The Amazing Story of Meddie Gallant, Henry Pineau, the District of First Prince, and Prohibition

In the February 8, 1899 edition of The Guardian, a story of election intrigue from Prince County concerning the rise and fall of Amédée “Meddie” Gallant, farmer and fish exporter and Liberal candidate for the district of First Prince:

Unseated and Disqualified

Judgement Given Against Meddie Gallant at Alberton Yesterday

The adjourned sitting of the Election Court was held at Alberton yesterday when Judge Hodgson gave his decision in the matter of the election petition filed by Peter T. Bernard against the election end return of Meddie Gallant as a member for the first Electoral District of Prince County in the Legislative Assembly.

Owing to the resignation of Edward Hackett, who in the general election of 1897, was elected member, a vacancy occurred and an election took place on the 20th July last, when Meddie Gallant stood as the Liberal candidate, and Mr. Buote, editor of Le Impartial, was the Conservative candidate. Gallant was elected and a petition was subsequently filed by Peter T. Bernard charging corrupt practices both by Gallant personally and by his agents.

The trial of this petition took place in December last at Alberton before Mr. Justice Hodgson, and after hearing the evidence judgment was reserved until yesterday.

A special despatch from Alberton to the Examiner says:

The court room was densely crowded.

The court held the respondent, Meddie Gallant, to be guilty of treating by Martin Hussler and Trail Reid, his agents. Also of treating by Benjamin Gallant, an agent, but without the knowledge of Meddie Gallant.

The charge of bribery of Wedge by Meddie Gallant was examined at great length by the Judge, and although the circumstances were very suspicious he held that there existed reasonable doubt, the benefit of which every one charged with an offence is entitled to. He therefore held the charge “not proven.”

The charge of bribery of Colo. Arsenault by Gallant was held by the Judge to be fully established and the Election was set aside.

The result of this finding is that Meddie Gallant is debarred  from voting or being voted for or from holding any office under the Crown, or under the Lieutenant Governor for eight years.

Before the close of his judgment the Judge paid a high compliment to the manner in which the evidence had been reported by Mr. Crosskill, the stenographic reporter.

A month later, on March 22, 1899, a follow-up story in The Guardian, with some added newspaper-on-newspaper chiding thrown in, suggested that Gallant had appealed, successfully, and was to be allowed to re-offer:

Mr. Meddie Gallant did not appear in vain to the full court. The judgment of the Master of the Rolls had unseated and disqualified him. The judgment of the full court reaffirms the decision that his seat is made vacant but reverses the disqualification. Mr. Gallant will therefore be eligible for re-election should he choose to become a candidate and should his friends re-nominate him. Mr. Justice Hodgson still adheres to the position which he took at the election trial, but we think the general sentiment of the community will agree with the majority of the court that the case was not one for the extreme penalty of the law. The judgment now rendered makes it quite clear that an evening newspaper was wrong in assuming that a full Bench would necessarily confirm Mr. Gallant’s disqualification.

On July 19, 1899 a by-election was begun:

Court was opened at 10 o’clock yesterday by Sheriff Gaffney for the purpose of nominating candidates to contest the election in 1st district of Prince County. Mr. Meddie Gallant and Mr. H. J. Pineo were nominated in the interest of Liberals and Conservatives respectively. Court adjourned at 4 p.m. until Saturday July 29th which will be Declaration Day.

On July 25, 1899 the election was held, reported The Guardian:

A by-election for the Provincial Legislature takes place today in the First District of Prince. The candidates are Mr. Gallant, Liberal, and Mr. Pineo, Conservative. There has been very little “campaigning” done by the party newspapers on either side. Perhaps this is quite as well, but it is in strong contrast with what takes place in other Provinces on similar occasions. We hope to be able to announce the result in tomorrow’s issue.

As promised, on July 26, 1899, the results of the by-election:

The Prince Election

The Opposition Candidate Elected By a Small Majority

An Unexpected Result–Conservative Gains in French-speaking Districts

There was little general interest taken throughout the Province in the by-election held yesterday in the First district of Prince. In Charlottetown the active politicians of both parties were on the alert to hear the news, but until it came the opinion of the large majority was that Mr. Gallant would receive the majority of the votes. The result proved otherwise and has exceeded some surprise.

Mr. Gallant had the advantage of some experience and the sympathy that usually comes to a candidate who having been once returned by a good majority is afterwards unseated by the courts. The changes appear to have been principally in the French-speaking sections of the District. Various reasons are assigned for these including the unpopularity of the lobster and oyster fishing regulations. And it is hinted that some electors, with a desire to influence a pending judicial appointment, may have voted for the Opposition candidate with a view to make the government reluctant to open another constituency at the present time.

The following are the returns from the several polling places at yesterday’s election, side by side with those of the election last year between Mr. Gallant and Mr. Buote:

  1899 1898
  Gallant Pineo Gallant Buote
Nail Pond 63 112 68 90
Palmer Road 174 204 212 184
Tignish 65 133 82 110
Greenmount 76 134 86 140
Dock Road 114 86 103 76
Bloomfield 173 90 209 82
Alberton 119 58 132 82
Miminegash 42 67 66 37
Fortune Cove 78 51 105 46
TOTAL 904 935 1063 847

So, after all that, Meddie Gallant lost the by-election by 31 votes, and Henry J. Pineo (or Pineau) was elected.

For The Guardian, and its rival newspaper The Patriot, however, the contest was still on, and it turned semantic:

The newspaper-on-newspaper action continued in The Guardian on July 31, 1899:

The Patriot has not yet announced the result of its Guessing Bee on the Tignish election. Why not revise the offer and give prizes to those who guessed the fartherest away from the numbers polled! In that way the Pioneer would probably get the college course and the subscription to the Patriot might be given as a consolation prize to one Mr. Gallant.

The following day The Guardian suggested that the Patriot was fighting back:

The skittish Patriot skies a little at the word “fartherest” in yesterday’s Guardian. The word affords an interesting study. It is a sort of tandem team made up of the comparative and superlative degrees. We would have been quite content with the superlative alone in the shafts; but the intelligent compositor knew better and hitched on the extra horse. If the Patriot had not shied our tandem would have run him down. The “fartherest” distance that we know of is between the true sense in which the Guardian seeks to promote temperance and the Lie-sense by which the Patriot claims to support the same cause.

Newly-elected Henry J. Pineau, meanwhile, was in office only until the following year.

But what a year it was.

Here’s how his biography relates the story:

Pineau, a Conservative and later a Liberal, was elected to the Legislative Assembly in a by-election held 25 July 1899 for 1st Prince. During the years 1899 and 1900, Pineau was a central figure in the House, as the Liberal government attempted to maintain a slim majority. A sitting Conservative, Pineau, who had been conspicuously absent for a number of months, at a crucial moment switched to the government side.

The crisis for the Liberals began during the 1899 legislative sessions, when Joseph Wise broke ranks with the government and voted with the Conservatives. Premier Donald Farquharson made efforts to persuade him to resign his seat. Wise agreed to do this if a by-election was held before the spring 1900 session. The by-election did not go ahead and Wise withdrew his resignation. During the 1900 session, on 8 May, his resignation was announced in the House, but this was immediately followed by Wise defiantly taking his seat. Amidst pandemonium, his vote with the Conservatives, which would have defeated the government, was not recognized by Speaker James Cummiskey. The next day, Wise attempted to take his seat while the Speaker entered the refuted resignation into the record. Wise refused to withdraw when asked, and then was removed from the Legislative Assembly by the Sergeant-at-Arms, assisted by the House Messenger. He was locked in the Speaker’s room until the House adjourned. When order was restored, Farquharson held on to power, as Pineau had switched his political allegiance to the Liberals.

The Guardian headline of May 9, 1900 tells almost this entire story in the headlines alone:

The Guardian, May 9, 1900

Ironically, Pineau, who was to play such an important role in the unfolding drama, was not in the house on May 8.

Pineau was, however, present the following day, May 9, and The Guardian picked up the story in the May 10 edition:

After the doors were opened Mr. Pineau was introduced by Hon. Peter McNutt and Hon. Jas. Richards, and after he had taken the oath and signed the roll he took his seat on the Government side of the house, amid the cheers of the members of the Government and the hisses of the gallery.

The day’s business in the house concluded on matters relating to hats, reported The Guardian:

Mr. J.A. McDonald–Is that the Governor’s speech? If so remove your hat!

Members of the Opposition–Can you show any rule or precedent for not removing your hat?

After the reading of the speech the House adjourned until 10 this morning.

The scene the following day was no less interesting, with almost the entire front page of The Guardian devoted to reporting the proceedings of the House, under this headline:

One would think that supporting the government by crossing the floor would be enough excitement for a freshman MLA, but on June 9, 1900 Pineau again rose to the fore, this time with allegations of bribery; The Guardian reported:

In reply to some statements made by Mr. Campbell, Mr. Pineau said he represented a just people, a law abiding people. It was no wonder that Mr. Campbell and Mr. McLean were mad. They were deprived of something which they expected. He had lots of offers from the Conservative party. He had an offer only today of $250 to vote against the Prohibition Bill, but he would not accept the bribe.

The Journal of the Assembly reported what followed, a resolution to form an enquiry:

That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee Of the whole, with power to send for persons, papers and records and to examine witnesses on oath, to enquire into the allegations of Henry J. Pineau, member for Tignish in this Legislature, to the effect that the said Henry J. Pineau was approached on June 8, 1900, by a Conservative who offered him the sum of $250.00, if the said Henry J. Pineau would vote against the Prohibition Bill now before this Legislature.

That motion was defeated, the “Prohibition Bill” passed shortly thereafter, the House was prorogued that same day, not sitting again until March of the following year, following a December 1900 election in which Pineau didn’t run.

Pineau died in Miminegash in 1904, at the age of 41.

As for Meddie Gallant: he never served as an MLA again, but, according to his biography, he continued to be an important force in the community:

Meddie” Gallant, a resident of Bloomfield, was a farmer and operated a fish export business in Miminegash for several years. He was the supervisor of highways for West Prince and had the telephone installed in his area for better communications in his work.

in the Provincial General Election of December 12, 1900, Liberal Benjamin Gallant became Assemblyman for First Prince, holding the seat until his death 21 years later, winning five elections in the process.