The Honourable Charles Douglas Smith
Governor from 5 August 1812 to 19 April 1824
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Charles Douglass Smith was the fourth Governor of Prince Edward Island since the creation of the Colony in 1763. Governor Charles Douglass Smith was born in 1761 in England. He was the eldest son of John Smith and Mary Wilkinson and in 1790 he married Frances Woodcock and they had at least four sons and four daughters.
His military career started when he entered the 1st Horse as a cornet in 1776 and later transferred to the 22nd Light Dragoons as a lieutenant in 1779. He also served for a time in the Thirteen Colonies and became a captain in 1782, but was placed on half pay when the regiment was disbanded the following year. In 1795, he resumed active service in the 32nd Light Dragoons and in 1796 transferred to the 21st Light Dragoons but was again placed on half pay in 1798. He had risen in the army to become major in 1794 and a lieutenant-colonel in 1798. His brother, William Sydney Smith, had influence with Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies and in 1812 Lord Bathurst was seeking "an Active and Efficient Officer" to replace Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres as Governor for Prince Edward Island and Smith was appointed Governor on 5 August 1812.
Smith arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on December 29th and remained in Halifax for the remainder of the winter. He assumed control of the government on 24 July 1813. Governor Smith convened the General Assembly in November, 1813. The Assembly would not approve his revised Militia Act and, for the following two years, he fought in vain to have the local garrison under his command. When his authority to revise the militia regulations was challenged and a number of militia units refused to obey his orders during a parade on 2 November 1815, he ordered George Wright, a militia officer, to punish his men for insubordination. Wright resigned his commission rather than carry out this order. Smith tried to dismiss him from the Council as well as the new Chief Justice, Thomas Tremlett, for refusing to "do his duty" in quelling the disturbances, and when Captain Charles Barrington, whom Smith had instructed "to have his ammunition ready" would not use the regular troops against the militia, Smith placed him under arrest. In 1816, Barrington was released and Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, Commander of the Forces in the Atlantic region, who reduced the local garrison from a company to a mere 22 men because of Smith's tendency "to interfere unsuccessfully with the troops". This action served merely to increase Smith's fears. He compelled the militia to mount a permanent guard, winter and summer, outside the officer's barracks, which he had sequestered upon his arrival for an official residence, and he repeatedly appealed, without success, for a larger garrison to protect him against threats that appear to have existed only in his mind.
In June 1820 Smith called another general election but when the Assembly met on 25 July 1820 and prepared an address criticizing his arbitrary actions, he prorogued the House on August 10 and proclaimed "there is no necessity for calling a General Assembly for Years". Because of the productivity of various permanent revenue acts placed at the government's disposal many years earlier, the Provincial Treasury had a steady increasing surplus. By the end of his tenure the Island Council had become, as his critics alleged, a body lacking "weight and influence".
Smith treated the Island as if it were a large country estate and its people as if they were his tenants. He tackled the land question in such a clumsy way that he provided the proprietors with additional reasons to argue that they were justified in not living up to their commitments because of the misgovernment of the Island, and thus he may have delayed a more substantial reform of the landholding system.
When Thomas Heath Haviland received latter appointments and applied for a leave of absence, Smith forced him to appoint his son Henry, who was not yet 19, as his deputy. Smith's son-in-law, John Edward Carmichael, would become Acting Receiver General of quit rents, Colonial Secretary, Registrar, and the Clerk of the Council. Another son-in-law, Ambrose Lane, was appointed Registrar and Master of the Court of Chancery and was given a seat on the Council. Son John Spencer Smith became Collector of Impost and son, George Sidney Smith, acted as his father's Private Secretary. Towards the end of his career on Prince Edward Island, Smith became a recluse, surrounded by his relatives and a handful of sycophants. Smith died on 19 February 1855 in Dawlish, England.
Photograph courtesy of PEI Public Archives and Records Office, Reference Number 2320/60-3