Nova Scotia Emancipated

Anne Leavitt writes from Halifax to remind me that Nova Scotia was the first colony in British North America to achieve responsible government. Yes! And from Wikipedia I learn that Nova Scotia was the first British colonial possession to achieve it. A plaque in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly reads: “The first Executive Council chosen exclusively from the party having a majority in the representative branch of a colonial legislature was formed in Nova Scotia on 2 February, 1848.”

Responsible government ensures a colony’s emancipation. On 2 February, 1848 Nova Scotia became an independent country. It was no longer a British “possession.” No doubt Nova Scotians had reason to continue cooperating with the world power that was Britain. But that cooperation and the degree of cooperation became a matter for local debate.

Anne notes: “There are none of those mythical “red-tories” in this story at all. The Tories, if we can call them that, are bigoted, intolerant elitists wanting to hold on to power, representing a minority of the population.”

No doubt true. Parties are like that. Responsible government gives us a way of coping with partisan ambition. What is surprising is that George Grant, Gad Horowitz, and others who promulgated the red-tory thesis for so long persuaded Canadians that there was something inherently benign and kindly about oligarchy and absolutism when administered by Tories of United Empire Loyalist descent.

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3 Responses to “Nova Scotia Emancipated”


  1. 1 James W.J. Bowden August 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

    I found a contemporary source (1880s) that corroborates your interpretation that the right of responsible government marks the effective independence of a Crown colony from the UK.

  2. 2 Craig Yirush August 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Which document, James? Effective or de facto independence maybe, but not de jure. And not over foreign affairs.

    Everyone who loves Canadian history should visit the NS legislature in Halifax where the representatives still sit in the same lovely Georgian building as they did in Howe’s day. And there is a stature to the great man in the grounds.

  3. 3 авиабилеты аэрофлот April 17, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the structure of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more
    in the way of content so people could connect with it better.

    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?


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