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WEDDERBURN, ALEXANDER, businessman, office holder, and author; b. c. 1796 in Aberdeen, Scotland; m. 15 Jan. 1823 in Saint John, N.B., Jane Heaviside, daughter of Thomas Heaviside, lumber merchant, and sister of Mary Heaviside*; they had one son and three daughters; d. 17 June 1843 in Saint John.

Not long after Waterloo, according to family legend, Alexander Wedderburn, a young naval officer, saw a girl board a packet for America. Finding her attractive, the story goes, he discovered her name and destination, followed her to Saint John in 1815, and subsequently married her. Wedderburn established himself as a wine merchant and land speculator there, acquiring several blocks of land in association with William* and Thomas Black, timber merchants and fellow Scots. In August 1829 he was appointed landing waiter and searcher of customs at St Andrews, probably through the influence of the Blacks, and in February 1831 he was given the same position in Saint John. In the 1820s he was the secretary of the Saint John Agricultural and Emigrant Society and was active in helping immigrants to get established. He claimed to have expended large sums of his own money in assisting them and both in 1827 and in 1828 he was given £100 by the House of Assembly as compensation. In 1829 he requested a grant of 12,000–14,000 acres of land as further compensation for his services. His request was supported by William Black, who was administering the government in the absence of Lieutenant Governor Sir Howard Douglas*, and the Colonial Office agreed to allow him 1,000 acres.

Because of the increase in the number of immigrants to New Brunswick after 1826, the Colonial Office decided to place an emigrant agent at Saint John, the first in the province; in July 1831 William Black appointed Wedderburn to the post at £300 a year, a very good salary for a minor government official. Wedderburn appears to have carried out his duties conscientiously for a number of years. With the decline of immigration in the early 1830s, however, he spent more and more of his time looking after his own business. As a result, he earned the displeasure of Douglas’s successor, Sir Archibald Campbell, who in 1834 reduced his salary to £100.

After the appointment of Sir John Harvey* to the lieutenant governorship in 1837, Wedderburn appealed to him to have his original salary restored. He claimed that he had been imprisoned for debts incurred since 1831 on behalf of immigrants and that he had not been compensated for his expenses. Harvey supported his application, saying that it would be better to abolish the office than to pay a salary inadequate for a gentleman in a full-time position. The Colonial Office, however, refused to interfere. In 1839 Wedderburn was upbraided by the home authorities for sending reports direct to Britain and was informed that in future he should submit them to the lieutenant governor. He also ran foul of Sir William MacBean George Colebrooke*, who had succeeded Harvey, and in 1842 he was ordered to confine himself to his responsibilities as emigrant agent and not to get involved in “extraneous duties.” There are indications, too, that a fondness for drink had interfered with the conduct of his office. By 1843 Wedderburn was so sick that on 1 June Moses Henry Perley* was appointed to act for him temporarily. After he died later that month Perley took over the position.

In 1835 Wedderburn had had printed by Henry Chubb* in Saint John Statistical and practical observations relative to the province of New-Brunswick, published for the information of emigrants. In announcing its imminent appearance, a St Andrews newspaper commented on the author’s “acknowledged talent” and his “indefatigable exertions to procure all the necessary authentic information.”

W. A. Spray

N.B. Museum, Day family, cb doc, information on Alexander Wedderburn; J. C. Webster papers, packet 1, Sir Howard Douglas, letter-book, Douglas to R. W. Hay, 18 Sept. 1829 (typescript). PANB, RG 1, RS345, A2: 85; RG 2, RS8, immigration, 1/1, Wedderburn to Sir John Harvey, 24 Jan. 1838; 1/4, undated information, collected 1841 for the commissioners of colonial lands and emigration; 6/2; RG 3, RS13, A3, W. F. Odell to Wedderburn; RS538, B5: 36, 39; RG 10, RS108, Alexander Wedderburn, 1820, 1825, 1830, 1835, 1840. PRO, CO 188/39: 441–42; 188/41: 198, 314–20; 188/50: 90–92; 188/60: 250–53; 188/62: 457–58; 188/67: 274. N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1827: 104; 1828: 120. Gleaner (Miramichi [Chatham, N.B.]), 25 Aug. 1835 (citing the St Andrews Standard). Royal Gazette (Fredericton), 23 Jan. 1823, 28 June 1843.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

W. A. Spray, “WEDDERBURN, ALEXANDER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 21, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wedderburn_alexander_7E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/wedderburn_alexander_7E.html
Author of Article: W. A. Spray
Title of Article: WEDDERBURN, ALEXANDER
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1988
Year of revision: 1988
Access Date: August 21, 2014