Thomas Heath Haviland | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Thomas Heath Haviland

Thomas Heath Haviland, senator, lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island, lawyer, militia officer (born 13 November 1822 in Charlottetown, PE; died 11 September 1895 in Charlottetown).

Thomas Heath Haviland, senator, lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island, lawyer, militia officer (born 13 November 1822 in Charlottetown, PE; died 11 September 1895 in Charlottetown). Thomas Heath Haviland was member of one of Prince Edward Island’s most prominent families under the “Family Compact” system that preceded responsible government. He favoured Confederation as a means to protect British North America against political and military encroachment from the United States. He attended the Québec Conference in 1864 and helped negotiate Prince Edward Island’s entry into Confederation in 1873.

Early Life and Family

Thomas Heath Haviland was born into the Family Compact — Conservative elites who dominated land ownership and politics in 19th-century Prince Edward Island. His father, Thomas Heath Haviland, Sr., immigrated to Prince Edward Island from Gloucestershire, England, in 1816 after receiving the post of provost marshal from the Prince Regent (the future George IV). Haviland, Sr. became one of the Island’s wealthiest landowners and held numerous offices during his 50-year career, including assistant judge of the colony’s Supreme Court (despite having no legal training), colonial treasurer, colonial secretary, registrar, clerk of the Executive and Legislative Councils, and mayor of Charlottetown. The Haviland family’s position at the apex of Island society shaped the younger Haviland’s political policies, including his long-standing opposition to responsible government and land reform (see PEI Land Question).

As the only son of Haviland, Sr., the younger Haviland enjoyed a privileged upbringing, completing his elementary education in Charlottetown before attending boarding school in Brussels, Belgium. He returned to Charlottetown in the early 1840s and studied law in the office of James Horsfield Peters. In 1846, Haviland was called to the Bar and began to practise law. The following year, he married Anne Elizabeth Grubbe, the daughter of an English landed gentry family who emigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1841. Anne was an amateur botanist who assembled one of the earliest collections of native Prince Edward Island plant specimens.

Political Career

Thomas Heath Haviland followed his father into politics in 1846. From 1846 until 1876, he sat in the Legislative Assembly as a Conservative representative for Georgetown. As one of the most prominent landowners on the Island, Haviland opposed responsible government and the redistribution of land holdings. Over the course of his 30 years in the Legislative Assembly, he held numerous positions, including colonial secretary (1859–62, 1866–67, 1870–72), Speaker of the House (1863 and 1864) and solicitor general (1865). During the same period, he became active in the administration of the Anglican Church in Prince Edward Island and a colonel in the Island militia. His militia experience informed his views on the threat posed by the United States and the necessity of Confederation.


While Thomas Heath Haviland had opposed a Maritime union, he favoured Confederation because he feared that British North America was under threat from the United States. While other Prince Edward Island Fathers of Confederation focused on the economic impact of a federal union, Haviland was concerned with the wider differences between the American and British North American political philosophies.

He did not attend the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, but was one of the Island delegates sent to the Québec Conference. Haviland did not believe that Confederation would deprive Prince Edward Island of its autonomy, stating in an 1866 debate, “The powers… given to the Federal Legislature… neither require nor necessitate a nullification of the… Provincial Constitutions.” He was one of the three commissioners who helped negotiate Prince Edward Island’s entry into Confederation in 1873.

See also Prince Edward Island and Confederation.

Later Life

Sir John A. Macdonald rewarded Thomas Heath Haviland for his support of Confederation with a seat in the Senate. Haviland served from 1873 to 1879 before resigning to become lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island, an appointment he held until 1884. Like his father before him, he became mayor of Charlottetown, holding this office from 1886 until he retired due to poor health in 1893. During his time as mayor, he commissioned a new city hall and public water system for the provincial capital.


Thomas Heath Haviland’s steadfast support for Prince Edward Island’s entry into Confederation contributed to the province joining Canada in 1873. He was one of the first political figures to speak of human rights in a Canadian context. In 1866, he gave a speech in the Prince Edward Island House of Assembly about the differences in the law between the different British North American colonies, stating that there was “a multiplicity of laws, each having a distinct local application on almost every question of human rights.”

Further Reading

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