A Blupete Biography Page

The Life & Works of

Sir John Wentworth

[1] Cuthbertson, The Loyalist Governor, p.74.

[2] Belknap's History of New Hampshire; an abstract of it in respect to our subject is set out by Murdoch in his History of Nova Scotia as an addenda, vol.2, p. 622.

[3] Cuthbertson, op. cit., p.6.

[4] One of Wentworth's class mates, incidently, was John Adams (1735-1826) who was to become the second President of the United States (1797-1801). Of twenty five members of the class of 1755, Wentworth was placed fifth.

[5] In quoting Hoffman, Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke's biographer, [Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered (Arlington House, 1967) at p. 79] wrote of Rockingham. "The Marquis was a man of strong character and large experience in the world, he knew the courts and kings of Europe, had dined with Roman cardinals, charmed Italian princesses; he spoke three languages, had managed astutely a large fortune, commanded militiamen in war, ruled the politics of Yorkshire, and had been schooled for high public responsibilities by the chiefs of the Whig party. He was their head because they wished it so ..."

[6] Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 86.

[7] A Half Century of Conflict (vol. 2), p. 70. An example of his pomposity is that Benning had built for himself, a fifty-two room mansion in Portsmouth as his, the governor's residence. (Cuthbertson, op. cit., p.5.)

[8] Indeed it seems that Wentworth came up with the Howe fleet, for, on the 1st of April, 1776, Perkins writes: "Wind about N. Gamaliel Stuart arrives from Halifax. Brings news that about 50 sail of vessels are arrived there from Boston, with some troops and families from Boston, that were routed from thence by the Provincial army, etc. Several vessels are in the mouth of our harbour. At evening we learn that they are part of the fleet from Boston. A schooner anchors near Moose Harbour, having his Excellency, Gov. Wentworth, on board, who reports that the King's troops have evacuated the town of Boston, and that the Council, Commissioners, etc., and a number of families are come to Halifax, in all about 200 sail. The Centurion man of war is off the harbour." (Perkins' Diary.) In the DCB, we see where Wentworth "fled to Boston, Mass., next to Halifax, and then to New York City where he organized a company of loyalist volunteers in 1776." What we know, is that Howe, that summer, departed Halifax with the British forces under his command, to land at Long Island and then to march on New York city; it would appear that Wentworth was with him.

[9] It is to be remembered that John Parr was named the full Governor of Nova Scotia in 1782; and, I might say at this point was to continue on as the governor until his death in 1791, at which time John Wentworth, finally, was named as the governor of Nova Scotia.

[10] On leaving England for Nova Scotia to take up his duties as the surveyor general John Wentworth was to leave his English affairs in the hands of a relative of his, Paul Wentworth. John Wentworth, as did many Americans loyal to the British cause, had claims against the government for his losses which were to be pressed in England. Paul Wentworth was left with a general power of attorney. Unfortunately Paul Wentworth made a complete mess of things. After going bankrupt, Paul Wentworth fled England leaving John Wentworth with serious financial difficulties which continued thereafter throughout his life, and, indeed, were most acute in later years after he was to leave office.

[11] Prince William Henry (1765-1837), Duke of Clarence and who in with the death of his brother in 1820 was to become the king of England, William IV, "The Sailor King."

[12] Royal Dukes, The Father and Uncles of Queen Victoria by Roger Fulford (London: Duckworth, 1933).

[13] Ibid. p.84.

[14] Ibid. p.90.

[15] Ibid. p.92.

[16] 25 Aug: "His Royal Highness, Prince William Henry, is arrived there [Halifax]." (Perkins Diary)

[17] Op. cit., p.41.

[18] It would seem that John and Frances had an "open marriage." I think we might conclude that Frances was bedded my more than just the Prince: there were a number of available young officers who could be discrete and would be more than pleased to please Lady Frances. Wentworth, too, had his ladies. During his governorship of Nova Scotia, he was to have a number of black servants (Maroons), one of whom he took as a mistress. It is said (Cuthbertson, pp.83,161) that she was to have a child by him who was to live out his years at the black community to the east of Halifax, Preston. His name was George Wentworth Colley. Colley died in 1893. Also we might add, in 1799, during a time that Frances was absent in England, Wentworth took up with another; her name was Bridget Lowe. Cuthbertson writes of this (p.85): "Lowe was her married name for, as was the custom in the eighteenth century, Wentworth, as part of his contract with her, had arranged for her to marry a Fergus Lowe, who after the marriage promptly disappeared. One son at least was born and baptized on July 2nd, 1799 as Edward Lowe, and was brought up in the house of Wentworth's friend and fellow Loyalist, Theophilus Chamberlain."

[19] Cuthbertson, op. cit., p. 33.

[20] No matter that the American Revolution and the French Revolution had quite different causes, quite different courses, and quite different results -- John Wentworth and those in the aristocratic class to which he belonged feared the populist movement which drove such revolutions. Such movements, rude mobs being led by demagogs, a number of British aristocrats thought, if not nipped in the bud, would bring in their wake nothing but ruin, not only to the class to which they belonged, but to the country as a whole (in respect to the course of the French revolution, in the judgment of history, that was most certainly so).

[21] Though the envy of and model for foreign courts, the French court was, as the 18th century closed, bankrupt. The States-General (like our legislature) was called into session in May of 1789. It had not assembled since 1610. In the intervening years France was ruled by an absolute monarch. Constituting itself as a majority against the ruling classes, the States-General defiantly proclaimed itself the National Assembly and took power onto itself. The French Revolution ensued. On July 14th, hoping to find arms, a Parisian mob stormed Bastille Castle which was then functioning as a royal prison. The mob killed its governor, the Marquis de Launey, and released the prisoners.

[22] "May the last of the Kings be strangled with the guts of the last priest," an old Jacobin toast.

[23] Thomas Paine, the son of a Quaker corset maker, went to America at age of 37 and not only became one of the guiding lights of the American Revolution, but also fought in it. His pamphlet, Common Sense (1776) "worked a powerful change in the minds of many men," and won many of the American colonists over to the cause of independence.

[24] George Macaulay Trevelyan, British History in the Nineteenth Century (1782-1901); (London: Longmans, Green; 1924) p. 65.

[25] Vol. X, pp. 142,45. Governor Wentworth expressed his "utter abhorrence of French democratic tyranny." (In a letter, dated 23rd July, 1793, to Mr. Dundas, the British secretary of state, as cited and quoted by Murdoch, Vol. 3, p.114.)

[26] "Governor Wentworth's Patronage;" NSHS, Vol #25.

[27] Ibid.

[28] That the Sixth Assembly lasted ten years would be no surprise to the people of the time. A particular elected assembly lasted for as long as the governor thought that it should last. The Fifth Assembly, Nova Scotia's "Long Parliament," lasted fifteen years, 1770-85. In 1793 a bill was passed, the Septennial bill, which called for an election to be held before seven years ran out on any sitting assembly.

[29] Murdoch, vol.3, pp.183,322-3.

[30] The Loyalist Governor, pp.115-6.

[31] The supremacy of the elected assembly had been firmly determined better than a hundred years before Governor Wentworth determined to do battle with the elected assembly of Nova Scotia. I but refer the reader to my note of the "The Glorious Revolution"

[32] See Murdoch, vol. 3, p. 261-2. Murdoch was to observe (p.273) that Wentworth was bound to the "error of all the old, colonial constitutions" where power was coveted in the form of the appointed Council. These men were of but one class who collectively were of the view, that they alone were privy to the counsels of the Almighty and that they, withdrawn from public sight, knowledge, or use, would make the important administrative decisions for the province. They, those who made up the Council, also held the important government and judicial offices, the tenure of which, as a practical matter, was for life; and when a vacancy in their number should occur by death or removal, then they had the power to see to the nomination of the person to fill that vacancy, more often then not a son of the person who had previously occupied the office.

[33] As quoted by Murdoch at p. 191. Wentworth was, in his letters to London, to continually complain about Tonge, viz. that he "had taken infinite pains to exclude several old and respectable members, to produce contested elections ... to disturb the peace and harmony of the county by the tricks, falsehoods and follies used in popular elections." The problems with the legislature were due to the "machinations of one member, actively disseminating discord and hatred, both in and out of the house, more especially against those who are in the king's service, and longest established. Strange to tell, this man and his family exist upon the bounty of government, and thus ungratefully seeks to subvert its harmony, in which consists its credit and prosperity, but I think he will be disappointed." (As quoted by Murdoch at p. 191; and see, Archibald, "The Life of Sir John Wentworth, ..." NSHS, #20 (1921) p.80.) In this fight with Tonge, history's conclusion is, that Wentworth took the worst part of it; and it reflected poorly on his character. It would not seem that Tonge knew that Wentworth was writing to London about him, and as Murdoch says, "There is much to regret in the tone of this and other official letters of a similar kind. It is quite evident that whatever may have been Mr. Tonge's ambition, there was no design on his part to disturb the loyalty of the province." (Murdoch, vol. 3, p. 249.) Sir Adams Archibald observed: "We can draw but one conclusion on that matter [the almost constant conflict he had with the elected legislature], and that is not a conclusion in favor of Sir John. When we find the Governor thus making statements, proved by the clearest evidence to be untrue, it cannot but sap our confidence in any assertion he makes supplied by no other authority than his own statement." ["The Life of Sir John Wentworth," NSHS, #20 (1921) p.100.]

[34] Cuthbertson writes, that the legislature met, just as the courts did, in an "upstairs room in the Cochran brothers' building in Market Square, facing on Bedford Row." (The Loyalist Governor pp.108-9.

[35] "The Life of Sir John Wentworth," NSHS, #20 (1921) p.78.

[36] The cornerstone was laid for Government House by Wentworth in 1800 and for the Province House by Prevost in 1811. Government House and Province House, I hasten to add, stand today and continue to be used as originally intended; they are the pride of the province and of Halifax in particular.

[37] For greater detail of all of this, see: Murdoch, vol. 3, p. 196, p. 220-1, p.259; "Government House at Halifax" NSHS, #3 (1882-83); and "The Province Building" NSHS, #4 (1884).

[38] The Loyalist Governor at pp.108-9.

[39] When, in 1808 Sir George Prevost was sent to replace Wentworth as the governor of Nova Scotia, he was to remark that the house that Wentworth had built for himself, Government House, was "an edifice out of all proportion to the situation."

[40] "An arrangement was eventually reached whereby Wentworth got his new Government House and the country members more money for roads." (The Loyalist Governor p.109.)

[41] The Loyalist Governor p.110.

[42] While the mansion was being built and readied, the Wentworths, after Prince Edward and Julie returned to England, in August of 1800, took up residence at Prince's Lodge, a place which they had but just lent to the Prince when he first arrived in Halifax in 1796. Between the years, 1796-1800, during the summer months, the Wentworths were to stay at the home they had built for themselves east of Halifax, in the Preston area.

[43] "The Life of Sir John Wentworth," NSHS, #20 (1921) pp.100-1.

[44] Benning Wentworth (1755-1808): Cuthbertson writes (at p.119) that "Benning had gone to England after the Revolution and had survived on his loyalist pension until in 1794, Wentworth appointed him provincial treasurer and two years later provincial secretary ..."

[45] "Wentworth had spared no expense for his son's education. From Westminster School, Charles Mary had gone up to Oxford and from there to study law at Lincoln's Inn, during which time Wentworth had given his son an allowance of £400 a year. Charles Mary had grown up in England and in twenty years had seen his parents only once for a few months. He seldom wrote them; Earl and Countess Fitzwilliam had become his surrogate parents. His ambition was to be a fellow at All Souls, Oxford or to enter the diplomatic service." (Cuthbertson, pp. 94-5.) When he finally came out to Nova Scotia in 1799, he did so but reluctantly. With his legal training, and with the shortage of such people in the province, it seemed that Charles Mary should get an important appointment, and, indeed he did. The authorities back in London, apparently with no prompting from Governor Wentworth, appointed him Attorney-general of Prince Edward Island. It seems, however, that there was a bureaucratic mixup and that another was also appointed to the same position. Charles Mary had gone to Prince Edward island and was to get much involved in his job when then he was told it was not his job after all; he returned in 1801 quite embittered by the experience. Once back at Halifax, his father saw to his son's appointment to Council. This was a non-paying position and further he found himself in a situation where he was servile to what he considered inferior men. Charles Mary, in 1805, packed his bags and returned to England to become the private secretary to Earl Fitzwilliam.

[46] Nottingham Place, St Mary-Le-Bone.

[47] The Loyalist Governor p.145. Charles Mary, we learn was a life long bachelor.

[48] See Cuthberson, at p. 59; and see Fingard in her DCB entry, vol.5, p.849.

[49] Pitt with "dogged determination" ignored the French Revolution. [Pitt (London: MacMillan, 1891) at pp. 95-6,148.

[50] Harry Piers writes: "The peace of 1783-4 brought all activity to an standstill, where it remained about a decade. But the period of renewed warfare from 1793 to the great peace of 1815 saw the erection of many new fortifications at Halifax." (The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress, p. 21.)


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