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Title: A Sketch in the Life and Times of Judge Haliburton
Author: Haliburton, Robert Grant
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Sketch in the Life and Times of Judge Haliburton" ***



                   A SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND TIMES OF
                        JUDGE HALIBURTON.[1][2]

                 *        *        *        *        *

In the absence of any suitable biography of the author of “The
Clockmaker,” his centenary may lend an interest to the following brief
sketch of his life and times.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton was born at Windsor, in the Province of Nova
Scotia, on the 17th day of December, 1796. He was descended from the
Haliburtons of Mertoun and Newmains, a Border family, one of whom was
Barbara Haliburton, only child of Thomas Haliburton, of Newmains, who
married Robert Scott, and whose second son was Walter Scott, the father
of the immortal Sir Walter. Her eldest son left numerous descendants.
Sir Walter’s tomb is in the ancient burial place of the Haliburtons, St.
Mary’s Aisle, in Dryburgh Abbey. About the beginning of the last century
nearly all of her numerous uncles migrated to Jamaica, and the eldest of
them, Andrew Haliburton, removed thence to Scituate, near Boston,
Massachusetts, where he, and, subsequently, his son William, married
members of the Otis family, to which the well-known James Otis belonged.
William Haliburton (whose cousin, Major John Haliburton, Clive’s
colleague, was, according to Mill’s History of India, “the Founder of
the Sepoy force,”[3]) removed to Nova Scotia with many persons from
Scituate, when the vacant lands of the Acadian French were offered to
settlers. His son, the Hon. William Hersey Otis Haliburton, Chief
Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, in Nova Scotia, married Lucy
Grant, a daughter of Major Alexander Grant, one of Wolfe’s Highland
officers at the siege of Quebec, who, after the French war, settled in
the colony of New York, where he married a Miss Kent, a near relative of
the famous Chancellor Kent. He was killed in the Revolutionary War, at
the storming of Fort Stanwix, while in command of the New York

Chief Justice William Hersey Otis Haliburton left an only child, the
future author of “Sam Slick,” who was educated at the Grammar School,
Windsor, and afterward, at the same place, at the University of King’s
College, for Tory King’s College of the Colony of New York had migrated
to Windsor, Nova Scotia, where, preserving the traditions of Oxford of
olden times, it remained out and out Tory in its politics, and continued
unchanged, even after Oxford itself had long felt the influence of
modern ideas. In its collegiate school, as late at least as 1845, that
venerable heirloom, “Lilly’s Latin Grammar,” which had not a word of
English from cover to cover, and which was a familiar ordeal for boys
long before Shakespeare was born (Cardinal Wolsey, it is said, assisted
in its composition), was still employed. It even retained the quaint old
frontispiece representing boys with knee-breeches and shoebuckles
(probably a picture of the original “Blue-coat Boys”) climbing up the
tree of knowledge, and throwing down the golden fruit. Daily, too, at
the meals in the College Hall there was, and perhaps may be to this day,
heard a quaint Latin grace, which was droned by the “senior scholar,”
beginning, _Oculi omnium ad te spectant, Domine_; probably the same that
was heard in some college halls in the days of the Crusades. It is to be
hoped that the “spirit of the age” has not led it to discard this and
other venerable heirlooms derived from an ancient ancestry. This truly
conservative and orthodox institution, in which the future author was
crammed with classics, and taught to “fear God and honour the King,” was
then considered one of the most successful educational institutions in
America, and it still ranks high in its reputation as a college. It is
the oldest in the Colonies, and it is the only one that has a Royal

Mr. Haliburton used often to puzzle his friends by saying that _he and
his father were born twenty miles apart, and in the same house_.

The enigma throws some light on the early history of Windsor. His father
had extensive grants of land at Douglas, a place situated at the head
waters of the St. Croix, a tributary of the Avon, as to which there is a
gruesome tablet at St. Paul’s Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the
memory of a nobleman, who lost his life “from exposure during an
inclement winter, while settling a band of brave Carolinians” at

The famous Flora McDonald, whose husband was a captain in that regiment,
spent a winter in Fort Edward, the old blockhouse of which still
overlooks the village of Windsor.

The house at Douglas was built in the middle of the last century, like a
Norwegian lodge, of solid timber covered with boards. When Mr.
Haliburton’s father removed from Douglas it was floated down the river,
and was placed on the bank of the Avon, where the town of Windsor now
is, and in it Mr. Haliburton was born. The tide there is very
remarkable, as it rises over thirty-six feet; and while at high tide
hundreds of _Great Easterns_ could float there, when the tide is out the
river dwindles into a rivulet, lost in a vast expanse of square miles of
chocolate. The village early in the century consisted of one straggling
street along the river bank, under green arches formed by the meeting of
the boughs of large elms, a pretty little _Sleepy Hollow_, the quiet of
which was only at times disturbed by the arrival from Halifax of a
six-horse stage-coach at full gallop, or by the melancholy whistle of a
wheezy little steamer from St. John, New Brunswick. The limited society
of the place, a bit of rural England which had migrated, was far more
exclusive and aristocratic than that now found in Halifax, or any
Canadian city (for a shop-keeper or retailer, however wealthy, could not
get the _entrée_ to it), and was composed mainly of families of retired
naval and military officers, “U.E. Loyalists,” professional men, Church
of England clergy, and professors at the College, and also one or two
big provincial dignitaries, with still bigger salaries, who had country
seats where they spent their summers. The officers, too, of a detachment
of infantry stationed there largely contributed to break the monotony of
the place.

[Illustration: CLIFTON, WINDSOR, N.S.]

The migratory house was in time succeeded by a much more commodious one,
built almost opposite to it; and this, in its turn, soon after Mr.
Haliburton was made a Judge, was deserted for what was his home for a
quarter of a century, Clifton, a picturesque property to the west of the
village, consisting in all of over forty acres, bounding to the eastward
on the village, to the north on the river, and to the south on the lands
of King’s College. Underlaid by gypsum, it was much broken up and very
uneven; and the enormous amount of earth excavated in opening up the
gypsum quarries was all needed to make the property a comfortable and
suitable place of residence. Lord Falkland, a Lieutenant-Governor of
Nova Scotia, used to say that he had never seen any place of its size
that had such a variety of charming scenery. One precipitous, sunny
bank, about one hundred and fifty feet long and thirty feet high, became
a dense thicket of acacias, and when they were in bloom, was one mass of
purple and white blossoms, while pathways wandered up and down through
gleaming spruce copses and mossy glades.

One of its special points of interest was the “Piper’s Pond,” so named
after a probably mythical piper of a Highland regiment, who, having
dropped his watch into the water, dived after it, and never came up. It
was one of the few “punch-bowls” in gypsum regions that are not found

[Illustration: THE PIPER’S POND.]

As a landscape gardener, he was greatly aided by the thorough art
training his assistant had obtained at the best ladies’ school of her
day—one at Paris supported by the old _Noblesse_. Her history, from
early childhood to the time when she arrived at Windsor, the youthful
bride of Mr. Haliburton, who himself was still a minor, was a singular
succession of romantic incidents. She was a daughter of Captain Laurence
Neville, of the 19th Light Dragoons, and as she was very young when her
mother died, her father, having made provision for her support and
education before rejoining his regiment in India,[4] left her in charge
of the widow of a brother officer, a sister of Sir Alexander Lockhart,
who subsequently, unknown to him, married William Putnam McCabe, a man
of means, who became the Secretary of “the United Irishmen” of ’98. When
he escaped to France in an open smuggler’s boat, he took with him his
wife and also her ward, Miss Neville; and in 1816, the year the latter
was married, in spite of the ten thousand pounds placed on his head he
secretly went to England to bid her good-bye.

Long before the thrilling tales of his escapes from the troops in
pursuit of him, and other adventures, appeared in Madden’s “History of
the United Irishmen,” they had been household words in the nursery at

The story of her marriage was equally romantic. When her father, who was
living at Henley-on-Thames in 1812, was on his death-bed, he heard that
a very old military friend, named Captain Piercy, was living not far
from that place, and he therefore wrote to him, asking him to call on
Miss Neville, and to render her such services as she might need until
the arrival of her only brother, who was then in India with his
regiment, the 11th Hussars. He died in ignorance of the fact that he had
written to a perfect stranger, an old retired naval officer of that
name, who, with his wife, on receipt of the letter, called on Miss
Neville, and invited her, as they had no children, to make their house
her home. His step-nephew, Mr. Haliburton, while on a visit to England,
met her at his house, and though still a minor, became engaged to and
married her. The memory of these incidents was long preserved in the
local traditions of Henley-on-Thames.

Mr. Haliburton, who had graduated with honors on leaving college, in
time was called to the bar, and practised at Annapolis Royal, the former
capital of Nova Scotia, where he acquired a large and lucrative
practice; but a wider sphere of action was opened to him when he became
the representative of the county of Annapolis, and, as such, by his
power of debate and his ability, he speedily attained a leading

He was the first public man who in a British Legislature successfully
advocated the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities. Speaking of his
speech on that occasion, Mr. Beamish Murdoch, in his “History of Nova
Scotia,” says it was “the most splendid bit of declamation that it has
ever been my fortune to listen to. He was then in the prime of life and
vigor, both mental and physical. The healthy air of country life had
given him a robust appearance, though his figure was yet slender and
graceful. As an orator, his manner and attitude were extremely
impressive, earnest and dignified; and, although the strong propensity
of his mind to wit and humor was often apparent, they seldom detracted
from the seriousness of his language, when the subject under discussion
was important. Although he sometimes exhibited rather more hauteur than
was agreeable, yet his wit was usually kind and playful. On this
occasion he absolutely entranced his audience. He was not remarkable for
readiness of reply in debate; but when he had time to prepare his ideas
and language he was almost always sure to make an impression on his

On this point Mr. Duncan Campbell, in his “History of Nova Scotia” (p.
334), says: “The late Mr. Howe spoke of him to the writer as a polished
and effective speaker. On some passages of his more elaborate speeches
he bestowed great pains, and in the delivery of them, Mr. Howe, who
acted in the capacity of a reporter, was so captivated and entranced
that he had to lay down his pen and listen to his sparkling oratory. It
is doubtless to one of these passages that Mr. Beamish Murdoch refers.”

It is difficult to imagine a more uninviting arena than was presented at
that time by Nova Scotian politics, or more undesirable associates in
public life than the politicians of that day. The Province was ruled
over by a Council consisting of a few officials living at Halifax, one
of the leaders of which was the Church of England Bishop. In vain,
therefore, year after year Mr. Haliburton got the House to vote a grant
to a Presbyterian institution, the Pictou Academy. It was invariably
rejected by the Council; while a small grant in aid of public schools
was contemptuously rejected without any discussion as to it. His
ridicule of the conduct of the Council in that matter gave them great
offence, and they demanded an apology from the House, which, however,
was refused, as the House resolved that there was nothing objectionable
in his remarks, and also that they were privileged. The Council again
more peremptorily demanded an apology, when the House, incredible as it
may seem, unanimously stultified itself by resolving that Mr. Haliburton
should be censured for his remarks. He accordingly attended in his
place, and was censured by the Speaker! It must, therefore, have been an
infinite relief, when an opportunity offered of escape from such an
ordeal as public life was in those days.

He lived in the district embraced by the Middle Division of the Court of
Common Pleas, of which his father was Chief Justice, while he himself
was the leader on that circuit. When, therefore, his father died, the
vacant post was, as a matter of course, offered to him, and was gladly

But in Pictou County, which was largely settled by “dour” Cameronians,
and which gloried in those annual and ever-recurring battles against the
Bishop and his followers, there are no doubt types of “Old Mortality”
that will never cease to denounce his retirement from the perennial
strife as a great sin, and an act of treason to his country, or (what is
the same thing) to the Pictou Academy.

In 1828, when only thirty-two years of age, he received the appointment
of Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. In 1841 the Court of
Common Pleas was abolished, and his services were transferred to the
Supreme Court. In February, 1856, he resigned his office of a Judge of
that Court, and soon afterwards removed to England, where he continued
to reside till his death.

It was a curious instance of “the irony of fate,” when the successful
advocate of the removal of the political disabilities of Roman Catholics
was a quarter of a century afterwards called on as a Judge to rule that
the rights of Roman Catholic laymen, as British subjects, could not be
restricted by any ecclesiastical authority.

Carten, a very prominent and respected Irishman living in Halifax,
having been excommunicated, was denied access to his pew in St. Mary’s
Cathedral, of which he was _the legal owner_. Judge Haliburton’s ruling
in favor of the plaintiff in Carten _vs._ Walsh _et al._ was a very able
one. This was probably the only case in which a judge in Nova Scotia
ever had to order a court room to be cleared in consequence of
manifestations of public excitement and feeling.

About 1870 the same point was raised at Montreal in the famous “Guibord
case.” The members of a French-Canadian literary society, which had
refused to have standard scientific works weeded out of its library,
were excommunicated. One of them, named Guibord, had bought and was the
legal owner of a lot in the public cemetery at Montreal, and, when he
died, his body was refused admission to it. Though this proceeding was
justified by the Quebec courts, their judgments were reversed by the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; and upon the defendants
refusing to obey “the order of Her Majesty in Council in the matter,”
some thousands of troops were called out, and the body, under military
protection, was buried under several feet of Portland cement in the
Guibord lot.

While the ruling in Carten _vs._ Walsh _et al._ created some bitter
enemies that were powerful enough to make their hostility felt, some
offence (perhaps not altogether without apparent cause) may also have
been taken by them at a few incidental philosophical allusions in “Rule
and Misrule of the English in America” to the important results that
were likely to flow from the new rôle of the Roman Catholic Church as a
political power in the New World, a subject that he would no doubt have
prudently avoided could he have foreseen the bitter controversy as to
that question that was about to be caused by the rise of the
“Know-nothing Movement.”

Thanks to that wonder-worker, _Time_, the lapse of fifty years rarely
fails to take all the caloric out of “burning questions,” and is able to
convert the startling forecasts of thinkers into the trite truisms of
practical politics.

The animus against him, however, was probably of a persistent type.
“From the ills of life,” says Longinus, “there is for mortals a sure
haven—death, while the woes of the gods are eternal.” But successful
authors are not much better off than the unlucky gods, for their names
and their works survive them and can be _tabooed_.

The generous tribute from the Archbishop of Halifax and Mr. Senator
Power, at the Haliburton Centenary meeting at Halifax, to the important
services he had rendered three-quarters of a century ago, is a pleasing
proof that a public man may safely do his duty and leave his life to the
impartial verdict of a later generation.

A few years after taking up his residence in England, he paid a visit to
Ontario, Canada, where he negotiated the purchase by the Canadian Land
and Immigration Company of an extensive tract of country near
Peterborough. Most of it that is not now sold is included in the county
of Haliburton, which returns a member to the Ontario Legislature, and
the county town of Haliburton is the terminus of the Haliburton branch
of the Grand Trunk Railway.

In 1816, as already stated, he married Louisa, only daughter of Captain
Laurence Neville, of the 19th Light Dragoons (she died 1840), by whom he
had a large family.[6] And secondly, in 1856, Sarah Harriet, widow of
Edward Hosier Williams, of Eaton Mascott, Shrewsbury, by whom he had no
issue, and who survived him several years.

That life-long exile, the poet Petrarch, says that men, like plants, are
the better for transplanting, and that no man should die where he was
born. For years Judge Haliburton stagnated and moped in utter solitude
at Clifton, for his large family had grown up and were settled in life
elsewhere, while death had removed the little band of intellectual
companions whose society had been a great source of enjoyment to him.
But he got a new lease of life by migrating to England. His second wife
was a very intelligent and agreeable widow lady of a good social
position, who even after having made a considerable sacrifice of her
means in order to marry him, was comfortably off. It was a very happy
match, and she proved to be a most devoted wife. Before they were
married she had leased Gordon House, situated on the Thames, not far
from Richmond (a house built by George I. for the Duchess of Kendal, who
after his death believed that her royal lover used to visit her in the
form of a crow in what is still known as “The haunted room”). In time
the gardens and grounds there were referred to as showing what lady
floriculturists can accomplish. His family, most of whom resided in
England, were delighted at seeing him in his old age well cared for in a
comfortable home.


As an author, he first came before the public in 1829, as the historian
of his native Province. His work, which was well received by both the
public and the press, and was so highly thought of that the House of
Assembly tendered him a vote of thanks, is to the present time regarded
as a standard work in the Province.

Six years subsequently he became unconsciously the author of the
inimitable “Sam Slick.” In a series of anonymous articles in the _Nova
Scotian_ newspaper, then edited by Mr. Joseph Howe, he made use of a
Yankee peddler as his mouthpiece. The character proved to be “a hit,”
and the articles greatly amused the readers of that paper, and were
widely copied by the American press. They were collected together and
published anonymously by Mr. Howe, of Halifax, and several editions were
issued in the United States. A copy was taken thence to England by
General Fox, who gave it to Mr. Richard Bentley, the publisher. To Judge
Haliburton’s surprise, he found that an edition that had been very
favorably received had been issued in England. For some time the
authorship was assigned to an American gentleman in London, until Judge
Haliburton visited England and became known as the real author.

For his “Sam Slick” he received nothing from the publisher, as the work
had not been copyrighted, but Mr. Bentley presented him with a silver
salver, on which was an inscription written by the Rev. Richard Barham,
the author of the “Ingoldsby Legends.” Between Barham, Theodore Hook and
Judge Haliburton an intimacy sprang up. They frequently dined together
at the Athenæum Club, to which they belonged, and many good stories told
by Hook and Barham were remembered by the Judge long after death had
deprived him of their society.

As regards “Sam Slick,” he never expected that his name would be known
in connection with it, or that his productions would escape the usual
fate of colonial newspaper articles. On his arrival in London, the son
of Lord Abinger (the famous Sir James Scarlett) who was confined to his
bed, asked him to call on his father, as there was a question which he
would like to put to him. When he called, his Lordship said, “I am
convinced that there is a veritable Sam Slick in the flesh now selling
clocks to the Bluenoses. Am I right?” “No,” replied the Judge, “there is
no such person. He was a pure accident. I never intended to describe a
Yankee clockmaker or Yankee dialect; but Sam Slick slipped into my book
before I was aware of it, and once there he was there to stay.”

In some respects, perhaps, the prominence given to the Yankee dialect
was a mistake, for, except in very isolated communities, dialect soon
changes. A Harvard professor, nearly fifty years ago, indignantly
protested against Sam Slick being accepted “as a typical American.” His
indignation was a little out of place. It would be equally foolish in an
Englishman should he protest against Sam Weller being regarded as a
typical Englishman. Do typical Americans wander about in out-of-the-way
regions selling wooden clocks? Sam Slick represented a very limited
class that sixty years ago was seen oftener in the Provinces than in the
United States, but we have the best proof that The Clockmaker suggested
a true type of some “Downeasters” of that day in the fact that the
people of many places in the North-eastern States were for many years
convinced that they had among them the original character whom Judge
Haliburton had met and described.

Sixty years ago the Southern States were familiar with the sight of Sam
Slicks, who had always good horses, and whose Yankee clocks were
everywhere to be seen in settlers’ log houses.

Since Sam Slick’s day the itinerant vendor of wooden clocks has moved
far west, and when met with there, is a very different personage from
Sam Slick. Within the past forty years, however, veritable Sam Slicks
have occasionally paid a visit to Canada. One of them sold a large
number of wooden clocks throughout Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. They
were warranted to keep accurate time for a year, and hundreds of notes
of hand were taken for the price. The notes passed by indorsement into
third hands, but, unfortunately, the clocks would not go. Actions were
brought in several counties by the indorsees, and the fact that Seth’s
clocks had stopped caused as much lamentation and dismay as a money
panic. The first case that came up was tried before Judge Haliburton,
much to the amusement of the public and to the edification of the Yankee
clockmaker, who had a long homily read to him on the impropriety of
cheating Bluenoses with Yankee clocks that would do anything sooner than
keep time.

But a man may be a Yankee clockmaker without having the “cuteness” and
common sense of Sam Slick. In his _Early Reminiscences_, Sir Daniel
Lysons describes such an one who, while selling clocks in Canada, was
tempted to stake his money and clocks, etc., on games of billiards with
a knowing young subaltern. “The clocks soon passed into British
possession. They then played for the waggon and horse. Finally, Sam
Slick, pluck to the backbone, and still confident, staked his
broad-brimmed hat and his coat; Bob won them; and putting them on in
place of his own, which he gave to his friend Sam, he mounted the waggon
and drove into barracks in triumph, to the immense amusement of the
whole garrison.”

An English Reader has for half a century been in use in French schools,
which gives Sam Slick’s chapter on “Buying a Horse” as one of its
samples of classical English literature.

Experience is proving that the value attached by Sam Slick to the
geographical position and natural advantages of the Province of Nova
Scotia was not a mistaken one. We are, however, apt to be more grateful
to those that amuse than to those who instruct us. Many persons who
laughed at Sam Slick’s jokes did not relish his truths, and his
popularity as an author was far greater out of Nova Scotia than in it;
but it had ceased to depend on the verdict of his countrymen.

Artemus Ward pronounced him to be the “father of the American school of

The illustrations of the Clockmaker by Hervieu, and of Wise Saws by
Leech, supplied the conventional type of “Brother Jonathan,” or “Uncle
Sam,” with his shrewd smile, his long hair, his goatee, his furry hat,
and his short striped trousers held down by long straps, a precise
contrast to the conventional testy, pompous, pot-bellied John Bull, with
his knee-breeches and swallow-tail coat.

Among all the numerous notices of Sam Slick’s works that have appeared
from time to time, that by the _Illustrated London News_, on July 15th,
1842, which was accompanied by an excellent portrait of Judge
Haliburton, is the most discriminating and appreciative.

    “Sam Slick’s _entrée_ into the literary world would appear to
    have been in the columns of a weekly Nova Scotian journal, in
    which he wrote seven or eight years ago a series of sketches
    illustrative of homely American character. There was no name
    attached to them, but they soon became so popular that the
    editor of the _Nova Scotian_ newspaper applied to the author for
    permission to reprint them entire; and this being granted, he
    brought them out in a small, unpretending duodecimo volume, the
    popularity of which, at first confined to our American colonies,
    soon spread over the United States, by all classes of whose
    inhabitants it was most cordially welcomed. At Boston, at New
    York, at Philadelphia, at Baltimore, in short, in all the
    leading cities and towns of the Union, this anonymous little
    volume was to be found on the drawing-room tables of the most
    influential members of the social community; while, even in the
    emigrant’s solitary farm house and the squatter’s log hut among
    the primeval forests of the Far West, it was read with the
    deepest interest, cheering the spirits of the backwoodsman by
    its wholesome, vigorous and lively pictures of every-day life. A
    recent traveller records his surprise and pleasure at meeting
    with a well-thumbed copy in a log hut in the woods of the
    Mississippi valley.

    “The primary cause of its success, we conceive, may be found in
    its sound, sagacious, unexaggerated views of human nature—not
    of human nature as it is modified by artificial institutions and
    subjected to the despotic caprices of fashion, but as it exists
    in a free and comparatively unsophisticated state, full of faith
    in its own impulses and quick to sympathize with kindred
    humanity; adventurous, self-relying, untrammelled by social
    etiquette; giving full vent to the emotions that rise within its
    breast; regardless of the distinctions of caste, but ready to
    find friends and brethren among all of whom it may come in

    “Such is the human nature delineated in Sam Slick.

    “Another reason for Sam Slick’s popularity is the humor with
    which the work is overflowing. Of its kind it is decidedly
    original. In describing it we must borrow a phrase from
    architecture, and say that it is of a ‘composite order;’ by
    which we mean that it combines the qualities of English and
    Scotch humor—the hearty, mellow spirit of the one, and the
    shrewd, caustic qualities of the other. It derives little help
    from the fancy, but has its ground-work in the understanding,
    and affects us by its quiet truth and force and the piquant
    satire with which it is flavored. In a word—_it is the sunny
    side of common sense_.”

A review of “Nature and Human Nature” drew attention to the fact that no
writer has produced purer conceptions of the female character than are
to be found in Sam Slick’s works. They show none of those morbid,
sexualistic tendencies which are betrayed in some modern novels written
by young ladies, or in semi-scientific papers on sexual subjects by
“advanced females.” Tacitus praised the social purity of the Germans at
the expense of his corrupt fellow-countrymen. “No one there makes a jest
of vice,” which we may now read, “No one there writes novels about
adultery.” Sam Slick tells us how he romped and flirted with country
girls; but in all he has written there is not the slightest trace of
impropriety, even by the most remote implication. There is no harm in
Sam Slick’s jokes, which were originally intended for rough,
plain-spoken backwoods Bluenoses of sixty years ago; for, while impurity
corrupts, however refined it may be, coarseness does not. The Bible is
often coarse, but never impure.

Some years before Sydney Smith made what is generally set down as his
best joke, as to a day being so hot that it would be a comfort to “_take
off our flesh and sit in our bones_,” it had made its appearance in “Sam
Slick;” and the country girl who says, “I guess I wasn’t brought up at
all, I growed up,” probably suggested Topsy’s, “spec I growed.”

After this sketch had been written, a somewhat startling suggestion,
that the idea of The Clockmaker had been borrowed from Dickens, and that
Sam Slick was merely a Yankee version of Sam Weller, led to an inquiry
into the point. The coincidences were many, and could hardly be
accidental. Dickens sends off Pickwick in his wanderings without any
apparent object in view, accompanied by a shrewd and humorous Cockney
valet, whose sayings and doings are the prominent feature of the book;
while Judge Haliburton sends off the author on very similar travels,
accompanied by a cute Yankee, for whose yarns and jokes the book is
simply a peg on which they can be hung. In both cases there is the
faintest apology for a connected story.

If any one had been guilty of plagiarism, it was Dickens, for the first
number of the “Pickwick Papers” appeared in April, 1836, while the early
chapters of “The Clockmaker” were published in 1835, and were at once
widely copied by the American press, and may have been seen by Dickens.

The Cockney dialect was used as far back as 1811 in a farce by Samuel
Beazley, architect; and no doubt the Yankee dialect in “The Clockmaker”
was not its first appearance in literature.

Duncan Campbell says in his “History of Nova Scotia” (p. 335), “Sam
Slick, the Clockmaker, immediately attracted attention. The character
proved to be as original and amusing as Sam Weller. Samuel amuses us
only. Slick both amuses and instructs. Rarely do we find in any
character, not excepting the best of Scott’s, the same degree of
originality and force, combined with humor, sagacity, and sound sense,
as we find in the Clockmaker. Industry and perseverance are effectively
inculcated in comic story and racy narrative. In the department of
instructive humor Haliburton stands, perhaps, unrivalled in English

The _Spectator_ (London) calls him “One of the shrewdest of humorists;”
and his biographer in Chambers’ Encyclopedia says, “he attained a place
and fame difficult to acquire at all times—that of a man whose humor
was a native of one country and became naturalized in another, for humor
is the least exotic of the gifts of Genius.”

Philarète Chasles in the _Revue des Deux Mondes_,[7] in a long and
favorable notice of Judge Haliburton’s works, pronounced them to be
unequalled by anything that had been written in England since the days
of Sir Walter Scott.

Long after “Sam Slick, the Clockmaker,” first appeared, it was by many
persons referred to as a store-house of practical wisdom and common
sense, and a _vade mecum_ as to the affairs of every-day life. Forty
years ago an able but very eccentric Danish Governor at St. Thomas, in
the West Indies, was noted far and wide for his excessive admiration for
Sam Slick’s works. Whenever a very knotty point arose before him and his
Council, which consisted of three persons, he used to say “We must
adjourn till to-morrow. I should like to look into this point. I must
see what Sam Slick has to say about it.”

A traveller on reaching the most northern town in the world, Hammerfest,
found that Sam Slick had been there before him, for the “Clockmaker” was
a hobby and a textbook of a humorous Scotchman, who was the British
consul there at that time.

Judge Haliburton was very fond of youthful society; old men were too old
for him, for he used to say that a large majority of men when they begin
to grow old become very prosy. On the other hand, his humor and
conversational powers were very attractive to young men. In illustration
of this, the late Sir Fitzroy Kelly, who considered him the most
agreeable talker he had ever met, used to tell of meeting him once
during the shooting season, at a country house. Next morning, to his
surprise, he found all the young men gathered around the Judge in the
smoking room, instead of their being among the turnips. They preferred
hearing Sam Slick talk to the delights of shooting.


In 1859, he consented to run for Launceston, where his friend, the Duke
of Northumberland, had great influence. On his election he thanked his
constituents, “in behalf of four million of British subjects on the
other side of the water, who, up to the present time, had not one
individual in the House of Commons through whom they might be heard.”

It seems almost providential that when an advocate of the Unity of the
Empire was most sorely needed, he had for a quarter of a century been
writing in favor of the colonies. But for the strong public opinion as
to their value among the masses, whom the popularity of his works had
enabled him to reach, fanatical free-traders, in order to prevent the
possibility of a return to “the Colonial System,” might have persuaded
the nation to burn its ships by getting rid of its colonies.

A solitary colonist at that period in the House of Commons soon found
that he had fallen on evil times, and that among all classes above the
mass of the people, but especially among politicians, Conservative as
well as Liberal, there was a growing hostility to the colonies.

        “Oh! was it wise, when, for the love of gain,
        England forgot her sons beyond the main;
        Held foes as friends, and friends as foes, for they
        To her are dearest, who most dearly pay?”

Though no one in Parliament dared to openly advocate disintegration,
there was a settled policy on the part of a secret clique, whose
headquarters were in the Colonial Office, to drive the colonies out of
the Empire by systematic snubbing, injustice and neglect.

This infamous state of things, of which all classes of Englishmen
profess now to be ashamed, was made apparent when Judge Haliburton moved
in the House of Commons that some months’ notice should be given of the
Act to throw open British markets to Baltic timber, a measure which, if
suddenly put in operation, would seriously injure New Brunswick
merchants; and he urged as a reason for due consideration for that
interest, that it was not represented in Parliament. Mr. Gladstone did
not condescend to give any explanation or reply, but led his willing
majority to the vote, and the Bill was passed.

People sometimes cite what occurred at this debate as a proof that
“Judge Haliburton was not a success in the House of Commons;” but it is
difficult to imagine a more uncongenial audience for an advocate of
Imperial Unity.

Gladstone, as if to remove any doubt as to his animus in these
proceedings, sent a singularly insolent reply to a letter written to him
by a New Brunswick timber merchant protesting against this unexpected
measure. “You protest, as well as remonstrate. Were I to critically
examine your language, I could not admit your right, even individually,
to protest against any legislation which Parliament may think fit to
adopt on this matter.” Had the protest only been in the form of dynamite
he would have submissively bowed down at the sound of that “chapel bell”
which has since then from time to time called him and his cabinets to
repentance. His two attempts to destroy the Empire, first by attacking
its extremities through Imperial disintegration, and, next, its heart by
Home Rule, alike failed; and he has retired from public life, leaving
behind him the fragments, not of a great Empire, but of a shattered

Though a majority of both parties, Conservatives as well as Liberals,
agreed with their two leaders in their wish to get rid of the Colonies,
(for Disraeli, as far back as 1852, wrote, “These wretched Colonies will
all be independent in a few years, and are a millstone around our
neck”), the people were wiser and more patriotic than their politicians;
and in 1869 (only four years after Judge Haliburton’s death) over one
hundred and four thousand workingmen of London signed an address to the
Queen protesting against any attempt to get rid of that heritage of the
people of England—the Colonial Empire. This memorial was not considered
worthy of any reply or acknowledgment.[8] At that time, when the fate of
England as a first-class power was in the balance, there was no need for
the masses to be “educated up” to the subject; it was rather their
statesmen and politicians that required to be _educated down_—down to
the common sense of the common people.

The next move against the Disintegrationists was made four years later,
in 1872, when “The United Empire Review” revived the now familiar
watchword of the old “U. E. Loyalists” of 1776 (those Abe Lincolns, who
fought for _the Union_ a hundred years ago), “a United Empire;” and in
1873 an agitation was begun in the Premier’s own constituency
(Greenwich) against the dismemberment policy of the Government, that six
months later drove them out of power at the general election.

While Gladstone was deliberately striving to breed disunion between the
people of England, Scotland, Ireland and “gallant little Wales,” and to
get rid of our Colonial Empire, his exact antipodes in everything,
Bismarck, that _Colossus of the Nineteenth Century_, was devoting his
giant energies to his life-work,—the unity of Germany, and the creation
of a German Colonial Empire. It is possible that, as Sam Slick’s works
are among his favorite books, he may have imbibed to some extent Sam
Slick’s ideas as to the value of our colonies, and the incredible folly
of those that wished to get rid of them; and that we may here find a
clue to the unmeasured contempt which the Prince used so often to openly
express for English politicians. But he must have been most interested
in _Rule and Misrule of the English in America_, one of the most
profoundly philosophical and prophetic works to be found in the
literature of any country. Published in England, and by Harper Brothers,
New York, in 1851, a troubled time all over Europe, and even in America,
which had its Tammany Hall rule, and, later on, its “Know-nothing
Movement,” it pointed out that American republican institutions, which
dated back to the old Puritans, were of slow growth, and could not be
acquired or preserved in European countries by revolutions and universal
suffrage; and he foretold the collapse of the French Republic, the rise
of Communism, the stern rule of self-imposed Imperialism, and nearly all
the leading features of the political history of Europe and America
since that date.

Time, however, had a marvel in store, the fruit of half a century of
social and political development, which even he did not foresee—a
French-Canadian Roman Catholic, supported by a Liberal majority from
Quebec, ruling from ocean to ocean over a new Dominion!

Some of his views, visionary as they may have appeared fifty years ago,
seem to have taken a practical shape at the Queen’s Jubilee.

“The organization is all wrong. They are two people, but not one. It
shouldn’t be England and her colonies, but they should be integral parts
of one great whole—all counties of Great Britain. There should be no
tax on colonial produce, and the colonies should not be allowed to tax
British manufactures. All should pass free, as from one town to another
in England; the whole of it one vast home market from Hong-Kong to
Labrador. . . . They should be represented in Parliament, help to pass
English laws, and show them what laws they want themselves. It should no
more be a bar to a man’s promotion, as it is now, that he lived beyond
the sea, than being on the other side of the channel. It should be our
navy, our army, our nation. That’s a great word, but the English keep it
to themselves, and colonists have no nationality. They have no place, no
station, no rank. Honors don’t reach them; coronations are blank days to
them; no brevets go across the water except to the English officers, who
are ‘on foreign service in the colonies.’ No knighthood is known
there—no stars—no aristocracy—no nobility. They are a mixed race;
they have no blood. They are like our free niggers. They are
emancipated, but they haven’t the same social position as the whites.
The fetters are off, but the caste, as they call it in India, remains.
_Colonists are the Pariahs of the Empire._”

Many persons have been surprised that the ablest colonial statesman and
journalist since the days of Franklin, the Hon. Joseph Howe, “the father
of Responsible Government,” and an advocate of the Unity of the Empire,
died without having received any mark of Imperial recognition, while a
motley crowd of Maltese, Levantines and stray Englishmen in the colonies
were able to add a handle to their unknown names. That this was the case
need not surprise us, for the dispensing of such favors was (and we must
trust no longer is) in the hands of those who were able, from behind the
scenes, to pull the strings of the Dismemberment movement.

The Rev. George Grant, D.D., in a very able address at Halifax, on the
life and times of Joseph Howe, said:

“We are, all of us, pupils of Haliburton and Howe. Is not this a proof
that, if you would know those secrets of the future which slumber in the
recesses of a nation’s thought, unawakened as yet into consciousness,
you must look for them in the utterances of the nation’s greatest sons?”

Before closing this sketch it is but right to mention an instance (the
only one) in which the British Government seemed disposed to pay a
tribute to the ablest author and the most profound thinker that the
Colonial Empire has yet produced. As Judge Haliburton’s unrivalled
mastery of colonial questions eminently fitted him to be the Governor of
an important dependency, the Colonial Office offered to appoint him
President of Montserrat, a wretched little West Indian Island, inhabited
by a few white families and a thousand or two of blacks. As the
manufacture of Montserrat lime-juice had not then been commenced the
island must have been even more desolate and woe-begone than it now is.

“Judge Haliburton died at his residence at Isleworth, on the banks of
the Thames, where he had greatly endeared himself to the people of the
place during the few years which he had spent among them, and was buried
in the Isleworth churchyard; and, in accordance with one of his last
wishes, his funeral was plain and unostentatious.”

“In the words of a local chronicler:—‘The village of Isleworth will
henceforth be associated with the most pleasing reminiscences of Mr.
Justice Haliburton; and the names of Cowley, Thompson, Pope, and Walpole
will find a kindred spirit in the world-wide reputation of the author of
Sam Slick, who, like them, died on the banks of the Thames.’”[9]

In the same graveyard rests the immortal Vancouver. Judge Haliburton,
several years before his death, was told by the sexton that a famous
navigator was buried there, but he did not remember the name, as it had
become illegible on the tombstone. It was found, on making enquiries,
that the person in question must have been Vancouver. A new tombstone,
with a suitable inscription, was placed over Vancouver’s grave; and
several years subsequently a tablet to his memory was erected in the
church. It is to be hoped that the day will come when a suitable
monument will be raised to the great explorer; and that Westminster
Abbey and St. Paul’s may yet become the Valhalla, not only of the Mother
Country, but also of her Colonial Empire.

It matters not that there is no public memorial to an author whose
writings created among the masses a public opinion in favor of the
colonies that baffled the dismemberment craze of English statesmen and
theorists. He will have a monument as long as the British Empire lasts.


[1] The anonymous form seemed to me the most convenient to adopt in
writing the above sketch, and it was understood that, while I should be
generally known as the author, my name should not be published as such.
As, however, since the above was written, the circulars announcing the
forthcoming volume have mentioned my name in connection with it, I have
thought it best to append this note.—R. G. HALIBURTON.

[2] (Publisher’s Note: Entered according to Act of the Parliament of
Canada, in the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven, by
ROBERT GRANT HALIBURTON, at the Department of Agriculture.)

[3] The only references to him in Scott’s “Memorials of the Haliburtons”
(printed privately in 1820 to show that that family had become extinct
in the male line) are, “killed on parade at Madras by a fanatical
Sepoy,” and “he was the last survivor in the male line of the
Haliburtons of Newmains and Mertoun.” Mill speaks of his death, and says
that “the name of Haliburton was long remembered by the Madras Sepoys.”

There is no tablet to his memory in the burial place of his family.

[4] The sword of Tippoo Sahib, taken from his dead body by Capt.
Neville, after the famous charge of his regiment at Seringapatam, which
earned for them the name of “the Terror of India,” is now in the
possession of Sir Arthur Haliburton, G.C.B.

[5] With the permission of Mr. Henry J. Morgan, portions of this paper
are reproduced, in an abridged form, from his “Bibliotheca Canadensis,”
published in 1887.

[6] He left two sons and five daughters.

[7] Tome XXVI, 307 (1841).

[8] It could not have been conveniently _pigeon-holed_, for it required
six men to carry it; but we may assume that it never got farther than
the Home Office, and that Her Majesty never heard of it, and therefore
never replied to it.

The petition was written by the truest friend the colonies have ever
had—one who died in harness while working in their cause—the late C.
W. Eddy, who informed the writer that the Disintegration party had for a
time so effectually “captured” the Royal Colonial Institute, of which he
was Secretary, that the Council refused to allow the petition to lie on
the table of the reading-room on the ground that it was “revolutionary!”
So unsatisfactory was their conduct as late as 1872, that another
colonial society would have been founded, had not the colonial element
gained the day in the Institute.

How far the petition was “revolutionary” may be seen from the following

“We beg to represent to your Majesty that we have heard with regret and
alarm that your Majesty has been advised to consent to give up the
colonies, containing millions of acres of unoccupied land, which might
be employed profitably both to the colonies and to ourselves as a field
for emigration. We respectfully submit that your Majesty’s colonial
possessions were won for your Majesty, and settled by the valor and
enterprise and the treasure of the English people; and that, having thus
become part of the national freehold and inheritance of your Majesty’s
subjects, they are held in trust by your Majesty, and ought not to be
surrendered, but transmitted to your Majesty’s successors, as they were
received by your Majesty.”

The petition, after urging that by proclamation the mother country and
the colonies should be declared to be one Empire, adds, “we would also
submit that your Majesty might call to your Privy Council
representatives from the colonies for the purpose of consultation on the
affairs of the more distant parts of your Majesty’s dominion.”

[9] Morgan’s _Bibliotheca Canadensis_, p. 169.

                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES

Obvious printer errors have been corrected.

Some illustrations have been moved to coincide with the text.

A cover was created for this ebook.

[The end of _A Sketch of the Life and Times of Judge Haliburton_, by
Robert Grant Haliburton]

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