McLEAN, ARCHIBALD, jp, politician, and militia officer; b. c. 1753 on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, fourth son of Hector McLean of Torren (Torranbeg?) and Julia McLean; m. first Prudence French, daughter of Captain James French of De Lancey’s Brigade; m. secondly Susan Drummond, daughter of Donald Drummond of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a brother to the laird of the McGregor estate of Balhaldie, near Stirling, Scotland; d. 18 Feb. 1830 in Nashwaak (Durham Bridge), N.B.
It is not known when Archibald McLean immigrated to America. On 1 Oct. 1777 he became an ensign in the New York Volunteers, one of the first of the loyalist regiments to be formed during the American revolution. He was promoted lieutenant in 1779 and captain in 1781, serving with distinction in a number of engagements, notably at the battle of Eutaw Springs, S.C. Placed on half pay in 1783, MeLean went to New Brunswick with members of his disbanded regiment, choosing land on the Nashwaak River near his father-in-law, Captain French, and in close proximity to a number of Highland Scots, most of whom were disbanded soldiers of the 42nd Foot. Patrick Campbell, who met McLean in 1791, spoke of the willingness with which all members of his wife’s family worked together to clear the land and run their farm, usually without the help of servants. McLean almost certainly lived in this way in those early years, but despite the hard physical conditions of the frontier he and his friends tried to emulate the life-style and manners of the British gentry.
In 1793 McLean was elected one of York County’s representatives in the House of Assembly where, in the long conflict between Lieutenant Governor Thomas Carleton* and James Glenie*, he was a firm supporter of the administration. In 1802, after the opposition members had left town, he figured prominently as one of those members of the rump who insisted on passing the revenue bill even though no quorum existed. Among the amendments made to the original bill was one which took the salary of clerk of the assembly away from Samuel Denny Street, the assembly’s choice for that position, and made it available to the lieutenant governor’s candidate, Dugald Campbell*, McLean’s brother-in-law. That autumn McLean was re-elected when York County returned four of Carleton’s supporters in one of the bitterest elections in the history of the province. A justice of the peace, in October he joined six of his fellow magistrates in a petition praying that Caleb Jones* be removed from the bench for having conducted himself in a disloyal manner by expressing pro-American sentiments in his canvass of the voters. A solid majority of the members of the assembly elected in 1802 favoured the government. McLean became chairman of several important committees and was a leading figure in managing affairs in the sessions from 1803 to 1808. A bid by two unsuccessful candidates, Peter Fraser* and Duncan McLeod, to have the election in York declared invalid was turned down by the government majority in 1803. Both, however, were elected in 1809, at which time McLean retired from politics. It appears likely that the clans feeling between the merchants and the “aristocrats,” which was to continue as a prominent feature of Fredericton life, was influencing local politics by the beginning of the century.
Already an active militia officer, McLean was named, in December 1810, staff adjutant to Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Gubbins, the inspecting field officer of the militia forces of New Brunswick. He accompanied Gubbins on extensive tours of the colony and was himself appointed to perform the duties of inspecting field officer when Gubbins left New Brunswick in 1816. He also served for a time as aide-de-camp to the lieutenant governor. As a justice of the peace for several decades, McLean almost certainly played a significant role in local affairs, but information on this aspect of his career is scant, for the records of York County have not survived. He was also a leading layman in the Church of England in the parish of St Marys.
McLean’s career as an elected politician came to an end just 25 years after the founding of New Brunswick. Like Edward Winslow*, at whose funeral he was a pallbearer, he had a vision of a provincial society lad by its gentry. Member of a family of Highland lordlings who from being the military leaders of a clan society became unquestioning supporters of the British social and political system, he upheld rural conservative values and looked upon government, in part, as a dispenser of benefits to the natural leaders of society. In common with many among the gentry, he found an outlet for his talents during the military interlude of the Napoleonic and 1812 wars. Afterwards, he was a member of the circle around the lieutenant governor and in the administration which rather unwillingly came to terms with the commercial and democratic spirit that accompanied the development of the timber trade.
Of the many half-pay loyalist officer gentry who came to the Nashwaak valley in the 1780s, only Archibald McLean came near to realizing the dream of establishing a landed family there. His two marriages produced four sons, of whom Allen commanded a unit of the New Brunswick militia and William served as sheriff of York County. Of his eight daughters, three, and possibly four, moved to Upper Canada; Salome’s husband, James Scott Howard*, became postmaster of that colony. The other daughters married locally and lived near their parents. Three of the sons had prosperous farms on lands granted to their father and Captain French, and followed the tradition of landed gentry by serving as militia officers and local magistrates. Helped by timely inheritances from relatives in the West Indies and Scotland and by their own enterprise and good management, they retained their social position and prestige into the second half of the 19th century.
N.B. Museum, A33 (Notebook on the New York Volunteers and the King’s American Regiment, [probably by Jonas Howe]); Webster