BRECKEN, FREDERICK DE ST CROIX, lawyer, politician, and office holder; b. 9 Dec. 1828 in Charlottetown, second son of John Brecken* and Margaret Leah de St Croix; m. 28 Sept. 1858 Helen Leith Boyd Emslie in Saint John, N.B., and they had three children; d. 14 Oct. 1903 in Charlottetown.
Frederick Brecken belonged to a Prince Edward Island family with a tradition of political activity. His father was a member of the House of Assembly and of the Executive and Legislative councils; a grandfather (Ralph Brecken) and a great-grandfather (Joseph Robinson*) had both been speakers of the assembly. Frederick was educated at Central Academy in Charlottetown and he was articled for two years to Robert Hodgson*. Unlike most Island lawyers, who were content with a colonial education, he then spent two years at Lincoln’s Inn and the Inner Temple in London. Following his return to Charlottetown, he was called to the bar of the Supreme Court in June 1852. He practised with his cousin Thomas Heath Haviland* until 1874 and then with Rowan Robert Fitzgerald. Brecken was made a qc in 1875 and he would continue to practise until he took a federal position in 1884. He was a member of the executive committee of the Law Society of Prince Edward Island when it was founded in 1877.
Named attorney general on 11 April 1859 in the administration of Edward Palmer*, Brecken had held the post until it became elective in 1863. He ran successfully that year as a tory for the House of Assembly and he retained his Charlottetown seat in the general elections of 1867, 1870, and 1873. He was attorney general again in 1870–72 and from 1873 to 1876. A brilliant orator, he appears to have had little difficulty in following the changing attitudes of his party and its leader, James Colledge Pope*, toward issues such as confederation. His position on the school question, which dominated Island politics for the entire period he was an elected member, was somewhat ambiguous but his support of Pope was not. Both Brecken and Pope were defeated in the provincial election of 1876 after they had been identified as “Denominationalists,” because of their support for religious schools.
Brecken had made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a seat in the dominion parliament in the special election of 1873, following the union of the Island with Canada. He appears subsequently to have turned down a Senate appointment. In 1878 he was finally elected to the House of Commons along with Pope for the riding of Queens. Four years later he was narrowly defeated for one of the seats there by fellow Conservative John Theophilus Jenkins. Having appealed the result to the province’s Supreme Court, Brecken was awarded the seat in February 1883.
The following year he became involved in the manœuvres to find a successor to T. H. Haviland as lieutenant governor of the Island. Brecken was mooted as a deserving candidate who was not overly objectionable to Roman Catholics. Although he made it clear that he would not take the post if it were offered, he continued to be a factor. Donald Ferguson, a member of the provincial government, noted in a letter to Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald* that making some provision for Brecken could have a threefold benefit. Brecken was viewed in his constituency as a less-than-zealous mp, Ferguson warned, and his replacement by a more active member would help the party. A political post would also reward Brecken for his past service and please those of both parties who held him in high regard. In the end Macdonald offered the post to Andrew Archibald Macdonald*, a Roman Catholic who was postmaster of Charlottetown and post-office inspector of the province, and tendered Macdonald’s job to Brecken.
Brecken claimed he was unqualified, but he finally agreed to accept the post provided his “claims for professional advancement were not weakened.” Having been assured by the prime minister that the office “would not be considered as a ‘receipt in full,’” he took the post-mastership in July 1884. As had been expected, Jenkins was easily elected to the commons in the subsequent by-election.
In spite of Brecken’s hopes for a judgeship, he continued to be passed over and he served without incident as postmaster until his death in 1903. According to his obituary in the Morning Guardian, he had been in his younger days “the idol of the Conservative party.” That his support of the Tories resulted in almost a 20-year term in an administrative position rather than on the bench must have been a bitter disappointment for him.
NA, MG 26, A. PARO, RG 1, 74: 97; 75: 257, 300, 308; RG 6, Supreme Court, court admission papers, 1 June 1852; minutes, 1 June 1852. St Paul’s Anglican Church (Charlottetown), Reg. of baptisms, 1828. Daily Examiner (Charlottetown), 14 Oct. 1903. Daily Patriot (Charlottetown), 14 Oct. 1903. Morning Guardian, 16 Oct. 1903. P.E. Island Agriculturist (Summerside, P.E.I.), 17 Oct. 1903. Past and present of P.E.I. (MacKinnon and Warburton), 141. I. R. Robertson, “Religion, politics, and education in P.E.I.” Vital statistics from N.B. newspapers, 1857–59 (Johnson), no.794.