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The Final Years, Part 11 to the Life & Works of
Sir John Wentworth

On Thursday, April 7th, 1808, Sir George Prevost arrived at Halifax bringing with him 3,000 soldiers consisting of three regiments. He bore his commission signed by Lord Castlereagh making him the Governor of Nova Scotia in Wentworth's stead. Wentworth had no advance warning of the official notice of the appointment. A notice had been sent out to Wentworth; but the ship in which it came sailed into Halifax Harbour some 18 days after Prevost's arrival. As to the reasons for Wentworth's dismissal, well -- let us turn to his biographer, Sir Adams Archibald:
"Whether it was that the Colonial Office had wearied of the long strife between him and Mr. Tonge, or were dissatisfied at the want of judgment shown in disputing the right of the Assembly to deal with the seats of their own members, or to vote the public monies as they judged best, whether they thought that Sir John's age, now verging on 72, was too great for the work required of him, or whether with the imminent prospect of a war with the United States, in addition to the wars with the whole continent of Europe already on the hands of the British Government, there was need of a military man at the head of affairs in Nova Scotia, whether it was one or all of these that influenced the ministry, they came to the decision that it was time for Sir John to retire."43
Within six days of Prevost's arrival, on April 13th, the governing council of Nova Scotia met, and after having seen him take the oaths and sign the rolls, Wentworth gave the chairman's chair to Prevost. And, in such a fashion, the glory years for Wentworth came to an end.

The Wentworths retired to their lodge on Bedford Basin. Wentworth seemed happy enough, but Francis, who now occupied herself with her dogs and her chickens, was unhappy. Frances' brother, Benning44, died that year, the very year that Wentworth was obliged to retire from office. Benning's widow and children lost little time in removing themselves from Halifax and sailed for England. Francis felt alone and she longed for England. Charles, their only child, had already moved to England in 1805.45 Wentworth came around to thinking it best for them to go London, not only to keep Frances happy, but also to be there personally so to better press the government for the payment of long outstanding accounts. Thus it was that the Wentworths moved to England in 1810, taking up residence at London.46 Charles moved in with them.

In the years at London, Wentworth was to have a bad time of it. The government did not pay the kind of money that he thought was obviously due to him. He fell increasingly into debt, and the prospect of bankruptcy and debtor's prison loomed large. By 1812 the financial problems were that serious that Wentworth was unable to pay his rent or his tradesmen's bills. Just before the bailiff arrived at the doorstep, Wentworth fled. His biographer, Brian Cuthbertson writes of this sad episode in Wentworth's life:

"His attorney, a kindly and generous man, whisked Wentworth off to Liverpool under the assumed name of John Wallace. From Liverpool he took the first ship to Halifax, and the attorney managed to save the Wentworths' plate and diamonds before the bailiffs arrived and seized everything remaining. Charles Mary and Frances went to live in a small cottage at Sunning Hill near Windsor, Berkshire. Frances was not told of her husband's flight from the creditors; her mind was going and she was seriously ill and probably heavily sedated with opium."47
Within months, on February 14th, 1813, Lady Wentworth died. She was buried near where she then lived, in the churchyard of All Saints Church at Sunning Hill. Sir John Wentworth lived on at Halifax, in failing health, until April 8th, 1820, when he died at age 84. His remains were lodged at St. Paul's; the burial ceremony, at his request, was simple.



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Peter Landry
2011 (2016)

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