A major highway that was to start in Kings County and run through the Annapolis Valley may have had a military purpose, says Canning historian Ivan Smith. After examining information published in this column on the Six Rod Road and searching various government websites, Smith concludes that the highway may have been conceived to facilitate troop movement.
“I’m developing a theory about the Six Rod Road; that it was planned as a defense against invasion by the United States,” Smith writes. “In the (material) I sent to you last week the earliest reference is dated 1854. This was just 40 years after the end of the War of 1812, when the USA tried to conquer all of British North America (and came closer to succeeding than seems to be now realized).
“In the 1850s there must have been considerable concern, even anxiety, that the USA might try again to invade British North America. From the point of view of the US government, the 1850s was a good time for such a venture. Britain was distracted by serious difficulties in Europe and Asia –the Crimean War 1853-56 and the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857 were symptoms of the serious problems then faced by Britain in far-away lands.
“There were several attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria: one in 1840, three in 1842, one in 1849, and one in 1850. In the 1850s the British government was very sensitive to the real possibility of another, possibly successful, attempt. All by itself, this was a significant distraction.
“The very serious Oregon Boundary Dispute of 1849 is an indication of the deep antagonism felt by many on both sides. In 1848-49, anti-British feeling in the United States was running high over the Oregon Boundary problem. Great Britain and the United States were close to outright war. The Astor Place riot erupted on May 10, 1849, in New York City. Before it was over, 23 people were dead and dozens more were wounded. Anti-British sentiment was a significant factor in triggering the riot. There was a strong feeling among many US citizens that the time had come to conquer the vast territory on their northern border.
“Taking all this together, it seems clear that, in the late 1840s and early 1850s, powerful people in the US government were conscious that now was a great opportunity to invade British North America. If they started by taking Nova Scotia, they could block any reinforcements sent from Britain and then could conquer New Brunswick, and Lower and Upper Canada, at their leisure
“Of course, the government and military authorities of Britain and Nova Scotia knew all about this. It seems to me the Six Rod Highway could have been planned as a way to get soldiers quickly and in force from Halifax to Annapolis, if there was an invasion.
“Might it be argued that if the US had not itself been distracted by the very serious internal disputes in the 1850s over slavery and its extension to the new western territories of Kansas and Nebraska that led in 1861 to the US Civil War, they would likely have mounted an invasion of British North America?”
Mr. Smith concludes that this “is all supposition,” adding that “it is interesting to note that the last Nova Scotia budget item mentioning the Six Rod Highway is dated 1858. After that year there was no need to defend Nova Scotia against a possible invasion from the United States.”