John Kent (Newfoundland politician)

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For other people named John Kent, see John Kent (disambiguation).
John Kent
Premier of Newfoundland
In office
16 July 1858 – March 1861
Monarch Victoria
Lieutenant Governor Alexander Bannerman
Preceded by Philip Francis Little
Succeeded by Hugh W. Hoyles
Personal details
Born 1805
Wexford, Ireland
Died 1 September 1872
St. John's, Newfoundland
Political party Liberal Party

John Kent (1805 in Wexford, Ireland – September 1, 1872 in St. John's, Newfoundland), arrived in Newfoundland in 1820 and started working for his uncle Patrick Morris. He was influential in establishing a large Irish population on the island. He was elected to the first House of Assembly in 1832 as a Liberal. John Kent was a champion of Catholic rights on an island that was deeply divided along religious lines. He worked for the reform movement along with William Carson and Morris that successfully persuaded the British Colonial Office to institute responsible government in Newfoundland. Kent became Colonial Secretary under Philip Francis Little.

From 1848 to 1855 he was Speaker of the Newfoundland House of Assembly.

He became Premier after Little resigned in 1858. He won the election of 1859 but his government was engulfed by crisis in 1861 when it tried to lower the salary of (mostly Protestant) government officials, including judges who sued the government. In the legislature Kent accused Governor Sir Alexander Bannerman and the opposition Conservatives of conspiring with the judges against the government. Bannerman responded by dismissing the Kent's government in March 1861 and installing Hugh Hoyles as Premier of a Conservative government.[1]

The Liberals defeated the Conservative government in a Motion of No Confidence resulting in an election campaign that was fought along sectarian lines with Catholics largely voting Liberal and Protestants largely voting Conservative. The Protestant Conservative Party of Newfoundland narrowly defeated Kent's Liberals and riots erupted in Catholic Harbour Grace when the governor cancelled voting there essentially denying the Liberals two seats in the legislature and allowing the Conservatives to have a legislative majority.

Kent later joined Sir Frederick Carter's coalition government that attempted to heal the rifts and create a cross denominational compromise that allowed power sharing between Catholics and Protestants, the funding of all denominational schools and the creation of political parties that included members of all denominations.


  1. ^ Waite, P. B. (1972). "Kent, John". In Hayne, David. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. X (1871–1880) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 

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Political offices
Preceded by
James Crowdy
Speaker of the Newfoundland House of Assembly
Succeeded by
Ambrose Shea
Preceded by
Philip Francis Little
Premier of Newfoundland
Succeeded by
Hugh W. Hoyles