History of the Loyalists: the Story of Samuel-Denny Street

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History of the Loyalists: the Story of Samuel-Denny Street
James Hannay
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HISTORY OF THE LOYALISTS THE STORY OF SAMUEL- DENNY STREET. An Officer Who Was Active In the War of the Revolution. [Continued.] Mr. Street for 20 years was a representative of Sunbury in the Home of Assembly. On the death of Isaac Hedden in 1802 an address was presented by the House of Assembly to Lieut. Governor Carleton asking the appointment of Sem'l. Denny Street as Clerk of the House. His Excellency replied by message that he had appointed Dugald Campbell to the position. Out of this circumstance arose a conflict between the House and the Executive Council which is of historic interest as being a preliminary in the impending battle for responsible government. A motion that Dugald Campbell take his place as Clerk of the House was defeated by the casting vote of the chairman, and on the motion of James Glennie (himself a member for Sunbury) Mr. Street was elected Clerk of the Assembly. This notion of the Assembly was in accordance with the usage that had prevailed in Nova Scotia and in the old colonies before the revolution. The House of Assembly at the session in 1802 voted "To the Clerk of the Assembly appointed by the House, for his services during the present session, the sum of ten shillings per diem, and for other services fifty pounds." The Council refused to pass this item unless the name of Samuel Denny Street was struck out. A number of members of the assembly had gone home a majority of whom were Mr. Street's friends, consequently the recommendation of the council was agreed to. The scene in the expiring hours of the house was an exceeding stormy one, and was described in humorous fashion in one of the St. John papers by a local bard who wrote under the none dc plume "Cleon." Before another session was held a new assembly was elected which settled the point in dispute in favor of the Governor and Council by passing a resolution "That the office of Clerk of the House of Assembly is a Patent Office, and the appointment thereof vested in the Crown." In the year 1807 the St. John Common Council SENT MR. STREET TO ENGLAND to ask the British government to disallow act passed by the legislature affecting the city’s rights in the harbor fisheries. The act was disallowed. On the death of Chief Justice Ludlow and of Judge Upham in the autumn of 1808 Mr. Street was an applicant for one of the vacant judgeships. The appointments, however, went to Attorney-General Bliss and Solicitor General Chipman who had powerful friends at court in the persons of Governor Carleton (then in England) and the Earl of Liverpool. In a memorial prevented to Lieut. Governor Major-General Smyth some years later Mr. Street with some warmth of feeling alludes to the once hitherto extended to those whose claims conflicted with his own. He states that he had then been at the bar of the Supreme Court upwards of 32 years, during all which time the favors of government had been almost wholly dispensed to American Loyalists through the generous intention of government to remunerate them for their leases. "I", he adds, "have received none. A stranger and unconnected in this country, without support or influence I have been passed by and compelled to yield to juniors of greater interest." The vacant judgeship for which Mr. Street at this time pressed his claim was created by the death of Judge Edward Winslow, May 1815. Again he had the mortification of proving unsuccessful, and the appointment fell to John Murray Bliss. The latter was an old time professional rival. In the historic slave case tried in Fredericton in 1800 (see Lawrence's Foot Prints p. 57,) Ward Chipman and Samuel Denny Street appeared for the slave, and Johnathan Bliss, Thomas Wetmore, John Murray Bliss, Chas. I Peters and William Botsford for the master. During the course of the trial some uncomplimentary remark on the part of John Murray Bliss excited the ire of Mr. Street, who thereupon struck or attempted to strike his opponent. After the court adjourned Bliss SENT A CHALLENGE TO STREET to meet him with pistols within an hour. The latter returned answer he would meet Mr. Bliss in half an hour if he desired. Seconds were chosen, a Mr. Anderson for Street and Capt. Stair Agnew for Bliss. At their suggestion the meeting was postponed until after dinner in the evening. The duel was fought in a room of the old court house (the building still stands on Queen Street, Fredericton), at a distance of but nine paces, which Street contended was rather too much. An exchange of shots took place without injury to either party. Street thereupon demanded an apology from his antagonist and failing that, desired to continue; the seconds however succeeded in effecting a reconciliation. The parties concerned in this duel were all indicted in the York sessions, but there seems to have been some difficulty at the time in ascertaining who were the principals in the affair, and the case was ultimately quashed on account of irregularities. In Lawrence's Footprints the principals are erroneously given, Capt. Agnew's name appearing instead of John Murray Bliss. The duel was fought on Thursday January 16, 1800. Tradition has it that after the affair was happily terminated Lieut. Street whose experience in the war seems to have made him a regular "fire eater," coolly examined the height of the hole made by his bullet and remarked "missed him by an inch"! Happily dwelling with its false code of honor is a thing of the past. In person Samuel Denny Street was thick set, short in stature, with fresh color. He was a gentleman of the olden time and wore a queue, knee breeches and galters. His portrait in ells is in possession of his grandson, Alfred F. Street, collector of customs at Fredericton, as also his commission as lieutenant in the Royal Fencible Americans, which is dated at New York Aug. 3rd, 1783, and signed Guy Carleton, Commander-in-Chief. It is a little difficult to understand the late date of this commission, unless it be that the commission received in 1777 be that of a 2d Lieutenant or Ensign. Abigail (Freeman) wife of Samuel Denny Street, died Dec. 20, 1824, aged 64 years, and is buried at Fredericton. The amiability of her disposition is thus recorded: "Hey path thro' life was like a cloudless day; She ne'er was known to have an enemy." The husband survived his wife six years. He died at Burton in 1820 in his 79th year, having outlived every member of the first Executive Council and House of Assembly, as well as every member of the first Bar and Bench of New Brunswick. [To be continued.]