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Thomas Heath Haviland

Photograph of the Honourable Thomas Heath Haviland, November 1873


Hon. Thomas Heath Haviland, November 1873.

(November 13, 1822 - September 11, 1895)

Thomas Heath Haviland had a profound influence on the social and political life of Prince Edward Island. While his status as a Protestant landowner often put him at odds with calls for political reform, Haviland supported Confederation and helped to sustain the vision of a unified British North America at a time when many of his fellow Islanders rejected the plan.

Thomas Heath Haviland inherited his father's public, professional and financial status. His exclusive education in Belgium was followed by studies in law at Charlottetown. He won his first election within a year of being called to the bar in 1846, and would match his exceptional political career with leading positions in the Prince Edward Island militia, the church and other key public institutions. He married Anne Elizabeth Grubbe in 1847.

Haviland's participation in the Legislative Assembly was guided by his Protestant faith and his economic status. This combination involved him in the Island's major political controversies, namely the absentee landlord question and the relationship between religion and school curriculum. As a landowner, Haviland opposed reforms such as the Land Purchase Act of 1853; this act sought to empower the government to purchase land and sell it to tenants and squatters. As an influential spokesperson for the Island's Protestant majority, Haviland also opposed the education reforms advanced by the Roman Catholic minority.

The conflict between the Island's religious and economic communities led to the election of a Protestant government under Edward Palmer in 1859. Haviland served on the government's Executive Council from 1859 to 1862, and again at intervals throughout the 1860s and 1870s, holding positions such as colonial secretary, solicitor general and speaker of the assembly. When he was not in government, Haviland retained official influence, even serving as leader of the Opposition from 1867 to 1870.

In the 1860s, the American Civil War preoccupied Haviland with a fear of annexation. Consequently, he regarded the union of British North American colonies as an essential means of preventing American expansion. At the same time, he opposed the concept of Maritime Union, and he made these views known at the Charlottetown Conference in 1864. Not all of his fellow Island delegates were as supportive of Confederation, and Haviland had to continue his public advocacy of the plan until 1873, when the public debt from railroad construction made union with Canada a more appealing prospect.

When Prince Edward Island joined Confederation that year, Haviland was appointed to the Canadian Senate. Before the end of the decade, he added to his political achievements by being appointed lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island, a position he held from 1879 until 1884. In 1886 he became mayor of Charlottetown, and only relinquished this position as a result of illness in 1893.


Robb, Andrew. -- "Haviland, Thomas Heath". -- Dictionary of Canadian biography online [online]. -- [Cited December 13, 2004]. -- Access: