HARTSHORNE, LAWRENCE, businessman, office holder, jp, and politician; b. 1 July 1755 in Black Point, N.J., son of John Hartshorne and Lucy Saltar; m. first 20 Jan. 1780 Elizabeth Ustick in New York City; m. secondly 2 Sept. 1802 Abigail Tremain in Halifax; d. 10 March 1822 in Dartmouth, N.S.
Born into a leading Quaker family in the Sandy Hook area of New Jersey, Lawrence Hartshorne had a career which developed as a by-product of the American revolution. Immunized from revolutionary sympathies because of his religion, as well as by the proximity of British military forces, young Lawrence moved in 1777 to nearby New York City, where he entered trade. Three years later he advanced his career and also compromised his political neutrality by becoming the son-in-law of William Ustick, a hardware merchant who had earlier antagonized the New York Sons of Liberty by violating the colonial boycott of British manufactures. Family and business links with the loyalist and British military establishment, forged during the war, prompted Hartshorne to join the loyalist exodus from New York in 1783.
Having successfully drawn upon his association with such notables as Sir Guy Carleton* to obtain grants to several thousand acres of land in Nova Scotia, Hartshorne decided to establish himself in Halifax as a hardware dealer, in partnership with Thomas Boggs, also a refugee from New Jersey. During the 1780s, Hartshorne became active in the cause of agricultural improvement, both as treasurer of a pioneering agricultural society in 1789 and as proprietor of a model farm located on the outskirts of Dartmouth. Popular among his peers, Hartshorne made his initial entry into public affairs in 1791, when he acted as chief assistant to John Clarkson in the project designed to transport Nova Scotian black loyalists to Sierra Leone [see Thomas Peters*; David George*]. Hartshorne appears to have been motivated by a Quaker-inspired concern for blacks and by a belief that their advancement could best be achieved with a return to Africa.
Hartshorne’s rise to prominence was accomplished during the tenure of John Wentworth*, lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia between 1792 and 1808. A fellow loyalist, Wentworth made Hartshorne one of the favoured recipients of official patronage, bestowing on him such offices as seats on the magisterial bench, the local street commission, and the poor house commission. Having the ear of the lieutenant governor probably helped Hartshorne win election in the House of Assembly for Halifax County in 1793. Then in 1801, after having been defeated in the controversial general election of 1799 by “reformers” under the leadership of William Cottnam Tonge, Hartshorne was named to the Council. The appointment confirmed that he had become a member of the inner circle of the oligarchy. Indeed, an anonymous critic of the Wentworth régime, denouncing Hartshorne as a “cedevant quaker ironmonger,” claimed that he exercised an influence second only to that of Michael Wallace.
Wentworth’s patronage was not confined to the allocation of office. In response to prompting from the lieutenant governor, Hartshorne formed a partnership with yet another loyalist, Jonathan Tremain, and around 1792 or so built a combined grist-mill and bakehouse on the Dartmouth side of Halifax Harbour (the site being chosen because of the availability of water power). This enterprise, which represented an investment of between £6,000 and £7,000, long ranked as the largest manufactory in Nova Scotia. Its success was largely dependent on the securing of military contracts for flour, and here the partners received decisive assistance from Wentworth. In addition, Wentworth encouraged Hartshorne to become involved with projects designed to establish a bank in Halifax and build a canal linking the town with the Bay of Fundy [see Isaac Hildrith*]. Following the outbreak of war with France in 1793, Wentworth, thanks to his contacts in the Home Department, helped the firm of Boggs and Hartshorne secure military contracts and also named them as provisioning agents for Nova Scotia’s Indian population. In yet a further gesture, he gave Hartshorne and the partnership of William Forsyth* and William Smith an exclusive lease to mine coal deposits in mainland Nova Scotia. Apart from the flour-mill and the military contracts, these ventures proved abortive, but their existence underscored Hartshorne’s membership in Wentworth’s entourage. As a reciprocal gesture, Hartshorne loaned money to the frequently hard pressed Wentworth family.
The one major controversy in Hartshorne’s public career came in 1804, when he resigned from the Council to protest the appointment to that body of John Butler Butler, a commissariat official and military contractor. Butler’s supposed offence had been to claim precedence over Hartshorne in the Council, but it is more likely that Hartshorne could not tolerate the presence of someone who had earlier outmanœuvred him in bidding for lucrative military flour contracts. Wentworth attempted to restore Hartshorne to the Council in 1807 but the appointment was never ratified by London. The episode, however, did little damage to Hartshorne’s prospects. Even after Wentworth’s fall in 1808, he continued to receive official perquisites; for example, in 1812 he was named to the commission in charge of issuing provincial paper money.
Through the first decade of the 19th century, Hartshorne remained active as a hardware merchant and flour miller. It is hard to assess the relative value of his business activities because of a lack of evidence. But he did not monopolize either the local or the provincial flour trade, competition from American imports remaining a constant problem for the milling operation. He also became a founder of the association that developed into the Halifax Fire Insurance Company. Despite losses through escheat, Hartshorne continued to hold over 17,000 acres in what is now Guysborough County, which he made at least some attempt to settle. As well, he retained an interest in agricultural improvement and emerged after the War of 1812 as a supporter of John Young*.
Some time after 1800, Hartshorne moved from Halifax to Dartmouth to take up residence in a large three-storey wooden mansion known as Poplar Hill. There, with his second wife, daughter of Jonathan Tremain, his business partner, he presided over a family of three sons and six daughters from both marriages, along with a younger cousin, Robert Hartshorne, who had come from Virginia to work in the family business. Securing the prospects of the next generation became the major theme of the last phase of Hartshorne’s career. One step in this direction consisted of having the children baptized (some as adults) in the Church of England. As well, the family acquired a pew at St Paul’s, the Anglican church in Halifax. A series of marriages ensued, with three of the children emulating their father’s example by marrying into the Tremain family. Of the three sons, John died early, Lawrence succeeded his father as partner of Thomas Boggs, and Hugh trained as a lawyer. The Hartshorne family remained prominent in the business, political, and social life of the Nova Scotian capital into the middle years of the 19th century, acquiring special notoriety for the lavish entertaining conducted at their Dartmouth estate. In this way, Lawrence Hartshorne contributed to the often exaggerated claim that the loyalists left a lasting imprint on the character of British North America.
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