REBELLION IN KINGS AND HANTS COUNTY (September 6/02)

“Precisely how much sympathy was felt in (this region) with the Revolution in the New England colonies it is not easy to determine,” Arthur W. H. Eaton writes in his Kings County history.

Eaton continues with an observation that it would have been “perfectly natural if the people of the midland counties of Nova Scotia had sympathised with New England” in its rebellion against the British crown. However, Eaton said, “that such sympathy was outwardly shown” by the inhabitants of Annapolis, Kings and Hants “remains yet to be proved.”

Eaton may be right but at least one historical researcher disagrees. And while he may not conclusively prove there was sympathy for the American revolution, James S. Martell’s 1950s thesis on the Planters provides evidence that it existed in Kings and Hants County; in fact, pro-rebel leanings were so evident in some areas that higher ups in government openly expressed concern and took steps to cement allegiance to the British Crown.

During the American revolution, the “colony of Nova Scotia officially retained its allegiance to the Crown,” Martell writes. But while the majority of Nova Scotians “were passive in their loyalty,” it is a proven fact that “a small minority of tories and a small minority of rebels displayed an open activity.” Of the two regions where Martell found “wavering allegiance,” one was the area now comprising Kings and Hants County.

“It was inevitable that the New Englanders in Nova Scotia should feel a common interest with the American rebels, many of whom were their own kinfolk,” Martell notes in explaining why some Planters might be sympathetic. Both military and government officers felt it might be inevitable as well and the following excerpts I’ve selected from Martell’s paper indicate Kings/Hants was considered a possible trouble area.

On attempts to muster the militia in case American rebels invaded Nova Scotia, Martell writes that “it is not known whether (Lt. Governor) Michael Francklin was referring to some of this number or not (the number of potential militia available in Kings/Hants) when he wrote from Windsor (in 1775) that ‘a great number of the militia of the Bay of Fundy had no inclination to oppose their countrymen in case of an attack’.”

A few month after Francklin wrote his assessment of Fundy militia, all of its officers were required to take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. Martell’s source is provincial archives records which he quotes several times when estimating the effect the American Revolution had on Planters in Kings/Hants. Nova Scotia’s then Governor, Francis Legge, also committed to writing his belief that settlers in Kings/Hants were pro-rebel. Writing of the inhabitants of this area, Legge declared that “by reason of their connection with the people of New England, little or no dependence can be placed there to make any resistance against them (the rebels).”

Governor Legge apparently felt that the only thing keeping the inhabitants of Kings/Hants loyal to the Crown was the presence in the province of large numbers of the King’s troops. In 1775, martial law was declared and Legge made it obligatory for every citizen in the province to take an oath of allegiance.

While the Planters of Kings/Hants eventually proved their loyalty to the Crown, Legge was suspicious of them to the end. Early in 1776, the Governor reported to the provincial council: “I am just informed from Annapolis and Kings County that the people in general refuse to be embodied… None but Troops in pay can be depended upon for defence in these alarming and critical times.”

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