This Week in History
The Life of a Soldier and Peacemaker: Sir John Harvey
For the week of Monday June 20, 2005
On June 25, 1812, Lieutenant Colonel John Harvey was posted to Upper Canada at the outbreak of the War of 1812. This appointment was the first of many, for he successfully served in more colonies in British North America (BNA) than any other governor.
Harvey was well into his 50s when he began his second career as a colonial administrator. He held the position of Lieutenant-Governor in a number of eastern BNA colonies. Colonial administrators reported directly to London. This lead to local power struggles as each group tried to sway the administrator, and through him, the British Government. Harvey faced many issues, including personal wealth and colonial economics, religion, land ownership, and the rural/urban population split. He also had to manoeuvre between the elites, who had traditionally dominated power in the Legislative and Executive Councils, and the elected members of the colonial Assemblies. These competing interests led to unstable political conditions in each of Harvey’s colonial appointments, which included: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and finally, Nova Scotia.
Harvey’s health deteriorated dramatically after his wife’s death in 1851, leading to his own death in 1852. In all his appointments, Harvey made many positive changes, owing his success to the rare qualities of both bravery and administrative competence. Sir John Harvey was designated as a National Historic Person and a plaque commemorating him was placed at St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The First Responsible Government in the British Empire Overseas is a National Historic Event, commemorated at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
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