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BLISS, HENRY, author, lawyer, and provincial agent for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; b. 1797 at Saint John, N.B., youngest son of Jonathan Bliss*, chief justice of New Brunswick, and Mary Worthington; d. 31 July 1873 at London, England.

Henry Bliss, with his brother William Blowers Bliss, was educated at King’s College, Windsor, Nova Scotia, where he received a ba in 1816. In 1819, after legal training in Saint John, his father appointed him clerk of the pleas for the Supreme Court of New Brunswick. After his father’s death in 1822, he was dismissed from this office by the lieutenant governor, George Stracy Smyth*, who appointed his aide-de-camp, Captain George Shore*, to the position. A bitter dispute over patronage ensued; Bliss travelled to England where he won the support of the colonial secretary, Lord Henry Bathurst. Bathurst in 1824 ordered that Bliss be reinstated; the latter, however, did not return to New Brunswick to take up the position, but was admitted to the English bar and later became a queen’s counsel. In 1826 he resigned as clerk of the pleas.

In 1824, Bliss and John Bainbridge, a London merchant, had been appointed joint agents for the province of New Brunswick in London at a salary of £200 a year. Bainbridge died in 1836, but Bliss continued to represent the province and, for a number of years, also served as agent for Nova Scotia. The agent’s task was to support legislation favourable to the colony, to oppose unfavourable legislation, and to try to see that the views of the provincial assembly were known at the Colonial Office. By 1846 the work of the provincial agent had declined in importance, and Bliss requested that his salary be discontinued but that he be allowed to continue to represent the province. He corresponded with the provincial government for several more years and there is no record of his appointment ever having been cancelled.

Bliss published a number of pamphlets on colonial questions, which caused considerable discussion in English and colonial journals. The most important of these were: On colonial intercourse (1830), in which he argued that new trade agreements with the United States were not in the best interests of Britain and the colonies, and On the timber trade (1831) and Letter to Sir Henry Parnell . . . on the new colonial trade bill (1831), in which he attacked free trade and the proposal to remove the preference given to colonial timber in British markets. The pamphlets of Bliss and the attitudes of others such as Sir Howard Douglas*, who resigned as lieutenant governor of New Brunswick in 1831 because of the proposed changes in colonial trade regulations, may have influenced the decision of the British parliament to reject the bill of 1832 proposing changes in the regulation of the timber trade. However, Bliss and Douglas were fighting a losing battle as the British government continued to move toward free trade. In The colonial system . . . (1833) Bliss stated that through the loss of protective markets “the seeds of disunion” had been sown and would eventually explode and “scatter through the world the fragments of the mighty, the rich, and prosperous Empire of Great Britain.”

Another pamphlet presented Considerations of the claims and conduct of the United States respecting their north eastern boundary . . . (1826). In An essay on the re-construction of her majesty’s government in Canada (1839), he pointed out the dangers of a union of British North America modelled on American principles of federalism and set forth measures he felt necessary to secure satisfactory union. He apparently approved of confederation when the issue arose in 1864.

In his later years Bliss published a number of works (including three under the pseudonym of Nicholas Thirning Moile) which were based on history and written in verse form: State trials (1838); Cicero; a drama (1846); Philip the second; a tragedy (1849); Ideas seldom thought of, for extending knowledge (1851); A history of the lives of the most heroic martyrs . . . (1853); Robespierre; a tragedy (1854); and, Thecla; a drama (1866). There is no evidence that his plays were ever produced.

In his own time Bliss was said to have been one of the best known colonial writers in England. He was a spokesman for shipowners and merchants involved in the colonial trade.

W. A. Spray

Some of Henry Bliss’ pamphlets include: The colonial system, statistics of the trade, industry, and resources of Canada and the other plantations in British America (London, 1833); Considerations of the claims and conduct of the United States respecting their north eastern boundary, and the value of the British colonies in North America (London, 1826); An essay on the re-construction of her majesty’s government in Canada (London, 1839); Letter to Sir Henry Parnell, Bart., M.P., on the new colonial trade bill (London, 1831); On colonial intercourse (London, 1830); On the timber trade (London, 1831). For a listing of his dramatic works see: Allardyce Nicoll, A history of English drama, 1660–1900 (6v., Cambridge, 1952–59), IV, V.

N.B. Museum, Fairweather papers, copy of will of Henry Bliss, July 1873; Hazen coll., Chipman papers, Bliss to Chipman, 27 May 1823; Scrapbook 38, extract from Saint John Daily Sun, 26 April 1892. PRO, CO 188/29, ff.85–86; CO 189/12, ff.95–96, 113–16, 118–22, 181–83, 260–61. New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Journals, 1824, 51–52; 1846, 10–11. W. G. MacFarlane, New Brunswick bibliography; the books and writers of the province (Saint John, N.B., 1895), 11–12. Wallace, Macmillan dictionary, 64. Hannay, History of New Brunswick, I, 436–37. K. E. Knorr, British colonial theories, 1570–1850 (1st ed., Toronto, 1944; 2nd ed., London and New York, 1963), 326, 327, 329–30, 331, 341. J. W. Lawrence, Footprints; or, incidents in early history of New Brunswick (Saint John, N.B., 1895), 75, 103; Judges of New Brunswick (Stockton), 413–14.

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Cite This Article

W. A. Spray, “BLISS, HENRY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bliss_henry_10E.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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bliss_henry_10E.html
Author of Article:   W. A. Spray
Title of Article:   BLISS, HENRY
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1972
Year of revision:   1972
Access Date:   May 23, 2024