Why Nova Scotia Failed to Join the American Revolution

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Abstract: This essay discusses why Nova Scotia failed to join the American Revolution. It discusses the social, political, economic, geographic, as well as religious factors that led to Nova Scotians’ lack of attachment to revolutionary ideology in the colonies.

During the time of the American Revolution, Nova Scotia was geographically on the northeastern frontier of Massachusetts. No geographical feature separated Nova Scotia from Maine, which meant that the Canadian province was very much a part of the Massachusetts colony. The question remains, therefore, why Nova Scotia failed to join the American Revolution in 1776. There were, after all, many new Englanders in Nova Scotia, and it remains a serious question as to why they did not feel a sense of obligation and connection to their counterparts in the American colonies. The answer to this question lies in the social, political, economic, geographic, as well as religious circumstances in the colony. Overall, Nova Scotians were simply not physically or emotionally attached to the colonies. It is important to begin this discussion by pointing out that economic factors tied Nova Scotia closer to Britain than to the other American colonies. English fishing, for instance, was worth very much money and Nova Scotia was dependent upon it. Moreover, grants from England also kept Nova Scotia in a needy predicament. In other words, the country was in no position economically to support -- or join -- the Revolution. Without the revenue from English fishing and money, Nova Scotians would simply have had to face many difficult circumstances. As a result, economic factors played an important role in Nova Scotians’ reluctance to join the Revolution. (Rawlyck, p.220) There was also a void in Nova Scotia in the context of nationalist identity. Nova Scotians did not real feel a sense of nationalism, in the sense that they wanted to stand up for “their rights.” More than anything else, they wanted to stay out of international conflict. This reality was connected to the fact that Nova Scotians did not really develop any kind of Revolutionary ideology, nor did they feel inspired by it. (Rawlyck, p.221) Indeed, the revolutionary spirit had not reached the colony during this period. One of the significant facts connected to this phenomenon was that Nova Scotia had a population of only about 20,000 citizens during this period, seventy five percent of whom were New Englanders who felt very strong ties to Britain. (Clarke, pp.62-63) Nova Scotians, therefore, were very reluctant to fight against a place that they still considered home. As historian W.B. Kerr has pointed out, there was almost no “nationalist sentiment” among the New Englanders in Nova Scotia, and because of this there was very little support for the revolution. Even though there was a sympathy for some of the principles of the Revolution, Nova Scotians could not get riled up because of a lack of nationalism. (Rawlyck, p.221) In other words, Nova Scotians did not feel the same nationalistic feelings that the colonists did in the south. Without a sense of strong identity, a support of and involvement in the Revolution became very unlikely. This reality was compounded by the fact that many of the former New Englanders in Nova Scotia had left New England for a reason. Many New Englanders in the colony, for instance, did not feel very much attached to Massachusetts. Overall, Nova Scotia was fragmented. Because of this, the wave of republican ideology which was swarming throughout the thirteen colonies had little effect on the people of Nova Scotia. In other words, Nova Scotia was isolated, especially in an ideological and nationalistic sense, from the circumstances in the colonies. While the colony may have been close to the events geographically, it was isolated in a social sense. Geography was also a complicated issue. In many respects. The geographical nature of Nova Scotia gave the people no choice but to remain neutral during...
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