HOGSETT, AARON, public servant; b. c. 1777 in Cookstown (Northern Ireland); d. 14 Aug. 1858.
Nothing is known of Aaron Hogsett’s family or early education. In 1808 he became a clerk in the Royal Navy. Two years later he was appointed second accountant at the important naval victualling depot on the island of Minorca, where he executed much of the financial business connected with the provisioning of some 20,000 seamen as well as the transport service for the land forces on the coast of Catalonia, Spain.
As a result of the reduction in naval services at the close of the Napoleonic Wars, Hogsett returned in 1815 to England, where he accepted an appointment as clerk to the secretary of Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Goodwin Keats*, newly appointed governor of Newfoundland. In 1818 Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hamilton*, the next governor, named him waiter and searcher in the customs department at St John’s, but within a year he was superseded in this post by an appointee of the treasury office.
Hogsett returned to the lesser post of clerk to the governor’s secretary until 1821 when he was appointed a deputy naval officer, responsible for such tasks as overseeing the maintenance and revictualling of naval vessels, collecting customs duties, and recording incoming and outgoing vessels. In 1825 Hogsett found himself without employment for a third time when the naval establishment was moved from St John’s to Halifax. However, within a year or so, he was appointed deputy sheriff of the central district of Newfoundland with a yearly stipend of £252. On 1 Sept. 1835 his undoubted ability eventually secured for him the post of high sheriff of Newfoundland with a salary of £513.
As deputy sheriff, Hogsett was largely responsible for enforcing the new rules set up in 1833–34 by Chief Justice Henry John Boulton*. These rules related to empanelling juries, issuing writs of attachment against fishermen’s boats and tackle, and other innovations in the legal processes. Hogsett, Boulton, and members of the Council were attacked by the leaders of the dominant group in the House of Assembly, the reformers, particularly Dr William Carson*, and by Robert John Parsons*, editor of the Newfoundland Patriot of St John’s. One newspaper article was so vicious that Hogsett sued Carson and Parsons for libel. He won a partial victory; although he had claimed £300 in damages, he was awarded only £10 and court costs.
In contrast to the hostility shown by Carson and Parsons, Hogsett had a close association with Patrick Morris*, the Roman Catholic leader of the reformers. By 1834 Hogsett was a vice-president of the Benevolent Irish Society, of which Morris had been president since 1822 and under whose tutelage the originally non-denominational society had become almost wholly Catholic in character. Whether Hogsett had converted from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism in the 1830s is uncertain, but in the attacks made upon him by the Protestant leaders of the liberal group, he was charged with apostasy. Morris, on the other hand, championed Hogsett’s appeal to the British government for a post in 1833, describing him as “competent to fill any civil situation” and one whose “character stands very high with the distinguished officers under whom he has served in the Navy; in the Colony it stands equally high.”
After the controversies of the 1830s Hogsett appears to have had an uneventful public life. He was married, and he and his wife had at least four children. His second son, George James*, rose to prominence in the Liberal party, becoming attorney general in 1858, the year his father died on board the Spray while returning home from a trip to Liverpool, England.
Skill in accounting and administrative ability helped Aaron Hogsett overcome the difficulties he thrice faced when deprived of work through no fault of his own. As a key man in the judicial process, he was included in the abuse heaped on leading office holders by members of the popular party in the 1830s, though he himself kept aloof from political involvement. At various times he served in St John’s as coroner, clerk of the peace, customs collector and controller, Spanish vice-consul, and secretary to the city’s board of health.
Private arch., Lawrence Lande (Montreal), H. J. Boulton papers, G.B., Parl., Report of the committee of the whole house on the present state of the administration of justice in Newfoundland, 15 Oct. 1837, 9–44. PRO, CO 194/86: 198–209; 194/103: 83. Newfoundlander, 6 Sept. 1858. Patriot (St John’s), 18 March 1834, 21 June 1869. Public Ledger, 7 Sept. 1858. Times and General Commercial Gazette (St John’s), 4 Sept. 1858. When was that? (Mosdell). R. H. Bonnycastle, Newfoundland in 1842: a sequel to “The Canadas in 1841” (2v., London, 1842), 2: 88–89. Howley, Ecclesiastical hist. of Nfld. Prowse, Hist. of Nfld. (1895). Philip Tocque, Newfoundland: as it was, and as it is in 1877 (Toronto, 1878).