F.B.T. Carter was one of two delegates from Newfoundland who attended the Québec Conference, but was unsuccessful in his attempts to bring the colony into Confederation. He later became chief justice of the Newfoundland Supreme Court.
Frederic Bowker Terrington Carter was born in St. John's, Newfoundland, the son of Peter Carter and Sydney Livingstone. He attended a private school in St. John's. Later, he studied law in Newfoundland, and possibly in England, in 1840 and 1841, before being called to the bar in 1842. Elected as solicitor to the Legislative Assembly in 1848, he held the position until 1852. However, much of his time in the 1840s and 1850s was spent in establishing his law practice. He was married to Eliza Bayly in 1846.
Although initially opposed to the idea of responsible government, Carter ran in the first responsible government election in 1855, as a Conservative member for Trinity Bay. One of his early actions was the sponsorship of a bill that attempted to block public officials from also holding seats in the legislature. The bill eventually passed in 1862. He was on a delegation to the other British North American colonies and to England in 1857, protesting the draft terms of an agreement created between Britain and France regarding the French Shore. When Premier Hugh Hoyles lost his seat after the 1859 election, Carter acted as temporary Conservative leader in the assembly. There followed a time of great political turmoil, culminating in the collapse of the Liberal government in 1861. The Conservatives were returned to power in the ensuing election, and Carter became Speaker.
To this point, union with the other British North American colonies had not been a major issue in Newfoundland politics. It was not until John A. Macdonald issued an invitation to the Québec Conference that the legislature gave any real consideration to the idea. Carter was selected as one of two delegates, with Ambrose Shea. Although not previously a strong supporter of Confederation, Carter was much impressed with the Québec Resolutions created at the conference. During the post-conference tour of the Canadas he spoke in favour of the idea. He believed that union with the other colonies would stabilize Newfoundland's economy and its political climate. He and Shea predicted broad public support for the agreement, but upon their return to Newfoundland were met by an anti-union campaign, led by Charles Fox Bennett. After much legislative discussion, it was decided in 1865 to put off voting on the matter until after a general election.
Carter succeeded Hugh Hoyles in the office of premier later that year. He strengthened the pro-Confederation position in the assembly by creating a Liberal/Catholic-Conservative/Protestant coalition, a major change after years of sectarian differences. Carter received much praise for this new approach. The coalition won the 1865 election, despite widespread opposition to Confederation; it was helped by the disorganized state of the opposition. Initially, other problems occupied the administration; once the British North America Act took effect in 1867, it became clear that the Newfoundland government would have to make a decision regarding Confederation.
By 1869, Carter had steered draft terms for union through the Newfoundland legislature. He then led a delegation to Ottawa to negotiate a final agreement. However, his refusal to call an immediate election upon his return, in order to capitalize upon Liberal disarray, allowed that party time to regroup its forces under Bennett. Economic conditions in the colony also improved during the delay, convincing many citizens that Confederation was not necessary for their survival. The Carter government suffered a resounding defeat, winning only nine seats out of 30. Carter himself retained his seat by only five votes.
In opposition, Carter and the Conservatives distanced themselves from Confederation as being a futile cause. Carter also had difficulties with his own supporters, particularly those who advocated the use of sectarian tactics in order to disrupt the Liberals. Although conflicts caused the emergence of a new "party" within the Conservative ranks in 1873, Carter negotiated an alliance allowing him to remain as the overall party leader. The Liberals won that year's provincial election but the party was in such disarray that its majority evaporated before the legislature began sitting, giving power to the Conservatives. As a result, Carter began his second term as premier in 1874, with a majority of one vote.
During this term, his administration's major accomplishments were the subdivision of the Protestant school grant, and the consideration of a Newfoundland railway. Though Carter felt a railway was a costly proposition, the government financed a survey of the proposed route in 1875. Carter was instrumental in negotiating a compromise over difficulties encountered with the location of a terminus for the line. He was also protective of Newfoundland's interests regarding the American presence in the fishery, negotiating a generous agreement that allowed Newfoundland greater control over exports.
After the 1878 election, Carter stepped down as premier in favour of William Whiteway. He received a knighthood that year, and was appointed to the Newfoundland Supreme Court. Carter became chief justice in 1880. As chief justice, he served as an advisor to succeeding governors, occasionally acting as political administrator of the colony in the governor's absence. This function probably stirred Carter's ambition to become governor himself. While he was supported by Whiteway, the Colonial Office declined his nomination because of his previous political activity. When they instead nominated Ambrose Shea, Carter organized protests that caused Shea's name to be withdrawn. Carter continued to serve as chief justice until his retirement in 1898, dying in St. John's two years later.
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