Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, (May 8, 1818 – June 25, 1896) was a Canadian politician and one of the Fathers of Confederation. Tilley was descended from United Empire Loyalists on both sides of his family. As a pharmacist, he went into business as a druggist.
Born in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Tilley was the son of storekeeper Thomas Morgan Tilley and Susan Ann Peters. On May 16, 1843 he married Julia Ann Hanford in Saint John, New Brunswick; they had eight children. Hanford died in 1862, leaving Tilley a widower. On October 22, 1867, he married Alice Starr Chipman in St. Stephen, New Brunswick; they had two children, including future New Brunswick premier Leonard Percy de Wolfe Tilley. Samuel Leonard Tilley died in 1896 on June 25.
Tilley entered politics as an activist in the temperance movement. As a result of the 1848 recession, caused in part by Britain’s economic policies, he became an advocate for responsible government. Tilley later joined the New Brunswick Colonial Association, which advocated for the colony’s own control over its public expenses, the establishment of a public school system, government control of public works, and “honest government” in general.
First elected to the New Brunswick Assembly as a Liberal in 1850, he sat in opposition until the 1854 election swept the reformers to power. Tilley became Provincial Secretary in the government of Charles Fisher.
He attended both the Charlottetown, London, and Quebec City Conferences as a supporter of Canadian Confederation. He served as premier of the colony of New Brunswick from 1861 until his government was defeated in the election of 1865. As premier, he supported the New Brunswick’s entry into Confederation and the construction of an intercolonial railway.
A common tale states that Tilley was the originator of the word “Dominion” in Canada’s name. The Fathers of Confederation had been discussing what to prefix Canada with, Kingdom of Canada being Macdonald’s preference. During morning devotions, Tilley read Psalm 72:8, which states “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth”, and presented his inspiration to the others, being as their ambition was to stretch the new nation to the Pacific Ocean and from the St Lawrence River to the North Pole. The legitimacy of this story has been questioned, however, as “dominion” had already been used in a colonial context to describe other British territories, for example the Dominion of New England, and was thus hardly an innovative idea.
The term led to the naming of the July 1 national holiday; however, this reference to a unique Canadian historical development was discarded in 1982 when “Canada Day”, which had already been in use by most Canadians, was made official by an act of Parliament. In French, the date had long been known as la fête nationale (national feast or national birthday), a date which is often now applied to June 24 in Quebec, a date officially known as Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.
Tilley entered federal politics with Confederation in 1867 and served in the federal Macdonald Cabinet as Minister of Customs. He became Minister of Finance in 1873 and served until the defeat of the government later that year. He was appointed the fourth Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick in 1873 and served until 1878. When Macdonald’s Tories returned to power in 1878, Tilley again became minister of finance and served until his retirement from politics in 1885 when he was appointed the seventh Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick.
The Sir Leonard Tilley Building was named in his honour. He is interred in the Fernhill Cemetery in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Hon. Samuel Leonard Tilley, C.B., then Minister of Customs, married his second wife on October 20, 1867. Alice Starr Chipman was the daughter of ship owner (The Cedars) Zachariah Chipman and his wife Mary Eliza. The couple had two sons Herbert Chipman Tilley, born September 6, 1868, and Leonard Percy DeWolfe Tilley, born May 21, 1870. On July, 1884, he and his wife were presented to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, at Osborne, by the Princess Louise. The couple were activists in the temperance movement. During the 13 years the couple lived at Government House, Fredericton no intoxicants were in use at their entertainments. Alice was instrumental in the founding of the Victoria College Hospital at Fredericton, New Brunswick. She helped found the Industrial School for Boys, the Nurses`Home, the Seamen`s Mission and the Home for Consumptives at St John, New Brunswick. The Chipman homestead in St. Stephen, New Brunswick was donated by the heirs of the estate in 1902 to found the Chipman Memorial Hospital. Alice was a founding member of the National Council of Women and served as President of the St John Local Council of Women.