Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley (May 8, 1818 - June 25, 1896)

Samuel Leonard Tilley was a New Brunswick politician who attended all three Confederation conferences. He is believed to have suggested the name "Dominion" for the new country. In addition to two terms as the premier of New Brunswick, Tilley held the posts of minister of customs and minister of finance in the federal government. He also twice served as his province's lieutenant-governor.

Samuel Leonard Tilley was born in Gagetown, New Brunswick. He studied at the Church of England's Madras school, then at a grammar school, before becoming an apprentice druggist at Saint John in 1831. He became a certified pharmacist in 1838 and opened a drug store with a business partner. After his partner retired, he took over the business. Although it was a profitable operation, Tilley sold the store in the 1860s after growing increasingly occupied with politics. Tilley was married twice, first to Julia Ann Hanford on May 6, 1843 (d. 1862); and later to Alice Starr Chipman on October 22, 1867.

Tilley's political life was closely linked to his religious beliefs. A part-time Sunday-school teacher and lifelong temperance advocate, he was one of the so-called "Smashers", a political formation that tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce prohibition to New Brunswick in the 1850s. He also fought for responsible government, which came to the province in 1854, and for an intercolonial railway to link New Brunswick with the other colonies. Tilley was a member of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly almost continuously between 1850 and 1867. He was premier from 1861 and 1865, and again between 1866 and 1867.

Tilley was a strong supporter of Confederation, and a delegate to the Charlottetown Conference, the Québec Conference, and the London Conference. Although he supported the Québec Resolutions, after returning from Québec City Tilley discovered that the Resolutions, and union in general, were highly unpopular in New Brunswick. Tilley's support of union was a factor in his loss of an 1865 election to Albert Smith, who headed an anti-Confederation coalition. Within the year, however, the coalition proved unstable. As well, circumstances had reversed public opinion in favour of union. In a controversial action, Lieutenant-Governor Arthur Hamilton Gordon forced the Smith government to resign. A new general election was held, and Tilley was returned to power in 1866. That summer, he passed a resolution in the assembly supporting Confederation. At the London Conference, it is believed that Tilley suggested "Dominion" as the new nation's title, after a passage:

"He shall have Dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
Psalms 72, verse 8

Tilley was chosen to be a member of John A. Macdonald's first federal cabinet in 1867, and given the Customs portfolio. When the Macdonald government fell after the Pacific Scandal in 1873, Tilley became lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick. He returned to the federal cabinet in 1878, this time as minister of finance. During this second term, he was one of the architects of the National Policy. In 1885, he retired from the cabinet and returned to the post of lieutenant-governor, serving until 1893. He continued to take an active interest in politics at the provincial and federal levels until his death.


  • "Tilley, Sir Samuel Leonard". Macmillan dictionary of Canadian biography. Ed. W. Stewart Wallace. 4th ed. Toronto : Macmillan of Canada, 1978. P. 832-833.

  • Waite, P. B. "Tilley, Sir Samuel Leonard". Canadian encyclopedia : year 2000 edition. Ed. James H. Marsh. 3rd print ed. Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 1999. P. 2353.

  • Wallace, C. M. "Tilley, Sir Samuel Leonard". Dictionary of Canadian biography. Ed. Francess G. Halpenny. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1990. Vol. 12, p. 1051-1060.

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