Geekin’ the 902: Nova Scotia, the Fourteenth Colony

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There’s very little disagreement that Nova Scotia was very close to becoming the fourteenth colony of the U S of A. Many books and papers and websites have focused on it, but the one I’m reading now is “Canadian History For Dummies” by Will Ferguson.

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Ferguson writes that as the American Revolution began, Nova Scotia’s population of 19,000 was about half made up of settlers from the colonies. The so-called “Yankee Nova Scotians.” The Brits thought they would join the fight for sure. But they didn’t. Not out of any deep abiding love for the Brits, but more out of ambivalence. Ferguson identified a few contributing factors:

  • Nova Scotians were mostly scattered around the area, except for the city of Halifax which was a British military base. Communication and coordination was difficult at best.
  • Colonial ships had a bad habit of plundering and privateering NS settlements. This didn’t earn them any love. (Even though the Brits were doing kind of the same thing: swooping in and forcing men into military service.)
  • Ministers urged their flocks to stay “above the fray.” The battle between the Brits and the colonies was framed as the Armageddon, and if Nova Scotians could just stay out of it all their land was certain to become the New Jerusalem. Hey, you can’t lose hope.
  • Governor Francis Legge (the Bossa Nova) made a couple of popular moves on the eve of the revolution. He canceled an unpopular tax and suspended compulsory militia service, two things the citizenry were rather unhappy with. Thus they felt like the Crown was somewhat on their side.

Note though that if NS had become the fourteenth colony, Cape Breton wouldn’t have come along for the ride. At the time it was the property of the French, who called it “Ile Royale.”

But if conditions had been slightly different, Betsy Ross would have had to sew on another star.

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