CAMPBELL, Sir ARCHIBALD, army officer and colonial administrator; b. 12 March 1769 in Glen Lyon, Scotland, third son of Captain Archibald Campbell and Margaret Small; m. 6 July 1801 Helen Macdonald of Garth, and they had two sons and three daughters; d. 6 Oct. 1843 in Edinburgh.
Archibald Campbell took up the military profession “like a family inheritance,” as one writer puts it, and on 28 Dec. 1787 became an ensign in the 77th Foot by raising 20 men for service. From 1788 until 1801 he was in the East Indies, advancing to lieutenant on 26 April 1791 and captain on 24 May 1799. In 1801 he was compelled by ill health to return to Britain and until 1804 he was employed largely in the recruiting service. After his promotion to major on 14 Sept. 1804 he was stationed variously in Guernsey, Scotland, and Ireland. In 1808 he served under Sir John Moore during the disastrous La Coruña campaign in Spain, and on 16 Feb. 1809 he was raised to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and appointed to assist in the reorganization of the Portuguese army, in which he was eventually given the rank of major-general. He commanded a brigade during all of the major battles in the Peninsula and in southern France, and received the Military Cross with one clasp, the Order of the Tower and Sword from the king of Portugal, and a knighthood on 28 April 1814. On 4 June 1814 he became a brevet colonel in the British army and was made an aide-de-camp to the Prince Regent. From 1816 he commanded the Lisbon division of the Portuguese army but he resigned following the revolution of 1820, with which he did not sympathize. Shortly after his return to England he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 38th Foot, which he joined at the Cape of Good Hope and accompanied to India in 1822.
Campbell’s moment of glory came when he was placed in charge of the expeditionary force to Burma which sailed from the Andaman Islands on 5 May 1824. British officials were totally ignorant of the problems of tropical warfare, and one historian has described the campaign as “the worst managed of all the nineteenth-century colonial wars.” Campbell must share in the responsibility since he was repeatedly guilty of over-optimism and inadequate planning, but through a mixture of luck and daring he was able to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion in February 1826. Even the military historian John William Fortescue, while critical of the expedition, admitted that Campbell had shown “an iron nerve, a strong will, high moral force and abundant moral courage.” Campbell, who had become a major-general on 27 May 1825, was awarded a pension of £1,000 per annum by the East India Company, a gcb (military), and a vote of thanks by both houses of the British parliament. From 1826 until 1829 Campbell remained in command of the provinces ceded by Burma to Britain and acted as civil commissioner to that kingdom and to Siam (Thailand). Upon his return to Britain he sought another posting in the East but had to be satisfied with the lieutenant governorship of New Brunswick, a blow undoubtedly softened by his elevation as a baronet on 30 Sept. 1831.
Campbell assumed control of the administration of New Brunswick from William Black* on 8 Sept. 1831. The first issue he had to deal with was an act of “unwarrantable aggression” by Maine, whose government he believed was responsible for sending a deputation into the Madawaska settlements, the ownership of which was in dispute with New Brunswick, to elect town officers. Campbell promptly led a detachment of troops into the area and arrested a number of Americans. Although he later released those who were convicted of originating the disturbances in Madawaska, he insisted that to prevent similar acts in the future a larger force of regular troops should be stationed in New Brunswick, and he began construction of the “Royal Road” from Fredericton to Grand Falls to expedite the movement of troops and British settlers into the disputed territory. But he was unable to persuade the military authorities at Halifax to transfer to New Brunswick the number of troops he felt were needed.
Campbell was also frustrated in his efforts to improve the efficiency of the “ill organized” militia. In 1831 the House of Assembly, which did not share his concerns and sought greater control over the militia system, substantially reduced the salaries of the inspecting field officers of militia, and it only reluctantly agreed to grant the smaller amount in 1832. The following year it requested that the number of days the militia would have to serve annually be decreased from three to one and that the pay of the adjutants and sergeants-major be greatly cut. Campbell rejected both requests and persuaded the assembly to vote money for the inspecting field officers for one more year. He attributed the hostility of the house to “perverted judgement, or unnatural spirit” and protested when the Colonial Office did not include provision for the militia on the permanent civil list requested from the assembly. In March 1834 the annual vote for the inspecting field officers passed “with less opposition than is usually given,” but the new assembly which met in 1835 refused to grant salaries to militia officers. Campbell fulminated against “these unpatriotic and . . . disloyal measures.” Although the assembly temporarily restored the grants for the adjutants and sergeants-major, in 1837 it again rejected them and suspended the militia act. Campbell did try to improve the discipline of the militia and exercise greater control over appointments; but without adequate financial assistance from the assembly and only lukewarm support from the home government, which refused to issue the militia with arms, his efforts to create a more effective military force came to little.
The conflict over provision for the militia was only part of a broader struggle with the assembly in which Campbell was engaged soon after his arrival. In the earlier part of the 19th century New Brunswick had evolved a relatively stable political culture, but that stability had been undermined by the appointment of Thomas Baillie* as commissioner of crown lands in 1824. Baillie introduced a series of reforms which antagonized the local timber merchants and greatly increased the provincial revenues as well as his own fortune. Much of the revenue, however, was absorbed by the costs of administering his increasingly large office. Even Campbell admitted that “the enormous expence (without adequate advantage to the Casual Revenue) of the Crown Land Department, furnishes a ready topic for inflaming the public mind.” When, early in 1832, Baillie persuaded the Colonial Office to abolish the offices of receiver general and auditor general on the grounds that they were no longer necessary, there was such an outcry against the concentration of power in Baillie’s hands that Campbell had the decision reversed.
Yet despite the evidence of irregularities in Baillie’s department Campbell made only minor changes in the land-granting system and vehemently objected to giving the assembly any control over land-granting policy. He denounced Baillie’s detractors as “agitators” and on dividing the Council into two bodies in 1833 he promoted Baillie to the senior position in the Executive Council, to which he also appointed Baillie’s father-in-law, William Franklin Odell, and George Frederick Street*, who was closely associated with Baillie. When the assembly protested, he dismissed the complaints as arising from the frustrated ambitions of “some very troublesome and dangerous characters – two Brothers of the names of Simonds” (Charles* and Richard). Despite pressure from the Colonial Office he refused to appoint any of the leading members of the assembly to the Executive Council. His selections for the Legislative Council were no more judicious. In 1832 he had recommended virtually all of the members proposed for the Executive Council and only one mha, William Crane*, who declined the appointment. In May 1833, after the council had been established, he requested that the attorney general, the solicitor general, and the advocate general be added to it to give it greater weight, but the Colonial Office refused to sanction the appointment of more officials at that time. Compelled to submit a new list, Campbell included several of the same names, among them that of the attorney general. These appointments were confirmed despite the fact that they were not acceptable to the majority in the assembly.
Campbell had even less sympathy with the desire of the assembly to gain control over the casual and territorial revenues of the crown. When the Colonial Office considered surrendering those revenues for a permanent civil list in 1832, Campbell asked that, “should such a measure ever be, to my regret, resolved on,” a large sum should be requested for contingencies so that the government would never be dependent on the assembly. The following year he refused to provide the house with a detailed analysis of the returns from the crown revenues and described its leading members as “mischievous agitators.” After the assembly had sent Charles Simonds and Edward Barron Chandler* to London in May 1833 to work out an agreement for the surrender of the casual and territorial revenues, Campbell suggested that the British government should hold out for a civil list of at least £18–20,000, a sum that the colonial secretary, Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley, dismissed as absurdly high. Campbell was nevertheless able to persuade the Colonial Office to demand more concessions than the assembly was willing to grant and thus secured the defeat of Stanley’s offer. Campbell remained “convinced that the internal improvement of the Country . . . will be retarded” by the surrender of the crown revenues and bitterly condemned the existing system of appropriations for roads and bridges, which was controlled by the house. In November 1834 he dissolved the assembly, but the new house continued to demand control over all provincial revenues. It refused to agree to a bill providing for the commutation of quitrents, which Campbell had begun to collect, and entered into a dispute with the Legislative Council as a result of which no supply bill was passed into law. Campbell prorogued the legislature in March 1835 but reconvened it on 15 June, when it voted supplies and agreed to commute quitrents. The assembly reiterated its desire for the surrender of the casual and territorial revenues; since these revenues were rapidly increasing, however, Campbell remained opposed to any agreement.
When the assembly was again rebuffed in the 1836 session, it sent another delegation, composed of William Crane and Lemuel Allan Wilmot*, to London. Campbell argued that the appointment of the delegation was “generally deprecated throughout the Province,” but the Whig colonial secretary, Lord Glenelg, was favourably impressed by Wilmot and Crane and negotiated a settlement with them. Campbell was dismayed by the decision to surrender the casual and territorial revenues and he delayed the implementation of his instructions to this effect by every means in his power. After the house reconvened in December 1836 it dismissed Campbell’s objections as, in his words, “of trifling consequence and made from unworthy motives” and passed a civil list bill, to which he refused consent. Campbell dispatched George Frederick Street to London to justify his opposition to the bill and offered to resign if his views did not coincide with those of Lord Glenelg. Glenelg accepted his resignation and in May 1837 transferred Sir John Harvey* from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick to negotiate a settlement with the assembly along the lines earlier agreed to by the Colonial Office.
Campbell left from Saint John on 1 June, “amidst the regret,” one newspaper reported, “of a large concourse of the most respectable citizens.” His departure may have been viewed with regret by the conservative faction in the colony, but it was welcomed by the great majority of New Brunswickers. On 28 June 1838 Campbell became a lieutenant-general and in August he accepted appointment as commander-in-chief in Bombay. Almost immediately he had to resign from ill health, which had also plagued him in New Brunswick. He retired to Edinburgh, where he died in 1843.
James Hannay*, in his History of New Brunswick, dismisses Campbell as an “old military tyrant,” who was “most unfit” for office. In his conservative views Campbell differed little from the majority of army officers sent to govern the British North American colonies in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. He held those views with unusual rigidity, however, perhaps because he had spent almost all of his life on service abroad, mainly in the East, where he had acquired few of the political skills required in a colony with representative institutions. Although he dismissed “the narrow views, and extremely limited knowledge and capacity of Provincial Legislators,” his dispatches are littered with examples of his own prejudices. He was undoubtedly sincere when he asserted that he “had no dearer object than the inviolable preservation of the prerogative” of the crown, and, as historian William Stewart MacNutt* claims, he had every reason to be suspicious of the uses to which the assembly would put the revenues surrendered to it. But he was aloof and inflexible and he would have used those funds for equally dubious purposes: to support the clergy of the Church of England and the unpopular King’s College and to increase the salaries of the small official clique which surrounded him. He foolishly interpreted all opposition as disloyalty when it was apparent even to his superiors in London that he was mistaken. As Hannay proclaims, “No Governor of New Brunswick has ever been less in sympathy with its inhabitants.”
[A portrait of Sir Archibald Campbell hangs in the National Army Museum (London).
The major source for this study was PRO, CO 188/41–56. There is a small collection of Sir Archibald Campbell papers in PAC, MG 24, A21, but they are mainly duplicates of materials in the Colonial Office files. Also useful were the New-Brunswick Courier from 1831 to 1837, the Times (Halifax), 2 May, 13, 20 June 1837, and the Loyalist (Fredericton), 16 Nov. 1843. Biographical details are drawn from PRO, CO 323/133: ff.353–54 and WO 211/4: ff.40–41; Burke’s peerage (1927); Robert Chambers, A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen (new ed., revised and continued by Thomas Thomson, 3v., London, 1870; repr. New York, 1971); Colburn’s United Service Magazine (London), 1843, pt.iii: 440–43, 480; the DNB; G.B., WO, Army list, 1788–1844; and W. A. Shaw, The knights of England; a complete record from the earliest times to the present day . . . (2v., London, 1906), 1: 224; 2: 313. Campbell’s role in the first Burma War is examined in George Bruce, The Burma wars, 1824–1886 (London, 1973), and J. W. Fortescue, A history of the British army (13v. in 14, London, 1899–1930), 11. James Hannay is very critical of Campbell in his Hist. of N.B.; W. S. MacNutt, New Brunswick, is more sympathetic. Aspects of Campbell’s career are dealt with in D. R. Facey-Crowther, “The New Brunswick militia: 1784–1871” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., Fredericton, 1965), 118–33; Charlotte Lenentine, Madawaska: a chapter in Maine–New Brunswick relations (Madawaska, Maine, 1975); and Buckner, Transition to responsible government. p.b.]
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Cite This Article
Phillip Buckner, “CAMPBELL, Sir ARCHIBALD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/campbell_archibald_7E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Phillip Buckner|
|Title of Article:||CAMPBELL, Sir ARCHIBALD|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1988|
|Year of revision:||1988|
|Access Date:||May 29, 2023|