Nova Scotia Council

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Governor of Nova Scotia Richard Philipps, created the Nova Scotia Council (1720)

The Nova Scotia Council (1720–1758) was the British administrative and judicial body in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Council was also known as the Council of Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Council (prior to 1749) and the Halifax Council (after 1749). After 1749, the Nova Scotia Council was limited to administrative powers and the judicial courts are set separately.

There was no legislative assembly in British-ruled Nova Scotia from the time of the conquest in 1710 until during the Seven Years' War in 1758. The Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations (or simply the Board of Trade) in London through much of the 1750s pressured the various governors in Nova Scotia to establish the 1st General Assembly of Nova Scotia. The lack of civil government with an elected assembly was a drawback to attracting settlers from the older, established colonies of New England where the population was expanding and seeking new lands. New Englanders wanted guarantees that they would have governmental institutions the same as or similar to what they had become accustomed in New England. In 1758 the Board of Trade, anxious to attract settlers to found new townships, ordered Col. Charles Lawrence to hold an election and convene an assembly.[1]

The Nova Scotia House of Assembly was established in 1758 and the Nova Scotia Council became the Upper House until 1838 when it became the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia, which was dissolved 1929.

Historical context[edit]

Since the Conquest of Acadia (1710) and the ratification of the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, British control of Nova Scotia had been erratic and ineffectual, betraying the home authorities’ lack of real interest and a seeming absence of policy. The selection of Richard Philipps as governor for Nova Scotia to succeed Samuel Vetch was part of the British government's plan to regulate the untidy affairs of the province. The senior officer at Annapolis Royal – with the exception of Canso, the only British-occupied part of the province – was expected to govern the colony, extract a binding oath of allegiance from the resident Acadian population, and maintain authority with four infantry companies who had no regimental affiliation. Governing the scattered Acadians effectively from a crumbling fort at Annapolis was difficult.[2]

The members of the Board of Trade and Plantations in London, convinced the government of the need for a change in the methods of running the colony. Philipps pointed out that his appointment would be valueless unless a form of civil government were provided. The final instructions issued in June 1719 reflected Philipps’ views, guiding him to set up a civil government. He arrived in Nova Scotia in April 1720 after wintering in Boston, and created the Nova Scotia Council, consisting of himself and 11 townsmen and officers, and spread the news of his arrival among the Acadians to prepare the ground for the administration of an oath of allegiance. Like Thomas Caulfeild and Francis Nicholson before him, he quickly found that the appearance of power without the substance was of little value in overawing the Acadians. He partially lost the initiative three days after his arrival, when Father Justinien Durand came to the fort with 150 Acadians ". . . as if he meant to appear formidable." Philipps informed them that his instructions were to invite them to take the oath; Durand threatened they would migrate to Cape Breton. Philipps stalled by persuading the Annapolis Acadians to choose six deputies to represent them in discussions on the issue.[2] This occasion is the first recorded formalization of the Acadian deputy system.

Acadian Deputies[edit]

The Nova Scotia Council formalized the Acadian Deputies to represent the interests of Acadians to the Council. The Deputy was more than simply a spokesperson for the community. Sometimes the duty of collecting quit-rents fell to the Deputy.[3] The Deputies were like justices of the peace, drawing much of their authority form the willingness of the community to accept that authority.[4] The number in 1720 started at six, elected in the Annapolis Royal region in 1720, to 24 by the end of the decade: four each for Minas, Pisiquid, Cobequid.

For greater detail of the role of the Acadian Deputy under British rule see Acadia Governance under the British after 1710.

Annapolis Council[edit]

During this period, the Nova Scotia Council served as the only civil court of Justice in Nova Scotia. The court met four times a year for the administration of justice. They sat on the first Tues of February, May, August and November. There were eleven councilors. A quorum required five councilors to be present. The original Council was sworn in for the first time on April 25, 1720. John Adams was not included in the original Council but was sworn in three days later on April 28, 1720.[5]

John Adams went in a company in Sir Charles Hobby's regiment to the capture of Port Royal in 1710, and in Annapolis Adams must have established himself as a trader with Boston very soon after the capture was effected. In the town, as a person of importance, Governor Philipps found him in 1720, and when Philipps organized the council, he soon appointed him one of this board. On the 28th of April, 1720, Adams took his seat on the council, and henceforth until 1740 there was no more active member of the Nova Scotia government than he. In 1725 he was appointed Deputy Collector of the port, and when Col. Lawrence Armstrong, lieutenant-governor of the province, committed suicide, December 5, 1739, Mr. Adams as senior councillor in residence assumed charge of the government. The actual senior member of the council, however, was Paul Mascarene, who had been appointed councillor three days earlier than Adams, and the following March, when Mascarene returned from Boston, where he had been spending the winter, he relieved Mr. Adams of the charge. In a short time, it is said, blindness compelled Adams to relinquish his duties at Annapolis and he then returned to Boston, where we hear little more of him.[6]


Lt Governor Lawrence Armstrong, (1725–1739);

Halifax Council[edit]

Edward Cornwallis - established the Nova Scotia Council at Halifax (1749)

With the founding of Halifax, Edward Cornwallis separated the judicial function from the civil administration.

The first act of Cornwallis' Government, after the organization of the Council on the 14th of July, 1749, was an audience of the three French Deputies, who had come down to meet the New Governor. They were Jean Melanson, from Canard River; Claude le Blance, from Grand Pre, and Philip Melanson from Pisiquid.[9]

Major decisions[edit]

Peace Treaty with Maliseet and Penobscot Tribes (1749)[edit]

On August 15, 1749, that there was a ceremony on the deck of the Beaufort, a transport which then served as Cornwallis' headquarters. Among the signatories were: Hobson, Lawrence, Gorham, Green, Mascarene, and How.

Bounty on the Mi'kmaq (1749)[edit]

At the start of Father Le Loutre's War, on 13 October 1749 on board the Beaufort, Cornwallis along with Council members Horseman, Lawrence, How, Gorham, Green and Salusbury set a bounty for Mi’kmaq scalps.[10]

Peace Treaty with Shubenacadie Mi'kmaq (1752)[edit]

Between September and November 1752, Governor Hopson along with council members Charles Lawrence, Ben Green, Salusbury, William Steele, and Collier negotiated the Treaty of 1752 with Major Jean Baptiste Cope.[11]

Expulsion of the Acadians (1755)[edit]

The table first used by Edward Cornwallis and the Nova Scotia Council (1749), The Red Chamber of Province House (Nova Scotia)

On July 28, Council Members Green, Collier, Cotterell, Rous and Belcher along with admirals Edward Boscawen and Savage Mostyn unanimously decided to expel the Acadians.[12]

Burying of the Hatchet Ceremony (1761)[edit]

Along with Governor Belcher, Richard Bulkley, John Collier, Joseph Gerrish, and Alexander Grant conclude treaty negotiations with the Mi'kmaq with the Burying the Hatchet ceremony (Nova Scotia).


Governor Peregrine Hopson (1752-1753)

Governor Charles Lawrence (1753-1760)

Governor Jonathan Belcher (jurist) (1760-1763)

Lieutenant-Governor Richard Hughes (1778-1781)


The Planters wanted a decentralized government but the Nova Scotia Council prevented this from happening.

19th Century[edit]

Richard John Uniacke and Joseph Howe significantly limited the power the Nova Scotia Council had over the elected House of Assembly.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kenneth S. Paulsen, Ph.D.: The Provincial Election of "1758: The First Vote in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia" in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 156:2 (April 2002)
  2. ^ a b Sutherland, Maxwell (1974). "Philipps, Richard". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. III (1741–1770) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  3. ^ Griffith. E. From Migrant to Acadian, p. (324)
  4. ^ Griffith. E. From Migrant to Acadian, p. (308)
  5. ^ Archibald MacMechan. Nova Scotia Archives III, Original Minutes of His majesty's Council at Annapolis Royal, 1720-1739. McAlpine Publishing Co., Limited, Halifax, N.S., 1908. pp.1-3.
  6. ^ p. 402
  7. ^ Godfrey, William G. (1974). "Philipps, Erasmus James". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. III (1741–1770) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  8. ^ a b Godfrey, William G. (1974). "Hamilton, Otho". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. III (1741–1770) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.  He was the father of Captain John Hamilton who was taken into captivity and later involved in the removal of the Acadians at Annapolis.
  9. ^ "History of Halifax City by Thomas Beamish Akins"
  10. ^ "A History of Nova Scotia, Or Acadie" by Beamish Murdoch, p.162
  11. ^ "Selections from the public documents of the province of Nova Scotia" (Atkins. 1869) pp. 671-686
  12. ^ "A History of Nova Scotia, Or Acadie" by Beamish Murdoch, p.284
  13. ^ Pincombe, C. Alexander (1974). "How, Edward". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. III (1741–1770) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  14. ^ "Selections from the public documents of the province of Nova Scotia" (Atkins, 1869) p.570
  15. ^ Hamilton, William B. (1974). "Collier, John". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. III (1741–1770) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  16. ^ "Selections from the public documents of the province of Nova Scotia" (Atkins, 1869) p.256 footnote
  17. ^ "Selections from the public documents of the province of Nova Scotia" (Atkins, 1869) p.572
  18. ^ Alexander Grant, Esq. of London who moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1760. He apparently received an appointment as Indian Commerce Contractor for Canada and as Agent Victualer to His Majesty's Ships at Halifax. I have also found a vague reference to him being a member of His Majesty's Council of Nova Scotia from which point he was referred to as the Hon. Alexander Grant Esq. Alexander returned to London about 1766.
  19. ^ "DCB - PERLEY (Pearley), ISRAEL"

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