Caldwell, Henry (1738–1810), soldier and administrator, was born at Castle Caldwell, near Belleek, Co. Fermanagh, fourth son among six sons and two daughters of Sir John Caldwell, landowner, and his wife Ann, daughter of Dean John Trench of Raphoe, Co. Donegal. He was educated locally and with various family tutors. In 1757 he was commissioned a lieutenant in the 69th Regiment. He took part in the capture of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, in 1758 preliminary to the capture of Quebec and the fall of French Canada in 1759. Commissioned captain in the 93rd Foot (22 January 1760), he had been attached to Gen. Wolfe's staff and was bequeathed £100 by Wolfe, who died at the battle of the Plains of Abraham. In 1764 Henry Caldwell transferred to the 34th Foot when the 93rd was disbanded, and served in the West Indies for five years as governor of Fort Augusta (1764–9), where in 1763 the magazine of the fort had been struck by lightning; its contents of 3,000 barrels of gunpowder exploded, killing c.300 people. In 1774 Caldwell was named agent and lessee for the seigniory of Lauzon. In time he amassed c.600,000 acres. He was lieutenant-colonel commandant of the British militia for the defence of Quebec, was sent to London with the news of the successful defence of Quebec against the Americans (1775–6), and was awarded £500. In 1776 he was made a legislative councillor for Quebec. He was appointed temporary receiver general for Lower Canada in 1784 – in effect, at this time, the chief tax collector for the country. This position was made permanent in 1794. Thirteen years after his death, in 1823, it was discovered that Henry Caldwell had embezzled nearly £40,000 during his years in this office, including almost £8,000 from the Jesuit estates which he had managed as treasurer of a commission set up to administer them. Although the post of receiver general was one of great importance, the salary was insignificant at $800. The position was one of high responsibility considering the great sums of money passing through the hands of the incumbent, and the salary paltry considering that the receiver general was expected to bear the expenses of circulating in the highest levels of society. The whole system of collecting taxes was in confusion at this time, and like his predecessor Grant, Henry Caldwell tried to collect moneys owed for the seigneurial fees of quint and lods et ventes, but with a similar lack of success. His residences were Caldwell Manor and Belmont on the Quebec side of the St Lawrence. He married (16 May 1774) Anne, daughter of Alexander Hamilton (d. 1768) of Newhamilton, Co. Armagh, MP for Killyleagh 1739–60. She was sister of Hugh Hamilton (qv), bishop of Ossory.
Frances Brooke's The history of Emily Montague (1769), Canada's first novel, has as its hero Colonel Ed. Rivers, a character based on Henry Caldwell, 'a tall handsome colonel of twenty-seven'. Henry Caldwell was a founder of the Quebec Agriculture Society in 1789. In 1801 he bought all the property Gen. Murray had owned at the time of his death, and which he had leased for the past thirty years. The lands cost £10,180. In these years, as the price of wheat increased, he was able to make substantial profits since he had heavily invested in building and buying mills. He was engaged in supplying troops stationed in North America, and in 1810 sold more than 1,775,000 lb. of flour to the government for £21,822. Timber was another commodity in which Caldwell was deeply involved. His sawmills became the best known in Quebec, and his Etchemin Mills at the mouth of that river were among the largest in the country. They were so widely famed that important visitors who went to see the Chaudiere Falls were sometimes allowed to see over the Caldwell mills.
Like many of the Caldwells he was a man of tempestuous nature and a strong personality. He was frequently in conflict with the governors of the colony. He served on legislative council committees from 1786, studying the problems of the militia, highways, and communications. In 1787 he was a member of the committee on education in the province of Quebec. In 1791 Caldwell was named to the new legislative council and sat on it for the rest of his life. In July 1787 he was promoted colonel of the Quebec Battalion of the British militia and held this rank till June 1794, when he resigned. Henry Caldwell died on 28 May 1810 at Belmont, his palatial residence near Quebec, aged 72. His funeral took place on 31 May at the anglican cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec. His wife, Anne, had died six years earlier. They had one son, John. An account of the siege of Quebec by the Americans in 1776, written by Caldwell in the form of a letter addressed to Gen. Murray, was published (Quebec, 1866) by the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. There is major holding of material related to Caldwell in the Canadian national archives (Library and Archives Canada), and some correspondence with his family in Ireland in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, England.
As seigneur of Lauzon, his estate opposite Quebec, Henry Caldwell used to drive through in state, half reclining on the cushions of his carriage and with a numerous following. If on a long drive he stopped at a farmhouse, even for the light refreshment of a drink of milk, he never paid the habitant with anything less than a gold coin. An old man was once asked about the seigneur's status in the village. He replied with awe in his voice: ‘Monsieur, il était le roi, l'empereur, du village’ (Sir, he was the king, the emperor, of the village). Among the several notable soldiers produced by the family, Hume Caldwell (qv), Frederick Caldwell (qv), Sir James Caldwell (qv), and Charles Caldwell, aide-de-camp to Gen. Wolfe, were brothers of Henry.