Louis Henry Davies

Sir Louis Henry Davies KCMG PC (May 4, 1845  May 1, 1924) was a Canadian lawyer, businessman and politician, and judge from the province of Prince Edward Island. In a public career spanning six decades, he served as the third premier of Prince Edward Island, a federal Member of Parliament and Cabinet minister, and as both a Puisne Justice and the sixth Chief Justice of Canada.

Sir Louis Henry Davies

The Right Hon. Sir Louis Henry Davies
3rd Premier of Prince Edward Island
In office
August 15, 1876  April 25, 1879
Lieutenant GovernorRobert Hodgson
Preceded byLemuel Owen
Succeeded byWilliam Wilfred Sullivan
Leader of the Prince Edward Island Liberal Party
In office
1876  June 20, 1882
Preceded byRobert Haythorne
Succeeded byJohn Yeo
Member of the General Assembly of Prince Edward Island for 4th Kings
In office
1872  August 10, 1876
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byJames Robertson
Member of the General Assembly of Prince Edward Island for 5th Queens
In office
August 10, 1876  April 2, 1879
Serving with George W. Deblois
Preceded byFrederick Brecken
Succeeded byNeil McLeod
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Queen's County
In office
June 20, 1882  February 27, 1883
Preceded byJames Colledge Pope
Frederick de Sainte-Croix Brecken
In office
February 27, 1883  August 19, 1884
In office
August 19, 1884  February 22, 1887
In office
February 22, 1887  June 23, 1896
Serving with William Welsh
Succeeded byabolished 1892
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for West Queen's
In office
June 23, 1896  September 25, 1901
Preceded bycreated 1892
Succeeded byDonald Farquharson
6th Chief Justice of Canada
In office
October 23, 1918  May 1, 1924
Nominated byRobert Borden
Preceded byCharles Fitzpatrick
Succeeded byFrancis Alexander Anglin
Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
September 25, 1901  October 23, 1918
Nominated byWilfrid Laurier
Preceded byGeorge Edwin King
Succeeded byPierre-Basile Mignault
Personal details
Born(1845-05-04)May 4, 1845
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
DiedMay 1, 1924(1924-05-01) (aged 78)
Ottawa, Ontario
Political partyLiberal
Other political
Prince Edward Island Liberal Party
Susan Wiggins (m. 1872)
RelationsBenjamin Davies
ResidenceCharlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Alma materPrince of Wales College (now part of the University of Prince Edward Island)
Occupationlawyer, judge, business person, and publisher
CabinetAttorney General (1876–1879)
Solicitor General (1869)
Minister of Marine and Fisheries (1896–1901)

Early life and family

Davies was born in Charlottetown, the son of Benjamin Davies and Kezia Attwood Watts. He attended Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown.

In July, 1872, he married Susan Wiggins, a daughter of Dr. A. V. G. Wiggins. She was a member of the Humane Society, the Women's Canadian Historical Society, and similar organizations. The couple had two sons and three daughters.[1]

Davies read law at the Inner Temple in London. He was called to bar in England in 1866, and to the bar of Prince Edward Island a year later. He served as lead counsel for the Prince Edward Island Land Commission, which was established in 1875 to settle the problem of absentee land ownership and to provide tenants of the Island with clear title to their lands.

In 1877, Davies was one of the Canadian counsel who appeared on behalf of the British Government before the Halifax Fisheries Commission, appointed under the Treaty of Washington (1871) to resolve outstanding issues, including fishing rights. The Commission gave an award directing the United States to pay $5,500,000 to the British Government.

Davies was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1880, and knighted by Queen Victoria in 1897.

Political career

Davies was first elected to the House of Assembly as a Liberal in 1872 just prior to Prince Edward Island entering Canadian confederation. With the issue of Confederation resolved and the land question settled as a result of Canada's promise to fund land reform and the passage of the Land Purchase Act, the major issue remaining on the island was that of school funding and whether the school system should be entirely secular and public or whether separate schools for Catholics should be permitted. The issue divided both parties, and had led to the collapse of one government.

Following the defeat of the Conservative government of Lemuel Cambridge Owen in 1876, Davies established a coalition government of Protestant Liberals and Conservatives with himself as Premier and Attorney-General. The Davies government was formed to enact a Public Schools Act which made school attendance compulsory, and created a non-sectarian public school system. The act was passed in 1877 and, with the issue around which the coalition had been formed having been resolved, the coalition itself began to unravel. Davies' government reformed the civil service and brought in financial reforms before being defeated by the Conservatives in a Motion of No Confidence in 1879.

Davies won a seat in the House of Commons of Canada in the 1882 federal election as a Liberal. When the Liberals formed government after the 1896 election under Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Davies became minister of marine and fisheries, and during 1898–1899 he was a member of the Anglo-American joint high commission at Quebec.[2]

Supreme Court of Canada

In 1901, Davies was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. He was appointed Chief Justice in 1918. He was the oldest person to be appointed Chief Justice, at the age of 73 years, 172 days. Davies held the position until his death in Ottawa in 1924.

As of 2016, he is the last Chief Justice of Canada to have previously served in elected office. He is also, as of 2016, the only Prince Edward Islander to have served on the Supreme Court. The Prince Edward Island Supreme Court building in Charlottetown is named in his honour. Also named for him is Davies Point, at the meeting of Hastings and Alice Arms on Observatory Inlet in British Columbia; the naming was done at the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court,[3] as was also Davies Bay, at the head of Work Channel just east of Prince Rupert.[4]


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