LONGWORTH, FRANCIS, tanner, politician, office holder, jp, and militia officer; b. 1766 in County Westmeath (Republic of Ireland), son of Francis Longworth and Mary Fitzgerald; m. 29 March 1797 Agnes Auld in Charlottetown, and they had 13 children, including Francis* and John*; d. there 27 Feb. 1843.
Born into an Anglican, Anglo-Irish family, Francis Longworth immigrated to St John’s (Prince Edward) Island around 1791. He was a tanner by trade, but by no means a simple tradesman: he had financial substance, education, and social weight. Within a decade of his arrival he had built a tannery and collected the lands necessary for an exemplary farm in Charlottetown Royalty. An established businessman and a vestryman for St Paul’s Church, Longworth by the turn of the century was already a member of the small Charlottetown élite.
Longworth made his only foray into the political arena in 1803, winning a by-election for a Georgetown seat in the House of Assembly, which he held until 1806. It appears that he supported Robert Hodgson*’s escheat faction. Longworth did not find his true role in public life until February 1814 when Lieutenant Governor Charles Douglass Smith* appointed him a justice of the peace. Smith found him a congenial magistrate and named him high sheriff three times. Longworth reciprocated by supporting Smith and his political ally of the 1820s, James Bardin Palmer*.
Smith made many enemies: he alienated absentee proprietors by attempting to escheat their lands, and worried the local élite by refusing to place himself in their hands. Not surprisingly he was charged with personal aggrandizement and corruption by the powerful forces he had offended. Longworth, as a Smith appointee and voluble Palmer supporter, could not escape the censure which befell Smith’s few allies upon the lieutenant governor’s dismissal in 1824. In 1825 the assembly accused Longworth of “irregular practices” as a justice of the peace, charges never substantiated.
Chastened but not repentant, Longworth was almost alone in his willingness to defend Smith’s record. He believed that the economy with which Smith had run the Island’s affairs compared favourably with the deficits of his successor, John Ready. Longworth took some satisfaction in pointing out how the assemblymen who had charged Smith with corruption had squandered the budgetary surplus he had left behind, and were now forced to impose new taxes, “taking care not to forget themselves” in the distribution of revenues raised thereby.
As time passed, with animosities of the Smith era fading, and the ranks of surviving early settlers thinning, Longworth came to be regarded as a grand old man of a bygone era. Patriarch of a large family, he watched his offspring take up important posts on the Island. He himself continued as a justice of the peace and magistrate, and was once more appointed high sheriff in 1835. An active member of the Central Agricultural Society, he had helped to create the Benevolent Irish Society in 1825, and was its president from 1828. In 1839 he retired from the militia as a lieutenant-colonel. Longworth died after a long illness, and was mourned as “a man of sterling worth, honor and integrity,” with any resonance of past controversies appropriately muted.
PAPEI, Acc. 2849/119; RG 1, commission books, 1 Feb. 1814, 2 May 1815, 29 May 1835; RG 16, land registry records, conveyance reg., liber 9: ff.73, 99. P.E.I. Museum, File information concerning Francis Longworth. PRO, CO 226/19; 226/20: 81; 226/32: 268; 226/36: 28. St Paul’s Anglican Church (Charlottetown), Reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials; Vestry minutes, 1798–99 (mfm. at PAPEI). Supreme Court of P.E.I. (Charlottetown), Estates Division, liber 4: f.134 (will of Francis Longworth) (mfm. at PAPEI). Prince Edward Island Gazette, 20 Dec. 1817. Prince Edward Island Register, 5 Feb., 31 March 1825; 19 June 1827; 18 March 1828; 3 Nov. 1829. Royal Gazette (Charlottetown), 26 Feb., 19, 26 March, 26 Nov. 1833; 28 Oct. 1834; 25 June 1839; 28 Feb. 1843.