreneurs tended to opt for the open spaces and lower expenses of Portland, such as the Harris and Allan foundry, the city’s first, which began operations in 1831. When the railway arrived, the successor firm of James Harris & Co. began to build rolling stock, an industry that remained until the eighteen-nineties.393 When William Parks decided to erect a cotton mill in 1861, he too chose a location alongside the train station, and barely one hundred metres beyond the City limits.394 By 1840, the City contained 20,716 people, with Portland adding another 6,207, or 23 percent of the metropolitan total of 26,923. By 1861, the City recorded 27,317 residents, with a further 11,500 in Portland (about twice the population of Fredericton), which now accounted for a shade under thirty percent of the combined urban population of 38,817.395 Portland attracted the very poor, effectively extending the City’s York Point ghetto westward towards the Straight Shore. Less rapidly, it also attracted the prosperous, fleeing to low density residential areas that developed towards the north east. When Orangeman William Jack built himself a house in Portland in 1843, he was ‘very generally ridiculed’ for going to live in a ‘wilderness’.396 Yet, barely a decade later, the exodus from the City was so notable that the legislature was asked to create a new category of non-resident freemen.

            In the eighteen-forties, Portland was governed by provincially-appointed magistrates, but even under parish government, it evolved as quasi-municipal structure, for instance in 1869 electing 32 local officials, including a town clerk, clerk of the market and three assessors for rates.397 Formal status as the Town of Portland was acquired in 1871: City merchant and Portland resident Isaac Burpee led the campaign and served as first chairman of the council – his chief political experience before becoming one of New Brunswick’s two cabinet ministers in the Mackenzie government two years later.398 A sardonic visitor of 1876 commented that the proceedings of Portland’s Town Council were ‘usually characterized by much oracular force, but very little executive ability.’399 However, the following year, Portland’s fire crew was hailed for its work during the Great Fire. With just one engine, they not only protected their own district but crossed the notional boundary into the City and saved part of York Point.400 In 1883, Portland became Canada’s shortest-lived City, merging into an enlarged Saint John six years later.401 Publisher John A. Bowes claimed in 1905 that Portland had also been North America’s ‘worst governed city’, but that verdict was coloured by subsequent municipal controversy involving some of the same personalities. (‘Portland ... had been badly governed,’ Bowes wrote in 1904. ‘Its Council was a veritable bear garden. Loose methods prevailed in the general management of its affairs in all departments.’)402 The Commissioners who recommended merger in 1889 reported that local tax assessments were higher in Portland. Lower density of settlement added proportionately to the cost of road maintenance, especially in Portland’s eastern residential fringe. Saint John also derived income from public lands and harbour facilities. In the early nineteenth century, these had been relatively undeveloped, leaving the City strapped for cash, but by 1889, Saint John’s assets amounted to about six times that of its neighbour, much of whose capital was tied up in water and sewerage infrastructure and schools, none of which raised revenue.403 Portland had shared its water supply with Saint John’s East Side since the late eighteen-fifties, but the Commissioners regarded provision of sewerage as inadequate.404 Portland streets also came in for criticism, notably the ‘great thoroughfare’ to Indiantown, which ‘carried much of the merchandise which passes up or down the Saint John River’.405

             Of course, the fact that ‘there were two cities at the mouth of the River St. John’406 would only constitute a problem if the duplication of local institutions can be shown to have failed to tackle shared problems. The epicentres of the two great mid-nineteenth century dramas, the riots of 1849 and the cholera outbreak in 1854, spanned the two jurisdictions. In the former episode, it can be argued that a unitary authority might have responded more effectively to the threat of disorder. Although its local institutions seem still to have been only sketchy, Portland had established a police force in 1848, backed by the governor and authorised by legislation from Fredericton. The first report of its Commissioners, in January 1849, claimed that ‘the good conduct of the Police Force ... has disarmed all opposition to it,’ optimistically adding that the necessary taxes were ‘generally paid with cheerfulness.’ Since the establishment of its local police force, Portland residents ‘at all times of night and by day, passed throughout all parts of the Parish without any fear of violence or interruption, and property is protected from depredators.’407

The City continued to rely upon ad-hoc watchman system of policing until forced to establish in response to the riots.408 Yet such a hypothesis would over-estimate the effectiveness of a small constabulary. Saint John mayor R.D. Wilmot and Portland magistrate Jacob Allan worked closely together throughout the crisis of July 1849, both displaying personal courage in confronting the trouble-makers. The suburb’s police chief, Captain Jones, mobilised his small force but, ultimately – and as so often happened in the British North America of that era – the British garrison had to be called out to overawe the factions.409 More generally, it does not seem that metropolitan law and order throughout the second half of the nineteenth century suffered specifically because of the Portland-Saint John jurisdictional boundary: Greg Marquis, the authority on policing, does not identify the issue at all.410 Marquis argues that enforcement of social control was the major function of the City force. An analysis of arrests made between 1870 and 1879 indicates that around three-quarters were for assault, drunkenness and public disorder.411 In these categories, arrests were presumably made at the time of the offence and close to the scene of the crime, reducing the likelihood that a local boundary would constitute a problem. On the other hand, cholera ignored local boundaries, with the worst affected areas straddling City and suburb. It was undoubtedly insensitive for Saint John’s Board of Health to establish its isolation hospital in Portland after its own citizens engaged in a spectacular exercise in nimbyism, but it is doubtful whether official responses to the epidemic were especially effective, whatever the boundaries they operated within.412

             Difficulties were created by the fact that the City was responsible for the harbour but did not control the entire port. In the eighteen-thirties, attempts were made to prevent timber mills on the Portland Straight Shore from dumping sawdust into the estuary, since it was assumed that this practice contribute to silting. One major facility, Rankin’s Long Wharf, began on the Portland shore and reached deep water within the City limits.413 There were occasional attempts to hint at exploitation of potential rivalry between the two communities. An Intercolonial railway official indicated in 1871 that if the City obstructed its plans to reach deep water at Reed’s Point, the Straight Shore might be considered as an alternative.414 Similarly, in 1874, Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie complained of ‘the apparent disposition of the City Council to exact terms to which the Government could not agree’ for the Intercolonial extension. He floated the possibility that ‘a mistake was made in endeavouring to reach deep water at that point’, and that it would be better to develop facilities ‘between Rankin Wharf and Navy Island’ – with the clear implication that ships would unload in Portland. The influence of New Brunswick cabinet minister Isaac Burpee, a Portland resident, was suspected.415 However, it seems unlikely that outsider attempts to play off the two communities were very successful: in 1885, for instance, Portland lined up with Saint John to lobby Ottawa for increased freight traffic.416 Essentially, Saint John and Portland were two segments of the same urban spread. Thus Isaac Burpee might well be a Portland resident and probably drew upon a Portland electoral base, but he was first and foremost a Saint John businessman (he was a wholesale hardware merchant) and energetic entrepreneur. The point may be reinforced by evidence that is so basic, it is easily overlooked. Saint John supported multiple newspapers – six of them, for instance, in the Confederation period.417 Newspapers represented rival viewpoints and politicians, and were often grounded in particular religious groups. There seems to be no evidence that any Saint John-area newspaper based itself in Portland or set out to become the voice of the North End, even though Portland contained twice the population of Fredericton, which also supported rival newspapers. The two communities were evidently conscious of a single news agenda and shared commercial concerns. Both Portland and the City’s East Side related directly to two of Saint John’s hinterlands, the eastern axis through Sussex and Shediac, and the upriver country of the St John valley. It was a third hinterland zone, to the west, that was poorly integrated with the two main urban areas for much of the nineteenth century. Its under-exploited links to the city were reflected in the slow development of Saint John’s West Side. And this, in turn, provided the space in which Carleton came to operate, especially between 1853 and 1889, as a city-within-a-city. The creation of two-and-a-half civic authorities represented a bizarre and locally evolved complication of the problem of Saint John, one which further fragmented responsibility for the port.

Urban governance: Carleton (Saint John West Side)

Introducing the proposed merger between Portland and Saint John to the legislature in 1889, the chairman of the commission, York County representative William Wilson reported that his colleagues had ‘found they not only had to unite the two cities but in fact had to unite three cities.’ The internal autonomy of Carleton, Saint John’s West Side, created ‘a strange condition of affairs ... between the two portions’ of what was ostensibly a single municipality.418 Sixty years earlier, Peter Fisher had remarked that ‘the junction of Saint John and Carleton as one city, seems at variance with the natural features of the place’.419 Although included in the 1785 City limits, Carleton grew very slowly: in 1841, there were only 153 houses, inhabited by 260 families. The West Side was a place apart. One visitor enjoyed its ‘highly romantic’ views across the harbour to the Portland shipyards and main city core on the East Side ‘with its houses, appearing like so many blocks of wood piled one on top of another in strange disorder’.420 For Ellen Robb, wife of a Fredericton professor, Carleton was a holiday place of cool sea breezes: her uncle was the Anglican rector there.421 Like the East Side, Carleton had a Mill Pond, but the feature was not part of a blocked valley but a tidal lagoon capable of storing timber rafts. Unlike the East Side, Carleton had extensive mud flats at low tide, which made it less suitable for large ships. Carleton dominated the fishery, although the product was presumably largely sold across the harbour. Brickmaking, another local speciality, also probably aimed at a city-wide market. During the eighteen-forties, large sawmills were located on the West Side as the timber trade diversified into the export of semi-processed deals. However, Carleton remained substantially a community of artisans. In 1849, an attempt was made to bring them together under the umbrella of the Carleton Mechanics Shipbuilding and Navigation Company, but the charter was rejected in Fredericton by the Legislative Council, in that era not always a helpful body. Given its skilled artisan character, it is not wholly surprising that Carleton was an early stronghold of the Temperance movement.422 In 1883, Sir Leonard Tilley, who built his political career on Temperance, called the voters of Carleton ‘a portion of my constituents ... to whom I am greatly indebted’.423

One reason for the West Side’s slow growth was its relationship with Saint John’s unpromising hinterland to the west. In the eighteen-forties, for instance, Carleton was the starting point for the stagecoach to St Andrews, which started so early in the morning that intending passengers were advised to cross the harbour the previous night.424 Prior to the establishment of a regular ferry and the construction of the suspension bridge, ‘many farmers living on the western side of the St. John did all their business in Carleton and did not cross the harbour at all’.425 The Western Extension railway, opened in 1869, reinforced Carleton’s relationship with that hinterland, but the highly restricted potential of the territory between the St John and the St Croix meant that the suburb grew very slowly. In 1871, Carleton was home to around 4,500 people, one sixth of the population within the City limits, but barely ten percent of the whole urban area.426

However, it was not some sort of recognition of the West Side’s distinctiveness and special needs that gave Carleton a privileged status within the City of Saint John, but rather a combination of eccentric history and hard politics. On its creation in 1785, the City was divided into six wards, four on the East Side and two in Carleton. Between 1850 and 1860, two additional wards were created by subdividing the crowded East Side Kings Ward, but the two-to-one balance was preserved by adding a wholly unnecessary additional unit, Albert Ward, across the harbour.427 In the decade after 1840, Acheson noted two developments in municipal culture and politics. The first was that the eighteenth-century structure, which he termed ‘a series of ward-villages huddled around the harbour’, gave way to ‘a much more abstract and centralized ideal’ of an integrated urban community. The second was the emergence of an urban reform movement, which sought to sweep aside the City’s pre-modern characteristics, in particular establishing a local taxation system capable of financing necessary projects.428 Unfortunately, the shift towards a city-wide sense of identity noted by Acheson not only did not take place across the harbour, but seems to have triggered a countervailing sense of Carleton particularism, which expressed itself in resistance to paying taxes for East Side improvements. The result was that the 1853 civic reform legislation came to be called ‘the Act of Settlement’, the portentous terminology implying a basic charter of rights.429 The existing City debt was apportioned between the two sections, the East Side shouldering £110,454 and West Side £20,000 (which was reported to the 1889 Commissioners as $80,000), a split which West Side representatives later claimed was unfair.430 Carleton was guaranteed the right to assess its own local taxes, subsidised by the City’s endowment lands west of the harbour. Before being named to chair the 1889 commission, the Fredericton lawyer William Wilson ‘had no idea that such an anomalous state of affairs existed’ in the port city. Thanks to the 1853 act, ‘a strange condition of affairs existed between the two portions of St. John ... the only bond of union between them, was that representatives of both legislated in the same chamber, that they were presided over by the same mayor and crossed the harbour in the same ferry-boat.’431 Occasional threats to secede, sometimes linked with schemes to join Lancaster parish to the west, were a sufficient reminder of Carleton’s disruptive potential.432 The result was that Carleton evolved into a city-within-the-City: by 1863, it even had its own City Hall.433

Carleton’s political skill at, in effect, playing both sides of the harbour was illustrated in the financing of the Western Extension railway, the line from Saint John to the American border. In 1866, the City agreed to support the project by taking $60,000 in stock – all of which was debited to the East Side. As an interim measure, the railway terminated at Fairville, around a kilometre west of the Reversing Falls, leaving open whether it would reach the harbour via a bridge to Saint John East, or be extended to the Carleton waterfront. A key provision was that one fifth of the debt would be transferred to West Side taxpayers should the western extension company adopt the latter alternative. In 1869, when it became clear that bridging the St John river was not at that stage a practical option, Carleton floated a separate company to build the six kilometres of line required, thereby evading the need to accept responsibility for $12,000 of investment in the original line. True, Carleton taxpayers did commit $40,000 to the project (plus around $5,000 from private investors) and, as the line never paid a dividend, they were assessed in $2,800 each year to meet interest payments. However, they made sure that the two directors notionally representing the City were in fact appointed by the West Side representatives.434 In 1885, the line was off-loaded to the Dominion government. Five years later, the City re-purchased the Carleton branch, at a low price, in order to transfer control to the Canadian Pacific. By this time, Carleton’s separate status had been extinguished, and so the whole urban area bore the cost. In railway matters, tiny Carleton had boxed above its weight, and had boxed cleverly indeed.435

The autonomous West Side had a mixed record in providing services: it may even have been ahead of the rest of the City in supplying piped water, a community project that had begun as early as 1845. However, in 1876, a Montreal journalist noted an absence of gas and ‘very bad sidewalks’. ‘Carleton people want all the improvements which the eastern part of the city possess, but do not want to pay for them.’436 The West Side, complained John A. Bowes in 1904, ‘could never be accused of forgetting its own interests’.437 Indeed, its politicians preferred to secure services for which somebody else picked up the tab, repeatedly borrowing the city engineer without assisting East Side residents in paying his salary.438 Despite his intermittent professional input, West Side streets remained in that was called in 1876 ‘a transition state’. Unlike Portland, where roads tended to evolve in rough harmony with the topography, Carleton was endowed with a gridiron pattern. Notionally, there were at least 25 kilometres of roadway in Carleton, far beyond the resources or the resolve of 4,500 people to maintain. The 1889 commissioners acknowledged that there had been ‘considerable expenditure’ on ‘cutting down and building up’ the area around Union Street, the waterfront and central business district, but concluded that ‘few of the streets in Carleton are in good condition’ and that considerable expenditure was ‘required to make them compare favourably with the streets on the East side.’ Generally, the commissioners were confident that Carleton taxpayers could not afford to bring their public services to an acceptable standard, and recommended that the enlarged City should spend a substantial sum, $60,000 over five years, on West Side streets, including provision of sewerage. Its artificial over-representation, however, was longer acceptable: from constituting three wards out of nine, Carleton would be regrouped into two wards out of thirteen. Carleton made a last-ditch appeal to the legislature, demanding a free ferry service in compensation for the loss of its privileged status, but to no avail.439

The irony was that the decade which followed Carleton’s enforced surrender of its privileged civic representation would see massive expansion of West Side port facilities, backed by the enlarged City authority. The various segments of the urban area continued to jostle for advantage, just as they would have done had they continued to constitute separate jurisdictions: that is the stuff of local politics. The annexation of Portland extended the City’s boundaries to the north, but left them unchanged to the east. The development of Courtenay Bay after 1912 led to some discussion of incorporating the area renamed East Saint John as well,440 but in general the City worked with St John County to promote the project. Hence, it may be that it was not the issue of divisive boundaries that constituted the problem of Saint John, but rather a deeper irresolution in civic culture: was the City concerned with a harbour from which it drew revenue, or a port in which it invested money?

Urban governance: constitution and constituency

The 1785 City charter contained several features that did not sit easily with nineteenth-century values, although it is likely that some of them were of minimal importance.441 For instance, until 1851, the mayor (who doubled as the city’s chief magistrate) was appointed by the colonial government. Most incumbents remained in office for several years, although one, merchant William Black, was dropped after twelve months under suspicion of complicit involvement with a defaulting official.442 For much of the nineteenth century, it is likely that mayors, however chosen, would have come from a restricted background of men with sufficient income to undertake the role. Thus while Fredericton selected the individuals, the type was dictated by wealth and circumstance. Nor could a government appointee necessarily contain independent action. Following a major fire in 1839, Governor Harvey persuaded the colonial legislature to insist upon street widening and building controls. The mayor tried to prevent the Common Council from protesting against this infringement of their rights, but the aldermen circumvented him and appealed to London, which pronounced the legislation ultra vires. Having made their point, the Common Council then enacted Harvey’s resolutions as their own.443

Freemen and Americans

A more idiosyncratic provision was the creation of a quasi-hereditary cohort of freemen.444 Governor Carleton seems to have been signalling to the original Loyalist refugees that their descendants would retain a privileged position in Saint John, although other British subjects could acquire the status. Nor was it strictly true that freemen were the only ‘citizens of this little commonwealth’,445 since freeholders, by virtue of property ownership, also possessed the right to vote.446 Perhaps the most notable aspect of the freemen system is that it virtually excluded Americans from playing any commercial or professional role in Saint John, an aspect of the nineteenth-century so basic that historians have generally failed to confront its implications. To cite one example, in 1843 – and this was supposed to be part of wave of reform – aliens were permitted to work in the City on payment of a massive £25 annual fee: just two licences were issued. Short-term workers from the United States came when work was available: in 1840, an anonymous artisan complained about ‘a gang of Yankees who flock to the city in summer and work for less and are free from taxes’,447 but few stayed. When Acheson undertook a twenty-percent sample of East Side households from the 1851 census, he found too few Americans to be statistically significant (although Nova Scotians were scarce too).448 In short, Saint John provides an intriguing and surely unusual example of a North American city in which citizens of the United States were not welcome.

We need to ask: what effect did this have? Was the discouragement of Americans part of the problem of Saint John? Civic reformers who tried (and failed) to overturn this ‘illiberal’ exclusionist policy in 1843 argued that it was ‘calculated to banish to other quarters much of the capital, industry, skill and science which might otherwise flow in from abroad’.449 Was this necessarily the case? Saint John’s native-born population was American in origin, and mid-nineteenth century visitors from central Canada sometimes commented on the city’s Yankee flavour.450 Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s Sam Slick called them ‘amazin’ sharp folks, most as cute as the Yankees’.451 The rapid spread of the Maine-based prohibition movement in the eighteen-fifties, especially among Baptists, is evidence of the shared cultural base with New England. If we were to subscribe to the contested view that the Protestant ethic encouraged wealth-creation, then Saint John should have equalled Boston in its embrace of risk-taking. Saint John’s freeman system was paralleled by restrictions on American ownership of land across the province as a whole, but these could be circumvented, either by incomers taking British citizenship, or by forming partnerships with locals. In the eighteen-thirties, for instance, Charlotte County residents combined their vocal Loyalist culture with an enthusiastic desire to become ‘middlemen between the Crown and the Alien,’ although in 1833 one St Andrews newspaper, foreshadowing a sentiment that would later become a Canadian theme, deplored the willingness of the people of New Brunswick in ‘bartering away its soil for American money’.452 American capital also flowed into the Miramichi and the Tobique at this time.453 Saint John itself seems to have been less directly affected, at least within its formal and narrow civic limits. Moses H. Perley, one of the most interesting and innovative Saint John personalities of that era, was an advocate of encouraging American investors, who backed his sawmill enterprise at Musquash, but this was in Lancaster parish, 25 kilometres west of the city itself.454 In the late eighteen-thirties, Boston capitalists invested a reported half million dollars in the ‘St. John Mills and Canal Company’, which constructed a deep cutting to the west of the Reversing Falls, intended to power sawmills. The project was outside the City limits, and the investors were non-resident, although two men from Frankfort, Maine, took over the scheme in 1851. St. John and its Business was unsympathetic to the project’s initial failure: it was ‘an ill-advised experiment’ begun in ‘wild speculation times’. The Americans Theophilus and Andre Cushing erected a steam mill at the site in 1851. By 1875, the original dam was in ruins.455

It may also be noted that, even though the city’s institutions inhibited the recruitment of American talent, mid-nineteenth century Saint John was very definitely open to incomers from the wider British world. All eight of the key ‘boosters’ identified by C.M. Wallace as drivers of Saint John interests in the mid-nineteenth century were immigrants (from Britain, Ireland and Nova Scotia), and only one – S.L. Tilley from Gagetown – was a New Brunswicker by birth.456 One facet of the problem of Saint John is that the city ceased to attract immigrants. By 1901, 89 percent of the population was native-born. However, interpretation of such headline demographic statistics ignores the point that children were more likely to have been born locally, a fact that distorts the break-down of birthplace categories among adults. The near-doubling of the Baptist share of the city’s population, from eleven percent in 1861 to twenty percent in 1901, also indicates that Tilley’s co-religionists were continuing to arrive in the city from the St John valley.457

The key deficiency that consistently hampered Saint John’s development lay not so much in issues of birthplace or citizenship, as in difficulty of access to capital. Throughout the nineteenth century, the major source of investment funds throughout the western world – the United States included – was Britain. During the first half of the century, Saint John’s timber trade created close links with the English port of Liverpool, so much so that the port has been seen as part of the Mersey city’s wider hinterland.458 The interconnections were both commercial and personal, and at first sight it is difficult to see why the local merchant elite apparently did not more ambitiously tap into British capital sources. It is difficult to think of any major British investor before John Norton Griffiths in 1912, whose decision to fund the Courtenay Bay development was attributed to the lobbying of William Pugsley.459

One apparent exception to the general absence – we might well say, exclusion – of Americans from the economic and political life of Saint John was William Kilby Reynolds, to whose energy and commitment Saint John owed the suspension bridge, completed in 1853. Reynolds was later the driving force behind the city’s first street railway, begun in 1868, and the Grand Southern Railway, known informally as the Shore Line, which linked the city along the coast to St Stephen.460 It is tempting to conclude that if Saint John had welcomed more Americans like Reynolds, the local economy might have been much more vibrant. William Kilby Reynolds was indeed ‘a native of New England’,461 but that does not tell the whole story. Far from being some Boston capitalist, Reynolds was born, in 1810, at Pembroke, Maine, within twenty kilometres of Eastport, and close to the notoriously permeable St Croix River international frontier. This area was a classic example of what geographers call ‘borderlands’, an overlapping region of shared and fluid identity: eastern Maine was in fact occupied by British soldiers during the War of 1812, his early childhood years. The personal roots of William Kilby Reynolds were in an extended Bay of Fundy world. His grandfather had moved to Maine from Fort Cumberland (now Beauséjour) during the War of Independence. His wife, whom he married in 1833, came from Londonderry in Nova Scotia’s Colchester County; her family owned land which became the location for Fairview, the village adjoining Carleton. In 1844, Reynolds purchased a sawmill at Lepreau, in Charlotte County, forty kilometres west of Saint John, where the issue of the City’s freeman status did not arise. Installing his family in Saint John’s East Side, he worked six days a week at Lepreau, riding home late on Saturdays to spend the Sabbath at home. Often he arrived at Carleton too late for the last regular ferry, and had to cross the harbour by rowing boat. Legend related that it was during one of these hazardous transits that he determined to build a bridge.462 After two previous failed to attempts to cross the St John river, investors were understandably wary of committing funds, so Reynolds floated his company on the basis that stockholders would only pay for their shares when the bridge was in successful operation.463 Reynolds was thus obliged to bear not only the $80,000 total capital cost during the three-year construction period, but $33,580 as a permanent debt to cover stock that was not taken up, even on a retrospective basis in which investors could not lose. There is no indication that he was backed by American investors.

Two other Americans, both outsiders, attempted to play a role in the development of Saint John. On various occasions during the two decades following 1850, the Maine enthusiast John A. Poor campaigned for a railroad from Halifax into New England, intended to reduce the transatlantic time spent on the ocean. Although visionary to the point of fantasy, Poor’s scheme left its mark in the grandiose naming of Saint John’s first railway line, the European and North American, to Shediac, but it did not inspire external investors.464 In 1889-90, a New York promoter, James D. Leary, proposed a major dock scheme on Saint John’s West Side, but the City’s initial enthusiasm waned as the balance between investment and subsidy shifted towards Leary’s increasing demand for a local contribution.465 Overall, the paradox remains: Saint John was a North American city in whose development citizens of the United States played a negligible role.

Little gifted with reflection and forethought’466

The combined freeman and freeholder franchise created an electorate that probably comprised around one third of male heads of households in the mid-nineteenth century. Acheson regards this as somewhere between contemporary British and American participation rates, although Scott W. See dismisses the franchise as ‘severely restricted’.467 However, it seems incontestable that there was close relationship between the electorate and their chosen representatives, the latter responding sensitively to the demands and prejudices of the former. The political culture could hardly be otherwise: elections were held annually, and aldermen were usually resident in wards which were rarely much larger than seventy hectares.468 Male residents were required to perform statute labour on the roads. By the eighteen-forties, many bought themselves out instead, generating funds for part-time labour, which the aldermen controlled in their respective wards.469 In mainstream liberal theory, Saint John would seem to have functioned as a healthy and responsive participatory local democracy. Unfortunately, the political culture of Saint John tended both to obstruct serious effort to tackle the city’s problems, while simultaneously forcing a focus on immediate and local concerns to the detriment of the successful management of the harbour, let alone the strategic development of the port. In short, responsiveness to voter opinion too often manifested itself in elected representatives with ‘the fear of their constituents before their eyes’.470

As quoted above, a Saint John newspaper in 1841 complained that the City’s broad franchise gave ‘the preponderance of elected power’ to ‘a class of men, little gifted with reflection and forethought and exceedingly open to electioneering influence and the interests of patronage’. Such voters conferred civic office ‘not on men best qualified to discharge the duty’ but upon candidates who needed the job and coveted the status.471 Socially venomous contemporary comment of course requires decoding. Acheson explains that, in the first half of the nineteenth century, ‘the aldermanic office was dominated by a petite bourgeoisie of masters, fishermen, grocers, captains of small coasting vessels, and artisans.’ The humbler category of assistants (later called councillors) was filled from occupations such as carpenters, tanners, coopers, printers and bakers. Notable for their absence were professionals and the ‘great merchants’, although a few of the latter served briefly in the early eighteen-forties when the City’s finances required drastic surgery.472 It is noteworthy that the merchants, although usually standing aloof from the Common Council, took care to be represented in the provincial Assembly, one indication of the importance of Fredericton’s supervision over Saint John municipal affairs. Within the city, they operated through their own organisation, in frequent rivalry with the Common Council and sometimes seeking to usurp its external voice. Founded informally as the Chamber of Commerce in 1816, and incorporated in 1834, the organisation changed its name to the Board of Trade in 1872.473 Writing in 1838, Peter Fisher seemed to regard it as more important than the Common Council, referring to ‘the watchful care of the Chamber of Commerce over the welfare of the City and the vital interests of the Province.’474 Broadly speaking, it may be said that the Board of Trade wished for investment in the port, while the Common Council sought to derive revenue from the harbour. A major element in the problem of Saint John lay in the City’s inability to discharge its dual responsibility, to provide municipal services and operate as a port authority. The enlarged City authority did rise to the challenge after 1889, but, arguably, lacked the financial resources required for ongoing modernisation in the early twentieth century.475

The civic constituency of Saint John proved inadequate in its response to the two mid-century crises, the 1849 riots and the 1854 cholera epidemic. The city’s political culture was both Protestant and nativist, with both Irish Catholics and Scots Presbyterians ‘largely absent’ from the Common Council before 1860.476 Although both Irish factions were open to blame for the York Point disturbances, Saint John juries convicted a handful of Catholics, not only dismissing charges against Orangemen but, in one case, threatening a witness against them with a charge of perjury.477 In other respects, the medium-term local response was positive: the City established a police force, and Orange marches did not resume until 1876. But Saint John does not seem to have tackled the institutional issue of accommodating, let alone assimilating, its Catholic community, despite the fact that they represented, by 1861, forty percent of the population.478 Halifax accepted the arrival of an Irish Catholic population by alternating its mayoralty and splitting its two-member parliamentary representation. From the eighteen-sixties, Newfoundland evolved a complicated hybrid of communal power-sharing within two-party majority government. Saint John does not seem to have sought any mechanism for co-opting its Catholic citizens within local institutions. When John Murphy ran for the Council in 1848 on a joint ticket with reformer William H. Needham, Needham won and he lost.479 Newspaperman Timothy Warren Anglin was similarly frozen out when he sought an aldermanic seat in 1860.480 Anglin was a controversial figure, suspected of involvement in revolutionary nationalist activities before his arrival in New Brunswick from Ireland in 1849, but he was elected to the legislature for St John County in 1861. In 1848, Saint John’s Catholic community protested against the ‘gross insult’ of their total omission from the list of grand jurors, who oversaw county affairs. From then, according to Acheson, ‘the Assembly slate from Saint John would always contain a Catholic’.481 The candidacy of a young Catholic lawyer, Charles Watters, at a Saint John by-election in 1849 aroused a Protestant backlash, but – like Anglin – Watters was elected in 1861, running a few votes ahead of his fellow Smasher candidate, S.L. Tilley himself. But Watters was not typical of the Irish community: he was locally born, and a successful lawyer, who became a respected judge in 1867.482 Oddly enough, the 1865 anti-Confederation ticket in St John County elected both Anglin and Thomas Coram, who had played the role of King Billy riding his white horse at the head of the 1849 parade. The Orange presence on the Common Council remained strong throughout the eighteen-fifties,483 and this probably explains obstacles to newcomers from Ireland in achieving freeman status. The absence of Irish Catholic surnames in City politics suggests that under-representation continued throughout the nineteenth century, despite the insistence by G.E. Fenety in 1867 that ‘this spirit of religious fanaticism has long since ceased to exist in our Province.’484 Outright sectarianism may have faded, but positive integration took longer. In 1888, the City of Saint John was governed by fifteen aldermen: only one, Patrick McCarthy, bore an identifiably Irish Catholic name. Of 97 City appointments (some of which were double-jobbed by the same person), only eight were held by men with Irish Catholic names. In nearby Portland, which had its own council at the time, there was one alderman (out of fifteen) with an Irish Catholic name, but just four more among the 46 employees. None of them held senior positions, and there is something depressingly predictable about their role in local administration: Daniel Coughlan was janitor at Saint John City Hall, William O’Brien and John Murphy were constables in the Portland police, Cornelius Daley was a ‘teamster’ in the fire department, cashing in on the traditional skills of working with horses.485 Four decades after the arrival of Famine refugees – who were by no means the first Irish in the region – this seems a miserably low rate of assimilation.486

The civic response to the 1854 cholera outbreak was also uneven. ‘The city richly deserved an epidemic,’ the Reverend J.W. Millidge unfeelingly recalled in 1919.487 Spurred by the deaths of around five percent of the urban population, Saint John achieved a partial public water supply but was less effective in tackling its need to provide sewerage.488 The city was in receipt of no doubt irritating homilies from the provincial capital. The bishop of Fredericton announced that ‘Cholera is the scourge with which Providence visits the evils of filthiness and intemperance,’ adding that ‘religion abhors material as well as moral filth’. He urged Saint John’s wealthier citizens to tackle ‘the unsewered streets, the uncleaned houses, the dirty cellars, the filthy back lanes,’ while a broad allusion to the casting out of the Gadarene swine suggests that Bishop Medley favoured strict controls on urban pig-keeping.489 A year later, Jane Robb, wife of a Fredericton professor, reported that her husband had found the port city ‘as bad if not worse than he ever saw it.’ ‘In spite of all they suffered from cholera last year at St. John, they seem to be doing scarcely anything to prevent the return of it – the place is dreadfully dirty, yet they seem to grudge going to any expense to clean it.’490 However, Jane Robb’s censure may be an example of an attractive piece of contemporary evidence that does not create an entirely fair picture. April 1855 was barely eight months since the epidemic. In that time, a major water and sewerage company had been chartered, and it was unreasonable to expect that construction work could take place during the winter. One major and, literally, underlying problem, was the basic fact that Saint John was built on rock. ‘If you want gas in your house, you must cut through rock to lay your pipe. It will cost you a small fortune to do this,’ commented a visitor twenty years later. ‘If you want water you must do likewise. In fact, if you want anything in the way of street improvements, you are met with difficulties at every turn.’491 What was true of individual householders was applicable on a far larger scale to city-wide projects. Back in 1842, the City had described an earlier project to provide piped water as a ‘dirty, expensive job’. The projected cost of the 1854 scheme would have doubled the City’s debt, which is why the task was hived off to a notionally separate public commission.492 For a community that had only adopted direct taxation in 1853, the cost was daunting. It is worthwhile, too, to note that sewage removal was only part of sewage disposal. Sewers either discharged effluent on to common land or emptied it into the harbour. It is doubtful whether permanent dungheaps within the urban area were conducive to public health: in 1869, by which time the East Side was extensively sewered, piles of ‘nightsoil’ were reported on the Breakwater, at the city’s southern tip.493 A similar complaint was made of a defective sewer outlet at the South Wharf, where ‘the mud, water, and filth so accumulates [sic] as to be rather unpleasant’.494 Forty years earlier, a visitor had commented that the exposure of mud in the harbour at low water made Saint John ‘one of the most unhealthy places in our North American provinces,’ especially when ‘the intense heats of summer’ got to work. ‘Towards the wharves the filth is excessive.’495 The harbour at least benefited from the cleansing mechanism of the tides. Other outlets for sewage caused long-term problems. In 1866, Saint John consumers were recommended to purchase ‘Howe’s Lake Ice’, because it was ‘entirely free of the objectionable peculiarities which is [sic] so often found in that article.’496

Paying for the piping

Embedding a city into solid rock while simultaneously exercising custodianship over the region’s major harbour proved to be expensive challenges. Saint John’s burgeoning debt was both a manifestation and a cumulative cause of the endemic difficulties. The 1785 charter had envisaged funding the municipal authority from licence fees, plus income from endowed properties. This strategy severely limited its revenue raising capacity well into the nineteenth century: indeed, City properties themselves required investment to become income-generators, and the only way to square that circle was by borrowing. In 1842, John R. Partelow, the nearest thing that pre-Confederation New Brunswick possessed to a financial wizard, calculated that Saint John’s potential capital resources would support a debt of around half a million dollars.497 Those were heady years: even the £455 spent celebrating the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 was handed on to posterity, while the total civic debt rose by over $100,000 in the single year, 1840.498 As so often happens with expansionist policies, Partelow’s strategy relied upon continuation of the good times. It dramatically came apart when the city was hit by a trade depression in 1842, and the City was forced to the edge of bankruptcy. The great merchants made a rare foray into local politics, carrying through an austerity programme which subordinated the City to control from Fredericton and reduced its expenditure by five-sixths, savage cut-backs which, in Acheson’s opinion, contributed to the social violence of the eighteen-forties.499 Even so, the City’s debt continued to grow. It exceeded $900,000 in 1871, and passed the million mark as a result of the Great Fire. The combined Saint John-Portland debt of 1889 was $2.9 million, a figure that had risen to $3.5 million in 1898 and was fast approaching four million dollars by 1903. The merger involved some additional capital outlay to improve Carleton streets, and the highway to Indiantown, but these items did not explain the continued expansion of civic indebtedness. The debt rose by $1.425 million in the fifteen years after the merger. Of this, almost $800,000 was allocated to harbour improvements.500 In book-keeping terms, this financial burden was perhaps acceptable: the merger commissioners calculated the combined debt of the two cities at just under $2.7 million in 1887, but valued their joint assets at over $3.3 million. Partelow would have claimed vindication.501 A further complication was that a substantial part of the overall debt was contracted by the water commissioners and trustees of the schools, whom Bowes regarded as largely beyond civic control.502 Indeed, the merger commissioners made their calculations on various bases that are not easy to follow. By omitting the headings of water and education, they estimated the specific City debt in 1887 at $1.146 million, and calculated the annual interest at over $67,000 – over twenty percent of annual expenditure.503 In 1905, Hannay was alarmed by the thought that interest payments exceeded $3.90 for every man, woman and child in Saint John, which implied a total annual outgoing to service all obligations of around $160,000. The resulting burden of local taxation had driven some businesses to relocate their headquarters beyond the City limits to Rothesay.504 The sense of ever-burgeoning civic debt had two negative consequences. First, it made local politicians reluctant to invest more of their constituents’ money in port improvements. Second, it placed perhaps undue value on the income-generating capacity of the harbour, as well as a hard-nosed asset valuation of the City’s associated properties. In 1887, net harbour revenues were around $24,000 out of an overall City income of $357,000.505 For hard-pressed taxpayers, it was an asset that they were reluctant to surrender, and a civic referendum in 1889 rejected the idea of transferring control to an independent port commission. The result was that the City remained custodian of a port that it lacked the resources and, sometimes, the initiative to develop effectively.

Harbour management and port development

On paper, Saint John had broad control over its waterborne destiny. The 1785 charter made the City ‘the Conservators of the Water and the River, Harbour and Bay’. Saint John possessed ‘sole power of amending and improving the said River, Harbour and Bay, for the more convenient, safe, and easy navigating, anchoring, riding and fastening the Shipping resorting to the said City, and for the better regulating and ordering the same’.506 Unfortunately, the Common Council frequently lacked the resources to police commercial activity, the more so as its authority did not extend to Portland’s Straight Shore, where millers claimed property rights in the mudflats and dumped sawdust into the water.507 One the earliest nineteenth-century technological revolutions was the arrival, after about 1810, of bigger ships necessary for the burgeoning timber trade, vessels that were too large to be beached at low tide. This development constituted the first instance of a divergence between a harbour and a port: for Saint John to operate successfully, it required deep-water loading facilities, projects that the Common Council could not begin to finance. Between 1815 and 1832, permission was given for ten privately owned East Side wharves to be extended into deep water, one of them – Rankin’s Long Wharf – starting on Portland soil and ending within the City’s harbour limits. However, other merchants ignored the Council and built beyond the low tide mark anyway. Between 1823 and 1830, the City attempted to prevent a prominent merchant, William Jarvis, from extending his wharf. When they failed, prosecution was attempted, but legal proceedings were expensive and dilatory and Jarvis succeeded in his blatant defiance. In 1839, the Council recognised reality – and its own poverty – by charging all wharf-owners an annual fee, whether their installations were legal or not. This surrender encouraged further infringements, and the savage cuts to the City budget after 1843 rendered any enforcement of its authority out of the question. In 1854, the Common Council responded to a felt need for increased deep-water facilities not by financing construction itself, but by asking two leading merchants to extend their wharves, offering them the perpetual lease of adjoining City properties as an incentive. The upshot was that John Robertson, a New Brunswick Legislative Councillor and one of Saint John’s merchant princes, became ‘effective master of the upper harbour.’ The City made a little more effort to control wharf development on the Carleton side through thirty-five year leases, but even here the priority was to reserve the possibility of increasing future income. By the mid-nineteenth century, much of the major port infrastructure was subject to private ownership and minimal regulation.508 One eminently predictable consequence was failure of maintenance. ‘The wharves in many places sadly need repairing,’ a visitor noted in 1876.509

In 1837, the Common Council became concerned that the harbour was silting ‘more than ought to be by mere alluvium,’ with the result that many wharves that had formerly terminated in deep water were now ‘more than thirty feet’ (9-10 metres) from the low tide mark. It is an interesting comment on the reality of the City’s authority that the councillors petitioned the provincial government to establish a commission of enquiry, which reported fifteen months later. Its findings hardly flattered the City Council. The harbour master, Thomas Robson, had known the port since 1794. Forty years on, there was ‘dry ground on places where in 1794, five, six, and seven vessels swung with four fathoms (7.3 metres) at low water’. In some places, ‘there is not now more than 8 feet (2.4 metres) at low water where there used to be 8 fathoms (14.6 metres)’. There was a general impression that the spread of arable farming in the St John valley had increased the run-off of soil from intervale lands, although it was perhaps too much to expect Saint John opinion to consider the possibility that large-scale stripping of the interior forests had contributed to erosion. However, witnesses insisted that the harbour’s boisterous tides should in theory be capable of removing ordinary levels of silt. Much of the problem was caused by sawmills dumping waste products, including ‘immense quantity of Chips,’ which became embedded in the harbour mud. It was here that the lack of any master plan came into play. Because wharves had been built to different lengths, the tidal flow was caught in eddies, and consequently failed to cleanse the port adequately. One witness argued that the situation would be improved if ‘the wharves were all projected into the Harbour to a prescribed distance, the heads of the different wharves all ranging with each other’ so that ‘the tide, running true, would carry everything floating with it, out of the main channel’.510

A further nuisance brought to the attention of the Commissioners was that caused by ballast, a key element in the operation of the port but one that barely features in standard accounts. Larger ships, presumably those engaged in the timber trade, tended to enter Saint John in ballast, but departed fully loaded. The reverse tended to be the case with smaller vessels, which carried produce from around the Bay of Fundy to City markets, but (it seems) often left without cargo. The result was that substantial amounts of surplus ballast, probably gravel and rubble, had to be disposed of each year.511 In the eighteen-thirties, it seems that arriving ships discharged their ballast into the sea at the Breakwater, at the southern tip of the East Side peninsula – an installation also known as the Ballast Wharf, and in poor condition by 1837.512 The port warden, Isaac Woodward, claimed that because of ‘the inefficient state of the Breakwater, much of the lighter ballast thrown on the south side of it, is brought up into the Harbour by the flood tide’. Another witness called the Breakwater ‘a decided nuisance’, and called for it to be extended ‘to prevent any ballast that may be there deposited getting into the Harbour.’513

The problem of ballast dovetailed with the issue of poor supervision of wharf construction. Timber frames had been constructed from roughly hewn logs, with inadequate internal sealing, and filled with ‘sand, clay, and shingle ballast’. Many also operated without any fixed surface, operators preferring the practice of ‘covering open wharves with gravel and slate stone’. As a result, ‘every high tide at present washes out great quantities of ballast’ and ‘the holes thus made are again filled with the same material, which is also precipitated into the water.’ ‘No wharf should be erected unless of squared timber, close, planked on the top, and ballasted with stone,’ pronounced Lauchlan Donaldson.514 With only minor amendment, the Common Council backed the commissioners’ recommendations to this effect, but it is noteworthy that they had to ask for provincial legislation to enforce the provisions.

Ten years later, another commission on harbour conditions ignored the City authorities altogether. In 1848, Provincial Secretary John R. Partelow (himself a Saint John politician) commissioned an investigation into complaints that ‘the Sawdust going into the harbour from the numerous Saw Mills at and in the vicinity of Saint John, is greatly injuring that Harbour’. In one case, a ship had dropped anchor into an unstable harbour bed of wood pulp, and had subsequently been swept on to the shore. The commissioners, Presbyterian banker Thomas Leavitt515 and shipowner and Temperance campaigner N.S. Demill,516 probably orchestrated responses that enabled them to argue that ‘the only effectual cure will be a stringent Legislative enactment, compelling the consumption or removal of all refuse matter from Saw Mills’ to protect harbour navigation and fisheries. They added the sensible point that ‘laws of a highly penal and preventive nature ... are seldom enforced with regularity, consistency and impartiality’ unless there was some process of supervision, and called for inspectors to be appointed to monitor the saw-mills. ‘There is a law at present to prevent them from throwing Slabs and Bark in the Harbour,’ reported one submission, ‘but they violate the same every day.’ Although Thomas Reed, the Harbour Master, and two former aldermen argued for action, it is evident that nobody contemplated entrusting the City with the responsibility to take action. The fact that shipbuilder William Olive and Carleton mill-owner William Buchanan both thought the problem exaggerated probably explains why this was so.517 Provincial legislation followed in 1851 and 1854, but it was probably technological change that led the grumbling mill owners to stop polluting the waters. There was a considerable expansion of sawmilling capacity around Saint John between 1840 and 1851, and it was associated with a shift from tidal power to steam engines. By 1853, many of the area’s sawmills were burning lumber offcuts and (less willingly) sawdust.518 Technology and legislation, it seems, had combined to deal with the problem of sawdust. Municipal autonomy had proved virtually irrelevant.

Harbour silting and the disposal of ballast continued to challenge the City. In November 1861, the Common Council agreed to pay $40 a day ‘for the use of the Provincial Dredging Machine,’ characteristically also deciding to avoid direct taxation by raising $2,400 by the sale of Harbour Debentures ‘to meet the expense incurred in connexion with the Dredging and the Extension of the Breakwater.’519 Mayor Thomas McAvity had begun a rebuilding programme at Reed’s Point in 1860, and the Freeman’s Journal felt that the extension to the Breakwater was ‘a work of the most essential importance to the harbour, and the necessity of which has long been felt’.520 But the paper also criticised McAvity for failing ‘to secure a revenue from the Breakwater’. Rather, he had ‘allowed private individuals, who were instrumental in securing for him at election times a large number of votes, to use it and resell the ballast there deposited, which rightly belongs to the public’.521 In fact, the Common Council had recently moved to auction off the right to collect ‘the sum of five cents per ton ... chargeable for all Ballast unloaded unladen from any vessel and deposited upon the breakwater of any public ground South of the same’.522 How effective this system proved is open to doubt. Seven years later, in 1869, the Council debated the state of the Breakwater. The Morning Freeman alleged that ‘some parties have been using the ground for years as a store for ballast in which they traffic[k], paying no rent’ – and even forcing the City to buy what should have been a public asset. The Breakwater was ‘encumbered with ballast piled at random and with nightsoil’ and the City Engineer recommended appointing an official ‘to watch the cartmen and see that they deposit the ballast properly’.523 This suggestion sounds very much like the proposal for enforcement made in 1848.

In fact, the Ballast Wharf was about to become a focus of a new phase in railway extension and potential port development, in which Saint John’s City Council failed to demonstrate decisive or far-sighted leadership. A comparison may be made with the response, over a decade earlier, of the Upper Canadian city of Kingston to railway issues. When the Grand Trunk, linking Toronto and Montreal, was constructed in 1856, the company chose to build several kilometres inland from Lake Ontario: land was cheaper, rivers easier to bridge and, above all, the railway had no interest in feeding business to rival waterborne trade. Finding itself virtually by-passed, Kingston embarked on a united campaign to force the Grand Trunk to build a spur line to its waterfront – a demand that even embarrassed the city’s entrenched member of parliament, John A. Macdonald.524 The Saint John situation was more complicated, but the contrast in responses remains striking.

Saint John’s railway to Shediac, the grandly named European and North American, (E&NA) had fallen into the hands of the New Brunswick government in 1856, and was duly transferred to Dominion ownership at Confederation. As the projected railway from Quebec to Halifax would cross the E&NA at Moncton, it made sense for Ottawa to plan for the two lines jointly, and the E&NA was formally incorporated with the Intercolonial in 1872. As argued in the discussion of the city’s eastern corridor hinterland, Saint John could perhaps have done more to benefit from trade flowing from central Canada through this link. Rather, the City adopted a generally negative attitude throughout the eighteen-seventies, the crucial period in the development of new trade channels from central Canada.

The saga is well told by McGahan. In 1869, railway superintendent Lewis Carvell proposed to construct a new E&NA spur line alongside Courtenay Bay, to the Ballast Wharf / Breakwater, with a further extension alongside the harbour to the recently upgraded wharf at Reed’s Point. (The railway had in fact been planning for ‘a line along the shore of Courtenay Bay to the Breakwater’ as early as 1863.525) ‘In short,’ says McGahan, ‘the government wished to encircle much of the main peninsula with railway track.’526 This would have provided around a kilometre of rail access alongside deep water, an offer that surely most cities would have welcomed. Unfortunately, Saint John’s Common Council had two problems with the proposal. The first was reluctance to hand over control of the Ballast Wharf and adjoining areas, where additional public space was becoming available with the withdrawal of the British military garrison. The second was that rail access to Reed’s Wharf involved building across the Lower Cove, the part of the harbour used by smaller craft, many of which supplied the city with provisions from around the Fundy region. In 1869, the Common Council was prepared to authorise the construction across the Lower Cove, with a drawbridge to give access from the sea, but they refused to cede control of the Ballast Wharf. Carvell renewed his application in 1871, insisting on the allocation of adequate space for track at the Ballast Wharf. The following year, the City made the necessary concessions, but rescinded its permission for a drawbridge across the Lower Cove. As a result, the Intercolonial did not secure access to Reed’s Point for another twenty years.527

The reorganisation of the Saint John Board of Trade between 1870 and its renaming in 1872 gave the City an additional voice in port issues, reflected in the fact that both the Board and the Council appointed members to the pilotage authority created under the 1873 Dominion Act. When the two organisations worked together, as in the campaign for winter port status in the eighteen-nineties, their duplication arguably strengthened the city’s position – but probably not in 1878, when rival delegations to Ottawa lobbied for different schemes of port development.528 Far too often, the two bodies reflected different interests and contrasting approaches, with the Board of Trade possessing the ambition to develop the port but lacking the authority to take action, while the Common Council had the power but lacked the vision. A major city newspaper observed in 1874 that there was ‘almost a total absence of men of large commercial experience’ among aldermen and councillors, with shipowners conspicuous for their non-participation.529 As a journalist observed in 1877, ‘the men best fitted to be the representatives of this commercial and growing city’s wealth and intelligence, and of the future greatness to which it seems to be steadily advancing, seldom find a place at the Council Board.’530 When the two organisations did collaborate, for instance to publish Saint John as a Winter Port of Canada in 1898, there was no overlap in personnel between the seventeen members of the Common Council and the eighteen officers of the Board of Trade. It is noteworthy that one of the few men connected with both, entrepreneur Thomas R. Jones, concluded in 1873, on the basis of eight years’ service as an elected representative, that ‘little or nothing could be done to make the harbour what it ought to be until the Common Council divested themselves of control.’531

The City’s near-bankruptcy in 1842 was followed by severe financial cuts and the assertion of Fredericton control.532 Interest in civic politics waned accordingly. ‘We believe the elections took place Yesterday for the Aldermen and Assistants [Councillors], in the various wards,’ the Saint John Morning News commented sardonically in April 1846; ‘and we further believe that all the old members were returned.’533 Activity revived in the decade after 1848, as a civic reform movement tackled both institutions and infrastructure,534 but a sample survey of local newspapers suggests that apathy returned from the eighteen-sixties. In 1866, candidates in three wards were returned without opposition, and 1306 votes were cast in the remaining six.535 The following year, G.E. Fenety, who had lived in both cities, offered the opinion that both Fredericton and Saint John would each be better and indeed more cheaply administered by ‘three well-paid Commissioners’.536 In 1869, four wards went uncontested, while in three others either the alderman or councillor was unopposed. Not surprisingly, there was ‘little excitement’ at the polls (although two local politicians exchanged insults and a few punches in a street encounter), and 1342 votes were cast in the six contested wards.537 Of the 1877 civic elections, the satirical New Dominion and True Humorist remarked that ‘from the utter absence of anything like a general public interest in the matter, from the absence not only of excitement but even of animated discussion of men or measures, one might be led to suppose that the City of Saint John was one of the best-governed and most contented places on the face of the wide earth.’ In reality, the local political culture was ‘in a particularly inert and somnolent condition’ punctuated only by ‘a large amount of very loud and thoroughly British grumbling’.538 ‘There is little opposition to the old members seeking re-election,’ remarked the Daily News in 1880, when there were contests in only three of the nine wards: one incumbent seeking a further term, an octogenarian, was indeed ‘old’.539 The combination of lack of interest in civic affairs and lack of respect for its elected members sometimes led aldermen and councillors to stand on a dignity that was not readily observed by others. In 1898, the year of the collaborative publication of Saint John as a Winter Port of Canada the Board of Trade, Mayor Sears rebuked the Board of Trade for its presumption in requesting the Common Council to appoint two representatives to a committee on transportation issues. A later mayor, James Frink in 1913, attributed past bad feeling between the two bodies to the fact that ‘the Board of Trade had set themselves to direct the Common Council.’ In tones of menacing amity, he promised that there would be ‘harmony and the hatchet will be buried’ so long as ‘the Board of Trade is willing to submit their plans to the Common Council’.540

At intervals for over half a century from 1872, Saint John debated the issue of transferring control of the harbour to an independent port authority. Intermittent negotiations between 1875 and 1878 revealed divisions between the Common Council and the Board of Trade which made it easier for the Dominion government to walk away from the idea. In theory, Ottawa might have taken the hard line that Saint John had been endowed with properties back in 1785 to finance its management of the harbour, and that a major share of those assets should simply be transferred to a successor authority. In practice, Canadian politics did not work that way. The City was prepared to surrender control over the port, but sought over a million dollars in compensation for its properties and improvements. The Great Fire of 1877 increased the need for cash to undertake rebuilding, the Dominion government preferred to settle the claim by issuing Harbour Commission bonds, the Board of Trade did not wish to see the new port authority saddled with a debt that would hamper its capacity to raise additional capital. In the event, New Brunswick federal minister Albert J. Smith declined to introduce the necessary legislation.541 Of course, it should not be assumed that a harbour commission would have represented the miracle solution to all challenges facing the port of Saint John. For instance, the Intercolonial railway plans to reach deep water at Reed’s Point had involved the proposal to lay tracks along the densely built-up East Side streets. Perhaps it was preferable to have a municipal authority that intermittently recognised its responsibilities as conservator of the harbour, rather than a Common Council solely concerned with the convenience of residents. It is hard not to sympathise with the Common Council in its need to generate cash to re-build Saint John after the Great Fire, but here, too, the lack of a harbour commission may point to opportunities missed. An independent port authority might perhaps have pressed to buy out property owners on devastated Water Street to create additional dockside commercial space.542

The idea of a port commission was revived in 1886 in expectation of the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Short Line from Montreal. Initial agreement between the Common Council and the Board of Trade fragmented when the Dominion government showed little interest in picking up the tab, and the elected representatives became reluctant to give up harbour revenues. The issue was referred to a city-wide referendum, delayed until September 1889 so that residents of Portland could take part within the enlarged boundaries. Voters in every ward rejected the idea of a commission.543 To some extent, the issue was settled on an interim basis by tacitly regarding the CPR as the port authority for the West Side, a situation that was formalised by the tripartite agreement of 1911, the City, the railway and the Dominion government each accepting partial responsibility for the additional docks and freight yards – a deal made necessary by Ottawa’s renewed reluctance to accept the full responsibility of port nationalization and administration by commission.544 It is likely that this divided control harmed Saint John in competition with other ports. Portland, Maine, sometimes appears in accounts of nineteenth-century Saint John as if it were some monster rival. Paradoxically, Portland was a threat partly because it was a middle-sized city, in much the same population league as Saint John.545 The year-round outlet for the Grand Trunk system since the eighteen-fifties, Portland, Maine, had developed into something highly unusual, a United States city dominated by a Canadian enterprise. As an official of the Canadian National Railways, successor to the Grand Trunk, put it in 1926, at Portland the company owned ‘all of the terminals, the elevators, freight sheds, stockyards ... the whole shooting match.’546 Not surprisingly, this made the Maine outlet more attractive to the Intercolonial than its New Brunswick rival.

In the decade after 1911, further attempts were made to resolve the issue of providing single and dedicated control over the harbour, with one local legislator favouring the commission option because ‘all Canada will have to pay the bills.’547 In 1919, the Dominion Minister of Marine and Fisheries, Charles Ballantine, introduced legislation to create a Board of Harbour Commissioners for Saint John. His speech was highly sympathetic, even flattering, to the city. Saint John, he said, was ‘the second largest of our national seaports,’ occupying ‘a unique position’ because its facilities ‘have been paid for almost exclusively’ by the City itself. Given that millions of dollars of public money had been spent at Montreal, Quebec and Halifax, not to mention a recent grant of $5,000,000 ‘for the development of the port of Vancouver,’ it seemed ‘only fair and reasonable that the citizens of St. John should be relieved of the burden which they are carrying’. When a Nova Scotian MP objected to the transfer of the port to the control of distant, blundering Ottawa, Ballantine was supported by a New Brunswick cabinet minister, Frank B. Carvell, who argued that a harbour commission would not only provide unified port management, but would be run by ‘local people,’ so removing the hazard of central government intervention. ‘I thought I knew St. John pretty well,’ admitted this member for Carleton-Victoria in the upper valley. ‘I came here with certain ideas about improvements and developments. My predecessor had certain ideas, and so had his predecessor, and so will my successor.’ A sharper challenge came from D.D. McKenzie, a Liberal MP from Cape Breton. Saint John, he agreed, had ‘been willing to spend some money during the last fifty years ... in creating a harbour to bring trade and traffic to the city,’ but ‘those early investments are falling into decay.’ The commission proposal meant that the city would benefit from the upgrading of its facilities at taxpayer expense, so ‘St. John should be satisfied if we took this business off their hands ... put it into good shape ... and let them enjoy the use of it, without getting the money back.’ Even Carvell, admitting himself ‘vitally interested’ in the prosperity of New Brunswick, accepted that shipping using the port should ‘pay its share of the expenses,’ on a principle unknown in Montreal or Quebec. It was simply one of the many aspects of the problem of Saint John. ‘No other city in Canada has ever come under this condition because no other city ever owned a harbour and sold it to the Government.’548

It might be thought that Saint John would have done well to have accepted a generous settlement – too generous in the eyes of some – and ceded control to the proposed Dominion body. But one aspect of the problem of Saint John, difference in policy emphasis between its commercial interests and many of its elected representatives, continued to bedevil its response to challenge. The Board of Trade argued for the commission solution, insisting that the Common Council was incapable of ensuring the ‘continuity of policy as the needs of the port require’, while one alderman countered that ‘the city could continue operation of the harbour without difficulty’.549 Perhaps it is an exercise in scholarly over-precision to dwell on the difference in vocabulary, the aldermanic use of the reactive term ‘harbour’, the commercial emphasis on the proactive term ‘port’. As in the eighteen-seventies, the sticking point was the presumed value of the City’s assets, complicated by a minor-key dispute over the ferries: Carleton had lost its privileged over-representation back in 1889, but it was still capable of a rearguard action over cross-harbour transport. The 1919 legislation went into abeyance, and nobody seemed able to grasp the nettle of decision. Eventually, as in 1889, the matter was referred to a plebiscite. Barely one fifth of those qualified turned out, and they rejected the scheme.550 The nationalization of the port was delayed until 1927.

External dimensions of urban governance: Fredericton

Given the primacy and early granting of the 1785 charter, it would be pleasant to think of Saint John as a self-governing community, a small urban republic within New Brunswick, but only vaguely beholden to the provincial legislature. By the mid-nineteenth century, that situation certainly did not apply. Acheson regards the record of the Common Council between 1825 and 1841 as ‘impressive’ in developing infrastructure of streets and harbour,551 but even then the City’s dynamism increased its dependence upon the province. As already argued, the curious Charter provision which vested the appointment of the mayor in the lieutenant-governor probably made little difference, given the city’s overall Loyalist culture and mercantile ascendency. More constricting was the lack of revenue sources available to the Common Council, which triggered ‘a series of begging appeals’ to the legislature throughout the eighteen-thirties.552 Worse followed when Saint John came close to bankruptcy in 1842: legislation the following year ‘provided Fredericton with an effective veto over most council activities.’553 It was not simply that all by-laws were henceforth subject to approval by the lieutenant-governor in council, but rather that severe budget cuts further increased the city’s dependence upon handouts from the legislature. The legislature imposed further limitations on the City’s autonomy, placing the new police force under the control of an independent stipendiary magistrate after the 1849 riots, and creating a Board of Health run by five provincially appointed commissioners in response to the 1854 cholera outbreak.554

Of course, it can be argued that residents of Saint John generated revenue, as Timothy Warren Anglin insisted in 1863, and were entitled to share in its distribution.555 It was also the case that some regulatory processes, such as the incorporation of companies, necessarily required legal enactment. Saint John’s major projects, such as the railway to Shediac, would have become caught up in New Brunswick’s highly localist provincial culture, even if the City had possessed total autonomy within its own boundaries. A greater problem was probably the difficulty of piloting measures through the parliamentary choreography of three readings and a committee stage, duplicated in a bicameral structure – in which the appointed upper house, the Legislative Council, could reject considered proposals for incomprehensible reasons – often by simply failing to take account of the Assembly’s views at all. Even at its most accommodating, the legislature usually sat for only three months each year, and the later in the session that a proposal came before the members, the less its chances of becoming law. A sample study of bills proposed to the New Brunswick legislature at intervals of a decade, in the very different political circumstances of 1846, 1856 and 1866, may illustrate the constraints upon Saint John’s ability to run its own affairs.

            In the session of 1846, 131 pieces of legislation were put before the House of Assembly, of which 75 were passed unconditionally by both chambers, plus a further three which carried suspending clauses to allow their validity to be considered in London.556 Around twenty bills related to Saint John – the imprecision being explained by the fact that some measures were introduced twice, and others related to the wider urban area, such as highways in Portland and the assessment of local taxes in St John County. Proposed legislation regarding the Penitentiary and the Asylum referred to institutions outside the formal City boundaries, and both measures failed to pass. Acts were passed incorporating gas and water companies, and also establishing an enterprise that hoped to build a railway from Saint John to Canada. However, an equally optimistic scheme to enable the Corporation to erect a bridge at Navy Island fell at an early hurdle. On specific City matters, legislation was passed regarding Saint John’s public debt, part of the restrictive programme of the eighteen-forties to ensure that the Common Council could not engage on another borrowing binge. An attempt to amend the charter disappeared in the upper house, which also inexplicably buried a proposal to establish a fishmarket. The Assembly itself postponed consideration of measures regarding navigation of the river and harbour – despite sweeping provisions of the 1785 charter, harbour legislation arguably fell within its remit because of the City’s truncated boundaries -- and a general law regulating the streets and squares of Saint John. A proposal to extend Water Street beyond the Custom House on the East Side got through, on a second attempt and after amendment by the Council. The legislature can hardly be accused of delaying this particular project: it had been agitated without coming to an agreed position in Saint John itself since at least 1841.557 A bill for the better extinguishment of fires was adopted, but an immediate attempt to amend, maybe to tidy up, its provisions petered out. Legislation regarding parish officers in the City was presumably technical, while an enactment to provide for safe keeping of public records perhaps would have been of interest mainly among subsequent historians. Details of the various measures have not been pursued, but it seems reasonable to assume that at least six of these proposals would have been more expeditiously handled at municipal level – seven if control over navigation was also conceded.

           Nowadays, historians generally agree that the coming of responsible government in New Brunswick was a gradual process rather than a single event. In 1846, that transition had barely begun. A decade later, the dominance of New Brunswick’s first tightly organised political party in the newly elected Assembly represented a major step towards regular parliamentary government: only control over the budget remained to be secured, in 1857. Yet, for all their legendary caucus discipline, the ‘Smashers’ managed to put through fewer than half the 146 proposals submitted for legislation in the session from February to May 1856, almost certainly because Governor Manners Sutton forced a dissolution: a brief session of the new Assembly in July proved energetic in picking up the pieces. Moreover, although reformers had managed to secure partial modernisation of the city’s institutions in the 1853 Act of Settlement, Saint John seemed to remain as much in thrall to Fredericton on practical issues as before.558

            Seven of the proposed measures of 1856 referred to Portland, where legislation was carried to continue the experiment of a local police force and to clarify the powers of its magistrates in relation to summary conviction. A law penalising the unauthorised excavation of gravel from highways in St John County was primarily intended to deal with problems in Portland, whose magistrates were empowered to deal with offenders. A company incorporated in 1853 to build a bridge at Courtenay Bay had its life extended until 1863, but a proposal to link Saint John to Indiantown by railway was abandoned – and this eminently plausible project never did see the light of day. Portland’s river port also lost out when a proposal to regulate navigation of the St John river near Indiantown was also shelved. An attempt to amend fire regulations in Portland failed when the two houses failed to agree. In the brief July session, legislation was rushed through to create a short public highway, Sheriff Street, in Portland – but Portland, in those days, had no municipal authority of its own, and presumably needed Fredericton to validate such a scheme.

Two enactments demonstrated the role that the provincial legislature could play in coordinating the wider urban area. One was the renewal of an intriguing measure passed in 1842, ‘relating to Dockage, Wharfage, and Cranage in the City of Saint John, and in the Parish of Portland.’ Although its contents were not rehearsed, the inclusion of a sunset clause suggests that it was sufficiently interventionist to have aroused the distrust of the mercantile class. It was extended until 1860.559 The other piece of legislation, which protected the rights of non-resident freemen, explained its motives in the rotund language of Westminster. ‘Whereas many persons doing business in the City of Saint John reside in the suburbs; And whereas from the great increase in population it is apprehended that persons engaged in mercantile and other pursuits in the said City, will be obliged to reside outside the limits thereof: And whereas it is right and just that they should retain their rights as citizens...’. The law in effect created a class of absentee freemen electors, who could take part in City elections for the ward in which they owned business premises, even though they did not reside there. The opportunity was taken to insist that the Mayor and the Recorder, the City’s chief legal adviser, should reside within the bounds. However, since the suburbanites were ‘entitled to all the rights, privileges, and immunities of resident Freemen,’ they were presumably entitled to run for aldermanic office, and impose taxes upon the neighbours whom they had deserted.560 The two pieces of legislation demonstrated the role of the provincial legislature in co-ordinating extra-territorial issues that necessarily lay beyond the boundaries and the competence of the City Council. The short July session saw the brief flickering of a third trans-boundary proposal, regarding the use of Spruce Lake, eight kilometres west of the city by Carleton’s independent water company. Although it did not pass, it was presumably an amendment to the act passed two years earlier, which Hannay later hailed as a major step forward.561

Eight further pieces of proposed legislation, six of which passed, would have come on to the Fredericton agenda had they arisen from Sackville or Woodstock. Two bodies received charters in the Spring session – the Chamber of Commerce, and Victoria College, a scheme for a new secondary school. Although impressively backed by the City’s Free Presbyterian community, the project was wound up three years later. The brief July sitting amended legislation relating to the Orphan Asylum and the Suspension Bridge, and also incorporated Saint John’s Harmonic Society – presumably not a controversial measure. The Church of England was no longer regarded as privileged within the colony, but a complex act was still required to create a new ecclesiastical parish in Portland, based on St Paul’s, the ‘Valley’ church on the City borders. However, a similar proposal to divide Carleton into two ecclesiastical parishes became bogged down in the July session, while a scheme to vest the property of St David’s Presbyterian church in trustees did not get through the Legislative Council.

Other proposals for legislation directly related to municipal powers and activities. A minor technical act tidied up the qualifications of two City officials, the Common Clerk and the chief engineer. Bills dealing with Corporation powers and City debt vanished in the Legislative Council and were not resuscitated in the July session. Major legislation transferred the appointment of the police chief to the provincial government, and – in July – revamped the Board of Health, but a summer session attempt to amend the powers of the stipendiary magistrate seems to have been launched too late to run its course. A measure relating to highways in Saint John passed into law before the general election, but attempts to amend it afterwards petered out. Similarly, a bill for ‘the more effectual prevention of fires’ did not progress beyond a second reading, although an attempt to repeal existing legislation regarding the height of wooden buildings was sent (unavailingly) to the Legislative Council in July. Three proposals dealt with matters which modern-day opinion would surely regard as appropriately devolved to a local council. Low priority was assigned to the extension of Charlotte Street to the Breakwater (Ballast Wharf), but legislation was passed in support of the extension of Canterbury Street. The short distance involved, from Princess to Church (now Grannan) Street, hardly seemed to justify the ‘Be it enacted’ rigmarole of the law-making process, the more so as commissioners to undertake the work had already been appointed, and were apparently now being urged to get on with assessing nearby property-owners to finance the work. An equally puzzling enactment empowered the Common Council ‘to purchase or lease a Lot of Land for the purpose of a Hay Market,’ the kind of responsibility that might be expected to devolve automatically upon any municipal authority. The preamble wordily explained the need to involve the legislature: ‘from the great increase of the City of Saint John and of the trade thereof, it has become absolutely necessary to establish a Market for the sale of Hay in the said City’. However, under the provincial act passed in 1846 to control the civic debt, ‘the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty cannot legally contract and agree for the leasing or purchasing and payment for the lands necessary, to form such a Market, unless authorized thereunto by law’.562 One incidental benefit of embedding the creation of a hay market in the law-making process was that a clause could be added exempting the new facility from any responsibility for Corporation debt. The humiliating seizure of the City’s property fourteen years earlier, after the Common Council had defaulted on interest payments, was not forgotten.563

The extended discussion of Saint John issues in the legislative programmes of the 1846 and 1856 sessions makes possible a more summary treatment of 1866, also a year which saw a crisis election, this time over Confederation.564 Five acts were passed relating to local institutions – a church, a school and – a sign of changing times – the incorporation of a shipwrights’ union and a caulkers’ association, along with endorsement of a new form of technology, the street railway. Three issues transcended the City’s boundaries. Amendments were made to regulations for shipping seamen in the port of Saint John, and the Common Council was empowered to invest in the Western Extension railway – a project perceived to be important in linking the local economy to the United States, even though the line was not likely to enter the City limits. A third measure, to extend the Portland and Saint John water and sewerage system into the adjoining parish of Simonds, was ‘postponed until next Session’. Of ten further proposals specific to the City, the Assembly ‘negatived’ proposed changes to the assessment and collection of local taxes, while three other proposals failed to clear all their parliamentary hurdles. One was an apparently minor change relating to attendance at courts by justices of the peace, while another, amending West Side water regulations, failed to make much headway both before and after the May-June election. Arguably, the only major inconvenience caused by the vagaries of Fredericton law-making process would have stemmed from the becalming of a bill to authorise the establishment of a slaughter house in Saint John, although so large a community must already have possessed facilities for butchering. More positively, the legislature passed five bills into law. One dealt with a minor personnel issue in the Fire Department, three with city streets. It seems that a general measure empowering the Corporation to make ‘certain improvements’ on the East Side was not sufficiently comprehensive to provide for the widening of Cross Street, which required special legislation.565 Another proposal, to extend Duke Street to Reed’s Point Wharf, went through ten parliamentary hoops, including a select committee to examine the detail. Presumably, the extension added three blocks to Water Street, and would certainly have affected several wharves and slips on its routes. Nonetheless, it seems an issue that would have been better resolved in City Hall. The final piece of successful legislation, which regulated City Hall itself, was a reminder of just how circumscribed was Saint John’s municipal autonomy.

There had been a brief discussion of Saint John’s relationship with the Assembly at the start of the 1861 session. J.W. Lawrence, manufacturer and amateur historian, presented eight bills on behalf of the Common Council. A couple of North Shore members objected to the cost of printing this merely local legislation. Their comments prompted the attorney-general, Charles Fisher (in effect, New Brunswick’s premier) to express ‘surprise that the city of St. John sent so many Bills to the House, when by a simple alteration of their charter the Common Council might be empowered to enact such local measures as were necessary themselves.’ If Fisher was flying a kite, two responses shot it down in flames. William End from Gloucester County pointed out that the Saint John proposals ‘were not all local’. One measure dealt with the powers of magistrates, another with insolvent debtors – both subjects of wider relevance across the province. But the killer punch came from Robert Duncan Wilmot, who assured the House ‘that the Common Council did not now, and never did, represent the public opinion of St. John, and therefore it would be very dangerous to place in their hands the power at their discretion to enact laws.’566 R.D. Wilmot was one of the city’s leading merchants, active in sawmilling on the West Side. He had been one of the last Fredericton appointees to the mayoralty, serving in 1849-50 when he had shown personal courage in confronting the feuding Orange and Green factions.567 It was evident that any attempt to devolve autonomy to Saint John would meet with twin challenges, on the one hand challenging the scope of local authority, on the other denigrating the competence of civic legislators. Not surprisingly, it seems that no such attempt was made.

The saga of the Patrick Street sewer, which immediately followed this episode, illustrates the vagaries of the City’s relationship with Fredericton. As early as January 1860, Saint John’s Common Council had decided to install a trunk sewer from Union Street on the East Side, down Patrick and Clarence Streets to Courtenay Bay (where it would discharge effluent on to the mudflats between a foundry and a shipyard).568 The permission of the legislature would be required, and there was some debate over whether to seek a general measure covering several projects, including some degree of devolution of authority from Fredericton in water and sewerage issues, or to go for ‘a special Bill to enable the Council to pay for this sewer’. The decision may have been delayed by wider controversy over civic improvement, with some arguing that it was ‘absurd’ to put in sewers before ‘the permanent level’ of the streets had been fixed (which, presumably, would have meant surfacing the streets and then digging them up again). The technical requirements of drafting a bill may also have contributed to delay. Whatever the causes, it was not until March the first that the Common Council got around to advertising the text of the measure it planned to submit to Fredericton – and by this time, the provincial parliament had been in session for several weeks, and its legislative agenda would have been clogged. The preamble explained the need for special legislation. The normal practice was that the cost of improvements fell upon the residents of the neighbourhoods involved. However, many householders on Patrick and Clarence were ‘in humble circumstances, and ... the said Sewer was not laid down for their accommodation, but for the general public convenience,’ alternative routes being too expensive. Hence the Common Council required special powers to impose a general levy on all residents.569 The bill was presented to the House of Assembly on 8 March, its sessional number, 85, indicated a lowly place in the law-making queue. The Morning Freeman noted unspecified objections to its passage on 13 March, but the bill was sent to the upper house on 17 March – appropriately enough, St Patrick’s Day.570 Nothing more had been heard of it when the parliamentary session ended in April 1860. Since (as already noted) the legislature met for around three months each year, a re-introduced bill was passed into law on 12 April 1861.571 Thus, viewed through the Fredericton lens, a project that had been deemed necessary by the Common Council in January 1860 only received legislative authorisation fifteen months later.

However, that was only half the story. The complete saga perhaps indicates that there was a measure of common-sense flexibility in the process, although of a laid-back kind that makes one wonder whether the Fredericton hurdle served any purpose at all. In fact, the Common Council had pressed ahead with the Patrick Street sewer anyway. Even as the original bill was making its fruitless journey to the Legislative Council, the contractor was granted an extension on the deadline for finishing the work. In May 1860, he certified that the project was completed. There was apparently some criticism of the construction, but in June the City agreed to sign off on the job. In July, the Common Council resolved to sell £1,000 worth ($4,800) of debentures to pay for the work, ‘the same to be repaid when the city gets the power to make assessment therefor’.572 This was either a presumptuous invasion of the rights of a legislature that was not due to meet for another six months, or an indication that the rituals of Fredericton were irrelevant.

In fact, the tale would have a further twist. In October 1860, part of the Patrick Street section suffered a massive cave-in – doubly unfortunate timing, since the City now faced expenditure beyond the amount for which it had hoped to secure retrospective validation and, as Mayor McAvity gloomily noted, ‘the season of frost is approaching,’ allowing very little time to fix the problem before the ground froze. After digesting the bad news, the meeting of the Common Council adjourned: ‘the members went down to see the Patrick Street sewer, and many were the shakes of the head, and very long were the faces of all the honorable body.’ With Patrick Street blocked and, no doubt, extremely malodorous, local residents were angry, the more so as the scheme had never been intended for their benefit. Emergency expenditure was approved in November, but the repairs proved expensive. Belated approval from Fredericton of the original budgetary package no longer covered the costs. ‘The Common Council are authorised to borrow $4,800 on Debentures, to pay the cost of Patrick-street sewer, the money to be repaid by assessment on the city,’ it was announced in May 1861. But at the end of that month, the Common Council approved a hefty £1,200 ($5,000) sale of bonds ‘to meet the additional expenditure’ on the Patrick Street project.573 It would certainly have been more straightforward to have devolved authority to the Common Council to determine its internal taxation arrangements. In addition, it is permissible to suspect that financial uncertainty may explain why the original work was so obviously sub-standard.

The semi-subordinate relationship to Fredericton continued after Confederation, although – as examined below – with another layer added in Ottawa. In 1872, a young alderman, Gilbert Pugsley, proposed to ask the provincial legislature for the power of ‘legislating on all matters of a local or private nature within the city,’ including the crucial authority to borrow money.574 Nothing further was heard of this declaration of independence, which would in any case mght not have been welcomed in Fredericton. In a rousing knock-about speech back in 1865, former civic reformer William H. Needham had warned that Confederation would leave the New Brunswick legislature ‘confined to making laws to prevent cows from running on the commons, providing that sheep shall wear bells, and to issue tavern licenses.’575 It was not likely that Fredericton would cede further powers from its already depleted authority. In one sense, the downside of involving the provincial legislature lay not so much in the lack of civic autonomy as in the opportunities subordination gave for the inherent vice of civic procrastination. In 1875, a provincial enactment was secured permitting the transfer of harbour properties to a commission. But, by the time it had passed, the Common Council had veered away from the project, and nothing came of it for another fifty years.576

The political culture of New Brunswick

A case for the defence of Saint John would plead that the city had to operate within a series of larger political and economic frameworks, first British and later Canadian, which severely limited its ability to respond to crises originating in decisions taken elsewhere – although it did very successfully and relatively rapidly pull out of perhaps the greatest of the externally-generated rebuffs, Britain’s abandonment of preferential timber duties in 1849. Its most enduring context was the province of New Brunswick. Saint John’s dealings with the provincial legislature have already been touched upon, but it may be reasonably objected that the shorthand term ‘Fredericton’ is not sufficiently specific to be helpful. Prior to the establishment of responsible government, Fredericton represented a relatively narrow elite; subsequently, it was the arena for the multiple conflicts of constitutional politics. A major aspect of the problem of Saint John, and one in which the city was both victim and contributor, was the wider political culture of New Brunswick, vigorous, fragmented and far from ideally designed to sustain major projects. ‘The people of New Brunswick are in a condition of moral inability to work out any great results of legislation beneficial to themselves,’ pronounced a correspondent of a Fredericton newspaper in 1849. ‘The individual has no community of feeling with the public – the town, none with the country – the County or section, none with the Province.’577 ‘There is no enlarged view of the interests of New Brunswick as a part of British North America,’ Sir Edmund Head lamented in 1851.578 A later governor, Arthur Gordon, noted in 1862 that there was ‘very little Provincial feeling, which might lead to the formation of parties founded on the difference of political principles.’ The core problem was the lack of any sense of common identity ‘as New Brunswickers’. ‘The different counties hate each other,’ Gordon commented in 1862, although ‘they all unite in hating & abusing Halifax’.579

           Unfortunately, many New Brunswickers were also inclined to abuse Saint John. When the city’s fix-it man, John R. Partelow, unexpectedly lost his seat in the 1850 general election, the Fredericton Head Quarters suggested that he should be elected (as, indeed, he was) for the newly created county of Victoria in the far north of the St John valley, a move which would ‘do something to neutralize the powerful influence of the St. John representation, and benefit almost every county on the river, St. John excepted.’580 ‘The City of St. John is already too big for the country,' declared the veteran North Shore politician William End in 1858. The Head Quarters claimed that the port city was animated by ‘a mean, pitiful spite’ towards the Fredericton area; the Morning Freeman deplored ‘the foolish jealousy of [i.e. towards] St. John which is sometimes evinced in our legislature’.581 A.G. Blair, premier from 1883 to 1896, was not allowed to forget a campaign speech in which he mocked ‘the boast of St. John that no government could live without their consent’. With Fredericton support, he declared that he intended ‘to demonstrate to the people of St. John that the thing can be done’.582 Half a century later – if we are to trust the admittedly unfriendly recollections of Dalton Camp – New Brunswick Liberal premier John B. McNair ‘did not bother to conceal his disappointment’ when his party sweep took the four normally Conservative seats in Saint John at the 1948 provincial election. As part of his energetic policy of moving government facilities upriver to his own Fredericton base, he ‘preferred to have the opposition party in Saint John,’ Camp claimed.583 The politics of the Big Tent simply cannot function when the canvas of resources is in limited supply.

           In 1961, political scientist Hugh G. Thorburn patronisingly blamed ‘localism’ on the New Brunswick’s predominantly rural culture, and in particular the prevalence of subsistence farming, with concomitant features of low education and high dependence upon government welfare projects.584 But other societies have managed to evolve more complex political machinery among unsophisticated populations. Nor was urban Saint John backward in asserting its own claims, even if – as will be argued – it was not always especially adept at carrying them into action. The deeper problem was that New Brunswick’s apparently uncomplicated rectangular appearance on the map masked multiple local and sub-regional orientations, particularly – although not exclusively -- the split between the North Shore and the St John valley. As Head put it, ‘the result of this disjointed conformation of the country is naturally that local interests predominate over Provincial interests’.585

            In itself, a culture of localism need not have prevented Saint John from achieving its own specific aims within the New Brunswick provincial arena. Sir John Harvey exaggerated when he reported in 1838 that the city ‘comprizes [sic] nearly one-fourth of the population’ but he was on firmer ground in attributing to it ‘a still greater proportion of the wealth, intelligence and respectability of the whole Province’.586 Unfortunately, there were two related aspects of the political culture, some of which Saint John shared, that complicated overall decision-making.

            One was a wholly innocent attitude towards capital financing. The planned funding of Saint John’s railway to Shediac provides an example. Legislation in 1851 provided for a company with capital of £1,500,000 ($7.2 million), which sounds impressive. Individual shares, which cost £25 ($120), could be acquired for a one percent deposit ($1.20), subject to subsequent ‘calls’ by the directors for further subscriptions – demands that were not always heeded in subsequent schemes. However, the company was barred from calling for more than one third of its capital in any one year, and had to pay six percent interest on all contributions. Of course, the early phases of infrastructure projects require massive expenditure at a time when little if any revenue can be generated. The 1851 legislation simply assumed that it could invert the process, in effect allowing shareholders to invest in the railway when, so it might be hoped, the line was completed. The project went bankrupt in 1856, and had to be rescued by the New Brunswick government.587 Indeed, there was a tendency, by no means unique to New Brunswickers either then or now, for groups of voters to assume that the perceived desirability of a project in their eyes automatically meant that somebody else should pay for it. When it came to building the Intercolonial, the initial and instinctive New Brunswick response seems to have been to hope that the tracks would fall out of the sky. The Fredericton Head Quarters was no admirer of the Smashers, but its arch dismissal of the government’s four-point attitude to the possibility of a railway connection to Canada in 1858 is worth quoting:

1st, that an Intercolonial Railway would be a very nice thing; 2nd, that New Brunswick is a very nice place, with a very large domain; 3rd, that it would be very nasty for this very nice place to pay for this very nice thing, and therefore (4th) that the Imperial Treasury must find the needful.588

It is only fair to add that one member of that innocent cabinet, S.L. Tilley, was prepared by 1862 to commit the province to shouldering a substantial debt in order to build the Intercolonial railway, although the British government did point out that there was no Plan B, should the requested £3 million loan prove to be inadequate. The classic expression of New Brunswick’s collective approach to financing railway construction came in the Railway Facility Act of 1864, which offered generous subsidies to proposed lines running in various unco-ordinated directions. The communications map envisaged led it to be called the Lobster Act.589 Key to understanding the politics behind it was the fact that its offer of subsidies placed the responsibility for realising the various projects on local attempts to raise the remaining capital. It was thus a backdoor way of backing Saint John’s preferred project, Western Extension, which had some prospect of securing investment (if not very great), while appearing to offer even-handed support for more visionary schemes elsewhere in New Brunswick. ‘It was clearly impossible for the Government to comply with the request of the St. John people ... unless something was done to aid railway construction in other parts of the Province,’ explained historian James Hannay. ‘There has always been in New Brunswick a very considerable amount of sectional jealousy’, and there was no chance that ‘the people of the North Shore and the upriver counties’ would accept ‘with complacency’ provincial backing for a railway to the Maine border without the prospect of compensatory measures for their own districts.590

           This leads to the other unhealthy aspect of endemic localism, the belief in every community that other districts were unfairly preferred in the allocation of government spending. At the nomination of candidates for the 1861 election in York County, there were complaints that the government had exerted itself ‘in favour of the northern, eastern, and western portions of the Province, to the detriment of the St. John River counties’.591 Such suspicions not only led to demands for the election of strong candidates to defend local interests, but also extended into a negative attitude, known in Ireland as “begrudgery”. This took pleasure in thwarting the projects of others, perversely defending negativity as merely restoring the balance of fairness. ‘If one area receives some consideration from the government, others feel they too are entitled to equal treatment,’ Thorburn noted in 1960; ‘and if they do not receive it, they are more inclined to cast jealous eyes on their neighbour than to rejoice at the good fortune of fellow New Brunswickers.’592 Half a century earlier, the New Brunswick Magazine had attributed precisely this negative sentiment to the inhabitants of its largest city. ‘The greatest fault of the people of St. John is their desire to prevent the success of any project in which they are not directly interested. They appear to hate hearing of the success of a neighbour, forgetting that some portion of his success must be to their own benefit.’593

Saint John, whose projects tended to be on a larger than average scale, was a natural target for paranoid resentments. The 1865 general election in Northumberland County remains a mysterious episode, since it appears that Confederation, the explosive issue across the rest of the province, was barely mentioned in the local party contest. Peter Mitchell defended Tilley’s administration, by stoking resentment against the two southern New Brunswick projects, the St Andrews and Woodstock line, and the railway from Saint John to Shediac. ‘It is not enough that we gave a large subsidy for the St. Andrews line, in lands and money; that we built a line from Shediac to St. John, and that we gave them a subsidy of $10,000 a mile for their Western Extension,’ the ‘we’ of course implicitly referring to the people of Northumberland, while ‘them’ contemptuously tagged the greedy and manipulative tax-guzzlers of more assertive counties. These insatiable people now sought to evict Tilley ‘because his Government would not sink the whole Revenues of the country as well as its credit, and assume the responsibility of perpetrating an act of gross injustice upon the people of the North by the construction of the Western extension as a Government measure.’ Mitchell’s motives were, of course, solely directed at the common good. Indeed, he claimed that he supported Western Extension, ‘but I am opposed to this selfish one sided development of the Province, and believe that we, as we have to pay a good proportion of the bill, ought to have some of the benefits’.594 Peter Mitchell was an able politician, one of the few New Brunswickers large-minded enough to make a successful transfer to a ministerial role in Ottawa two years later. Yet his 1865 election campaign was based on a strident and narrow voicing of North Shore resentments against parts of the province allegedly more favoured, and ungratefully voracious.

Indeed, it was Mitchell who headed New Brunswick’s last autonomous ministry. A forgotten last-minute crisis over Western Extension almost broke up his coalition on the very eve of Confederation in June 1867. Mitchell managed to head off the resignations of his fellow northern members by brokering a deal to reduce the proposed provincial subsidy. ‘There is so much jealousy between the north & south that when a sectional question comes up it is difficult to manage them,’ he explained to John A. Macdonald, adding that New Brunswickers were ‘especially sensitive’ about railway issues.595 North Shore interests were prone to regard opposition to the likely routing of the Intercolonial along the North Shore as an act of miserable negativity – whereas, in Saint John, it appeared as further evidence of the city’s powerlessness in the face of ruthless rivals.596 Timothy Warren Anglin insisted in 1863 that the people of Saint John were ‘largely producers of wealth,’ not ‘drones who live on the labour of others, as is sometimes assumed.’ But, except perhaps in a handful of adjacent counties whose farmers supplied the urban market, there was little if any province-wide sense that New Brunswick had any interest in the prosperity of its main port.597

            It was because of these jealousies that Head had insisted in 1851 that no commitment should be made regarding the actual route through New Brunswick of the planned railway from Quebec to Halifax. ‘By this many who would oppose their neighbours’ line will support the general measure in the hope that the chance of events may give their own neighbourhood the benefit of it.’598 Tilley attempted just that strategy when the project revived as part of the Confederation package in 1865-66, but with only limited success. ‘Mr Tilley will you stop your puffing and blowing,’ George L. Hatheway challenged, ‘And tell us which way the railway is going!’599 Another by-product of begrudgery was that communities tended to demand local projects which were not necessarily of major practical benefit, but which offered reassurance that they were successfully fighting their corner in the struggle for provincial resources.600 To a considerable extent, Saint John’s insistence upon western extension in the mid-eighteen sixties was an example of this, a comfort project that might offer some compensation for the likely routing of the Intercolonial along the North Shore.601

             One example of this process had been the Grimross canal. The village of Gagetown was located on the valley road from Fredericton to Saint John but, it was unfortunately, sidelined on Gagetown Creek, several kilometres from the main channel of the St John river. The solution, in the eyes of Queens County representatives, was a canal across Grimross Neck, which would ‘greatly facilitate the navigation of the River Saint John, and advance the general interests of the province’ – by making Gagetown into a river port. The arguments in favour of the project seem amazing in their triviality. A report by two engineers in 1852 pointed out that the proposed canal would reduce the distance for any vessel travelling up or down the river by ‘upwards of one and a half miles’ (a whole two kilometres). The two engineers allowed their estimate of the likely cost to emerge from a curious calculation. They were estimated that real property in and around Gagetown was worth £50,000 ($240,000). If the canal added just five percent to that value, ‘such increase would more than cover the cost of the proposed undertaking’. They did not explain who would pocket this increment. More broadly, the two engineers argued that as it was time-consuming and sometimes hazardous for steamers to enter the shallow Creek, passengers leaving Gagetown were ‘compelled to submit to the annoyance of a passage of more than two miles, in a small boat, and then frequently to wait on the open beach in inclement weather several minutes, sometimes hours, for the arrival of the Steamers’, which – on upriver services – ‘generally pass this point in the middle of the night.’ There was also ‘much risk’ involved in unloading merchandise in these conditions.602 Much of this thin pleading had been countered a decade earlier, in a negative report by two prominent citizens of Saint John, Lauchlan Donaldson and John Ward, who had pointed out that it was perfectly possible to install a floating pier on the St John river, capable of accommodating steamers and landing passengers, goods and cattle. ‘All Towns on or near navigable Rivers, grow towards their ports or places of landing, and Gagetown will grow towards that landing in all probability.’603 In any case, it was absurd to spend a large sum of public money on a canal, simply because Gagetown could not organise an effective shuttle service and a passenger shelter. There were also persistent concerns that cutting an artificial channel would cause erosion, and that the mere existence of a new waterway would create shoals in the main river: ‘the quantity of water required to fill the canal, must come from the river, and the original quantity could not be in both places at the same time’.604

            The 1837 surrender of imperial control over revenue from the Crown lands was followed by a spendthrift bonanza. In 1839, the legislature authorised the Grimross project, awarding the canal £1250 ($6000), with the proviso that ‘all further expence [sic] incurred in and about the making of the same, shall be borne by individual subscription.’605 The absolute refusal of future public money sounded ferocious but, in New Brunswick politics, never could prove to be a remarkably short time. In 1841, an additional grant of £300 ($1440) was agreed to make up overruns in cost and shortfalls in local subscriptions. The following year, it was reported to the Assembly that the owner of the land required for the excavation was refusing to negotiate on a reasonable offer of compensation, and that the lowest tender for the work exceeded the provincial grant.606

For the time being, the Grimross canal receded into the background. Its revival in 1852 was probably stimulated by the legislature’s decision to earmark £10,000 ($48,000) for the improvement of navigation on the St John river, but it was probably also associated with the opposition of the two Queens County members, John Earle and Thomas Gilbert, to the Saint John-Shediac railway. Queens had provided two of the five votes against the scheme in 1851,607 and its representatives now sought compensation. Earle, in particular, was noted for his determined view of the local member’s right to control expenditure in his constituency.608 In March 1853, the two presented a series of petitions ‘praying for the construction of a Canal across Grimross Neck,’ from Queens voters, backed by similar pleas from the upstream counties of Sunbury and York. Saint John interests were also mobilised, 321 ‘Merchants and Inhabitants’ requesting the realisation of the project which two of their most prominent fellow citizens had so roundly dismissed a decade earlier. Further petitions followed from the upriver counties of Sunbury and York, although 112 residents of Queens also opposed the scheme. After a short interval. a further petition appeared from owners of sailing vessels on the St John river, a constituency that the projectors obviously needed to mobilise, although it is noteworthy that no pronouncement came from steamship interests . These petitions were all referred to a committee investigating proposals relating to internal navigation across the province. On 5 April, its members flatly reported against the project, ‘because they entertain doubts regarding the general utility of the work, and serious fears as to its injuring the navigation of the Saint John for Rafts and Lumbering purposes’. The canal would cost far more than its proponents claimed, and would entail ‘a continued expense upon the Province’ for its maintenance. The negative report sounded conclusive, but New Brunswick politics did not operate that way. On 22 April 1853, the Assembly resolved by twenty votes to ten to give Gagetown its canal.609 In the politics of compromise, supplicants usually settle for less than they seek. In this, too, the politics of New Brunswick operated on lines of its own. Earle requested £1500 ($7200), with the usual pious promise ‘that no further sum would be asked.’ Partelow amended the sum to £1750 ($8400). In 1867, Fenety regarded the outlay as wasted, since ‘this canal has never been used for the purposes intended’.610 However, the canal secured the expenditure of public funds in Gagetown, and maybe it made the voters of Queens feel that they had won a small victory in the inter-county struggle for resources. The four York County members, who all voted against the grant, certainly made clear their neighbourly resistance to the promotion of Gagetown as a potential distribution centre in competition with Fredericton.

            These somewhat curious aspects of New Brunswick’s political culture could produce points of view that sound simultaneously Utopian and Machiavellian. At the 1865 election, some candidates defined positions that assumed an impossible degree of authority in any individual politician. In Queens County, Benjamin H. Boall, declared himself ‘an advocate of the Western Extension of the Railroad, and opposed to the Intercolonial going by the Northern shore.’611 Further up the valley, John S. Covert assured the voters of Sunbury that ‘under no circumstances’ would he ‘submit to the Intercolonial Railway being carried by the North Shore.’612 In the Northumberland election, Mitchell pointed to the innocent hypocrisy of such qualifications. He accepted that the three candidates opposed to the Tilley government, of which he was a member, would oppose western extension: ‘they will, if they get the opportunity, speak against it, and vote against it, and they will be able to say after Western Extension is carried, see we did our best!’ The ‘fallacy’ of this position, Mitchell insisted, was that ‘they will vote to turn out our Government who have provided for the Inter-Colonial; they will support the men who go into the new Government, and who are pledged to Western Extension, and while they will vote against them on that measure, they will support them on every other.’ The opposition candidates were duly elected and, as Mitchell had predicted, one of them actually joined the incoming ministry that was pledged to ‘do the mischief and sacrifice our interests’ in favour of Saint John’s pet project.613

            Two further cameos capture localism in action as New Brunswickers confronted the railway age in the eighteen-sixties. In January 1866, elected representatives from the City of Fredericton met with councillors representing York County and its smaller downriver neighbour Sunbury. Fredericton interests were taking the first step towards linking the provincial capital with the likely route of the Western Extension, by planning a connector line from the city to Hartt’s Mills, a tiny settlement that would quickly be renamed Fredericton Junction. It was perhaps optimistic to expect any fervent sense of shared identity in Sunbury, a rhomboid-shaped unit thirty kilometres broad and 130 km in length, half on each side of the St John river, which was involved because Hartt’s Mills lay at its southern extremity. In ‘quite a stirring speech,’ one York County orator urged Sunbury to ‘come in and share the glory of the enterprise.’ However, a Sunbury spokesman warned that few of the county’s parishes felt any interest with the proposed project, and that voters ‘would not look favourably upon the appropriation of their money for this railway.’ Indeed, he was ‘afraid the people of Sunbury would be hostile, unless they run a railway past every man’s door.’614 The same internal tensions were revealed two years later, when the New Brunswick Assembly discussed the preferred route of the Intercolonial railway. ‘Sunbury and Queen’s scarcely know whether the road should go east or west of the St. John river.’ York wanted a line through Fredericton, but Carleton County – the next jurisdiction upstream – demanded a route away from the river that would open up its back settlements. Charlotte County representatives favoured a line ‘as near the Maine frontier as it can be built – something that will suit St. Stephen especially.’ Saint John’s own representatives were unsure ‘exactly what she ought to ask,’ but they were firmly opposed to a North Shore route.615 It was probably for the best that the matter was no longer a provincial responsibility.

            How, then, could Saint John operate within a provincial political system characterised not simply by extreme localism but also by an inability to grasp the concept of any wider provincial interest – a toxic combination of parish pump and beggar-my-neighbour? Two general points may be made about the city’s strategy. First, the representatives sent to the Assembly generally differed in background and quality from the membership of the Common Council. The merchant and legal elite tended to ignore municipal office, but to monopolise provincial representation. No doubt this partly reflected the obstacles that would face an artisan, the characteristic City father, in taking on an absentee role in Fredericton for three months each year. However, it also evidently reflects the determination of the business community to defend the city’s interests – as they interpreted them – when trade and tariff issues were under discussion.616 Few members of the legislature seem to have had much experience of the Common Council, and some who did, such as R.D. Wilmot, were left with a low opinion of its abilities. One apparent exception, John R. Partelow, in fact inverts the relationship. Partelow served as City chamberlain from 1827 to 1843, in the era when the City’s treasurer was appointed from above.617 The two most effective products of Saint John to achieve cabinet rank in Ottawa were S.L. Tilley and William Pugsley: it does not appear that either served any kind of apprenticeship on the Common Council.618 William H. Needham was an exception of a different kind. He apparently owed his election to the legislature in 1850 less upon his two-year experience as an alderman but rather more to his campaign to reform the City’s institutions. Unluckily, Needham quickly became a casualty of the battle over responsible government, retreating to an official post – plus a new civic career – in Fredericton.619 Second, in contrast to the fragmented nature of local government down to 1889, Saint John interests succeeded in controlling not just the two Assembly seats for the city proper, but also in returning the four members for St John County. There was no single controlling elite at work here – the County returned candidates as philosophically diverse as R.D. Wilmot and T.W. Anglin – but the key point is that the two constituencies effectively functioned as a single bloc, giving the urban community six voices in the 41-seat Assembly, roughly equal to the urban area’s one-seventh share of New Brunswick’s population in the second half of the nineteenth century.

            An outline and obviously selective survey suggests that Saint John could operate within provincial politics through three different strategies – log-rolling, coalition-building and megaphone diplomacy. Hannay defined log-rolling: ‘the member for Queens, who wished to have a new road opened in a country district, and wanted a grant for that purpose, agreed to support a similar demand from the member for York or the member for St. John, on condition that his grant was supported by them.’620 The selection of Queens for the hypothetical example perhaps reflects a subliminal memory of the Grimross canal job, which Fenety had cited as a classic waste of public money in his 1867 Political Notes and Observations. The classic era of log-rolling was the period around 1840, when the public trough seemed bottomless. This was the natural habitat of John R. Partelow, who, during the 1839 session, reported back to Saint John a litany of successes from Fredericton, sometimes also revealing the price he had paid. ‘House of Correction £500 [$2,400] – got it through by offering to take convicts from all over the province.’621

           As a means of securing majorities, log-rolling had its limitations. It probably applied most effectively within a common currency of benefits sought. Roads and bridges were items of easily traded items of roughly equal value. Most of the prizes reported by Partelow in 1839 were grants of around £500 ($2,400), the largest being £1250 ($6,000). Different challenges emerged when Saint John’s want list extended to railways and, later, to major dock schemes. The sheer size of a major urban development project swamped the possibility of stitching together a countervailing collage of small-scale deals. The next stage in organising majority support had to be the construction of more durable coalitions of support. Saint John’s scheme for a railway to Shediac on the Gulf coast had good prospects here, since the line would pass through or close to three other counties, Albert, Kings and Northumberland, which potentially added fifteen votes to Saint John’s six-person contingent, enough narrowly to carry the day in the 41-seat Assembly. However, later projects, for Westward Extension and the campaign to become Canada’s winter port, appealed to few if any local interests within the province at all.

           Saint John faced the transition from log-rolling to coalition-building on 1 February 1848, when Robert L. Hazen, the head of government, introduced into the Assembly a measure to fund a survey for the railway from Saint John to Shediac.622 In fact, the status of the proposal was not entirely clear. One reporter called it ‘a semi-Government measure,’ and it appeared to surprise some of Hazen’s colleagues. Cabinet government was still an evolving concept in New Brunswick. Thomas Baillie, the veteran commissioner for Crown Lands, had been persuaded to secure election to the Assembly in 1846, and had joined the Executive Council. He claimed he had never heard the matter discussed in cabinet, ‘and if he had, viewing it as a sectional design, he would have opposed it.’ The ensuing debate indicated that he was correct in identifying the essential nature of the division of opinion: North Shore representatives were suspicious, while York County members, resentful of attempts to deprive Fredericton of the seat of government, were opposed outright. St John County member J.W. Ritchie spoke strongly in favour of the project. The railway would pass through some of the most productive agricultural land in the province and gentle gradients in the Kennebecasis and Petitcodiac valleys meant that there would be few engineering challenges. Optimistically, he appealed for support ‘without reference to any other line or lines contemplated in other quarters’. His colleague John Jordan almost certainly made a tactical mistake in arguing the city’s case for provincial funds. ‘St. John might justly be caused the mainspring of the country; for it was there that those Revenues were raised, which ... sustained public grants throughout the Province.’ This claim prompted Baillie to retort that ‘the City owed its prosperity to the river and its branches.’

            Two Charlotte County members, James Boyd and James Brown, were prepared, with some reluctance, to support the Saint John case on the principle of what might be called delayed-action log-rolling: funds had been voted the previous year to the proposed railway inland from St Andrews, and it would seem ‘selfish’ to oppose now. William End of Gloucester County criticised the Saint John merchant community for ignoring ‘the fair hint which nature had given them in the formation of the Isthmus dividing this province from Nova Scotia?’ The ‘slight expense’ of a short Chignecto railway, combined with efficient steamer services on the Bay of Fundy, would be as effective in securing for the city a connection to the Gulf trade, while even the cost of surveying the through line would ‘be ruinous to the bye roads’ by diverting scarce funds away from the holy grail of local patronage. ‘If the people of St. John want to have a railway to Shediac,’ commented James Taylor of York County, ‘their best plan would be to use their own resources in making it.’623 Baillie even identified specific funds that could finance the survey: the unspent balance of a provincial grant for reconstruction after the city’s fires, and an outstanding loan for the relief of Saint John’s poor. But the debate was made memorable, if not exactly relevant, by a knockabout assault from the Fredericton Loyalist and lawyer, Lemuel Allan Wilmot. He pictured trains arriving from Loch Lomond, now one of Saint John’s eastern suburbs, but in those days known mainly for its association with New Brunswick’s tiny Black community – to whom Wilmot made derisive allusion. Loch Lomond trains would ‘carry on a brisk trade, no doubt, in huckleberries and birth brooms,’ not forgetting roof shingles and raspberries: ‘the mind becomes lost in attempting to estimate the immense amount of profit to be derived from this extensive trade.’ More exotic produce would be tapped as the railway ranged further afield. There were oysters from Shediac, hay crops from Tantramar and the salt springs of Westmorland County, ‘by means of which, the people of St. John could get well pickled!’ North Shore members could ‘step into a Railway car at St. John, fall asleep’ and – when the Halifax to Quebec line was built too – wake up ‘at Restigouche, or somewhere about there.’ He would only support the measure if it was amended to include a survey for a railway from Saint John to Fredericton. Hazen angrily invited Wilmot to ‘look across the river – let him look at the country at [sic] the immediate vicinity of Fredericton’ before sneering at the farmers of Loch Lomond, and there was a brief spat between them over the appropriateness of the term ‘Sleepy Hollow’ to the capital region. Soon afterwards, the debate, such as it was, petered out and a resigned Assembly agreed, without even the formality of a division, to spend £1,000 ($4,800) on surveying the route from Saint John to Shediac. But the port city ought to have been on notice that it needed to change its modus operandi within the provincial political culture.

            Its five-day debate on railway matters in March 1849 showed the New Brunswick Assembly in a more positive light than historians have sometimes allowed. Contributions were cogent, the whole discussion constituting an impressive mixture of optimistic vision and hard questioning.624 Local viewpoints were duly urged, but localist venom was kept in a low key: James Boyd of Charlotte, a defender of the St Andrews to Woodstock project, portrayed himself as fighting ‘the gigantic power of the City of Saint John,’ significantly adding that it was backed by Westmorland – an early indication that the city was building a coalition with interests at the Shediac end of its proposed railway.625 However, the concluding votes on 26 March indicated that the process still had some way to go. As Fenety complained, a series of motions, in which ‘one resolution was placed upon another – amendment upon amendment added,’ produced a ‘tangled’ result in which ‘some hardly knew what they did want, but thought they wanted something.’626 A more sophisticated interpretation might conclude that some members – such R.D. Wilmot – trod carefully through the nuanced thicket of proposals to signal general support for the interests of Saint John along with genuine doubts about the financial viability of the scheme on offer. Others may have switched sides through the thicket of motions to register support or opposition to the principle of government involvement in railway construction: for instance, the two representatives from Restigouche, in the far north, were prepared to back the Saint John to Shediac railway project in principle – impressively disinterested of them given their distance from either terminus – but were against entrusting its construction to the government. The most blatantly localist proposition backed ‘the Line from St Andrews to Woodstock, now in progress’, coupling it with a survey to Fredericton, but limiting Saint John’s preferred scheme to a short railway between Shediac and the Petitcodiac – on modern maps, from Moncton to the Gulf – a version of the option canvassed by William End the previous year of a short line across the isthmus, connecting to steamboat services down the Bay of Fundy. This was so obviously a device to wrap up Charlotte County’s railway in a merely cosmetic package that it attracted just six votes – four of them from Charlotte. At the other extreme, members dutifully and unanimously endorsed ‘the paramount importance’ of ‘a Trunk Line of Railway from Halifax to Quebec’. Nothing was said about financing this railway, but the Assembly pledged to support it with a ten-mile (16.9 kilometre) wide band of ‘all the ungranted Lands through which the said Road may pass,’ the adjective ensuring that in real-world terms the offer was worth next to nothing. Crucial for the hopes of Saint John were two propositions adopting supportive approaches to the Shediac railway. Both were defeated, one by 24 votes to 14, the other 24-13.627 However, when closely examined, the results were in fact more encouraging than the solidly dismissive majorities appeared to suggest. It was true that the Gulf railway scheme had not succeeded in winning the backing of all the representatives from the corridor of Fundy counties through which it would pass. On the other hand, only five members voted for both manifestations of the project; nine had recorded support for the general idea but then crossed the floor to refuse authorisation to government construction. If the issue of means could be resolved, Saint John would carry the day – in the Assembly, at least.

            When news of the defeat arrived, ‘the whole City felt as if it ought to go into mourning.’628 Saint John was already deep in economic recession, and the removal of a hoped-for lifeline provoked a burst of anger. In reality, there were two strategies through which the city could respond within the political culture of New Brunswick, one of indignation, the other of coalition-building. These were not entirely opposed: it was probably useful to demonstrate a depth and breadth of engagement within the urban community if only as a negotiating tool with wider interests. (Indeed, the attempt to remove the seat of government from Fredericton in 1858 seems to have been hampered by the absence of any indication that the citizens of Saint John actually coveted capital status.) On 2 April 1849, Saint John witnessed one of the longest and angriest public meetings in its history. Nine days later, the Assembly endorsed its railway to the Gulf. It was tempting to draw a connection of cause and effect. G.E. Fenety, then a Saint John newspaper editor, recalled that the indignation meeting ‘produced a wonderful effect upon the nerves of hon. members.’ ‘There’s nothing like public meetings,’ chortled one citizen as news of the legislative surrender percolated the community.629

It is equally possible that the city’s stridency was counter-productive. The drafters of the protest resolutions steered a careful course, seeking to avoid both slander of individual legislators (of which there seems to have been plenty on the streets) and the more general trap of falling foul of parliamentary privilege. Hinting heavily that the current House of Assembly had failed in its duty, the citizens of Saint John called for an immediate dissolution so that ‘the opinion of the country should be taken on a question so momentously affecting its welfare’.630 The demand, said one Fredericton newspaper, was ‘absurdly ridiculous’. In any case, with New Brunswick unsteadily entering the era of responsible government, there was not the slightest prospect that the governor, Sir Edmund Head, would act other than on the advice of his Executive Council. Nor was there any reason to think that voters across the province would rush to endorse a railway scheme from which few of their communities would derive direct benefit. As the city’s denigrators pointed out, it was time its people woke up the reality that ‘St. John is not the Province.’631

What seems to have happened in the corridors of Fredericton between 24 March and 11 April was that various politicians who had voted for one or other methods of constructing the railway now found some basis around which they could unite. Assessment of the various divisions is complicated by the declining number of members taking part: the Saint John to Shediac railway was sustained by sixteen votes to twelve, and then by fifteen to thirteen, and finally by sixteen to thirteen. Some may have deliberately abstained, but the absence from the division lists of several representatives of fringe counties suggests that they had anticipated the upcoming prorogation and had already left for home. Sensitivity to local outrage may explain two position changes: the lawyer and Reformer, William J. Ritchie, who represented St John County, and John C. Vail, of Kings, both swung behind the project.632

Yet, for all the anger of the indignation meeting, Saint John opinion was not unanimous. The Assembly’s favourable decision on 11 April was received in the city with rejoicing that had not been seen since the news of the battle of Waterloo, but celebrations were short-lived. Two days later, the Legislative Council not only killed the proposal, but did so in response to criticism by two metropolitan members. The solicitor-general, William B. Kinnear, covered his tracks ‘with a warm eulogium upon the characteristic energy and warmth of the people of St. John,’ but for all ‘his prejudices, his sympathies, in favour of his native City,’ he had to admit that its advocates had not made their case. A major figure in the Saint John business community and veteran legislator, Charles Simonds bluntly denounced ‘the Railroad mania,’ angrily dissecting claims that the Shediac railway would carry freight such as flour and fish. He estimated that the scheme would cost £970,000 ($4.656 million), more than three times the amount envisaged in the compromise bill, while ‘the line running from St. John to Shediac would be found to be not worth a farthing.’ Evidently reluctant to sanction such vast expenditure in the dying days of the session, the upper house rejected the railway bill by twelve votes to four. 633 Yet, a year later, when Simonds stepped down from the Council, he was elected to the Assembly as a Reformer in Saint John County, and became Speaker. Legislation to fund the line to Shediac eventually passed in 1851.634 One detail may round off the story. Among the tiny phalanx of five members who opposed the final stage were the two representatives of Restigouche, who had supported the scheme even when it seemed doomed to falter in 1848 and 1849. It may be too much to embrace Peter Waite’s engagingly sardonic description of New Brunswick’s government as ‘a robust little corporation for the private aggrandizement of its members and the incidental conduct of public business.’635 But there were evidently ripples and currents within the tides of provincial decision-making that will continue to defy logical analysis.

Saint John’s success in securing its railway to the Gulf was purchased on terms that made similar victories unlikely in the future. By 1856, the project had collapsed into the arms of the province, a deal that was initially sweetened by pledges of extensions to the Maine border, to Woodstock in the St John valley, to Nova Scotia and even to Canada – none of which came about. ‘The line from St. John to Shediac is now being completed by the Government,’ the Fredericton Head Quarters sombrely reminded its readers in 1858. The promised extensions were ‘utterly abandoned,’ the 110 miles (177 km) of track would cost one million pounds ($4.8 million) – very close to the estimate made by Simonds in 1849 – ‘and there is no prospect that the line will pay any more than the running expenses’. The Saint John to Shediac railway ‘is in one corner of the Province, and will not be of the slightest benefit to three-fourths of the inhabitants, and yet they will be taxed to support it’.636 Subsequent campaigns – for Western Extension, and for investment in harbour improvements to make Saint John into Canada’s winter port – were unlikely to receive a disinterested welcome across a province dominated by localism, motivated by parsimony and riddled with mutual suspicions.

‘Of the many factors that combined to defeat Confederation in New Brunswick in 1865, there can be little doubt that the most potent was western extension,’ pronounced Alfred G. Bailey.637 This may have the relationship between the two issues the wrong way around. A more subtle way of linking them would be to say that politicians elected to oppose the Quebec scheme found themselves having to respond to a project fervently demanded by one section of the province. ‘The people of St. John have been so wild about this Western Extension question, that any member showing indifference upon it, was almost certain of defeat,’ Tilley explained after his electoral downfall.638 In keeping with the inherent logic of local public opinion, once Saint John had persuaded itself that it needed a railway to the American border, it was an automatic deduction that somebody else should pay for it. The City refused to invest $400,000 in the project in 1864-5, committed itself to injecting $60,000 in 1866, and even then proved reluctant to meet calls for payment on its shares.639 T.W. Anglin adopted the determined position that Western Extension must be constructed as a government work. When Albert J. Smith, the anti-Confederation premier from Westmorland, sought to make a deal with a chartered company, Anglin resigned from his ministry, thereby rupturing the common front against the union of the provinces.640 The project was left in the hands of a private company, with American backing. Finding that a provincial grant was not enough to build the line, the projectors tried to sell bonds in Britain. The Fredericton Head Quarters became incoherent in expressing its astonishment: ‘neither the St. John company, the American company who took the work off their hands, or the distinguished American capitalists, who are in some way mysteriously connected with the work, have, or intend to sink [sic], any money in it. ... It is strange, if not astounding, that the company should ask strangers to trust their money in a project in which they will risk nothing themselves.’641 Saint John was, in Tilley’s words, ‘so wild about this Western Extension question,’ that it expected somebody else to foot the bill.

The plain fact was that Saint John was unable to communicate to potential allies precisely why the city was so frenzied in its response. In particular, there was a marked inability to distinguish between the Maine border and the Midas touch. It was simply assumed that a railway to the St Croix river would automatically plug Saint John into a network of continental trade, ignoring the objections that north-eastern Maine was remote from the rest of the United States, and that there were few if any railroads with which to connect anyway. Stripped of John A. Poor’s fantasies of hordes of passengers from Europe fleeing sea-sickness at Halifax and thronging trains to New York, the idea of a railway to the St Croix river seemed singularly devoid of practical arguments in its support. J.W. Cudlip – who would respond to Confederation by swinging behind annexation – surely takes the prize for unreality in its advocacy of the line. ‘It would then give the people who travelled and who had an eye to our resources, an inducement to come in and develop them, and would greatly further the trading influence and make American people come into the Province who never came before.’642 In the real world, investment decisions were not taken by American entrepreneurs on mystery tours. The case for Western Extension was hardly argued in terms that might persuade provincial taxpayers who still felt they were paying for the line to Shediac which did, at least, run through some of New Brunswick’s best farming country.

Two subsequent episodes, one brief and the other prolonged, may be briefly cited as examples of the difficulties Saint John encountered in reaching out across the province to seek support for a pet project – which may also explain why the city seemingly made so little effort at coalition building. The 1880 campaign to secure the seat of government was almost of necessity the product of a brief upsurge of feeling following news that the existing and unsatisfactory legislative building in Fredericton had been damaged by fire. Campaigners who recalled the damp squib of 1858 made sure that citywide support was mobilised to demonstrate Saint John’s determination: twelve hundred signatures were collected within a few days, and residents who admitted having known nothing of Governor Carleton’s decision to locate the capital upriver became indignant at the historic injustice inflicted upon their community. The brushfire nature of the 1880 outburst allowed little time to win support elsewhere in the province, but it seems that, as on railway issues, Saint John was inclined to assume that the excellence of its case would melt the hearts of fellow New Brunswickers. It was claimed that most legislators travelled through Saint John to reach Fredericton, and proclaimed that ‘Railways have brought Restigouche near Saint John’ – L.A. Wilmot’s sneer of 1848 turned on its head. Saint John lost the key debate on the location of the capital by just two votes. Perhaps even if the decision had gone the other way, other obstacles, notably cost, would have derailed the campaign. But it does seem permissible to wonder what might have happened if the city had offered some major incentive to the North Shore. For example, there was a major practical problem involved in establishing a provincial parliament in Saint John. The urban core of the East Side was already largely built up, and the suggestion that a legislative building might be erected in Uptown Queen Square tended to draw attention to the crowded nature of the surrounding streets. Suppose Saint John had proposed freeing up the site of the provincial lunatic asylum across the Reversing Falls (and also, incidentally, beyond the City limits), creating space for a government precinct and moving the facility to the Restigouche – and so gaining crucial North Shore votes? Of course, no such deal was ever floated, at least partly because Saint John tended to argue its corner in terms of entitlement, an attitude that struck no chords across the province. ‘St. John ... is not so important as its people think it,’ commented a Fredericton newspaper. ‘It is not the whole of the Province.’643

At first sight, difficulties in the relationship between Saint John and the rest of the province over the city’s late-nineteenth century campaign to capture Canada’s year-round export trade might seem difficult to comprehend. A contest for the seat of government was a zero-sum game: if Saint John won, then Fredericton lost. Rivalry over railway construction was also a fight for limited resources: however much starry-eyed legislators might wish to commit to the Lobster Act, in practice investment in one project, such as the line to Shediac, prevented the province from going to the markets to borrow money to support other schemes. But in seeking deep-water docks and grain elevators, Saint John was hardly competing with any other harbour around New Brunswick, and might have been hoped to harness the goodwill of the entire province. Yet James Hannay, writing in 1909, pronounced a gloomy alternative view. ‘The people of St. John unfortunately, have never had the solid support of some other communities in the province in their aspirations to be the great winter port of Canada.’644 To understand why, we must place the problem of Saint John within yet another tier of political operations, the context of Confederation and the arena, after 1867, of Ottawa.

Ottawa: the first decade

Sometimes it seems that just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the evolution of New Brunswick’s relationship with the Dominion of Canada. Contact began in the 1867 parliamentary session on a basis of mutual incomprehension and, arguably, it got worse. John Hamilton Gray joked that ‘many people in Ontario conceived that New Brunswick was composed solely of Mr. Tilley and a few oysters,’ but the first Dominion tariff schedule, issued in late 1867, removed the smiles. Incomprehensibly, import duties were to be imposed on wheaten flour, a commodity that New Brunswick did not produce and overwhelmingly imported from the United States. As Charles Fisher complained, ‘the representatives of Western Canada [i.e. Ontario] did not appreciate the position of the people of New Brunswick’.645 Worse still, the tariff schedule was the work of the a member of the cabinet from New Brunswick, customs minister S.L. Tilley, not for the first time giving evidence of poor political judgement. The duties were reversed, but not before a Saint John provincial by-election had returned a candidate pledged to quit Confederation.

              New Brunswick’s experience of the early years of Confederation was predominantly disappointing. True, Anglin’s Morning Freeman was a little impatient in its declaration, in September 1867, that a two months’ experience of the new system proved ‘that Confederation will not and can not [sic] do the good, or any material portion of the good so many foolishly expected from it. It has not brought capital into the country as was promised,’ a charge that might have prompted the riposte that July and August were holiday months.646 More noteworthy was the disillusionment of many Unionists. The Saint John Morning Telegraph had ‘supported Confederation on broad and patriotic principles’ but was outraged by Tilley’s ‘inequitable Tariffs’.647 Concessions over import duties were made, but many who had supported the union of the provinces felt alienated. ‘Confederation is a very bitter dose to many a once ardent Confederate,’ the Fredericton Head Quarters remarked unsympathetically in May 1868, noting that its former partisans ‘were enraged against Confederation than even violent Anti-Confederates.’648 However, the province watched Joseph Howe’s Repeal campaign with a detached lack of enthusiasm, wary of any Nova Scotian resolve to fight to the last New Brunswicker. Contesting a York County provincial by-election in November 1868, William H. Needham gave his supporters a characteristically blunt warning. ‘They might elect him with a view to getting him to endeavour to upset the union, but he would tell them the truth, it could not be done.’649 Any prospect of united resistance to Ottawa had been undermined by the splitting of the province over the route of the proposed Intercolonial railway. Anglin was undoubtedly premature in dismissing any possible benefits from Confederation in the summer of 1867, but he was probably correct in pronouncing that the new structure had already ‘closely united Lower Canada [Quebec], our North Shore Counties and Nova Scotia, and isolated St. John and the Counties on its river from the rest of the Dominion, and even from the rest of New Brunswick.’650

          As Carl Wallace has pointed out, the following years were equally discouraging for New Brunswick hopes of netting dividends from Confederation. The provincial government could not balance its books, but it was delinquent and defiant Nova Scotia that won ‘better terms’ in 1869, while New Brunswick’s pleas for help from Ottawa went unheeded until 1873. Maritimers generally condemned concessions over fisheries – their fisheries – made to the United States in the 1871 Treaty of Washington. For New Brunswick, there was the added concern that the Dominion surrendered New Brunswick’s right, guaranteed in the British North America Act, to tax American timber products floated down the St John river. In fact, by massively rounding up Ottawa’s annual grant in compensation, in 1873 the Macdonald government found a back-door way of meeting New Brunswick’s financial claims – but only after four years of resistance to claims for parity of treatment with Nova Scotia.651 On top of this came the row over New Brunswick Schools. In overhauling the provision of education through the 1871 Schools Act, the provincial legislature deserved some credit for using its Section 92 powers under the British North America Act to tackle an issue that had remained too long unresolved. Lacking the cash to support separate schools catering for various religious denominations, it opted for a single system, publicly funded and non-sectarian.652 Subsequent protests by the Catholic minority were unable to establish that allusions to their schools in the previous provincial legislation, of 1858, constituted the formal recognition of a separate school system that was required before the Dominion might intervene under Section 93 of the British North America Act. Unable to resolve the matter, Ottawa struck its usual balancing act, with the House of Commons passing a resolution regretting that the New Brunswick majority had not satisfied the province’s minority.653 As Wallace indicates, neither faction was satisfied: Catholics felt aggrieved, Protestants insulted.654 Too often in those early years, Confederation seemed less like a continental alliance of regions working for the common good, and rather more like a process that happened to New Brunswick, without much regard for the interests and the feelings of its inhabitants.

Ottawa and the political culture of New Brunswick

One reason for New Brunswick’s relative powerless was its slow response to the well-entrenched partisanship of Canadian politics. Pre-Confederation New Brunswickers had tended to pride themselves on a lower temperature of party conflict than in Nova Scotia. The labels Liberal and Conservative were embraced, but did not always restrict the creation of alliances, as the notionally Liberal R.D. Wilmot demonstrated on joining Conservative John Ambrose Street’s ministry in 1850. In provincial politics, such fluidity survived Confederation, with the Conservative premier John James Fraser surviving a narrow election defeat in 1878 by recruiting Liberals to his cabinet.655 As Thorburn put it, ‘party discipline came only with the twentieth century.’656 In the mid-eighteen fifties, the province briefly spawned a cross between a movement and a machine which, in the eyes of its scandalised critics, seemed both revolutionary and ruthless. Like many terms of partisan abuse, it is not entirely clear how the ‘Smashers’ gained their name: one pejorative derivation traced it to London criminal slang, a term for forgers who issued fake banknotes just as their colonial cousins won power ‘by false pretences and spurious professions’.657 In theory, Smasher commitment to caucus solidarity meant that issues were determined before they reached the floor of the Assembly, so long as the party maintained disciplined voting. In fact, historians have noted that Smasher bark was considerably more ferocious than Smasher bite. The episode most often associated with them, the disastrous imposition in 1856 of an anti-alcohol regime, stemmed from a private member’s bill on which the Smasher ministers were divided – a curious dereliction of responsibility on such a major issue.658 Less noticed by historians is the strange eclipse of the Smasher phenomenon. Tilley launched Confederation as a bipartisan initiative, and in 1864-5 appealed for public support over the heads of his party colleagues, first from the platform and then through the ballot box. Political opponents continued to hurl a useful term of abuse, but somewhere in the early eighteen-sixties, Smasherdom and its dictatorial caucus had quietly died. Tilley himself, whose political profile in the eighteen-fifties resembled that of Upper Canada’s Clear Grits, slipped easily into a new role, as John A. Macdonald’s associate in a nominally Liberal-Conservative Ottawa coalition.

            ‘In terms of results,’ J.M. Beck wrote of the first Dominion general election in 1867, ‘New Brunswick is the most difficult province to understand.’659 The province’s Ottawa delegation comprised locally influential individuals, rather than members elected on party tickets. When Tilley planned to leave politics in 1872, he seems to have hoped that Albert J. Smith would take his place in the cabinet. While it was not unprecedented for former anti-Confederates to take office under John A. Macdonald in the early years of the Dominion, the accession of Smith would have required a considerable leap of political fences. The failing Macdonald government did offer the lieutenant-governorship to Smith in 1873, but he saw better prospects in staying with the Liberals.660 Peter Mitchell, one of New Brunswick’s first cabinet ministers, ran in 1878 as an independent pro-Macdonald Liberal, but was defeated in Northumberland when Sir John A. pulled the rug out from his insistence that a National Policy tariff would not tax imported flour. He returned to represent the county as an Independent from 1882 to 1891.661 From Saint John’s point of view, the two most effective New Brunswick cabinet representatives in the Laurier years were Andrew George Blair (from 1896 to 1903) and William Pugsley (1907-11). Neither had an impeccable Liberal pedigree. In the eighteen-seventies, Blair had backed the Macdonald Conservatives in Dominion politics. As D.M. Young remarked, he ‘moved cautiously into the Liberal camp’ after 1882, although – like Fraser before him – he headed a provincial cabinet that included three Conservatives. Blair attended the 1887 Quebec conference, a Liberal front against Macdonald’s alleged centralising proclivities. Sir John A. Macdonald thought the New Brunswick premier had gone too far in putting the Mowat-Mercier resolutions through the provincial Assembly, but in moving them Blair himself insisted that his government was ‘neither liberal nor conservative’.662 Tilley had thought Blair biddable even when he seemed deeply enmeshed with the Liberals. ‘A little attention from you just at this time would do no harm,’ he advised Sir John A. Macdonald in April 1887.663 In July 1888, Macdonald received what may have been an indirect approach from the target himself. In an intriguing letter, Saint John MP Charles N. Skinner, a Liberal also in the process of switching party, suggesting that Blair too was open to recruitment. ‘A man of his ability would be a gain to any party,’ Macdonald neutrally replied. It was a delicate position, the wily old prime minister acknowledged: Blair’s ‘influence might be weakened by an abrupt change of base’ but, equally, ‘it won’t do to postpone that operation until the eleventh hour.’ Perhaps Skinner had misinterpreted Blair’s apparent wish to transfer to national politics as a desire to shift within national politics, but Macdonald evidently took the feeler seriously, and his biographer, Joseph Pope, normally circumspect about near-contemporary events, had no problem in publishing the prime minister’s letter in 1921.664 Pugsley also came to the Liberals in mid-career. In 1891 he had backed the Conservatives, whle in 1896 he ran in Saint John as an Independent. R. Craig Brown argues that his adherence to the Liberals after 1896 was ‘a strategic move,’ in response to the perceived ‘invincibility’ of Laurier’s government.665

            Thorburn noted the tendency for the province to elect a majority of its MPs in support of the existing federal government, in the hope of securing favours.666 In the nineteenth century, this culture twice rebounded, when New Brunswickers failed to foresee a change of government at the polls. In 1878, theirs was the only province to stand by Mackenzie’s Liberals in the face of a Conservative sweep. ‘New Brunswick alone amid the faithless stood faithful,’ lamented the defeated prime minister.667 Tilley was on his deathbed in June 1896 as the election results showed that his province had stood by the embattled Conservative government. ‘I can go to sleep now,’ he said, ‘New Brunswick has done well.’668 (He was not told about the national picture.) Did these electoral blips matter? After all, New Brunswick had two of its most effective cabinet representatives immediately after those two elections: Tilley from 1879, and Blair following his transfer to Ottawa in 1896. However, D.M. Young suspects that Blair lacked weight in cabinet because he was backed by such a small delegation of MPs.669 There was one positive aspect to New Brunswick’s unpredictability: in election years, it had to be wooed. In 1882, Sackville temporarily gained an advantage over its Nova Scotian neighbour, Amherst, in the struggle to control a railway link across the Chignecto isthmus, precisely because New Brunswick had failed to deliver for the Conservatives in 1878, so there were seats for potential gain.670 It is difficult not to suspect that New Brunswick lost influence at Ottawa when its voters defeated Peter Mitchell in 1878, and Arthur Hill Gillmor in 1896. Gillmor had first been elected in Charlotte County as far back as 1854. He had kept the Liberal banner flying for two decades in Ottawa, despite the fact, so he claimed in 1889, that both Tilley and Charles Tupper regularly vacationed in St Andrews, where they told locals how foolish they were to elect an opposition member.671 Unfortunately for the interests of Charlotte County, voters took the hint at just the moment when Tupper lost office.

Ottawa: New Brunswick in cabinet

In every round of constitutional reform in Canada, discussion focuses at some point upon the weak structural connection between Ottawa and the country’s major cities. Unfortunately, in a federal system, there seems no way around the basic fact that cabinet representation is allocated by provinces. Thus, while in strict theory, it might have been expected that the Dominion’s fourth largest city would have had an institutionalised voice in national decision-making, in practice Saint John had to take its chance within the fluid and sometimes conflicting pressures of New Brunswick. From 1867 to 1896, the province was considered entitled to two cabinet ministers; thereafter, its share fell to one.672 As leader of the movement for Confederation, Tilley was an automatic choice for one position in 1867. From Newcastle on the North Shore, Peter Mitchell successfully self-nominated for the second spot, insisting to Macdonald that ‘no selection would satisfy the northern and eastern part or half of the Province, that comprised men chosen from the other southern or western.’ Railway politics, he explained, had entrenched the regional division and ‘that is the way they now side off’.673 Mitchell’s appointment established the principle that New Brunswick’s cabinet representation was sectional in nature, with Saint John having no greater claim to a place than any other area in the south and west of the province. Within a year of the new structure, Tilley complained to Macdonald of a general impression ‘that I have no influence with the Government, that Mitchell controls all New Brunswick matters’.674 By 1871, the combined outcries against the Treaty of Washington and the New Brunswick Schools Act drove Tilley to the edge of leaving politics altogether. The pressures of office left little time to act as cabinet minister for Saint John. Tilley’s major initiative in port development seems to have been his appeal in 1872 to the City to allow railway access to the East Side waterfront. This made little impact, largely because he did not, and presumably could not, pledge Dominion funding for the construction of docks.675

            The incoming Liberal administration in 1873 left the nomination of New Brunswick’s cabinet spokesmen to its provincial supporters. It was widely agreed that Timothy Warren Anglin was a strong candidate for ministerial office, both in terms of personal ability and because, as a Saint John newspaper editor representing a North Shore, he had a unique potential to bridge the internal divide. But Anglin was not acceptable to his colleagues, who made the obvious choice of Westmorland’s Albert J. Smith, but coupled him with Saint John businessman and Portland local politician Isaac Burpee.676 The selection of Burpee did at least mean that Saint John retained its unofficial cabinet seat, but this does not seem to have been accompanied by much political influence. Burpee had only been elected in 1872, and his transfer to the Liberals had happened even more recently, in reaction against the Pacific scandal. He was a poor parliamentary speaker and only the faintest trace of him appears in McGahan’s exhaustive history of the port.677 When Saint John made its first tentative steps towards establishing a port authority, in 1877 – fifty years before the issue was resolved – it was New Brunswick’s other cabinet minister, Albert J. Smith, who refused ‘to take upon himself the responsibility’ of bringing the necessary legislation to parliament.678 No doubt this was in line with Smith’s opposition to public funding of infrastructure projects, shown in his opposition to government support for the Intercolonial railway, and his handling of Western Extension in 1865-6. His negativity may also have been tactically designed to force the Common Council and the Board of Trade to co-operate. Burpee’s role in the decision remains to be explained and may be impossible to reconstruct. The tentative conclusion must be that in 1877 there was no strong cabinet minister dedicated to the interests of Saint John.

Tilley returned to cabinet with the Conservative victory in 1878, and played a supportive role in Saint John harbour issues until his withdrawal from front-line politics in 1885.679 Just how actively and indeed how effectively Tilley operated as a voice for Saint John would merit closer investigation.680 As minister of finance, he undertook a major job in putting the National Policy tariffs in place, and seems to have found the additional responsibility of keeping an eye on the interests of his home province burdensome. In 1880, the Dominion government decided to acquire an ageing Royal Navy vessel for use as a training ship. Tilley believed it had been settled that the Charybdis would be based in Saint John harbour, and was annoyed at a rumour that it was to be located in Halifax instead –where it could have shared facilities with the imperial naval base. He protested to Macdonald, citing the episode as an instance of how every government project seemed to benefit Halifax, leaving Saint John only a few crumbs. ‘On this matter I must make a stand’.681 The Charybdis duly came to Saint John, but more consideration had evidently gone into the location of the ship than into his function: was it a step towards a Canadian navy or a substitute for one? The British Admiralty had handed over the vessel because it was not worth refitting, and it had been stripped of its armament. With just one six-pounder gun, it was hardly likely to deter attacks on Saint John’s merchant fleet – the notional justification for its acquisition at a time of international tension between Britain and Russia. When Charybdis broke its moorings and damaged shipping in the harbour, it was returned to the British in disgrace.682 Tilley reported to Macdonald rumours in Saint John in 1884 about the financial instability of the Canadian Pacific company, and he lobbied for its railway interests even during his second term as lieutenant-governor,683 but it is not clear how far he saw himself as the city’s ambassador in Ottawa. His remit was more largely to operate as Macdonald’s party lieutenant in the province as a whole, and much of the digitised correspondence available on the Library and Archives Canada website shows little or no concern about specific Saint John interests – but this may not tell the whole story. ‘His name gives us great strength,’ wrote a Saint John Tory organiser in 1885,684 and it may be that Tilley, like all effective politicians, operated through channels that left no archival trace.

Tilley’s second and final retirement in politics, in 1885, marked the end of eighteen years in which a Saint John resident had sat at the cabinet table in Ottawa. He was invited to advise on a successor from the province. ‘Some of the St John people desire that St John should continue to be represented in the cabinet,’ he reported. The problem was that their candidate, local MP C.A. Everett, had only been elected two weeks earlier in the by-election to replace Tilley himself. Tilley had fobbed off a deputation on the subject: ‘I admitted Everetts ability and St Johns importance as the commercial capital,’ but he had also pointed to the impossibility of catapulting a new MP over the heads of existing politicians.685 By 1885, New Brunswick had sixteen MPs to the House of Commons. Only nine of those were Conservatives, and one of them, John Costigan of Victoria County, had joined the cabinet in 1882, as much to become the mouthpiece for the Dominion’s Irish Catholics as to represent the outer reaches of the province. ‘He has been looked upon more as the Irish Catholic Representative in the Government than as a Representative for New Brunswick,’ Tilley advised Macdonald. It was ‘well understood down here’ that Costigan ‘has given more attention to his co-religionists throughout the Dominion than he has to New Brunswick matters’.686

The choice seemed to lie between Josiah Wood and George Foster. Wood was a Sackville businessman, strongly committed to the scheme to link the town by railway to Cape Tormentine on Northumberland Strait, a project that was seen as incidentally advancing the interests of Saint John. Unfortunately, although one of the earliest graduates of Mount Allison, Wood was a poor speaker and he was also not much interested in office. A complication, which Tilley did not mention, was that Sackville’s railway ambitions were in conflict with those of nearby Amherst, home town of Charles Tupper. The Nova Scotian giant was temporarily out of parliament serving as Canada’s High Commissioner in Britain, but his influence remained, and Wood’s accession to cabinet could only accentuate this local conflict. Although Foster was ‘somewhat bumptious,’ Tilley hoped he would mature in office. A former Fredericton professor, since 1882 he had represented Kings, the next constituency upstream from Saint John, and a county that generally saw its interests as associated with those of the city. ‘Some of our leading men in St John’ favoured Foster’s appointment, and he was endorsed by William H. Thorne, a prominent businessman and Conservative organiser. Thorne argued that ‘a porte-folio given to Professor Foster would be popular here, & it could go, to no constituency outside of the City & County of St. John, that would be so favourably thought of as Kings.’ Since Foster also had the backing of the York County Liberal-Conservative organisation, everything seemed set fair for a cabinet career that would straddle all the interests of the St John valley.687

Ottawa: the Harvey to Salisbury line

The notion of Saint John’s interests could be protected by a cabinet minister from Fredericton was no doubt implicit in the two-zone approach to New Brunswick’s representation at Ottawa. The Canadian Pacific’s Short Line challenged this inclusive assumption.688 In 1884, the project of an all-Canadian line to the Pacific faced financial collapse. Sir John A. Macdonald’s own supporters were reluctant to endorse the massive bail-out required to keep construction going. In a rare display of unity, Maritimers insisted that the railway to the west should be balanced by a direct line east from Montreal, through northern Maine – the United States was no longer seen as a threat – towards Saint John. CPR President George Stephen later recalled, with some bitterness, a confrontational meeting at which Maritime MPs issued ‘the threat that they would not support one of our life-and-death measures then before the house unless I agreed to build the short line.’689

In April 1884, resolutions, promising not the unconditional construction of such a line but a subsidy towards its realisation, were moved in the House of Commons, by Tupper. The resolutions were referred to a committee which tacked Halifax on as the ultimate destination. The line was to run by ‘the shortest and most practicable route,’ subject to engineering surveys. It was by no means certain that the scheme would actually happen, and its actual achievement required a certain amount of political dealing, notably between the CPR’s George Stephen and the Anglophone Quebec politician and railwayman J.H. Pope.690 It is generally stated that the Short Line reached Saint John in 1889. In fact, the CPR tentacle petered out at Mattawamkeag, on the Penobscot river in northern Maine. There it linked to the Western Extension (which had been renamed the New Brunswick Railway) which, after twenty years of providing a maundering connection to the backblocks of Maine, suddenly found itself part of a transcontinental communications chain. With the railway bridge over the Reversing Falls completed in 1885, traffic could pass onward from Saint John along the line towards Shediac, now part of the Intercolonial, and so reach Halifax from Moncton. Unfortunately, this somewhat roundabout route did not satisfy Nova Scotian opinion. For the next few years, Saint John’s hopes of clinching its hoped-for role as Canada’s winter port depended on the resolution of two issues. One was the need to give the Canadian Pacific Railway assured control of the Western Extension into Saint John so that the company would find it worthwhile to improve dock facilities and erect the necessary grain terminal. The other was the threat of the Harvey to Salisbury extension.

            Despite its obscure terminal points, the Harvey to Salisbury railway was no backwoods branch line.691 Rather, it was intended to discharge the pledge to provide ‘the shortest and most practicable route’ to Halifax, by extending the Short Line eastwards across New Brunswick to Moncton. Harvey was a wilderness settlement on the Western Extension, 130 kilometres north-west of Saint John but – ominously – much closer to Fredericton. Salisbury was a station stop about twenty kilometres west of the rising city of Moncton. Government spokesmen defended the project on the grounds that it would eliminate a right-angled bend in the existing route. That right-angled bend was, of course, Saint John. Peter Mitchell, now an Independent MP and critic of the Macdonald government, denounced as ‘money thrown into the sea’ the proposed expenditure of $3.5 to $4 million to save an estimated twenty minutes of travel time to Halifax. In fact, nobody knew by how much the Harvey to Salisbury line would shorten the overall journey, since the route had not even been surveyed, and much of central New Brunswick remained unknown territory: estimates varied from 14 to 27 miles (22.5 to 43.5 kilometres).692 Even those guesses might prove ephemeral, since a direct line from Harvey to Salisbury implied a bridge over the St John somewhere in Queens County, where the river was generally over a kilometre in width. Upstream, Fredericton – forty kilometres north-east of Harvey – was just finishing its own handsome railway bridge, a far more splendid piece of engineering than was readily justified by the local traffic that it would carry towards the Miramichi. The fact that the Fredericton Bridge Company was interested in tendering for the Harvey to Salisbury line was surely more than a straw in the wind. Diverted northward to cross the St John at Fredericton, the line would have to follow another arc further to the north to find a suitable crossing place on the Nashwaak and to skirt the long indentation of Grand Lake – a diversion that would easily eliminate the estimated forty-kilometre shortening of the route to Halifax. Harvey to Salisbury in effect meant Fredericton to Moncton, pitting New Brunswick’s second and third cities against Saint John. Hence Hannay’s comment that ‘some other communities in the province’ had worked to frustrate the city’s ambition to become Canada’s winter port.693 When the House of Commons was asked to finance the scheme in April 1889, its three representatives in Ottawa fought a lonely rearguard action. Their cabinet minister kept a low profile but, as Fredericton resident George Foster happened to be minister of finance, it must be assumed that he did not support Saint John’s objections.694

             Peter Mitchell, one of the few members to support the Saint John case, was blunt in identifying the core reason for the proposed Harvey to Salisbury line: ‘the people of Halifax are jealous of the people of St. John. The people of Halifax dread that if the traffic from Montreal and the west goes around by way of St. John, some portion will drop off at St. John and will lessen the amount of trade Halifax will receive.’ Although Mitchell claimed he had no wish to buy into the quarrel, he did not see it as sufficient reason for the Canadian taxpayer to commit millions of dollars for a duplicate line. Louis Davies, a former premier of Prince Edward Island, concluded ‘that St. John is being sidetracked [which was literally true] for some reason or other, and is not being fairly dealt with.’ The city’s representatives had no doubt about the nature of the influence operating against them. ‘Halifax has always been potent in her influence by having certain representatives who were able apparently, to secure her interests, while we at Saint John always seemed to get into the background,’ complained Charles N. Skinner. ‘We have been betrayed in St. John time and time again,’ declared Charles Weldon. Josiah Wood unwittingly revealed that Saint John had been fortunate he had not been appointed to cabinet in 1885. With increasing business interests in Moncton, he condemned Saint John’s opposition as ‘entirely local and sectional in its character.’ ‘The city has struggled against a great deal of misfortune in a variety of ways,’ pleaded John V. Ellis, specifying that ‘owing to its peculiar position,’ it had gained little benefit from railway connections. Mitchell sought to raise the level of discussion. ‘We have heard too much of Halifax and St. John, and we should deal with these questions on public grounds and in the interests of the country.’ The House of Commons had certainly heard too much about the woes of Saint John. On a whipped party vote, it endorsed funding for the wilderness main line that would marginalise the city.

             Salvation came from an unexpected quarter. Textbooks often give the impression that the Canadian Senate did nothing between 1875, when it rejected legislation for the Esquimalt to Nanaimo railway, and 1913, when it defeated Borden’s Naval Bill. In fact, the Red Chamber took its role seriously, scrutinising proposed legislation and rejecting, or simply failing to approve, controversial measures in every session through to the nineteen-twenties.695 One of these was the Harvey to Salisbury line, which it dismissed in 1889. The Senate had been designed in 1867 to give equal representation to the three founding sections of the Dominion, with Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes receiving twenty-four members each. After the admission of Prince Edward Island in 1873, New Brunswick’s share settled at ten. By 1889, the upper house had been enlarged to 78 members to give a voice to Manitoba and British Columbia. Thus, in theory, New Brunswick enjoyed a privileged position, its ten Senators giving it 12.8 percent of the Red Chamber, while its 16 MPs out of 215 the population-based Commons amounted to just 8.4 percent. Unfortunately, localism bit just as deep in the counsels of sober second thoughts – as Sir John A. Macdonald’s postbag would reveal whenever a seat fell vacant. In 1889, an unfilled vacancy meant the province had nine Senators. John Boyd, a Saint John businessman and Tilley-Macdonald loyalist, had first talked of making the city Canada’s ‘Winterport [sic]’ back in 1858,696 but he does not appear to have travelled to Ottawa at all in 1889. The proposed Harvey to Salisbury legislation came before the Senate very late, and four other Senators had probably gone home. Although based in Fredericton, David Wark had argued for a government-funded grain elevator in Saint John a few weeks earlier but, at the age of 85, he had presumably had enough, as had the 84 year-old Amos Botsford from Sackville. The other absentees, James Lewin from Saint John and John Glazier from Sunbury, were both in their late seventies. Whatever the reason for their absence, only four New Brunswick Senators took part in the debate, the two speakers and the four silent voters dividing equally. The Senate’s decision to reject the Harvey to Salisbury railway bill did not reflect New Brunswick over-representation, and it certainly had nothing to do with New Brunswick unity.

              When the Senate considered the proposed Harvey to Salisbury legislation on 1 May 1889, two New Brunswick Senators spoke.697 Abner R. McClenan, from Albert County, declared that the aim was ‘to place St. John at a very considerable disadvantage as regards Halifax.’ Countering him, the Acadian Senator Pascal Poirier belied his protestation of ‘great consideration and regard for the claims of St. John’ by brusquely arguing that ‘none of this agitation would be heard of’ had the Short Line been constructed straight through, rather than briefly channelling its traffic towards the people of Saint John. ‘It is because they have tasted of the luxury that they now want to keep the whole thing to themselves.’ There was now no ambiguity about the intended route: presumably speaking in English, Poirier called the plan to use the Fredericton railway bridge as ‘killing two birds with one stone.’ Hence Harvey to Salisbury not only placed Saint John in opposition to Halifax, but ensured that the province’s second and third cities would unite against it too. Poirier’s assurance that the journey time would be speeded because there would be ‘no station between Fredericton and Moncton’ offered its own comment on the nature of the bleak country to be traversed. Former Prince Edward Island premier R.P. Haythorne thought the proposal bizarre, and deplored the assumption that ‘a great seaport should submit so tamely to its trade being carried away to a rival port.’ Railways were often constructed to help cities develop their trade, but it was unprecedented to spend money on ‘a railroad which is to carry freight away from one of the best winter ports we have.’

The speech of the debate came from a Nova Scotian, Senator William Miller. Two decades earlier, Miller had been instrumental in persuading the Nova Scotia Assembly to accept a formula that acquiesced in Confederation,698 a manoeuvre that had earned him his place in the upper house. The key to understanding Miller was that he came from Cape Breton. The internal dynamics of post-Confederation Nova Scotia politics perhaps require more examination, but it seems safe to assume that Halifax, from its central position, could draw upon a broader consensus of support within the province than was customarily given to Saint John, in its south-western isolation. (Interestingly, R. Cole Harris and John Warkentin accept the claim of D.C. Harvey that ‘a sense of wider regionalism’ had emerged in Nova Scotia by the eighteen-sixties, ‘including a feeling of common purpose in the colony as a whole.’699) Cape Breton, it seems, was something of an exception. It was Miller who formally moved the six months’ hoist, the technical procedure for rejecting a bill, and he did not mince his words. He condemned ‘the unfair, childish jealousy’ of Halifax against Saint John, ‘the spirit of the petulant child’. ‘I have always admired the energy and pluck of the city of St. John,’ he declared, contrasting its enterprise with Halifax, ‘always overfed on government pap’.

Miller’s motion was successful, and the Harvey to Salisbury line was rejected by 22 votes to 11. Two other Senators were present but did not vote, explaining that they were paired with absentees – suggesting that some minds had been made up well before the actual debate. With fewer than half the Senate voting, it is impossible to say whether the vote represented a cross-section or a fluke: the six Nova Scotians and four Westerners who were absent might perhaps have narrowed the gap. The reasons for the rejection are also beyond reconstruction. The six Senators from Quebec who voted for the hoist probably responded to Miller’s warnings that the Short Line would downgrade the function of the Intercolonial, but the absence of no fewer than seventeen Quebec members – J.J.C. Abbott, the government leader in the upper house, cast the sole vote from the province in favour of the bill – points to a lack of wider engagement on the question. Perhaps Senators were swayed by Miller’s appeal to Saint John’s ‘energetic and enterprising’ response to the Great Fire, still a recent memory. Perhaps they simply regarded the Harvey to Salisbury line as a bad idea. The Toronto Globe even speculated that Sir John A. Macdonald himself was behind the defeat: he had endorsed the extravagant project under pressure from his Nova Scotian lieutenant, Sir John Thompson, but secretly orchestrated its downfall in the normally quiescent Red Chamber to put Thompson in his place. In the byzantine politics of Ottawa, all things were possible, although the Globe was neither the most reliable nor the most charitable interpreter of Macdonald’s manoeuvres. Whatever the senatorial motives, the scheme had been rejected – but was the setback only for the time being? In 1890, it emerged that the government was pressing ahead with a survey anyway – surveys were a useful way of dangling a project before hungry constituencies, and a general election was looming, although it now suited the outraged Toronto Globe to insist that the Senate had blocked the scheme ‘in a sudden freak of righteousness and independence’.700 The Harvey to Salisbury line made a brief reappearance in 1896, when the Fredericton Board of Trade called upon its Halifax counterpart to back the project. ‘Harvey Junction, change cars for St. John!’ (an adaptation of a similar cry that greeted through trains to and from Halifax at Moncton station) became an anti-government slogan in that year’s general election.701 Saint John had secured a lucky reprieve, but neither provincial solidarity nor strong cabinet representation had secured the victory.

Two factors probably helped overturn the Harvey to Salisbury project. One was the temporary absence from front-line politics of Charles Tupper, the masterful voice of Nova Scotia, who was committed to bringing the Canadian Pacific into Halifax, and who made a habit of getting his own way. The other was that the CPR itself was still very much beholden to the Macdonald government for its support in the mid-eighties. Hence, its President, George Stephen, was not in a position to dictate to ministers. He insisted that he had been promised that, in return for his building through Maine, the Intercolonial ‘would be run as a local road, that the through business would all come over the Short Line’. Stephen felt let down over the failure to secure direct access to Halifax, and even talked of pulling out of the Nova Scotian capital altogether.702 From Saint John’s point of view, the priority was now to secure the CPR’s commitment to its winter port function. This required recovering control of the Carleton Branch railway, sold to the Dominion government in 1885, in order to lease it on generous and semi-permanent terms to the CPR.703 Foster, apparently invisible during the controversy over the Harvey to Salisbury line, now swung into action as Saint John’s advocate in Ottawa. In October 1889, he informed Macdonald that the New Brunswick Railway (formerly known as the Western Extension and, as Foster pointed out, ‘pratically [sic] the C.P.R.’) had applied for a long lease on the West Side’s Sand Point wharf and associated railway property. ‘The Carleton Branch property was secured by the Government to prevent any third party stepping in between the Short Line and deep water privileges and it has been the ruling idea from the first to use it as an aid and inducement to the Great Through Line to bring a portion of its trade to deep water in St. John,’ he argued in a memorandum. The government, he added, had done little for Saint John, the Carleton branch railway was disconnected from the publicly-owned Intercolonial, and its Carleton wharf was in need of repair. Privately, he urged ‘it is important that action should be taken at once as the peculiarly favorable turn of affairs in St. John for the perfecting of the scheme which appears to have taken place may if this opportunity passes not occur again.’704 Saint John secured its deal. Even so, progress in clinching winter port status was slow throughout the first half of the eighteen-nineties. In effect, there was a Catch-22 problem. Freight would only be sent by rail to the port if there was a reliable shipping service to carry it on to Europe; shipping lines would only call if cargoes were was guaranteed. In 1894-5 a successful campaign broke this logjam by securing a Dominion government subsidy – thanks, in part, to the helpful coincidence that the Montreal-based Beaver Line was under financial pressure, and open to the idea of new business.705

The extent to which New Brunswick cabinet ministers might support the interests of Saint John depended upon the degree of power that they could exercise in Ottawa. The drafting of Andrew George Blair into Laurier’s cabinet in 1896, after a thirteen-year dominance of provincial politics, seemed to presage a comfortable phase of influence at the national capital, the more so as Blair took the key portfolio of railways and canals. Unfortunately, by 1902 the prime minister had become a convert to the idea of a second transcontinental railway, and blatantly undermined his responsible minister in pursuit of the scheme.706 In 1903, ‘old Blair’ (as the governor-general called the 59 year-old) resigned, unleashing on 11 August one of the most impressive denunciations the Canadian House of Commons has ever heard.707 Blair’s objections to the second transcontinental, which he called ‘wild, visionary, unbusiness-like,’ ranged far beyond its implications for his home province and adopted city (he had moved his law office downriver from Fredericton in 1894708). Nonetheless, his opposition was sharpened by his New Brunswick perspective. He disliked the idea of helping the Ontario-Quebec Grand Trunk company extend to the Pacific on grounds of cost, and its use of Portland, Maine as its eastern terminus did nothing to remove his doubts. Worse still was the proposed eastern section of the line, the National Transcontinental from Quebec to Moncton which – given the bleak nature of the intervening country – was to be built as a purely government project. The National Transcontinental was the Harvey to Salisbury line on a grander scale, except that, as it would enter the province near Edmundston, it did not even have the merit of serving Fredericton.709 As D.M. Young, Blair’s DCB biographer, states, this massive railway carrot reopened rivalries between northern and southern New Brunswick that Blair had hoped to heal. He told the governor-general, Lord Minto, that ‘it was the Nova Scotia Members of Parliament who had insisted so strongly that the Government should build the new line from Moncton to Quebec,’ although he felt that their province ‘would derive no particular benefit from it.’ Within New Brunswick, it would pass through country that was ‘very poor and generally unsuitable for settlement.’710 In his parliamentary tour-de-force, Blair touched briefly upon the position of Saint John, throwing a direct challenge to Laurier. ‘Why is it he builds a railway to Moncton, if his object is to get to the ocean by the nearest way?’ How was Saint John supposed to fit into this grand scheme? ‘No man questions the advantages of St. John as an ocean port. It is free from fog in the winter, a great source of trouble to many other ports,’ he pointed out, in what was probably a coded allusion to Halifax. Saint John’s other ‘great advantage’ was its staple product of lumber, ‘which is always available to make up the balance of a cargo if required. You can always make up the balance of a cargo with lumber if you cannot get other things.’ Hence Blair’s killer question: ‘Why is St. John passed over?’711

Saint John lawyer and businessman William Pugsley was second-in-command in the Tweedie Liberal provincial government. Unlike Blair, he believed that the city could benefit from the National Transcontinental.712 By 1900, the province was criss-crossed by tracks, most of them carrying trains – slow, sad and seldom – from nowhere to the back of beyond. One such enterprise was the New Brunswick Central Railway, running from Norton to Chipman.713 Norton was a station stop on the line to Shediac, sixty kilometres east of Saint John. From there, the Central ran about eighty kilometres north to the backwoods settlement of Chipman, on the headwaters of Grand Lake. First projected in 1873, the line had opened in 1888, and was extended westward a short distance in 1904 to tap into the small Grand Lake coalfield at Minto. (Later, in 1913, it reached Fredericton.) Although remote, the Central Railway in fact represented the closest location to Saint John for a northward rail corridor that would avoid Washademoak Lake, although the complication that the line was a virtual cul-de-sac made it of no obvious value to the port economy. The Central does not seem to have advertised any freight or passenger schedules in the Saint John press, which confirms the overall impression that it was not one of Canada’s more successful transportation ventures. However, its potential was transformed by the prospect of the National Transcontinental, which was intended to pass through Chipman. In fact, during the 1903 railway debates, former New Brunswick premier Henry R. Emmerson proposed that the Chipman to Norton line should be incorporated into the scheme, although his motive was probably to head off a rival compensatory scheme, for a Valley line from Edmundston, which might well have diverted traffic from Emmerson’s home base of Moncton.714 When Emmerson took over Blair’s former portfolio in 1904, Pugsley bargained directly with Laurier to ensure that the National Transcontinental delivered freight to his home city. ‘St. John is very sensitive on this point,’ he warned the prime minister.715 The following year, he steered through the province’s acquisition of the Central Railway. Emmerson was not regarded as a friend of Saint John. In 1905, the city’s MPs complained about the Intercolonial Railway’s summer timetable, which provided for the morning passenger express to Halifax to leave at 6 a.m. The minister replied that the time was chosen ‘in the interest of the general passenger traffic’ of the Intercolonial, ‘and that men who could not get out of bed in time to catch that express could travel to Halifax later in the day by freight trains.’ ‘St. John’s Interests Apparently Having Little Weight,’ a sub-headline announced. Some assumed that the city was being punished for having elected Conservatives at the previous Dominion election, and that Emmerson implied that ‘it must take its medicine.’716 Perhaps fortunately for Saint John, when Emmerson drank himself out of office in 1907, Pugsley transferred to Ottawa as his successor. Unlike Everett in 1885, a Saint John representative was parachuted straight into the cabinet.717 Pugsley proved to be both an active participant and a generous benefactor.718

Ideally, the acquisition of the New Brunswick Central Railway should have created the vital link between the National Transcontinental and the port of Saint John, along the only feasible route that could bring central Canadian traffic to Saint John’s East Side. Yet the transaction barely features in McGahan’s exhaustive account, which does show that attention shifted during the era of ‘fruitless dreams’ to a campaign for access to Edmundston via the proposed Valley railway.719 What went wrong? First, the Norton to Chipman line had not been engineered for heavy traffic. Critics called it ‘two streaks of rust connected by a few rotten ties,’ but such abuse was not uncommon in Canadian railway debate, and a cross-Canada project could surely have tackled the upgrade of eighty kilometres of existing track.720 When the National Transcontinental was completed in 1912, the Grand Trunk ungraciously refused to take it on, continuing to funnel its year-round trade through subsidiary lines in the United States – a strategy that was entirely contrary to the spirit of its agreement with the Laurier government. At the same time, Saint John encountered setbacks in the development of new dock facilities at Courtenay Bay, the natural counterpart of channelling freight down the Chipman to Norton corridor. In any case, the cost of the First World War swung the political balance against subsidised freight rates. During the first three decades of the twentieth century, New Brunswick emerged from the heady prospects of ‘Canada’s Century’, in which it had been at best a passive onlooker, to the gritty grievances of Maritime Rights.721

            Examining what New Brunswick cabinet ministers delivered for their province misses an important point, that they were appointed to undertake national responsibilities, and in an era when Canada was under construction and its relatively small bureaucratic resources imposed considerable burdens upon ministers. Some of New Brunswick’s leading personalities embraced the challenge. Mitchell and Smith played important roles in establishing fisheries policy, a subject of course of importance to the Atlantic region. For good or ill, Tilley, as finance minister, made a major contribution to the shaping of the National Policy. It is no sardonic jest to say that Blair’s objections to the Laurier’s railway policy were both national and transcontinental. If he opposed laying tracks by way of Chipman, he should also be remembered for his role in taking the CPR through the Crowsnest Pass. Some New Brunswick cabinet ministers became effectively resident in Ottawa for much of the year, bringing their families with them. Annie Blair became one of the capital’s leading political hostesses; the death of their daughter Bessie in a skating accident on the Ottawa river tragically underlined the extent to which the focus of the Blairs’ family life had transferred to central Canada.722

             Lawyer and poet William Burtis had greeted Confederation in 1867, predicting a bright future for the province: ‘New Brunswick’s youth put forth their powers / Like hills refreshed with timely showers.’723 Unfortunately, those early decades were characterised by the youth of New Brunswick mobilising their powers to seek new lives way beyond their native hills. Some of their politicians also left the province, seeking to operate on a larger stage. Peter Mitchell remained an absentee MP for some years, but in the early eighteen-eighties, he relocated to Montreal. Timothy Warren Anglin was never a cabinet minister, but in 1883, in his early sixties, he sought a new life in dynamic Toronto, to escape ‘that despondency which one meets everywhere in St. John.’724 Anglin failed to resume his political career, but George Eulas Foster managed an impressive second innings, including a knighthood, as a Toronto MP and cabinet minister after his defeat in Saint John at the general election of 1900. Even Pugsley, one of the city’s most assertive spokesmen, had extensive interests in Western land.725 Given their workloads and their widening horizons, it is no wonder that cabinet ministers from New Brunswick may sometimes have felt divided loyalties. Tilley had one of his bouts of self-doubt in 1880, complaining to Macdonald that Halifax had captured the big prizes such as the Intercolonial railway. ‘I begin to recognize that I do not look after the interests of New Brunswick as I should do and that the time has arrived for me to give place to some person who will.’726 The perception that Tilley found it difficult to balance national and regional demands probably explains a roguish comment by George King, Liberal MP for Queens, in 1882. ‘I could wish,’ he told the Commons, that Tilley ‘was free from the responsibilities of office, and free from the trammels of party, so that he might stand up and advocate ... the claims of the Province of New Brunswick and his native county.’727 However, it may also be misleading to view nineteenth-century investment in specifically favoured communities through the modern culture of government ‘pork’ projects. The decentralisation scheme that brought Veterans Affairs to Charlottetown in 1983 would have been unthinkable a century early, simply because Ottawa did not operate on that scale.728 There were a few big prizes – railways, docks, the occasional grain elevator – but many Dominion government initiatives, such as the training ship Charybdis which so agitated Tilley in 1880, made little impact in a major city. Smaller communities, on the other hand, rarely enjoyed privileged access to the cabinet table. Albert J. Smith’s success in winning the penitentiary for Dorchester is an enduring exception.

              A final word on New Brunswick’s relationship with Ottawa should touch upon the issue of rivalry with Nova Scotia. With a slightly larger population, the neighbouring province consistently returned more MPs to the House of Commons, 19 against 15 in 1867 (out of a total of 194), 21 against 16 from 1872 until 1891 when the census began to take its toll, reducing the mainland Maritime provinces by 1904 to 18 and 13 seats respectively, out of a total of 214. How far was Nova Scotia a rival and, perhaps, an enemy to New Brunswick interests? In 1875, St John and its Business deviated from its prevailing upbeat tone to denounce ‘a Nova Scotian cabal’ for blocking – or, as the booster booklet insisted, delaying – construction of the Baie Verte canal, a project that, it asserted, was met with ‘blind hatred’ in Halifax.729 But that may have represented a temporary upsurge of anger, following the hostile vote by eighteen Nova Scotian MPs – almost the entire delegation -- in April 1874.730 It is tempting to wonder whether Saint John’s relative success in netting Ottawa investment between 1896 and 1911 stemmed from the booming economy of the Laurier years, or reflected the fact that the Liberal government fell between the era of the Tuppers and Sir John Thompson on the one hand, and their fellow Nova Scotian Robert Borden on the other. But if Tupper was a Nova Scotian politician, he was even more wedded to the interests of his home base in Cumberland County. C.R. McKay regards him as the leading political supporter of the canal’s successor project, the Chignecto ship railway. True, Glasgow businessman Andrew D. Provand was rebuffed when he tried to lobby Prime Minister Thompson and Charles Hibbert Tupper on behalf of the scheme in Paris in 1894, but his intrusion was no doubt unwelcome when the two were handling an international negotiation.731 It certainly became an article of faith among Liberals that the malevolent influence of Sir Charles Tupper had operated against the legitimate interests of Saint John, but this was hardly neutral evidence.732

It is possible – but the hypothesis would require testing – that parliamentarians from peninsular Nova Scotia were likely to unite on major communications issues, simply because their province is joined to the rest of Canada by a narrow isthmus, whereas New Brunswick, with its multiple points of access, felt no such common interest. But it would probably be misleading for historians uncritically to endorse the New Brunswick assumption of perennial second-class status. After all, it was Nova Scotians who believed their interests were so badly treated within Confederation that they threatened to secede, in 1868 and again in 1886. In his classic study of 1957, The Government of Nova Scotia, J.M. Beck devoted only a short chapter to the province’s relations with Ottawa. He took it for granted that Canada’s tariff structure disadvantaged Nova Scotian consumers and worked against the competitive position of its export industries. ‘In these matters each section within a federal system is theoretically supposed to have its interests safeguarded by is representation in the central legislature.’ If so, Beck argued, then it had to be asked ‘whether Nova Scotia members of Parliament have been more concerned with maintaining party solidarity than with safeguarding provincial interests.’733 In New Brunswick, it was not so much partisanship as endemic localism that continued to undermine the province throughout much of the twentieth century. Thorburn quoted an unnamed federal MP who remarked in the nineteen-fifties that he ‘would like to co-operate with other New Brunswick members if only there were something upon which we could all agree – but one man is interested in potatoes, another in lumber, still another in cargo loadings; and what will benefit one man’s constituency won’t help another’s.’734

We are back to Sir Edmund Head’s conclusion a century earlier that fragmented geography worked against the chances of a unified approach to governance: ‘the result of this disjointed conformation of the country is naturally that local interests predominate over Provincial interests’. In pursuing its interests at Ottawa, the problem of Saint John was multi-dimensional. The institutional structure of the city, at least until 1889, meant that it was not easy to evolve a common definition of its needs. Within the province – and, in Canadian terms, it was a small province and becoming weaker – it was hopeless to expect united support for the city’s agenda. Prior to his adherence to the Liberal party, William Pugsley ran for the city as an Independent in the 1896 general election. His platform included a promise that, if elected, he would resign from parliament ‘should Saint John be unfairly treated.’735 Part of the problem of Saint John was that frustration manifested itself in futility. ‘Surely nowhere in our wide British Empire,’ wrote a British newspaper correspondent in 1894, ‘... have so much talent, effort, and time been spent in trying to squeeze public and private prosperity out of politics as in the Maritime Provinces of Canada.’736 But, just occasionally, the political process that we call governance, did in fact deliver for Saint John. Pugsley’s nuclear option was not called for, not least because he was not elected that year. Indeed, the city’s fortunes seemed to be improving. The processes of governance finally focused upon the positive elements of geography, and Saint John entered the twentieth century as Canada’s winter port.


In the history of Saint John, 1889 was a landmark year. The 1785 City merged with Portland, and the pernicious anomaly of Carleton was abolished. The first trains arrived by way of the new Canadian Pacific link to Montreal, and the Senate blocked the scheme to continue the Short Line on a route through central New Brunswick that would bypass Saint John on the way to Halifax. Of course, these major forward steps were not so much the end of the story as merely the beginning of new chapters.

Reviewing fifteen years of the new municipal regime in 1904, John A. Bowes bemoaned a financial burden only partially offset by a catch-up in services. The civic debt had increased by over $1.4 million, and only a fall in interest rates disguised the burden. The upgrading of Portland’s streets had run over budget, but the major part of the extra outlay stemmed from that inherent problem of the City’s dual responsibility, of providing both services for residents and port facilities for commerce. Investment in the harbour had amounted to around $900,000, most of it on new Carleton wharves. On other fronts, Bowes believed that the City was not even running fast enough to stand still. Some of the achievements of earlier decades no longer conformed to modern demands and standards: the Common Council had spent a quarter of a century ‘industriously dodging’ the provision of ‘an adequate water supply’. By 1904, it cost ‘something over $2,000 a day’ to run Saint John, of which $650 a day went in interest charges.737 In terms of civic governance, the problem of Saint John had simply forward-projected the existing conundrum, of dual responsibility for municipal services and harbour management, into a new and financially demanding structure.

Similarly, the arrival of the first through train from Montreal in June 1889 did not automatically herald the achievement of winter port status. ‘Between 1889 and 1896, the people of St. John derived no advantage from the construction of the Short Line except for the fact that it lessened the distance for passengers going to Montreal and Ottawa.’738 Other supporting steps were required – the improvement of port facilities on the Carleton waterfront, the guaranteeing of international steamship services – but the key developments that clinched winter port status were external to Saint John. Wheat prices on world markets began to rise from 1896, fuelling an agricultural boom in western Canada. Nationally, wheat production tripled between 1896 and 1901, and tripled again by 1911. An influx of settlers and a massive increase in farmland transformed Canada’s prairies.739 In 1900, a visiting British politician, a young man called Winston Churchill, advised a Winnipeg audience to shorten their city’s name to ‘Win’. Five years later, two new provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, were admitted to the Canadian federation. Somehow, the deluge of Western grain had to be shipped to customers in Europe, preferably as soon as possible after it was harvested. In 1897, Canada exported just under eight million bushels of wheat. During the winter months of 1897-98, just under one million bushels were shipped out of Saint John.740 At this stage, wheat represented less than twenty percent by value of the port’s winter export trade, but the increasing commitment of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the port was surely proof that the export of prairie wheat was the driving force behind Saint John’s status as a winter port.

So far, so good. ‘The citizens of Saint John are not soliciting special favours or asking recognition that would involve a sacrifice of business interests or a loss of trade,’ the city’s boosters insisted in 1898.741 But they were dangerously dependent upon the goodwill of others. In Marion H. Matheson’s terms, Saint John had now established a western hinterland that stretched to the Rocky Mountains. But it was a hinterland over which the city had no element of ‘heartland’ control, and it was a distant region which reciprocated no profound sense of common interest. The farmers of Kings County could be relied upon to sympathise with the Saint John’s political interests, since its residents were their customers. But for farmers thousands of kilometres to the west, Saint John was simply a convenient port through which they shipped their bounteous harvests when other outlets were closed by winter ice. If transportation costs were right, they were just as ready to use Portland, Maine – or even Norfolk, Virginia.742 H.G.C. Ketchum had scoffed that the visionaries who struggled to excavate a canal through the isthmus of Panama would eventually see sense and construct a ship railway. In 1914, they proved him wrong. Within a decade, Vancouver was handling the Alberta wheat crop, and much of the Saskatchewan harvest as well.743

            Saint John’s insistence that the city asked for no ‘special favours’ ignored one crucial element underpinning the local economy: the region had no doubt benefited – and had expected to benefit as of right – from favourable policies on transportation costs. The first attack on this privileged status came in 1912, with the elimination of a differential rate on the Intercolonial which made it cheaper to send goods west than east – a boon to Maritime manufacturers, but a grievance to their Montreal rivals.744 The process had continued during the First World War, when subsidies became unaffordable under the pressure of military expenditure. The general railway crisis of 1917 forced the Canadian government to nationalise every major company except the Canadian Pacific, ushering in a prolonged period of consolidation which two eminent historians have rightly described as ‘messy’.745 Not only was there a spectacular absence of cash in the bankrupt railway system which might pay for subsidised freight rates, but once Ottawa became directly responsible for the Grand Trunk network, it also inherited a commitment to Portland, Maine, and an incentive to favour its use as a year-round outlet. In addition, centralisation of decision-making away from Moncton ended the process scornfully described by a Canadian National Railways official in 1926 by which freight rates were dictated by ‘practically every Tom, Dick and Harry down in the Maritimes’.746 As a result of a process sometimes referred to as ‘levelling up’, rates in the region were raised to those already in operation in Ontario and Quebec. The result, in the words of Ernest R. Forbes, was akin to thrusting Maritime manufacturers ‘a thousand miles out into the Atlantic.’747

           A key problem was that political power was moving west, and Saint John was no more effective at building alliances across Canada in the nineteen-twenties than it had been within its own province in the eighteen-fifties. In 1872, New Brunswick had elected sixteen MPs, Manitoba four. By 1907, the three prairie provinces returned 27 MPs, while New Brunswick had been reduced to 13.748 As Thorburn drily observed, a ‘common concern for wheat’ ensured that western Canadian representatives tended to work in unison, unlike New Brunswick MPs with their disparate interests.749 In 1924 and 1925, Saint John sent delegations across western Canada to argue its case,750 but its efforts to build alliances may have come too late. At least two earlier instances may be cited – one from a Saint John MP in parliament in 1912, and the other from a newspaper editor in 1922 – which vaunted the ethnic purity of Loyalist New Brunswickers in unpleasant contrast with the newcomers of western Canada, Doukhobors being singled out in both examples, and one referring to ‘the scum of eastern Europe’.751 Comments of this kind were not even especially well informed about the origins of the prairie population, and were certainly not calculated to win goodwill in an increasingly powerful region. Saint John’s role as Canada’s winter port had been founded upon a distant bonanza, a golden stream of wheat from provinces that simply wished to see their produce reach overseas markets, and felt no loyalty to any particular outlet. Its ability to service those distant wheatfields had depended upon access to competitive freight rates. As far back as 1898, a representative of the Canadian Pacific Railway had warned that equalisation of freight rates from Montreal to Saint John with those to Boston or Portland, Maine, represented ‘a heavy contribution’ to ensuring the city’s status as a winter port.752 In many ways, it is remarkable that early twentieth-century Saint John prospered for so long on such insecure foundations.

            Even during the heady first decade of the winter port, it was possible to perceive that Saint John was running fast and maybe not even succeeding in standing still. ‘Why does St. John not grow?’, asked James Hannay in 1905.753 Hannay was largely innocent of economic theory, and short on expedients, but he provided an essentially descriptive and definitely dismal account. He deplored the failure of the Intercolonial railway to come down the St John valley, while noting that counties like Queens and Sunbury had become ‘stagnant and dead’. The city had certainly developed into fine port facilities, yet the beneficiaries of its investment were ‘shippers outside New Brunswick,’ with the province was experiencing little development. ‘There was a time when St. John appeared likely to become an important manufacturing centre, but this hope has not been realized.’ Its ‘numerous boot and shoe factories ... have all disappeared.’ Other enterprises had produced sugar, glass, sewing machines, rope ‘and many other industries which no longer exist.’ The city had ‘been able to hold on to its cotton mills,’ but overall, Saint John was ‘not doing as much in the manufacturing line as it ought to, considering its facilities and advantages.’

            Hannay blamed the high cost of the local taxation. An unsigned tailpiece to his article, probably the work of the editor, John A. Bowes, offered a more general explanation, one likely to appeal to modern-day historians. ‘The failure of every industry in St. John that has passed out of existence can be directly traced to one cause – the lack of working capital.’754 One episode that remained an open wound in the city was the fate of the Harris Car Works. Established by a blacksmith from Annapolis, Nova Scotia, in 1831, the Harris Foundry exploited its location adjoining the European & North American railway to branch out into the manufacture of rolling stock, which required the acquisition of an additional plant on the Portland Shore. In 1893, the enterprise was bought out, and relocated to Amherst.755 ‘St. John lost the Harris car works, which had been a successful industry for a quarter of a century, and which is still successful, because her monied men refused to invest the capital required to retain the industry here.’756

           It is difficult to assess contemporary comments on the role (or absence) of capital, partly because they contain a strong moralistic streak. Even the Monetary Times, Canada’s banking magazine, criticised Maritimers for placing their money in savings banks, settling for five or six percent interest ‘so long as they know it is safe, rather than risk it in manufactures, even supposing it yielded double the profit.’757 ‘The great drawback to the establishment of manufactories is the scarcity of capital,’ a British traveller had commented in 1872, ‘and the want of energy with those who have it.’758 A twenty-first century commentator may be permitted to marvel at the interest rates on offer, and also to query the assumption that savers have some obligation to invest in local enterprises, which may indeed yield double the return – but, it is legitimate to ask with regard to the Maritimes: for how long? Two years before the Great Fire of 1877, St. John and its Business had touched upon the issue of capital formation. ‘St. John until of recent years has never been a rich city, and want of capital has retarded it, but this difficulty is passing away.’759 We come back to a basic and unresolved question: did the 1877 disaster destroy crucial reserves of capital?760 When the Harris foundry business was reorganised as a joint-stock company in 1883, the $300,000 required was mainly raised in Saint John. The New Brunswick Magazine did not ask why Saint John had been able to generate capital for the Harris business in 1883 but not in 1893. According to the census, the value of industrial capital in the city had more than doubled between 1881 and 1891, from $2.14 million to $4.84 million. These were boom years, when industrial output in Saint John grew faster than in the rising manufacturing city of Hamilton, Ontario.761 Although this figure represented an estimate of created capital, the value of factories and equipment, and not the original sums invested, it still indicates that Saint John was capable of mobilising money. Community spirit was also strong enough to respond to the call of John H. Parks, who successfully steered his New Brunswick Cotton Mill through a two-year period in receivership between 1890 and 1892 by appealing to local merchants to buy ‘the goods made in St. John in preference to those of outside manufacture so long as the quality and price of the home goods is satisfactory.’762

Some consideration should also be given to the fact that Halifax created a capital market from 1894, with trust companies – especially associated with the financier John F. Stairs – which channelled Haligonian investment into industrial combines such as Nova Scotia Steel. However, this Halifax initiative did not remain unchallenged. The Amherst-based successor to the Harris business fell under Montreal control in 1909, and by 1920 Halifax had accepted its secondary role in Canadian high finance.763 The fact that Saint John did not emulate Halifax in developing a local capital market may not have been all loss: the New Brunswickers Max Aitken, James Dunn and R.B. Bennett did not always reflect the gentler face of capitalism, and their migration to other theatres of activity perhaps spared the city from their activities. In any case, it would be jejune to assume that a local capital market ensures local investment. As early as 1904, a Halifax journalist grumbled that the city’s ‘monied men’ talked too much about investment opportunities in the Caribbean and Latin America, and should ‘give a little more consideration and money to the establishment of small local manufacturers’ to create employment in their own community.764 Greg Marchildon dismisses the lingering belief that Stairs went out of his way to support Maritime industry. The Bank of Nova Scotia’s decision to shift its headquarters to Toronto in 1900 is one of the symbolic landmarks of the perceived loss of regional control over the Maritime economy. Yet an examination of its operations by Quigley, Drummond and Evans throws doubt on the extent to which this change of focus harmed New Brunswick interests. In the years 1892-1896, 44.4 percent of its loan book was in Nova Scotia, compared with 12.3 percent in New Brunswick. Between 1902 and 1906, as it sought to invest in Ontario, it was its commitment to its original home province that was cut back, with just 17.7 percent of its loans in Nova Scotia, while New Brunswick held level at 12.4 percent. Between 1912 and 1916, New Brunswick actually out-borrowed its neighbour, accounting for 15.5 percent of loans against just 11 percent. Because overall business exploded during those two decades, the percentage figures do not tell the whole story. In the early eighteen-nineties, the Bank of Nova Scotia loaned $1.2 million to New Brunswick enterprises. A decade later, the percentage remained steady, but the total advanced within the province had doubled to $2.4 million, and it would grow substantially again in those years around 1914. But although the bank had not lost sight of its New Brunswick customers, it was not recycling all their cash within the province. The $2.4 million loaned to New Brunswickers in 1902-6 was barely half of the $4.3 million they deposited. In 1912-16, they entrusted $12 to the Bank of Nova Scotia, which advanced them $9 million in return.765 Was this an example of the disloyal filtering of regional savings to other parts of Canada, the subordination of the Maritimes to what Acheson termed ‘Empire Canada’?766 Quigley, Drummond and Evans give the banks the benefit of the doubt. ‘Given that they were prepared to expend resources on finding profitable businesses outside the Maritimes, and were very successful in doing so, why should we suppose that these banks neglected potential business in the Maritimes that should surely have been canvassed at lower cost?’767 The authors also point out that any assessment of potential loss to the regional economy must necessarily be counter-factual, in other words, an exercise in guesswork. ‘Even if it had been possible to restrict the flow of funds out of the Maritimes, it is not clear that this would have increased the rate of economic growth or the level of economic development in the region.’768 Highlighting the role of Howard P. Robinson, Don Nerbas has argued that finance capitalism became increasingly powerful in Saint John during the nineteen-twenties. It seems fair to conclude that this form of finance capitalism was more interested in control than development: Robinson took over three of the city’s newspapers during the decade, explicitly to mute criticism of its activities.769 Right or wrong, capital is a remarkably mobile phenomenon, seeking out opportunities on a global scale. Investments made for other motives frequently prove to be unprofitable. British entrepreneur John Norton Griffiths embarked on his Courtenay Bay scheme partly because he was ‘Empire Jack’, who believed in imperial development. The project was slow to bear fruit.770

Throughout the nineteenth, a core element of the problem of Saint John had been the dual function of its Common Council, responsible both for municipal affairs and harbour management. The major works on the Carleton side during the eighteen-nineties should have been enough finally to extinguish any notion that Saint John sat alongside a favoured natural inlet where ships happened to anchor and trade. Hannay listed the facilities: ‘an admirable system of deep water wharves, with grain elevators, cattle sheds and all the appliances for doing a large export trade’.771 Civic dignitaries might still occasionally use the vocabulary of a harbour, but Saint John was now indubitably a complex port, an energetic commercial space created by human endeavour. One indication of this was the Courtenay Bay project, beginning in 1911. Courtenay Bay had never been a natural anchorage. Saint John was risked becoming trapped in an endless cycle. The city had demanded railways to exploit its natural trading advantages. Now, the needs of the railways forced the extension of port facilities beyond the original deep-water harbour. By 1914, Mayor Frink insisted that a halt must be called: ‘the municipality has spent all the public money that it intends to spend on works of a public character that are for the benefit of the whole Dominion.’772

The Royal Commission on Maritime Claims, known as the Duncan Report, settled the matter in 1926 with its recommendation that independent commissions should take over both Saint John and Halifax. But Duncan offered a penetrating analysis of the difficulties faced by Saint John and Halifax, challenging ‘serious misapprehension’ in Maritime public opinion about the underlying issues. The Maritime Rights movement placed most of the blame on unfavourable railway freight rates for prairie farm produce. The commissioners insisted that transportation costs could only be understood within a more basic framework, ‘the need for concentrating grain at a key position which commands a range of ports where ... the shipper can be sure of finding cargo space within the shortest possible time for the quantity and destination of his shipment, at any given moment.’ The unspoken assumption had to be that the ‘key position’ would be Montreal, and it followed from this any claim to guaranteed long-distance hinterlands no longer corresponded to the reality of international trade. The report accepted that ‘grain exports may be of considerable value as basic cargo when other freight is also available,’ but implicitly dismissed reliance upon Western farm produce: ‘there would be very definite limitations to port development based on traffic that was, as it were, merely piloted through a given channel.’ Since this was very largely what New Brunswick’s leading port had been doing, and trumpeting as a success, since 1897, the Duncan commissioners were effectively saying that the problem of Saint John had been merely disguised for the preceding three decades. Indeed, the malaise went back still further in time and was broader in scope. There was a failure to grasp ‘to what extent, in an unforseen [sic] and inexorable way, enterprise within the three Maritime Provinces has been checked as a result of their maritime development not having kept abreast of the transformation which in the last half century has been taking place in sea transportation, not only as regards the character, size, and speed of shipping tonnage but also as regards the port requirements for handling it.’ This was a devastating verdict, which effectively pronounced that the entire region had failed to adjust to the passing of the sailing ship era. For both Saint John and Halifax, harbour commissions would chart the path to the future: ‘under existing conditions of proprietorship ... there will neither be inducement enough, nor impetus enough, to create really great ports, since for some time ahead will be necessary to create facilities even ahead of expansion of trade.’773 The port was nationalized in 1927.


The essay began with the disclaimer that its discussion of the problem of Saint John throughout the nineteenth century in no way implies any comment on challenges and opportunities that have faced the city since 1927, and may continue to concern its citizens today. Any such onward projection would be outside the scope of the essay and, most certainly, beyond the competence of its author. Rather, it seems appropriate to close on an upbeat note, by bringing back to life two optimistic comments about Saint John, by Saint John people. An essay that postulates the problem of Saint John can easily enough trace material in support in its central thesis, for there will always be voices in any ambitious community that articulate dissatisfaction and call for improvement. Statements of soaring confidence may be less common. Yet these, too, form part of the world view of the people who lived in Saint John and drove its expectations. The first comes from an 1884 tourist guide, Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, the text probably the work of local publisher J.R. Hamilton: the whimsical style of his signed preface permeates the entire work. The book’s evocation of the city’s destiny is impressive, not least in its timing, since it reflects a returning confidence after the disaster of the Great Fire seven years earlier. ‘St. John is determined that her voice shall be heard, that her influence shall be felt in the councils of the nations; that henceforth she will take her place as one of the great cities of the world, that she will become a powerful factor in the development of human thought and enterprise.’774 If the sentiment seems ambitious, it is also wholly commendable. Thirty-five years later, the city was given some uplifting advice by one of its lifelong residents. It would be difficult to find anybody more redolent of Saint John than the Anglican clergyman J.W. Millidge. As a boy, he had hoped to watch the Orangemen parade on the Twelfth of July 1849. Forbidden to sally forth by his mother, who foresaw trouble, he nonetheless heard gunfire in the streets. During the Great Fire of 1877, a flying ember had singed his beard.775 ‘All we require now is patience, perseverance and progressiveness, and the city will come out all right. We have many natural advantages, a favourable geographical position, enormous resources in the continent behind us, which must have an outlet,’ he urged in 1919. His belief that there were ‘works under way which ... will make Saint John one of the best equipped ports in North America’ may not have been borne out by the verdict of the Duncan commission, but it seems fitting to close this exploration of the problem of Saint John with the sentiments of an old-timer who believed that all its problems could be solved by the people of Saint John.776

i I owe thanks for help and information to Gwendolyn Davies, Stephen J. Hornsby, Greg Marquis, Jan Raska and Donald A. Wright, none of whom bears responsibility for the content. Websites cited were consulted between January and May 2016. I follow the modern practice of referring to the city as ‘Saint John’, but the river and county as ‘St John’, except in course in quotations. In 1925, the City council adopted ‘Saint John’ (in full) as its official name, and asked others to use this form. D.H. Duffy and E.N. McKelvey, She’s All Yours, Mr Pilot: The Marine Pilots of Saint John (Saint John, 2008), preface. The convention became the more important after Newfoundland became the tenth province in 1949, with its capital at St John’s. My own usage omits a full stop [period] after ‘St’ to distinguish this form from the abbreviation for ‘Street’. Material cited often includes the full stop. Two further usages should be noted. Where Saint John is referred to as a municipal authority, the word ‘City’ is used with a capital letter. The term ‘Dominion’ is generally used for the government in Ottawa.

New Brunswick toponymy is startlingly uninventive. In this essay, Carleton usually refers to the West Side of Saint John, and not the upriver county, while Portland is the northern extension of the urban area, with the city’s rival United States port being referred to as ‘Portland, Maine’. In addition, Kings and Queens are names both of counties in the immediate hinterland of Saint John, and of harbourside wards on the East side. The duplication of Harvey is another nuisance. A railway from Salisbury to Harvey (in York County) was opposed, but a railway from that same Salisbury to Harvey (in Albert County) was constructed. Endnote references are given in simplified forms, especially for nineteenth-century sources with elaborate titles. Most of these are available on line from Canadian parliamentary debates are also available on line, and searchable, via References are given by date, plus column or page. References to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography [DCB], which is on line, are also given in simplified form.

2 Durban in South Africa lacked both an accessible harbour and inland waterways. Its relationship with the inland capital of the small colony of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, makes it a fertile comparator for New Brunswick. L. Heydenrych, ‘Port Natal Harbour, c.1850-1897, in B. Guest and J.M. Sellers, eds, Enterprise and Exploitation in a Victorian Colony (Pietermaritzburg, 1985), 16-46.

3 B. Sperling and P. Sander, Cities Ranked and Rated (2nd ed., Hoboken, NJ, 2007), 815. The fact that there is a pulp and paper mill next to the city’s most distinctive tourist attraction, the Reversing Falls, probably has a pervasive negative effect on Saint John’s image. It seems preferable to stress that the city is home to the New Brunswick Museum, which claims to be the oldest in Canada. Two recent studies usefully cover the twentieth century: Greg Marquis, Saint John as an Immigrant City: 1851-1951 (Atlantic Metropolis Centre [Halifax], Working Paper, 2009), consulted as and Jan Raska, ‘Strategic Winter Port: A History of the Port of Saint John’ (Canadian Museum of Immigration, Halifax [2015]), consulted as

For an insightful review of the city’s contemporary police agenda, see Greg Marquis, ‘Multilevel Governance and Public Policy in Saint John, New Brunswick,’ in M. Horak and R. Young, eds, Sites of Governance... (Montreal and Kingston, 2012), 136-61.

4 The Seaway was accompanied by improved ice-breaker facilities.

5 E.R. Forbes, The Maritime Rights Movement, 1919-1927: A Study in Canadian Regionalism (Montreal, 1979).

7 P.A. Buckner, ‘The 1870s...,’ in E.R. Forbes and D.A. Muise, eds, The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation (Toronto, 1993), 63-4.

8 The New Brunswick Museum provides a useful summary of the Great Fire:

9 Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick (Saint John, 1884), 56.

10 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 276, Tilley to Macdonald, 11 July 1877.

11 Halifax Post, undated, quoted G.E. Fenety, Political Notes and Observations... (Fredericton, 1867), 486.

12 J. Hannay, ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, New Brunswick Magazine, v (1905), 1-7. The British historian, Philip Wigley, was planning to pose the same question in a book on fire in North American cities which he was planning at the time of his lamented death in 1982.

13 G. Stewart, The Story of the Great Fire in St. John, N.B. ... (Toronto, 1877); R.H. Conwell, History of the Great Fire in Saint John... (Boston, 1877).

14 M. Barkley, ‘The Loyalist Tradition in New Brunswick’, Acadiensis, iv (1975), 3-45, esp. 25.

15 Conwell, History of the Great Fire, 255-6.

16 T.W. Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes, 1880-1910’, in P.A. Buckner and D. Frank, eds, Atlantic Canada after Confederation The Acadiensis Reader: Volume Two (Fredericton, 1985), 176-201, esp. 181. A tourism booster pamphlet of 1891 played down the impact of the Great Fire. "It is not strange that many of the people felt pretty well discouraged, and that for several years the phrase 'since the Fire'(always with a capital 'F') was the phrase proper to be used on all occasions when life seemed scarcely worth living." Some felt "the palmy days had vanished, never to return again." But "it took but a few years for them to learn that St. John was again on the high road to prosperity. Very little is heard of the Fire now-a-days. ... On all ordinary occasions, the Great Fire is a back number." W. Kirby Reynolds, An Intercolonial Outing!.... (2nd ed., Montreal, 1891), 101-2. [Note added February 2019] 

17   For an example, see the essay by K. Inwood, in Inwood, ed., Farm, Factory and Fortune (Fredericton, 1993), 149-70. An impressive regional analysis, it makes no specific allusion to Saint John.

18 C. .M. Wallace, ‘Saint John, New Brunswick (1800-1900)’, Urban History Review, iv (1975), 12-21, esp. 17.

19 J.R. Hamilton, New Brunswick and its Scenery ... (Saint John, 1874), 79.

20 British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 51.

21 T.W. Acheson, Saint John: The Making of a Colonial Urban Community (Toronto, 1985), 11 [cited as Acheson]; Journal of the House of Assembly, 1840, ccvi reported that Saint John handled 36.5 percent of provincial timber exports, but 65.5 percent of deals and boards, and 67.5 percent of staves. But as late as 1905, the New Brunswick Magazine (v, 6) complained that ‘we export too much of our forest growth as raw material – or only partly manufactured.’

22 British Parliamentary Papers, 1867-8, vol. 71, 138-9, 131-2. The figures are $4,253,146 timber exports out of a total of $6,373,704; 83.43 percent of provincial tonnage registered at Saint John; 58.98 percent of incoming shipping arriving there. Saint John-registered ships averaged 318.95 tons; Miramichi 115.8 tons, St Andrews 97.47 tons. Acheson, 11-15; Graeme Wynn, Timber Colony: A Historical Geography of Early Nineteenth-Century New Brunswick (Toronto, 1981), 34 [cited as Wynn]. In 1824, 80 percent of New Brunswick’s export tonnage of timber left via Saint John. R. Cooney, A Compendious History of the Northern Part of ... New Brunswick (2nd ed., Chatham NB, 1896, first published 1832), 141.

23 W.S. MacNutt, New Brunswick A History: 1784-1867 (Toronto, 1963), 214 [cited as MacNutt].

24 Acheson, 14-18.

25 [Peter Fisher], Notitia of New Brunswick for 1836... (Saint John, 1838), 67.

26 Fenety, Political Notes and Observations ... (Fredericton, 1867), 87. Shipyards are listed, without dates, in Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (1919), 96, with the claim that at one point 34 vessels were under construction. The giant Marco Polo, launched at Courtenay Bay in 1851, immediately stuck in the mud and remained there for two weeks. Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (1919), 130.

27 MacNutt, 332.

28 A.L. Spedon, Rambles Among the Bluenoses... (Montreal, 1863), 63.

29 E.W. Sager with G.E. Panting, Maritime Capital ... (Montreal, 1990), 31; Acheson, 15-16.

30 New Brunswick 1861 Census, Journal of the House of Assembly, 1862, 152. The fish were alewives, also known in the region as gaspereaux. The value of the product was $1,054,090, and the figure was returned for St John County. Export statistics seem to indicate that consumption was mainly local. In 1884, it was claimed that 1,000 men were ‘engaged in the harbor fisheries’. J.R. Hamilton, St. John and the Province of New Brunswick (Saint John, 1884), 65.

31 New Brunswick 1861 Census, Journal of the House of Assembly,1862, 149.

32 Map in P.A. Buckner and J.G. Reid, eds, The Atlantic Region to Confederation: A History (Toronto and Fredericton, 1994), 334.

33 D.G.G. Kerr with J.A. Gibson, Sir Edmund Head: A Scholarly Governor (Toronto, 1954), 94.

34 Saint John Morning Freeman [cited as MgF], 18 January 1862 in Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, 28. ‘Halifax has got a dose of opium, that will send it snoring out of the world,’ said Haliburton’s Sam Slick, as he predicted the triumph of Saint John. T.C. Haliburton, The Clockmaker ... (2nd ed., Philadelphia, 1837), 105.

35 Acheson, 21.

36 Hannay, ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, 2. The population of Greater Saint John was probably stable in the 1891-1901 period, with some housing spreading beyond the City limits.

37 Hannay, ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, 2.

38 Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes,’ 178.

39 Acheson, 18.

40 E.W. Sager and L.W. Fischer, ‘Patterns of Investment in the Shipping Industries of Atlantic Canada’, Acadiensis, ix (1979), 26.

41 New Brunswick Magazine, v (1905), 6, addendum to J. Hannay, ‘Why does St. John Not Grow?’, probably by John A. Bowes.

42 Fred J. Hamilton, A Trip over the Intercolonial... (Montreal, 1876), 54, consulted as

43 Journal of the House of Assembly,1862, Appendix, 145; P.E. Roy, Vancouver: An Illustrated History (Toronto, 1980), 169.

44 Acheson, 233, 186-7, 24.

45 E.R. Forbes and D.A. Muise, eds, The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation (Toronto, 1993), 153, 269.

46 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1862, Appendix, 146; W.A. Spray, The Blacks in New Brunswick (?Fredericton, 1972), esp. 50-1.

47 Head Quarters (Fredericton), 21 May 1861 [cited as HQ].

48 Acheson, 192.

49 Don Nerbas, ‘Revisiting the Politics of Maritime Rights: Bourgeois Saint John and Regional Protest in the 1920s’, Acadiensis, xxxvii (2008).

50 St. John and its Business (Saint John, 1875), 121-2, 128.

52 Acheson, 84-90, 21.

53 Fredericton Star, undated, quoted Saint John Daily News, 5 March 1880.

54 S. Constantine, ed., Dominions Diary... (Halifax, Yorkshire, UK, 1992), 252. Mayor J.H. Frink told the British commissioners, ‘you may happen to be here few days when we have some fog, but we are not bothered with it.’ British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 49.

55 Acheson, 3.

56 E.W. McGahan, The Port of Saint John: From Confederation to Nationalization, 1867-1927 (Saint John, 1982) [cited as McGahan].

57 MacNutt, 339. MacNutt’s gap is effectively filled by G. Bilson, ‘The Cholera Epidemic in Saint John, N.B.’, Acadiensis, iv (1974).

58 A.G. Bailey, ‘Railways and the Confederation Issue in New Brunswick, 1863-1865’, Canadian Historical Review, xxi (1940).

59 P.A.Buckner and J.G. Reid, eds, The Atlantic Region to Confederation: A History and E.R. Forbes and D.A. Muise, eds, The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation (Toronto and Fredericton, 1993). A useful example of a succinct summary of Saint John developments is given by Larry McCann in the latter, 151-2.

60 S.W. See, Riots in New Brunswick: Orange Nativism and Social Violence in the 1840s (Toronto, 1993).

61 Graeme Wynn, Timber Colony: A Historical Geography of Early Nineteenth-Century New Brunswick (Toronto, 1981) [cited as Wynn].

62 Among many candidates, I mention C.M. Wallace on Samuel Leonard Tilley in Dictionary of Canadian Biography [cited as DCB], xii and D.M. Young on Andrew George Blair, DCB, xiii.

63 Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin 1822-1896: Irish Catholic Canadian.

65 G.E. Fenety published his Political Notes and Observations ... (Fredericton, 1867) as volume 1 of a project that he took forward with articles in the Saint John weekly, Progress, during 1894. Available as: and

66 James Hannay, History of New Brunswick, ii, (Saint John, 1909), available as: [cited as Hannay, ii].

67 St. John and its Business. The copy digitised by has a note on the title page attributing the publication to W.K. Reynolds, with historical notes by James Hannay. Reynolds was the American-born promoter of the Suspension Bridge. Fred J. Hamilton attributed it to G.A. White. Available as:

68 Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port... (Saint John, 1898), available as:

69 Hannay, ‘Why does St. John Not Grow?’, New Brunswick Magazine, v (1905), 1-7.

70 J.M.S. Careless, ‘Aspects of Metropolitanism in Atlantic Canada’, in Careless, ed., Careless at Work (Toronto, 1990), 131-45, esp. 133-8.

72 The first and last letters of the word ‘River’ coincide with the Reversing Falls.

76 J.F.W. Johnston, Notes on North America... (2vols, Boston, 1851), i, 39.

77 Higher up the Bay of Fundy, there are tidal bores, for instance on the Petitcodiac and Shubenacadie rivers, which are potentially dangerous to small vessels. Saint John harbour is not noted for this problem.

78 The most extreme tide range recorded between 1900 and 1914 was 9.16 metres. In 1914, the average tide range was 5.9 metres. British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, 47 (evidence of J.H. Frink).

79 D.G. Bell, Early Loyalist Saint John... (Fredericton, 1983), 15-16.

80 St John and its Business, 32.

81 Debates of the Senate of Canada, 25 April 1889, Senator Henry Kaulbach of Lunenburg.

82 McGahan, 111.

84 Letters from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (Edinburgh, 1829), 141.

85 Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Examine ... the Harbour of Saint John ... (Saint John, 1839), consulted as McGahan, 26, notes that vessels on the west side of the harbour were grounded at low tide. See also the undated map in D.R. Jack, Centennial Prize Essay on the History of ... St John (Saint John, 1883), facing 64, consulted as:

By 1914, the main harbour was dredged on a two-year rotation. British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 51-2.

86 Of course, there is a zone of overlap between the concepts of harbour and port. For instance pilot services are required by both. Although with Confederation, pilotage became a Dominion responsibility, Ottawa did not attempt comprehensive legislation until 1873. In 1868-9, Saint John’s Common Council attempted to tackle problems in the supply of pilot service. (The City acted not under the Charter, but under provincial legislation of 1840 and 1861.) The aim was to maintain a corps of forty trained pilots, regulated but self-employed. Each was to maintain a pilot boat of at least 20 tons, plus rowing boats to communicate with incoming vessels. The rule was that each approaching vessel reaching the ‘cruising grounds’ must accept the services of the first pilot to hail it. However, some Saint John registered pilots were in the habit of intercepting ships, some apparently travelling to distant ports to grab clients before they set sail. Pilot George Thring was stabbed to death in a Boston hotel in 1863, apparently by an assailant who did not know him, although Thring’s aggressive approach to the collection of unpaid fees had landed him with an assault charge in Saint John the previous year. Pilotage fees were $1 per foot of draught, multiplied by zones in the approach to the port. A ship drawing 6 feet (1.83 metres) of water, hailed in the fourth and outermost zone, presumably paid $24 in pilotage fees – sufficiently attractive to make long-range piratical piloting attractive. The downside of this entrepreneurship was that locally-based pilots lost out, and were reluctant to travel to out-stations, potentially leaving Saint John without any pilotage service at all. The City Council considered imposing a $50 fine on pilots poaching trade at a distance, but were advised that this was ‘beyond their power’. Instead, the Common Council laid down that approaching ships must accept the services of a local pilot on being hailed, ‘even though it has a St. John pilot on board ... or pay the full pilotage if vessels do not belong to the port, or one-half pilotage if the vessels belong to St. John.’ A further issue was the claim that some pilots made fraudulent claims, charging for taking ships ‘out of the harbour, who never go out in those vessels’.. The Dominion legislation of 1873 proposed to establish authorities in each port to control pilot services: at Saint John, 3 of the 7 members would be appointed by the Dominion government, 2 by the Common Council and 2 by the local Board of Trade. T.W. Anglin, a New Brunswick North Shore MP but also a Saint John editor, objected that there were conflicts between the city’s merchants and its pilots, and the creation of a pilotage authority would place the latter ‘under the control of the very men whom they had differed with. ... He had never heard any complaint as to the competency of the pilots of St. John.’ Many vessels were exempt from pilotage. Exceptions were described in 1868 as ‘small coasters, and traders to the United States’ . ‘Coasting Vessels, going from one part of the Bay of Fundy to another, British [i.e. Canadian] Steam Boats, or British Vessels drawing under six feet of water, are not compelled to take pilots,’ explained an Almanac that year. ‘Vessels of less than 100 tons, registered in the Dominion, shall be free of pilotage,’ was the Common Council proposal in 1869. In 1873, Ottawa planned to extend the exemption, so that ‘all vessels under 250 tons register shall come into port free of pilotage if the owners choose to take the risk.’ The wreck of the 808-ton sailing ship Curler on Campobello Island in June 1894 prompted the Board of Trade to condemn the management, efficiency, cost and even existence of the pilot service. It was argued that Saint John’s natural excellence, plus improvements to navigation and better training of mariners generally made pilotage unnecessary. and that the charges levied made the port unattractive in comparison with Calais and Portland, Maine, where similar arrangements were either informal or totally absent. In any case, while certain classes of vessel were obliged to pay for the service, it seems that no ship’s master was actually compelled to accept a pilot on board. By 1906, exemption from payment for pilot services had been extended to vessels ‘propelled wholly or partly by steam’ trading from any Atlantic port north of New York. That year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, by a majority, that coal barges towed by steam tugs were exempt from paying pilotage fees, on the grounds that it would be absurd (and even dangerous) to have a pilot on each. The judgement was reversed on appeal in 1909 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 1856, 1776 vessels entered Saint John from the sea, and 1897 cleared – an average of around ten ship movements each day. With an apparently uncounted number of vessels travelling up- and down-river through the Reversing Falls, the harbour must have experienced periods of congestion. Since some shipping was exempt from pilotage, it is not clear what controls or protocols policed this marine traffic. However, the visiting British commissioners were told in 1914 that pilotage was ‘compulsory’ within the harbour, and that the Harbour Master was ‘in control’ of all ship movements, although his instructions to use a particular wharf were sometimes ignored. There is much interesting information in D.H. Duffy and E.N. McKelvey, She’s All Yours, Mr Pilot: The Marine Pilots of Saint John (Saint John, 2008), which is also attractively previewed in MgF, 1 July 1862, 27 August 1864, 31 October 1868, 29 July 1869; McMillan’s New Brunswick Almanac.... (1868), 20; House of Commons Debates, 4 April 1873, 206;, UK Parliamentary Papers, 1857-8, vol,. 58, 99. For the Curler affair, and Report of the Committee of the St. John Board of Trade ... on the Loss of the Barque “Curler”... (Saint John, 1894), consulted as For the 1906 Supreme Court judgement,, and its reversal,

The 1914 evidence is in British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, 49, 50.

87 British Parliamentary Papers, 1866-7, 71 (4030), 131; British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 51.

88 By 1914, insurance companies would not allow ocean-going steamers to ground in the harbour, but it was still common for other vessels to ground in the mud at low tide. British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, 52.

89 British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, 52.

90 J.R. Hamilton, New Brunswick and its Scenery ... (Saint John, 1874), 79.

91 ‘The city of St. John is frequently wrapped in a dense sea-fog, while the days are bright and cloudless at a distance of a few miles only.’ M.H. Perley, ‘The Progress of New Brunswick...’, in H.Y. Hind, ed., Eighty Years’ Progress of British North America ... (Toronto, 1863), 556. An early settler noted a day in June 1786 when ‘the fog was so thick we could hardly see an inch’, Bell, Early Loyalist Saint John, 47. Presumably the growth of the city, with its dependence upon wood and, later, coal fires made the problem worse. A.L. Spedon, a sometimes censorious Canadian tourist, liked Saint John when he visited in 1862, but regarded its ‘immense quantity of fog’ as ‘one very disagreeable feature’. Spedon, Rambles Among the Bluenoses, 65. ‘They are not worse or of longer duration here than elsewhere,’ the Saint John promoters of 1898 insisted of the fogs in the Bay of Fundy, ‘and ... they do not interfere with the progress of vessels to and from Saint John. Fogs are very rare in winter.’ Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port, 14-16. A 1933 federal commission investigating the idea of a canal across the Chignecto isthmus concluded that ‘Bay of Fundy waters are subject to rather less fog than is to be found on the Atlantic shore of Nova Scotia.’ (Ottawa, 1939), 6, consulted via . It cannot be said that this Commission went out of its way to portray New Brunswick interests in favourable light.

92 C. MacKinnon, 'Foulis, Robert,' DCB, ix.

93 Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port, 16. 'Occasionally a large ship might come to the harbour mouth at dead low water, spring tide, and might have to lie off for an hour or so, but that would be a rare occasion.' Evidence to the British Dominions Royal Commission, 1914, by Mayor J.H. Frink, British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, 52.

94 MF, 28 April 1863.

95 Forbes and Muise, eds, The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation, 151-2.

96 See the maps discussed above.

97 A major merchant figure, Lauchlan Donaldson regarded the harbour as ‘beginning at Navy Island. ’ Report of the Commissioners ... Harbour of Saint John ... (Saint John, 1839), 8.

98 J.R. Hamilton, New Brunswick and its Scenery, 81.

99 The former Parrtown peninsula was occasionally referred to as the East Side (McGahan, 42). After the City’s merger with Portland in 1889, an attempt was made to call it the South End, but this name applies nowadays to a few blocks on fringe of the Bay of Fundy. Saint John is also unusual in calling its downtown area Uptown.

100 McGahan, 26-7.

101 J.M.S. Careless, Toronto to 1918 ... (Toronto, 1984), 126.

102 Devastating fires in St John’s, Newfoundland, in 1849 and 1892, were also related to the small and crowded nature of the urban area, D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland ... (London, 1895), 457-60, 521-8.

103 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1863, 16.

104 McGahan, 131.

105 British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 51.

106 Careless, Toronto to 1918, 94; P.E. Roy, Vancouver ... (Toronto, 1980), 14.

107 Bell, Early Loyalist Saint John, 35.

108 P. Fisher, History of New Brunswick (Saint John, 1921 ed. of 1825 original), 42. consulted as

109 J. Hannay, The Life and Times of Sir Leonard Tilley... (Saint John, 1897), 83. Some streets had been ‘cut down from thirty to forty feet through solid rock’. Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick ... (Saint John, 1884), 36.

110 A. Gesner, New Brunswick; With Notes for Emigrants ... (London, 1847), 122.

111 J.S. Buckingham, Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick ... (London, 1843), 400. But the steep streets had their advantages. An army officer who arrived in March 1862 enjoyed the sight of ‘little boys sliding down the hilly streets on small hand-sleighs, and gliding just clear of the horses when a collision seemed certain.’ R.L. Dashwood, Chiploquoran (2nd ed., London, 1872), 4.

112 F.J Hamilton, A Trip over the Intercolonial, 54. Baedeker in 1894 remarked that ‘the visitor is met every here and there by protruding masses of slaty rock which remind him of the patience and energy of the original settlers.’ K. Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada... (Leipsic, 1894), 125.

113 J.R. Hamilton, New Brunswick and its Scenery, 81. ‘The site occupied by the City was originally very rocky and uneven, requiring much and filling to bring the streets to their present grades,’ the 1889 commission on Saint John area local government reported. The basic work was by then complete, but an increase in standards now involved costly asphalting of sidewalks. Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland ... (Saint John, 1889), 30, consulted as ‘Fifteen years ago, there was scarcely a sidewalk in the city worthy of the name,’ admitted an 1883 guidebook. There was still ‘not one foot of stone pavement in the city.’ Constant extensions to the sewerage system meant that ‘a stranger arriving in Saint John at certain times would imagine he had struck a western mining town.’ Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 38, 54.

114 Acheson, 203-13.

115 Acheson, 205.

116 McGahan, 52-4.

117 The distinction is not absolute: during Saint John’s Great Fire of 1877, 19 small vessels were trapped at the Market Slip in the north-east corner of the harbour. 18 ranged from 8 to 46 tons, one was 74 tons. Conwell, History of the Great Fire, 239-4. In 1884, the Market Slip was ‘usually crowded with small coasters and fishing craft from all ports along the Bay of Fundy and up the St. John.’ Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 38.

118 McGahan, 21-4. Lauchlan Donaldson commented in 1837 that ‘small craft must, and will, go the Lower Cove, when they find it difficult to procure landings higher up.’ Report of the Commissioners ... Harbour of Saint John, 11.

119 Bell, Early Loyalist Saint John, 130; Acheson, 67-8. Writing in 1927 of his boyhood, John Willet recalled that ‘as boys we had broils between the “Up Towners” and the “Lower Covers”’. Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, xi (1927), 167.

120 McGahan, 53.

121 McGahan, 29-30.

122 Hannay, ii, 348: ‘no one could tell when he had crossed the line between them’.

123 C. Atkinson, A Historical and Statistical Account of New-Brunswick B.N.A.... ( 3rd ed., Edinburgh, 1844), 36.

124 Gesner, New Brunswick; With Notes for Emigrants, 121.

125 Jack, Centennial Prize Essay, 66.

126 See, Riots in New Brunswick, 164-8. The restricted route is well shown on Figure 4 in G. Winder, ‘Trouble in the North End: The Geography of Social Violence in Saint John, 1840-1860’, Acadiensis, xxix (2000):

127 McGahan, 24-5, and passim for various ferry issues.

128 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers (Boston, 1875), 15. McGahan, 25, gives the pedestrian fare as four cents in 1867.

129 McGahan, 72.

130 Jack, Centennial Prize Essay, 140-1, 119-20, 137-8.

131 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 23-4. H.E. Wright and J. Goguen, Bridging Saint John Harbour (Charleston, SC, 2013), 46, note that the original tolls included charges for camels and elephants. This was perhaps a piece of bravado about the strength of the bridge. Circuses did tour the Maritime provinces: Wheeler’s, which came to the Ballast Wharf in 1863, had ‘Educated Horses’ but neither camels nor elephants. MgF, 30 June 1863. But a menagerie containing camels and an elephant had toured New Brunswick in 1836. The animals were lost when a steamer taking them to Maine caught fire in Penobscot Bay. Jack, Centennial Essays, 120-1.

132 Hannay, ii, 320.

133 W. Murdoch, ‘The Saint John Suspension Bridge’, Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (Saint John, 1919), 104-25.

134 UNB, Harriet Irving Library, Stanmore Papers, reel 3, Gordon to Monck, copy, 8 May 1862.

135 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1864, Appendix, 14.

136 The fact that the ferry apparently carried freight makes it difficult to make an estimate of passenger use from the income of $18,462 reported for six months between May and November 1878. (McGahan, 82). Solely carrying pedestrians at three cents for 180 days would indicate around 3400 daily passenger movements, or 1700 return trips. The figure would be higher (at around 2000 daily) if the ferries did not operate on Sundays (a likely assumption but not one that I have seen documented), and lower (at around 1400) on the assumption that 150 vehicles crossed each day at the fifteen cent rate. Since Carleton’s population in 1871 was 4533, and the West Side had its own basic shops (22 retail grocery outlets in 1867), these estimates for passenger movements would seem excessive, and the question of ferry use remains a mystery. (Acheson, 256; McGahan, 27). The Grand Southern Railway, a coastal line built between 1876 and 1881, which linked Saint John to St Stephen, advertised in 1884 a daily departure from Saint John at 8.15 a.m. and from Carleton at 8.35. Freight packages of up to 272 kilos, ‘not large in bulk’, could be deposited at the company’s office in Water Street before 5 p.m. the previous day, with larger consignments delivered at Sand Point in Carleton before 6 p.m. Evidently, passengers and smaller freight items crossed the harbour by ferry. Saint John Daily Evening News, 1 April 1884, and passim. Speaking in the House of Commons in 1883, Tilley estimated that the ferry crossing added an hour and a half to a through journey. Debates of the House of Commons, 21 May 1883, 1333, consulted as

137 McGahan, 92-104.

138 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 35-6.

139 M.H. Matheson, ‘The Hinterlands of Saint John’, Geographical Bulletin (Ottawa), ii (1955), 65-102, esp. Figure 22 (88).

140 L.D. McCann, ‘Heartland Hinterland: A Framework for Regional Analysis’, in McCann, ed., Heartland Hinterland: A Geography of Canada (2nd ed., Scarborough, Ont, 1987), 3. The first edition, announcing the approach, appeared in 1982.

141 McCann in Forbes and Muise, eds, The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation, 151-2.

142 Acheson, 21.

143 In 1890, 7 Maritime banks – 3 in New Brunswick and 4 in Nova Scotia – operated without branches. N.C. Quigley, I.M. Drummond and L.T. Evans, ‘Regional Transfer of Funds through the Canadian Banking System and Maritime Economic Development, 1890-1935', in Inwood, ed., Farm, Factory and Fortune, 219-50, esp. 221.

144 Barnes’s New Brunswick Almanack ... 1888 (Saint John, 1888), 96-7.

145 T.C. Haliburton, The Clockmaker ... (2nd ed., Philadelphia, 1837), 103.

146 Conwell, History of the Great Fire, 239-41.

148 One minor nuisance in trading with Nova Scotia was a slight difference in currency values. See, e.g., an offer to sell $1,200 of Nova Scotian currency at a 2.5 percent discount in MgF, 3 March 1866.

149 W.S. MacNutt, The Atlantic Provinces (London, 1965), 172; R.E. Ommer, in P.A. Buckner and J.G. Reid, eds, The Atlantic Region to Confederation: A History (Toronto, 1994), 296. Although the artificial waterway represented only a relatively short stretch inland from Dartmouth, which linked into lakes and rivers, there was a gap of over 20 years between the two main phases of construction work. Fortunately, the initial investment of 1826-31 had made use of stone masons to build the locks, so their building work survived. Andrew Younger has an interesting account on .

150 Quoted, J.M. Beck, Joseph Howe: ii ... (Kingston and Montreal, 1983), 127.

151 In 1863, the percentage was 66.1. British Parliamentary Papers, 1866, vol. 73, Colonial Trade Statistics, 149.

152 H.Y. Hind, The Dominion of Canada... (Toronto, 1869), 600. 5,475 handlooms, producing 622,237 yards of cloth (568,973 metres): just under 3 metres per head of population, presumably enough for a suit of work clothes for each adult each year.

153 Alexander Munro, New Brunswick; with a Brief Outline of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (Halifax, 1855), 118. Munro noted an ‘establishment’ for the manufacture of cotton twills at Geary in Sunbury County, and ‘a manufactory for making woollen cloths’ at Hampton in King’s County. Fulling mills, probably operating in combination with domestic manufacture, were ‘abundant’. Ibid., 119.

154 Michael Hinton, ‘Parks, John Hegan’, DCB, xiii.

155 Journals of the New Brunswick House of Assembly, 1861 (Fredericton, 1862), Custom House Returns, 18 August 1862, p. 4.

156 British Parliamentary Papers, 1866, vol. 73, Colonial Trade Statistics, reported the income from haberdashery imports for 1863 at $240,715. In fact 15.5 percent equalled $250,745 -- an example of the internal inconsistencies that justify rounding of figures. The total income from import duties in 1863 was $556,267.

157 Hind, The Dominion of Canada, 694, 690.

158 The proportions were UK 46 percent, Nova Scotia 29.7 percent, United States 24 percent.

159 Journals of the New Brunswick House of Assembly, 1860, 523.

160 Journals of the New Brunswick House of Assembly, 1862, 42.

161 W.M. Whitelaw, The Maritimes and Canada Before Confederation (ed. P.B. Waite, Toronto, 1966), 164-6.

162 But Matheson, ‘Hinterlands of Saint John’, 85 (figure 20), illustrates the importance of Digby as the city’s chief local trading partner as late as 1952-3. In 1882, Canada's finance minister, New Brunswicker Sir Leonard Tilley, regarded the Fundy economic zone as still a reality. ""New Brunswick receives from the western portion of Nova Scotia a large part of her natural products, while the merchants of St. John supply largely the merchants of western Nova Scotia, the revenue being collected in New Brunswick, and paid by the consumer in Nova Scotia."  Debates of the House of Commons, 24 February 1882, 87:

163 Haliburton, The Clockmaker, 106.

164 Nicolas Landry, ‘Transport et régionalisme en contexte pré-industriel; le projet du canal de la Baie Verte, 1820-1875’, Acadiensis, xxiv (1994), 59-87. H.G.C. Ketchum, Public Opinion on the Chignecto Ship Railway and Baie Verte Canal (Sackville, NB, 1887), 19-20. Lawrence is quoted in C.R. McKay’s article (72), cited below.

165 St. John and its Business, 175.

166 E.C. Bowes, ‘Ketchum, Henry George Clopper’, DCB, xii. Technically, Ketchum received a UNB diploma, not a degree, on graduating in 1862.

167 C.R. McKay, ‘Investors, Government and the CMTR: a Study of Entrepreneurial Failure’, Acadiensis, ix (1979), 71-94.

168 H.G.C. Ketchum, The Chignecto Ship Railway (Boston, 1893), 10.

169 S. Gouglas, ‘Schreiber, Sir Collingwood’, DCB, xiv.

170 The Chignecto Ship Railway, the Substitute for the Baie Verte Canal (pamphlet attributed to Ketchum, 1892), 4.

171 Ketchum described the process in The Chignecto Ship Railway, 8-10.

172 D. Jobb, ‘Sackville Promotes a Railway...’, in L. McCann, ed., People and Place ... (Fredericton, 1987), 31-56. Derailments were common on Canadian railways, especially in winter. Ketchum does not seem to have considered what to do with a ship upended ten kilometres inland.

173 Debates of the Senate of Canada, 7 May 1886, 420-1.

174 Public Opinion on the Chignecto Ship Railway, and Baie Verte Canal (Sackville, 1887),

175 Debates of the House of Commons, 19 April 1888, 840.

176 Debates of the House of Commons, 13 April 1886, 679.

177 Debates of the House of Commons, 9 March 1896, 3076; P. Girard, ‘Weldon, Richard Charles’, DCB, xv.

178 McKay, ‘Investors, Government and the CMTR: a Study of Entrepreneurial Failure’.

179 The report was only published six years later: Report of the Chignecto Canal Commission (Ottawa, 1939), consulted as Its negative arguments (5-6) echo 19th-century objections, e.g. ‘unequal tidal conditions on each side of the Isthmus,’ lack of reservoir capacity and the impossibility of using silt-laded Fundy seawater to replenish the canal.

180 C. Slumkowski, Inventing Atlantic Canada... (Toronto, 2011), 97-106.

181 Haliburton, The Clockmaker, 103.

182 W.O. Raymond, The River St. John ... (Saint John, 1910), 3. The continuing dynamism of St John river trade may be contrasted with the decline of the Red River as a commercial artery for Winnipeg in the late nineteenth century: A.F.J. Artibise, Winnipeg: A Social History of Urban Growth, 1874-1914 (Montreal, 1975), 77-87.

183 Hannay, ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, 2.

184 Wynn, 54-69.

185 Haliburton, The Clockmaker, 105.

186 Wynn, 51-3.

187 Haliburton, The Clockmaker, 105.

188 Wynn, 24-5.

189 J.W. Millidge, ‘Reminscences ... 1849 to 1860’, Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (1919), 130.

190 Careless, ‘Aspects of Metropolitanism in Atlantic Canada’, in Careless, ed., Careless at Work, 131-45, esp. 136.

191 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1862, 148-9; British Parliamentary Papers, 1857-8, 58, 109. In 1856, New Brunswick imported around $480,000 worth of wrought, cast and unwrought iron, almost all of it from Britain. Local manufacture was thus responsible for about 100 percent of added value.

192 Sager and Panting, Maritime Capital, 188-9.

193 St. John and its Business, 128-9, ‘iron knees’ figures for ‘last year’.

194 W.S. MacNutt, ‘The Politics of the Timber Trade in Colonial New Brunswick, 1825-1840,’ Canadian Historical Review, xxx (1949), reprinted in G.A. Rawlyk, ed., Historical Essays on the Atlantic Provinces (Toronto, 1967), 122-40, esp. 124. Maps in Wynn, 15, 18 illustrate forest cover.

195 British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 122 (evidence of J. Fraser Gregory).

196 W.O. Raymond in 1910 suggested that the course of the St John was explained by the phenomenon of river capture: a shorter but aggressive stream had cut into the headwaters of rivers draining into the Gulf and the Bay of Fundy. If so, the St Andrews and Quebec railway simply restored the status quo of pre-Ice Age days.

197 There are some parallels and contrasts with the Fraser river in British Columbia, which has the profile of a square-root sign. Its turbulent upper reaches were rejected as ‘a practicable communication with the interior’ by James Simpson in 1828. Heavy silt on its lower stretches limited navigation to a small number of shallow-draught stern-wheelers, although these could carry passengers and around 200 tons (180,000 kg) of freight 200 kilometres upstream as far as Yale. The proximity of the American border, porous between New Brunswick and Maine, seems to have inhibited attempts to tap into the Fraser Valley economy from the south. Although from 1910 the Grand Trunk Pacific built from Prince George, upriver, to Prince Rupert on the coast, any attempt to link to the valley above Yale was ruled out by distance, the mountainous topography and the absence of alternative ports north of Vancouver. J. Barman, The West beyond the West ... (Toronto, 1991), 42, 79, 113-14, 182-3.

198 W.S. MacNutt, The Atlantic Provinces ... (London, 1965), 242.

199 G.P. Glazebrook, A History of Transportation in Canada (2 vols, Toronto, 1964 ed.), i, 147-8; MacNutt, 390.

200 MacNutt, 381.

201 HQ, 6 October 1858.

202 Woodstock Journal, undated, quoted HQ, 10 November 1858.

203 HQ, 8 December 1858.

204 Saint John News, undated, quoted HQ, 15 December 1858.

205 MgF, 22 January 1863.

206 Hannay, ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, 3. St Stephen supplanted St Andrews as a commercial port in the late 19th century.

207 HQ, 8 December 1858.

208 J.F.W. Johnston, Report on the Agricultural Capabilities of the Province of New Brunswick (2nd ed., Fredericton, 1849), 43.

209 A.G. Bailey, ed., The Letters of James and Ellen Robb... (Fredericton, 1983), 105.

210 The word ‘thaw’ seems to have been rarely used in New Brunswick, where the melting of the ice was usually associated with the ‘freshet’, a torrent of water – a development from its standard English meaning of a small stream. James Robb wrote in 1842 that ‘we have no Spring – we jump directly from Winter to Summer.’ Bailey, ed., Robb Letters, 65.

211 M.H. Blom and T.E. Blom, eds, Canada Home: Juliana Horatia Ewing’s Fredericton Letters 1867-1869 Vancouver, 1983), 78.

212 Blom, eds, Canada Home, 58, 142 (5 October 1867, 17 April 1868). The river reopened that year on April 25, the first steamboat arriving from Saint John the next day. HQ, 29 April 1868.

213 Bailey, ed., Robb Letters, 74 (28 March 1843).

214 Bailey, ed., Robb Letters, 106; HQ, 27 November 1850. An earlier telegraph wire, mentioned by Wallace as opened in 1847, does not seem to have lasted, perhaps because the wires were slung not on poles but through spruce trees. C.M. Wallace, ‘Saint John Boosters and Railroads in Mid-Nineteenth Century’, Acadiensis, vi (1976), 72.

215 HQ, 18 January 1860.

216 HQ, 12 January 1866. The MgF advertised the 6-days-a-week Union Line Stage, which also used the Nerepis route. MgF, 3 March 1866.

217 HQ, 8 January 1868.

218 HQ, 10 January 1866.

219 HQ, 7 March 1866; 10 January 1866.

220 Blom, eds, Canada Home, 82, 88 (18 November, 2 December 1867).

221 HQ, 10 January, 21 February 1866. Determined to make an impression, Israel R. Golding, who took over the Atherton livery stables in January 1868, drove the lieutenant-governor to Saint John in the impressive time of 5 hours and 20 minutes.

222 W.M. Jordan, ‘An Old St. John Boy’, New Brunswick Magazine, ii (1899), 181.

223 Morning Telegraph, 3 April 1866; St. John and its Business, 74.

224 Speech at Saint John, 2 February, HQ, 8 February 1865.

225 HQ, 12 May 1858.

226 HQ, 8 February 1865.

227 B. Craig, ‘Agriculture in a Pioneer Region’, in Inwood, ed., Farm, Factory and Fortune, 17-36, esp. 33-4.

228 McGahan, 207-12, 233-7.

229 Report of the Royal Commission on Maritime Claims (Ottawa, 1926), 40-1, consulted as:

230 Landry, ‘Transports et régionalisme’, 63.

231 McGahan, 207-11.

233 MgF, 22 January 1863.

234 Fairweather to Tilley, 12 March 1864, quoted Wallace, ‘Saint John Boosters’, 88-9.

235 British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 120-1.

236 Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 21-2.

237 K. Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada ... (Leipsic, 1894), 128.

238 E.g. the account by an American journalist quoted in St. John Sun, 13 October 1906, and cf. Raymond, The River St. John, 3.

239 R.M. Martin, History of Nova Scotia... (London, 1837), 144.

240 Raymond, The River St. John, 37. Timothy D. Lewis has suggested that excellent steamboat service between Saint John and Fredericton inhibited the development of any major market centre in between (e.g. at Oromocto or Gagetown). If so, that too would be an indirect by-product of the benign river levels of the St John. T. Lewis, ‘Rooted in the Soil...’, Acadiensis, xxxi (2001), 35-54, esp. 41n.

241 R.M. Martin, History of Nova Scotia, 144. 12 feet is 3.66 metres.

242 Johnston, Notes on North America, 42. ‘The Falls are level or still water at or about three and a half hours on the flood, and about two and a half hours on the ebb, so that they are passable four times in 24 hours, about ten or fifteen minutes each time. No other rule can be given, as much depends on the floods in the River Saint John, and the time of high water or full sea, which is often hastened by high winds, and in proportion to the height of them.’ McMillan’s New Brunswick Almanac and Register for ... 1858, 57. The description does not make the Falls sound either reliable or enticing. (McMillan’s description derives from an earlier account in The New Brunswick Almanac, and Register ... 1851 (known as The Athenaeum Almanac, Saint John 1850), 40.)

243 D.G. Bell, Early Loyalist Saint John 46 (17 July 1792).

244 Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 50.

245 Jack, Centennial Prize Essay, 122; Wright and Goguen, Bridging Saint John Harbour, 49.

246 St. John Sun, 13 August 1906.

247 Wynn, 68.

248 Acheson, 14. In 1861, there were 76 sawmills in St John County. Journal of the House of Assembly, 1862, 148.

249 Wynn, 63. The statement in Jack, Centennial Prize Essay, 105 that ‘the first pine logs were brought down the Saint John from above the falls’ in 1818 is puzzling.

250 A. Gesner, New Brunswick with Notes for Emigrants (London, 1847), 124. Wynn, 103-4, associates the company with tidal mills at Carleton.

251 I have been unable to consult F. Angus, Loyalist City Streetcars ... (Saint John, 1979) but rely upon the summary on

252 Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, xii (1928), 322.

253 Debates of the House of Commons, 21 May 1883, 1334.

254 Jack, Centennial Prize Essay, 77.

255 St John Sun, 12 May, 4 July 1896.

256 MgF, 31 July 1860; St John Sun, 18 September 1886.

257 T.D. Lewis, ‘Rooted in the Soil...’, 37-8.

258 J.S. Buckingham, Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick ... (London, 1843), 415.

259 HQ, 26 June 1850.

260 HQ, 19 September 1849.

261 HQ, 20 November 1850.

262 Conwell, History of the Great Fire..., 239.

263 P. Fisher, History of New Brunswick (1921 ed., Saint John, originally published 1825), consulted as

264 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 35.

265 St John Sun, 1 May 1896.

266 St. John and its Business, 186.

267 Atlas of Saint John City and County, Business Directory, 3, consulted as:

268 Fredericton Evening Capital, 22 May 1883. Lumber was measured in superficial feet, notionally planks one inch thick and 12 inches wide (2.5 x 305 centimetres). British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 120, (evidence of J. Fraser Gregory).

269 St John Sun, 19 May 1896.

270 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 30, 35, 39. The complaints were not new. In the 1850s, the parish of Portland had refused to maintain the road ‘for all the traffic from the upriver counties that came to and from the steamboats’. Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (1919), 134.

271 Fisher, History of New Brunswick, 65.

272 Martin, History of Nova Scotia, 142-3.

273 Johnston, Notes on North America, 126, 128.

274 Johnston, Report on the Agricultural Capabilities of the Province of New Brunswick, 63. See also the maps in R.L. Gentilcore, ed., Historical Atlas of Canada, ii (Toronto, 1993), Plate 12 (by R.A. MacKinnon and R.H. Walder). The eastern corridor hinterland stands out in the linear distribution of Orange Lodges, mapped by C.J. Houston and W.J. Smyth, The Sash Canada Wore... (Toronto, 1980), 71.

275 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1862, 145, 149-50.

276 Fisher, History of New Brunswick, 64.

277 Johnston, Notes on North America, 121, and cf. 123 for mention of the Saint John market.

278Summerside Progress, 26 October 1868; Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick (1884), 77.

279 HQ, 12 May 1858. The Head Quarters noted the formal opening on 1 June 1858 of the first stretch of 10 miles (16 kilometres), with a return train achieving an average speed of 40 miles (64 kms) per hour (‘Good!’) HQ, 9 June 1858. Progress was slow on the initial stretch east of Saint John, even as far as Torryburn, now a suburb. The obstacle was the need to construct an embankment across Lawlors Lake, which some thought to be bottomless. Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (1919), 134. This must refer to the small lake a few hundred metres west of the modern Lawlor Lake, which has a round shape that encouraged some to believe it was the crater of an extinct volcano.

280 Hannay, ii, 190.

281 Summerside Progress, 26 October 1868.

282 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers (Boston, 1875), 59.

283 Morning Telegraph, 2 June, 2 December 1866. Advertised schedules seem to imply, but do not specify, that trains did not run on Sundays. By 1884, Sussex was also shipping 130,000 gallons of milk annually to Saint John. If the measurement was in Imperial (not American) gallons, this would be close to 600,000 litres. Annual calculation of daily supplies can foster a distorted impression of the actual rate of supply, which would have been in the region of 2000 litres each day. Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick (1884), 77. In 1897, the morning express from Sussex arrived in the city at 8.30. Saint John Daily Sun, 1 April 1897.

284 MgF, 19 February 1865.

285 Fredericton opinion was sceptical about the railway’s potential to create any new wealth. The Head Quarters claimed that it ‘opens up no land for settlement, nor connects us with any country from whose trade we can derive any material benefits.’ HQ, 31 October 1860.

286 Acheson, 60.

287 P. Fisher, Notitia of New Brunswick for 1836 ... (Saint John, 1838), 120.

288 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1845, 205-6; Appendix, cci-cciii.

289 Johnston, Notes on North America, 115.

290 In the following section, colonial trade and shipping statistics are taken from British Parliamentary Papers, 1857-8, 58 (covering 1856, New Brunswick 97-102, Prince Edward Island, 107-12); British Parliamentary Papers, 1866, 73 (covering 1861-3, New Brunswick 148-59,Prince Edward Island 168-73); British Parliamentary Papers, 1867-8, 71, New Brunswick 127-40, Prince Edward Island 151-7).

291 Hannay, ii, 190. However, if materials and supplies for railway construction were being unloaded at Shediac, it seems odd that 93 of the 149 ships entering the harbour were reported to be in ballast.

292 MgF, 14 April 1863.

293 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1860, 353 (annual report, 21 December 1859, 340-53).

294 Hannay, ii, 191. Perhaps this passage bears out the censorious comment of W.O. Raymond that Hannay wrote ‘rather with the design of bolstering his previously expressed opinions than in the spirit of a candid enquirer.’ Quoted by D.G. Bell, ‘Hannay, James,’ DCB, xiii.

295 A.L. Spedon, Rambles Among the Bluenoses (Montreal, 1863), 49.

296 Summerside Progress, 26 October 1868; MgF, 10 December 1861.

297 Landry, ‘Transports et régionalisme’,73.

298 Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick (1884), 87. An earlier guidebook, in 1875, allocated 500 people to Shediac and 200 for Pointe du Chêne. The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 59.

299 Since Northumberland Strait is closed by ice from early January to mid-April, Shediac was probably busier in season than St Andrews, which operated year-round: The Head Quarters noted that combined tonnage at the three leading ports, Saint John, St Andrews and Shediac, was inflated by the ‘little steamboats’ which provided regular scheduled services. HQ, 12 December 1860.

300 W.S. MacNutt, ‘Political Advance and Social Reform, 1842-1861’ in F.W.P. Bolger, ed., Canada’s Smallest Province ... (Charlottetown, 1973), 129.

301 H.T. Holman, ‘Holman, Robert Tinson’, DCB, xiii.

302 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 179.

303 The reports of the Railway commissioners appear in Appendixes to the Journals of the House of Assembly, 1863 (for 1861, 1862), esp. 40-5; 1865 (for 1863, 1864), esp. 28-33; 1866 (for 1865), 29-33; 1867 (for 1866), 28-30. Except where specifically noted, all material relating to rail traffic in the section that follows is taken from these sources.

304 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1862, Appendix, 127-135, for Westmorland County.

305 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1864, Appendix, 12.

306 Wynn, 19.

307 T.W. Acheson, ‘New Brunswick Agriculture at the End of the Colonial Era...’, in Inwood, ed., Farm, Factory and Fortune, 37-60, esp. 47-9.

308 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1864, Appendix, 12.

309 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 315-18.

310 Saint John Morning News, undated, quoted Gleaner (Chatham), 6 July 1861.

311 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 318.

312 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1860, Appendix, 354.

313 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1863, Appendix, 24. This compared with over 127,000 local passenger movements. A noted Prince Edward Island traveller in 1890 enjoyed a ‘splendid trip’ through ‘picturesque’ scenery. ‘The road went through high wooded hills. Here and there they would sweep around to disclose a beautiful lake or river curve, like a mirror set in an emerald frame.’ A repeat journey in November 1910 was less pleasant: ‘at this time of year there is little beauty and that little was effectively blotted out by fog and rain.’ M. Rubio and E. Waterston, eds, The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, i: 1889-1910 (Toronto, 1985), 26 (12 August 1890); The Selected Journals..., ii: 1910-1921 (Toronto, 1987), 22 (29 November 1910).

314 P.E. Rider, ‘Carvell, Jedediah Slason’, DCB, xii.

315 Islander, 26 September 1862.

316 The conversion assumes that PEI used the larger Imperial gallon, which was about one quarter larger than its United States equivalent.

317 MgF, 22 January 1863.

318 Islander, 15 May 1868, and no doubt a typical announcement.

319 MgF, 16 January 1863.

320 Gleaner (Chatham), 6 July 1861. The nickname, not traced elsewhere, may be an echo of the 1825 Miramichi fire, which destroyed over 15,000 square kilometres of forest.

321 MgF, 15 January 1863.

322 Wynn, 77, 200-1.

323 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 59-60.

324 Gleaner (Chatham), 6 July 1861.

325 MgF, 23 August 1862.

326 Halifax Citizen, 14 June 1864.

327 Halifax Citizen, 14 June 1864.

328 St. John and its Business, 150.

329 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 60.

330 Islander, 15 July 1864.

332 Islander, 7, 28 April, 2November 1865.

333 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1866, Appendix, 12-13.

334 The Intercolonial railway made possible direct trains between Saint John and Halifax. These left the former European & North American tracks at Painsec Junction 8 kilometres east of Moncton. The remainder of the line became the ‘Point du Chene Branch’, with three trains in each direction making the 45-minute run daily. Tight connection times with through traffic indicate an efficient process of shunting freight cars and shepherding passengers between trains, but also suggest that there was very little of either. The Eastern Provinces Railroads Steamboats and Stage Lines: A Travellers’ Guide ... (Saint John, 1883), 40-3.

335 Hannay, ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, 5.

336 St. John and its Business, 174.

337 St. John and its Business, 44. British Columbia historian Jean Barman made an interesting point in this context. In 1911, the Grand Trunk Pacific reached the ocean at Prince Rupert in northern BC, and advanced the argument that its new port was closer to Asia by sea than Vancouver. ‘This meant, conversely’, Barman remarks, ‘that the northern city was almost 180 kilometres farther away [by rail] from Winnipeg and central Canada.’ Barman, The West beyond the West, 196. Perhaps the fact that Vancouver had a 25-year start over Prince Rupert explains the latter’s failure to divert trade. The contrast with the Saint John/Halifax rivalry remains intriguing.

338 MgF, 11 April 1863. The Via Rail route through Nova Scotia is still subject to occasional disruption by snow.

339 Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 115.

340 McGahan, 51-79. The Intercolonial did play some part in the industrialization of the region, as shown by strong protests when freight rates were increased. However, Saint John’s cotton mill had opened in 1861, fifteen years before the rail connection to central Canada. A study by the Montreal and Saint John Boards of Trade in 1885 estimated inter-regional trade at over $15 million, but found that 70 percent of it flowed from central Canada to the Maritimes. Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes, 1880-1920,’ in Buckner and Frank, eds, Atlantic Canada After Confederation, 185-6.

341 G.A. Rawlyk, Nova Scotia’s Massachusetts ... 1630 to 1784 (Montreal, 1973).

342 Bailey, ed., Robb Letters, 15 (12 August 1838). But Woodstock was something of a special case. An 1875 guidebook noted ‘great resemblance to a Yankee town, both in appearance and manners.’ The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 51.

343 J.K. Chapman, ‘The Mid-Nineteenth Century Temperance Movement in New Brunswick and Maine’, Canadian Historical Review, xxxv (1954).

344 Johnston, Report on Agricultural Capabilities, 19.

345 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 31. A rogue semi-colon has been eliminated from this quotation. St George had a population of 600 in 1875, ibid., 32.

346 Carleton was the starting point for a stagecoach along the coast: Atkinson, Historical and Statistical Account, 39.

347 Johnston, Report on Agricultural Capabilities, 9.

348 Debates of the House of Commons, 18 December 1867, 314-15.

349 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 36.

350 Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada, 32.

351 MgF, 20 January 1863. In a speech to the House of Assembly in April 1863, Anglin elaborated: ‘Men would still prefer to drive the logs down the rivers and streams. It would be quicker and cheaper.’ However, one perhaps surprising development of the European & North American Railway was that it quickly carried a considerable volume of lumber (1.959 million feet in 1861, rising to 4,877 million feet in 1864), and even of logs (324,000 in 1861; almost doubling to 616,000 in 1864). In 1864, 2.2 million feet of sawn lumber (deals and boards, which at least had some value added by processing) originated at Salisbury and Petitcodiac, but a further 1.3 million feet was attributed to ‘Flag Stations’, wayside halts which were serviced by trains stopping on request, i.e. logging camps. Tilley intervened in Anglin’s speech to point out that ‘deals were brought from Salisbury’ but Anglin dismissed this without explanation as the result of ‘exceptional circumstances’. MgF, 14 April 1863.

352 A.G. Bailey, ‘Railways and the Confederation Issue in New Brunswick, 1863-1865’, Canadian Historical Review, xxi (1940).

353 Brian J. Young, ‘Poor, John Alfred’, DCB, x.

354 MgF, 11 April 1863.

355 HQ, 1 February 1865. I note with appropriate respect Poor’s consistent proposal that Galway would serve as the European departure point for his through services, although he neither explained why nor, it would seem, ever visited Ireland to assess the city’s capabilities for himself.

356 For Burpee’s report, Journal of the House of Assembly, 1865, Appendix, 5-19; McGahan, 41-2.

357 HQ, 27 January 1864.

358 MacNutt, 327.

359 Parliamentary Debates on ... Confederation (Ottawa, 1865), 658.

360 Reports in MgF, 26 January and HQ, 27 January 1864.

361 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1865, Appendix, 5-19.

362 HQ, 27 January 1864, italicisation not reproduced in Bailey, ‘Railways and the Confederation Issue’, 378.

363 I am grateful to Dr Stephen J. Hornsby of the University of Maine, Orono, for advice on railway development in Maine.

364 Burpee’s estimated total budget for all bridges along the line (including girders, masonry and abutments) would $65,253, one third of the predicted cost of crossing the lower St John. Journal of the House of Assembly, 1865, Appendix, 10, 13.

365 W.C. Atkinson, A Historical and Statistical Account of New Brunswick... (Edinburgh, 1844), 40-1.

366 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 30.

367 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 33, 35.

368 Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada, 139. J.W.Millidge recalled fears in Saint John after the Great Fire of 1877 that the city would ‘fall into the same state of inanition’ that had engulfed St Andrews. Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, xii (1928), 347.

369 MgF, 30 January 1864.

370 Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada, 138.

371 The Eastern Provinces Railroads, 39.

372 The Grand Southern was one of the last projects to involve William K. Reynolds, the innovative Lepreau businessman who had built Saint John’s suspension bridge back in 1853.

373 Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 114.

374 Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada, 138.

375 St. John and its Business, 46.

376 R.L. Dashwood, Chiploquorgan ... (London, 1872), 202. Dashwood presumably echoed comments he had heard.

377 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 36; Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada, 32.

378 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 35.

379 R. Skeldon, ‘Hong Kong and its Hinterland...’, Asian Geographer, 5 (1986); Hong-Ling Wee, ‘Redefining Hinterland: the Singapore Experience,’ Middle States Geographer, 28 (1996).

380 H.C. Davis and T.A. Hutton, ‘The Two Economies of British Columbia,’ BC Studies, 82 (1989); H.C. Davis, ‘Is the Metropolitan Vancouver Economy Uncoupling from the Rest of the Province?’, BC Studies, 98 (1993).

381 G. Wynn, ‘The Maritimes’, in L. McGann and A. Gunn, eds, Heartland and Hinterland ... (3rd ed., Scarborough, Ont., 1998), 195-6.

382 G. Davison, The Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne (2nd ed., Melbourne, 2004), 8.

383 See the general comment on hinterlands by Pamela Statham in P. Statham, ed., The Origins of Australia’s Capital Cities (Cambridge, 1989), 19-20.

384 J Cookson, ‘Towards a City Biography’, in Cookson and G. Dunstall, eds, Southern Capital: Christchurch... (Christchurch, 2000), 361, 355.

385 L.D. McCann in Forbes and Muise, eds, The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation, 151-2, 149.

386 J.D. Belshaw and D.J. Mitchell, ‘The Economy Since the Great War’, in H.J.M. Johnston, ed., The Pacific Province... (Vancouver, 1996), 337.

387 Marquis, ‘Multilevel Governance and Public Policy in Saint John, New Brunswick’, in Horak and Young, eds, Sites of Governance..., 136.

388 McNutt, 58-9; E.L. Teed, Canada’s First City ... (Saint John, 1962). Hannay, i, 151, suggested that the charter was intended to compensate the first settlers for Carleton’s contemporaneous decision to shift the seat of government to Fredericton. Montreal became a city in 1832, Toronto in 1834, Halifax in 1848 and Fredericton in 1848.

389 Acheson, 27-47, 178-98.

390 R. Campbell, ‘Hazen, William’, DCB, v.

391 Acheson, x-xi; (plate 3). Figure 1 in G.Winder, ‘Trouble in the North End: The Geography of Social Violence in Saint John, 1840-1860’, Acadiensis, xxix (2000) clearly shows the problem of the estuary boundary:

392 Gesner, New Brunswick; With Notes for Emigrants, 124. S.L. Tilley estimated in 1877 that Portland contained one tavern for every thirty adult males, ‘Ishmael’, The Temperance Question... (Saint John, 1879), 174, consulted as

393 St. John and its Business, 103-4.

394 St. John and its Business, 121-2; and see frame 13 of:

395 Acheson, 252.

396 I.A. Jack, ‘Old Times in Victoria Ward’, New Brunswick Magazine, ii (1899), 66.

397 Saint John Daily Evening News, 11 March 1869. Other officials included 3 assessors of rates, 3 school trustees, 3 commissioners of roads, 4 constables, 4 pound keepers and 3 ‘hog reeves’.

398 W.M. Baker, ‘Burpee, Isaac’, DCB, xi.

399 F.J. Hamilton, A Trip over the Intercolonial, 55.

400 New Dominion and True Humorist, 21 July 1877.

401 Gesner, New Brunswick; With Notes for Emigrants, had argued in 1847 that Portland ‘should be united with St. John’. A guidebook of 1883 scoffed at the ‘new-born’ city: ‘It is scarcely two months old, but thinks it can run alone!’ The Eastern Provinces Railroads, 61. The 1889 merger was approved by referendums in both cities. Saint John voted 1690 to 694 in favour, Portland more narrowly 553 to 413. Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, xi (1927), 164.

402 New Brunswick Magazine, v (3), 1905, 188; iv (2), 1904, 86.

403 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 10; cf. Acheson, 211.

404 ‘Much remains to be done.... No regular system of construction has been adopted.’ Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 31. The water supply network is shown on a map of 1884:

405 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 30-1.

406 Hannay, ii, 348.

407 ‘Police Force, Portland’, 1 January 1849, Journal of the House of Assembly, 1849, ccvii.

408 Acheson, 214-30; See, Riots in New Brunswick, 157-60; MacNutt, 347-8.

409 See, Riots in New Brunswick, 162-9.

410 G. Marquis, ‘“A Machine of Oppression under the Guise of the Law”: The Saint John Police Establishment, 1860-1890’, Acadiensis, xvi (1976), 58-77.

411 Marquis, ‘Machine of Oppression’, 61. The proportion declined after 1879 as the police turned their attention to vagrancy, possibly a post-Fire phenomenon.

412 Bilson, ‘The Cholera Epidemic in Saint John, N.B.’, Acadiensis, iv (1974).

413 Acheson, 44, 199. The DCB prefers ‘Rankin’; other sources spell the name ‘Rankine’.

414 McGahan, 52-3.

415 Canadian Parliamentary Debates, 22 April 1874, 172, consulted as; McGahan, 65-7.

416 McGahan, 109-10.

417 P.B. Waite, The Life and Times of Confederation 1864-1867 ... (Toronto, 1962), 237.

418 Hannay, ii, 349. 60 years earlier, Peter Fisher had remarked: ‘It does indeed seem strange that Portland, which joins St. John, should have been made a separate Parish, while Carleton which is separated from it by a wide river, should have been incorporated with it.’ Fisher, Notitia, 116.

419 Fisher, Notitia, 68.

420 Atkinson, Historical and Statistical Account, 37-8. ‘Carleton ...possesses but little of the enterprize of her sister,’ wrote Fisher in 1838; ‘it has but little trade, and has improved but very little for a number of years.’ Fisher, Notitia, 115. Accused of looting after the 1837 East Side fire, Carleton residents were for some years nicknamed ‘Algerines’, an allusion to the notorious problem of piracy at Algiers. MacNutt, 477.

421 Bailey, ed., Robb Letters, 99, 128 (letters from 1848 and 1857).

422 Atkinson, Historical and Statistical Account, 38-9; Acheson, 54, 83, 152.

423 Debates of the House of Commons, 21 May 1883, 1334, consulted as

424 Atkinson, Historical and Statistical Account, 39.

425 John A. Bowes, in New Brunswick Magazine, iv (1904), 78, consulted as

426 Acheson, 256. In 1881, Carleton contained 17.5 percent of the City’s population (4564 / 26,127): Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 29.

427 Acheson, 252, 41.

428 Acheson, 8, 248-9, 190-6.

429 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 17.

430 New Brunswick Magazine, iv (1904), 82.

431 Hannay, ii, 345.

432 Acheson, 194 says disappointingly little about Carleton separatism in the 1850s, and cf. McGahan, 46.

433 Date from, an attractive heritage leaflet, which adds that the building was replaced in 1925 after a fire, by the imposing Market Place structure now used as a community centre. As early as 1878, Temperance campaigners hired a large room there for an 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day as a social centre. Ishmael, Temperance Question, 218.

434 McGahan, 41-3, 95.

435 McGahan, 104, 133-4.

436 Acheson, 212; F.J. Hamilton, A Trip over the Intercolonial, 56.

437 John A. Bowes, ‘The City’s Finances...’, New Brunswick Magazine, iv (1904), 32-42, esp. 35-6.

438 McGahan, 37.

439 The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, 24; Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities of Saint John and of Portland, 26-7, 37-8, 39; Hannay, ii, 349. In 1871, almost two decades earlier, five East Side wards had populations ranging from 3785 to 4985, with a sixth registering 2265 people. The three Carleton wards were home to 1982, 1332 and 1219 people. Acheson, 252. The long toleration of this blatant anomaly prompts the reflection that Upper Canada’s pre-Confederation campaign for ‘rep. by pop.’ was perhaps more motivated by anti-French and anti-Catholic feeling than the textbook record indicates.

440 McGahan, 216.

441 Acheson, 27-47, 178-96.

442 Hannay, ii, 27-8.

443 Acheson, 46.

444 Acheson, 31-3. Women could also be admitted to the freedom of the City, but not to the franchise.

445 Acheson, 31.

446 For the pre-Confederation legislature, freemen elected the two members for Saint John City, freeholders voted as part of St John County. Acheson, 273.

447 Acheson, 84. Rebuilding after the Great Fire also attracted workers from further afield, but most were leaving by 1880. Debates of the House of Commons, 1875, i, 527 (

448 Acheson, 189, 232. The alien registration fee was reduced in 1845, 298.

449 Acheson, 188.

450 Waite, Life and Times, 230. However, some Americans disagreed. ‘Nothing could be more quaint or interesting to an American than St. John, New Brunswick,’ wrote one commentator of the years before 1850. ‘To see its inner life was to turn back one hundred years; to be in the manners and customs which prevailed before the Revolution.’ L.A. Power, ed., The First International Railway ... Life and Writings of John Alfred Poor (New York, 1892), 73.

451 T.C. Haliburton, The Clockmaker ... (2nd ed., Philadelphia, 1837), 103. ‘We cannot say we are favourably impressed with the tone & manner of the people here,’ wrote Lady Aberdeen on the occasion of a viceregal visit in 1894. ‘The contrast between the courtesy displayed in Nova Scotia and the want of it here is v. marked.’ Saint John crowds ‘come to stare in a boisterous American manner’. J.T. Saywell, ed, The Canadian Journal of Lady Aberdeen (Toronto, 1960), 108 (15 August 1894).

452 MacNutt, 244-5; W.S. MacNutt, ‘The Politics of the Timber Trade in Colonial New Brunswick’, in Rawlyk, ed., Historical Essays on the Atlantic Provinces, 132; Wynn, 144.

453 Wynn, 102-6.

454 W.A. Spray. ‘Perley, Moses Henry’, DCB, ix.

455 Saint John and its Business, 95. Atkinson, Historical and Statistical Account, 250, gave the capital of the Saint John Mills & Canal Company as £40,250, which variously translates as between $161,000 and around $200,000.

456 C.M. Wallace, ‘Saint John Boosters and Railroads in Mid-Nineteenth Century’, Acadiensis, vi (1976), 71-91, esp. 76.

457 Wallace, ‘Saint John, New Brunswick (1800-1900)’, esp. 15-16.

458 Acheson, 23.

459 McGahan, 199-205. John Norton Griffiths was a notable personality. A self-made engineer nicknamed ‘Empire Jack’, he had taken part in the conquest of Southern Rhodesia and built a railway through Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) to tap the mineral wealth of Katanga in the Belgian Congo. Although 43 at the outbreak of the First World War, he raised his own regiment and made much-needed innovative contributions to military strategy, for instance concreting the Romanian oil wells to deny fuel supplies to Germany, and organising tunnelling parties under enemy trenches on the Western Front. He was ‘vehement and a little theatrical as a speaker, and his meetings were often rowdy.’ Griffiths was grandfather of a future British Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, and a director of Arsenal football club. His investment in Courtenay Bay was not an entire success. The Times, 29 September 1930.

461 Murdock, ‘Suspension Bridge’, 106, and cf. McGahan, 28.

462 I.A. Jack, ed., Biographical Review ... Province of New Brunswick (Boston, 1900), 408-11.

463 Murdock, ‘Suspension Bridge’, 110-23. The prominent merchant and politician Charles Simonds refused to buy stock, but offered a bounty of £100 (about $400) if Reynolds succeeded. To his credit, Simonds paid up in July 1853, six months after the bridge had opened.

464 B.J. Young, ‘Poor, John Alfred’, DCB, x.

465 McGahan, 125-30.

466 Description of the civic electorate by a Saint John newspaper in 1841, quoted Acheson, 187-8.

467 Acheson, 32; See, Riots in New Brunswick, 28-9. Blacks were excluded from freeman status. Reformers failed to overturn this ‘relic of ancient barbarism’ in 1848-9. Acheson, 192-4.

468 Each ward elected an alderman plus an assistant. The latter were renamed ‘councillors’ in the 1853 reforms. Aldermen were generally drawn from higher social groups than councillors, and acted as magistrates.

469 Acheson, 41. The wide use of commutation to escape road labour probably explains how reformers succeeded in persuading citizens to accept its replacement by direct taxation in 1851. Acheson, 194.

470 Newspaper comment of 1853, quoted Acheson, 210.

471 New Brunswicker, 30 December 1841, Acheson, 187-88. The ward system was swept away in 1894, ‘giving place to a Council elected by all the Citizens.’ This produced a victory for a slate of Tax Reductionist candidates. New Brunswick Magazine, iv (1904), 87.

472 Acheson, 33-4.

474 Fisher, Notitia, 70. For Fisher, see K.E. Tozer (2010) in New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia (

475 This was the verdict of the Duncan royal commission of 1926, discussed in the final section.

476 Acheson, 34-5.

477 See, Riots in New Brunswick, 171-4.

478 See, Riots in New Brunswick, 181, 57.

479 Acheson, 191.

480 Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, 40.

481 Acheson, 105-6.

482 The Canadian Biographical Dictionary ... of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Quebec and Maritime Provinces Volume (New York and Toronto, 1881), 642-3; MgF, 8 June 1861. Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 295-6 for the 1849 by-election; Acheson, 135.

483 See, Riots in New Brunswick, 178-9.

484 Of 17 members of the Common Council listed in the 1898 publication, Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port, two had North of Ireland surnames (McGoldrick and McMulkin), but I would tentatively identify both as Protestants on the basis of Internet family history sites. At the 1899 provincial election, the Liberals specifically included one Catholic candidate on their ticket for the city. He was W.K. Reynolds, son of the builder of the suspension bridge and founder, in 1898, of the New Brunswick Magazine, which was focused on Saint John issues. Raised as a Congregationalist and formerly active in the Freemasons, Reynolds had been received into the Catholic Church five years earlier. His running mates polled between 3,976 and 3,833 votes, but he ran slightly behind on 3,616. This may be an index of the surviving intensity of sectarian feeling by the end of the century. St John Daily Sun, 20 February 1899; Jack, ed., Biographical Review ... Province of New Brunswick, 411-15. Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 296, claimed that ‘little, if anything, is heard now-a-days of religious combinations for political purposes.’ But this statement hardly squares with the mobilisation of Protestant opposition to T.W. Anglin at the 1866 election: W.M. Baker, ‘“Squelching the Disloyal Fenian-Sympathizing Brood”: T.W. Anglin and Confederation in New Brunswick, 1865-6’, Canadian Historical Review, lv (1974).

485 Barnes’s New Brunswick Almanack ... 1888, 47-9. Acheson (114, 262) found low rates of intermarriage with other communities among mid-century Irish Catholics, which suggests that surnames were still reliable indicators of religious affiliation in 1888. The assumption that certain surnames indicate Irish Catholics is of course very approximate and not intended to reflect stereotypes. Some surnames, e.g. O’Brien and O’Neill, were found in both Irish communities.

486 See, generally, P. Toner, ‘The Irish of New Brunswick at Mid-Century: The 1851 Census’, in Toner, ed., New Ireland Remembered ... (Fredericton, 1988), 106-32.

487 Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (1919), 131.

488 Acheson, 211-13; Bilson, ‘The Cholera Epidemic in Saint John, N.B.’

489 HQ (Fredericton), 16 August 1854.The Saint John Board of Health found it difficult to ban pig-keeping in the city, Bilson, ‘The Cholera Epidemic in Saint John, N.B.’, 98. On his arrival in 1824, Sir Howard Douglas liked what he saw, but expressed ‘the disgust with which I perceived that pigs and hogs are permitted to go at large in the beautiful City of Saint John, disfiguring its neatness, polluting its streets, depositing nuisance and exhibiting indelicate offence in all the thoroughfares of the town.’ The City charter apparently gave no authority to tackle the nuisance. Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, xi (127), 190, letter to the Mayor, 5 October 1824.

490 Bailey, ed., Robb Letters, 115 (letter of 4 April 1855), also quoted Bilson, ‘The Cholera Epidemic in Saint John, N.B.’, 97.

491 F.J. Hamilton, A Trip over the Intercolonial, 55.

492 Acheson, 207, 211-12.

493 MgF, 4 November 1869. ‘We have a splendid system of water supply and sewerage,’ wrote George Stewart, jr, trying to look on the bright side after the disaster of 1877, Stewart, The Story of the Great Fire in St. John N.B. June 20th 1877, 247.

494 Saint John Daily Evening News, 10 April 1869.

495 Letters from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (Edinburgh, 1829), 141; cf. Acheson, 204. In general, nineteenth-century commentators rarely mentioned the subject of sewage, an exercise in polite denial given its prevalence.

496 E.g. Saint John Morning Telegraph, 2 June 1866 (page 4). Now Howe Lake, close to the UNBSJ campus.

497 Acheson, 36, 183-4. Partelow’s estimate was £140,000. Colonial currency values fluctuated beyond my poor power to keep up. At $4 =£1, this equalled $560,000. At $4.80, the equivalent was closer to $700,000.

498 These figures, and the statistics that follow, come from John A. Bowes, ‘The Civic Finances’, New Brunswick Magazine, iv (2), 1904, 75-92.

499 Acheson, 184-90.

500 Figures from Bowes, as above.

501 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities, 10.

502 Bowes, ‘The Civic Finances’, 89-90.

503 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities, 18-19, 33, 11-12. Confusingly, the Commissioners supplied another figure, $77,000, at 12.

504 Hannay, ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, 6.

505 Report of the Commissioners on the Union of the Cities, 11, 21.

506 Quoted by Mayor Robert F. Hazen, [1837] Report of the Commissioners ... Harbour of Saint John, 3.

507 Acheson, 44. In 1849, it was stated that up to 5 feet (1.52 metres) depth of sawdust lay along the Portland shore. Journal of the House of Assembly, 1849, ccv.

508 Acheson, 198-202. Robertson was nicknamed ‘Lord John’, HQ, 12 May 1858.

509 Hamilton, A Trip over the Intercolonial, 55.

510 Report of the Commissioners ... Harbour of Saint John, 3-4, 15,12-13, 17.

511 In 1856, 210,175 tons of shipping entered Saint John harbour carrying cargo, 192,716 tons arrived in ballast. However, the ratio of cargo to ballast was very different for vessels clearing Saint John: 406,424 tons of shipping carrying cargo, but only 34,123 tons in ballast. In 1856, the average tonnage of a vessel bringing in cargo was 168.95, while ballasted ships were notably larger, averaging 362.25 tons. Ships clearing with cargo averaged 266.68 tons, while those leaving in ballast were just 91.48 tons. British Parliamentary Papers, 1857-8, vol. 58, 98. In 1863, the average displacement of an incoming cargo-carrying ship was 166.41 tons, less than half the size (374.82 tons) of the typical vessel arriving in ballast. Ships exporting cargo averaged 268.7 tons, while those leaving in ballast were smaller, at 189.98 tons. British Parliamentary Papers, 1866, vol. 73, 149. Unfortunately, displacement tonnage (the usual measure of the size of a ship) is not the same as deadweight which, in turn, is larger than cargo. However, a net import of ballast in the single year 1856 from over 158,000 displacement tons of shipping can only have been substantial. Multiplied by decades, Saint John had to dispose of a mountain of gravel and rubble.

512 Acheson, 200.

513 Report of the Commissioners ... Harbour of Saint John, 12, 18.

514 Report of the Commissioners ... Harbour of Saint John, 9-16.

515 T.W. Acheson, ‘Leavitt, Thomas’, DCB, vii.

516 M. Tracy, ‘Mille, James De’, DCB, x; Acheson, 143, 156..

517 ‘Harbour of Saint John', Journal of the House of Assembly, 1849, cci-ccvi.

518 Wynn, 109, 94.

519 MgF, 5 November 1861.

520 McGahan, 38-9; MgF, 6 May 1862.

521 MgF, 6 May 1862.

522 MgF, 21, 25 March 1862.

523 MgF, 4 November 1869. This suggests that the City used ballast on the streets.

524 Ged Martin, Favourite Son? John A. Macdonald and the Voters of Kingston 1841-1891 (Kingston, Ont., 2010), 41, 166-7.

525 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1863, 15.

526 McGahan, 52.

527 McGahan, 52-4, 131.

528 McGahan, 74-5.

529 McGahan, 59-60.

530 New Dominion and True Humorist, 7 April 1877.

531 McGahan, 59; E.W. McGahan, ‘Jones, Thomas Rosenell’, DCB, xiii.

532 Acheson, 184-90.

533 Saint John Morning News, 8 April 1846. Cf. Acheson, 33-4.

534 Acheson, 190-5.

535 MgF, 5 April 1866.

536 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 340. Saint John became the first city in Canada to adopt commission government, but not until 1912. I. McKay, ‘The 1910s...’, in E.R. Forbes and D.A. Muise, eds, The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation (Toronto, 1993), 200.

537 Saint John Daily Evening News, 5, 7 April 1869. Allowing for potential voters denied any choice, the politically active civic constituency in the 1860s was presumably around 2,000 residents. In 1884, there were 3,244 qualified voters. Saint John Daily Evening News, 8 April 1884.

538 New Dominion and True Humorist, 7 April 1877. In 1870, the same publication had commented that the Council was ‘no Senate of Solons’ but ‘the public have great cause to be thankful they are no worse.’ New Dominion and True Humorist, 8 April 1871.

539 Saint John Daily News, 5 April 1880.

540 McGahan, 154, 204.

541 McGahan, 59-79. It is hardly necessary say that my summary considerably simplifies a complex dispute.

542 Admittedly, this is an unlikely might-have-been. George Stewart’s gloomy comment that ‘it will take very many years to build the city up again as it was before the fire’ reflects a consensus that existing properties should be reconstructed, but to higher standards. Stewart, The Story of the Great Fire, 247. Sir Christopher Wren failed to redesign the street plan of London after the Great Fire of 1666, and harbour commissioners could hardly have matched the great architect’s status.

543 McGahan, 118-20.

544 McGahan, 178-80.

545,_Maine (consulted 23 February 2016) gives population figures, attributed to the United States census. Portland Maine had 50,000 people in 1900, after it, too, had merged with a satellite community on its northern fringe.

546 Forbes, Maritime Rights Movement, 64.

547 McGahan, 225.

548 Debates of the House of Commons, 30 June 1919, 4299-4307. Carvell does not appear to have been closely related to the railway superintendent mentioned earlier. In August 1919, he left politics to become chief commissioner for railways, thereby adding point to his argument about continuity.

549 McGahan, 223.

550 McGahan, 222-6.

551 Acheson, 182.

552 Acheson, 44.

553 Acheson, 190.

554 Acheson, 188, 212.

555 MgF, 22 January 1863, quoted below.

556 One of these, to give legal status to the Roman Catholic bishop, was relevant to Saint John, since the diocese had its headquarters in the city. Another, for the prevention of illicit trade, would also have had implications for Saint John traders, as well as those across the province. The bills are listed in Journal of the House of Assembly, 1846, viii-xvi.

557 Fenety Political Notes and Observations, 480.

558 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1856, iv-xii, for the February-May session, Journal of the House of Assembly, 1856, iii-lx for July. This paragraph is supplemented by reference to Acts of the General Assembly of Her Majesty’s Province of New Brunswick ... 1856 (Fredericton, 1856) (

559 Acts of the General Assembly of Her Majesty’s Province of New Brunswick ... 1856, 144.

560 Acts of the General Assembly of Her Majesty’s Province of New Brunswick ... 1856, 139-40.

561 Hannay, ii, 169.

562 Acts of the General Assembly of Her Majesty’s Province of New Brunswick ... 1856, 5.

563 Acheson, 185.

564 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1866, iii-xiii. Unlike 1856, both sessions were included in the same volume, even though they recorded the business of different Assemblies.

565 I have not identified this street.

566 HQ, 15 February 1860. Wilmot attributed this view to ‘his hon. Colleague from St. John,’ probably John Hamilton Gray, but it is clear that he shared the opinion.

567 W.A. Spray, ‘Wilmot, Robert Duncan’, DCB, xii.

568 Patrick (technically St Patrick) left Union Street opposite Wentworth Street. Neither Patrick nor Clarence Streets no longer exists, but can be located on the map of Wellington and Prince Wards in

569 MgF, 7, 24 January, 1 March 1860. The Fredericton Head Quarters, 21 March 1860, noted discussion of the proposal to devolve responsibility to the City in committee on 8 March.

570 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1860, 85, 109, ix; MgF, 15 March 1860.

571 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1861, 245, xvii.

572 MgF, 20 March, 17 May, 16 June, 18 July 1860.

573 MgF, 11 October, 29 November 1860, 4, 28 May, 6, 13 June 1861. The City borrowed at 6 percent, but applicants for debentures could bid for them at lower (or higher) prices, thereby raising (or lowering) the effective rate of return.

574 McGahan, 62. Local debate on this proposal might be illuminating, but newspaper sources for that period are not available on-line. Gilbert R. Pugsley was the older brother of ‘Sweet William’ Pugsley, who became one of the city’s most effective Ottawa cabinet representatives in 1907-11.

575 A.G. Bailey, ‘The Basis and Persistence of Opposition to Confederation in New Brunswick’, Canadian Historical Review, xxii, 1942, 384. In fact, legislation passed in the 1874 session looks very like the business transacted in earlier times: Journal of the Legislative Council of the Province of New Brunswick... 1874, 141-5. With 116 acts passed, the provincial legislature may have gained in efficiency by the transfer of responsibilities to Ottawa. No legislation dealt with sheep or cattle, although an act of 1866 had addressed the problem of wandering cattle in Sunbury and Queens Counties.

576 McGahan, 61.

577 New Brunswick Reporter, 20 April 1849.

578 Kerr, Sir Edmund Head, 94.

579 UNB, Stanmore Papers, reel 3, Gordon to Monck, copy, 8 May 1862.

580 HQ, 26 June 1850; MgF, 22 January 1863.

581 HQ, 14 April, 12 May 1858.

582 The Daily Sun (Saint John), 20 May 1896.

583 D. Camp, Gentlemen, Players and Politicians (Ottawa, 1979 ed.), 23.

584 H.G. Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick (Toronto, 1961), 48.

585 Kerr, Sir Edmund Head, 47.

586 Harvey to Glenelg, 12 August 1838, British Parliamentary Papers, 1839, vol. 2, 395.

587 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 384.

588 HQ, 10 March 1858.

589 MacNutt, 407-8, 41; Hannay, ii, 215. Anglin called it ‘the Great Lobster Scheme’. MgF, 7 February 1865.

590 Hannay, ii, 214.

591 HQ, 5 June 1861.

592 Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, 172-3. Thorburn cited the 1948 example of the MP for Charlotte County who undermined the case made by his colleague from Saint John-Albert with the adage, ‘The squeaking wheel gets the most grease.’

593 New Brunswick Magazine, v (1905), 7. The comment was probably by the editor, John A. Bowes.

594 MgF, 16 March 1865.

595 Library and Archives Canada [cited as LAC], John A. Macdonald Papers, vol. 51, Mitchell to Macdonald , 6 June 1867.

596 MgF, 16 March 1865.

597 MgF, 22 January 1863.

598 Kerr, Sir Edmund Head, 94. ‘Every member had his own favourite crotchet ready to bring up the moment an opportunity presented itself,’ Fenety recalled of the 1852 session, ‘– and each of these railway crotchets was promised by its advocates to be “the best paying line in the world”.’ Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 435.

599 HQ, 1 February 1865. Hatheway attributed the couplet, surely one of the most enduring pieces of Canadian political doggerel, to an unidentified Albert County poet.

600 Thorburn noted the same phenomenon in the 1950s. ‘New Brunswick politicians spend most of their time promoting local, and often inconsequential, projects. ... The rivalry between communities and areas often produces a stalemate in which no substantial projects can be implemented.’ Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, 184.

601 This, of course, is not how the issue was presented in a classic study, A.G. Bailey, ‘Railways and the Confederation Issue in New Brunswick, 1863-1865’, Canadian Historical Review, xxi (1940).

602 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1852, clxxv-clxxvi. One of the authors of this fairy-tale document was Edward W. Serrell, who soon redeemed himself by designing Saint John’s suspension bridge.

603 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1841, 265, cxcvii.

604 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 386.

605 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1839, 78-80.

606 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1842, ccxviii.

607 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 386.

608 MacNutt, 364, who associated Earle with Kings County.

609 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1853, 56, 65, 74-9, 119, 263. One petition, from 131 residents of Queens, opposed the canal.

610 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 457-8. The canal now makes possible Gagetown’s marina.

611 MgF, 19 February 1865.

612 HQ, 1 March 1865.

613 MgF, 16 March 1865.

614 HQ, 17 January 1866. Sunbury County had originally covered much of the interior of New Brunswick. Its subdivision had left it as an artificial strip.

615 Morning Telegraph (Saint John), 25 February 1868.

616 Acheson, 59.

617 W.S. MacNutt, ‘Partelow, John Richard', DCB, ix; Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 226.

618 Wallace, ‘Tilley’ (DCB, xii); R.C.Brown, ‘Pugsley, William,’ DCB, xv. Biographical dictionaries tend to filter out the insignificant, but that, too, may be revealing. Pugsley’s brother was a City alderman; Tilley was active in other civic organisations. Andrew G. Blair had relocated to Saint John in 1894, two years before joining the cabinet.

619 C.M. Wallace, ‘Needham, William Hayden’, DCB, x does not specifically mention his membership of the Common Council, but see Acheson, 190-4.

620 Hannay, Sir Leonard Tilley, 61.

621 Acheson, 45.

622 The account below comes from New Brunswick Reporter, 4 February 1848, which supplements Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 267-8, and amends the date.

623 Allegedly, Taylor had shown less concern for the public purse in his role as contractor for the renovation of Government House between 1837 and 1840. MacNutt, 260.

624 The debate was extensively reported and would merit republication: New Brunswick Reporter, 30 March, 6, 13 April 1849; HQ, 24, 27, 31 March, 4, 11 April 1849.

625 HQ, 11 April 1849.

626 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 319-20.

627 The tortuous journey can be traced (with some incomprehension) through four pages of Journal of the House of Assembly, 1849, 215-19.

628 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 320.

629 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 326-7.

630 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 321-2.

631 New Brunswick Reporter, 6 April 1849.

632 Journal of the House of Assembly, 1849, 334. Thomas Baillie, representing York, was another convert, possibly in the hope of hanging on to his post as surveyor general, from which Sir Edmund Head wished him to retire. ‘The exact reasons for the change of opinion are not known,’ C.M. Wallace concludes. Wallace, ‘Saint John Boosters and Railroads in Mid-Nineteenth Century’, 79.

633 New Brunswick Reporter, 20 April 1849.

634 Fenety, Political Notes (1867), 385-6; Hannay, ii, 145.

635 Waite, Life and Times, 232.

636 HQ, 5 May 1858.

637 A.G. Bailey, ‘Railways and the Confederation Issue in New Brunswick, 1863-1865’, Canadian Historical Review, xxi (1940), 381.

638 Tilley to Galt, 6 March 1865, quoted Bailey, ‘Railways and the Confederation Issue’, 381.

639 Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, 56, 93; McGahan, 41-2,

640 Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, 72, 93-4.

641 HQ, 24 June 1868.

642 A.G. Bailey, 'The Basis and Persistence of Opposition to Confederation in New Brunswick', Canadian Historical Review, xxiii (1942), 385.

644 Hannay, ii, 356.

645 Debates of the House of Commons, 11 November, 12 December 1867, 31, 285.

646 MgF, 3 September 1867.

647 Morning Telegraph, 20 February 1868.

648 HQ, 20 May 1868.

649 HQ, 18 November 1868.

650 Morning Freeman, 1 August 1867.

651 C. Wallace, ‘Albert Smith, Confederation, and Reaction in New Brunswick: 1852-1882’, Canadian Historical Review, xliv (1963), esp. 297-305.

652 K.F.C. MacNaughton , The Development of the Theory and Practice of Education in New Brunswick 1784-1900 .... (Fredericton, 1947), 187-99, consulted as

653 P.M. Toner, ‘New Brunswick Schools and the Rise of Provincial Rights,’ in B.W. Hodgins, D. Wright and W.H. Heick, eds, Federalism in Canada and Australia: The Early Years (Waterloo, Ont., 1978), 125-35. As Toner makes clear, the New Brunswick Schools dispute was not about language rights, although the most dramatic resistance happened in an Acadian community: G.F.G. Stanley, ‘The Caraquet Riots of 1875’, Acadiensis, ii (1972).

654 Wallace, ‘Albert Smith, Confederation, and Reaction in New Brunswick’, 301-2.

655 D.M. Young, ‘Fraser, John James’, DCB, xii.

656 Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, 13.

657 MgF, 16 July 1864.

658 MacNutt, 358-63, and see G.G. Campbell, ‘Defining and Redefining Democracy...’ in W. Cross, ed., Democratic Reform in New Brunswick (Toronto, 2007), 280.

659 J.M. Beck, Pendulum of Power... (Scarborough, Ont., 1968), 8.

660 Wallace, ‘Albert Smith, Confederation, and Reaction in New Brunswick’, 303.

661 W.A. Spray, ‘Mitchell, Peter’, DCB, xii.

662 D.M. Young, ‘Blair, Andrew George’, DCB, xiii.

663 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 277, Tilley to Macdonald, confidential, 25 April 1887.

664 J. Pope, ed., Correspondence of Sir John Macdonald (Garden City NY, 1921), 415-16. Letter of 13 July 1888. Macdonald was on a rare visit to New Brunswick at the time, holidaying at Bathurst, where he invited Skinner to visit.

665 R.C. Brown, ‘Pugsley, William,’ DCB, xv.

666 Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, 49.

667 W. Buckingham and G.W. Ross, The Hon. Alexander Mackenzie: His Life and Times (Toronto, 1892), 523 (letter of 20 September 1878).

668 Hannay, Life of Tilley, 377.

669 Young, ‘Blair, Andrew George’.

670 D. Jobb, ‘Sackville Promotes a Railway...’, in L. McCann, ed., People and Place ... (Fredericton, 1987), 42-4.

671 K. Wilson, ‘Gillmor, Arthur Hill’, DCB, xiii; Debates of the House of Commons, 22 April 1889, 1677.

672 Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, 209, for a list of post-1896 ministers and their portfolios.

673 Donald Creighton, The Road to Confederation ... (Toronto, 1964), 433; LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 51, P. Mitchell to Macdonald, private, 27 May 1867.

674 Wallace, ‘Albert J. Smith, Confederation and Reaction in New Brunswick: 1852-1882’, 298-9 (abbreviation expanded).

675 McGahan, 63.

676 Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, 164-6; Baker, ‘Burpee, Isaac ’, DCB, xi.

677 McGahan, 66, 68. But a Liberal orator during the 1896 election said that Burpee ‘got the breakwater for St. John.’ The Daily Sun, 3 June 1896.

678 McGahan, 74.

679 McGahan, 100-4.

680 See his concern for Saint John interests in relation to the Chignecto ship railway, Jobb, ‘Sackville Promotes a Railway’, 43.

681 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 276, Tilley to Macdonald, private, 15 November 1880.

682 M. Milner, Canada’s Navy: The First Century (2nd ed., Toronto, 2010), 3-4.

683 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 141, Tilley to Macdonald, 22 May 1884; vol. 122, Tilley to Macdonald, 22 October 1889.

684 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 108, J. Boyd to Macdonald, 17 September 1885.

685 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 39, Tilley to Macdonald, confidential, 5 November 1885.

686 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 277, Tilley to Macdonald, confidential, 28 October 1885.

687 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 39, Tilley to Macdonald, confidential, 5 November 1885; vol. 39, Thorne to Macdonald, 3 November 1885; W.G. Godfrey, ‘Wood, Josiah’, DCB, xv; D. Shanahan, ‘Costigan, John’, DCB, xiv. Foster was a former professor of classics, Wood endowed a Chair in the same subject.

688 Technically, the Short Line belonged to a CPR-related company.

689 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 272, Stephen to Macdonald, private, 7 August 1890.

690 P.B. Waite, Canada 1874-1896: Arduous Destiny (Toronto, 1971), 135, 143.

691 By curious coincidence, there was a second place in New Brunswick called Harvey, on Shepody Bay in Albert County. It was linked to the Saint John to Shediac railway, and the branch line formed a junction at Salisbury. The line is described in K. Baedeker, The Dominion of Canada... (Leipsic, 1894), 70 and see:

692 ‘It opens up no country fit for settlement,’ said Saint John MP, Charles Weldon.

693 Hannay, ii, 356.

694 Debates of the House of Commons, 29 April 1889, 1658-69, 30 April 1889, 1669-83.

695 R.A. MacKay, The Unreformed Senate of Canada (Oxford, 1926), 259-65. MacKay was invited to publish a second edition in 1963. As a political scientist, he decided to omit much of the historical material and concentrate on the changing role of the upper house. Since this edition was published in the widely available Carleton Library series, the activity of the Senate in an earlier period tended to drop from sight.

696 C.M. Wallace, ‘Boyd, John’, DCB, xii.

697 Debates of the Senate of Canada, 1 May 1889, 690-715.

698 K.G. Pryke, Nova Scotia and Confederation 1864-74 (Toronto, 1979), 22-7.

699 R.C. Harris and J. Warkentin, Canada before Confederation ... (New York, 1974), 226.

700 Globe (Toronto), 2 May 1889; 6 March 1890.

701 The Daily Sun (Saint John), 19 May 1896; The Story of Canada’s Winter Port: How St John After Being Side-Tracked For Years... (Liberal party campaign publication, ?1902), 24-5.

702 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 271, Stephen to Macdonald, private, 7 August 1890.

703 McGahan, 104, 133-4.

704 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 122, Foster to Macdonald, private, 29 October 1889, enclosing undated memorandum. See also LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 122, Foster to Macdonald, 25 February 1890. Foster also lobbied for a subsidised steamship service to Demerara (now Guyana), operating from Saint John and not Halifax, vol. 63, Foster to Macdonald, confidential, 2 August 1890.

705 McGahan, 136-40.

706 D.M. Young, ‘Blair, Andrew George’, DCB, xiii; A.W. Currie, The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada (Toronto, 1957), 416-31.

707 Debates of the Canadian House of Commons, 11 August 1903, cols. 8408-67.

708 Shifting between the two cities was not easy. A Saint John newspaper reminded its readers in 1896 that Blair had told his York County constituents that it was ‘the constant endeavour of St. John to belittle and destroy Fredericton.’ The Daily Sun, 20 May 1896.

710 P. Stevens and J.T. Saywell, eds, Lord Minto’s Canadian Papers (2 vols, Toronto, 1983), ii, 328-9 (confidential conversation, 23 July 1903).

711 Debates of the Canadian House of Commons, 11 August 1903, col. 8447.

712 R.C. Brown, ‘Pugsley, William’, DCB, xv.

714 W.E. Fulton, ‘Emmerson, Henry Robert’, DCB, xiv; Debates of the Canadian House of Commons, 3 August 1903, col. 7891.

715 Undated [1904], quoted in Brown, ‘Pugsley, William’, DCB, xv.

716 St John Daily Sun, 1 June 1905. The advertised Intercolonial timetable at that time showed departure time as 7 a.m., with a late train at 23.25.

717 In fact, Pugsley was appointed in August 1907, a month before he won a Saint John by-election, where pressure on an intending opponent secured his return by acclamation.

718 McGahan, 176-9.

719 McGahan, 206-12.

720 The New Brunswick Railway Museum’s useful website indicates that this was not done. In the 1960s, bridges were unable to bear the weight of the new diesel engines.

721 With the election of the Borden Conservative government in 1911, Pugsley was succeeded as Saint John’s cabinet spokesman by John Douglas Hazen. The note in the UNB Archives on the Hazen Fonds ( indicates that he took a close interest in local New Brunswick interests, but in the absence of a DCB biography at the time of writing, I conclude this survey at 1911.

722 S. Gwyn, The Private Capital (Toronto, 1984), 240, 320-5.

723 W.R.M. Burtis, The New Dominion: A Poem (Saint John, 1867), 15.

724 Baker, Timothy Warren Anglin, 235.

725 20th-century examples of out-migration include two distant cousins from Albert County, Richard Bedford Bennett and W.A.C. Bennett. ‘RB’ became the only New Brunswick-born prime minister of Canada, but his political base was Calgary. W.A.C. Bennett functioned still further west, as Social Credit premier of British Columbia from 1952 to 1972.

726 LAC, Macdonald Papers, vol. 276, Tilley to Macdonald, private, 15 November 1880.

727 Debates of the House of Commons, 15 May 1882, 1528. Tilley’s birthplace was Gagetown in Queens County.

728 Saint John, it may be noted, has not greatly benefited from such decentralisation programmes. In 2013, bilingual Moncton was home to three times as many federal employees, while urban regeneration schemes focused upon ‘specific parcels of federal land, and not the employees that worked there’. K. Peacock and R. MacKinnon, ‘Federal Land Transfers in New Brunswick’, in M.C. Ircha and R. Young, eds, Federal Property Policy in Canadian Municipalities (Montreal & Kingston, 2013), unpaginated.

729 St. John and its Business, 175.

730 N. Landry, ‘Transport et régionalisme en contexte pré-industriel : le projet du canal de la baie Verte, 1820-1875’, Acadiensis, xxiv (1994), 59-87, esp. 80.

731 C.R. McKay, ‘Investors, Government and the CMTR: a Study of Entrepreneurial Failure’, Acadiensis, ix (1979), 71-94.

732 The Story of Canada’s Winter Port, 23-5.

733 J.M. Beck, The Government of Nova Scotia (Toronto, 1957), 338-9.

734 Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, 49.

735 McGahan, 146.

736 The Times (London), 24 March 1894.

737 John A. Bowes, ‘The City’s Finances...’, New Brunswick Magazine, iv (1904), 32-42. There was a steady increase in consumers attached to the City water supply, but a key statistic behind the supply problem was probably the increase in water closets, from 2,078 in 1882 to 4,874 in 1902. New Brunswick Magazine, iv (1904), 126-8.

738 Hannay, ii, 358.

739 R.C. Brown and R. Cook, Canada 1896-1921: A Nation Transformed (Toronto, 1974), 53; W.L. Morton, Manitoba: A History (2nd ed., Toronto, 1967), 273-4.

740 M.C. Urquhart and K. Buckley, eds, Historical Statistics of Canada (Toronto, 1965), 363; Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port, 6-7. The precise figures were 7.855 million bushels and 947,000 bushels. The term ‘winter months’ was not defined.

741 Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port, 22.

742 McGahan, 229.

743 G. Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto, 1984), 121.

744 Forbes, The Maritime Rights Movement, 67, 210. For an overview, E.R. Forbes, ‘Misguided Symmetry: The Destruction of Regional Transportation Policy for the Maritimes’, in D.J. Bercuson, Canada and the Burden of Unity (Toronto, 1986), 60-86.

745 Brown and Cook, Canada 1896-1921: A Nation Transformed, 245-7.

746 Forbes, The Maritime Rights Movement, 70. Forbes points out that the Intercolonial, the CNR’s forerunner, managed a small overall surplus between 1897 and 1917 (averaging about $16,000 a year), suggesting that the policy of encouraging cut-price freight was a success. Forbes, ‘Misguided Symmetry’, 64.

747 Forbes, The Maritime Rights Movement, 68-9.

748 Beck, Pendulum of Power, 21, 119.

749 Thorburn, Politics in New Brunswick, 45.

750 McGahan, 234-5.

751 Forbes, The Maritime Rights Movement, 16; McGahan, 228.

752 McGahan, 150-1.

753 New Brunswick Magazine, v (1905), 1-6.

754 ‘One Way to Make St. John Grow’, New Brunswick Magazine, v (1905), 6-7.

755 Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes’, 195.

756 ‘One Way to Make St. John Grow’, 7. The Harris car works fell victim to the crowded topography of the central city area. By 1891, the Intercolonial railway station needed to expand, and the adjacent Harris works was the only feasible site. The Conservative government in Ottawa purchased the land, a deal that the Liberals subsequently criticised as corrupt: The Story of a Crime: The Harris Land Job and its Results (Saint John, 1896). The razing of the factory meant that the challenge facing capital investment was not simply upgrading of machinery but the construction of an entirely new factory, on a fresh site. The fate of the Harris plant illustrated the conflict, within so small an urban core, between Saint John’s manufacturing sector and its export function. The 1875 Atlas of Saint John City and County illustrates the physical dominance of the Harris Foundry (Portland, plates 2 and 4).

757 Monetary Times, 16 December 1882, quoted Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes’, 182.

758 Dashwood, Chiploquorgan, 202.

759 St John and its Business, 177.

760 C.M. Wallace suggested that ostentatious businessman John Boyd failed to make a full recovery from the Great Fire, but Wallace also blames his financial difficulties upon ‘questionable management and extravagant tastes’. C.M. Wallace, ‘Boyd, John,’ DCB, xii. One estimate of the value of property destroyed in 1877 was $30 million. Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 56.

761 Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes’, 181, 178.

762 Parks, 15 December 1890, quoted Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes’, 190-1.

763 Acheson, ‘The National Policy and the Industrialization of the Maritimes’, 196-200.

764 Quoted G.P. Marchildon, ‘John F. Stairs, Max Aitken and the Scotia Group...’ in Inwood, ed., Farm, Factory and Fortune, 97-218, esp. 196.

765 Calculated from Quigley, Drummond and Evans, ‘Regional Transfer of Funds’, 236.

766 T.W. Acheson, ‘The Maritimes and "Empire Canada”’, in Bercuson, Canada and the Burden of Unity, 87-114.

767 Quigley, Drummond and Evans, ‘Regional Transfer of Funds’, 226.

768 Quigley, Drummond and Evans, ‘Regional Transfer of Funds’, 228.

769 Don Nerbas, ‘Revisiting The Politics of Maritime Rights: Bourgeois Saint John and Regional Protest in the 1920s’, Acadiensis, xxxvii (2008).

770 McGahan, 199-205, and discussed above.

771 ‘Why Does St. John Not Grow?’, 5.

772 British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 53.

773 Report of the Royal Commission on Maritime Claims (Ottawa, 1926), 28-30, consulted as:

Visiting British commissioners seem to have been taken aback to be told in 1914 that no question of cranage dues arose in the port of Saint John because there were no cranes. British Parliamentary Papers, 1914-16, 7971, Dominions Royal Commission, 58.

774 Saint John and the Province of New Brunswick, 31.

775 Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, x (1919), 127; xii (1928), 345.

776 Revd J.W. Millidge, ‘Some Reminiscences of the City of Saint John..., 1870-1880’, Collections of the New Brunswick Historical Society, xii (Saint John, 1928), 349,

consulted as