Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Life of Edmund Fanning

Benson Lossing’s Pictorial Fieldbook of the Revolution includes a convenient sketch of the life of Edmund Fanning, which I thought would make a nice post on the blog. Foremost, note that Edmund Fanning is more or less no relation to the infamous Tory raider Col. David Fanning of Randolph County fame. Edmund was a notorious lawyer and loyalist who was hated by the Regulators. He was just the sort of person that John F D Stuart-Smyth was referring to when he wrote that before the Revolution some in Orange County became wealthy “by the practice of law, which in this province is peculiarly lucrative and extremely oppressive.”

Here’s Lossing’s sketch [with my comments in square brackets]:

Edmund Fanning was a native of Long Island, New York, son of Colonel Phineas Fanning. [He was Southold, Long Island per wikipedia; also the Canadian Dictionary of Biography says he was the son of James Fanning and Hannah Smith.] He was educated at Yale College, and graduated with honor in 1757. He soon afterward [1761] went to North Carolina, and began the profession of a lawyer at Hillsborough, then called Childsborough. In 1760, the degree of L.L.D. was conferred upon him by his alma mater. In 1763, he was appointed colonel of Orange county, and in 1765 was made clerk of the Superior Court at Hillsborough. He also represented Orange county in the Colonial Legislature. In common with other lawyers, he appears to have exacted exorbitant fees for legal services, and consequently incurred the dislike of the people, which was finally manifested by acts of violence. He accompanied Governor Tryon to New York, in 1771, as his secretary. Governor Martin asked the Legislature to indemnify Colonel Fanning for his losses; the representatives of the people rebuked the governor for presenting such a petition. In 1776, General Howe gave Fanning the commission of colonel, and he raised and commanded a corps called the King's American Regiment of Foot. He was afterward appointed to the lucrative office of surveyor general, which he retained until his flight, with other Loyalists, to Nova Scotia, in 1783. In 1786 he was made lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, and in 1794 he was appointed governor of Prince Edward's Island. He held the latter office about nineteen years, a part of which time he was also a brigadier in the British army, having received his commission in 1808. He married in Nova Scotia, where some of his family yet reside. General Fanning died in London, in 1818, at the age of about eighty-one years. His widow and two daughters yet (1852) survive. One daughter, Lady Wood, a widow, resides near London with her mother; the other, wife of Captain Bentwick Cumberland, a nephew of Lord Bentwick, resides at Charlotte's Town, New Brunswick. I am indebted to John Fanning Watson, Esq., the Annalist of Philadelphia and New York, for the portrait here given.

General Fanning's early career, while in North Carolina, seems not to have given promise of that life of usefulness which he exhibited after leaving Republican America. It has been recorded, it is true, by partisan pens, yet it is said that he often expressed regrets for his indiscreet course at Hillsborough. His after life bore no reproaches, and the Gentlemen's Magazine (1818), when noting his death, remarked, "The world contained no better man in all the relations of life." [Although it should be noted that almost all 19th century obituaries have a hagiographic aspect to them.]

No comments:

Post a Comment