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DOYLE, Sir CHARLES HASTINGS, soldier and colonial administrator; b. 10 April 1804 in London, England, the eldest son of Lieutenant-General Sir Charles William Doyle and Sophia Cramer Coghill; d. unmarried on 19 March 1883 in London.

Charles Hastings Doyle, like his father, attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, England, before entering the army as an ensign on 23 Dec. 1819. Doyle’s rise through the ranks was gradual; on 16 June 1825 he purchased his captaincy, and while holding this rank through the 1830s he served as an aide-de-camp at Quebec. By 1841 he had been promoted to major. Doyle, who had served in both the East and the West Indies, purchased his lieutenant-colonelcy in 1846 and by 1854 had become a full colonel. From 1846 to 1856 he was on the staff of the quartermaster general and served in the Crimean campaign where at Varna he was invalided. For the next four and one-half years he was inspector general of militia in Ireland. Finally on 15 Sept. 1860 Doyle was appointed major-general and a year later was posted to the North American command.

Doyle arrived in Halifax on 16 Oct. 1861 to assume command of the British troops in the Atlantic area, which included the Maritime colonies, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. The outbreak of the American Civil War the previous April had spurred the imperial authorities to re-evaluate the defences of British North America, and Doyle busied himself with analyses of defence works and military personnel. After the Northern seizure of Confederate agents on the British steamer Trent on 8 Nov. 1861, relations between Britain and the North became strained and military preparations were stepped up. Britain dispatched troops to reinforce her garrisons in central Canada, but winter had closed the St Lawrence and it became necessary to re-route the reinforcements through Halifax. Responsibility for transporting the troops fell upon Doyle. Working closely with the lieutenant governor of New Brunswick, Arthur Hamilton Gordon*, Doyle by 17 March 1862 had dispatched almost 7,000 British regulars overland through New Brunswick to the eastern terminus of the Grand Trunk Railway at Rivière-du-Loup, Canada East. The speed and efficiency of the operation brought much credit to him. Diplomatic tensions eased in the spring, however, when the Northerners released the prisoners taken from the Trent.

One of Doyle’s main concerns during these years was the Atlantic area militia. An inspection tour had shown that the militia existed only “on paper” and that the local legislatures had “repeatedly refused to provide money for the purpose of Defence.” He urged upon the Maritime lieutenant governors the necessity of a thorough reorganization of the militia and made an improved training system for officers the “key stone” of his efforts. In the summer of 1864 almost 35,000 militiamen received a week’s military training in Nova Scotia alone.

As commander of the British forces, it was Doyle’s responsibility to assume the position of administrator whenever a lieutenant governor was out of the province or in the interim between appointments. It was during the absence from Nova Scotia of the Earl of Mulgrave [Phipps] in the fall of 1862 that Doyle made one of his most important political contacts. A strong supporter of the projected Intercolonial Railway, Doyle offered to aid Joseph Howe*’s advocacy of the line by writing to the home authorities “showing the great utility the railroad will be in a military point of view.” As a result of correspondence concerning the railway, a warm friendship developed between Doyle and Howe.

In December 1863 Doyle, as administrator of Nova Scotia, again found himself in the midst of a diplomatic conflict. The Chesapeake, a steamer with Northern registry, had been seized by Southern agents with the help of some British Americans, but was soon recaptured by Northern gunboats in neutral British American waters and brought into Halifax. Doyle demanded that the ship be surrendered to him, along with three Nova Scotians on board whom he claimed were illegally detained. The Northern commander complied, but the anger of numerous Southern sympathizers in Halifax had been aroused by the Northerners’ actions and they aided the escape of one of the three Nova Scotians whom Doyle wanted arrested for piracy in the original seizure of the Chesapeake. Doyle managed to defuse the troubled situation by impartially pursuing the three Nova Scotian wrongdoers in the courts. He was commended by all sides for his judicious handling of the affair, and even the American secretary of state, William Henry Seward, praised Doyle for his “just and friendly proceedings.”

Doyle devoted his next few years in command almost entirely to military matters. By April 1866 the menace of a Fenian invasion of New Brunswick was at its most serious, and Doyle quickly responded to Lieutenant Governor Gordon’s request for military aid. On 17 April he left Halifax with Royal Navy warships carrying over 700 British regulars and proceeded to Passamaquoddy Bay where the Fenian force was concentrated. This show of British armed might discouraged the Fenians, and the invaders dispersed.

Doyle remained in New Brunswick following the Fenian scare and in October 1866, with the departure of Arthur Gordon, became administrator of the province. The defeat of Albert James Smith’s anti-confederate government in general elections the previous June had been decisive in a successful move toward a Canadian union, but Doyle’s first months in office were devoted entirely to undermining the still considerable opposition to confederation. As a result of his efforts, on 1 July 1867 he was named the province’s lieutenant governor, a post he held until the following October. His ability to mediate and to remain on good terms with all political extremes had made Doyle one of the most respected figures in Maritime political circles by this time. Charles Tupper*, now a leading force behind Sir John A. Macdonald*’s federal government, realized that Doyle might be useful in the troubled political situation in Nova Scotia, where only one pro-confederate among 19 federal members of parliament and two pro-confederates among 38 members of the provincial assembly had been elected in September 1867. After repeated appeals from Tupper, Doyle finally consented to accept an appointment as lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia.

Doyle lamented that he was facing “odds that would beat the Angel Gabriel if sent here to govern.” On the one side he faced the recently elected assembly committed to the repeal of the British North America Act, and on the other the federal government which was urging strong action against the unruly repealers. His main problem was to prevent an open split between the two levels of government. For this reason, even before entering the province, Doyle turned to his old friend Joseph Howe, now a member of parliament and the principal leader of the anti-confederate movement, and urged him not to “kick us when we are down.” Doyle offered Howe his services as a “contact-man” with Macdonald’s federal government and Howe assured Doyle that “you may not only rely on my personal aid but on every friend I have to smooth your path and make your administration successful.”

The most pressing problem facing Doyle after his swearing in on 28 October was the formation of a new provincial ministry. Early in November he accepted the resignation of the pro-confederate government of Hiram Blanchard* which had been in office since the previous July. This move did not please Sir John A. Macdonald who wanted the confederates to stay in office until they were defeated in the assembly. Acting on the advice of Howe, Doyle summoned Richard A. McHeffey to form a ministry from among the anti-confederate majority. Immediate and widespread opposition was soon voiced by William Annand and Martin Isaac Wilkins, both anti-confederate leaders with considerable cabinet experience in previous Liberal and Conservative governments. Annand, who had no seat in the assembly but was soon appointed to the Legislative Council, was then selected premier by the anti-confederate caucus, and McHeffey was forced to become minister without portfolio. The incident illustrated not only that Doyle had a much better working relationship with Howe than with the provincial anti-confederates, but also that a serious rift was developing between Howe and the more radical Nova Scotia repealers.

In the interval between Doyle’s appointment and the first meeting of the legislature on 30 Jan. 1868, the relationship between him and his ministry began to take form. Conflict first arose over the appointment of legislative councillors. Before leaving the province Sir William Fenwick Williams, Doyle’s predecessor, had appointed six councillors who supported confederation. The anti-confederate ministry now tried to have these appointments revoked, but Doyle held firm, claiming the appointments were legal and he had no right to overturn them. Politically, he realized that it would be hard enough to control the “Antis” without losing his majority support in the Legislative Council. The ministry quickly realized that Doyle could not be easily manipulated.

Confrontation also appeared likely over the contents of the throne speech. What could Doyle say about confederation that would not alienate his government, yet would reiterate his own support for the new union? He informed Macdonald that “nothing will make me advocate repeal in my speech from the Throne, as I cannot afford to sacrifice either my honour or consistency, so that a crisis is likely to arrive here. . . . I think the general opinion is that they will give way upon this point, I most certainly will not.” A solution to Doyle’s dilemma came from a familiar source, Howe, who assured him that “I have talked with most of [the anti-confederate assemblymen] and am assured that there is no disposition to press you unfairly.” He even suggested the actual wording of Doyle’s speech. One crucial phrase submitted by Howe read: “. . . and I beg to assure you of my cordial co-operation within the limits of law and the constitution in the maturing of such measures as may appear to you calculated to promote the general welfare.” The avenue for compromise had been opened. By employing Howe’s vague and temperate phraseology, a complete break was prevented between Doyle and his government. By the end of the short session which followed, the “Antis” were convinced Doyle had earned the “confidence of your Sovereign, the respect of your Council and the affection of the people of the province.”

Attention next shifted to England where a repeal delegation led by Howe was presenting its case to the British authorities. Doyle journeyed to London after the close of the provincial legislature and wholeheartedly threw himself behind the confederation cause. He undoubtedly was pleased when the repeal case was formally rejected by the British parliament on 4 June 1868. However, the rejection left Howe in a difficult position. He would not encourage insurrection in Nova Scotia or its annexation to the United States, but neither could he completely abandon his former position. The solution to his dilemma seemed to lie in seeking “better terms” for Nova Scotia than it had received on entering confederation in 1867. Throughout the summer and fall of 1868 Sir John A. Macdonald and Howe negotiated “better terms.” In the early stages when direct correspondence between the two men would have been indelicate, Doyle maintained personal contact with both and passed on information. Macdonald confided to Governor General Lord Monck* that while in Halifax in August to address the repeal convention he had received “most valuable assistance from General Doyle” and had consulted him “in every step we took.” Doyle became the weather-vane for the federal government in the stormy atmosphere of Nova Scotia politics. Of most concern to him was the widening split between Howe and the provincial anti-confederates because the fight with the “locals” made it difficult for Howe to concentrate on the negotiations with the federal government. Nevertheless, by January 1869 the details of better terms, including increases in Nova Scotia’s debt allowance and its annual subsidy from the federal government, had been worked out. Howe then entered Macdonald’s cabinet.

While Doyle was playing an important role as “middle man” between Howe and Macdonald he also took dramatic action to bring his hostile local ministry under control. In a fiery speech on repeal, Attorney General Martin Isaac Wilkins insinuated that if Britain remained unsympathetic to Nova Scotia’s pleas then the province might have “to appeal to another nation to come to our aid.” Doyle regarded Wilkins’ statement as treasonous and sought to have him censored. A confrontation quickly developed between Doyle and his ministers over the issue, but Doyle forced his council to back down. He thus clearly showed his determination to deal decisively with any disloyal actions on the part of the local administration.

With Howe’s entrance into the federal cabinet Macdonald felt the “heart” had been removed from the anti-confederate movement. The task was now to convince the still obstinate “locals” that their cause was hopeless. Macdonald urged Doyle to use all his influence with them. Of utmost importance was Howe’s re-election in Hants County, necessitated by his acceptance of the cabinet post. Doyle repeatedly emphasized to Macdonald that Howe’s popularity in Nova Scotia was at a low ebb and that many of his former friends were deeply angered by his abandonment of the anti-confederate cause: “Their ire is now turned towards Howe, and I know they intend to use every possible effort to defeat his election. Tupper and Company will afford him every assistance, but you must do the same . . . for, if he is re-elected they must give up the Ghosts.” Nevertheless, Doyle was not worried by the “abuse which is being poured upon the devoted head of our friend Joe,” because he felt Howe could handle it. Howe himself was confident of victory, the prospects of which greatly pleased Doyle: “I shall then be able to talk to my locals pretty loud, as the Yankees say, and force them . . . to accept the situation, or smash them up.”

One of the first manœuvres of the confederates was to assure an election day that would allow enough time for an effective campaign. By working closely, Tupper and Doyle were successful in delaying the date of the by-election in Hants. Jeremiah Northup*, Howe’s campaign manager, also asked Doyle to speak with Archbishop Thomas Louis Connolly* of Halifax and “make him put ‘both spurs in’ to some of his Priests in Hants.” Connolly informed Doyle that he would be meeting with the clergymen in question and that “all will be right.” On 20 April 1869 Howe emerged victorious by 383 votes. Doyle was only one of many to heave a sigh of relief when the results were officially confirmed.

Howe’s election greatly strengthened Doyle’s hand; at the opening of the new session he again forced his ministers to delete any mention of repeal from the speech from the throne, and he even added a few moderate statements of his own. The government was under tremendous pressure concerning their future policy towards confederation, but Doyle decided that rather than force the issue he would allow his ministers to withdraw gradually from the repeal policy. Macdonald supported Doyle’s manœuvring: “I think you have been quite right in rejecting all idea of coercion. They will find their level fast enough without any direct agency of yours, and without your appearing to act as despot.” Doyle’s wisdom was rewarded, since by the end of the session the repeal cause was practically dead.

Doyle’s remaining two and a half years in Nova Scotia were anticlimactic. With the disappearance of the repeal issue, his main task had been completed. As early as June 1869 Doyle urged Macdonald to replace him. He felt that he was no longer a “political necessity,” especially after the confederates made substantial gains in both the provincial election of 1871 and the federal contest of 1872. Among his “routine” final duties was to act as administrator of the Dominion of Canada in June of 1872 on the departure of Baron Lisgar [Young*].

Archbishop Connolly’s assessment of Doyle seems fair: “I know of no public man in England or in this country who under every phase of difficulty between two great contending parties, could have exhibited more unbending principle, more energy, more tact, or more honorable forebearance; no one man who could have blended stern principle and sound policy so happily together.” From his arrival in 1861 Doyle had been a man “on the spot,” compelled to deal with the Trent affair, the Chesapeake, the Fenians, and the anti-confederate movement: “I no sooner get rid of one difficulty here than up starts another.” Yet meeting these challenges provided Doyle with his political education, and forced him to develop a style and character all his own which in time became his most valuable asset. Not one of the incompetent imperial figures who had characterized the early 19th century of “Wellington’s Generals,” Doyle was qualified to perform both the military and the political tasks demanded of him. Had it not been for his attempt “to steer . . . by the pole-star of impartiality” and his firm, yet just, handling of a hostile provincial government, it is unlikely that Nova Scotians would have accepted the fact of confederation as soon or as gracefully as they did.

Doyle left Nova Scotia in May 1873 and spent his remaining years in England in relative peace and tranquillity. In 1869 he had been appointed kcmg and promoted lieutenant-general. From April 1874 to May 1877 he commanded the southern district at Portsmouth, England, and in the latter year was promoted general and placed on the retired list. He died suddenly of heart disease in London in 1883.

Ronald H. McDonald

PAC, MG 24, B29; MG 26, A, 114–15. PANS, RG 1, 105–10, 126–28, 128A; RG 2, sect. 2, 1–8. N.S., House of Assembly, Debates and proc., 1861–73; Journals and proc., 1861–73. R. H. Campbell, “Confederation in Nova Scotia to 1870” (ma thesis, Dalhousie Univ., Halifax, 1939). R. G. Dickey, “Party government in Nova Scotia, 1867–1878” (ma thesis, Dalhousie Univ., 1941). D. A. Muise, “Elections and constituencies: federal politics in Nova Scotia, 1867–1878” (phd thesis, Univ. of Western Ontario, London, 1971). K. G. Pryke, “Nova Scotia and confederation, 1864–1870” (phd thesis, Duke Univ., Durham, N.C., 1962).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Ronald H. McDonald, “DOYLE, Sir CHARLES HASTINGS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/doyle_charles_hastings_11E.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/doyle_charles_hastings_11E.html
Author of Article:   Ronald H. McDonald
Title of Article:   DOYLE, Sir CHARLES HASTINGS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   May 21, 2024