GORDON, DANIEL, teacher, businessman, office holder, and politician; b. 2 June 1821 in Brudenell River, P.E.I., eldest son of Henry Gordon, a farmer, and Margaret MacDonald; m. first 27 June 1854 Bridget E. Kearney (d. 1884) of Georgetown, P.E.I., and they had two daughters and two sons; m. secondly 1893 Matilda McGougan of Princetown (Malpeque), P.E.I.; d. 26 Sept. 1907 in Georgetown.
A son of Scottish immigrants, Daniel Gordon was educated at the Georgetown grammar school. He taught school for two years before opening a general store and import-export business in Georgetown in 1841. At the time of his death, 66 years later, he was still managing the operation; according to the Charlottetown Daily Examiner, “he was the oldest general merchant in business in the Province.” He became a shipowner and builder of importance, and his ships sailed worldwide. During his career he was sole owner of at least 15 vessels, most of which he built at Georgetown. As the age of the wooden sailing-ship drew to a close, he was one of the last to launch a ship in Prince Edward Island when he built the Lady Napier in 1902.
Gordon held many positions of public trust and had a successful political career. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1851 and was named sheriff of Kings County in 1863. He was for a long time chairman of the county Board of Agricultural and Exhibition Commissioners, and for a number of years chaired the Georgetown Board of School Trustees. He was a visiting justice of the county jail and, prior to confederation, served as a commissioner under the Island’s insolvency laws.
A Liberal-Conservative, Gordon entered political life in 1866 when he won election to the Legislative Council for Kings, 2nd District. He was re-elected in 1870 but, for reasons that are not known, he resigned in 1873. Three years later, running in Georgetown, he was one of the Protestant Conservatives elected to the House of Assembly as a “Free Schooler” and supporter of the Protestant coalition led by Liberal leader Louis Henry Davies*. Gordon and three other Conservatives (George Wastie DeBlois*, John Lefurgey, and Samuel Prowse) were appointed to Davies’s cabinet, but after the passing of the Public Schools Act in 1877 they took the first opportunity, in September 1878, to resign from the government, an action which led to the defeat of the coalition in March 1879 and the formation of a new, Conservative ministry under William Wilfred Sullivan*. Returned in the general election in April, Gordon would be re-elected at every subsequent contest until that of 1904, when, at the age of 82, he retired from politics.
From 1894 to 1903 Gordon was leader of his party. It had done very poorly in the election of 1893. The veterans of the eras of James Colledge Pope* and Sullivan were gone, and no newcomers had yet established themselves. Consequently, the party turned to an experienced politician for leadership, until a new generation of members was ready to guide its fortunes, under the direction of John Alexander Mathieson*. In failing health for some months, Gordon died peacefully at his home in 1907.
Daniel Gordon was recognized as a pleasing and courteous speaker. The Daily Patriot wrote in 1891 that “it is indeed a pleasure, even to his political opponents, to listen to Mr. Gordon’s easy flowing words, garnished as they always are, with poetic gems which add to their interest.” In its obituary, the Daily Examiner noted that, despite a busy life, he had found time “to become one of the best read men in the Maritime Provinces. His library was large and extensive.” He retained “his love for literature,” the Charlottetown Guardian observed, and “his best public addresses were flavoured with quotations from the great writers and thinkers, demonstrating a wide acquaintance with the English classics.”
Georgetown United Church cemetery (Georgetown, P.E.I.), Tombstone inscription. Memorial Univ. of Nfld (St John’s), Maritime Hist. Group, Atlantic Canada Shipping Project database, Shipping registries of Atlantic Canada, Prince Edward Island – indexes of builders and owners (mfm. at PARO). NA, RG 31, C1, 1861, 1881, Prince Edward Island. PARO, RG 1, 76; RG 5, minutes, 12 Sept. 1878; RG 19, marriage licences, 23 Aug. 1893. P.E.I. Museum, Geneal. Div., Licence book no.6: 4; Marriage book no.5 (1852–57): 334. Charlottetown Guardian, 28 Sept. 1907. Daily Examiner (Charlottetown), 20 June 1884, 12 May 1899, 27 Sept. 1907. Daily Patriot (Charlottetown), 25 March 1901. Islander, 30 June 1854. Brudenell pioneers, 1803–1903; centenary celebration and unveiling of monument (Charlottetown, 1946; copy in Univ. of P.E.I. Library, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Coll.). CPG, 1903: 352. Past and present of P.E.I. (MacKinnon and Warburton), 77. P.E.I., Legislative Council, Journal, 1867: 1–2; 1871: 2–3.