The “Fore” Fathers

Anyone familiar with the town of Amherst will know of it’s association with four of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation. There is the annual Four Fathers Festival, the Four Fathers Memorial Library; not to mention the plaques on the old federal building noting that four of the Fathers were born within Cumberland County. To refresh memories, the famous quartette included: Sir Charles Tupper, Hon. Jonathan McCully, Hon. Robert Dickey and Hon. Edward Chandler.

Not so well known is that one of this group, Chandler, must also be listed as a New Brunswick Father of Confederation. Although born in Amherst on 22 August 1800, he later moved across the marsh to study law with his cousin, William Botsford at Westcock. Chandler successfully passed his legal examinations, and was admitted to the bar of Nova Scotia in 1821 and that of New Brunswick in 1823. By this time he had made up his mind to establish a practice in Dorchester and was named judge of probate and clerk of the peace for Westmorland County.

Dorchester Island and surrounding area had been settled largely by Yorkshire emigrants and Loyalists. On the strength of its strategic location for shipping, shipbuilding and the presence of nearby stone quarries, the village was now the shiretown of Westmorland County. Chandler’s law practice prospered and within a few years he was able to build a splendid home for his growing family. Later named Rocklyn, this handsome Georgian building, constructed of local stone, still graces the crest of the hill in the centre of Dorchester.

Early in his career Chandler became involved in politics. He was elected to the legislature in 1827 and served as one of Westmorland’s MLA’s until 1836. He was then appointed to the legislative council. Classified by historians as a moderate reformer, Chandler championed a number of popular causes. He was instrumental in the province gaining control over crown lands from the British government; was a staunch defender of the rights of Acadians, and an active promoter of railways.

In 1843 Chandler became a member of the cabinet or Executive Council and served as the effectual leader of the government until 1854. However, his major political contribution was as a champion of Confederation. Chandler served as a member of the New Brunswick delegation to the 1864 Charlottetown and Québec conferences. Later, he took part in the historic London Conference which led to the proclamation of the British North America Act on 1 July 1867. Soon after, Chandler made history as one of only a handful of Canadians ever to decline an appointment to the Senate! Instead, he opted to become one of the commissioners involved in the construction of the new Intercolonial Railway. In 1878 he was named lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, only to die in office two years later on 6 February 1880.

Of his personality, historian W.C. Milner has written: Chandler’s habits and life always evinced the instincts of a gentleman. His hospitality at Rocklyn was proverbial; there he was the most charming of hosts and a true raconteur. On this July first, let’s salute the memory of the Honorable Edward Barron Chandler, one of Canada’s fore fathers.