Thomas Chandler Haliburton

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Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Personal details
Born 17 December 1796
Windsor, Nova Scotia
Died 27 August 1865 (1865-08-28) (aged 68)
Isleworth, England

Thomas Chandler Haliburton (17 December 1796 – 27 August 1865) was a Nova Scotian politician, judge, and author. Politically, he played a significant role in the history of Nova Scotia prior to its entry into Confederation. Literarily, he was the first international best-selling author from what is now Canada.


Thomas Chandler Haliburton

On 17 December 1796, Thomas Chandler Haliburton was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, the son of William Hersey Otis Haliburton, a lawyer, judge and political figure, and Lucy Chandler Grant. As a small child, his mother died. At the age of seven his father remarried to Susanna Davis. Davis was the daughter of Michael Francklin, who had been Nova Scotia's Lieutenant Governor.[1] As an adolescent, he attended University of King's College in Windsor. After graduating, he became a lawyer, opening a practice in Annapolis Royal, the former capital of the colony.

While Haliburton gained a reputation as a local businessman and as a judge, his greatest fame came from writing. He wrote a number of books on history, politics, and farm improvement. He rose to international fame with his Clockmaker serial, which first appeared in the Novascotian and later published as a book throughout the British Empire, becoming popular light reading. The work recounted the humorous adventures of the character Sam Slick.

In 1816, he married Lousia Nevill, daughter of Captain Laurence Neville, of the Eighth Light Dragoons.

Between 1826 and 1829, Haliburton represented Annapolis County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.

In 1856, Haliburton retired from law and moved to England. In the same year, he married Sarah Harriet Owen Williams. In 1859, Haliburton was elected the Member of Parliament for Launceston, Cornwall as a member of the Conservative minority; he did not stand for re-election in 1865.

Haliburton received an honorary degree from Oxford for his services to literature. He continued writing until his death on 27 August 1865, at his home in Isleworth, near London.[2])


Mrs Louisa Haliburton (née Neville) first wife of Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Daughter Amelia Gilpin by William Notman

While in England, Thomas Chandler Haliburton met Louisa Neville, daughter of Captain Laurence Neville, of the Eighth Light Dragoons. In 1816, he married her, soon thereafter returning to Nova Scotia with her. Louisa's story before marriage is related in the "Haliburton Chaplet," edited by their son, Robert Grant Haliburton (Toronto: 1899). The couple had two sons and five daughters:

  • Susannah Lucy Anne, later Weldon, 1817–1899, ceramic collector[1]
  • Mrs. A. F. Haliburton
  • Mrs. Bainbridge Smith
  • Amelia (25 Jul 1829 – 14 Jan 1902), landscape artist, married the Rev. Edwin Gilpin, Dean of Nova Scotia, in 1849; the couple had four sons and one daughter,[3] including Edwin Gilpin (1850–1907), a mining engineer and author[1]
  • Robert Grant Haliburton, Q.C., D.C.L., 1831–1901, lawyer, author, and anthropologist[1]
  • Arthur (1832–1907), later 1st Baron Haliburton, G.C.B., civil servant
  • Laura Charlotte, artist, married William Cunard, son of the shipping magnate Sir Samuel Cunard at Windsor, Nova Scotia, 30 December 1851; three sons, one daughter. Exhibited her pictures at the Royal Academy, the Gallery of British Artists, and at other institutions in London.

In 1840, Louisa died and was buried at Windsor.[3]


Haliburton was eager to promote immigration to the colonies of British North America. One of his first written works was an emigrant's guide to Nova Scotia published in 1823, A General Description of Nova Scotia; Illustrated by a New and Correct Map[4] The community of Haliburton, Nova Scotia was named after him.[5] In Ontario, Haliburton County is named after Haliburton in recognition of his work as the first chair of the Canadian Land and Emigration Company.

In 1884, faculty and students at his alma mater founded a literary society in honour of the College's most celebrated man of letters. The Haliburton Society, still active at the University of King's College, Halifax, is the longest-standing collegial literary society throughout the Commonwealth of Nations and North America.

The mention "hurly on the long pond on the ice", which appears in the second volume of The Attaché, or Sam Slick in England, a work of fiction published in 1844, has been interpreted by some as a reference to a hockey-like game he may have played during his years at King's College. It is the basis of Windsor's disputed claim to being the town that fathered hockey.

In 1902, a memorial to Haliburton and his first wife was erected in Christ Church, Windsor, by four of their children: Laura Cunard, Lord Haliburton, and two surviving sisters.

Nova Scotian artist William Valentine painted Haliburton's portrait.


  • A General Description of Nova Scotia - 1823
  • An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova Scotia - 1829
  • The Clockmaker - 1836
  • The Clockmaker, 2nd Series - 1838
  • The Bubbles of Canada - 1839
  • A Reply to the Report of the Earl of Durham - 1839
  • The Letter-Bag of the Great Western - 1840
  • The Clockmaker, 3rd Series - 1840
  • The Attaché; or Sam Slick in England - 1843
  • The Attaché; or Sam Slick in England, 2nd Series - 1844
  • The Old Judge, Or Life in a Colony - 1849
  • The English in America - 1851
  • Rule and Misrule in English America - 1851 vol 1 vol 2
  • Sam Slick's Wise Saws and Modern Instances - 1853
  • The Americans at Home; or, Byways, Backwoods, and Prairies - 1855
  • Nature and Human Nature - 1855
  • The Season-Ticket* - 1860
  • Maxims of an Old Stager Not by Haliburton, but pseudonym may be "Sam Slick"


  1. ^ a b c d Cogswell, F. (2000). Haliburton, Thomas Chandler. Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. John English, Ed. (English version). Retrieved on: 2012-02-08.
  2. ^ Richard A. Davies, Inventing Sam Slick: A Biography of Thomas Chandler Haliburton (2005)
  3. ^ a b Morgan, Henry James Types of Canadian women and of women who are or have been connected with Canada : (Toronto, 1903) [1]
  4. ^ Richard Davies, Inventing Sam Slick, pp. 28-29; Original online text: A General Description of Nova Scotia; Illustrated by a New and Correct Map (Halifax: Printed at the Royal Acadian School, 1823) Internet Archives
  5. ^

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hon. Josceline Percy
Member of Parliament for Launceston
Succeeded by
Alexander Henry Campbell