John Howatt Bell

John Howatt Bell

Served during the following dates: 1919-10-03

BELL, JOHN HOWATT, teacher and lawyer; b. 13 or 25 December 1846 in Cape Traverse, son of Walter Bell and Elizabeth Howatt; m. ca. 7 July 1882 Helen Howatt of St. Eleanors, and there were no children; Methodist; d. 29 January 1929 in Los Angeles, California.
Bell, a Liberal, was first elected to the House of Assembly for 4th Prince in the 1886 general election. He was re-elected in the general election of 1890. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly in the general election of 1893. He was re-elected in the general elections of 1897, 1915, and 1919. He was defeated in the general election of 1923. Bell resigned at the end of the legislative session in 1898 to run successfully in a federal by-election in East Prince held 14 December. He was defeated in the federal election of 1900.
Following the 1915 provincial election, Bell was chosen as Leader of the Opposition. He became premier by winning the 1919 general election when the Liberals took 24 seats to the Conservatives' six. Elected as Premier at age 72, he remains the oldest premier to take office in the province's history. Premier Bell raised taxes to, among other things, increase teachers' salaries. At the time, teachers were in short supply and poorly paid. They were also threatening to go on strike. In 1920 his government raised teachers' salaries between 46 and 60 per cent. His government also enacted a Highways Bill in 1922 to take advantage of the Federal Highways Act of 1919. The Federal Act offered assistance for highway improvements, which was a responsibility of provincial governments. After settling the conflict over teachers' salaries, Bell's government imposed a poll tax to pay for the salary increase and road improvements. With the Conservatives promising to rescind the tax levy, there was little hope of Bell surviving for another term. The Liberals suffered a devastating defeat in the 1923 general election, with the Conservatives winning 25 seats to the Liberals' five.
Bell was an advocate of women's suffrage in the 1890s. In 1922 his government introduced voting rights for women.
Though born in Cape Traverse, Bell resided in Summerside for the majority of his adult life.
He was educated at the public school in Cape Traverse, Prince of Wales College, and Albert College in Belleville, Ontario. He received a Bachelor of Arts in 1868 and a Master of Arts in 1869 at Albert College. While at Albert College, Bell involved himself with local matters and spoke out in favour of temperance legislation. After graduation he taught in several Ontario schools, including one in Beamsville.
From 1870 to 1874, Bell studied law in Ontario with the firms of Ferguson, Bain and Myers and later with James, McDonald and Ingerson. He was admitted to that province's Bar in 1874, and began practising law in Ottawa with the firm Bradley and Bell, where he remained for approximately eight years. In 1882 he moved to Emerson, Manitoba. He was admitted to the Manitoba Bar and practised law there until 1884. When Bell returned to the Island in 1884, he was admitted to the Bar and established an independent practice. Later he became a partner with B. W. Tanton in the firm of Bell and Tanton. Bell was awarded the designation of King's Counsel sometime between 1910 and 1912.
Bell was well-known as an outdoors man who liked fishing, long walks, and golf. He travelled extensively, and toured Egypt, Palestine, Greece, and Italy on foot for the majority of the journey. After retiring from politics, he made yearly trips to California where he had relatives and friends. He was made an honourary president of the Canadian Tourist Society of Southern California and spoke at various British and Canadian gatherings. Bell was elected R. W. Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge for Prince Edward Island in 1891.
Bell died 29 January 1929 after being struck by an automobile while in California on an extended visit. His death was ruled an accident by a coroner's jury.
Helen Bell was the daughter of Cornelius Howatt*, a former Speaker of the House of Assembly and an outspoken critic of Confederation.

References: Bell History; CDP pp. 32-33; DCB XII 1891-1900 p. 452-53; EC 1975 p. 36!; MacDonald If You're Stronghearted pp. 113-14. 121; Provincial Premiers Birthday Series; Examiner 8 May 1895; Guardian 7 August 1891. 30 January 1929. 2 February 1929. 8 February 1929, 11 February 1929; Island Magazine no. 43 Spring/Summer 1998; Pasadena Star News 30 January |929; Patriot 22 February 1924, 30 January 1929; PARO: Acc. 3043/28a; Acc. 2323 Leard Files. Reel #2; RG 6.1 series 19 Bar Admittances. Guide to abbreviations

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