Samuel Leonard Tilley

Samuel Leonard Tilley

Infobox CanadianMP
name = Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley

term_start = 1867
term_end = 1873
predecessor = none
birth_date = birth date|1818|5|8
birth_place = Gagetown, New Brunswick
successor = Jeremiah Smith Boies deVeber
death_date = death date and age|1896|6|25|1818|5|8
death_place = Saint John, New Brunswick
profession = druggist
party = Conservative
riding = Saint John (1867-1873, 1878-1885)
term_start2 = 1878
term_end2 = 1885
predecessor2 = Jeremiah Smith Boies deVeber
successor2 = Frederick Eustace Barker
spouse = Julia Ann Hanford from 1843 to 1862, Alice Starr Chipman from 1867 to his death (1896)
religion = Christian, Church of England

Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, PC, KCMG (May 8,1818 – June 25,1896) was a Canadian politician and one of the Fathers of Confederation. Tilley was descended from United Empire Loyalists on both sides of his family. As a pharmacist, he went into business as a druggist.

Early life

Born in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Tilley was the son of storekeeper Thomas Morgan Tilley and Susan Ann Peters. On May 6, 1843 he married Julia Ann Hanford in Saint John, New Brunswick; they had eight children. Hanford died in 1862, leaving Tilley a widower. On October 22, 1867, he married Alice Starr Chipman in St. Stephen, New Brunswick; they had two children, including future New Brunswick premier Leonard Percy de Wolfe Tilley.

Political career

Tilley entered politics as an activist in the temperance movement. As a result of the 1848 recession, caused in part by Britain's economic policies, he became an advocate for responsible government. Tilley later joined the New Brunswick Colonial Association, which advocated for the colony's own control over its public expenses, the establishment of a public school system, government control of public works, and "honest government" in general.

First elected to the New Brunswick Assembly as a Liberal in 1850, he sat in opposition until the 1854 election swept the reformers to power. Tilley became Provincial Secretary in the government of Richard Fisher.

He attended both the Charlottetown and Quebec City Conferences as a supporter of Canadian Confederation. He served as premier of the colony of New Brunswick from 1861 until his government was defeated in the election of 1865. As premier, he supported the New Brunswick's entry into Confederation and the construction of an intercolonial railway.

A common tale states that Tilley was the originator of the word "Dominion" in Canada's name. The Fathers of Confederation had been discussing what to prefix Canada with, Kingdom of Canada being Macdonald's preference. During morning devotions, Tilley read Psalm 72:8, which states "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth", and presented his inspiration to the others, being as their ambition was to stretch the new nation to the Pacific Ocean and from the St Lawrence River to the North Pole. The legitimacy of this story has been questioned, however, as "dominion" had already been used in a colonial context to describe other British territories, for example the Dominion of New England, and was thus hardly an innovative idea.

The term led to the naming of the July 1 national holiday; however, this reference to a unique Canadian historical development was discarded in 1980 when the name "Canada Day", which had already been in use by some Canadians, was made official by an act of Parliament. In French, the date had long been known as "la fête nationale" (national feast or national birthday), a date which is often now applied to June 24 in Quebec, a date officially known as Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

Tilley entered federal politics with Confederation in 1867 and served in the federal Macdonald Cabinet as Minister of Customs. He became Minister of Finance in 1873 and served until the defeat of the government later that year. He was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick in 1873 and served until 1878. When Macdonald's Tories returned to power in 1878, Tilley again became minister of finance and served until his retirement from politics in 1885 when he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick for a second term, which ran until 1893.

He is interred in the Fernhill Cemetery in Saint John, New Brunswick.


* [ Queens County Historical Society & Museum]

Further reading

* James Hannay, "The life and times of Sir Leonard Tilley, being a political history of New Brunswick for the past seventy years" (1897) Saint John, New Brunswick

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