Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Election Day

It is election day in Nova Scotia. As I am writing this, the polls have closed and I am watching the results as they come in. It looks like Nova Scotia is heading toward its first NDP government but there is still a good deal of vote counting to come. I have a feeling that the winds of change are blowing a gale in Nova Scotia.

I figured that this would be a good time to take a look at one of our historic elections. Perhaps the most bitterly fought election in the history of Annapolis County was that of 1785. To set the stage for the election we must look at what was going on in this region. After the deportation of the Acadians in 1755, the British had begun to repopulate the lands of the Annapolis Valley. Many of those who came to Nova Scotia were third and fourth generation New Englanders who came to this province to claim grants of land. These people have come to be known as the New England Planters. In many ways these people shared the views of their fellow colonists. In fact, there was a strong sentiment in Nova Scotia that this colony should join the other British colonies as an active participant in the American Revolution. The reasons Nova Scotia did not join the Revolution will need to be the topic of another post.

When the Loyalists began to arrive in 1783, they found that the existing population was somewhat hostile to their loyalty to the British Crown. On the other hand, the Loyalists, who were arriving as refugees, felt that many of the Planters were no better than the people they had been fighting against. This made for numerous conflicts. The Loyalist Rev. Jacob Bailey, who was pastor at St. Lukes Anglican Church in Annapolis Royal, expressed a great deal of frustration toward "the Bluenoses" when he arrived for his first posting in Cornwallis (Kentville).

In 1785, the stage was set for an election which pitted an established population against a large new population. By sheer force of numbers the Loyalists had the advantage when it came to voting. In Annapolis Township the established John Ritchie lost to Loyalist Stephen Delancey 80 to 44 votes. Granville Township saw a closer contest. Loyalist Benjamin James defeated Moses Shaw by a mere four votes. The representatives returned for Annapolis County we also Loyalists with both Thomas Millidge and Thomas Barclay being elected. In addition to being Loyalists, all four of these men had been prominent officers within the British ranks.

For the final seat, a bitter and drawn out battle took place between Alexander Howe and David Seabury. The contest broke down with the Loyalists supporting Seabury and the Planters Howe. Amid claims of voting irregularities, the results of a victory by Seabury were thrown out. A second victory by Seabury was thrown out because of an incorrectly kept poll book. Despite two victories among the voters, the Assembly itself had a vote to select who would represent the people of Annapolis. By a two to one margin they chose Howe for the seat. Obviously, this created a great deal of bitterness in the community, especially among the Loyalists who had voted for Seabury. Bitterness over this election lasted for years.

All for now,
RGS

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