Open main menu

Wilmot, Lemuel Allen (DNB00)

WILMOT, LEMUEL ALLEN (1809–1878), governor of New Brunswick, born on 31 Jan. 1809 at Sunbury, on the St. John River in New Brunswick, was the son of William Wilmot, a member of the provincial legislative assembly, by his wife Hannah, daughter of Daniel Bliss (1740–1806), chief justice of the court of common pleas in New Brunswick. On his father's side he was descended from a New England family, his grandfather, Major Lemuel Wilmot, being a loyalist refugee. Lemuel Allen was partly educated among the French community at Madawaska, and he afterwards entered the university of King's College at Fredericton. He was a successful student, and had the distinction of being ‘the best swimmer, skater, runner, wrestler, boatman, drill-master, speaker, and musician’ of his time. In 1830 he became an attorney, and two years later was called to the bar of New Brunswick. On 31 July 1834 he was elected to the house of assembly for the province of York. He declared himself a liberal in politics, advocating responsible government and opposition to the system of family compacts, and soon was acknowledged the liberal leader. In 1836 he moved an address to the governor for a detailed account of the crown land fund, and he and William Crane were sent to England as delegates to obtain for the representative assembly the control of the crown lands. They were cordially received by the colonial secretary, Charles Grant, baron Glenelg [q. v.], and a bill was drafted granting the reforms they asked. The lieutenant-governor, Sir Archibald Campbell (1769–1843) [q. v.], withheld his approval and tendered his resignation. The delegates were again sent to England, where their efforts were finally successful. Campbell's resignation was accepted, and the control of the revenue of the crown lands was vested in the assembly on condition of establishing a permanent civil list out of it.

In 1838 Wilmot was made a queen's counsel. In 1844 he accepted a seat in the executive council without a portfolio; but when the lieutenant-governor, Sir William Colebrooke, without consulting his advisers, appointed his son-in-law to the office of provincial secretary, Wilmot, with three colleagues, resigned his place in the cabinet.

In 1847 Earl Grey, the colonial secretary, declared that members of the executive council should hold office only while they possessed the confidence of the majority of the people. In 1848 the New Brunswick house of assembly passed a resolution approving of Earl Grey's despatch, and Wilmot, who made a great speech on the occasion, was called on to form a government. He accepted the task, and his cabinet became a coalition ministry with liberal tendencies. He himself held office as attorney-general, a post which he first filled on 24 May 1848. In this capacity and as premier he took an active part in the consolidation of criminal and municipal law. In 1850 he attended the international railway convention at Portland in Maine. In the same year he took part in negotiations in Washington on the subject of commercial reciprocity. A treaty was concluded four years later by Lord Elgin.

In January 1851 Wilmot was appointed a judge of the supreme court. While holding this office he received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the university of King's College. When the question of federation became prominent in 1865 he espoused the cause of union, and after federation was accomplished he was nominated to the post of lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick on 27 July 1868. He held office till 14 Nov. 1873, when he received a pension as a retired judge. In 1875 he became second commissioner under the Prince Edward Island Purchase Act, passed in that year, and he was also nominated one of the arbitrators in the Ontario and north-west boundary commission, but death prevented him serving. He died at Fredericton on 20 May 1878, and was buried near the town. Wilmot was twice married: first, to a daughter of the Rev. J. Balloch; and, secondly, to a daughter of William A. Black of Halifax, a member of the legislative council.

[Lathern's Hon. Judge Wilmot, 1881; Dominion Annual Register, 1878, p. 371; Appleton's Cycl. of American Biogr.; Withrow's Hist. of Canada, 1888, p. 506.]

E. I. C.