A Blupete Biography Page

Governor Montague Wilmot

Montague Wilmot was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia in 1763; in the following year, its governor; two years later he was dead. One might therefore conclude that he had a short connection with Nova Scotia; but this connection was to first begin in 1746.

We do not know the place or date of Wilmot's birth. His father was a physician to the king; his mother was a Montagu; his uncle, George Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax. With these connections it was easy for Wilmot to secure a commission as an army officer. He worked his way up as a regular army officer and by 1745 was likely at Gibraltar in the 29th Foot (Fuller's) under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Peregrine Thomas Hopson. The 29th, together with another regiment, was ordered to Louisbourg in order to relieve the garrison of Louisbourg which the French had surrender to the New Englanders in 1745. These "Gibraltar Troops," having wintered over at Virginia, arrived at Louisbourg during June of 1746. In 1749, Louisbourg having been handed back to the French, the British troops sailed down to Halifax, there to come under the command of Governor Cornwallis. Though I suspect not all of the "Gibraltar Troops" were to stay on at Nova Scotia, it appears that certain of them did, including Wilmot, who by then had achieved the rank of major. We have seen in another part of our history that, in 1755, the British under Robert Monckton was successful in laying siege to Fort Beauséjour. In November of 1756, war having officially broken out, Governor Lawrence sent Wilmot, then a lieutenant-colonel, up to Fort Cumberland, as Fort Beauséjour was to be renamed, to act as its commander. In 1758, Wilmot was in command of a brigade at Louisbourg. In 1762, we see, that he was made the lieutenant-colonel of the 80th regiment and sent to Quebec.

It was while Wilmot was at Quebec that he received his appointment in March of 1763 as the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, succeeding Jonathan Belcher. He arrived at Halifax that September to take up his new duties. In May of 1764, Wilmot was appointed the governor of Nova Scotia: it was not a good time for such an appointment. I now turn to Phyllis R. Blakeley and her entry into the DCB, from which I extracted most of my information on Governor Wilmot.

"The province was suffering from heavy debt and deficits when he became governor, for almost the whole British naval and military establishment had been withdrawn from Halifax, and with it the revenue from duties on the sale of liquor. The British parliamentary grant had been drastically reduced in recent years as well. Wilmot was repeatedly warned by the Board of Trade to avoid extravagant expenditures such as those made while Belcher was in office. During Wilmot's regime between 2½ and 3½ million acres of provincial land were granted, unwisely, to local and foreign speculators, although it is unfair to blame Wilmot alone for this activity."
Wilmot's health was bad while he was in Halifax and he had to think, like so many of its commanders in those times, that the climate did him harm. Indeed, Wilmot had made an application for leave to go to England to take the "Bath Waters." Wilmot was never to receive a reply, as, on 23rd May of 1766, after what had to be a bad winter for him, he died.1

The conclusion of history, is, that while Wilmot was undoubtedly a good and brave army officer, he did not have that independent turn of mind so necessary for a top job. After a rather elaborate funeral service at Halifax, Governor Wilmot was laid beneath the floor of St. Paul's.


[1] "He was ill almost to death with gout."[Brebner, The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia (1937) (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1970), fn at p. 186.] See letter from Wilmot to the authorities in London, dated May 6th, 1766, "The cold winters of these northern parts of America, etc." (Murdoch, History of Nova Scotia, vol.2, p. 466.)


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)