Sir John Harvey | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Sir John Harvey

Sir John Harvey, soldier, colonial administrator, lt-gov of PEI, Nfld and NS (b in Eng 23 Apr 1778; d at Halifax 22 Mar 1852).

Harvey, Sir John

Sir John Harvey, soldier, colonial administrator, lt-gov of PEI, Nfld and NS (b in Eng 23 Apr 1778; d at Halifax 22 Mar 1852). The son of Lord Paget, the Earl of Uxbridge, who distinguished himself at the Battle of Waterloo, he received a commission at the age of 16 in the 80th Regiment (founded by his father) and rose through his own merits to the rank of lt-gen. He served in Flanders and off the coast of France and then in India during the Napoleonic Wars, but he achieved his greatest fame as deputy adjutant general in Upper Canada during the War of 1812, particularly at the Battle of STONEY CREEK on 6 June 1813 when he drove back a much superior American force and saved the whole of the Niagara peninsula from capture. After serving for a decade in Lower Canada after the war he became one of the 4 inspectors general of the Irish Constabulary in 1828.

In 1836 he was appointed lt-gov of PEI, where he acted as a conciliator between the absentee landlords and their tenants and prevented their disputes from erupting into violence. In 1837 he was transferred to NB in order to put an end to the disputes between the Assembly and the executive and he successfully negotiated a settlement with the Reform Party, which ushered in an "age of harmony," albeit at the cost of giving the Reformers a dominant position in both the Legislative and Executive Councils.

DURHAM approved of Harvey's activities and SYDENHAM hailed him as "the Pearl of Civil Governors." Harvey successfully negotiated with the governor of Maine to prevent the dispute over the Maine-NB boundary from leading to a war, but he exceeded his authority and was dismissed in early 1841, ironically at Sydenham's request. Fortunately for Harvey, who was chronically in debt, a position was found for him as lt-gov of Newfoundland, where he again acted as a conciliator, this time between the largely English and Protestant merchant class resident in St John's and the largely Irish and Catholic population of the outports.

Harvey even reconciled many Reformers to the temporary and abortive constitutional experiment of uniting both elected and appointed members in one legislative body. He was rewarded by promotion in 1846 to the office of lt-gov of Nova Scotia, where he presided over the creation of the first truly RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT in N America, winning warm praise from Reformers such as Joseph HOWE and equally warm abuse from the provincial Conservatives. He thus served in all of the BNA provinces and was perhaps the most successful governor of his day.