James Colledge Pope
Premier from 1865 to 1867, 1870, 1873
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JAMES COLLEDGE POPE'S years in the Legislature of Prince Edward Island were years that were
among the most dramatic in the Island's history. Education, religion, economic development,
railways and Confederation were all a part of politics and Pope took a decisive stand on all of the
issues of the day.
Pope came from a family which has left a great mark on Island history. His brother, William Henry Pope, was also in the Legislature and was one of the Fathers of Confederation. His father, Joseph Pope, had a record of service which stretched from 1830 to 1883.
J.C. Pope was educated in England but returned to the Island and embarked on a mercantile career as a merchant, shipbuilder and shipowner in Summerside. In 1863, he moved to Charlottetown but the thrust of his business interest remained in the western part of the Island. He owned a considerable amount of land and although primarily a landlord he also maintained a substantial farm.
In 1857, he entered politics and won the Bedeque seat for the Conservatives. By 1859 he had risen to a seat on the Executive Council under Edward Palmer. In 1865 he succeeded John Hamilton Gray as Premier. He resigned in 1867 and taking the side of the Roman Catholics in a bitter dispute over governmental assistance to church sponsored educational institutions he failed to win a seat in the 1869 election. This controversial issue led to a coalition government in 1870 with Pope once again as leader.
The return to party support of several independent members saw the coalition government become less and less powerful and in 1872 the government was defeated in a vote in the Assembly and resigned. Pope spent one more period as Premier, negotiating the final terms under which Canada accepted the Island into the Dominion, and then after becoming the first premier of the province and the last of the colony he resigned in the fall of 1873.
He sat in the Dominion Parliament for several sessions and held a cabinet post under his friend John A. MacDonald. In 1881 he retired to Summerside where he died in 1885 at the age of 59 years. Pope is buried in St. John's Anglican Cemetery in Summerside.