McEACHEN, EMANUEL, farmer and politician; b. in 1816 or 1817 at South Lake, P.E.I.; d. a bachelor, on 5 Nov. 1875, in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Emanuel McEachen, an only son, was born four months after the death of his father, a farmer. He eventually became head of his family, taking possession of more than 100 acres of the farm and supporting his mother and sisters. Well known in his district, McEachen entered politics in 1853 when he was elected to the House of Assembly for Kings County First District. He was appointed to the Tory Executive Council, but, after one tempestuous session during which he became a centre of controversy and struck a Liberal assemblyman, William McGill, in an anteroom of the house, McEachen decided not to contest the election of 1854. He ran again in 1858 and 1863, but without success. A Roman Catholic of Scottish descent, McEachen had remained a Tory at a time when religious issues dominated Island politics and induced most Tory Catholics to join the Liberals. In the 1863 election he was the only Catholic Tory running and was defeated by a margin of more than two-to-one in his constituency – the most Catholic on the Island.
In 1866, when religious passions had subsided, McEachen won a by-election against Benjamin Davies*, a Protestant Liberal. However, he was defeated in the general election the following year, and remained out of public life until 1870, when he was once again elected, and was named to the Executive Council of Premier James Colledge Pope*. Pope’s government was swept out of office in 1872, and McEachen lost his seat to William Wilfred Sullivan*, then a Liberal. But the following year McEachen returned to the assembly and the new Tory government appointed him commissioner of public lands, a position he held until his death. In this period he forcefully advocated a system of publicly supported separate schools, declaring in the assembly that “it is better that Mormonism be taught to children, than no religion at all.” McEachen, no friend of Mormonism, was emphasizing the faults of the existing system, which he accused of instructing the young in “the mysteries of heathen mythology.”
As a politician, Emanuel McEachen was primarily distinguished by unswerving loyalty to his party when almost all his fellow Catholics had abandoned it. Known for vehemence in debate, he was generally considered to be a man who, while hot-tempered, bore few grudges.
Prince Edward Island, Supreme Court, Estates Division, will of Emanuel McEachen, 22 Oct. 1875. Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates, 1866, 75, 105; 1871, 39; 1873, 31–32, 110; 1874, 291, 296, 448–50, 468–69, 494–95, 513–14; 1875, 173–74, 192–93, 196, 208, 312, 320, 322, 358. Examiner (Charlottetown), 26 Jan. 1863; 8 Jan., 5, 12, 19, 26 Feb. 1866; 27 Sept., 4, 18 Oct., 8 Nov. 1875. Island Argus (Charlottetown), 26 Oct., 9, 16 Nov. 1875. Islander (Charlottetown), 18 Jan. 1867. Bolger, PEI and confederation, 140. Robertson, “Religion, politics, and education in PEI.”