Cochrane, Sir Thomas John (1789-1872)
Thomas Cochrane was born in London on 5 February, 1789 and he began his naval career at the age of
seven. He was made lieutenant in 1805, and captain a year later. Cochrane's promotion was criticized as
"gross jobbery", or blatant patronage because of his father's influence. Cochrane went on to command the
Surprise and the Forte, and was appointed the first governor of what was now officially the colony of
Newfoundland in 1825.
Cochrane was an energetic governor. He built Government House between Fort William and Fort
Townshend, at very high cost. Working with an appointed council, Cochrane revamped the poor relief
system by having recipients help build the first roads connecting St. John's to nearby outports, and by
encouraging agricultural development. He tried to implement municipal government in St. John's, but
merchant rivalry and religious factionalism thwarted his efforts.
Cochrane opposed the introduction of representative government, thinking that the population was
politically immature and not sufficiently educated. However, a new constitution was granted in 1832 which
provided for a legislature, and Cochrane became the first civil governor. In 1833 he opened the newly-
elected legislature, promising cooperation in all measures. But the political situation soon deteriorated, and
Cochrane and his council were in almost constant conflict with the reformers. The dissensions of this period
had strong sectarian overtones, and the situation became increasingly polarized as Cochrane came into
direct conflict with the Roman Catholic bishop, Michael Fleming. Cochrane was recalled in 1834. He and
his daughter were pelted with filth on their way down Cochrane Street to the wharf.
For all his misadventures in Newfoundland, Cochrane went on to have a successful political and naval
career, becoming an admiral of the fleet in 1865. He died in England in 1872.
<< Previous Governor |
Next Governor >>