A Blupete Biography Page

Francis Legge

Professor Bumsted, in his entry into the DCB on Legge, after observing that there was little to be had on Legge in respect to the times both before and after his stint in Nova Scotia as its governor (1773-76), proceeded to write:

"Only a distant kinship with a man who could make colonial appointments, and who recommended him somewhat surprisingly in 1773 to the governorship of Nova Scotia, prevented him from living and dying in anonymity."
It was the Earl of Dartmouth, Lord Dartmouth, who had become the Colonial Secretary in August of 1772, who appointed Major Francis Legge, as the new governor of Nova Scotia. Legge was not unfamiliar with North America having served there during the Seven Years War (1756-63), however, "without distinction or promotion." In any event, Legge arrived at Halifax on the brigantine, Adamant on October 6th, 1773. Legge "quarreled with all he came in contact with."1 His orders were to find out what the difficulties were in Nova Scotia (the colony had a long history of being in financial difficulties) and, once found, to cure them. Conscious of the increasing difficulties Britain was having with her more southern American colonies, Legge was to proceed to cut away unnecessary expenses but to proceed with his mission in such a way, so, at the same time, to keep the province loyal to the British crown. In his efforts to fulfill his assignment he proved himself a tyro. Brebner explains:
"[He] began to expose every scandalous detail of the spoils system which permeated Halifax and extended across the province. Even granting that he was an officer and a gentleman dealing with civilians whom he deemed socially his inferiors, he showed an alarming lack of imagination about how men behave when they are cornered and revealed almost none of the art of making himself agreeable to those whom he sought to influence or to work with. He had no gifts for the compromises with human frailty which alone can grease the wheels of politics."2
Legge's opponents piled up and certain of them had considerable power back in London, mostly in the form of Joshua Maugher. During February of 1776, Governor Legge was ordered home to answer the charges made against him; he departed Halifax in May.3 Since Legge's appointment in 1773, a new Colonial Secretary, Lord George Germain, had taken over where Lord Dartmouth had left off. Germain's analysis of the situation, was that there was a "Universal Cry" against Legge and that "the Province will be lost, utterly lost" though the governor be "ever so good a man." Legge, without any condemnation, was swept aside, finding that what he had wanted in the situation as the Governor of Nova Scotia was "that Gracious and Conciliating Deportment which the delicacy of the times and the Tempers of Men under agitation & alarm more particularly demanded."4 Legge, though he did not return to Nova Scotia, was to continue on as the nominal Governor of Nova Scotia. The administration of Nova Scotia was then to come under the control of Mariot Arbuthnot (1711-94), who had been sent from England the year before as the Commissioner of the Navy Yard. To accommodate the move, Michael Francklin was obliged to relinquish his title as Lieutenant Governor, one he had carried since 1766. In 1782, John Parr was to receive the appointment as the Governor of Nova Scotia in the place of Francis Legge. Legge was to die ten months later.


[1] NSHS, vol. 12 (1905) p. 75.

[2] Brebner, The Neutral Yankees (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970) p. 212.

[3] Ibid., fn at p. 245.

[4] As quoted by Bumsted, DCB, vol. iv, p. 452.


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)