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CALDWELL, HENRY, army and militia officer, politician, seigneur, landowner, businessman, and office holder; b. c. 1735 in Ireland, fourth son of Sir John Caldwell and Anne French; m. 16 May 1774 Ann Hamilton of Hampton Hall (Republic of Ireland), sister of Hugh Hamilton, bishop of Ossory; d. 28 May 1810 at Quebec, Lower Canada.

Henry Caldwell was appointed ensign in the second battalion of the 24th Foot on 5 Sept. 1756. On 7 Oct. 1757 he was promoted lieutenant in the same battalion, which was converted into a new regiment, the 69th Foot, on 23 April 1758. That year, during the capture of Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), he attracted the attention of Brigadier-General James Wolfe*, who recommended him to William Pitt. On 30 Dec. 1758 Caldwell was promoted to the rank of captain in the army and on 16 May 1759 he became assistant to quartermaster general Guy Carleton; in this capacity he was attached to Wolfe’s general staff during the siege of Quebec. (Wolfe bequeathed him 100 guineas in his will, drawn up in June 1759.) Caldwell was commissioned captain in the 93rd Foot on 22 Jan. 1760 but on 14 March 1764 he transferred to the 36th when the 93rd was disbanded. According to tradition, in the late 1760s Caldwell, a “handsome soldier,” was the inspiration for Colonel Ed Rivers, one of the protagonists in The history of Emily Montague, a novel by Frances Brooke [Moore*]. Caldwell obtained the rank of major in America on 2 Sept. 1772 and retired from the army in March 1774, perhaps in order to remain in Quebec.

In April 1774 Caldwell took a 99-year lease on the property in the province that belonged to former governor Murray*. This comprised the seigneuries of Lauson, Rivière-du-Loup, Madawaska, and Foucault (later Caldwell’s Manor), the last located along the Rivière Richelieu and the present Vermont border. In addition the property included the house and lands of Sans Bruit, situated about three miles from Quebec on the Chemin Sainte-Foy, a house on Rue Saint-Jean in Upper Town, and what was called Gorgendieres Farm in the seigneury of Sillery. The new leaseholder immediately began to improve the seigneury of Lauson, building a grist-mill there. But Benedict Arnold’s campaign during the American invasion of 1775–76 severely affected Caldwell’s property near Quebec: his house at Sainte-Foy was used as the rebels’ headquarters and was burned along with all its contents, and the mills on the seigneury of Lauson were pillaged. Caldwell took part in the defence of the town as lieutenant-colonel commanding the British militia, and his military experience proved a great asset, particularly during Richard Montgomery*’s unsuccessful attack in the night of 30–31 Dec. 1775. When the siege of the town ended, Caldwell was chosen to carry the dispatches reporting the victory to London. His military service earned him the king’s praise (Lieutenant-Colonel Allan Maclean* was also so honoured) and £500 sterling; in addition he was promoted to the honorary rank of lieutenant-colonel in America on 10 Jan. 1776 and appointed to Quebec’s Legislative Council on 21 May.

After his return, Caldwell set about rebuilding, and he bought a number of lots around Quebec, for which he paid about £500 cash. From May 1778 he rented out the Sans Bruit property including about 400 acres of cleared land, a large garden, and buildings, as well as a farm on the Rivière Saint-Charles that had once belonged to Joseph-Michel Cadet*, and, from November, a large house and outbuildings on Rue Saint-Jean. In 1782 he signed over the lease on the seigneuries of Rivière-du-Loup and Madawaska to Malcolm Fraser. When the American revolution ended in 1783, Caldwell was able to attract a number of loyalists to Caldwell’s Manor, where he repaired the mill, helped build a church, and erected a manor-house. But his plans were thwarted by the rigorous application of an order from the imperial government forbidding the colonization of border areas. He was able to breathe new life into the seigneury of Lauson, however, through active promotion; although only about 20 land grants had been made before 1783, more than 100 were made between 1786 and 1794, 151 between 1795 and 1798, and 69 between 1798 and 1800. Probably partly to finance this expansion, he also leased out numerous other pieces of property during the 1780s and 1790s, sold many of his lands after 1791, and borrowed nearly £2,000 between 1786 and 1794.

A founder of the Agriculture Society, which was established at Quebec in the spring of 1789, Caldwell became one of its 16 first directors and in 1791 its chairman. He also supported it financially and would have liked to see this type of organization spread throughout the province to promote agriculture, particularly the improved breeding of livestock and the growing of hemp, for which he took a prize in 1791.

Early in the 19th century Caldwell became an important landowner; on 28 Feb. 1801 he reached an agreement to buy for £10,180 sterling all the property Murray had owned at the time of his death, property he had leased for almost 30 years. The following year he purchased the seigneury of Gaspé for £500 and that of Saint-Étienne, which adjoined Lauson, as well as 1,798 acres in Farnham Township. In 1804 he bought 12,262 acres in Westbury Township, and the next year 26,153 in Melbourne Township. To acquire these large blocks, Caldwell was ready to dispose of other properties. Thus he sold the house on Rue Saint-Jean, numerous lots in Sans Bruit and around Quebec, as well as 6,000 acres behind the seigneury of Rivière du-Loup and pieces of land in Melbourne Township, for a total of about £5,000. Nevertheless, in 1803 and 1804, he was obliged to borrow £3,000. In 1807 he exchanged Cadet’s former property in a suburb of Quebec for 14,800 acres in the Eastern Townships plus £300, and three years later he sold land at Anse au Foulon for £1,500.

At about this time Caldwell was able to make substantial profits from increases in the price of wheat because he had bought or built numerous mills. He exported large quantities; between 1797 and 1804 he bought four boats and he hired a skipper in 1803 to deliver flour to St John’s, Nfld. In 1809 he constructed a 4,000-square-foot wharf in the basin of the Rivière Chaudière that could accommodate 20 boats, and he was planning to build a large warehouse capable of holding 100,000 bushels of wheat. Caldwell was also involved in supplying the troops stationed in North America. In 1810 he sold more than 1,775,000 pounds of flour to the government for £21,822.

In 1804, because of the European blockade imposed by Napoleon, Caldwell had persuaded Henry Dundas, first lord of the Admiralty, to develop Canadian timber resources for the Royal Navy. He was able to organize effectively the cutting and selling of timber by setting up sawmills beside his grist-mills and exercising his feudal privilege of taking back from his censitaires, for compensation, any small plots that had been granted them. After 1806 he began driving settlers away from the seigneury of Lauson by his practice of retaining rights to all oak suitable for royal ships when the censitaires’ land titles were renewed. His sawmills were the best known in Quebec and the Etchemin mills at the mouth of the Rivière Etchemin were among the largest. Important visitors who went to see the falls of the Chaudière were sometimes invited to tour Caldwell’s installations.

Caldwell was involved in colonial politics because of ambition as much as interest. He took up his seat on the Legislative Council when he returned from England in the summer of 1777 and asked to receive remuneration from the date of his appointment. A man of rather tempestuous nature and strong personality, he naturally found himself in conflict with the governors of the time. In 1778 he opposed the governor over certain details of the militia law in particular; he wanted a clearer definition and distribution of the obligations of militia captains and habitants. The following year, however, he supported Haldimand, albeit unsuccessfully, in his attempts to speed up the administration of justice. In 1781 Caldwell requested the post of lieutenant governor in succession to Hector Theophilus Cramahé*. Although Haldimand, who thought him “a very Honorable Worthy Man, and very Zealous for the King’s Service,” recommended him more warmly than he did Henry Hamilton*, it was the latter who obtained the position. On 8 July 1784, however, Haldimand appointed Caldwell acting deputy receiver general to replace temporarily William Grant (1744–1805), who had been summoned back to London to account for his administration. Like his predecessor, Caldwell tried to collect amounts owed for the seigneurial fees of quint and lods et ventes, but without success. He held this position until George Davison* was appointed to it on 1 Sept. 1787.

When Governor Guy Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, set up Legislative Council committees in November 1786, Caldwell was put on the one studying problems of the militia, highways, and communications. The following year he was a member of the committee on education in the province, chaired by Chief Justice William Smith*. Caldwell was one of the allies on council of this controversial figure and according to Alexander Fraser, writing in 1789, he seemed eager to cultivate Smith’s friendship. Fraser went on to describe him as “a man of honourable sentiments . . . [who] errs from caprice (tinctured perhaps a little with interested views) rather than any love of disorder, or want of warm attachment to the mother country.” After the constitutional reform of 1791 Caldwell was named to the new Legislative Council; he was sworn in on 7 Feb. 1793 and sat on it for the rest of his life.

Caldwell remained active in the militia although he frequently complained about younger officers winning advancement. In July 1787 he was promoted colonel of the Quebec Battalion of British Militia, a rank he held until June 1794, when, “induced by special circumstances,” he resigned and was replaced by Francis Le Maistre. Not long after, Caldwell joined an association established in 1794 to support the British government in Lower Canada. On 25 July 1794 he was sworn in as receiver general of Lower Canada with an annual salary of £400, to succeed Joshua Winslow. He discharged the responsibilities of this office until 1808, when his son John* took over; the latter was officially appointed to the post two years later. In 1823 it was discovered that Henry Caldwell had embezzled nearly £40,000 during the exercise of his duties, including almost £8,000 from the Jesuit estates, which he had managed as treasurer of the commission set up to administer them.

Henry Caldwell died on 28 May 1810 at Belmont, his residence near Quebec, at the age of about 75. His funeral took place on 31 May at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec. His wife had died six years earlier, and he left all his personal goods and property to his only son except for the seigneury of Lauson, which he bequeathed to his grandson Henry John, and what was left of Sans Bruit, which went to his granddaughter Ann; he also left various gifts to relatives and friends.

Marcel Caya

Henry Caldwell is the author of an account of the siege of Quebec by the American army. Written in the form of a letter addressed to General Murray in 1776, it was published in Quebec in 1866 by the Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec as The invasion of Canada in 1775; letter attributed to Major Henry Caldwell, and reprinted in 1868, 1887, and 1927. The manuscript itself has not been located.

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Cite This Article

Marcel Caya, “CALDWELL, HENRY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 16, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/caldwell_henry_5E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/caldwell_henry_5E.html
Author of Article:   Marcel Caya
Title of Article:   CALDWELL, HENRY
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   April 16, 2024