Premier from 1851 to 1854, 1855 to 1859, 1867 to 1869
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GEORGE COLES WAS THE ISLAND'S first and, for many historians, greatest Premier. His political
activity spanned twenty-seven years and his contributions laid the foundations for the Island's
most productive years in both economic and social terms.
Coles was born in 1810, the son of a farmer. He received little formal education but became a farmer and a businessman at an early age. He soon became a prosperous brewer and merchant and entered politics in 1841 representing the New London-DeSable district in the Assembly.
Coles, with Edward Whelan, the editor of the Examiner, was the leader in the struggle for responsible government. These two men laid the foundations of the Liberal party and in so doing created the political balances which dominated the Island during the middle years of the nineteenth century.
Responsible government was granted in 1851 and Coles became the Island's first Premier. His administration embarked on a number of significant reforms - the most important being the Free Education Act and the Land Purchase Act. The former provided better educational opportunities than in any of the other colonies and the latter was a positive step toward a solution to the land ownership question.
With the exception of a few months in 1854, Coles remained as Premier until 1859 when his party was defeated. He was one of the Island Fathers of Confederation but turned against union when it became apparent that the scheme would not solve the land tenure question.
Coles once again served as Premier from 1867 to 1869 but failing health necessitated his turning the government over to Joseph Hensley.
He ceased to be active in politics shortly after and died in 1875 at his home in Charlottetown Royalty. Coles is buried in St. Peter's Anglican Cemetery in Charlottetown.