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Joseph Howe: The Man Who Made Nova Scotia



Emily Hiltz


    Joseph Howe was an important figure in Canadian History. He brought forth many ideas to Nova Scotia, which he did with good intentions. He was said to have great independence of mind and unwillingness to tolerate any amount of abuse to him. (Beck, p1)

    From the day he was born his life was already set up for him. (Percy, p1) His father, John Howe, was a very respected and religious man. He made sure that Joseph would be brought up with many ideas to shape Nova Scotia’s future and influence the course of history in the colonies. (Percy, p 2)

    An example of his way to change the history was when the idea of Confederation arose. He was completely against the idea and tried whatever he could to stop it. He tried, as his father had wanted, to change the history of Nova Scotia.

    Howe was brought up in a very political family, who did what he believed to be right. His family joined the "Loyalists" during the American Revolution. They remained loyal to their beliefs. They fled with the Loyalists to the United States. His father was also a very well known person to the Nova Scotians and Joseph followed in his footsteps. (Landry)

    Joseph Howe was very dedicated in his work and cared about what he did. He would travel by foot and on horseback in order to enroll new subscribers to his newspaper to collect money. (Percy, p 11) He was a very friendly person, which helped his business. He took the time to get to know the people while he traveled around selling his newspapers. (Percy, p11) Everyone welcomed and respected him, which helped his ideas to be taken into consideration. Who would not trust a person who takes the time to get to know them? This is why changes were made and his ideas were listened to.

    Joseph Howe wrote in the favor of Mechanics’ Institute. He then studied newspapers on political writings from other countries and he prepared articles and editorials. (Percy, p14) He studied those writings for days at a time to gain knowledge in order to write articles for his newspaper. As he studied the newspapers his articles became more political. (Percy, p14)

    Joseph Howe and his wife worked together like a team. He would go away and do business and she would stay back at home, keep house and send him stuff that he needed. They wrote letters back and forth for many years. These letters mentioned his mood and what was going on around him. (Parks)   

When he got frustrated he would not give up; he would do whatever it took to get things done. He was always very busy because he was writing his articles and traveling miles and miles by horseback or foot everyday. (Parks) This is evidence that he was very ambitious in his work.

    In his letters he wrote about what he did each day and how he was feeling. It was evident in them that he wanted to come home, but work was important. He enjoyed receiving letters from his wife and finding what was happening at home.(Parks, p 14) There is a feeling that was a "home" person. This means that he loved to be at home with his family and friends. This is another example of his ambition. No matter how homesick he got his work was too important to him to give up, so he found other ways to make himself feel more at home.

    Howe was sued for libel because he published a letter that was written by his friend, George Thompson. This letter accused the magistrates and police of Halifax of grievous and long-standing misconduct. It attacked the excessive burden of taxation and the misuse of public money for thirty years. (Percy, p17)

    He was taken to trial and defended himself. He asked many lawyers if his case was defensible. They all assured him that it was not. Another man was sued for this and had to go to jail for two years. He borrowed the lawyers’ books and studied for days to prepare for the trial. He was determined to have a positive outcome. (Percy, p17)

    At the time of this trial Howe was not in a clear state of mind because he had many worries. Howe and his wife were about to have another child, they did not have much money and if he had gone to jail his wife would have no way of earning any money to support the family. (Percy, p18) The result of this trial was positive. He was found "not quilty."

    Before the slander trial, Howe was only known to Nova Scotia as "Mr. Editor" or "young Howe." After it he was known as the Nova Scotian hero who exposed the evils of town government and was responsible for causing half a dozen magistrates to resign. (Hill, p 81)

    The idea of responsible government arose after the trial. Howe became so known that he wanted to do something worthy of the attention he was receiving:

If I met a man in the forest or standing in a shed out of the rain, I have only to say my name and at once they want to shake hands with me. They ask about the trial and about the banks and offer to do me any little service in their power. Please God, if I ever get my hands a little free, I will endeavor to do something much more worthy of all this than anything I have done yet. (Hill, p 81)

This quote, spoken by Joseph Howe, explains how the idea of responsible government arose. It also shows just how respected he really was. He was so known and was even coined " The man who was Nova Scotia". (Hill)

    He knew that he wanted to do something worthy and he knew that Nova Scotia needed a type of "responsible" government. He was not sure about how he would go about it, but he knew he wanted to do this. A Canadian Reformer, named Chapman, suggested that Nova Scotia join British Americans in a demonstration against the family compacts. Howe, since he feared party conflict, suspected the Canadians of having armed revolt in mind. Howe did not want Nova Scotia to be a part of that. He thought that they should join the Colonial Reformers of England. The men in the British parliament were openly sympathetic to the needs of the colonies. (Hill, p 82)

    Joseph Howe was very respected and known person. He accomplished many things and tried to do as much as he could. He wanted to do something worthy of the attention that he received and he did. He is still talked about in schools because he played an important part in Canadian History. He could be defined as a hero to Nova Scotia.



Barkhouse, Murray. Famous Nova Scotians. Nova Scotia, 1994.

Beck, Murray.J. Joseph Howe: Myth and Fact. Nova Scotia, 1982.

Beck, Murray.J. Joseph Howe Anti Confederate. Ottawa, 1968.

Fergusson, Bruce. Joseph Howe of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia, 1978.

Hill, Kay. Joe Howe: The Man who was Nova Scotia. Ontario, 1980.

Landry, Peter. "Joseph Howe".

Leeck, Beverly. "Oh Canada".

Parks, M.G. My Dear Susan Ann: Letters of Joseph Howe to his wife. Newfoundland,


Percy, H.R. Joseph Howe. Ontario. 1976.

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