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POZER, GEORGE – Volume VII (1836-1850)

d. 16 June 1848 at Quebec


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Original title:  Ward Chipman Sr

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CHIPMAN, WARD, lawyer, office holder, jp, politician, judge, and colonial administrator; b. 30 July 1754 in Marblehead, Mass., sixth child of John Chipman and Elizabeth Brown; m. 24 Oct. 1786 Elizabeth Hazen, and they had one child, Ward*; d. 9 Feb. 1824 in Fredericton.

Ward Chipman was the scion of a distinguished Massachusetts family. His father was a fourth-generation and his mother a fifth-generation American. Both his paternal grandfather and his father had attended Harvard College and in 1766 Chipman began his studies there. Students were ranked on admission in the order of their social prominence, and in recognition of his standing Chipman was placed seventh in his class of 41 students. A precocious and studious youth, he was deferential to the college authorities and in 1769 was awarded a prize for his dedication to learning. In 1770, upon graduation, he was chosen to deliver a commencement address, which he gave, unusually, in the vernacular, and for his ma he prepared a discussion of the topic “An feuda talliata, juri naturali repugnet?” Under normal circumstances, as the eldest surviving son, he would have been assured of a promising career at the bar, since his father was a lawyer with an adequate if not overly lucrative practice. But in 1768 John Chipman had died while pleading a case in Falmouth Neck, Mass. (Portland, Maine), and Chipman became “the Guardian and hope” of his mother, four sisters, and a younger brother. John Chipman bequeathed to his son a small estate but little capital and Ward’s “prospects were then truly distressing.” Fortunately, John Chipman had been popular among his colleagues, and Jonathan Sewell, attorney general of Massachusetts and advocate general of the Vice-Admiralty Court in Boston, solicited contributions to an interest-free loan to enable Ward to complete his degree at Harvard.

After teaching school in Boston in 1770 and in Roxbury (Boston) in 1771, Chipman began to study law under the tutelage of Sewell and in the office of Daniel Leonard. In many law offices a clerk received little guidance or training, but Chipman was given a thorough grounding in the complicated legal procedures of the day and he read voraciously in Sewell’s unusually extensive library. He lived in Sewell’s home at Cambridge, where he tutored the latter’s children in Latin. In 1775 he began to practise in the Vice-Admiralty Court and Sewell secured for him a position as clerk-solicitor in the Boston customhouse. With an income of £400 per annum and Sewell as his patron, Chipman confidently expected to rise “to the most lucrative and honorable situations” in Massachusetts.

The American revolution dealt a crushing blow to these expectations. Although many of his contemporaries at the colonial bar supported the patriot cause or at least equivocated, Chipman’s loyalties were never seriously in doubt. The impecunious heir of a family on the fringe of the Massachusetts social élite, he did not have the benefit of an extensive estate nor did he have the capital to engage in trade; thus he had to depend on his profession and he looked to the crown for rapid advancement in it. Moreover, his mentor, Jonathan Sewell, to whom he felt “an attachment . . . as strong and real as that which arises from the ties of natural affection,” was devoted to the loyalist cause and Chipman naturally followed his example. In September 1774 Sewell’s home in Cambridge had been attacked by a “mob”; Chipman had participated in its defence and then retreated with the Sewell family to Boston. Early in 1775, while establishing himself in his profession there, he assisted Daniel Leonard in the preparation of a series of anti-revolutionary tracts which Leonard published under the pseudonym Massachusettensis. He remained in Boston after the Sewells left for England that year. On 14 Oct. 1775 he signed a loyal address to Governor Thomas Gage* and, when Boston was evacuated in March 1776, he travelled with the British army to Halifax and then to London, where Sewell’s home had become the central gathering place for a growing number of New England refugees. Chipman participated in the activities of a club composed of the more prominent New England loyalists and was one of the inner circle allowed to call upon Thomas Hutchinson, the ex-governor of Massachusetts. None the less, he did not enjoy his exile. Before leaving Massachusetts he had signed the property which he had inherited over to his mother and sisters to prevent its confiscation and, despite Sewell’s patronage and the friendship of John Wentworth*, the former governor of New Hampshire, he was unable to find official employment and went deeply into debt. In the summer of 1777 he therefore eagerly accepted a minor post in New York City as deputy to the muster master general of the loyalist forces, Edward Winslow*.

Chipman assumed his position in July 1777. Since Winslow was frequently absent for long periods of time, Chipman was placed in charge of preparing the muster-rolls for the loyalist regiments stationed in and around the city. Although he received only five shillings per diem initially, his duties continued to expand and his salary was increased to ten shillings. He was also admitted to the New York bar and allowed to engage in private practice. During his first court appearance he so impressed his employer, Samuel Jones, a prominent Long Island barrister, that Jones made him a partner in his firm. Because of the war, business in the Vice-Admiralty Court sky-rocketed and Chipman earned “great fees . . . for very little trouble.” In April 1779 he was appointed registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Rhode Island and he also served as paymaster to at least two provincial regiments. His income totalled nearly £500 per annum and he lived extravagantly. Despite periodic bouts of insecurity, he remained confident that “a cause as good as that of Government is, must finally prevail,” and in the mean time was “determined to enjoy as highly as I can the sources of happiness” that were available.

Like many loyalists, Chipman became increasingly critical of the British conduct of the war and he was devastated by the terms of the peace treaty announced late in 1782. For a time he planned to “remain quietly in the line of my profession here” until he learned that loyalists were to be prohibited from practising at the bar in New York State. During 1783 his position as deputy muster master general was abolished, but he was given a military pension of £91 a year and in May was appointed by Sir Guy Carleton* as one of the commissioners to register claims for supplies furnished to the British army. Although the post carried no salary, Chipman hoped to “lay a foundation for some claim upon Government hereafter”; at the same time he decided to prepare for “asylum” in Nova Scotia by becoming “as large a Proprietor as my claims will admit. “In July he was one of a group of 55 loyalists who signed a petition requesting grants of 5,000 acres of land apiece in Nova Scotia. When the petition of the 55 aroused a storm of protest from the rest of the loyalist community, Chipman withdrew his name, but he asked Edward Winslow to find him a desirable tract of land at the mouth of the Saint John River. In the autumn of 1783 Chipman made a farewell visit to his relatives in Massachusetts, whom he had not seen in nine years, and, delaying his departure “till the last embarkation,” in December he sailed to Halifax and then to London.

Chipman arrived in England armed with letters of introduction from Sir Guy Carleton. He had had a number of important contacts in the coalition government of Charles James Fox and Lord North, but that administration had collapsed in December and Chipman had little influence with the new executive, headed by William Pitt. In March 1784 he submitted a memorial to the commissioners for loyalist claims, requesting compensation for the £400 per annum he had lost because he had been deprived “of the exercise of his Profession.” His claim was eventually rejected since he had not been “in the settled enjoyment” of this income “at the Commencement of the Troubles.” He also worked diligently, but in vain, for the dismissal of Governor John Parr* of Nova Scotia, who viewed with ill-disguised contempt the demand of the loyalists for preferential treatment in the distribution of jobs and land. Although Chipman’s savings were rapidly depleted and he contemplated returning to Halifax to practise law, he persevered in his search for government employment in Nova Scotia and joined in the agitation for the partition of that province.

To some extent the partition movement was a natural and inevitable result of the settlement of more than 15,000 loyalists north of the Bay of Fundy, primarily along the Saint John River, and their growing disgruntlement with the government of Nova Scotia. But it was assisted by three men who played a particularly important role in organizing the partition lobby. Edward Winslow acted as the spearhead of the movement within Nova Scotia, Brigadier-General Henry Edward Fox, the brother of Charles James Fox, placed himself at the head of the lobby in Britain, and Ward Chipman acted as Fox’s adviser and coordinated the activities of the loyalists in London and in Nova Scotia. In March 1784 the Privy Council committee for trade endorsed partition, and in June the Pitt government, which was looking for an economical means of finding employment for as many as possible of the loyalist supplicants, agreed to the creation of New Brunswick. With the stroke of a pen a myriad of new jobs was created. Ironically, despite the active part he had played in the agitation, Chipman was disappointed in the division of the spoils. Although he had aspired to be attorney general in the new government, Sir William Pepperrell, the leader of the New England community in London, secured that post for Sampson Salter Blowers* and, when the latter declined, for Jonathan Bliss. Largely through the influence of Sir Guy Carleton, Chipman was given the less desirable, and unpaid, position of solicitor general. In August 1784 he received his commission and the following month, “heartily sick” of England, he embarked with Thomas Carleton*, the newly appointed governor of New Brunswick, for “our Land of promise the New Canaan.”

Despite the relatively humble post he occupied in the government of New Brunswick, Chipman was frequently called upon by Governor Carleton for legal advice, particularly from November 1784 to May 1785 when he served as acting attorney general until the arrival of Jonathan Bliss. One of Chipman’s tasks was to prepare a charter for the city at the mouth of the Saint John River, which at his suggestion was named “St John” rather than St John’s. Chipman chose as his model the charter for New York City, which allowed for the election of aldermen but gave the power of appointing civic officials to the crown, and in 1785 he was named in the charter as the first recorder of the city, a position he held until 1809. As recorder, he was automatically a justice of the peace for the county of Saint John and presided with the mayor in the Court of General Sessions of the Peace and in the Inferior Court of Common Pleas or Mayor’s Court. In 1786 Chipman assisted Edward Winslow in drafting the provincial legal code and in establishing rules of procedure for the grand juries and the inferior courts. When the Supreme Court began to function in 1785, Chipman became clerk of the crown on the circuits and acted as crown prosecutor in most of the important criminal cases over the next quarter-century. Since persons charged with a capital offence were not allowed counsel, he was almost invariably successful in the cases he prosecuted. With the establishment of the Vice-Admiralty Court in 1785, Chipman also became advocate general and he initiated most prosecutions there, despite the objections of the attorney general, who unsuccessfully challenged his authority to do so. Although none of Chipman’s multiple offices initially carried a salary, they generated fees and added to his prestige and predominance at the bar.

Chipman was one of nine lawyers who formed the New Brunswick bar in February 1785, and in May he opened an office in Saint John. Since lawyers rarely participated in criminal cases, except when acting for the crown, the bread and butter of a legal practice was disputes over land titles and money, the preparation of deeds and wills, and cases involving real or imagined insults to reputations. With his extensive contacts among the wealthier members of colonial society, who alone could afford the hefty legal fees in these transactions, Chipman inevitably attracted a large share of the business in Saint John, notably from the merchant community. Because of the haste with which the province had been settled, disputes over land were unusually common in the early years; Chipman acted as agent for a number of loyalists, particularly after he had successfully defended judge Isaac Allan against ejectment proceedings launched by the family of Bryan Finucane, the former chief justice of Nova Scotia, in a dispute over the ownership of Sugar Island, eight miles above Fredericton. One of the more prominent of Chipman’s clients was Benedict Arnold*, on whose behalf he and Jonathan Bliss prosecuted in the first slander trial in New Brunswick. Chipman also acted as a real-estate manager and as a debt collector for merchants such as Gideon White of Nova Scotia, and his clients were drawn from as far afield as Boston and New Jersey.

Because of his standing in the profession Chipman’s office became a Mecca for students. In total, he prepared 13 students for entry to the bar. The first, Jonathan Sewell* Jr, became chief justice of Lower Canada and the last, Ward Chipman Jr, chief justice of New Brunswick. A number of the others, including Stephen Sewell, William Botsford*, Charles Jeffery Peters*, Thomas Wetmore, and William Franklin Odell*, had distinguished legal careers. By the standards of the time Chipman’s clerks received a rigorous training. His library was one of the most extensive in the colony and he bequeathed it to his son, who carried on the family tradition and prepared nine students for the bar. For nearly half a century the bench and the bar of New Brunswick were dominated by students trained by the Chipmans, and partly because of their influence New Brunswick had one of the best qualified bars in British North America.

Yet Chipman’s influence was not an unmixed blessing. His approach to the law was extremely conservative and his students, particularly Ward Chipman Jr, inherited this characteristic. They were little influenced by the legal-reform movements of the period. In Massachusetts the complicated and antiquated system of common-law pleading was swept away after the revolution but changes there evoked no response in neighbouring New Brunswick. Even the movement for a reform of the criminal code in Britain had little impact. Both as a prosecutor and later as a judge, Chipman vigorously defended the existing code, which prescribed the death penalty for an enormous range of offences. The only reform that Chipman supported was a revision of the law affecting debtors. Because of the shortage of capital in the colony, he believed it was counter-productive to imprison debtors – at least respectable ones – and in 1807 he sponsored a bill which modified the law. But he never recommended its abolition for he was, like most of his contemporaries, determined to protect the rights of the property-owning class. In general, Chipman was devoted, almost slavishly, to English precedents and models and he rejected as “rather fanciful” the idea that there could be a “common law in the colonies . . . repugnant to the Common law of England.” Yet he was inconsistent in his commitment to extending English laws to the colony. He strongly supported the decision to adopt 1660 as the “reception” date for English statute law in New Brunswick, because the choice of this date precluded the application to the colony of subsequent laws limiting the power of the monarchy and thus placed more authority in the hands of the crown in New Brunswick than the crown possessed in Britain. Moreover, in 1805, when defending the right of the landowners of Saint John to exclusive access to the fisheries adjoining their land, Chipman declared that it was “absurd to apply the obsolete articles of Magna Charta and principles of the Common Law to this Country, whose settlement depends upon principles and practice diametrically opposite to them.” Since one of the largest landowners was William Hazen*, his father-in-law, his inconsistency on that occasion is understandable.

The legal system, both conservative and harsh, was not popular in the colony, and Chipman contributed to its unpopularity by insisting upon a scale of fees that was excessively high. In 1787 Chief Justice George Duncan Ludlow* cut Chipman’s fees as clerk of the circuits by nearly one half. In 1802 Chipman sought to have disallowed an act of the assembly which prohibited attorneys from accepting fees in cases where the sum contested was less than £5. In both instances Chipman defended the existing fees as essential for the maintenance of a “respectable” bar. In reality, as Ludlow recognized, the higher level of fees made the legal system accessible to only a tiny percentage of the population, limited the number of potential clients, and thus contributed to the ferocious competition among the members of the bar, which Chipman found “peculiarly unpleasant” and which in part accounted for the number of duels fought by members of the legal fraternity [see George Ludlow Wetmore]. The emphasis on respectability also ensured that the legal profession was a closed community drawn from the children of the wealthy and well connected. All of Chipman’s students were the sons of prominent loyalists and, since no one who entered his office failed to be admitted to the Supreme Court as an attorney, one may assume that birth was more important than talent in becoming a lawyer. Chipman was not alone in defending a legal system that was relatively unresponsive to public opinion and a profession that was extremely unrepresentative of society at large, but he was one of the most vociferous and influential critics of reform.

Chipman’s legal career was not, however, entirely devoid of acts of altruism. In 1800 he acted without payment as counsel for a black woman, Nancy (Ann), in a test case of the legality of slave-holding in New Brunswick. Virtually the whole of the loyalist legal establishment sympathized with slavery, and Chipman and his co-counsel, Samuel Denny Street, who was something of an outsider, were opposed in court by Jonathan Bliss, Thomas Wetmore, John Murray Bliss, Charles Jeffery Peters, and William Botsford. Although Street was the driving force behind the case – it was he who had initiated the proceedings – and although the comparative importance of the two men in the conduct of the litigation is uncertain since Street’s brief has not survived, there is no doubt that Chipman played a major role. After an exhaustive search of the Nova Scotian statutes, he realized that his case was weak, but he “carefully avoided mentioning” the law that undermined his position and prepared an 80-page brief which helped convince two of the four Supreme Court judges that slavery was illegal in New Brunswick. Since the bench was divided, no judgement was rendered and Nancy was returned to her master, Caleb Jones*. Slave-holding persisted in New Brunswick for at least another two decades because of the conservatism of the Supreme Court, but the legal uncertainty that the 1800 case prompted contributed to the withering away of slavery.

Historian David Bell has implied that Chipman’s participation in this case was motivated by a desire to bring himself to the attention of the imperial authorities, and certainly his decision in 1805 to take the side of Stair Agnew in another slavery case suggests that he was not a fanatical abolitionist. Nevertheless, there is no reason to doubt that in 1800 he joined with Street because he found slavery morally repugnant, and he had every right in later years to extol his work as a “volunteer for the rights of human nature.” Following the War of 1812, when several hundred black refugees from the southern United States were accepted into New Brunswick, Chipman championed their cause. In 1816 he was responsible for the decision to grant licences of occupation to the refugees in the Loch Lomond area, about 12 miles from Saint John, and he urged in vain that the government should absorb the expenses of surveying the land upon which the blacks were to be settled. Yet this incident reveals the limits as well as the sincerity of Chipman’s humanitarianism. He recommended that the blacks should be given 50-acre lots rather than the 200-acre lots normally given to white settlers. By arranging for their settlement on these terms he effectively created a subculture of poverty and a source of cheap domestic labour for the Saint John élite.

The same mixture of charitable intentions and ethnocentricity can be seen in Chipman’s attitude to the native peoples of New Brunswick. In 1786 he was the prosecutor in a celebrated case in which two former soldiers were convicted of murdering an Indian, a case which established that crimes against native peoples would not go unpunished [see Pierre Benoit*]. After the London-based New England Company, a philanthropic organization dedicated to “civilizing” the Indians, had extended its operations to New Brunswick, Chipman was appointed to the local board of commissioners in 1795 and actively participated in its deliberations. In 1802 he was one of a number of dissident commissioners who expressed dissatisfaction with the slow progress of the company’s program of assimilation, although he did not join the others when they submitted their resignations in 1803. After the board was reconstituted in 1806, Chipman became secretary-treasurer at a salary of £50 per annum and he supported the new policy, adopted in 1807, of attempting to segregate Indian children from their parents. Chipman can hardly be condemned for his insensitivity in approving such a policy, since it reflected contemporary attitudes, but he can legitimately be criticized for turning a blind eye to the incompetence and rapacity of Oliver Arnold, the Anglican minister in charge of the company’s school at Sussex Vale (Sussex Corner), and to the failings of John Coffin*, the superintendent of the apprenticeship program, who exercised virtually no supervision over the whites to whom Indian children were apprenticed. In the long term the major beneficiaries of the company’s activities, which were terminated in 1826, were Chipman and his colleagues who, as a modern historian has commented, regarded “the Company’s funds as another source of English compensation for the deprivations” they had suffered as loyalists. Chipman was eager to accelerate the rate of assimilation, but he never seems to have taken seriously the desire of the company to bring the rudiments of European education and the benefits of the Protestant religion to the Indians.

Chipman’s limited devotion to the religious objectives of the New England Company is hardly surprising. Although a member of the Church of England, he was no zealot. It is true that, as solicitor general, he was responsible for preparing the bill incorporating Trinity Church in Saint John in 1789 and that he was for many years a vestryman of the church; towards the end of his life, moreover, he agreed to give Trinity the land upon which to erect a new church in return for pews for himself and his family. He also supported the 1786 law establishing the Church of England in New Brunswick and opposed the bills introduced at virtually every session of the assembly to allow dissenting ministers to perform marriages. In 1822 he claimed that “the interests of the Church are daily gaining strength.” In reality, however, like most of his contemporaries according to a modern historian, he accepted “the limited effectiveness of the Anglican Church with a curious indifference.” He was prepared to see some government patronage extended to all the Protestant sects and to allow the more respectable dissenting ministers to receive commissions as justices of the peace and thus to perform civil marriages. Similarly, on questions of education, he was a moderate. He sat on the board of directors of the public grammar school in Saint John and, after 1820, on the board of trustees for the Madras schools, which, while run by the Church of England, were open to the children of dissenters. But this ambivalence did not extend to institutions of higher learning. In 1785 he was one of the original petitioners for the incorporation of a provincial college, and in 1786 he assisted Attorney General Bliss in preparing the charter, which was modelled upon that of Columbia College in New York and effectively restricted entry to those who belonged to the Church of England. After 1800 he served on the governing board of the College of New Brunswick and assisted in its fund-raising campaigns in Britain. Clearly Chipman was not prepared to compromise when the interests of the privileged class to which he belonged seemed to be at stake.

Chipman was nevertheless more tolerant toward dissenters than were the members of the loyalist gentry in Fredericton. His sympathy was in part determined by his marriage on 24 Oct. 1786 to Elizabeth Hazen, daughter of an important non-Anglican family. He at no time regretted this decision: in 1793 he wrote to a friend, “I never knew what real happiness was till I was married.” Moreover, the union with Elizabeth brought a number of tangible advantages. Her father, one of the founders of the firm of Simonds, Hazen and White, which had been established at the mouth of the Saint John River prior to the revolution, was a member of the Council, a wealthy and influential merchant, and the owner of a large and valuable estate in and around Saint John. Chipman became William Hazen’s solicitor and gradually acquired a substantial quantity of Hazen land, inherited in due course by Ward Chipman Jr, who was born on 10 July 1787.

Chipman’s marriage consolidated his standing among the social élite. In Saint John, unlike Fredericton, the distinction between loyalist and non-loyalist was early blurred through intermarriage, and by virtue of his alliance with the Hazens Chipman became connected to a network of highly influential families in the colony, including the Murrays and the Botsfords. His own loyalist credentials were, of course, impeccable and he remained on friendly terms with key figures in the Fredericton élite, particularly Edward Winslow. But he was also willing to part company with them on such questions as where the Supreme Court should sit and whether slavery should be upheld in New Brunswick. Indeed, on the latter issue he found himself acting with Samuel Denny Street, the bête noire of the Fredericton establishment. Yet the provincial secretary, Jonathan Odell*, commented when Chipman was named to the Council that the appointment “cannot fail to be considered by every member of the Council as a very valuable acquisition to that Board and the public.”

Part of the reason for Chipman’s ability to maintain good relations with the different factions of the New Brunswick élite was his immense charm. He could work with those with whom he disagreed politically, and he did not allow professional disappointments to destroy personal friendships. When Winslow was appointed a judge over his head, Chipman accepted the decision philosophically, and after Winslow’s death he generously contributed to a fund to assist his three unmarried daughters, who had been left virtually destitute. Unlike Jonathan Bliss, who was once a close friend but who became so disillusioned with life in the backwoods of New Brunswick that he retreated into semi-seclusion, Chipman was noted for his hospitality. Following his marriage, he built one of the most impressive houses in Saint John. Decorated with English wallpaper and furnished lavishly, it became, in one historian’s words, “the social center of the city for a century.” Prince Edward* Augustus stayed with the Chipmans when he visited Saint John in 1794. Over time Chipman added to his estate and constructed an elaborate garden and a flourishing farm. He took his responsibilities as a gentleman farmer seriously. He imported seeds, experimented with crops, and was noted for his “fine potatoes,” which he sold in New England. On 7 Oct. 1818 he was made an honorary member of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture.

Although Chipman was dedicated to re-creating in New Brunswick the style of life of an English country gentleman, he was by no means opposed to commerce. He could not afford to be. Not only was he connected to the most prominent merchant family in Saint John but he depended for his livelihood upon the income generated by his legal practice and the merchants of Saint John were the only group in the city wealthy enough to avail themselves of his services. Indeed, since money invested in land brought a poor return and there was a need to diversify his holdings, Chipman himself became involved in commerce. During the 1780s he invested heavily in a flour-mill, which flourished for a time. From 1808 until 1820, as one of the members of the committee of correspondence with New Brunswick’s agents in London, he was involved in a campaign which brought about changes in the navigation acts of considerable advantage to the merchant community in Saint John. In the 1820s he assisted in organizing the Bank of New Brunswick and he was one of the earliest and most prominent advocates of a canal between the Bay of Fundy and the Baie Verte.

Despite Chipman’s social standing and his enthusiastic advocacy of the commercial interests of Saint John, he was not a popular figure among ordinary citizens in the city. In 1785 he ran for the House of Assembly as one of a slate of six pro-government candidates in Saint John. The slate was composed entirely of prominent loyalists who had been given choice grants of land in the Upper Cove section of the city and was opposed by a rival slate from the Lower Cove section, who denounced the favouritism shown to the élite, resurrected bitter memories of the petition of the 55, and appealed to the electorate to reject office holders such as Chipman and Jonathan Bliss. Just when the Lower Cove candidates were virtually assured of election, a riot broke out between supporters of the two factions. The sheriff, William Sanford Oliver, closed the polls for a time, arrested a number of the Lower Cove supporters, including one of their candidates, and called in the military. In a post-election scrutiny he disallowed many of the votes cast for the Lower Cove slate and declared Chipman and his colleagues elected, a decision upheld by the governor and the loyalist-dominated assembly.

With Chipman and his friends at the helm, New Brunswick’s first assembly proved extremely pliable to the wishes of the executive. Chipman was partly responsible for drafting the reply to the speech from the throne in 1786 and he helped to prepare the rules of procedure of the assembly. According to Edward Winslow, he was “as much distinguished in the midnight revels as in the noon-day debates.” The only serious dispute in the assembly was over the payment of members, which Chipman opposed. In 1788 he divided the house 23 times on this question and thus incurred the displeasure of the majority of his fellow assemblymen who supported the measure and the future hostility of the liberal historian James Hannay*. Chipman also antagonized his constituents when he did not protest against the decision made in 1786 by Carleton, now lieutenant governor, to transfer the capital from Saint John to Fredericton. In private Chipman was doubtful of the wisdom of Carleton’s action but he was not prepared to challenge the lieutenant governor’s authority. He did, however, criticize the Supreme Court for holding all its sessions in Fredericton, partly because he believed that this procedure detrimentally affected his legal practice, and in 1791 he introduced a bill, subsequently rejected by the Council, to compel the Supreme Court to hold two of its sessions in Saint John.

Whatever support this bill may have won Chipman in Saint John was dissipated in the long dispute in which he supported the right of his father-in-law to a monopoly of the fisheries adjoining the latter’s vast estates in Saint John. In February 1791 a measure granting owners exclusive access to the fisheries off their properties was passed in the assembly by one vote. All of the Saint John members, save Chipman, voted against the measure and all of the city magistrates, save Chipman, subsequently endorsed a petition objecting to the assembly’s decision. After the bill became law, the city council obstructed Hazen’s efforts to restrict access to the fisheries and appealed to the courts, where Chipman acted as Hazen’s attorney. The matter was contested for many years and was not finally settled until 1830, when the Privy Council pronounced against the Hazen interests.

In the election of 1793 Chipman was soundly beaten in Saint John. Although he was returned for Northumberland County, he was unsuccessful when he sought “to get the Speaker’s chair” and he criticized the majority in the assembly as “a set of fools or blackguards & quite under the influence of City Politics.” Blaming his defeat in Saint John on the “lower Covers headed by [Elias Hardy*],” he tried, unsuccessfully in 1794 but successfully in 1795, to have Hardy dismissed as the common clerk of the city. In 1795 another general election was called and Chipman was again defeated in his bid to represent Saint John; this time he was left without a seat in the house. During the later 1790s, when the assembly and the executive were engaged in a bitter dispute over finances, Chipman was forced to watch from the sidelines. In 1793 he had petitioned for and had received a salary of £50 per annum for his work as solicitor general, but his salary went unpaid because of the refusal of the assembly to agree to the government’s supply bill and he seethed with anger at the assembly’s activities. His anger was fuelled by financial distress. The late 1780s and 1790s were not a prosperous period in New Brunswick and his legal practice withered. Chipman had spent money lavishly on his new house and in 1786 he lost “the little I had in the world” when one of his investments went sour. In 1790 he was severely disappointed when a vacant judgeship was not given to the attorney general, since if Jonathan Bliss had received the appointment, Chipman would have been next in line for the attorney generalship and for a subsequent opening on the bench. The following year he tried in vain to secure a judicial post in Upper Canada. By 1792 he had begun to “despair” of the future. Deprived of a political career after 1795 and tied to a law practice that consumed little of his time and generated insufficient income for his needs, Chipman became even more despondent.

Chipman was “regenerated,” to use Winslow’s word, by a stroke of unanticipated good fortune. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 had inadequately drawn the boundary between Nova Scotia and the District of Maine (then part of Massachusetts), and in 1794 the American and British governments agreed to establish a commission to resolve the territorial dispute that had resulted. In 1796 Chipman was selected as the British agent and for two years and nine months he devoted his very considerable talents to the task of preparing and advocating the British case. The primary task of the commission, on which Thomas Henry Barclay sat as the representative of Great Britain, was to decide the identity of the river defined as the St Croix in the treaty of 1783. The American agent, James Sullivan, argued that the Magaguadavic was the St Croix and based his case upon the map drawn by John Mitchell in 1755 and testimony from Indians in the area, but Chipman was able to cast doubt upon the accuracy of the Mitchell map and turn the evidence of the Indians to his own advantage. In his presentation to the commission, based upon extensive research into both French and English documents, Chipman marshalled irrefutable evidence to show that the Scoodic was the St Croix. Although he was unable to convince the commissioners that the southern branch of the Scoodic should be adopted in tracing the river to its source, he secured his major objective and earned high praise for his diligence and industry. During the meetings of the commission Chipman was able to make a “long promised visit” to old friends in Massachusetts and to renew contacts with his family there. Two of his sisters had married prominent Salem merchants and Chipman wisely invested a large proportion of the £960 per annum he had earned as agent in ships owned by his brothers-in-law, William Gray and Thomas Ward. By 1798 he was again on the road to solvency and he had been promised by his superiors in London that his services would “not be unrewarded.”

The return to a relatively inactive life after 1798 was disillusioning. Chipman’s legal practice in Saint John continued to occupy little of his time and he was “obliged to condescend to the most laborious drudgery of office in matters of the most trifling concern.” In October 1802 he was again rebuffed when he ran for the assembly in Saint John and in 1804 he complained that he would never have settled in New Brunswick if he known how “unrewarding” life would be there. Chipman’s complaints must be taken with a grain of salt. In 1801 he was able to purchase another substantial block of land in Saint John, his investments in Massachusetts continued to return a handsome profit, and his wine-cellar was the most extensive in the city. Chipman’s difficulty was that he wished to enjoy a style of life vastly superior to that of his neighbours and out of line with his resources. By 1807 he was in such desperate financial straits that he was compelled to accept a small allowance from his sister, Elizabeth Gray. The Grays had boarded Ward Chipman Jr while he prepared for his entry to Harvard and they encouraged Chipman Sr to return to the United States. Chipman was not prepared to become an American citizen but in 1805, after a visit to his relatives the previous year, he unsuccessfully sought to become the British consul in Boston. In 1807 Edward Winslow obtained the vacancy on the New Brunswick bench caused by the death of Isaac Allan, even though Thomas Carleton pointed out that it would be “an act of injustice to pass over” Chipman, because of his “superior Talents.” Although Chipman had apparently disclaimed interest in the appointment because the annual salary of a puisne judge was only £300, he was clearly disappointed by Winslow’s promotion, particularly since Winslow had no formal legal training and was not a member of the bar.

Chipman had been named to the Council on 6 Feb. 1806 and took his seat on 2 Feb. 1807. The appointment gave him a renewed sense of purpose and he took an active part in the deliberations of the Council, although except during the three-month presidency of Edward Winslow in 1808 he had limited influence with the various administrators and lieutenant governors of the colony. In 1808 two vacancies occurred on the bench with the deaths of George Duncan Ludlow and Joshua Upham*. Chipman was unable to secure the post of chief justice, which went to Jonathan Bliss, but he mustered all his influence in Britain to ensure that he, and not “the little Creeper,” Samuel Denny Street, was given the other vacancy. Although the salary of a puisne judge had been raised to £500, Chipman claimed he would lose money by accepting the appointment, since he would have to resign his multiple offices and retire from private practice. None the less, eager to be relieved of “the slavish drudgery and butchery” of private practice and content with a modest but secure income “during the residue of my pilgrimage in this sequestered retirement on the back side of the Bay of Fundy,” he accepted the post and took his place on the bench in 1809. One additional attraction of the appointment was that it enabled him to provide for Ward Chipman Jr, who succeeded his father as advocate general and clerk of the crown on the circuits and inherited his father’s private practice. Chipman performed his judicial duties conscientiously and competently, but he did not contribute significantly to the evolution of provincial law. His primary concern was to insist upon the enforcement of the existing criminal code and he was known for his severity and rigidity.

Chipman did, however, earn a lasting place in New Brunswick history by his contributions to the settlement of the boundary dispute with the United States. The commission of 1796–98 had identified the Scoodic as the St Croix, but it had not resolved the ownership of a number of islands in Passamaquoddy Bay or settled the location of the boundary along the highlands north of the St Croix. The fourth and fifth articles of the Treaty of Ghent of 1814 provided for the establishment of commissions to settle these problems. On 12 July 1815 Chipman was again named the agent for Britain; Barclay was reappointed as the British commissioner. In preparing his case for the St Croix commission, Chipman had carefully laid the basis for establishing British ownership of the major islands in Passamaquoddy Bay and, although the British government eventually agreed to surrender several of the smaller islands to the United States, the Passamaquoddy Islands commission, which began its meetings at St Andrews in September 1816, upheld the British claim to Grand Manan, the most important of the islands in dispute. The commission dealing with the northern boundary between New Brunswick and the United States also began its hearings in September 1816. As early as 1796 Chipman had recognized that “by the most favorable decision we can obtain . . . our communication with Canada by the River St. John will be interrupted,” and he had recommended then that Britain ought to obstruct the negotiations until the Americans were ready to agree to a settlement which would “preserve that communication unbroken.” In 1816 Chipman implemented this policy. He successfully disguised the weakness of the British case in order to ensure that the commission would fail to reach agreement and would be forced to refer the dispute to a neutral umpire from whom Britain might anticipate “a favorable decision.” With great skill Chipman prepared his arguments and largely because of his efforts the commission concluded its meetings in October 1821 without reaching an agreement. In 1830 the dispute was referred to the king of the Netherlands, who in 1831 recommended, as Chipman had predicted, a compromise settlement favourable to Britain. Although the American Senate refused to accept this recommendation, the dispute was eventually settled by the Webster–Ashburton commission in 1842, roughly upon the basis that Chipman had anticipated. A critical figure in preparing the British presentation to the king of the Netherlands and in the later negotiations was Ward Chipman Jr, who assisted his father as a co-agent after 1816.

Increasingly afflicted by gout, from which he had suffered intermittently since 1779, Chipman delegated the more onerous part of his duties as British agent to his son after 1817. Although he was antagonized by the conduct of Lieutenant Governor George Stracey Smyth, who refused to distribute patronage exclusively to the older loyalist families, and although he signed a petition objecting to Smyth’s decision to dismiss Henry Bliss* as clerk of the Supreme Court in 1822, Chipman did not play a particularly active role in politics at this time and he began to prepare for retirement. Early in 1823 he offered to resign from the bench if given a pension. In March 1823, however, Smyth died and, when the senior member of the Council, George Leonard, declined to take on the administration and Christopher Billopp, the next in line, refused to come to Fredericton to take the oaths of office, Chipman was sworn in as president on 1 April 1823. Encouraged by a minority on the Council residing in Saint John, Billopp challenged the legality of Chipman’s appointment and issued a proclamation as administrator. Somewhat reluctantly, the British government allowed Chipman to continue in office, and he set out “to correct some of the abuses which have lately crept in, and place the public business in a train which will smooth the path of those who come after me.” One of Chipman’s first decisions was to suspend from office the surveyor general, Anthony Lockwood*, because of his “eccentric, outrageous and apparently insane conduct & behaviour.” For more than a year Chipman held the reins of office and during that period he appointed a host of his relatives to minor offices, thus incurring the anger of those who had supported Smyth and expected preferment. Because the new lieutenant governor, Sir Howard Douglas*, had to postpone his arrival, Chipman was responsible for convening the assembly in January 1824. Ward Chipman Jr was elected speaker, and as a result Chipman’s relationship with the assembly was cordial, even though he denied the members access to some of the government documents they requested. The burden of administering the government nevertheless proved too great for his health. He fell ill, and died on 9 Feb. 1824. He was succeeded as administrator by John Murray Bliss.

Upon Chipman’s death the New-Brunswick Royal Gazette noted that he was “the last Survivor” of the loyalist office holders who had founded New Brunswick and praised “his able and zealous exertions at all times to promote the Interests of this Colony.” Indeed, it is arguable that Chipman was the most influential of the founding fathers of New Brunswick. Although the pressure for the partition of Nova Scotia originated with others, Chipman played an active part in convincing the imperial government that partition was desirable. As one of Carleton’s legal advisers and as a member of the first assembly, he played an important, if secondary, role in establishing the institutions of the new colony, particularly the municipal institutions of Saint John. Passionately devoted to the interests of the legal profession, he critically influenced its development and the legal system of the colony. In a host of areas he helped to shape the social institutions of New Brunswick and he was crucially important, through his work on the boundary commissions, in defining the territorial limits of the province.

Undeniably, Chipman’s commitment to New Brunswick was the child of necessity. The “New Canaan” was a refuge for those loyalists, like Chipman, who had tied their careers in the Thirteen Colonies to the imperial connection and who had limited options after the United States won its independence. Chipman’s attitude to the new American nation was ambivalent. Although he joined the loyalist exodus, he did not initially rule out the possibility of remaining in the land of his birth; he maintained strong ties with his relatives there; he visited New England whenever he had the opportunity; he invested a substantial proportion of his capital in American shipping; and he sent his son to Harvard. His attitude to Britain was similarly ambivalent. He was a supporter of the British cause, but he did not enjoy exile in the mother country in 1776–77 and 1784 and he was disillusioned by the imperial government’s benign neglect of the North American colonies after the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars. Moreover, “the Land of promise” did not live up to his hopes and expectations. Although he achieved greater financial success than most of his contemporaries and bequeathed to his son a substantial estate and a position of social prominence, Chipman’s life was spent in a continuous struggle against insolvency. He was also discouraged by political developments in New Brunswick. During the constitutional crisis of the 1790s, he began to doubt whether the proper balance of power between the executive and the assembly could be preserved. On the occasion of a later conflict he lamented, “If there was one spark of spirit or discernment in their Constituents not one of them [those advocating the claims of the assembly] would ever be again chosen – but so capricious is the many headed monster, and so revolutionary the spirit of the present times, that the probability is that as ignorant as abandoned and wicked a set would be again returned.”

Despite fits of despondency, Chipman continued to believe that, if properly governed, New Brunswick would become “one of the most valuable and important parts of His Majesty’s North American Possessions.” In 1824 he called upon the members of the legislature to remember that “we are the Survivors and Descendents” of those settlers who had created New Brunswick “as an Asylum for his [majesty’s] faithful and loyal Subjects.” Since Chipman’s loyalty was based in large measure upon self-interest and he continued to view “Superior interest” as the key to promotion in his profession, one may view these protestations cynically. But over time Chipman’s muted anti-Americanism and moderate conservatism hardened into an ideology of loyalism that profoundly influenced the provincial culture of New Brunswick. In a very real sense his greatest achievement was the role he played in passing on this ideology to the second-generation loyalist gentry, who continued to uphold “the principles of their Fathers.”

Phillip Buckner

A diary by Chipman has been published under the title “Ward Chipman diary: a loyalist’s return to New England in 1783,” ed. J. B. Berry, Essex Institute, Hist. Coll. (Salem, Mass.), 87 (1951): 211–41.

Maine Hist. Soc. (Portland), Thomas Barclay papers, Chipman to Smythe, 3 Dec. 1817. Mass. Hist. Soc. (Boston), T. W. Ward papers, Chipman to William Ward, 30 May 1816; Ward to Chipman, 19 Sept. 1822. N.B. Museum, Chipman, Ward, cb doc., nos.8, 18; F66, no.20; W. F. Ganong coll., Ward Chipman to Thomas Carleton, 12 Aug. 1796, 26 Dec. 1798; Chipman to William Knox, 19 Oct. 1796, 1 Dec. 1798; Knox to Chipman, 2 Feb. 1797; H. T. Hazen coll.: Ward Chipman papers, Ward Chipman, notebook of law study under Daniel Leonard and Jonathan Sewell, Boston, 1774; corr. of Chipman to: Henry Appleton and Frederick Pigeon, 7 Nov. 1789; Stephen DeBlois, 18 May 1786; Sir Howard Douglas, 18 Dec. 1823; James Fraser, 30 Nov. 1803; William Gray, 22 June 1807; H. Hatch, 7 Jan. 1814; William Hazen, 3 June 1809; Thomas Paddock, 28 May 1823; Rev. Sherwood, 2 May 1822; Sir John Wentworth, 18 March 1816; Gideon White, 25 May 1786; corr. to Chipman from: Henry Bass, 16 April 1788; Jonathan Bliss, 8 Nov. 1810; William Botsford, 17, 20, 29 Oct. 1822; M. Brimmer, 18 Sept. 1822; Eliza Gray, January 1806; Joseph Gray, 9 Dec. 1787; William Gray, 28 Dec. 1787; John Hammell, 26 Nov. 1787; C. W. Hazen, 21 April 1806; Gideon White, various dates; Justus Wright, 6, 12 Dec. 1789; Hazen papers, court records, 1783–1806. PAC, MG 23, D1, ser.1, 2: 572–73; 6: 499–502; 7: 183–98; GII, 10, vol.2: 325–32, 357–64, 373–84, 393–98, 411–14, 452–57, 586–89; vol.3: 644–57, 762–69, 776–79, 790–93, 805–12, 831–34, 867–72, 943–46, 960–63, 1031–42, 1168–71; vol.4: 1373–76, 1708–11, 1865–68, 1878–81, 1889–92, 1903–6; vol.6: 2805–6, 2824–27. PANB, RG 2, RS6, A3, 27 March, 1 April 1823. PANS, MG 1, 164c, no.1; 1603, no.40. PRO, AO 12/11: 86–88; 12/61: 45; CO 188/29: 75–76; WO 42/59: 426. UNBL, MG H2, 5: 11; 9: 69; 11: 93; 14: 108. N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1786, 1791; Legislative Council, Journal [1786–1830]. Winslow papers (Raymond). New-Brunswick Royal Gazette, 8 Aug. 1820, 20 Aug. 1822, 10 Feb. 1824. R. M. Chipman, “The Chipman lineage, particularly as in Essex County, Mass.,” Essex Institute, Hist. Coll., 11 (1871): 263–319. Jones, Loyalists of Mass. Shipton, Sibleys Harvard graduates. Stark, Loyalists of Mass. (1910). Carol Berkin, Jonathan Sewall: odyssey of an American loyalist (New York, 1974). Gorman Condon, “Envy of American states.” Hannay, Hist. of N.B. Lawrence, Judges of N.B. (Stockton and Raymond). J. S. MacKinnon, “The development of local government in the city of Saint John, 1785–1795” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., Fredericton, 1968), 26–43, 137. MacNutt, New Brunswick. D. R. Moore, “John Saunders, 1754–1834: consummate loyalist” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., 1980). J. M. Murrin, “The legal transformation: the bench and bar of eighteenth-century Massachusetts,” Colonial America: essays in politics and social development, ed. S. N. Katz (Boston, [1971]), 415–49. M. B. Norton, The British-Americans: the loyalist exiles in England, 1774–1789 (Boston and Toronto, 1972). P. A. Ryder, “Ward Chipman, United Empire Loyalist” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., 1958). E. O. Tubrett, “The development of the New Brunswick court system, 1784–1803” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., 1967). R. W. Winks, The blacks in Canada: a history (London and New Haven, Conn., 1971). Murray Barkley, “The loyalist tradition in New Brunswick: the growth and evolution of an historical myth, 1825–1914,” Acadiensis (Fredericton), 4 (1974–75), no.2: 3–45. D. G. Bell, “Slavery and the judges of loyalist New Brunswick,” Univ. of New Brunswick Law Journal (Saint John), 31 (1982): 9–42. Kenneth Donovan, “The origin and establishment of the New Brunswick courts,” N.B. Museum, Journal (Saint John), 1980: 57–64. Judith Fingard, “The New England Company and the New Brunswick Indians, 1786–1826: a comment on the colonial perversion of British benevolence, “Acadiensis (Fredericton), 1 (1971–72), no.2: 29–42. W. F. Ganong, “A monograph of the evolution of the boundaries of the province of New Brunswick,” RSC Trans., 2nd ser., 7 (1901), sect.ii: 139–449. Marion Gilroy, “The partition of Nova Scotia, 1784,” CHR, 14 (1933): 375–91. Edward Gray, “Ward Chipman, loyalist,” Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc. (Boston), 54 (1920–21): 331–53. R. W. Hale, “The forgotten Maine boundary commission,” Mass. Hist. Soc., Proc., 71 (1953–57): 147–55. D. R. Jack, “James White, late high sheriff of St. John,” Acadiensis (Saint John), 3 (1903): 296–300. I. A. Jack, “The loyalists and slavery in New Brunswick,” RSC Trans., 2nd ser., 4 (1898), sect.ii: 137–85. W. O. Raymond, “The fishery quarrel,” New Brunswick Magazine (Saint John), 3 (July–September 1899): 57–70. W. A. Spray, “The settlement of the black refugees in New Brunswick, 1815–1836,” Acadiensis (Fredericton), 6 (1976–77), no.2: 64–79. R. D. and J. I. Tallman, “The diplomatic search for the St. Croix River, 1796–1798,” Acadiensis, 1 (1971–72), no.2: 59–71.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Phillip Buckner, “CHIPMAN, WARD (1754-1824),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 16, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chipman_ward_1754_1824_6E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chipman_ward_1754_1824_6E.html
Author of Article:   Phillip Buckner
Title of Article:   CHIPMAN, WARD (1754-1824)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   June 16, 2024