RUDOLF, WILLIAM, merchant, justice of the peace, office holder, militia officer, and politician; b. 6 June 1791 in Lunenburg, N.S., son of John Christopher Rudolf and Elizabeth Koch (Cook), and grandson of Leonard Christopher Rudolf, one of the “Foreign Protestants” who founded Lunenburg in 1753; m. first 23 Sept. 1824 Catherine Stevens of Halifax; m. secondly 7 Nov. 1833 Anna Matilda Oxner in Lower La Have, N.S., and they had six children; d. 1 Jan. 1859 in Lunenburg.
Supposedly descended from the von Rudolf family of Thuringia (German Democratic Republic), William Rudolf belonged to one of Lunenburg’s élite families. For many years his establishment, William Rudolf and Company, engaged successfully in the West India trade from a store on Montague Street. From 1819 to his death he was a justice of the peace, and at various times he served as postmaster, registrar of deeds, and lieutenant-colonel of the 1st battalion of the county militia regiment.
A member of the House of Assembly for Lunenburg County from 1826 to 1838, Rudolf was appointed to the Legislative Council on its establishment in 1838 and remained a member until his death. Always zealous in supporting the interests of the Church of England, but otherwise only a moderate tory, he stands out for his actions in 1848 and 1849, which permitted the reformers to adapt the existing governmental system to the requirements of responsible government without creating a constitutional impasse.
When James Boyle Uniacke’s reform government came to power in 1848, it filled up the five vacancies in the Legislative Council with its own appointees. Even then, however, it had only 9 supporters to the tories’ 12, although the tory majority was, in effect, reduced to one by the prolonged absence of the ailing Robert Molleson Cutler and the inability of president Simon Bradstreet Robie to vote except to break a tie. Arriving late for the session of 1848, Rudolf discovered that the council had already proposed amendments to the first of the reform government’s principal measures, the judges bill, which in essence permitted a judge of the Supreme Court to be removed on the joint address of the legislature. When the assembly declined to accept the amendments, the council decided, by 10 to 9, not to adhere to them, Rudolf’s vote making that outcome possible. Similarly, the civil list bill, which transferred the casual revenues of the crown to the provincial assembly in return for a guarantee of some of the principal officials’ salaries, and the departmental bill, the very keystone of the new system, which required two responsible finance officers, a financial secretary and a receiver general, to sit in the Executive Council, passed the Legislative Council only because of Rudolf’s vote.
Late again for the session of 1849, Rudolf missed the events of 14 February, the most exciting day in the history of Nova Scotia’s Legislative Council. The legislature having been requested by Colonial Secretary Lord Grey to reconsider the departmental bill, the tories in the council took advantage of the absence of Rudolf and of new reform member William McKeen, who was delayed by a heavy snowstorm, to press for the adoption of an address withdrawing the council’s assent to the bill. Only the action of the new reform president, Michael Tobin, who voted as an ordinary member, a practice of the lord chancellor in the House of Lords not hitherto adopted in Nova Scotia, created the tie vote that then caused the tory motion to be defeated. Later in the session Rudolf joined the reformers in confirming the council’s support of the bill.
Although the Acadian Recorder suggested that Rudolf was likely to join the reformers, he made no move in that direction. Indeed, on matters unrelated to the effecting of responsible government, he behaved much as before; thus, in 1849 he joined his fellow tories in defeating a private member’s bill that would have put all the denominational colleges on the same footing by repealing the permanent annual grant to King’s College. Amazingly, despite Rudolf’s support of reform bills which the tories, including Anglican Bishop John Inglis* in his capacity as councillor, fought tooth and nail, he somehow escaped the criticism of tory newspapers and his fellow tory councillors. Since Rudolf did nothing else of great consequence in more than 30 years as assemblyman and councillor, and indeed seldom spoke, his sole claim to distinction as a legislator rests upon his common sense decision that “pressure of public opinion . . . could not long be pent up by so feeble a barrier” as a majority of one in the Legislative Council.
PANS, Biog., Rudolf family, genealogy (mfm.); MG 3, 295–99. N.S., Legislative Council, Journal and proc., 31 March, 4, 6 April 1848; 14 Feb., 5 March 1849. Acadian Recorder, 25 Sept. 1824; 9 Nov. 1833; 1848–49. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 1848–49. Novascotian, 1848–49. Directory of N.S. MLAs [William Rudolf’s biog. mistakenly appears under the name of his father, [John] Christopher Rudolf]. Beck, Government of N.S., 103–4; Joseph Howe, vol.2. W. P. Bell, The “foreign Protestants” and the settlement of Nova Scotia . . . (Toronto, 1961), 411–12. M. B. DesBrisay, History of the county of Lunenburg (2nd ed., Toronto, 1895), 113.