The Maritime Provinces of British North America and the American Revolution

In 1758, Nova Scotia established a regular legislature influenced by New Englanders’ agitation. The initial assembly, inspired by New England practices, clashed with the council over privilege. Governor Lawrence dissolved it in 1759 due to its perceived arrogance. Grants of land were offered to encourage more practically minded candidates. Subsequent assemblies displayed improved cooperation with the governors.

In 1761, Nova Scotians remained indifferent to New England’s grievances over issues like writs of assistance and the diversion of funds for military protection. The passage of the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765 provoked considerable agitation in New England, leading to protests and riots. While some in Nova Scotia sympathized with New England, overt displays of unrest were limited until October 1765, when some individuals in Liverpool burnt stamps and an effigy was hung in Halifax.

Efforts to mobilize resistance to the Stamp Act, such as cutting stamps from newspapers, were largely unsuccessful in Nova Scotia. Despite attempts by figures like Anthony Henry to incite opposition, Nova Scotians remained largely loyal to Parliament, even as tensions escalated with the Townshend Act in 1767.

The arrival of East India tea in 1774 prompted some resistance in Nova Scotia, but overall, the province remained loyal to Britain. The actions of Nova Scotians stood in contrast to the sentiment in other colonies, particularly New England, where resistance to British authority was more pronounced.

Representation expanded gradually, but rural members faced challenges attending sessions regularly due to travel difficulties. Constitutional struggles in other colonies in 1760-1783 involving adjournments and disputes over supplies didn’t impact Nova Scotia much except for a petition in June 1775.

Financial matters, particularly customs collection, sparked debates. Despite disagreements, both houses emphasized common interests over differences. In 1775, tensions escalated with accusations of financial mismanagement, leading to a struggle between factions led by John Day and others supporting Governor Legge.

Legge’s efforts for financial reform backfired, leading to his recall to England in 1776. His departure marked a return to normalcy, with the older group regaining power. Despite initial fears of reprisals, the senior group reconciled with their opponents, maintaining tranquility through mutual agreements.

During the Revolutionary Agitation in Nova Scotia from 1775 to 1777, the province initially remained passive despite the outbreak of hostilities between the colonies and the Mother Country in 1775. Nova Scotians perceived the conflict as temporary, believing it would be resolved once tempers cooled. However, practical involvement soon ensued when General Gage sought supplies from the Maritime Province, prompting responses from major towns and farmers.

The conflict escalated with American attempts to disrupt British operations. In Halifax, sympathizers set fire to supplies, while raids occurred at the mouth of the St. John River. American privateers threatened the region, particularly Annapolis. Farmers faced the dilemma of supplying British troops or risking incursions by their rebel relatives. Efforts to sway the Acadian militia to support the American cause failed.

Meanwhile, the government focused on defense preparations, as militia and forts were inadequately equipped. Efforts to raise loyalist forces faced challenges, with reluctance among some communities to engage in Boston’s conflict. Recruitment efforts met resistance, particularly from New Englanders who opposed fighting their relatives.

In Cumberland County, divided loyalties emerged, with New Englanders and Acadians hesitant to support British initiatives. Agitators, led by figures like John Allan and Jonathan Eddy, attempted to incite rebellion, advocating for an American invasion. However, their efforts faced opposition from loyalists and cautious locals. Despite threats and agitation, many remained unwilling to take up arms against the British.

In Cumberland, despite initial enthusiasm, the rebel leader Allan faced resistance from the local loyalists and struggled to gain support. The government’s response was initially indifferent, but eventually, a force led by Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Gorham was dispatched to quell the agitation.

In Sunbury, rebels led by Jacob Barker and others attempted to rally support for the American cause among the inhabitants of Maugerville. However, their efforts met with mixed success as some refused to join, and others remained hesitant. Allan’s attempts to enlist the support of local Indians also proved fruitless.

As tensions escalated, Eddy, another rebel leader, sought to launch an armed expedition into Nova Scotia, but faced challenges due to a lack of manpower and resources. Despite some initial success in gathering supporters, Eddy’s forces were ultimately defeated by British reinforcements.

The government of Nova Scotia, under the leadership of figures like Francklin and Goold, worked to suppress the rebellion through offers of pardon and leniency to those willing to submit. Eventually, with the end of the Franco-American alliance in 1778, hopes for further revolt dwindled, and political agitation ceased.

Overall, while the rebels faced resistance and ultimately failed to achieve their goals, their efforts revealed divisions within Nova Scotia society and highlighted the province’s complex relationship with the American Revolution.

“When the legislature met in June 1776, the assembly thanked the King for the recall of Legge “upon the just complaints of your long patient but much oppressed people.” They found that the office of inspector-general of accounts continued, to the grievance of the people, and asked Arbuthnot to abolish it, which he forthwith did. They found the collectors’ accounts in perfect order. Now came a parade of the victims of the year before in quest of relief, led by Binney and Newton; and relief they obtained at reduced rates. Next the house examined the interim expenditures and made surprising discoveries. Legge had paid Burrow’s salary in spite of the assembly’s refusal of the year before, and had made Captain Stanton an allowance which the members considered unwarranted. Solicitor-general James Monk was a public debtor, having failed to pay over or account for the £165 he had collected in the usury trials in King’s County. In fact Legge and his henchmen had committed precisely the financial sins which they had so roundly condemned in the older group. They were not thereby proved hypocrites; they had merely come to see the necessity for a little laxity in the finances of government which had long been apparent to Francklin and his friends. These could rightly hold a celebration at the end of session; Nesbitt rejoiced at the advent of the right sort of governor and the return of his friends to their places.”

The assembly had complied with its traditions by refusing certain bills presented for service done by order of Legge, though it probably thought that they would be paid anyway. In the sessions of 1777 to 1781 the members occasionally went through the ritual of refusal for expenditures made by Francklin in his duties among the Indians, and in the last year they even framed a mild protest. The lieutenant-governor replied that nothing could be done about it and nothing was done, Francklin getting paid as usual.” The matter of sheriffs was settled in 1778 and an adjustment made in the liquor tariff in 1782; and the end of the war found the council still enjoying discretion about the interim expenditures.

After Legge’s departure, his followers feared reprisals and mourned over their predicament in letter after letter to him. But the senior group were much too wise to be vindictive; and after the first flush of success, they ignored the past, made friends with their opponents and admitted them to a share in the favors of government. The Morrises had been alarmed for their jobs; but in fact they kept them, and when Charles Morris Sr. died in November 1781, his son succeeded in peace to the surveyorship, introducing his son in turn as assistant and demonstrating that he too could be pleased with the principles of favoritism and feathering of the nest. Richard Gibbons became solicitor-general and presently attorney-general, turning over the former office to Richard John Uniacke, a rebel of 1776 in Cumberland. more the older group demonstrated their skill in management; and again there was tranquillity, for both groups now agreed on the matter of the good things of government.

It is difficult to withhold a certain sympathy from Francis Legge. At the wish of the assembly he had undertaken a program of financial reform; and he thought he was doing nothing but right. But his efforts had gone awry. His assistants had bungled their job and brought discredit on the enterprise, which became something of a hunt for a mare’s nest. When this had happened, he had not the adroitness to make terms with the opposition; but continuing a struggle to little purpose, he had come upon disaster. He made the mistake of thinking that Nova Scotia was like the colonies to the south. He had supposed that the assembly like its fellow bodies of New England, held firmly to its rights and that in supporting it he would be constitutionally and practically correct. Instead he had stumbled on a family quarrel and found the participants as likely as not to turn against any well-meaning outsider who should interfere. He did not know until too late that the assembly of Nova Scotia was not given to the flaunting of constitutional right. At his cost he illustrated the tranquility of the province and the readiness of its inhabitants to agree with one another.

The dispute had revealed aspects of government which could have furnished fuel to a separatist agitator. We have mentioned the financial powers of the council; and Mauger’s tariff could have been used in this way, laid down as it was from London. The merchants of Halifax could have been depicted to the world as sufferers from a policy which benefitted one man living in England. The skill of a Sam Adams could have found here a grievance like that of the Townshend Acts and could have made out that Nova Scotia was being oppressed by a harsh imperial overlord. But no one in Nova Scotia dreamed of organizing a popular agitation or of appealing to the Americans. The court of appeal was in England and that was enough. To a slight extent each party had made use of the continental crisis to curry favor with London, Legge and Morris by describing the older group as disaffected, Butler by portraying Legge as the disturber who might set the province in flames. Neither of these essays had much success and they were soon forgotten. In other ways the parties had conducted their dispute as if they were members of the corporations of Leeds or Norwich rather than dwellers on a rebellious continent. The controversy over Legge furnishes a strong illustration of the fundamental quietness of the province.”

“Three political sympathies were represented in the isthmus, New England, Old English and French. The Yorkshiremen, led by Charles Dixon and the Reverend John Eagleson, missionary of the S.P.G., were staunch loyalists. The New Englanders, however, in their remote situation felt the influence of the provincial leaders much less than their brethren of Minas Basin; and they had among them a group of prominent men resolved on revolution.

Chief of these was John Allan, Scotch by birth but New England by his associations in the isthmus. He was proprietor of the farm Inverma in Upper Point de Bute and had married Mary Patton, daughter of one of the first New England settlers. He made friends with the local Acadians and Indians and obtained some influence among them. Being a young man of standing, he was chosen sheriff and justice of the peace; and in 1775 he was elected to the assembly at Halifax. He took the oath and his seat but shortly abandoned both from a decision to throw in his lot with the revolting Americans. Jonathan Eddy, born at the present Mansfield, Massachusetts, had purchased an estate in Cumberland in 1763 and settled there. He became deputy provost-marshal; but in 1775 he renounced office to take part in the revolutionary agitation. Sam Rogers the member, William Howe, Zebulon Rowe, Obadiah Ayers, Sam Wethered, Benoni Danks the member and Josiah Throop the engineer officer made common cause with Allan and Eddy; and all formed plans to draw Nova Scotia into the union of colonies.”

In the summer or autumn of 1775 they chose as their point of attack the traffic with Boston, which they viewed with “pain and grief”; and they endeavored to dissuade their fellows of the isthmus from it. But the attraction of the King’s gold was too strong; and the agitators decided that they could do nothing without assistance from other parts. In December came news of the militia and tax bills; and at once the New Englanders took alarm, fearing a draft for the war in their homeland. The Acadians professed a similar motive, their kin being scattered by deportations up and down the coast; but doubtless they objected to doing any sort of service for the British government. Even the Yorkshiremen, struggling with the difficulties of pioneers, felt that they could afford neither tax nor service.” The general perturbation provided the opportunity for which the agitators had been looking. They played on popular apprehensions, predicted hardship for the families of men on service, denounced the tax as oppressive in a country with little coin- age and suggested an appeal to General Washington to invade the province. The county was soon in a “universal uproar.” New and Old English alike protested against the bills; but the Yorkshiremen abhorred an appeal to a rebel army and most of the New Englanders hesitated, preferring the safer policy of a remonstrance to Halifax. Allan’s group saw that they had gone too far; they laid aside their plan and became advocates of the remonstrance in order to retain some control. They turned to the New Englanders of Cobequid and obtained a little support, James Avery and Captain Thomas Falconer evincing sympathy. They still had some reason for hope.”

In December the commanding officer of the militia arrived in Cumberland and summoned the inhabitants to appear before him. They did so and charged him on his personal peril not to draw a man. He refrained; and guided by Allan, they drew up a petition to the government of the province. A few loyal phrases served as a sop to the Yorkshiremen and others but the tone was defiant and still more the conclusion “We cannot comply with the law.” A request followed for suspension of the acts and dissolution of the assembly which had passed them. Sixty-four persons in Cumberland signed, sixty in Amherst, sixty-seven in Sackville and fifty-one Acadians. The moderate phrases secured general assent among the Yorkshiremen and even a few signatures like those of Thomas Keillor, William Wood, and Charles Dixon who excused himself later as obliged to become all things for quietness’ sake.” He wrote to Halifax in support of the requests but pleaded for a force to be sent to Cumberland to prevent rebellion and invasion.”

The petition was carried to Halifax by Throop and was doubtless a factor in the governor’s decision to suspend the acts. Throop took the welcome news back to Cumberland; and most of the settlers were content with it. But Allan’s group resolved not to let the agitation die. They held “committees upon committees” and tried to dis- credit the concessions as made only to gain time. They thus made it clear to the loyalists that Allan’s desire for an American invasion had not disappeared as he had professed, but was his ruling motive. The coalition formed against the militia and tax bills now broke up, the loyalists went their own way. The Yorkshiremen saw no fault with the authority of Parliament to which they had always been accustomed; and the argument about imperial taxes they scouted, finding the levies in Nova Scotia ridiculously light as compared with those in their homeland. Charles Dixon retracted his signature to the petition; Lieutenant John Macdonald of the Royal High- land Emigrants came into physical collision with Allan’s supporters; and the Reverend John Eagle- son by his strenuous loyalty earned from Eddy the title “pest of society.’ More obscure persons aided as best they could; Barrow, Scott, Law and Lieutenant Barron of the King’s Regiment, recuperating in Cumberland from a wound received at Boston. These men reported Allan’s activities to Halifax and pressed the government for troops. In Cumberland they spread word of reverses to the Americans and successes for the King’s troops. Mrs. Cossins did her bit by reporting that rebel agents were in Cumberland, gathering sup- plies for the invading army of the spring. And thirty-three inhabitants of Hopewell, Hillsborough and Memramcook sent in a loyal petition affirming their willingness to maintain the peace of the province even at the risk of their lives and property. The names seem Yorkshire, other than that of the Swiss Moses Delesderniers.” The loyalists were stiffening their backs.

In face of this opposition, Allan adopted the tactics of the New England Whigs. His men spoke of destroying the property and injuring the persons of the loyalists, selecting four as a beginning and Eagleson in particular. They boasted that the American army which had (nearly) conquered Canada would come thence and invade Nova Scotia in the spring by way of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and they spoke of killing the bullocks purchased for the British army and salting them for the use of the Americans. Allan’s committee met at the house of Eliphalet Reid, two miles from Sackville, on January 27th, voted Dixon and Mrs. Cossins enemies to the common cause and chose a committee of safety to inspect letters entering or leaving Cumberland. Wethered confidently declared that they would allow no more courts of judicature in the county and no couriers to go to Halifax. Having invited the Acadians, they held another meeting at Inverma at the end of the month. There they resolved that the governor’s concessions were a pretence to gain time for troops to arrive; and petitioned again for dissolution of the assembly in terms which made plain their sympathy for the American cause. Now Allan and Eddy spoke of an insurrection; but the others protested that even if locally successful, they could not hold Nova Scotia without help from the Americans, and secured a postponement for the purpose of sounding public sentiment. This was done during the next week, and the finding was adverse.” The Yorkshiremen maintained a firm if rather passive resistance; and even the New Englanders, perplexed by conflicting sentiments and calculations, would not rise. Dixon, who knew them, made an estimate of their mental state; they would sell the troops anything they had, “necessity obliges them to it”, and left to themselves they would remain quiet. But if forced into the militia, they might turn to the Americans. They were indeed not entirely unmoved by Allan’s appeals and would have welcomed an army of invasion; but of themselves they would do nothing.

Allan was disappointed. His committee recognized their weakness and agreed to abstain from action as a whole, allowing individuals to appeal to Washington if they felt so inclined. Eddy then volunteered to take a letter to the American commander. Accordingly an invitation was drawn up and signed by twelve men including Allan and his father-in-law Mark Patton. Eddy took it and set out with a band of fourteen, including Rogers and an Acadian. On his way he picked up a letter from some New Englanders of Onslow asking for armed assistance or vessels to take them back to their own soil. He presented these documents to Washington at Cambridge on March 27, 1776 together with a letter from Allan giving an account of the agitation and assuring the general that 200 or 300 men would secure the region between Cumberland and Halifax.” But Washington had far too much business on his hands to spare a force for Nova Scotia. Eddy went on to Philadelphia and addressed himself to the Continental Congress with no better result. He returned to Nova Scotia in May and made his discouraging report to Allan. As last resort the group resolved to try an appeal to the government of Massachusetts. With a view to strengthening their case, they secured a list of persons who pledged themselves to join an invading army. Eddy, Howe, Rowe, and Rogers departed to Boston with this document, Eddy bringing away his family also. In the meantime in February a rumor spread in Chignecto that the American army had recaptured Bunker Hill. Allan’s friends procured a chaise with six horses, postillions and a flag of liberty, and drove about the isthmus, proclaiming the news and the blessings of liberty. But the people did not stir; and Allan remained quiet, waiting the result of the appeal to the Americans.”

Kerr, Wilfred Brenton, 1896-1950. The Maritime Provinces of British North America And the American Revolution. Sackville, N.B.: Busy East Press, 1941.

Explosion of Munitions at Magazine near Dartmouth

“Explosion of munitions at Magazine near Dartmouth, Halifax N.S. July 18-19/45. J. Hayward. 11 Buckingham St. Halifax.”

“Explosion of munitions at Magazine near Dartmouth, Halifax N.S. July 18-19/45. J. Hayward. 11 Buckingham St. Halifax.”

A pocket guide book of historic Halifax, Nova Scotia, from the Citadel

“Commander of the Tallahassee… was J. Taylor Wood, a nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In after years Captain Wood resided at Halifax. See his grave at Camp Hill cemetery. He died in 1904.

In a bay around the bend from Imperoyal, American naval aircraft were based during World War I. Among men there was Admiral Richard E. Byrd of Antarctic fame.

(The site for) Nova Scotia Hospital (was) chosen in 1856 by Miss Dorothy Dix, American philanthropist interested in mental diseases.

Near rural Woodlawn… there came in 1815, a young Scottish schoolmaster named James Gordon Bennett. He afterwards founded the New York Herald. At Preston, Sir John Wentworth, Governor of Nova Scotia had his summer estate. A native of Wolfboro, N.H., he had been governor of New Hampshire before the Revolution.

St. Matthews’s United Church…is a continuation of those who set up a Dissenter’s Meeting House near 184 Hollis Street at the beginnings of Halifax. Their first minister from 1750 to 1751 was Rev. Aaron Cleveland, great-grandfather of President Grover Cleveland.”

Martin, John Patrick. “A pocket guide book of historic Halifax, Nova Scotia, from the Citadel” Halifax, N.S. : distributed by the Tourist and Travel Department of the City of Halifax. 1949.

The Only Authentic Map of the City of Halifax and Town of Dartmouth

A noteworthy map since it shows Dartmouth Bus routes, seven of them (#1 Eastern Passage, #2 Imperoyal, #3 Tuft’s Cove, #4 Austenville, #4A Brightwood, #5 Cole Harbour, #6 Port Wallace); operated by Bell Bus Lines at the time.

Among the public buildings, institutions, hospitals etc. noted in Dartmouth: (“Letter and first number give cross location channels. Second number will be found in small black squares for closer location“)

Bus Terminal, Bell Busses Ltd., Queen at Commercial Streets (F6 I), Nova Scotia Hospital (F4 23), Post Office (G6 59), Town Hall (G6 58).

Florist: 64 Portland Street (F8 RN), Hotels: Belmont Hotel, 7-9 Ochterloney Street (F6 MT), Theatres: Mayfair (G6 MT) and Dundas (G6 DT), Utilities: Maritime Telegraph & Telephone Co. Ltd., Harbor Exchange, 32 Wentworth Street (G6 CC), Nova Scotia Light & Power Co. Ltd., 35 Commercial Street (F6 EE)

Street Index:

Albert (G6), Albro Lake Rd. (G8), Allenby (H5), Allison (G5), Antigonish (H4)

Banook (H6), Bedford (F8), Beech (G6), Best (F7), Bligh (F7), Blink Bonnie (H5, G5), Boland (G7), Bolton (H6), Brenton (H5), Brodie (F8), Brookisde (F8), Byng (H5)

Cameron (G5), Canal (G6), Chappell (G8), Church (F6, G6), Cleveland Cres. (H7), Columbus (H7), Commercial (F6), Chrichton (G6), Cunard (G6), Curry (H5)

Dahlia (G6), Dawson (F7), Dickson (F7), Dominion (F8), Dundas (G6)

Eastmount (H5), Eaton (G6), Edward (G6), Elliot (H6), Elmwood Ave (F8), Erskine (G6), Esdale (sic) (G5), Essen Rd. (G4)

Fairbanks (F7), Faulkner (F7), Fenwick (G4, H4), Ferry (G5), Foch (H5)

Gaston (H4), Geary (F6), George (F7), Green (G6), Green Rd. (Cemetery) (G7), Grove (F8)

Haig (Maynard’s Lake) (H5), Haig (off Wood) (F8), Harbour (G5), Hare (F7), Harvey (G5), Hastings (H5), Hawthorne (G6, H6), Henry (F8), Hester (F8), Howe (F8)

James (H6), Jamieson (F8), Joffre (H5), John (F7), Johnstone (G4)

King (G6), Kitchener (H5)

MacKay (H5), Maitland (G6), Maple (G6), Mayflower (H7), Maynard (H5), Morrow (G8), Mott Lane (G5), Mott (F7), Myrtle (G6)

Newcastle (G5), North (F6, G6), Nowland (H6)

Oak (H6, H7), Oakdale (H7), Oakland (H7), Ochterloney (F6, G6), Old Ferry (G5)

Park Ave. (G6), Park Lane (G6), Parker (G5), Pelzant (F7), Pershing (H5), Pine (G6), Pleasant (G5), Portland (F6, G6, H5), Prescott (G5), Prince (G6), Pr. Albert (G6, H6)

Queen (F6)

Rodney (H5), Rose (G7), Russell (G8)

School (G7), Silver (H6), Sinclair (H6), South (F6), Summit (H5), Sunny Brae (H5), Symonds (G8)

Thistle (G7), Thompson (G6), Tulip (G6), Tupper (G5), Turner (F6)

Upper Water (F7)

Victoria (G6, G7)

Wallace (F8), Whebby Ter. (G6), William (F7), Windmill (F7, F8), Woodland (G8), Wyse (F7, G8)

“The Only Authentic Map of the City of Halifax and Town of Dartmouth, NS”, Maritime Merchant Ltd, 1949.

Development of Local Government in Nova Scotia

“The basic governmental structure, as it exists to-day, was completed in 1923 with the passing of the Village Supply Act and more recently in 1925 when provision was made for communities. While cities, towns and municipalities constitute the basic units of local government, with villages and communities of lesser importance, a wide variety of governmental organizations perform functions in local areas. Some of these are properly described as units of government, others as types of governmental organization. Still others are merely administrative mechanisms controlled and operated by one or more governmental units.

At the present time the law provides for twelve distinct types of governmental organizations or entities for the performance of certain specific or general functions with the power to raise revenue by taxation or incur expenditures against a particular district. Their geographical and political interrelationship is such that the powers of cities and towns are mutually exclusive from those of the municipality, and in some cases county, of which they constitute an integral geographical part.

But, while only the council of a city or town has power to raise revenue by taxation within that area, the inhabitants may in certain circumstances be brought within the jurisdictional area of either a Joint School Board or a County Board of Health, or both. Nine distinct types may be established to function within the area of a municipal unit. In addition to the municipal government, the law provides for the compulsory organization of school sections, poor districts, fire districts, health districts and for the permissive organization of villages, communities, a County Health Board and either a municipal or a Joint School Board. While the maximum number which must be organized is four, only three have direct tax raising power the municipality, the village and the school section.”

“Development of Local Government in Nova Scotia”, McAllister, G. A. 1943. Public Affairs: A Maritime Quarterly for Discussion of Public Affairs, vol.7, no.1.

Dartmouth Services Club, After Fire

Site of the Original Quaker Meeting House, Corner of King and Queen Street (from Left to right looking west towards King, north towards Ochterloney and east towards Queen)

Page 1 of 3
1 2 3