Joseph Howe, 1804 – 1873

A.R. Venables, "Portrait of Hon. Joseph Howe", c. 1873, oil on canvas, Nova Scotia Museum History Collection 23.72.

Nova Scotia Legend

Ironic though it is, the first person we profile in this celebration of Nova Scotians after Confederation is the most outspoken opponent of that very Confederation.

Before the 1860s, Joseph Howe was a legendary journalist championing freedom of the press and then a politician leading the fight for responsible government. In addition, he was a travel writer and poet. Regardless of which hat he was wearing, Howe was an ardent Nova Scotia patriot. His particular patriotism, like that of many other Nova Scotians of that era, included a deep attachment to the British Isles.

That imperial patriotism, however, made Howe oppose Confederation. He felt Nova Scotia was going to lose more than it gained by joining a union with the rest of British North America. Truth be told, the majority of Nova Scotians in 1867 felt the same way Howe did. Yet Nova Scotia entered Confederation anyways, moving from being an overseas colony of Great Britain to a province in the new Dominion of Canada.

Howe eventually accepted the new reality, after lobbying that his native province be given better terms. Joseph Howe then entered federal politics, but the fire of his younger days was diminished. With failing health, he left politics to accept an appointment as Nova Scotia's Lieutenant-Governor. It was in that position that the great journalist, patriot and public speaker died. Though long gone, Joseph Howe is still fondly remembered as one of Nova Scotia's most loyal and passionate sons.