The Honourable Sir Adams G. Archibald rose to prominence in the public affairs of Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories. In 1870, he became the first Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. In that capacity, he negotiated the first two treaties with the Native people of western Canada.
Adams George Archibald was born on May 18, 1814, at Truro, Nova Scotia. He was the son of Samuel Archibald and Elizabeth Archibald, daughter of Matthew Archibald.
After attending the Pictou Academy in Nova Scotia, he studied law in the office of The Honourable S.G.W. Archibald. In 1838, he was called to the Prince Edward Island Bar and in 1839, he was called to the Nova Scotia Bar.
On June 1, 1843, Adams G. Archibald married Elizabeth Burnyeat, daughter of The Reverend John Burnyeat of Truro, Nova Scotia. They had four children: Joanna, George, Elizabeth Alice (Lilly), and Mary.
In 1851, Adams G. Archibald left full-time legal practice to enter politics. He represented the electoral district of Colchester County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly until 1867. He was appointed Solicitor General in 1856 and Attorney General in 1860. Following the defeat of the Liberal government in 1863, he succeeded Joseph Howe as leader of that party for Nova Scotia.
During the confederation debates, Adams G. Archibald was a strong supporter of the proposed union. As such, he attended the three major conferences at Charlottetown, Quebec, and London, and defended confederation against the criticisms of Joseph Howe and William Annand in 1866-67. On July 1, 1867, he became Canada's first Secretary of State, but was defeated at the next federal general election. Elected once again to represent the federal electoral district of Colchester County during a by-election in 1869, he resigned in May, 1870, in order to accept the position of Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.
On the advice of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, Adams G. Archibald was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories effective May 10, 1870. This appointment was made by Lord Lisgar, Governor General of Canada.
The government of the newly acquired Northwest Territories was administered under the Temporary Government Act until 1871. Under this Act, legislative power was vested entirely in the Lieutenant Governor although it could not be effectively exercised until the federal government provided clarification regarding the administration of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories by order-in-council two years later. However, Lieutenant Governor Adams G. Archibald did establish a basis for the civil institutions of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, and he also negotiated the first two treaties with the Native people of western Canada. Adams G. Archibald served as Lieutenant Governor until his successor was appointed effective December 2, 1872.
On June 24, 1873, he was appointed Judge of Equity for the Province of Nova Scotia. However, when Joseph Howe died, he replaced him as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia on July 4, 1873, retiring from that office on July 4, 1883. He then represented Colchester County in the House of Commons from 1888 to 1891. Adams G. Archibald resigned as a Member of Parliament in 1891.
He was knighted Companion of St. Michael and St. George in 1872 and Knight Commander of St. Michael and St. George in 1885. He served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of Dalhousie University at Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1884. He also served as President of the Nova Scotia Historical Society in 1885 and was a contributor to that society's publication entitled Collections.
Adams G. Archibald died on December 14, 1892, at Truro and was buried in the Robie Street Cemetery in that community.