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Joseph Howe by Rochelle Ward


Joseph Howe was one of the most important politicians in Nova Scotia history. He accomplished more in his lifetime than most people will ever dream of. Howe was an editor of the Halifax newspaper the "Novascotian" or the "Colonial Herald" and premier of Nova Scotia. He was the most beloved politician of all times, a lawyer, on top of all that he helped bring together a country. Howe was "Considered one of the finest journalists, orators and politicians in the British Empire. He established freedom of the press and speech in the over seas British Empire in province House." (Some Famous) To Nova Scotia Howe symbolizes devotion to self-government and joining Canada in 1867.

Sir Joseph Howe was born on December 13, 1804, in a small cottage on the Northwest arm of Halifax. All of the other children in Joseph’s family were much older. He was born as a blessing to all Nova Scotia's at this time. "Only seven days earlier, in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, Napoleon had arrogantly snatched the crow of France from the Pope and placed it on his own head." (Percy, 1) Napoleon was then planing to invade England.

His father John Howe from Boston, was a Loyalist journalist where he held many years the office of King’s Printer and postmaster General for he Maritime Provinces. John Howe taught Joseph references from the Bible and from Shakespeare, he also taught him of the New England colonies and the American Revolution, as well other problems of American people. Joseph Howe’s father had a huge influence over his life, but his father only lived long enough to see him win the famous libel suit of 1835. Winning this gave Howe his reputation as an orator and helping freedom of the press.

Schools during the time when young Joseph was growing up were very few, but when he was 13 he went to get some real education; he began to work for his father at the print shop. He often put in up to fifteen hours of work for his father at the print shop. He did hard work with heavy machinery, this did not bring him down though, he still teased and played with the other workers, this often made his father mad, once he made a man so mad that he quit.

In 1824 Joseph was 20, he was energetic and well known around Halifax, he was always dressed well in fashionable clothing. He was curious and full of life, he had friends everywhere he went. He often went out to bat and ball games much like tennis. This social life that he had was not enough for Joseph. Howe would study history on his own and practice French regularly, "he believed that any man or women who cared about culture ought to speak both languages." (Hill,27) Howe loved to read classics, of poetry and plays, he attended many lectures and concerts. He also liked to keep himself in good shape by regular riding, boxing, fishing and hunting. He was never content. He wrote to his step sister Jane "If only I could be content, to go along and peaceably like my neighbors and at the end of some fifty or sixty years tumble into my grave and be dust, I should be happy, very happy. But this infernal feeling, whatever it be, still points to something ahead which is viewless and undefined." (Hill,27)

In Joe’s early years he had always been close to his brothers and sisters, especially his sister Jane and Sarah. When Jane married and moved to Saint John, he missed her, then Sarah went to visit and met a man and was married. During this tie Joe missed them dearly and he fathered an illegitimate son, Edward. His enemies would often mention this to make Joe seem like an irresponsible immoral person he was, even though Joe took his parental responsibilities seriously, eventually the mother left Edward in his care. It may have been the birth of his son, nut after Edward was left in his care Joe began to turn his energies into business of earning a living. He was his brother’s trusted second and was often left in charge of the "Gazette" and the post office.

During the war Joseph could see the serious financial problems, depression and suffering that was caused be the war. Many people were unemployed and poor, many more would have died if it were not for the many charities in the community. Joseph enjoyed his work at the "Gazette" and the post office but it only took up some of his time, he still wanted to do more with his life. Joe’s father John encouraged him to study law, Joe knew that it would be a good career, and he needed to be able to support a family and settle down. He met a woman named Susan Ann, but her father would not have her to be with the like of Joseph Howe. He thought about going to South America with his sister Sarah, but decided against it. After his sister set sail, Joseph received word that Sarah did not make it. "It was the first hard blow to Joe’s life, a blow which fell even harder on his parents." (Hill,31) Joe was now the last of his large family, his parents were old, so how could he now think of leaving Nova Scotia.

The McNabs Susan Ann’s family, felt bad about Joseph and his family losing Sarah, and knew that their daughter would be happy with Joseph, so they set it up so that in 1827 Joseph Howe along with James Spike, a cousin of the Howes who also worked at the "Gazette" purchased the "Weekly Chronicle", they then changed it’s name to the "Acadian". The McNabs wanted to secure the future of their daughter and they thought that this would be a good way.

Through 1827 Joseph got experience with writing editorials and descriptive sketches, he was also studying problems, history and the government. This still was not enough for him. In the autumn of 1828 he found out that the owner and editor of the "Nova Scotian," a bigger, brighter newspaper was selling the newspaper to study law, Joe decided to look into it. He had no savings and would have to give up his jobs at the post office and at the "Gazette", it would be a big gamble or him. John Howe wrote a letter to the McNabs asking them if they would help Joseph purchase the newspaper, Captain McNab was interested, he also agreed too let Joseph marry his daughter Susan Ann. Later that year Joseph Howe purchased the "Novascotian," or the "Colonial Herald" from a man named George R. Young, who had founded it three years before. Joseph gave up the "Acadian" to devote all of himself to the "Novascotian." Howe put all of his time and energy into building his newspaper until it was by far the leading newspaper in British North America. Joseph traveled all over the province to publish different things, under different titles.

Soon after Joseph and Susan Ann were married they settled in a small house near the shop. Susan and Joseph were very much I love; she helped with the newspaper, and kept his home tidy. Soon after they were married Joe's son Edward came to live with them. They also had ten children of their own. Susan Ann was always happy to help out with the newspaper when Joseph needed her help. Joseph let her work, he thought that it was all right for women to work, this was strange for the time. When Joseph had to go collect money and enroll new subscribers in the summer of 1828, Susan Ann looked after the newspaper.

In 1836 Howe became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia. "In the Assembly, he promoted self-government for Nova Scotia." (World Book,401) He was assisted by able men to build upon the work of the early reformers, through this he became a recognized leader of the Reform party. "Until 1841 he carried on the struggle both in the Assembly and through the columns of the 'Novascotian;' but in that year he disposed of the latter because, as a member of the coalition government under Lord Falkland and speaker of the assembly, he felt that he was not as formerly to discuss question of policy or administration." (Hill,xiv) Within three years he was back in the editorial chair.

In 1843 Howe resigned from the council, he hen bought back the newspaper. He still did a lot of work on council, giving speeches. "Howe himself had spoken of the possibility of colonial union in the past, but he had devoted more attention to the idea of a reorganization of the empire." (Pryke,12)

Howe took up a serious project in 1850 to build an inter-colonial railway, because of this he made a trip to England. He returned in the spring of 1851. He had won, and was able to work through them. It was a lot of work and he had to travel a lot to get funding and convince people that this was a good idea.

Nova Scotia became self-governing in 1848, and Joseph Howe served as premier of the colony from 1860 to 1863. Howe was unsuccessful in his effort to block Nova Scotia from its entry into Canada. In 1869 Joseph joined the cabinet of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first Prime Minister. Macdonald made him secretary of state for the Canadian provinces, later on May 6, 1873 Howe became lieutenant governor if Nova Scotia. Sir Joseph Howe died at his post almost a month later on June 1, 1873.

Joseph Howe led a proud life, always striving to achieve more, he always wanted to do more with his life. He set goals and reached them. He is a man to look up to, a great mentor of all times.



Howe,Joseph. The Heart Of Howe. Toronto,1939.

"Some Famous Nova Scotians."

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

"Canadian Confederation."http://www.nic.bnc.calconfedele-1877.html.


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