CUDLIP, JOHN WATERBURY, merchant and politician; b. probably in 1815 in Saint John, N.B., son of John Cudlip, a retired British naval officer, and Rebecca Waterbury; m. in 1852 Emily Allison, and they had seven children; d. 22 Nov. 1885 in Saint John.
John Waterbury Cudlip attended school in Saint John and possibly in England, and while still in his teens began working in a variety of positions for John Robertson*, a prominent Saint John businessman with wide-ranging interests. He became a licensed auctioneer and by 1850 had entered a partnership with George E. Snyder, specializing in shipping, trading with the West Indies, and wholesaling.
Cudlip early showed an interest in community affairs. He was made a freeman of Saint John in 1836 and a militia officer in the Saint John City Light Infantry the previous year, but his main contribution was as commander of the “famous No.5” volunteer fire-engine company which battled valiantly against a series of Saint John blazes in the 1830s and 1840s. Cudlip also was active in the mechanics’ institute and the chamber of commerce, both vital bodies in Saint John in that period. By the later 1840s he was one of a group of aggressive and successful business and professional men, including Robert Jardine*, Samuel Leonard Tilley*, and John Hamilton Gray, who made Saint John into a dynamic commercial city. He served in the Rail-Way League of 1849 and later that year became secretary of the league’s successor, the New Brunswick Colonial Association. These organizations lobbied for the construction of a railway from Saint John to Shediac and urged reforms in government, including increased colonial autonomy, British North American union, and numerous internal changes, not the least of which was more influence over provincial matters for the businessmen of Saint John.
Active in politics throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Cudlip was elected as a “thorough” Reformer to the Saint John City Council in May 1852. He had already worked for candidates sponsored by the Colonial Association in the 1850 general election, all six of whom were elected in Saint John. As a key organizer, he aided the rise to power of Charles Fisher*’s Reform government in the 1854 election, and in 1855 was himself a candidate in a Saint John by-election. His unsuccessful campaign was supported by Tilley, now provincial secretary and the author of the 1855 prohibitory liquor law, despite the fact that Cudlip was a wholesale liquor dealer. Defeated again in the 1856 election, Cudlip was successful as a Liberal in 1857 and easily led the poll in the general elections of both 1861 and 1865. In the assembly his speeches were never long but were usually blunt and strongly independent. As one would expect of a vice-president of the chamber of commerce, Cudlip was a Saint John stalwart, and Tilley came to depend upon him in matters concerning the city as well as questions of trade, manufacturing, and currency. Sweden and Norway took advantage of his experience as well by appointing him their vice-consul from 1864 to 1876.
The negotiations among New Brunswick, Canada, and the imperial government over the Intercolonial Railway in 1862 and 1863 alarmed Cudlip. He wanted the railway to follow a more westerly route to aid Saint John’s trade with the United States rather than the North Shore route championed by the British for reasons of defence. The railway question forced Cudlip to break with Tilley and the Liberals. “If the British Government want a Military Road, let them build it themselves,” he said in 1863. He became a leading critic of government policy, especially after Tilley in 1864 united the construction of the Intercolonial with New Brunswick’s entry into confederation as the grand design of the province’s future. In the 1865 election he stood as an anti-confederate and received more votes than any other candidate in the province. Tilley and his government were defeated, and in 1866 Cudlip joined Premier Albert James Smith’s Executive Council.
Another election over confederation was forced in 1866, and the anti-confederates, including Cudlip, were routed at the polls. After the reorganization of federal and provincial governments in 1867, there were numerous vacancies in the New Brunswick legislature, and in March 1868 Cudlip stood unopposed in a Saint John by-election, even though his platform called for a repeal of the British North America Act and the annexation of New Brunswick to the United States. A year later he shocked loyalist sensibilities by proposing that New Brunswick do “what our people are doing individually, and ask the United States to admit us into the Union on fair and equitable terms.” Cudlip was labelled “treasonable and disloyal” and his motion was not permitted to be entered in the assembly’s journal. His political career was ended.
Whatever disgrace Cudlip may have incurred through his support of annexation, he remained popular in Saint John and carried on a successful business career. He was president of the chamber of commerce in 1869 and was one of the directors of the ill-fated Maritime Bank of the Dominion of Canada begun in Saint John in 1872. When the federal Liberal party gained power in 1873, Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie* chose two of Cudlip’s friends, A. J. Smith and Isaac Burpee, for his cabinet. Burpee as minister of customs subsequently appointed Cudlip inspector of customs for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The defeat of the Liberals in 1878 should have caused the dismissal of Cudlip, but Tilley, now finance minister in Sir John A. Macdonald*’s new government, used his influence to permit him to retain his post, which he did until 1885.
He died on 22 Nov. 1885 from injuries suffered in a fire in his home the previous day. Obituaries in the Saint John newspapers noted his unwavering advocacy of the city’s interests and said that John Cudlip, though “impulsive and outspoken,” died “without an enemy in the world.”
N.B. Museum, Saint John, Register of voters, 1785–1869, esp. 1836; Tilley family papers, Corr. PAC, MG 27, I, D15. PANB, “N.B. political biog.” (J. C. and H. B. Graves). Trinity (Anglican) Church (Saint John, N.B.), Baptismal and marriage registers (copies at N.B. Museum).
N.B., House of Assembly, Reports of the debates, 1865. Daily Sun (Saint John), 23 Nov. 1885. Head Quarters (Fredericton), 12 March 1856. Morning News (Saint John), 1849–50. Morning Telegraph (Saint John), 14 March 1868. New Brunswick Courier (Saint John), 1849–50. New Brunswick Reporter and Fredericton Advertiser, 18 March 1869. Saint John Globe, 23 Nov. 1885. Weekly Telegraph (Saint John), 25 Nov. 1885. CPC, 1868. Dominion annual register, 1885. New Brunswick almanac (Saint John), 1851, 1856, 1865. Hutchinson’s St. John directory . . . (Saint John), 1863–64. MacNutt, New Brunswick. C. M. Wallace, “Saint John boosters and the railroads in mid-nineteenth century,” Acadiensis, 6 (1976–77), no.1: 71–91. J. R. H. Wilbur, “The stormy history of the Maritime Bank (1872) to 1886,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll. (Saint John), no.19 (1966): 69–76.