THE LOYALIST GOVERNOR: BIOGRAPHY OF SIR JOHN WENTWORTH
Brian C. Cuthbertson.
Halifax, Petheric Press, c1983.
Halifax, Petheric Press, c1983.
Volume 12 Number 2
The two-hundredth anniversary of the Loyalist migration to Nova Scotia has brought forth a number of papers, articles, and books celebrating and outlining the history of the events associated with it. While much of the work is either purely antiquarian or uncritical, Brian Cuthbertson's The Loyalist Governor offers readers a solid, balanced historical biography of one of Nova Scotia's most colourful early leaders.
John Wentworth was born in 1737 into the colonial aristocracy of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. At the age of twenty-eight, he succeeded his uncle as governor of New Hampshire at a time of increasing friction between Great Britain and her American colonies. Despite his considerable efforts to keep the colony loyal and his own relative popularity among royal governors, Wentworth was driven into exile in 1775 with his wife and infant son. At the close of the American Revolution he returned to North America as Surveyor-General of the King's Woods, a lucrative, important, but very demanding office. Wentworth had, however, set his sights on a more influential post, and by 1792 he was able, through the influence of his patrons, to succeed John Parr as governor of Nova Scotia.
During his sixteen-year tenure as governor, Wentworth presided over a tumultuous period in Nova Scotian history, one marked by the displacement by American Loyalists of the province's pre-Loyalist aristocracy. Through his determined and skilful use of patronage, Wentworth effected the transition while disarming or co-opting much of the pre-Loyalist leadership. He promoted and oversaw extensive road-building projects, the maintenance of defences during the Napoleonic Wars, the successful settlement of Black Loyalist migrants and less successful efforts at assimilating a colony of Jamaican Maroons, and other aspects of the province's economic development. In later years, having won himself a baronetcy in 1795, Sir John Wentworth commissioned studies and surveys of provincial resources and directed the building of Government House, the magnificent residence that has to this day served as a symbol of royal authority in Nova Scotia. In no period of its history, we are told, did Nova Scotia undergo greater social and economic change than it did during the Wentworth era, a time when Nova Scotians gained a sense of their own distinctiveness.
Brian Cuthbertson, public records archivist at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, has drawn largely on manuscript sources to render a more accurate and detailed account of Wentworth's life than has been available heretofore. At the same time, the author captures the characters of the energetic and extravagant Wentworth, his proud and promiscuous wife Frances, and the Governor's clever and contentious adversary in the Assembly, William Cottnam Tongue. A well-crafted blend of political, social, and personal history, The Loyalist Governor is a worthy companion to The Old Attorney General,* Cuthbertson's earlier biography of Wentworth's contemporary, Richard John Uniacke.
*Reviewed vol. IX/2 1981 p.102.
Robert Nicholas Berard, Dept. of Education, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS.
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