Arthur Hamilton Gordon (November 26, 1829 - January 30, 1912)

Photograph: Hon. Arthur Gordon, 1856

Arthur Hamilton Gordon, 1856
© Public Domain

Arthur Hamilton Gordon was lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick during the time of the Confederation debates. He was responsible for creating the Charlottetown Conference where Confederation was first discussed.

Arthur Hamilton Gordon was born at London, England, the son of George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, and Harriet Douglas. Gordon was home schooled for much of his youth, but spent a year at preparatory school before attending Cambridge University, earning a Master of Arts degree in 1851. When his father became prime minister of Britain in 1852, Gordon served as his private secretary, and held his own seat in Parliament for three years, beginning in 1854. He married Rachel Emily Shaw-Lefevre on September 20, 1865.

After his father's death in 1860, Gordon sought a governorship in the colonies; he was appointed lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick in 1861, at age 32. Despite his initial reluctance to endure an "arctic winter," he was surprised at the beauty of New Brunswick, and published an account of his hunting trips, Wilderness Journeys in New Brunswick. Although the province was self-governing, Gordon exercised the full extent of his powers as governor, and involved himself directly in government affairs. He took his role as commander-in-chief very seriously and revamped the provincial militia to counter the perceived military threat from the United States, especially after the Trent Affair.

Gordon was the instigator of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, which set the wheels of Confederation in motion. His intent was the creation of a greater Maritime province uniting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He worked tirelessly on the initiative in 1863 and 1864, and envisaged himself as the governor of the new Maritime province. He was clearly disappointed when Maritime union was set aside at Charlottetown in favour of a wider union. He was disappointed once again after the Québec Conference, when it became clear that the new nation would have a federal government system. Gordon preferred a central government. Despite his mixed feelings about Confederation, Gordon did play an important and highly controversial part in the project. In 1866, he forced the resignation of the anti-union government of Albert Smith, clearing the way for a return to power by Confederation supporter Samuel Tilley.

Gordon appears to have had little regard for the style of politics or politicians in New Brunswick, both of which he considered corrupt and unsophisticated. He left the province in 1866 with his new wife, and resolved never again to work in a self-governing colony. In the years to follow, he would serve as the governor of Trinidad, Mauritius, Fiji, New Zealand (which was self-governing) and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He was made Baron Stanmore in 1893 and entered the House of Lords. He died in England.

Sources

  • Chapman, J. K. "Gordon, Arthur Hamilton, 1st Baron Stanmore". Dictionary of Canadian biography. Ed. Ramsay Cook. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1998. Vol. 14, p. 422-425.

  • Creighton, Donald. The road to Confederation : the emergence of Canada, 1863-1867. Toronto : Macmillan Co., 1964.

  • Moore, Christopher. 1867 : how the Fathers made a deal. Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 1997.

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