Looking Back On Confederation: The Remarkable Botsford Dynasty — Part Two

Amos Botsford II (1804–94) was educated at the Westmorland Grammar School and studied law under the direction of his father, William Botsford (1763–1864). Unlike other members of his family, most of whom became lawyers, he preferred instead to remain a farmer and country squire. Throughout his life he demonstrated a keen interest in agriculture and in the promotion of improved farming practices.

He represented Westmorland on the Provincial Board of Agriculture and later was its President. Botsford was also active in a variety of business enterprises that ranged from the Sackville Electric Light and Telephone Company to the Acadia Sugar Refinery. He was also associated with Sackville businessman Josiah Wood in the promotion and development of the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island Railway. He was later to serve as its president.

In 1830 Amos Botsford made his one and only one fling in Westmorland County politics. It ended in defeat. This setback marked him apart from several of his brothers; however, it did not mean that he was denied an opportunity for public service. Amos Botsford simply followed another route, and accepted an appointment to the Legislative Council in 1833. He was a member for the next 34 years.

During this period, Amos Botsford participated on a number of inter-provincial and international tribunals. In 1836 he joined Edward B. Chandler on a commission to settle the boundary between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Later he was part of a similar tribunal that determined the boundary between New Brunswick and Lower Canada (Quebec). Botsfords most important assignment came in 1852, when on the invitation of the Governor, Sir Edmund Walker Head, he journeyed to Washington to represent the province during reciprocity negotiations.

Remembered as an unswerving advocate of Confederation and strong supporter of Samuel Leonard Tilley, Amos Botsford was destined to have the honour of moving the successful motion favouring the proposed federation in New Brunswicks Upper House or the Legislative Council. With the election of the pro-Confederation forces under Tilley in 1866, Amos Botsford had the double satisfaction of witnessing the ratification of Confederation and on July 1, 1867, the emergence of the new Dominion of Canada. Why did the Tilley-Amos Botsford forces succeed and their Smith-Bliss Botsford opponents go down to defeat?

Accounting for the miracle of Confederation in 1867 is not an easy task. Among the countless books, articles and theses that have been written on the subject, there is consensus that a number of factors combined to push confederation forward. It must be recalled that the confederation debate was played against the backdrop of the American Civil War (1861–65). There was a genuine and not unfounded fear that the victorious Northern Army might look northward. This possibility was fanned by comments in American newspapers suggesting that conquest of the remaining British North American colonies was a mere matter of marching.

In addition there was the added possibility of an invasion via the United States by members of the Irish American Fenian Brotherhood. In 1866 a number of Fenian raiders actually crossed the frontier near Niagara. To their surprise, the Canadians did not want to be liberated. Although this invasion failed, the threat was still there, and militia regiments were recruited in all British North American colonies.

Economic factors also played a part in the eventual result. There was a genuine desire to promote inter-provincial trade, to link the colonies by rail and to annex the North West by heading off possible American expansion. Within the political arena, the government of the United Upper and Lower Canada was deadlocked and a wider federation was seen as a possible way out of this situation. The British government and particularly the Colonial Office was in favour of the move and was instrumental in a number of behind the scenes maneuvers to ensure that federation came to pass.

In addition, there was the interplay of prominent personalities. The persuasiveness and sense of destiny on the part of John A. Macdonald was probably the over riding factor. The political skill of Quebecs George-Etienne Cartier and the non-partisan stand taken by Ontarios George Brown cannot be overlooked. In addition, the oratorical skills of Thomas dArcy McGee had their impact. Consider the following oft quoted example: Rest assured, he once commented, if we remain as fragments, we shall be lost; but let us be united and we shall be as a rock; which unmoved itself, flings back the waves that may be dashed upon it by the storm.

In the Maritimes, lead roles were played by Samuel Leonard Tilley and Charles Tupper. Although Tilley needed considerable propping up he managed to overcome his defeat at the polls in 1865. Charles Tupper, a more skillful politician, carried the day in Nova Scotia; despite a hostile and reluctant electorate. Both men were later to serve with distinction, in various federal cabinet portfolios.

Amos Botsfords reward came after July 1, 1867, when he was summoned by Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to be a member of the first Canadian Senate. Again, in the Botsford family tradition, he served briefly on two occasions as Speaker of the Senate. He remained a Senator until his death on March 19, 1894.

In the 19th century there was no age limit, as there is today, for Senators. Because of this, Senator Amos Botsford was able to serve through to the last session before his death. Always a strong supporter of local causes, Botsfords final intervention in Senate debates occurred on March 23, 1893.

In a spirited appeal for a suitable post office in Sackville he provided a snapshot of the area pointing to: the importance of the rail line connecting the mainland with Prince Edward Island, the presence of two academies and a university, two foundries, a cheese and butter factory and a large carriage factory [Campbells]. His life long interest in agriculture caused him to emphasize, that in the immediate area, there were some 30,000 acres of alluvial dykeland. His thriving home community of some 5,000 people was being served by a small post office building no more than 16 by 19 feet.

By the time of Senator Botsfords death the anti-confederation movement had run its course. The people whose memories went back to 1867 were now few in number. Its once leading supporters, Albert J. Smith and Joseph Howe, along with the majority of their followers, had become, for the most part, reconciled to the idea of a Dominion that stretched from sea to sea to sea. Smith entered the cabinet of Liberal Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie, where he served as Minister of Marine and Fisheries. Howe was also lured to federal politics and became a member of the Macdonald administration. When he died, Howe was just beginning a term as lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia.

What was true on the provincial and national level was also infiltrating the Tantramar. The building of the Intercolonial Railway had a positive impact both locally and nationally; while the advent of new technologies such as the telephone and telegraph added to the growing consciousness of national identity. The countrys participation in the Boer War, although admittedly small, encouraged a sense of patriotism and pride. At the same time, the Tantramar region was in transition as it moved away from an earlier reliance on shipbuilding and coastal shipping. There was a mood of optimism in the air. The best example was the campaign for incorporation of the town of Sackville in 1903.

Although the Botsford surname has disappeared from the Tantramar; as recently as the mid 1900s, Botsford could still be found, lingering on in related families, as a first or middle name. A further reminder of the family influence dates from much earlier. In 1815 Botsford Parish was set off from the parishes of Westmorland and Sackville and named for William Botsford. The Botsford and Westmorland Agricultural Society, still in existence, sponsors an annual agricultural exhibition in Port Elgin.

While Senator Amos Botsford cannot be numbered within the first rank of the supporters of Confederation; he was an important foot soldier in the battle. In paying tribute, a fellow New Brunswick Senator David Wark (1804 -1905) reminisced that both he and Botsford were colleagues in the old New Brunswick Legislative Council, and that in 1867 they became members of the Senate of Canada. Modestly he recalled: We took a deep interest in Confederation and lent assistance to the carrying out of that measure. For over sixty years from 1833 until his death in 1894, Amos Botsford served his Tantramar constituents, first as a member of the provincial Legislative Council for 34 years; to be followed by 27 years as a member of the Senate.

Since that sunny July 1st in 1867, one hundred thirty five Dominion/Canada days have come and gone. Looking back, the achievements of Sackvilles first Senator, Amos Botsford II, are worth recalling; along with the legacies of the other members of this remarkable Tantramar dynasty.