MAUGER, Joshua (1725-88), of Warborne, Hants.
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Family and Education
bap. 25 Apr. 1725, at St. John’s, Jersey, s. of José Mauger by his w. Sarah Le Couteur. m. his cos., da. of Matthew Mauger, 1da.
Agent victualler for the navy, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1751; agent for N.S. assembly Apr. 1762-8; director, French Hospital 1769- d.
In connexion with the Poole by-election of 1765 Sir Peter Thompson, a leading Poole merchant, gave to James West a brief and on the whole accurate account of Mauger’s antecedents:1
Mr. Joshua Mauger is a native of Jersey. His uncle Matthew Mauger came and settled here—was master of a ship out of this port. He took his nephew Joshua to sea with him and in time he came also to be a master of a ship—and the last war he settled at Halifax in North America and there carried on the brewery and distillery business. There he got his fortune, and came home at the late peace. He married his uncle Matthew’s daughter, by whom he has a daughter who is lately married to a captain of the Guards, who is also a Jersey man. His name I never heard.
According to the earliest reliable information about Mauger in America he was a merchant and agent victualler for the navy at Louisbourg under British occupation, and on its evacuation he moved to Halifax. Back in England, on 9 Jan. 1750 he attended the Board of Trade and reported on conditions in Nova Scotia. He returned to America, and on 6 Jan. 1752 the Board heard from Edward Cornwallis, governor of Nova Scotia, that Mauger was making Halifax a repository for smuggled Louisbourg merchandise, that ‘counterband goods ... had been carried upon trucks publicly and lodged in different parts of the town’, and a search of Mauger’s storehouse had been obstructed by him—Cornwallis hoped he would not be continued ‘in his Majesty’s employ’. The matter was discussed, but Mauger still appears as agent victualler in 1755.2
On the outbreak of war he was among the earliest and most active Nova Scotia privateers.3 He entered the distilling business, and behind a protective duty on spirits,
he and a lesser distiller [John Fillis] enjoyed a practical monopoly (except for smuggled spirits) of a commodity which was a principal part of everyday life in Halifax. He also had a profitable share in the attempt to collect and dispose of the Acadians’ farm products in 1755. He owned land and small stores for trade with soldiers, Acadians, and Indians here and there in the province.4
He became ‘the chief architect and principal beneficiary of the basic Nova Scotia fiscal structure’, ‘the economic overlord’ of the Halifax merchants, ‘and the accepted spokesman for Nova Scotia at the Board of Trade and Privy Council’,5 usually at loggerheads with the successive governors of the province. Thus on 16 Jan. 1761, Mauger, ‘lately arrived from Nova Scotia’, was examined at the Board of Trade about a memorial ‘specifying grievances and irregularities in the administration of the government of Nova Scotia’.6 The fight went on, with Mauger as accredited agent for the province; and he seems to have been listened to, even when in Parliament he sided with the Opposition.
When in 1765 Joseph Gulston sen. vacated his seat at Poole in favour of his son, ‘some of the independents [among the Poole burgesses]’, wrote Thompson to West, 18 May, ‘proposed sending for Mr. Joshua Mauger, a merchant who lives near Soho, was lately made a burgess of this town, and spends two or three months in the summer here’.7 Mauger, who had been nursing an interest in the borough (e.g. he acted in 1763 as one of the agents for the Poole and Newfoundland merchants who had suffered during the French invasion of Newfoundland), tried to gain official support through Lord Halifax with whom he had long been acquainted over Nova Scotia business; conducted his campaign with ruthless vigour; and very nearly succeeded. He stood again in 1768 with the support of Rockingham, Newcastle, and West, who was recorder for Poole; was returned but unseated on petition on proof of his having promised the corporation a present of £1,000 ‘for public purposes’ if elected; and was next returned unopposed.
Only two interventions by him in debate are recorded, both on very minor points and only interesting for their autobiographical remarks;8 but his name appears in almost every division list, invariably on the Opposition side; even on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779. Still, he is practically never mentioned in the correspondence of the Opposition leaders (although he attended the Opposition dinner on 9 May 1769), and it is not clear with whom among them, if any, he was associated. Nor has it been ascertained how in 1774 Charles James Fox came to contest Poole against him on the ‘commonalty’ vote; nor how Mauger came in 1780 to stand on that franchise, which he had successfully combated in 1774. But apparently his influence in the corporation was waning—Robinson wrote in his survey of 1780: ‘Mr. Mauger has but little chance as an individual and may probably ... decline.’ He was defeated; and did not stand again in 1784.
Mauger’s own interests remained centred in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. He continued the leading rum distiller at Halifax;9 and became ‘the chief influence where Nova Scotia was concerned on the firm of Watson [Brook Watson] and Rashleigh, which almost monopolized London’s exports’.10 In 1767 he obtained a grant of 20,000 acres of land in Nova Scotia.11 He fought Lord William Campbell when governor of Nova Scotia, 1766-73, and anyone else who tried to clean up the place—Campbell made investigations of smuggling, and fined the brig Phoenix though she came from Poole. When he was transferred to South Carolina, Mauger’s friends boasted that it was of his doing. The next governor, Francis Legge, wrote to his cousin Lord Dartmouth, then colonial secretary, 10 Jan. 1775:12
The first assembly [in 1758] was composed of persons solely under the influence of Mauger ... The means they adopted for securing power by squandering the money in the treasury and the money borrowed on useless works, bounties, &c., threatening the governor and members of council, many of them being officers of Government, with a refusal to vote their salaries, and, the members being traders, by keeping these members in debt; by granting to the distillers duties to exclude West Indian produce, and through the influence of Mauger to fill the council with their supporters so as to prevent any check on the assembly. They have so monopolized the trade, that the governor cannot introduce any measure for the public good, that is opposed to their interest, without complaint.
With this letter Legge enclosed a representation from some assemblymen: Mauger had established ‘a plan of dominion for himself and dependants ... ruinous to the province’. He had packed the council, dominated the assembly, and had ‘one of his relations made our lieutenant governor’; ‘even the officers of Government, and of the courts of law, are subjected to his will, and he has publicly insulted and threatened the house of assembly’. But Mauger wrote to John Pownall, under-secretary for the colonies, 16 Oct. 1775, about such ‘very wrong representations of many individuals of that poor, unhappy, and ill-governed province’, and Pownall sent on 18 Oct. a reassuring reply. When Legge was recalled in 1776 Mauger’s friends boasted that ‘this was the third governor whom Mauger’s interest has turned out’.13 While this was an exaggeration, it is not clear how he, a member of the Opposition, maintained the interest he had with the Government.
He died 18 Oct. 1788.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. 22 June 1765, West mss.
- 2. Selections from Public Docs. of Nova Scotia, ed. Atkins, 646-7; Bd. of Trade Jnl. 1750-3, pp. 2-4; 1759-63, p. 95.
- 3. G. E. C. Nichols, ‘Notes on Nova Scotia Privateers’, Colls. N.S. Hist. Soc. xiii. 113-15; G. Mullane, ‘Privateers of Nova Scotia, 1765-83’, ibid. xx. 18.
- 4. J. B. Brebner, Neutral Yankees of N.S. 20.
- 5. Ibid. 276, 156.
- 6. Bd. of Trade Jnl. 158.
- 7. West mss,