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Description found in Archives

James Bruce, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, and family fonds [graphic material, textual record (some microfilm), cartographic material] 



Place of creation

Various places

1.496 m of textual records.
6 microfilm reels.
14 photographs : 2 daguerreotypes and 12 b&w.
2 albums (117 drawings and 35 watercolours).
27 drawings.
9 watercolours.
9 prints: lithographs.
5 maps.

Scope and content

The fonds encompasses the "Canada-related" records accumulated by the 8th and 9th Earls of Elgin, and by other members of their families. The largest portion of this material consists of records created or accumulated by James Bruce, the 8th Earl, during or in relation to his career as Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada, 1847-1854, as Governor General of the provinces of British North America, and as negotiator of the 1854 Reciprocity Treaty. This includes both Despatches and Private Letters exchanged with the Colonial Secretaries and correspondence exchanged with fellow governors, the Commander of the Forces and the Admiral on the Atlantic station; with diplomatic colleagues at the Foreign Office and at the British Legation in Washington; and with politicians and officials, as well as individuals, within the colony. A scattering of items reflect his role as patron of arts and culture. Microfilm copies of a substantial proportion of this material had been acquired in 1958 (see reels A-396 to A-400). The letters from the 8th Earl, his wife Lady Mary Louisa Lambton Bruce, and his daughter Lady Elma to the latter's grandparents provides an exceptional window on her childhood. The letters portray Elma's life, education and development from her perspective as well as that of her parents. The journal, art albums and associated art works of Lady Mary Louisa Lambton Bruce, the Countess of Elgin, offer perceptions of Canada through her eyes, first in 1838, then between 1847 and 1853. The letters from her husband demonstrate their deep and abiding affection as well as the role she played as his wife and vicereine. This last series of letters were included in the 1958 microfilming (see reel A-401). The correspondence of Sir Frederick Bruce while British Minister at Washington, 1865-1867, includes Private Letters he exchanged with both the governors of British North America and British consuls in the United States, as well as messages exchanged with the intelligence agents he employed to gather information about Fenians and other threats, international disputes over boundaries and fisheries, and concerns with tariff barriers to trade. The Private Letters exchanged by Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin, while Colonial Secretary, with the Governor General of Canada and the Governor of Newfoundland, 1905-1908, parallel the private letters his father exchanged with the Colonial Secretary half a century earlier, and cover very similar topics, plus the Labrador Boundary dispute and planning for the Quebec Tercentenary celebrations. A numer of photographs and prints portraying James Bruce, his wife and eldest son, plus members of his entourage while in the Province of Canada, acquired at various dates from the family, form a separate series within the fonds. The fonds includes two original letters acquired from sources other than the Bruce family.

Textual records: microform
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
Cartographic material
90: Open
Graphic (art)
90: Open
Textual records: microform
Microfilm reel A-401
90: Open
Textual records: microform
Microfilm reel A-400
90: Open
Textual records: microform
Microfilm reel A-398
90: Open
Textual records: microform
Microfilm reel A-396
90: Open
Textual records: microform
Microfilm reel A-397
90: Open
Textual records: microform
Microfilm reel A-399
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Former archival reference no.

Terms of use

All materials received in 2010 have been digitized. Pursuant to conservation policies, the originals have been withdrawn from circulaton. Researchers must use the digitized copies, or the microfilm (where that exists).

Textual records Part 1 of the finding aid provides a description of each item in the order of its appearance on reels A-396 to A-400 and a summary for the contents of reel A-401. Prepared about 1959, this listing identifies author, recipient, date and place of writing, and a limited statement of subject for each despatch or letter, with limited descriptions for enclosures. MSS0129 90 (Electronic)

Textual records Part 2 of the finding aid provides a more detailed description of each item for the material received in 2010, including more than 2250 descriptions of letters, art works, etc. The items included in the five albums of clippings from newspapers and periodicals are not described individually. MSS0129 90 (Electronic)

Textual records Part 3 of the finding aid contains the listing prepared by the National Register of Archives for Scotland of the records created or accumulated by the 8th Earl of Elgin during his public career before and after his term in Canada. Those records have been retained in the family archives at Broomhall, Scotland. MSS0129 90 (Electronic)

Textual records The published four volumes of the "Elgin-Grey Correspondence" (which forms part of MSS Finding Aid 0176) complements the description of the 8th Earl's private letters in this fonds. To a lesser extent, the description of the 4th Earl Grey's private letters in MSS FA 0176 complements the description of the 9th Earl of Elgin's private letters in this fonds. The register of despatches in Colonial Office 712/30 likewise complements the description of the 8th Earl's despatches in this fonds. 90 (Paper)

Graphic material: Photographs are described at item level in MINISIS-DAPDCAP. 90 (Electronic)

Additional name(s)

Biography / Administrative history

James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine was born 20 July 1811 at London, was the eldest son of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine (1766-1841) by his second wife Elizabeth Oswald (d. 1860). Thanks to the family's lengthy residence at Paris, he and his brothers were fluent in French from childhood. The countess instilled in her sons a strong sense of public conscience and duty. Educated at Eton and Christ Church college, Oxford, James Bruce spent the 1830s managing the family estates and business ventures at Broomhall in Fifeshire, developing administrative skills and a life-long interest in railroads. As the second son, he had expectations for a political career. His elder brother George Constantine (the Lord Bruce) having died in 1840, James Bruce succeeded as the 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine on the death of his father, 14 November 1841. On 22 April 1841, Lord Elgin married Elizabeth Mary Cumming Bruce (13 April 1821-7 June 1843). A year later, she accompanied him to Jamaica, where she bore two daughters, Elma and Mary, but died with the second child. Despite this personal tragedy, during his five years as Governor of Jamaica from May 1842, Lord Elgin devoted his energies to improving the economy of the colony and the lot of the former slave population, achieving substantial success. On 7 November 1846, Lord Elgin married Lady Mary Louisa Lambton (1819-1898), eldest daughter of John George Lambton, 1st Lord Durham, and niece of Earl Grey, then the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. She and his elder daughter Lady Elma joined him at Montreal the following summer. Three sons were born during their residence in the Province of Canada (Victor Alexander, Robert and Charles); a fourth son (Frederick John) and a daughter Louisa Elizabeth after their return to Britain. Lord Elgin received commissions dated 1 October 1846 nominating him as Governor General of British North America, and as Captain General and Governor-in-Chief of the several provinces (Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island - but not Newfoundland). However, he exercised only the one office for which he took the State Oaths on 30 January 1847 at Montreal, namely that of Captain General and Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada. While his commissions empowered him to take up office in any of the jurisdictions, he never did so. Railroads and steamships made it possible for his fellow governors to visit him in order to consult on matters of inter-colonial concern. A further commission dated 2 October 1846 named Elgin as Vice Admiral of the several provinces of British North America; however, that jurisdiction over maritime matters was exercised in fact by the Vice Admiralty Courts.

Lord Elgin achieved fame for his implementation of Responsible Government in 1848 and his courage during the rioting which followed his giving Royal Assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill in 1849. He encouraged the evolution of the Executive Council into a true cabinet, collectively responsible for policy, local administration and legislation, while he retained responsibility over foreign relations and defence, and the management of Indian affairs. He perceived his role as governor to be apolitical, focused on providing guidance and advice to successive ministries, notably in relation to immigration and epidemics, the effects of the 1846 repeal of the Corn Laws on trade, the Annexation movement, and the abolition of the Clergy Reserves and of seigenurial tenure. Concurrently, he refined and expanded the role of Governor General of British North America, to foster inter-provincial co-operation and collaboration on issues of common concern, notably the fisheries, the development of railroads, the telegraph and postal service, navigational aids, as well as inter-provincial and international trade. He argued against having expenses for his activities as Governor General fall exclusively on the one colony in which he resided. On 22 August 1853, Lord Elgin departed for Britain, taking leave to discuss his future in office and to address family concerns with the Broomhall estates. Lieutenant General Sir William Rowan, the Commander of the Forces, served as Administrator of the province until Elgin's return. Elgin spent May and the first week of June 1854 in the United States, negotiating the Reciprocity Treaty on behalf of all colonies of British North America. He sought advice from the Lieutenant Governors and provincial delegates, who visited him at Washington to address their specific concerns. Before returning to Quebec city (now the seat of government for the Province of Canada), he engaged Lawrence Oliphant as secretary in place of his brother Robert Bruce. Elgin resumed his duties as Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada on 11 June 1854 and remained in office until 19 December 1854. A fuller discussion of his career in North America appears in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. On returning home, Elgin took his seat in the House of Lords and advised on matters relating to the colonies he had governed. In 1857 he accepted a diplomatic mission to China, where he negotiated the Treaty of Tientsin, and to Japan, where he negotiated another commercial treaty at Edo [Tokyo], returning home in December 1858. He undertook a second mission to China, April 1860-April 1861. On 28 January 1862 he sailed for India, there to serve as Viceroy until his death on 20 November 1863 at Dharmsala after a brief illness. Lady Elizabeth Mary (Elma) Bruce was born in 19 June 1842 in Jamaica, the eldest daughter of James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, and Lady Elizabeth Mary Cumming-Bruce (1821-1843), his first wife. Elma returned to Britain with her father in 1846, and accompanied her step-mother Lady Mary Louisa Lambton Bruce to Montreal in May 1847. She travelled in the Province of Canada with her parents, returning to Britain in September 1853. In 1864, she married Thomas John Hovell-Thurlow-Cumming Bruce, 5th Baron Thurlow (d. 12 March 1916), who had been Secretary to her father at the time of his death. Their two sons died in 1899 during the South African War. She died 27 November 1923. Mary Louisa Lambton Bruce was born in 1819, the eldest daughter of John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham, and his second wife, Lady Louise Elizabeth Grey. Thanks to efforts of a French governess, she and her siblings were fluent in French from childhood, widely read and cultured. In 1838, when her father took up the office of Governor-in-Chief of Lower Canada and High Commissioner to adjust grievances of the inhabitants of the Canadas, Lady Mary Louisa accompanied her parents and siblings on tours through Upper and Lower Canada. At this period, the artist John Richard Coke Smyth (1808-1882) served as drawing master to the Lambton family and entourage. Lady Mary Louisa Lambton married James Bruce, Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, on 7 November 1846, just weeks before he set off on the Cunard ship Hibernia to take up the office of Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada. She and her step-daughter Lady Elma Bruce, together with her sister Lady Alicia Anne Caroline Lambton (1831-1907) sailed in May 1847 to join the Earl. While at Montreal (the Seat of Government until September 1849), she bore her first son, Victor Alexander 1849-1917; later the 9th Earl of Elgin) named for his godmother Queen Victoria (formerly Princess Alexandra of Kent), for whom Lady Mary Louisa had been a childhood playmate. She bore two more sons - Robert (born 5 December 1851; died 8 December 1893) and Charles (born 27 April 1853; died 12 June 1863) while resident in the Province of Canada, and another, Frederick (born 16 September 1854; died 26 January 1920) plus a daughter, Louisa (1856-1902) after returning to Britain. She and her daughter Louisa joined the Earl in India during the last year of his service there as Viceroy. Lady Elgin died 9 March 1898. Robert Bruce was born 15 November 1813, the second son of the 7th Earl of Elgin and his second wife, Elizabeth Oswald. Robert Bruce entered the British Army as an Ensign in the 76th Regiment. On attaining the rank of Lieutenant, 18 June 1830, he transferred to the Grenadier Guards. He achieved the rank of Captain on 22 February 1833 and Lieutenant Colonel on 2 August 1844. He served as private secretary to his brother James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, during the latter's term as Governor of Jamaica (1842-1846) and subsequently as Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada. Appointed as the Civil Secretary of the Province, acting from December 1849 and permanent from 1 October 1851, he became ex officio Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He resigned from these offices on 31 May 1854 to return to England. In 1848, Robert Bruce married Katherine Mary Shaw-Stewart (d. 1889), who accompanied him to the Province of Canada the next year. His grandmother (5th Countess of Elgin) had served as Governess to Princess Charlotte, 1798-1804; his sister Augusta Frederica Elizabeth Bruce (1822-1876) served as a Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria from 1841 until her death. Robert took up the post of Governor (tutor) to the Prince of Wales in November 1858 and served in that office until his death on 27 June 1862. He accompanied the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on his 1860 Royal Tour across the colonies of British North America.

Additional information

The materials received in January 2010 (pursuant to an agreement signed in 2008 and in accordance with the Export Licence issued in 2009) form the core of this fonds. Andrew Bruce, 11th Earl of Elgin and 15th Earl of Kincardine, through the Broomhall Conservation Trust, made a gift of the political and family correspondence of the 8th Earl, his wife and daughter; Library and Archives Canada purchased the remainder of the archival material. Under the same agreement, the Canadian museum of Civilization acquired certain related artifacts, most notably two paving stones thrown at Lord Elgin on 30 April 1849. Selected political correspondence of the 8th Earl and his letters to his wive had been microfilmed in 1958 through the agency of the National Library of Scotland. The 2010 acquisition includes all of those original documents, except three letters designated Bundle 9. Photographs and prints preserved by the Bruce family have come to Library and Archives Canada at various times, by various means, as detailed in the descriptions for specific items.

Custodial history
Patterns evident in the Despatches and Private Letters supports the presumption that the order established by the 8th and 9th Earls and other family members has remained largely undisturbed while the documents were stored in the muniments room at Broomhall. The bulk of the political correspondence of the 8th Earl arrived in bundles with wrappers and labels that had been prepared in relation to the 1958 microfilming. All but the North American correspondence matched the sequence of filming. Some enclosures remained fastened to their covering letters, others were detached but recognizably related. Lady Elgin's art albums (long stored in the Earl's Secretary cabinet between the Museum and the Library) exhibit significant signs of disturbance: album leaves have been detached and images removed. A number can be traced to a 1977 loan to Rideau Hall. The item-level descriptions include notes on efforts to re-establish relationships and reconstruct the original order (notably separating certain original Private Letters from Theodore Walrond's transcripts thereof), or to place printed works with related materials.

Citation / reference note
Researchers may identify documents by citing either the volume, file and page numbers, or the e-file number for specific digital images.

Associated material note
The family archives at Broomhall, Dumfermline, Fifeshire, Scotland continue to preserve a wide range of records relating to other periods in the life of the 8th and 9th Earls and to members of their immediate families. Listings of this material are being made available through the National Register of Archives for Scotland. Records of the Colonial Office and of the Foreign Office, preserved at the National Archives of England and Wales, include comprehensive series of despatches exchanged between the 8th Earl of Elgin and the imperial authorities relative to his administration of the Province of Canada and his negotiation of the Reciprocity Treaty, as well as other public offices he held. Those holdings include despatches exchanged by the 9th Earl with the Governor General of the Dominion of Canada and Governor of Newfoundland. A wide range of official records accumulated in the Governor's office during the 8th Earl's term in the Province of Canada have been preserved in RG 7, notably series G 1 and G 9, as well as in the series devoted to records of the Civil and Military Secretaries (notably series G 10 and G 17 A through C). Records of the Executive Council and other agencies contain documentation created by or at the direction of Lord Elgin, while records relating to the service of Robert Bruce as Superintendent of Indian Affairs, 1849-1854, lie in RG 10.

Subject heading

1. Colonial administrators - British North America, 1823-1858 Reciprocity Treaty, 1854 June 5, [1823-1858]
2. Tariff - British North America, [1823-1858] Capt. Richard Pattinson, 1848.
3. United States. Treaties, etc. Great Britain, 1854 June 5, [1823-1854] W. Macaulay, 1847.
4. Great Britain. Treaties, etc. United States, 1854 June 5, [1823-1854] Carleton Island, 1847.
5. Governors general Canada.
6. Negotiations, [1823-1854]
7. Canada - Commercial treaties, [1823-1854]
8. Great Britain - Commercial policy, [1823-1854]
9. Railroads Design and construction. Canada
10. Steamships - Canada, [1823-1854]
11. Postal service - Great Britain - Colonies, [1823-1854]
12. Commerce - Great Britain - Colonies, [1823-1854]
13. Colonies Administration. Great Britain
14. Colonies Administration. Grande-Bretagne
15. Somerset House.
16. Politics and government Canada
17. Politique et gouvernement Canada
18. Ebrington, Lord 1848.


Other system control no.

Related control no.

1. 1976-238 NPC
2. NPC 1976-238 NPC
3. 1998-01203-4
4. 2010-00462-0