Hewitt Bernard

Charlottetown Conference, Hewitt Bernard, standing far left

Bro. Hewitt Bernard was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, eldest son of plantation owner Thomas James Bernard and Theodora Foulkes. Hewitt was sent back to England for his education, where he studied law. He practiced law in Jamaica in the 1840s, and from 1851 in Barrie, Canada West, where he lived with his mother and his sister. In 1855 he joined the local volunteer militia, the Barrie Rifle Company, eventually ranking Lt.-Col. He was a co-editor of the Upper Canada Law Journal in the 1850s.

Bernard was Initiated in Ionic Lodge March 6, 1855, passed April 10, 1855, and raised May 15, 1855. On his Initiation, the W.M. was F.P. Stowe, with W. Bro. Francis Richardson, a charter member and first Master of the Lodge, acting as I.P.M. Mr. Bernard had not been scheduled for Initiation at that meeting, but had previously been ballotted for and accepted, and as he was present “it was agreed to Initiate him without further delay in consequence of his residing in the Country.” He did not hold senior office, but served as a Steward in the lodge in 1859.

The minutes of Sept. 6, 1859 note that “A Communication was received from Brother Hewitt Bernard stating that in consequence of his removal to Quebec, he desired to withdraw from the Lodge on payment of his dues. Bro. Bernard’s request was granted". That year the capital of the Province of Canada had moved from Toronto to Quebec City, where Bro. Bernard was a senior official. He later affiliated with Civil Service Lodge, No. 148, in Ottawa in 1873.

In 1858 he had become private secretary to Attorney General John A. Macdonald, also a Freemason. In 1859 Bernard became Chief Clerk for the province; and in 1860, Deputy Attorney General. In that role he attended the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences of 1864, and London in 1866–67, leading to Confederation of the provinces and the birth of the Dominion of Canada. Bro. Bernard became brother-in-law to John A. Macdonald in 1867, upon Macdonald's marriage to Bernard's sister, Susan Agnes. Bernard himself never married.

On July 1, 1867, Bro. Bernard became Canada's first Deputy Minister of Justice. In 1868 he organized the presentation of evidence at the public inquiry into the assassination of MP Thomas D'arcy McGee and the subsequent trial of Irish nationalist Patrick Whelan. In 1872 he was appointed Q.C., and then Companion of the chivalric Order of St. Michael and St. George.

Bernard continued as Dep. Min. of Justice even after the election of 1873 resulted in a change of government. He resigned in 1876 due to poor health, but occasionally worked as a government consultant thereafter. He disliked Ottawa, calling it "wretched", “hot, dusty, fifth rate". After leaving public life Bernard continued to make regular visits to the Macdonald family home in Ottawa. He was staying in Montreal when he died February 24, 1893. His grave is in Ottawa.

Sources: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, accessed Oct. 9, 2012 at http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=5969; Minutes of Ionic Lodge, No. 25 G.R.C.; and unpublished research of Bro. Michael Jenkyns, including information from the records of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario