SALUSBURY (Salisbury), JOHN, member of the Nova Scotia Council; b. 1 Sept. 1707 at Bach-y-Graig, North Wales, son of Thomas and Lucy Salusbury; d. 18 Dec. 1762 at Offley Place, Hertfordshire, England.
John Salusbury was descended from a prominent Welsh family. He was educated at Whitchurch School (probably in Wales) and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he obtained the ma degree in 1728. For several years after his graduation he seems to have led a carefree life in England. Some time before 1737 he returned to Wales and became a captain in the militia, probably through the influence of his cousin, Sir Robert Cotton. He married Sir Robert’s sister, Hester, in 1739, and though she brought a small fortune to the marriage, Salusbury, through poor management of the family finances, was unable to keep himself out of debt. Finally, under the patronage of the Earl of Halifax, then head of the Board of Trade, he attempted to re-establish himself financially through a colonial venture. On 21 June 1749 Salusbury arrived at Chebucto (Halifax, N.S.) in the suite of Governor Edward Cornwallis* and was sworn in on 14 July as a member of the new council of Nova Scotia along with Paul Mascarene, Edward How, John Gorham, and others. As register and receiver of rents, at a salary of 20 shillings per day, he was responsible for parcelling out land in Halifax and its environs and supervising its allocation to settlers.
From the beginning of this venture, however, Salusbury had no interest in the eventual development of the settlement. Since he had come to Nova Scotia for personal reasons he began to look forward to returning to England from the time of his arrival. Having been raised in a comfortable and sophisticated social group and lacking the qualities of the pioneer he quickly became bored and unhappy with the style of life in the colony. He was further distressed by the prospect of a long separation from his wife and his daughter Hester (later Mrs Thrale, the friend and correspondent of Samuel Johnson), whom he desperately wanted to see again. He was constantly apprehensive about the Indians and French who threatened the settlement in its first year. On 5 April 1750 he joined an expedition under Charles Lawrence to Chignecto in search of French troops. He finally became so discontented, however, that he urged his wife and friends in England to seek his recall by Lord Halifax. Expecting it to come at any time he refused to go on the second Chignecto expedition in August. But no news came.
To add to his despair Salusbury had become jealous of his position in the settlement, for changes had been made in the nature of his work which had reduced his status. Some of his associates he openly distrusted; he quarrelled with others – especially the secretary, Hugh Davidson, whom he accused of using his office for personal gain. His entreaties to Governor Cornwallis were rewarded on 6 May 1751 when he was told he would be carrying the first dispatches of the year to England. His departure was deferred several times, however, until he was permitted to sail on 10 August.
In England Salusbury found his personal affairs unchanged. So with the encouragement of Lord Halifax he again set sail for Nova Scotia, arriving on 26 July 1752. This time there was a new governor, Peregrine Thomas Hopson, whom Salusbury hated and described in his journal as a “poor big man [who] hath only the appearance of what he ought to be.” Salusbury noted the increasing influence in the colony of the merchants, led by Joshua Mauger*, “a proud, troublesome, sorry rascal,” who “cares not what becomes of [the colony].” He also mentioned the open attacks by the merchants on the partiality of the justices, especially Charles Morris*, and warned that “the business of government can never go on if [the merchants] are always to be humoured.”
The functions of the register’s office were transferred to the secretary. In April 1753 Salusbury reported that he was “out of the Cabinet” and that the authorities were attempting to force him out of his appointment. In the summer of 1753 he was finally permitted to return to England, his personal affairs unimproved by his years abroad. Only by grants from his brother Thomas were his latter years made secure.
Corpus Christi Church (Bach-y-Graig, North Wales), Records. John Rylands Library (Manchester, Eng.), Eng. mss, 530–32, 615. PANS, RG 3, Minutes of Nova Scotia Council, 1749–53. Gentleman’s Magazine, 1762, p.601. [H. L. Thrale], Thraliana: the diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale (later Mrs Piozzi), 1776–1809, ed. K. C. Balderston (2nd ed., 2v., Oxford, Eng., 1951). Alumni Cantabrigienses: a biographical list of all known students, graduates, and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900, comp. John and J. A. Venn (2pt., 10v., Cambridge, Eng., 1922–54), pt.i, IV, 7. J. L. Clifford, Hester Lynch Piozzi (Mrs Thrale) (Oxford, Eng., 1941). J. G. Adshead, “Hon. John Salusbury, 1707–62,” N.S. Hist. Soc. Coll., XXIX (1951), 1–21. T. B. Akins, “The first council,” N.S. Hist. Soc. Coll., II (1881), 17–30.