Eleven years of robbery and ruin

From the Morning Herald


The Local Government of Nova Scotia, through its present nominal leader, Hon. P.C. Hill, has dared once more to solicit the confidence of the people of this Province. We say “dared” because we can hardly conceive of a more impudent and unreasonable request. For the thief who has stolen nearly all your property to ask still to retain your confidence; for the servant who has embezzled all your fortune to ask to retain his place; or for the scoundrel who has brought indelible shame upon your family to still expect your esteem; might each be regarded as somewhat presumptuous; but we undertake to show that the claim put forth by the present Local government of Nova Scotia surpasses all combined in effrontery and brazen mendacity. The men who now form that Government, and those who were the predecessors, and whose policy and since they became responsible for, have brought upon the people of this Province both disgrace and ruin, and that in their deepest and most dangerous character.

The electors of Nova Sccotia have only to look at the history of this country for the past eleven years in order to discover the extent of the dishonesty and incapacity of Hon. P.C. Hill, his colleagues and predecessors. It becomes our duty, as it is the duty of every citizen, to scan that history, and in answer to Mr. Hill’s misleading and untruthful apologia present the record of “evil, only evil, and that continually” which is really the history of the corrupt and dying administration which it is his fate to lead.

There is no part of their dishonest record that reveals their unfitness to rule more strikingly than that which relates to the wholesale squandering of the public domain. It is almost beyond belief that any body of men could be found so wanting in patriotism as to willfully, and corruptly, dissipate and destroy one of the principal sources of their country’s revenue, and yet that is precisely what these men have done. In 1867, the amount of Crown Lands which this Province possessed was (vide Assembly Journals, app’x NO. 5) 7,315,212 ACRES. This was certainly a good heritage, being within a few hundred thousand as much Crown Lands as New Brunswick possessed, and owing to its proximity to the sea, much more valuable. Yet strange to say, while New Bruncwick was able, in 1877, (while still retaining by far the major portion of its original domain) to receive a revenue of $76,047.47 from its Crown Lands, our revenue for the same year from that source was only $7,718.38, or only $1200 over the working expenses of the Department! At the same time we retain (vide report of Comr. of Crown Lands for 1877, p. 5) only 2,487,418 acres!! What has become of the balance? What has produced the difference between us and New Brunswick? The Journals of the House of Assembly shew as follows:

No. of acres of ungranted lands in Nova Scotia on 1st. Jan 1867, as per reports Commissioner of Crown Lands, 1867: 7,315,282

No. of acres granted since, as per the journals of the House:
1867: 107,948
1868: 91,844
1869: 64,763
1870: 95,868
1871: 134,705
1872: 136,712
1873: 115,936
1874: 107,337
1875: 46,483
1876: 34,962
1877: 25,758



Amount of ungranted lands 1st Jan. 1878, as per report of Commissioner of Crown Lands, 1877: 2,487,419

Bal. unaccounted for: 3,871,545

What has become of this three million and a half (allowing for the land granted for railway purposes) of acres
of land. No man has ever risen yet to show, and no man is able to show. All that is known is that several merchants in Halifax who are in the habit of providing the sinews of war in Grit elections, have, during the past ten years become possessed of enormous tracts of territory —and certain remarkable scoundrels who sat in the Local House servilely supporting the Government, have been found to have grants of land for which they never paid, and possessed enormous tracts of territory for which in the nature of things they never could pay. Thus it has been brought about that scores of corrupt scoundrels have grown enormously wealthy; that a weak and corrupt Government has been wonderfully and mysteriously retained in power ; and that a source of revenue which in New Brunswick yields $76,000 per annum, has been in this Province, so dissipated and squandered that it yields comparatively nothing.
The evil effects on the Province of this scandalous and corrupt alienation of nearly the whole marketable Crown Lands of the country, are numerous and alarming. In the first place, a source of revenue which if properly guarded would have yielded this province at least $40,000 per annum forever, has been entirely wasted and destroyed. The people of Nova Scotia, as long as water runs and wind blows, will have $40,000 a year less revenue then they might have had, if they had a wise and honest government. For the luxury of having the Grits in power for the past eleven years, we have in one department lost over three million acres of land, which at forty-four cents an acre would amount to at least $1,200,000, and the proceeds of the 956,000 acres accounted for, wasted in useless and corrupt extravagance.
Another effect of the wholesale alienation of the public lands (the balance on hand being mostly barrens) will be to render it impossible for the young men of this Province, or parties who may wish to make this Province their home, ever to procure farms from the government at the government price. The lands of the Province will, by the maladministration of Mr. Hill and his predecessors, be locked up for generations to come, in the hands of selfish speculators, who may sell or not, as they see fit, and if they sell only at such prices as they chose to demand. What properly belonged to the people of Nova Scotia as a birthright to be enjoyed by them and their children after them, has been thus squandered and destroyed. An injury has thus been inflicted on this Province, which no arithmetic can adequately calculate. And all for what? Simply that a number of ambitious and dishonest politicians might be kept in power, and that the support which they found it necessary to buy might be purchased and paid for! Will the electors of Nova Scotia vote to perpetuate the existence of a Government like this?


From 1867 to 1875, Mr. W. B. Vail was Provincial Secretary, and William Annand Premier and Treasurer of this Province- They were placed in their positions by the party now in power; they are still controlling spirits in the policy of the Government; and Mr. Hill and his colleagues are fully responsible for their conduct while holding these offices. During the aforementioned period, Mr. Annand was, with his son, Charles Annand, a proprietor of the “Chronicle” newspaper, and Mr. Vail was, from 1871 until 1878, with Mr. Jones, M. P., a proprietor of the “Citizen.” Mr. Hugh W. Blackadar, the present political Postmaster of Halifax, was also, up to 1875, Queen’s Printer, and a proprietor of the “Recorder” establishment The dealings, therefore, of the “Chronicle,” “Citizen,” and “Recorder” with the Government will be seen to be the transactions of Messrs. Annand, Vail, and Blackadar respectively. The business dealings ot the Premier, the Provincial Secretary, and Queen’s Printer, of a Government with the Government of which they were such important officers, and of which two of them at least were the sworn custodians of its Treasury, would naturally be expected to be particularly straightforward and above reproach. While, previously in our history, leading members of Governments had frequently been accused of allowing others to have highly remunerative dealings with their Governments, up to 1867 -to the credit of this country- no man had ever dared to impeach the personal honesty of any member of any of our Governments, as far as related to their personal dealing with the Government, with which they were connected. Unfortunately for Nova Scotia, this Slate of affairs only lasted until 1867. In that year, the men whose names we have mentioned were intrusted, as we have indicated, with our affairs, and the results were, as we will show, a heavy pecuniary loss to the Province, and an indelible disgrace on our Provincial history. Their advent to power was unpromising in the extreme- It was known that Mr. Annand, while previously in the Government, from 1859 to 1863, had become connected with a notorious swindling concern—”the Nova Scotia Land and Gold Crushing and Amalgamating Company”— the dishonest transactions and collapse of which had completely ruined, in England the credit of Nova Scotia mining stock. Mr. Vail’s well known avarice and inability to distinguish between right and wrong, gave him also a doubtful character. But no person suspected, and very few have even yet, an adequate conception of, the extent to which these men were prepared to cheat and defraud, and did in fact cheat and defraud, the Treasury of this Province. By a sort of tripartite agreement, by which each of these worthies agreed to wink at and conceal the dishonesty of the others, Mr. Annand, Mr. Vail, and Mr. Blackudar, commenced, and for many years prosecuted, a series of transactions, and a system of dealing -in the matter of Public Printing— with the Government (of which two of them were members, and the other Queen’s Printer) that, considering the positions o! the parties, their long continued operations, and the magnitude of the sums which they abstracted from the Treasury, surpasses in criminal dishonesty any “scandal” that was ever unearthed in this or any other country enjoying constitutional Government. It was different from the “Beauport Scandal” in Quebec, our own “Crown Lands Scandal,” or the “Steel Rails,” “Goderich Harbor,” “Neebing Hotel,” and other multitudinous scandals which disgrace the Dominion Government; inasmuch as they only reveal dishonest dealings of the governments with supporters, while in the matter of Public Printing the members of our Government dealt dishonestly with themselves as a Government for the benefit of themselves as printers-swindling themselves, as a Government, of tens of thousands of dollars, which they placed in their own pockets, as printers, regardless of their oaths of office, the interests of the Province, or the honor of the country.
How long this state of things would have been allowed to exist if the Opposition had not interfered, we are not prepared to say. Certain it is that it was in operation when Mr. Hill joined the Government in 1874, and continued in full blast-notwithstanding its exposure in 1875-until the middle of 1876! On the 17th of March, 1875, Mr. Longley moved for, and (notwithstanding the opposition of the members of the Government) succeeded in procuring, a special Committee on pblic printing (Debates 1875, p 18). The committee was comprised of gentlemen of both political parties, embracing, among others, Hon. A. Gayton, the present Commissioner of Mines and Works, and Mr. I.N. Mack, the present Speaker of the House. After nearly three weeks’ investigation, the committee UNINIMOUSLY reported (vide Journals of the House, 1875, App’x Np. 21, p. 7) as follows:

Your committee to whom was referred the investigation of the method and cost of public printing having, as far as seemed practicable, completed their labors, beg leave to report as follows:
We find, from the testimony adduced, that the Government have given, since the year eighteen hundred and sixty seven, to whom they pleased, without tender or contract, the printing for the several Departments and Legislature.
That said Printing has been enjoyed at most wholly by the proprieters of the following papers, viz:

The “Acadian Recorder”
The “Morning Chronicle”
The “Citizen”

We find that the Printing for the Provincial Secretary’s and Treasurer’s Departments has been paid for by Special warrants for that purpose, without any account being rendered by the printers until the end of this year, while in all other departments the system has been to DRAW LUMPSUMS from the Treasury and pay it out for miscellaneous purposes including pu8clic printing, as the Departments pleased.

Your committee feel they have been unable, OWING TO THE PERNICIOUS SYSTEM BY WHICH THE PUBLIC PRINTING HAS BEEN PERFORMED, to arrive at the exact amount paid by the Province for that purpose; but that the sum is very large, and has not varied to any great extent since 1867 in the prices charged.
Your committee wish to call attention to the fact that thus far in their researches they find $26,682,50 has been paid out the last year for this service, yet the Financial Returns laid upon the table of the House show only a cost of Six Thousand Four Hundred and Sixteen Dollars ($6,416)

While referring to the INFERIOR QUALITY OF THE WORK done in some cases, we cannot but seriously invite the attention of the Legislature to the ENORMOUS PRICES CHARGED for this service as shown by the tabulated statement hereto annexed marked A, which has been carefully compiled:

(Signed) A LONGLEY,

…reign of Aooand, Vail.. & Co.

Only two defenses have been attempted to be made for these scandalous proceedings. The first is that overcharges were made by Messrs. Grant Compton and Croskill before 1867, and the second is that the Government remedied the evil by (in 1876) changing the system. The first allegation, even if true, could be no defense, inasmuch as none of these gentlemen were members of the Government, as Annand and Vail were. But it is singular fact that, after having possession of all our public documents for eleven years, they have never been able to substantiate this statement in any one instance.
The second statement is no defense at all. The thief who had stolen your goods, might as well set up as a defense that he had since changed his habits; or some notorious corruptionist like Herman Cook or Major Walker, that he had since voted for a rigid election law. The important fact in the scandal is that nearly two hundred thousand dollars of Provincial money has been traced to the pockets of the proprietors of the ” Chronicle,” “Citizen” and ‘Recorder,” which they have obtained by fraud, and…

…and no proceedings have ever been taken by the Government to compel them to do so. The very men who are shouting through their newspapers for actions to be brought against parties who are only supposed to have some few dollars of public money in their hands, do themselves stand convicted by the Journals of the House of having nearly two hundred thousand dollars of public money in their pockets, which they obtained by practices more nefarious and dishonest than those of the thief, and which they still continue to retain. Why, we ask, has not Mr. Hill caused “suits in Equity” to be brought against Messrs. Annand, Vail and Blackadar for the recovery of this enormous sum? With a conviction outstanding for over three years against these men, Mr. Hill has not moved a peg, but today avails himself of the services of these very men, and the dishonest shoutings of these very newspapers, in order to secure his retention of power. If the electors of Nova Scotia can respect and put confidence in such a man, or put any attention to the utterances of such newspapers, we will have to confess to a mistaken estimate of their intelligence, their patriotism, or their honesty.

Filmed from a copy of the original publication held by the Nova Scotia Legislative Library. “From the Morning Herald.” Published [S.l. : s.n., 1878?] https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100290208, https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.64759/1?r=0&s=1