BARLOW, THOMAS, businessman and politician; b. 1788 in Saint John, N.B., son of Ezekiel Barlow; m. 24 May 1834 Eliza Hoosse Morris in Halifax; d. 9 Dec. 1844 in Saint John.
Ezekiel Barlow was a Pennsylvania loyalist who settled in Parrtown (Saint John) following the American revolution. A shipwright, he eventually established himself in the West Indies trade and became a prominent liquor merchant in the city. Thomas Barlow was educated in Saint John and at the age of 20 joined his father and brother in the firm of Ezekiel Barlow. The same year he was admitted a merchant freeman of Saint John. Some time between 1813 and 1822 Thomas and Ezekiel Jr became partners with their father and the firm was reorganized as E. Barlow and Sons.
The creation of the new company occurred at the beginning of the period of most rapid growth in Saint John history. From perhaps 5,000 in 1815, the population of Saint John–Portland reached 25,000 in 1840, at which time the city was the third largest in British North America. The firm prospered with it and by the latter date was one of the largest mercantile enterprises in Saint John. The marks of the Barlows’ success were the two valuable water lots off the city’s market wharfs which they held on perpetual lease, and the 2,000 tons of shipping – including a steamship – owned by Thomas Barlow and by the Barlow firm in 1841. By that time, too, the Barlows were the largest private customers of the Bank of New Brunswick, their total discounts being exceeded only by those of the provincial treasurer. The firm had expanded into transatlantic commerce, coastal trading by means of steamships, and the construction of steam-engines, although the nature of the last enterprise is unclear because a second Thomas Barlow was a leading foundry owner by 1840.
Thomas Barlow was a director of the Bank of New Brunswick and of the New Brunswick Marine Assurance Company through most of the last decade of his life. He also served on the board of the New Brunswick Mining Company, which was incorporated in 1837 to develop the coal reserves of the Grand Lake area of central New Brunswick. Together with his brother and Moses Henry Perley* he was a director of the Lancaster Mill Company. A conduit for much of the American capital that flowed into the New Brunswick timber trade before the crash of 1837, the company acquired extensive timber lands and developed several large sawmilling operations in eastern Saint John County. Barlow’s involvement with it brought him into conflict with many tories and small timber operators, who bitterly resented this American intrusion into the provincial economy. Barlow was an early promoter of the Saint John Water Company and served as a director of this important utility between 1836 and 1840 when it attempted to pipe water from Lily Lake to the city. In addition he was a city bondholder and participated in the 1842 meeting at which the bondholders pushed the city into bankruptcy and forced the Common Council to accept the authority of trustees appointed by the creditors.
Barlow’s petitions to the House of Assembly, concentrated in the 1820s, reflect the concerns of a prominent merchant. He opposed a bill to relieve debtors from certain prison penalties in 1822 and petitioned against auction sales of foreign goods in the province in 1828. In 1829 he supported a bill permitting landlords to eject tenants. Two years later, when he was an assemblyman, he signed a petition protesting the arrival of a thousand destitute Irish immigrants at the port of Saint John.
Like most great merchants of the period Barlow participated directly in the political processes of his community. He entered the House of Assembly as a member for Saint John City in 1828, following the unseating on appeal of Gregory VanHorne, with whom he had had a fierce contest in the election of the previous year. His first term was uneventful. That he early acquired influence in the house is indicated by his serving on the committee on trade. A party system had not yet developed and Barlow’s voting behaviour on assembly issues reflects the concerns of a transatlantic trader rather than those of a partisan. He favoured legislation protecting British creditors, and for reasons of economy he opposed attempts to provide missionaries to the Indians and to assist the New-Brunswick Agricultural and Emigrant Society. Re-elected in 1830, he fought every attempt to raise provincial revenues by imposing additional duties on liquor, and supported the payment of bounties for sealing voyages, for the construction of sailing vessels, and for the export of fish and the production of wheat.
During his second term Barlow was caught up in the debate over the crown lands, the issue which more than any other shaped New Brunswick politics between 1820 and 1837 [see Thomas Baillie*]. In the early 1830s assembly radicals headed by Charles Simonds* of Saint John disputed with the executive the control of the increasingly lucrative revenues from these lands. Initially Barlow did not agree with them. In the vote on the 1831 address to the king asking for redress of grievances against the Crown Lands Office, he joined seven other assemblymen, none from Saint John and all supporters of the prerogatives of the crown, in opposition. Subsequently, however, he grew steadily more radical. In 1832 he abandoned his traditionalist friends and joined the majority in support of a resolution asking Lieutenant Governor Sir Archibald Campbell to present a statement showing the income of all office holders and the amount and expenditure of all crown revenues. During the next two years he was among the radical minority in the house – including most of the Saint John members – which attempted to deny Campbell any funds for the contingent expenses of the province. In 1834 he was a member of the majority which condemned the language of the lieutenant governor’s reply to the address of the house that year. By this time Barlow was recognized throughout the province as a radical, a supporter of Simonds, and a personal opponent of Campbell. Although he did not seek re-election in 1834, he continued a vendetta against the lieutenant governor which culminated in 1836 when nine Saint John merchants petitioned the crown for Campbell’s removal.
Barlow did not marry until the age of 46. At his death ten years later he left his wife and four small girls to inherit the fortune he had accumulated. Three of these children were still living at the time of his brother’s death in 1853 and they became heirs to the second Barlow fortune as well.
City of Saint John, N.B., City Clerk’s Office, Common Council, minutes, 9 Dec. 1840, 14 Jan. 1841, 7 Sept. 1842. N.B. Museum, Bank of New Brunswick, ledger, 1 April 1837–31 March 1838; Saint John, “Register of voters,” 1785–1854. PANB, MC 1156; RG 2, RS7, 31, petition to the Executive Council, 16 July 1831; RG 3, RS538, B5; RG 4, RS24, S31-P23, S32-P6, S37-P6, S40-P10, S52-P80; RG 7, RS71, 1853, Ezekiel Barlow Jr. N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1828: 106; 1829: 46, 70–71, 86; 1831: 52, 110, 156; 1832: 36; 1833: 115–16; 1834; 1842, app.: cclvii–cclxxii. A schedule of the real estate belonging to the mayor, aldermen and commonalty of the city of Saint John . . . January, 1842 (Saint John, 1849; copy at PANB). New-Brunswick Courier, 31 May 1834, 14 Dec. 1844. Esther Clark Wright, The loyalists of New Brunswick (Fredericton, 1955; repr. Hantsport, N.S., 1981).
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Cite This Article
T. W. Acheson, “BARLOW, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 10, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/barlow_thomas_7E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||T. W. Acheson|
|Title of Article:||BARLOW, THOMAS|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1988|
|Year of revision:||1988|
|Access Date:||June 10, 2023|