History of Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia (also known as Mi'kma'ki and Acadia) is a Canadian province located in Canada's Maritimes. The region was initially occupied by Mi'kmaq. During the first 150 years of European settlement, the colony was primarily made up of Catholic Acadians and Mi'kmaq. This time period involved four colonial wars between New England and New France as well as two local wars (Dummer's War and Father Le Loutre's War) before Britain defeated France in North America. Throughout these wars, Nova Scotia was the site of numerous battles, raids and skirmishes. The Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710. Just prior to the last colonial war - the French and Indian War - the capital was moved from Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia to the newly founded Halifax, Nova Scotia. After the colonial wars, New England Planters and Foreign Protestants settled Nova Scotia. After the American Revolution, the colony was settled by Loyalists. During the nineteenth century, Nova Scotia became self-governing in 1848 and joined the Canadian Confederation in 1867.

This history of Nova Scotia includes the Canadian Maritime provinces, all of which were at one time part of Nova Scotia. In 1763 Cape Breton Island and St. John's Island (now Prince Edward Island) became part of Nova Scotia. In 1769, St. John's Island became a separate colony. Nova Scotia included present-day New Brunswick until that province was established in 1784.[1]



The oldest evidence of humans in Nova Scotia indicates the Paleo-Indians were the first, approximately 11,000 years ago. Natives are believed to have been present in the area between 11,000 and 5,000 years ago. Mi'kmaq, the First Nations of the province and region, are their direct descendants.

Mi'kmaq Territory

The Mi'kmaq (previously spelled Micmac in English texts) are a First Nations people, indigenous to the Maritime Provinces, the Gaspé Peninsula Quebec and northeastern New England. Míkmaw is the singular form of Mí'kmaq.

In 1616 Father Biard believed the Mi'kmaq population to be in excess of 3,000. However, he remarked that, because of European diseases, including smallpox and alcoholism, there had been large population losses in the previous century.

The Mi'kmaq were originally allies with other nearby Algonquian nations including the Abenaki, forming the seven nation Wabanaki Confederacy, pronounced [wɑbɑnɑːɣɔdi]; this was later expanded to eight with the ceremonial addition of Great Britain at the time of the 1749 treaty. At the time of contact with the French (late 16th century) they were expanding from their Maritime base westward along the Gaspé Peninsula /St. Lawrence River at the expense of Iroquioian Mohawk tribes, hence the Mi'kmaq name for this peninsula, Gespedeg ("last-acquired"). They were amenable to limited French settlement in their midst. Between the loss of control of Acadia by France in the early 18th century and the deportation of the Acadians in the mid-eighteenth century an uneasy stalemate existed between the Mi’kmaq and English. With the complete loss by France during the Seven Years War of its North American territories, the Mi’kmaq lost their primary ally. The Mi’kmaq continued to suffer a population collapse and with the influx of Planters in the 1760s and Loyalists in the 1780s, soon found themselves overwhelmed. Later on the Mi'kmaq also settled Newfoundland as the unrelated Beothuk tribe became extinct.

Seventeenth Century

Port Royal established

The first European settlement in Nova Scotia was established in 1605. The French, led by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts established the first capital for the colony Acadia at Port Royal.[2] Other than a few trading posts around the province, for the next seventy-five years, Port Royal was virtually the only European settlement in Nova Scotia. Port Royal (later renamed Annapolis Royal) remained the capital of Acadia and later Nova Scotia for almost 150 years, prior to the founding of Halifax in 1749.

Approximately seventy-five years after Port Royal was founded, Acadians migrated from the capital and established what would become the other major Acadian settlements before the Expulsion of the Acadians: Grand Pré, Chignecto, Cobequid and Pisiguit.

Until the Conquest of Acadia, the English made six attempts to conquer Acadia by defeating the capital. They finally defeated the French in the Siege of Port Royal (1710). Over the following fifty years, the French and their allies made six unsuccessful military attempts to regain the capital.[3]

Scottish Colony

From 1629-1632, Nova Scotia briefly became a Scottish colony. Sir William Alexander of Menstrie Castle, Scotland claimed mainland Nova Scotia and settled at Port Royal, while Ochiltree claimed Ile Royale (present-day Cape Breton Island) and settled at Baleine, Nova Scotia. There were three battles between the Scottish and the French: the Raid on St. John (1632), the Siege of Baleine (1629) as well as Siege of Cap de Sable (present-day Port La Tour, Nova Scotia) (1630). Nova Scotia was returned to France through a treaty.[4]

The French quickly defeated the Scottish at Baleine and established settlements on Ile Royale at present day Englishtown (1629) and St. Peter's (1630). These two settlements remained the only settlements on the island until they were abandoned by Nicolas Denys in 1659. Ile Royale then remained vacant for more than fifty years until the communities were re-established when Louisbourg was established in 1713.

Civil War

Siege of St. John (1745) - d'Aulnay defeats La Tour in Acadia

Acadia was plunged into what some historians have described as a civil war in Acadia (1640–1645). The war was between Port Royal, where Governor of Acadia Charles de Menou d'Aulnay de Charnisay was stationed, and present-day Saint John, New Brunswick, where Governor of Acadia. Charles de Saint-Étienne de la Tour was stationed.[5]

In the war, there were four major battles. la Tour attacked d'Aulnay at Port Royal in 1640.[6] In response to the attack, D'Aulnay sailed out of Port Royal to establish a five month blockade of La Tour's fort at Saint John, which La Tour eventually defeated (1643). La Tour attacked d'Aulnay again at Port Royal in 1643. d'Aulnay and Port Royal ultimately won the war against La Tour with the 1645 siege of Saint John.[7] After d'Aulnay died (1650), La Tour re-established himself in Acadia.

King William's War

There were four colonial wars - the French and Indian Wars - between New England and New France before the British defeated the French in North America. During these wars, Nova Scotia/ Acadia was on the border and experienced many military conflicts. The first colonial war was King William's War.

During King William's War, military conflicts in Nova Scotia included: Battle of Port Royal (1690); Battle at Guysborough; a naval battle in the Bay of Fundy (Action of 14 July 1696); Raid on Chignecto (1696) and the Siege of Fort Nashwaak (1696). At the end of the war England returned the territory to France in the Treaty of Ryswick.

Eighteenth Century

Queen Anne's War

The second colonial war was Queen Anne's War. During Queen Anne's War, military conflicts in Nova Scotia included: Raid on Grand Pre; Siege of Port Royal (1707); and the Siege of Port Royal (1710) and the Battle of Bloody Creek (1711).

During Queen Anne's War, the Conquest of Acadia (1710) was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. At this time the British Empire considered present-day New Brunwick as part of Nova Scotia. France retained possession of Île St Jean (Prince Edward Island) and Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), on which it established a fortress at Louisbourg to guard the sea approaches to Quebec.

Dummer's War

During the excalation that proceeded Dummer's War (1722–1725), Mi'kmaq raided the new fort at Canso, Nova Scotia (1720). Under potential siege, in May 1722, Lieutenant Governor John Doucett took 22 Mi'kmaq hostage at Annapolis Royal to prevent the capital from being attacked.[8] In July 1722 the Abenaki and Mi'kmaq created a blockade of Annapolis Royal, with the intent of starving the capital.[9] The natives captured 18 fishing vessels and prisoners from present-day Yarmouth to Canso. They also seized prisoners and vessels from the Bay of Fundy.

Duc d'Anville Expedition: Action between HMS Nottingham and the Mars.

As a result of the escalating conflict, Massachusetts Governor Samuel Shute officially declared war on July 22, 1722.[10] The first battle of Dummer's War happened in the Nova Scotia theatre.[11] In response to the blockade of Annapolis Royal, at the end of July 1722, New England launched a campaign to end the blockade and retrieve over 86 New England prisoners taken by the natives. One of these operations resulted in the Battle at Jeddore.[12] The next was a raid on Canso in 1723.[13] Then in July 1724 when a group of sixty Mikmaq and Maliseets raided Annapolis Royal.[14]

The treaty that ended the war marked a significant shift in European relations with the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet. For the first time a European Empire formally acknowledged that its domininion over Nova Scotia would have to be negotiated with the region's indigenous inhabitants. The treaty was invoked as recently as 1999 in the Donald Marshall case.[15]

King George's War

The third colonial war was King George's War. During King Georges War, military conflicts in Nova Scotia included: Raid on Canso; Siege of Annapolis Royal (1744); Siege of Port Toulouse (St. Peter's); the Siege of Louisbourg (1745); the Duc d'Anville Expedition and the Battle of Grand Pré. During King George's War, fortress Louisbourg was captured by American colonial forces in 1745, then returned by the British to France in 1748.[16]

Halifax established

Despite the British Conquest of Acadia in 1710, Nova Scotia remained primarily occupied by Catholic Acadians and Mi'kmaq. To prevent the establishment of Protestant settlements in the region, Mi'kmaq raided the early British settlements of present-day Shelburne (1715) and Canso (1720). A generation later, Father Le Loutre's War began when Edward Cornwallis arrived to establish Halifax with 13 transports on June 21, 1749.[17] By unilaterally establishing Halifax the British were violating earlier treaties with the Mi'kmaq (1726), which were signed after Dummer's War.[18] The British quickly began to build other settlements. To guard against Mi'kmaq, Acadian and French attacks on the new protestant settlements, British fortifications were erected in Halifax (Citadel Hill) (1749), Dartmouth (1750), Bedford (Fort Sackville) (1751), Lunenburg (1753) and Lawrencetown (1754).[19] There were numerous Mi'kmaq and Acadian raids on these villages such as the Raid on Dartmouth (1751).

Within 18 months of establishing Halifax, the British also took firm control of peninsula Nova Scotia by building fortifications in all the major Acadian communities: present-day Windsor (Fort Edward); Grand Pre (Fort Vieux Logis) and Chignecto (Fort Lawrence). (A British fort already existed at the other major Acadian centre of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Cobequid remained without a fort.)[20] There were numerous Mi'kmaq and Acadian raids on these fortifications such as the Siege of Grand Pre.

French and Indian War

St. John River Campaign: Raid on Grimrose (present day Gagetown, New Brunswick). This is the only contemporaneous image of the Expulsion of the Acadians

The forth and final colonial war was the French and Indian War. During the war, military conflicts in Nova Scotia included: Battle of Fort Beauséjour; Bay of Fundy Campaign (1755); the Battle of Petitcodiac; the Raid on Lunenburg (1756); the Louisbourg Expedition (1757); Battle of Bloody Creek (1757); Siege of Louisbourg (1758), Petitcodiac River Campaign, Gulf of St. Lawrence Campaign (1758), St. John River Campaign, and Battle of Restigouche.[21]

The British Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710. Over the next forty-five years the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During this time period Acadians participated in various militia operations against the British and maintained vital supply lines to the French Fortress of Louisbourg and Fort Beausejour.[22]

During the French and Indian War, the British sought to neutralize any military threat Acadians posed and to interrupt the vital supply lines Acadians provided to Louisbourg by deporting Acadians from Acadia.[23]

The British began the Expulsion of the Acadians with the Bay of Fundy Campaign (1755). Over the next nine years over 12,000 Acadians were removed from Nova Scotia.[24] During the various campaigns of the expulsion, the Acadian and Native resistance to the British intensified.

The war ended and Britain had gained control over the entire Maritime region.

New England Planters

Between 1759 and 1768, about 8,000 New England Planters responded to Governor Charles Lawrence's request for settlers from the New England colonies.

Government changes

The colony's jurisdiction changed during this time. Nova Scotia was granted a supreme court in 1754 with the appointment of Jonathan Belcher and a Legislative Assembly in 1758. In 1763 Cape Breton Island became part of Nova Scotia. In 1769, St. John's Island (now Prince Edward Island) became a separate colony. The county of Sunbury was created in 1765, and included all of the territory of current day New Brunswick and eastern Maine as far as the Penobscot River. In 1784, the western, mainland portion of the colony was separated and became the province of New Brunswick. Maine became part of the newly independent American state of Massachusetts, but the international boundary was vague. Cape Breton became a separate colony in 1784; it was returned to Nova Scotia in 1820.

Confronted with a large Yankee element sympathetic to the American revolution, Nova Scotian politicians in 1774-75 adopted a policy of enlightened moderation and humanism. Governing a marginal colony that received little attention from London, the royal governor, Francis Legge (1772 to 1776) battled the popularly elected assembly for control of the policies regarding trade, commerce, and taxation.[25] Desserud shows that John Day, elected to the assembly in 1774, called for Montesquieu-type fundamental reforms that would balance political power among the three branches of government. Day argued that taxes should be assessed according to actual wealth, and to discourage patronage there should be term limits for all officials. He thought members of the Executive Council should own at least ₤1000 of property to connect their personal interest in the welfare of the colony as a whole. He wanted the dismissal of judges who misused their offices. There reforms were not as yet enacted, but they suggest that politicians in Nova Scotia were aware of the demands being made by Americans, and hoped their moderate proposals would reduce possible tensions with the British government.[26]

American Revolution

Naval battle off Cape Breton

Until the outbreak of the American revolution in 1775, Nova Scotia's New England-born merchants often sympathize with the rebels in the 13 colonies. But the Nova Scotia government was controlled by an Anglo-European mercantile elite for whom loyalty was more profitable than rebellion. The Yankees remained neutral during the war but experienced a religious revival that expressed some of their anxieties.[27]

Throughout the war, American privateers devastated the maritime economy by raiding many of the coastal communities. There were constant attacks by American privateers,[28] such as the Raid on Lunenburg (1782), numerous raids on Liverpool, Nova Scotia (October 1776, March 1777, September 1777, May 1778, September 1780) and a raid on Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia (1781).[29]

American Privateers also raided Canso, Nova Scotia (1775). In 1779, American privateers returned to Canso and destroyed the fisheries, which were worth £50,000 a year to Britain.[30]

To guard against such attacks, the 84th Regiment of Foot (Royal Highland Emigrants) was garrisoned at forts around the Atlantic Canada. Fort Edward (Nova Scotia) in Windsor, Nova Scotia was the Regiment's headquarters to prevent a possible American land assault on Halifax from the Bay of Fundy. There was an American attack on Nova Scotia by land, the Battle of Fort Cumberland followed by the Siege of Saint John (1777). There was also rebellion from those within Nova Scotia: the Maugerville Rebellion (1776) and the Battle at Miramichi (1779).

During the war, American Privateers captured 225 vessels either leaving or arriving at Nova Scotia ports.[31] In 1781, for example, as a result of the Franco-American alliance against Great Britain, there was also a naval engagement with a French fleet at Sydney, Nova Scotia, near Spanish River, Cape Breton.[32] The British also captured numerous American Privateers such as in the naval battle off Halifax. The Royal Navy also used Halifax as a base from which to launch attacks on New England, such as the Battle of Machias (1777).

In 1784 the western, mainland portion of the colony was separated and became the province of New Brunswick, and the territory in Maine entered the control of the newly independent American state of Massachusetts. Cape Breton Island became a separate colony in 1784 only to be returned to Nova Scotia in 1820.


As a result of the British defeat in the American Revolution, approximately 30,000 United Empire Loyalists (American Tories) left the thirteen colonies and settled in Nova Scotia. Of these 30,000, 14,000 went to present-day New Brunswick and 16,000 went to Nova Scotia. They were not welcomed and as a result New Brunswick was split off for them. The newly arrived Loyalists felt no allegiance to Halifax and wanted to separate from Nova Scotia to isolate themselves from what they felt to be democratic and republican influences existing in that city. They felt that the government of Nova Scotia represented a Yankee population which had been sympathetic to the American Revolutionary movement, and which disparaged the intensely anti-American, anti-republican attitudes of the Loyalists. "They [the loyalists]," Colonel Thomas Dundas wrote in 1786, "have experienced every possible injury from the old inhabitants of Nova Scotia, who are even more disaffected towards the British Government than any of the new States ever were. This makes me much doubt their remaining long dependent."[33] The colony of New Brunswick was officially created with Sir Thomas Carleton the first governor on August 16, 1784.[34]

About 3,000 Loyalists were Black Loyalists. About a third of whom, the Nova Scotian Settlers, soon moved to Sierra Leone in 1792 via the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor, becoming the Original settlers of Freetown.[35]

Large numbers of Gaelic-speaking Highland Scots emigrated to Cape Breton and the western part of the mainland during the late 18th century and 19th century. In 1812 Sir Hector Maclean (the 7th Baronet of Morvern and 23rd Chief of the Clan Maclean) emigrated to Pictou from Glensanda and Kingairloch in Scotland bringing along almost the entire population of 500.[36]

Nineteenth Century

War of 1812

War of 1812, Halifax, NS: HMS Shannon leading the captured American Frigate USS Chesapeake into Halifax Harbour (1813)

During the War of 1812, Nova Scotia’s contribution to the war effort was communities either purchasing or building various privateer ships to seize American vessels.[37] Three members of the community of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia purchased a privateer schooner and named it Lunenburg on August 8, 1814.[38] The Nova Scotian privateer vessel captured seven American vessels. The Liverpool Packet from Liverpool, Nova Scotia was another Nova Scotia privateer vessel that caught over fifty ships in the war - the most of any privateer in Canada.[39] The Sir John Sherbrooke (Halifax) was also very successful during the war, being the largest privateer on the Atlantic coast.

Dalhousie University, Grand Parade (Halifax) (est. 1818)

Perhaps the most dramatic moment in the war for Nova Scotia was the HMS Shannon's led the captured American Frigate USS Chesapeake into Halifax Harbour (1813). Many of the prisoners were kept at Deadman's Island, Halifax.[40] At the same time, there was the HMS Hogue's traumatic capture of the American Privateer Young Teazer off Chester, Nova Scotia.

On September 3, 1814 a British fleet from Halifax, Nova Scotia began to lay siege to Maine to re-establish British title to Maine east of the Penobscot River, an area the British had re-named "New Ireland". Carving off "New Ireland" from New England had been a goal of the British government and settlers of Nova Scotia ("New Scotland") since the American Revolution.[41] The British expedition involved 8 war-ships and 10 transports (carrying 3,500 British regulars) that were under the overall command of Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, then Lt. Gov. of Nova Scotia. [42] On July 3, 1814, the expedition captured the coastal town of Castine, Maine and then went on to raid Belfast, Machias, Eastport, Hampden and Bangor(See Battle of Hampden). After the war, Maine was returned to America through the Treaty of Ghent. The British returned to Halifax and, with the spoils of war they had taken from Maine, they built Dalhousie University (established 1818).[43]

The most famous soldier that was buried in Nova Scotia during the war was Robert Ross (British Army officer). Ross was responsible for the Burning of Washington, including the White House.

The Black Refugees from the War of 1812 were African American slaves who fought for the British and were relocated to Nova Scotia. The Black Refugees were the second group of African Americans, after the Black Loyalists, to defect to the British side and be relocated to Nova Scotia.

There was also migration out of the colony because of the hardships immigrants faced. Reverend Norman McLeod led a large group of approximately 800 Scottish residents from the St. Anns, Nova Scotia to Waipu, New Zealand, during the 1850s.


Working conditions in the Halifax Naval Yard during the 1775-1820 era included officials who took bribes from workers and widespread nepotism. The laborers endured poor working conditions and limited personal freedoms. However, the laborers were willing to remain there for many years because wages were high and more steady than any alternative. Unlike almost any other jobs the yards paid disability benefits for men injured at work and gave retirement pensions to those who spent their career in the yards.[44]

Nova Scotia had one of the first labour organizations in what became Canada. By 1799 workers set up a Carpenters' Society at Halifax, and soon there were attempts at organization by other craftsmen and tradesmen. Businessmen complained, and in 1816 Nova Scotia passed an act against trade unions, the preamble of which declared that great numbers of master tradesmen, journeymen, and workmen in the town of Halifax and other parts of the province had, by unlawful meetings and combinations, endeavored to regulate the rate of wages and effectuate other illegal aims. Unions remained illegal until 1851.[45]

Responsible government

Nova Scotia was the first colony in British North America and in the British Empire to achieve responsible government in January–February 1848 and become self-governing through the efforts of Joseph Howe.[46] (In 1758, Nova Scotia also became the first British colony to establish representative government. A feat that was later commemorated by erecting the Dingle Tower (1908).)

American Civil War

Over 200 Nova Scotians have been identified as fighting in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Most joined Maine or Massachusetts infantry regiments, but one in ten served the Confederacy (South). The total probably reached into two thousand as many young men had migrated to the U.S. before 1860. Pacifism, neutrality, anti-Americanism, and anti-Yankee sentiments all operated to keep the numbers down, but on the other hand there were strong cash incentives to join the well-paid Northern army and the long tradition of emigrating out of Nova Scotia, combined with a zest for adventure, attracted many young men.[47]

The British Empire (including Nova Scotia) declared neutrality, and Nova Scotia prospered greatly from trade with the North. There were no attempts to trade with the South. Nova Scotia was the site of two minor international incidents during the war: the Chesapeake Affair and the escape from Halifax Harbour of the CSS Tallahassee, aided by Confederate sympathizers.[48]

The war left many fearful that the North might attempt to annex British North America, particularly after the Fenian raids began. In response, volunteer regiments were raised across Nova Scotia. One of the main reasons why Britain sanctioned the creation of Canada (1867) was to avoid another possible conflict with America and to leave the defence of Nova Scotia to a Canadian Government.[49]

Anti-Confederation campaign

The British North America Act, by which Nova Scotia became part of the Dominion of Canada, went into effect on July 1, 1867. Premier Charles Tupper had worked energetically to bring about the union. But it was controversial because localism, Protestant fears of Catholics and distrust of Canadians generally, and worries about losing free trade with America, were all intensified by the refusal of Tupper to consult Nova Scotia's voters on the subject. A movement for withdrawal from Canada developed, led by Joseph Howe. Howe's Anti-Confederation Party swept the next election, on September 18, 1867, winning 18 out of 19 federal seats, and 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature. A motion passed by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1868 refusing to recognise the legitimacy of Confederation has never been rescinded. With the great Hants County bi-election of 1869, Howe was successful in turning the province away from appealing confederation to simply seeking "better terms" within it.[50] Despite its temporary popularity, Howe's movement failed in its goal to withdraw from Canada because London was determined the union go forward. Howe did succeed in getting better financial terms for the province, and gained a national office for himself.[51]

Long-term adverse factors came into play. In 1865 came the end of the American Civil War and all the extra business it had generated. In 1866 came the end of Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty, which led to higher and damaging American tariffs on goods imported from Nova Scotia. In the long run the transition at sea from wood-wind-water sailing to steel steamships undercut the advantages Nova Scotia had enjoyed before 1867. Many residents for decades grumbled that Confederation had slowed the economic progress of the province and it lagged other parts of Canada. Repeal, as anti-confederation became known, would rear its head again in the 1880s, and transform into the Maritime Rights Movement in the 1920s. Some Nova Scotia flags flew at half mast on Dominion Day as late as that time.

Economic growth

Most people were farmers and agriculture dominated the economy, despite all the attention given to ships. The rural situation peaked in 1891 in terms of total rural population, farmland, grain production, cattle production, and number of farms, then fell steadily into the 21st century. Apples and dairy products resisted the downward trend in the 20th century.[52]

The pattern of Nova Scotia's trade and tariffs between 1830 and 1866 suggests that the colony was already moving toward free trade before the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 with the U.S. took effect. The treaty produced modest additional direct gains. The Reciprocity Treaty complemented the earlier movement toward free trade and stimulated the export of commodities sold primarily to the United States, especially coal.[53]

Halifax was the home of Samuel Cunard. With his father, Abraham, a master ship's carpenter, he founded the A. Cunard & Co. cargo shipping company and later the Cunard Line, a pride of the British Empire. Samuel parlayed his father's modest waterfront properties into a succession of businesses that revolutionized transatlantic shipping and passenger travel with the introduction of steam and steel. Cunard was a booster who was active in philanthropy and helped found the Chamber of Commerce, where he found business partners for his ventures in banking, mining, and other businesses. In the process he became one of the largest landholders in the Maritime Provinces.[54]

John Fitzwilliam Stairs (1848-1904), scion of the powerful Stairs family, enlarged the family's multiple businesses by merging the cordage firms and sugar refineries and then creating the steel industry in the province. In order to develop new regional sources of capital, Stairs became an innovator in building legal and regulatory frameworks for these new forms of financial structure. Frost contrasts Stairs's success in promoting regional development with the obstacles that he had encountered in promoting regional interests, particularly at the federal level. The family finally sold its businesses in 1971, after 160 years.[55][56]

After Confederation, boosters of Halifax expected federal help to make the city's natural harbor Canada's official winter port and a gateway for trade with Europe. Halifax's advantages included its location just off the Great Circle route made it the closest to Europe of any mainland North American port. But the new Intercolonial Railway (ICR) took an indirect, southerly route for military and political reasons, and the national government made little effort to promote Halifax as Canada's winter port. Ignoring appeals to nationalism and the ICR's own attempts to promote traffic to Halifax, most Canadian exporters sent their wares by train though Boston or Portland. No one was interested in financing the large-scale port facilities Halifax lacked. It took the First World War to at last boost Halifax's harbor into prominence on the North Atlantic.[57]

Unionization, legal after 1851, was based on skilled crafts except in the coal mines and steel plants, where unskilled men could also join. There has been an increase in industrial unionism with the expansion of industry. International unionism with a strong American influence became important, as international unions began in 1869, when a local of the International Typographical Union was chartered in Halifax. In 1870 the woodworking trades started their union. Different unions banded together to support strike action, as seen in the organization of the Amalgamated Trade Unions of Halifax in 1889, which was succeeded by the Halifax District Trades and Labour Council in 1898. By the end of the 19th century there were more than 70 local unions in the province.[58][59]

Golden age of sail

Britannia of 1840 (1150 GRT), the first Samuel Cunard liner built for the transatlantic service.

Nova Scotia became a world leader in both building and owning wooden sailing ships in the second half of the century. Nova Scotia produced internationally recognized ship builders Donald McKay and William Dawson Lawrence. Notable ships included the barque Stag, a clipper renowned for speed and the ship William D. Lawrence, the largest wooden ship ever built in Canada. The fame Nova Scotia achieved from sailors was assured when Joshua Slocum became the first man to sail single-handedly around the world (1895). This international attention continued into the following century with the many racing victories of the Bluenose schooner.

The population grew steadily from 277,000 in 1851 to 388,000 in 1871, mostly from natural increase since immigration was slight. The era has been called a golden age, but that was a myth created in the 1930s to lure tourists to a romantic era of tall ships and antiques.[60] Recent historians using census data have shown that is a fallacy. In 1851-1871 there was an overall increase in per capita wealth holding. However most of the gains went to the urban elite class, especially businessmen and financiers living in Halifax. The wealth held by the top 10% rose considerably over the two decades, but there was little improvement in the wealth levels in rural areas, which comprised the great majority of the population.[61] Likewise Gwyn reports that gentlemen, merchants, bankers, colliery owners, shipowners, shipbuilders, and master mariners flourished. However the great majority of families were headed by farmers, fishermen, craftsmen and laborers. Most of them-and many widows as well--lived in poverty. Out migration became an increasingly necessary option.[62][63] Thus the era was indeed a golden age but only for a small but powerful and highly visible elite.

North West Rebellion

The Halifax Provisional Battalion was a military unit from Nova Scotia, Canada, which was sent to fight in the North-West Rebellion in 1885. The battalion was under command of Lieut.-Colonel James J. Bremner and consisted of 168 non-commissioned officers and men of the The Princess Louise Fusiliers, 100 of the 63rd Battalion Rifles, and 84 of the Halifax Garrison Artillery, with 32 officers. The battalion left Halifax under orders for the North-West on Saturday, April 11, 1885, and they stayed for almost three months.[64]

Twentieth Century

Heavy industry

A Scotia colliery in Reserve Mines, Nova Scotia, about 1900; it closed in the 1950s

The Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company (known as Scotia) became a vertically-integrated industrial giant. It grew rapidly and made handsome profits from exports of coal, pig iron and steel products to Canadian and international markets. At first its convenient tidewater location and control over all steps of production boosted growth, as it grew through mergers and acquisitions. However the long term negative factors included fragmentation, limited Maritime region markets, rising costs, low quality raw materials, and the lack of external economies.[65] When Scotia (now called DOSCO--Dominion Steel and Coal Corporation) finally closed in the 1960s it was a blow to numerous towns that had counted on its well paid jobs and the political activism of its workers, such as Florence, Reserve Mines, Sydney Mines, Trenton, and New Glasgow.[66]

Rural decline and political response

Rural areas steadily lost population, especially the eastern counties. Liberal premiers George Henry Murray (1896-1923) and Ernest H. Armstrong (1923-25) implemented programs to improve rural life and modernize agricultural industry. They secured federal assistance through loans and grants for agriculture, roads, and immigration. Murray was criticized for being too cautious in his reforms, while Armstrong, even with a Liberal federal government behind him, was unable to keep the assistance flowing. The situation only worsened with the post-war downturn which brought the United Farmers Party to power in 1920 in the hardest hit areas of eastern Nova Scotia. The Liberals' failure to stem the decline of the area brought their defeat in 1925 by "rejuvenated" Conservatives who capitalized on Armstrong's weakness.[67]

Second Boer War

Boer War Victory Parade, Barrington Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia

During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the First Contingent was composed of seven Companies from across Canada. The Nova Scotia Company (H) consisted of 125 men. (The total First Contingent was a total force of 1,019. Eventually over 8600 Canadians served.) The mobilization of the Contingent took place at Quebec. On October 30, 1899, the ship Sardinian sailed the troops for four weeks to Cape Town. The Boer War marked the first occasion in which large contingents of Nova Scotian troops served abroad (individual Nova Scotians had served in the Crimean War). The Battle of Paardeberg in February 1900 represented the second time Canadian soldiers saw battle abroad (the first being the Canadian involvement in the Nile Expedition). [68] Canadians also saw action at the Battle of Faber's Put on May 30, 1900.[69] On November 7, 1900, the Royal Canadian Dragoons engaged the Boers in the Battle of Leliefontein, where they saved British guns from capture during a retreat from the banks of the Komati River.[70] Approximately 267 Canadians died in the War. 89 men were killed in action, 135 died of disease, and the remainder died of accident or injury. 252 were wounded.

Of all the Canadians who died during the war, the most famous was the young Lt. Harold Lothrop Borden of Canning, Nova Scotia. Harold Borden's father was Sir Frederick W. Borden, Canada's Minister of Militia who was a strong proponent of Canadian participation in the war.[71] Another famous Nova Scotian casualty of the war was Charles Carroll Wood, son of the renoun Confederate naval captain John Taylor Wood and the first Canadian to die in the war.[72]

First World War

During World War I, Halifax became a major international port and naval facility. The harbour became a major shipment point for war supplies, troop ships to Europe from Canada and the United States and hospital ships returning the wounded. These factors drove a major military, industrial and residential expansion of the city.[73]

On Thursday, December 6, 1917, when the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, was devastated by the huge detonation of a French cargo ship, fully loaded with wartime explosives, that had accidentally collided with a Norwegian ship in "The Narrows" section of the Halifax Harbour. Approximately 2,000 people (mostly Canadians) were killed by debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and it is estimated that over 9,000 people were injured.[74] This is still the world's largest man-made accidental explosion.[75]


Nova Scotia was hard hit by the worldwide Great Depression that began in 1929 as demand plunged for coal and steel, and the prices of fish and lumber plummeted. Prosperity returned in World War II, especially as Halifax again became a major staging point for convoys to Britain. Liberal premier Angus L. Macdonald dominated the political scene as premier (1933-40 and 1945-54). Macdonald dealt with the mass unemployment of the 1930s by putting the jobless to work on highway projects. He felt direct government relief payments would weaken moral character, undermine self-respect and discourage personal initiative.[76] However, he also faced the reality that his financially strapped government could not afford to participate fully in federal relief programs that required matching contributions from the provinces.[77]

Labour unions

The Provincial Workmen's Association began in 1879 as a miners' union; in 1898, faced by a challenge from the Knights of Labor, it sought to embrace unions in all the industries of the province. The first local union of the United Mine Workers was established in 1908. After a struggle for control of the labour movement among the miners, the Provincial Workmen's Association was dissolved in 1917, and by 1919 the United Mine Workers took control of the coal miners. Success was due to the aggressive leadership of J. B. McLachlan (1869-1937), who left the coal mines of Scotland for Canada in 1902, became a Communist (1922 to 1936) and promoted a strong union and a tradition of independent labour politics. McLachlan’s battles with the American UMWA leadership, particularly the dictatorial John L. Lewis, demonstrated his commitment to democratic unionism for the miners and a fighting union, but Lewis won and outsted McLachlan from power.[78]

Women played an important, though quiet, role in support of the union movement in coal towns during the troubled 1920s and 1930s. They never worked for the mines but provided psychological support especially during strikes when the pay packets did not arrive. They were the family financiers and encouraged other wives who otherwise might have coaxed their menfolk to accept company terms. Women's labor leagues organized a variety of social, educational, and fund-raising functions. Women also violently confronted "scabs", policemen, and soldiers. They had to stretch the food dollar and show inventiveness in clothing their families.[79]

Since 1945

After the war Macdonald initiated large-scale spending programs for such services as health, education, labor union protection measures, and pensions.

Conservative Robert L. Stanfield served as premier during 1956-67. The pragmatic Stanfield, though in favor of some government intervention in economic affairs, was cautious about social policy and was unwilling to promote the welfare state. Nevertheless, new hospitals were built, funded by a sales tax. After 1960 there was increased emphasis on provincial assistance for local municipalities in health and education, with finances for university expansion. Generally, Stanfield, though a conservative, took a positive view of the state's role in helping citizens overcome poverty, ill-health, and discrimination and accepted the need to raise taxes to pay for such services.[80]

See also


  1. ^ In 1765, the county of Sunbury was created, and included the territory of present-day New Brunswick and eastern Maine as far as the Penobscot River.
  2. ^ Also, that same year, French fishermen established a settlement at Canso.
  3. ^ Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605-1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004
  4. ^ Nicholls, Andrew. A Fleeting Empire: Early Stuart Britain and the Merchant Adventures to Canada. McGill-Queen's University Press. 2010.
  5. ^ M. A. MacDonald, Fortune & La Tour: The civil war in Acadia, Toronto: Methuen. 1983
  6. ^ Brenda Dunn, p. 19
  7. ^ Brenda Dunn. A History of Port Royal, Annapolis Royal: 1605-1800. Nimbus Publishing, 2004. p. 20
  8. ^ Grenier, p. 56
  9. ^ Beamish Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia or Acadia, p. 399
  10. ^ A history of Nova-Scotia, or Acadie, Volume 1, by Beamish Murdoch, p. 398
  11. ^ The Nova Scotia theatre of the Dummer War is named the "Mi'kmaq-Maliseet War" by John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia 1710-1760. University of Oklahoma Press. 2008.
  12. ^ Beamish Murdoch. A history of Nova-Scotia, or Acadie, Volume 1, p. 399; Geoffery Plank, An Unsettled Conquest, p. 78
  13. ^ Benjamin Church, p. 289; John Grenier, p. 62
  14. ^ Faragher, John Mack, A Great and Noble Scheme New York; W. W. Norton & Company, 2005. pp. 164-165; Brenda Dunn, p. 123
  15. ^ William Wicken. Mi'kmaq Treaties on Trial. 2002. pp. 72-72.
  16. ^ John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. Oklahoma University Press.2008
  17. ^ The framework Father Le Loutre's War is developed by John Grenier in his books The Far Reaches of Empire. War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008) and The first way of war: American war making on the frontier, 1607-1814 (Cambridge University Press, 2005). He outlines his rational for naming these conflicts as Father Le Loutre's War; Thomas Beamish Akins. History of Halifax, Brookhouse Press. 1895. (2002 edition). p 7
  18. ^ Wicken, p. 181; Griffith, p. 390; Also see http://www.northeastarch.com/vieux_logis.html
  19. ^ John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. Oklahoma University Press.
  20. ^ John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. Oklahoma University Press.
  21. ^ John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia, 1710-1760. Oklahoma University Press.2008
  22. ^ John Grenier, Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia 1710-1760. Oklahoma Press. 2008
  23. ^ Stephen E. Patterson. "Indian-White Relations in Nova Scotia, 1749-61: A Study in Political Interaction." Buckner, P, Campbell, G. and Frank, D. (eds). The Acadiensis Reader Vol 1: Atlantic Canada Before Confederation. 1998. pp.105-106.; Also see Stephen Patterson, Colonial Wars and Aboriginal Peoples, p. 144.
  24. ^ Ronnie-Gilles LeBlanc (2005). Du Grand Dérangement à la Déportation: Nouvelles Perspectives Historiques, Moncton: Université de Moncton, 465 pages ISBN 1897214022 (book in French and English). The Acadians were scattered across the Atlantic, in the Thirteen Colonies, Louisiana, Quebec, Britain and France. (See Jean-François Mouhot (2009) Les Réfugiés acadiens en France (1758-1785): L'Impossible Réintégration?, Quebec, Septentrion, 456 p. ISBN 2894485131; Ernest Martin (1936) Les Exilés Acadiens en France et leur établissement dans le Poitou, Paris, Hachette, 1936). Very few eventually returned to Nova Scotia (See John Mack Faragher (2005). A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland, New York: W.W. Norton, 562 pages ISBN 0-393-05135-8 online excerpt).
  25. ^ John Brebner, The Neutral Yankees of Nova Scotia: A Marginal Colony During the Revolutionary Years (1937)
  26. ^ Donald A. Desserud, "An Outpost's Response: The Language and Politics of Moderation in Eighteenth-century Nova Scotia," American Review of Canadian Studies 1999 29(3): 379-405.
  27. ^ Barry Cahill, "The Treason of the Merchants: Dissent and Repression in Halifax in the Era of the American Revolution," Acadiensis 1996 26(1): 52-70; G. Stewart, and G. Rawlyk, A People Highly Favoured of God: The Nova Scotia Yankees and the American Revolution (1972); Maurice Armstrong, "Neutrality and Religion in Revolutionary Nova Scotia," The New England Quarterly v19, no. 1 (1946): 50-62 in JSTOR
  28. ^ Benjamin Franklin also engaged France in the war, which meant that many of the privateers were also from France.
  29. ^ Roger Marsters (2004). Bold Privateers: Terror, Plunder and Profit on Canada's Atlantic Coast" , p. 87-89.
  30. ^ Lieutenant Governor Sir Richard Hughes stated in a dispatch to Lord Germaine that "rebel cruisers" made the attack.
  31. ^ Julian Gwyn. Frigates and Foremasts. University of British Columbia. 2003. p. 56
  32. ^ Thomas B. Akins. (1895) History of Halifax. Dartmouth: Brook House Press.p. 82
  33. ^ S.D. Clark, Movements of Political Protest in Canada, 1640–1840, (1959), pp. 150-51
  34. ^ Neil MacKinnon, This Unfriendly Soil: The Loyalist Experience in Nova Scotia, 1783-1791 (1989)
  35. ^ Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, Viking Canada (2005) p. 11
  36. ^ Donald Campbell and R. A. MacLean, Beyond the Atlantic roar: a study of the Nova Scotia Scots (1974) p. 3
  37. ^ John Boileau. Half-hearted Enemies: Nova Scotia, New England and the War of 1812. Halifax: Formac Publishing. 2005. p.53
  38. ^ C.H.J.Snider, Under the Red Jack: privateers of the Maritime Provinces of Canada in the War of 1812 (London: Martin Hopkinson & Co. Ltd, 1928), 225-258 (see http://www.1812privateers.org/Ca/canada.htm#LG)
  39. ^ John Boileau. 2005. Half-hearted Enemies: Nova Scotia: New England and the War of 1812. Formac Press
  40. ^ John Boileau. 2005. Half-hearted Enemies: Nova Scotia: New England and the War of 1812. Formac Press
  41. ^ Seymour, p. 10
  42. ^ Tom Seymour, Tom Seymour's Maine: A Maine Anthology (2003), pp. 10-17
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  44. ^ Julian Gwyn, "the Culture of Work in the Halifax Naval Yard Before 1820." Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society 1999 2: 118-144.
  45. ^ Buckner and Reid, The Atlantic region to Confederation: a history (1995) p. 338
  46. ^ Beck, J. Murray. (1983) Joseph Howe: The Briton Becomes Canadian 1848–1873. (v.2). Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 0-7735-0388-9
  47. ^ Greg Marquis, "Mercenaries or Killer Angels? Nova Scotians in the American Civil War," Collections of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, 1995, Vol. 44, pp 83-94
  48. ^ Greg Marquis, In Armageddon’s Shadow: The Civil War and Canada’s Maritime Provinces . McGill-Queen’s University Press. 1998.
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  51. ^ Beck (2000)
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  53. ^ Marilyn Gerriets and Julian Gwyn, "Tariffs, Trade and Reciprocity: Nova Scotia, 1830-1866." Acadiensis 1996 25(2): 62-81. Issn: 0044-5851
  54. ^ John G. Langley, "Samuel Cunard 1787-1865: 'As Fine a Specimen of a Self-made Man as this Western Continent Can Boast Of.'" Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society 2005 8: 92-115. Issn: 1486-5920
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  56. ^ James D. Frost, Merchant princes: Halifax's first family of finance, ships, and steel (2003)
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  59. ^ Paul MacEwan, Miners and Steelworkers: Labour in Cape Breton (1976)
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  63. ^ Rural poverty is the theme of Rusty Bittermann, Robert A. Mackinnon, and Graeme Wynn, "Of inequality and interdependence in the Nova Scotian countryside, 1850-70," Canadian Historical Review, March 1993, Vol. 74 Issue 1, pp 1-43
  64. ^ The history of the North-west rebellion of 1885: Comprising a full and ... By Charles Pelham Mulvany, Louis Riel, p. 410
  65. ^ L. D. McCann, "Fragmented Integration: the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company and the Anatomy of an Urban-industrial Landscape, c. 1912." Urban History Review 1994 22(2): 139-158.
  66. ^ John Mellor, The Company Stores: J.B. McLachian and the Cape Breton Coal Miners 1900-1925 (1983)
  67. ^ Paul Brown, "'Come East, Young Man!' the Politics of Rural Depopulation in Nova Scotia, 1900-1925." Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society1998 1: 47-78.
  68. ^ Canadian War Museum (2008). "Battle of Paardeberg". Canadian War Museum. http://www.civilisations.ca/cwm/boer/battlepaardeberg_e.html. Retrieved 2008-05-10. [dead link]
  69. ^ Canadian War Museum (2008). "Battle of Faber's Put". Canadian War Museum. http://www.civilisations.ca/cwm/boer/battlefabersput_e.html. Retrieved 2008-05-10. [dead link]
  70. ^ Canadian War Museum (2008). "Battle of Leliefontein". Canadian War Museum. http://www.civilisations.ca/cwm/boer/battleleliefontein_e.html. Retrieved 2008-05-10. [dead link]
  71. ^ http://angloboerwarmuseum.com/Boer70g_hero7_borden1.html
  72. ^ John Bell. Confederate Seadog: John Taylor Wood in War and Exile. McFarland Publishers. 2002. p. 59
  73. ^ The Halifax Explosion and the Royal Canadian Navy John Armstrong, University of British Columbia Press, 2002, p.10-11.
  74. ^ CBC - Halifax Explosion 1917
  75. ^ Jay White, "Exploding Myths: The Halifax Explosion in Historical Context", Ground Zero: A Reassessment of the 1917 explosion in Halifax Alan Ruffman and Colin D. Howell editors, Nimbus Publishing (1994), p. 266
  76. ^ T. Stephen Henderson, Angus L. Macdonald: A Provincial Liberal (2007) pp. 3–9.
  77. ^ E.R. Forbes, Challenging the Regional Stereotype: Essays on the 20th Century Maritimes (1989) p.148.
  78. ^ David Frank, J. B. McLachlan: A Biography: The Story of a Legendary Labour Leader and the Cape Breton Coal Miners (1999) p 97
  79. ^ Penfold Steven, "'Have You No Manhood in You?' Gender and Class in the Cape Breton Coal Towns, 1920-1926." Acadiensis 1994 23(2): 21-44.
  80. ^ Jennifer Smith, "The Stanfield Government and Social Policy in Nova Scotia: 1956-1967." Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society 2003 6: 1-16.


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