HONORABLE EDWARD CORNWALLIS
of Freemasonry in Halifax
Reginald V. Harris
Hon. Edward Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, was born at 14 Leicester Square,
London, on March 5th., 1713 (not Feb. 22nd., as stated by several writers).
He was the sixth son of Charles, fourth Baron Cornwallis. His mother was
Lady Charlotte Butler, daughter of Richard Earl of Arran, and grand-daughter of
James Butler, the famous first Duke of Ormonde, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in
the reigns of Charles I and Charles II.
first Baron Cornwallis was Sir Frederick Cornwallis, of an old Suffolk family
who fought for Charles II during the Civil Wars and who was created Baron
Cornwallis in 1661. The family
possessed large estates in Suffolk and the Channel Islands, and was for
generations one of wealth and influence.
the side of the House of Hanover, on the death of Queen Anne, they received
benefits from George I, became favorites with his son, George II, and were on
terms of intimate friendship with the royal family when their sons, Edward and
Frederick, (who were twins) were born. At
this time the family maintained a fine house and retinue in London.
the age of twelve the two brothers were appointed royal pages, and for two years
attended the royal family and Court at Windsor and at Hampton Court palace.
Cole, the antiquary and social historian of the court, refers to the
boys, "as alike in body and mind and of so marked a resemblance to each
other that it was difficult to know them asunder." From the Court both
brothers entered Eton where they remained for four years.
entered the Church, was ordained at an early age, was rapidly advanced and
became successively Bishop of Lichfield, Dean of London and finally in 1768,
Archbishop of Canterbury. He was
known as the gay Archbishop and created a sensation by marrying Lady Townshend,
a reigning beauty and toast of the day. Their Sunday afternoon receptions at
Lambeth Palace during the London season were the resort of fashion and influence
and the Archbishop's hospitality was more frequently heard of than his piety and
died in 1781 and was buried beneath the altar in Lambeth Chapel.
His portrait, by Dance, in the gallery of Lambeth Palace gives an idea of
his genial happy nature, one at peace with all mankind, but of his attainments
in learning, we know little. Four
sermons comprise his only writings.
his brother, entered the Army at eighteen, being gazetted May 4, 1731, Ensign in
the 47th. Foot, then stationed at
Canterbury, a Regiment which in later years took part in the second siege of
Louisburg in 1758. For several years he performed garrison duty near London.
In 1734 he was promoted Lieutenant and three years later, a Captain on
transfer to the 20th Foot, now the Lancaster Fusiliers, which won fame in the
battle of Minden in 1759.
1738-43 Cornwallis was at Whitehall employed on diplomatic services, principally
between The Hague and London.
1744 he was gazetted Major of the 20th. Foot and joined the personal staff of
the Duke of Cumberland. In the same
year, on the death of his brother Stephen, member of the Commons for Eye in
Suffolk, a constituency controlled by the Cornwallis family, he became a member
of Parliament for that borough.
1745, Cornwallis joined his regiment in Flanders and was present with it at the
battle of Fontenoy. This battle,
fought by 50,000 Austrian, Dutch and British troops against 70,000 French under
the brilliant Marshal Saxe, resulted disastrously for the Allies. The Dutch and
Austrian troops gave way early in the fight and upon the 18,000 British troops
fell the duty of covering the retreat, which was, and is still, considered a
masterly achievement in the annals of war.
The obstinacy of the battle may be judged by the carnage in which the
British lost 2,000 killed and 4,000 wounded, while the French acknowledged 4,000
killed and 6,000 wounded. The 20th. Regiment
lost its Colonel and eight officers and 385 men.
Cornwallis was in command the greater part of the engagement, as Colonel
Craig was killed early in the day.
the return of the British force or - rather the remnant of it - at the close of
the campaign, the rage of the people knew no bounds. The press was kept busy issuing all kinds of chapbooks and
broadsides fomenting the popular discontent.
Marvels were expected and the heroism of the 18,000 went for naught.
The glorious record of Marlborough and the memories of Blenheim were
declared obliterated by the gross incompetence of Cumberland in the late defeat
this time of national discontent, Cornwallis appears to have secured the favor
of the King and ministry of the day, for in 1745, he obtained the post at court
of Groom of His Majesty's Bed Chamber, and before the close of the year, he was
gazetted Lieutenant Colonel of the 20th. Regiment.
In the autumn of 1745 Cornwallis was stationed with his regiment at
Edinburgh and Stirling, then the center of discontent, later evidenced by a
rising in favour of the Stuarts.
defeat at Prestonpans and the victory at Culloden followed and Cornwallis with
other commanders was thanked by the government for the way in which the
rebellion was suppressed.
in Scotland, under Cornwallis's command, the 20th. Regiment became in a mutinous
state. This and ill health induced Cornwallis to resign his command and for a
time he again acted as Groom of the King's Bed Chamber.
He was succeeded in Scotland by Major James Wolfe, the future hero of
Louisburg and Quebec, who, by his tact and skill, soon brought the regiment to a
proper state of discipline, and for his good work was highly commended by the
War Department. Wolfe's efficiency
led directly to his appointment to the command of the military operations in
1748 Cornwallis was selected as the leader in the novel task of founding a city
overseas, the town of Halifax an enterprise directed against the militant policy
of France. Cornwallis was then
thirty-five years old. Resigning
his seat in the Commons, he addressed all his energies and abilities to his new
task, as Captain-General and Governor of Nova Scotia. Cornwallis was described at this time as of slender build,
somewhat over middle height, an aristocrat to his finger tips, conscious of his
dignity, inclined to be cool and ceremonious, except when his "great
temper" took charge of him, possessing a pleasant voice, fine eyes, and a
the month of May no fewer than 1,149 settlers and many families volunteered.
Parliament voted 40,000 pounds for the needs of the new colony, and late
in the month of May the expedition left England under the command of Cornwallis.
a favorable passage across the Atlantic the sloop-of-war "Sphinx,"
with Cornwallis and suite on board arrived in Chebucto harbour on the 21st. of
June 1749, (old style, corresponding to 2nd. of July new style), followed a week
later by 13 transports with about 2,400 colonists of whom 1,500 were men.
was eminently an English settlement. There were some Irish, a few Scotch, a
number of Germans and Jews. Character
was not considered in the selection of these emigrants. Good health was just then of more account.
People were wanted. Their
morale would be attended to by the authorities in charge.
Unlimited powers were given to Cornwallis for the ordering of the colony,
and by him wisely and firmly used. Personally
he had much at stake. If successful
with this great venture he would be rewarded. If he was not, it meant
practically an end to his public career - and obscurity.
All his assistants were military men.
In his administration, Cornwallis displayed great tact and energy,
patience and kindness to all under him who deserved recognition. He had many difficulties and disappointments to face,
including distrust and neglect by the authorities in England. Though discouraged he stuck manfully to his post.
settlers were soldiers and sailors, who had fought in the battles in Europe;
accustomed to rough camp and barrack life; the sailors, ready for a sea fight,
but like their brethren in arms, utterly unfitted for any other kind of living.
There were many good men among them, some of them conspicuous exceptions.
Some were as hard a lot as could have been collected and sent away from
the old land to starve, drink and freeze in the winters of Nova Scotia.
Out of such material he extended the limits of the Empire, and made
possible the later conquest of Canada.
seat of government was transferred from Annapolis Royal to Chebucto, the name
being changed to Halifax by Cornwallis in honour of Lard Halifax, President of
the Board of Trade and Plantations, Secretary of State for the Colonies in the
a new city on the spruce-clad shores of Chebucto Bay was no easy task.
The Indians opposed the ominous big camp of the white men. The settlers
themselves, soldiers and sailors, were not easy to handle.
Sickness carried them off. Local
merchants traded with the enemy. There
were financial difficulties, and the home authorities were none too sympathetic.
The first Halifax was practically a precarious armed camp in an enemy's country.
The honor of overcoming all these difficulties and of founding the city belongs
to one man, the Honourable Edward Cornwallis.
Halifax was the one achievement of his life, and he builded better than he knew.
He could not foresee that the rude encampment of tents and log-houses
would provide opportunity for such mercantile enterprises as made Samuel Cunard
famous the world over as pioneer in steam navigation; nor could he dream that
the new made town would afford scope for the political genius of a Howe and the
literary genius of a Haliburton and that it would become the seat of great
universities and the cradle of Canadian literature, nor the notable part it
would play in Nova Scotian, Canadian and
holds a unique position amongst the provincial capitals of Canada. It alone was
founded as an outpost in the forward march of Empire, and ever since, in crisis,
it has proved its value as a military station and a naval base. Its founding was
a stroke of great importance in the execution of British military plans and
Colonial enterprise. It was an
event of Imperial significance which had a far-reaching effect upon the course
of the subsequent history of Canada and to a considerable extent was a factor in
determining Britain's permanent sovereignty in British North America.
Halifax was the first city of British origin in the Dominion. Halifax
might have been a failure; it has taken rank amongst the cities of the world.
executive ability, patience and kindness to all deserved commendation and
recognition, which he did not get. He
remained at his task for three years and asked to be allowed to resign on the
ground of ill-health. He was finally relieved of his command in October, 1752,
and returned to London, leaving behind him a record creditable and honorable in
every particular and the foundation of a new British colony well and truly laid.
in January, 1753, on the death of Sir Peter Warren, member for Westminster,
Cornwallis was chosen for the vacant seat. In the same year he married Mary, the
daughter of Charles, second Viscount Townshend, whose sister his twin brother,
the Archbishop of Canterbury, married some years later.
He left no family.
October, 1753, Cornwallis was appointed Lieut-Col. of the 24th. Regiment (today
the South Wales Borderers) with orders to recruit for foreign service, and was
for a short time in 1755 with his regiment at Minorca. Subsequent events proved
most unfortunate for Cornwallis. France
at this time was preparing for a descent on Minorca and the reduction of Port
Mahon, considered by the British people as second only in importance to
Gibralter. When it was almost too
late, Admiral John Byng was sent to the rescue of the garrison.
Cornwallis and two other colonels were ordered to proceed to Gibraltar
and embark with detachments from their regiments for Minorca.
This was on November 1, 1756, but owing to difficulties with the governor
of Gibralter and Byng's incompetence, the fleet did not reach Minorca until the
middle of the following May! Byng grossly mismanaged the only occasion when an
action could have been fought successfully and next day called a council of war
and advised the return of the fleet to Gibraltar.
To the dismay of the garrison, the fleet sailed away, and after holding
out five weeks longer and losing 700 men, they capitulated and Minorca was lost
disgraceful affair infuriated the people of England, and Cornwallis, who had
taken part in the council of war in recommending a retirement, was denounced
along with Byng and the others concerned. The Governor of Gibraltar was
summarily dismissed. Byng was
arrested, sent to England a prisoner, courtmartialled and shot; Cornwallis and
his two brother colonels who came back with Byng to England were almost torn to
pieces by the populace on their arrival at Portsmouth, and all three were tried
by courtmartial. Cornwallis' past services and the influence of powerful
friends, however, brought about the exoneration of the three colonels, though
for many months their conduct was the subject of caricature and ridicule.
later regained the confidence of the government and was appointed a
Major-General on February 12th., 1757. After
brief service in Ireland he was promoted Lieut-General on October 27th., 1760
and Colonel of the 24th. Regiment.
Notwithstanding some responsibility for the failure of and expedition
against Rochefort in France, Cornwallis, through the influence of powerful
friends, was rescued from the disgrace of a second courtmartial and through the
same influence later appointed to the command in Ireland. In 1762 he was
appointed governor and commander, in-chief of Gibraltar, a post which he held in
spite of ill health untit his death at Gibraltar, January 14th., 1776. He was buried in Culford Parish Church, near Bury St. Edmunds
on February 9th., 1776.
portrait of the founder of Halifax, painted in oils was acquired through the
researches of Dr. J. Clarence Webster, by the Nova Scotian Government in 1927,
and now hangs in the Archives Building at Halifax. The portrait was painted by
Sir George Chalmers, Bart., at Minorca in 1755, where Cornwallis was then
stationed in command of the 24th. Regiment,
in garrison, Cornwallis is shown wearing the scarlet uniform, hunter's green
facings and silver braid of his Regiment. The
waistcoat is buff-colored and displays a medal which has been identified as a
private decoration of the Society of the "Blue and Orange," an
organization composed of the officers of the King's Own (4th.) Regiment of Foot,
probably between 1733 and 1755, formed in "grateful remembrance of King
William the Third." As his name is not found in the list of regular
members, it is believed that the medal was conferred on him as an honorary
distinction by the officers of the King's Own Regiment, stationed in Minorca at
painting, rich in color and tone, depicts a rather stern, commanding
personality, with strongly marked features and rather high coloring. The
portrait was described in the Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research
in 1927 by Captain Oakes-Jones, M. B. E., Honorary Adviser to the War Office for
Military Displays and Army Historical Research, as probably the portrait of the
Hon. Edward Cornwallis. Further researches by Dr. Webster led to establishing it
beyond question as an original portrait, probably the only one, of the city's
inscription on the painting reads: "Geo. Chalmers, Prinxt, Minorca,
1758". Chalmers, born in
Edinburgh, studied in London under Allan Ramsay, son of Allan Ramsay the poet,
and later under masters in Italy. His
family lost their estates owing to sympathy with the Jacobite cause.
He practiced his profession as an artist first in Hull, and afterwards in
London, with frequent travels to the Continent. In 1755 he painted the
distinguished General William Blakeney, then commanding at Minorca.
portrait published in Vol. XIll of the Nova Scotia Historical Collections has
been established by Dr. Webster to be not that of the founder of Halifax, but
that of his brother Richard.
am now convinced that this portrait is not that of Edward Cornwallis but of his
brother Richard. Captain
Oakes-Jones has clearly proved this by showing that the uniform is that of a
cavalry officer of about the year 1730. The
military record of this brother shows that he was made a Cornet in December,
1726, and a Lieutenant in Wade's Horse in August 1736, the latter regiment being
now the 3rd. King's Dragoon Guards. He
died in 1741. Edward Cornwallis was never a cavalry officer, and at the time the
portrait of his brother was painted, he could only have been in his teens.
artistic bronze statue of the Hon. Edward Cornwallis stands in a central
position in the great square in front of the Nova Scotian Hotel, at Halifax. The
sculptor, Massey Rhind, an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy, has shown
the sturdy figure of the city's founder facing seaward, towards the broad
Atlantic and England, dressed in the costume of a gentleman of the period, with
flowing military cape, high boots and spurs.
The figure of Cornwallis, nine feet in height, stands upon a handsome
base of Nova Scotia granite.
Rhind, a native of Scotland, lived for some years in the United States, and
spent much time in Nova Scotia. His
brother, Birnie Rhind, was regarded as the most eminent of Scottish sculptors.
the Province House at Halifax, one of the oldest existing parliament buildings
in the British Commonwealth is the original table around which Cornwallis
gathered his first Council in the cabin of the "Beaufort," transport,
in Chebucto Harbour, until his rude log cabin Government House was ready for
occupation about October 15th., 1749.
citizens of the present generation, the Hon. Edward Cornwallis is little more
than the name of the founder of Halifax; an achievement which will save his
memory from oblivion. His name was
the original name of McNab's Island in Halifax Harbour and it is to be regretted
that it was ever changed. Today a
village and a river in the Annapolis Valley and a street in Halifax alone
commemorate his name.
was a master builder inspired by the same patriotism which has built the British
Empire, of which the city he founded was its first overseas outpost.
Like many another builder, he laid only the foundations, but on them have
been erected the institutions of justice and freedom, loyalty and faith which
have given to succeeding generations the blessings and privileges of happiness,
peace and prosperity. By virtue of
his character and energy, Halifax took its place among the cities of the world.
was during the efforts to suppress the Stuart rebellion that Cornwallis became
founder in December 1748, of a military Lodge in his regiment, the 20th. Foot,
No. 63, on the registry of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The warrant was issued to
Lord George Sackville, Lieut. Col. the Hon. Edward Cornwallis and Captain
Milburne. When in 1759 this famous regiment gained new honors at the battle of
Minden, that name was immediately adopted as the name of the lodge. The lodge
ceased working about 1770 but was revived in 1812 and worked until 1819 when it
became dormant until 1824. A third
slumber, lasting for eight years was terminated at Bermuda in 1844, but the
lodge worked for only six years. Unfortunately
the warrant and all records and jewels of the Lodge were lost in the Indian
Mutiny. Cornwallis could not have
had much part in lodge affairs, for as already stated he was seconded from
active service within a few months and was succeeded by Major James Wolfe, who
tradition tells us had previously been made a Mason in the Lodge of the 20th.
second lodge was founded in Halifax early in 1750 or possibly earlier, under a
"deputation" or dispensation from Major Erasmus James Philipps of the
40th. Regiment at Annapolis Royal,
Provincial Grand Master for Nova Scotia under Henry Price of Boston.
Of this lodge, known as the First Lodge, Cornwallis was the first Master.
It has continued without a break in its history and is now known as St.
Andrew's Lodge No. 1 "the oldest Lodge in the British Empire
Overseas," with a most notable history.
was during his term of office as governor at Gibraltar that he became for the
third time, in 1768, a founder of a third lodge No. 426 on the English registry
in the 24th. Regiment of Foot.
Masonic circles his name was chosen for a lodge founded in Halifax in 1786, No.
15, to meet in Halifax and included among its members some of the most
distinguished and honoured citizens of its day; but it surrendered its warrant
in 1810. Cornwallis Lodge No. 95, Dartmouth, was founded in 1926, and carries on
the name today.
us as Masons the name of Cornwallis should live as the founder of the Craft in
the capital city of this Province and the first Master of the first
Lodge.Charles, Lord Cornwallis
Hon. Edward Cornwallis is sometimes confused with his nephew Charles, Lord
Cornwallis, who led the British forces in the American Revolutionary War.
great soldier and statesman was the eldest son of Charles, first Earl Cornwallis
(1700-62), an elder brother of the Hon. Edward Cornwallis.
Born in London, Dec. 31st., 1738, he received his education at Eton, and
Clare College, Cambridge. Entering
the Army he served with distinction in the Seven Years War.
In 1762 he succeeded his father in the earldom and three years later was
made aide-de-camp to the King. In 1770 he was appointed Governor of the Tower of
London. He served in the American
War of Independence as major-general, and in 1780 was placed in command of the
British forces in South Carolina. The following year, after defeating Greene at
Guildford Court House and raiding Virginia, he himself was besieged at Yorktown
by the French and American armies, and was forced to surrender, October 19,
1781. With the surrender of
Cornwallis the cause of the British in the American Colonies was finally lost.
1788 he was appointed Governor-General of India, his administration lasting
until 1793. As Governor General of
India he broke the power of Tippoo Sahib at Seringapatim. Returning to England
in 1793, he was made a marquess and appointed Master General of Ordnance.
1798 to 1801 he was Viceroy in Ireland and enjoyed a successful administration,
but resigned when George III refused to sanction the promised Roman Catholic
1802 he was appointed to negotiate for Great Britain the treaty of Amiens.
He was once more appointed Governor-General of India in 1805, but died
soon after, on October 5, of that year, on his way up country to assume command
of the troops.
Of solid rather than showy qualities, Cornwallis was noted for his
moderation and prudence, his love of truth, and his unshaken resolution in doing
and enforcing what he thought to be right.