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The story of George Coles is one of the tragedies of the Confederation era. Coles, born in Prince Edward Island on Sept. 20, 1810, was poor for much of his life. Eventually, by sheer hard work, he managed to build up a business as a brewer and distiller. It was tragic that when this business prospered, just before Confederation, a great fire swept Charlottetown, including Coles' properties. The fear that further calamity might come from a band of firebugs said to be roaming the island gripped Coles' mind to such an extent that he abandoned public life and went into seclusion, eventually going insane.

At the age of 19, Coles had gone to Britain and when he returned four years later he brought back with him a wife, Somerset-born Mercy Haine. In 1842, he was first elected to P.E.I. assembly. He was an outspoken backed of responsible government, despite bitter opposition from the entrenched ruling clique in the island and in 1848 his views led him to resign from the government. In the same year Coles visited Boston and returned an ardent booster for reciprocity.

Although he attended the Confederation conferences at Charlottetown and Quebec, he was far from enthusiastic about the plans mooted there and especially after the Quebec talks was one of the more vitriolic speakers against Confederation. During this time he clashed heatedly and repeatedly with fellow Islander and Confederation Father, Edward Whelan. It was these speeches by Coles and his friends that eventually kept P.E.I. out of the initial union, although by the time Coles died at Charlottetown on Aug. 21, 1875, the island had changed its mind.