Land- The Big Picture

John’s sons managed to hang on to the estate for a few years, but eventually had to sell it to settle their debts.2. In 1838, not eight years after John Cambridge’s death, a group of Halifax businessmen decided to buy his 102,000 acres. They bought the mortgage on the estate for only £12,000 (plus another 60,000 acre PEI estate for £10,000 which once belonged to Cambridge’s rival, John Hill), but their firm soon dissolved, and one partner emerged to buy out the rest: Samuel Cunard.3.

This huge land transfer marked the beginning of a time of less - shall we say "generous" - feeling toward lot 64’s biggest landowner. All across the island there were little Lemuels and Artemas’ named for Cambridge’s sons, but Cunard wouldn't receive any tributes like that. In fact, he would leave a different kind of legacy altogether. His land agents brutality would earn him a place in island folklore and poetry, and history would look back on a time when soldiers had to keep the peace on his land.

Cunard was a major business mogul, with branches of his business in coal, shipbuilding, tea and shipping. He was a merchant shipbuilder, and it would seem he and Cambridge had a lot in common. But Cambridge had never considered being a landlord a part of his business plan. He had no problem with selling property for what he considered a fair price, so long as he got what he needed from the land: wood. Since the farmers he sold to generally wanted the land cleared for crops and pasture, this was a win-win situation. Cunard, on the other hand, wanted to retain both the woods and the land; he wanted to be a landlord. This was a hard time to take such a stance, because in 1830’s PEI, the land issue was heating up. Catholics obtained the right to vote in 1830, and since they were generally tenants, this created a strong political push in the colony to get rid of the absentee landlords.4. There was even a new party, called the escheat party, which was formed for that very purpose. Cunard didn’t seem worried by this, and he likely knew there was no need to be; he had connections in London, and was often consulted by the British as an authority on the Maritimes.3. He knew that the colony couldn’t afford to buy out the landlords without British support, and he knew that the British weren’t about to back a cause that would anger their country’s elite. 

Cunard’s representative on PEI was his land agent /son in law / lawyer, James Horsfield Peters. It was his job to ensure that tenants signed their leases and paid their rent, and it wouldn’t prove to be easy. Peters got a reputation as a ruthless enforcer of Cunard’s leases by using distraint proceedings to put pressure on people to pay (in other words, legally seizing people’s property and belongings when tenants were behind in their rent payments).5. He had seized cattle and evicted tenants within 4 years of the lands purchase as he tried to collect over £2000 in rent that had been overdue since Cambridge’s time. His aggressive tactics provoked an uprising in lot 45, where 300 people came out to reinstate an evicted man to his farm, prompting the government to send 50 soldiers from Halifax to restore the peace.3. Many people had a serious grudge against Peters, and he knew it; he apparently carried several pistols with him when he dealt with tenants, and in an incident in Western PEI, a barn housing his horses was burned to the ground by an arsonist.5. If not for a change in wind direction, the house he was sleeping in may have had the same end! So while Peters did his job effectively, he made many enemies in the process.

 

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