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Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley achieved fame, almost by having it thrust upon him.

The nominating convention which first chose him to run for political office picked him even though he was absent and even when afterwards he demurred. In addition he was elected when he was out of the country.

Tilley, an ardent teetotaller, was born at Gagetown, N.B., on May 18, 1818 to United Empire Loyalists parents who could trace their roots in North America back to the Mayflower passengers. He was educated in Gagetown and in May 1831, moved to Saint John as a drug store clerk. In 1838, at the age of 20, he went into business for himself, continuing in the trade until 1885.

In 1850 he was first elected to represent Saint John in the provincial assembly. From 1860 until March, 1865, he was premier. Defeated in 1865 on the Confederation issue, he squeaked back into power in 1866, largely with the help of the Imperial government. From 1867 until 1873 he held several federal cabinet posts but from 1873 until 1878 he was lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick. In 1878 he returned to active politics as federal minister of finance and was responsible for the famed national protection policy. In 1885 he retired to become lieutenant-governor a second time, holding the post until 1893. As he lay dying in June of 1896, his Liberal-Conservative party was winning New Brunswick, but being defeated elsewhere. The last reported words of Tilley, the erstwhile reluctant politician, were: "I can go to sleep now. New Brunswick has done well."