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Emancipation vs. Equity: Civic Inclusion of Halifax Catholics, 1830-1865.

Abstract: One of the best known facts in the story of Nova Scotia Catholicism is that Emancipation from penal laws and civil disabilities was achieved with remarkable ease. Beginning in the 1780s, incremental measures of relief gave Catholics the right to purchase and inherit land, operate schools, and vote in provincial elections. In 1823, Catholic merchant Laurence Kavanagh was permitted to take his seat in the Assembly without swearing the Declaration against Transubstantiation. In 1830, following the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act in Britain, the Nova Scotia assembly passed an equivalent bill, confirming in law what had already been granted in practice. However, Emancipation by itself did not lead immediately to equitable treatment in public life. While no longer formally excluded from office, Catholics frequently felt under-represented or ignored. Genuine advances therefore were achieved against a background of mounting complaints about persistent inequities. Grievances covered a wide range of areas, including electoral politics, appointments to public office, jury selection, and support for education. This paper examines the principal obstacles in the way of genuinely equitable treatment and traces the steps by which these obstacles were largely overcome.

Resume: Un des aspects les plus connus de l'histoire du catholicisme neo-ecossais est que l'Emancipation des lois penales et des infirmites civiles fut accomplie sans grande difficulte. A partir des annees 1780, des mesures progressives d'exoneration donnerent aux Catholiques le droit de se procurer la terre et d'en heriter, de dinger des ecoles, et de voter lors des elections provinciales. En 1823, le marchand catholique Laurence Kavanaugh acquit le droit de prendre son siege dans l'Assemblee sans preter le serment de la Declaration contre la Transsubstantiation. En 1830, suite a l'adoption de l'Acte d'emancipation catholique en Grande-Bretagne, l'assemblee neo-ecossaise passa un projet de loi semblable, ainsi confirmant legalement ce qui sefaisait deja sur le plan pratique. Toutefois, l'Emancipation en soi n 'aboutit pas immediatement au traitement equitable dans la vie publique. Bien qu'ils ne fus sent plus exclus d'etre enfonction, les Catholiques se sentaient sous-representes ou ignores. Des progres reels furent done realises dans un contexte de recriminations croissant es a propos d'inegalites continuelles. Les griefs couvrirent un large eventail de domaines, dont la politique electorate, les nominations a la fonction publique, la selection des jures, et le soutien de l'instruction publique. Cette communication examine les principaux obstacles qui empechaient un traitement veritablement ethique et decrit les etapes au moyen desquelles ces obstacles furent en grande partie surmontes.


One of the best known facts in the story of Nova Scotia Catholicism is that Emancipation from penal laws and civil disabilities was achieved with remarkable ease. These laws date from the establishment of the Nova Scotia Assembly in 1758. The Assembly, elected on a franchise that excluded "Popish recusants," almost immediately passed measures prohibiting Catholic priests from exercising their powers within the colony and preventing Catholics from acquiring land by deed or inheritance. A few years later, another act stipulated that Catholics were not permitted to operate schools. These measures closely mirrored legislation then in effect in Great Britain and Ireland, and reflected a broader agenda of bringing the laws and institutions of Nova Scotia into conformity with those of the mother country. Beginning in the 1780s, however, incremental measures of relief were granted to the Catholics of Great Britain and Ireland, and Nova Scotia followed suit. By 1789, Catholics priests could serve legally in Nova Scotia, and Catholics could purchase and inherit land, operate schools, and vote if they met the property qualification. They were not yet eligible for election to the Assembly, but the reunification of Cape Breton with Nova Scotia in 1820 was followed by a successful challenge to this remaining barrier. In 1823, a Catholic merchant, Laurence Kavanagh, having been duly elected as one of two representatives for Cape Breton, was permitted to take his seat in the Assembly. (1)

This breakthrough was made possible by the willingness of the Assembly, supported by the tacit consent of Governor Kempt, to waive the requirement to swear the obnoxious Oath against Transubstantiation. In fact, the Assembly was prepared to go further and admit any Roman Catholic elected thereafter on the same terms. The Legislative Council, however, refused to agree. Meanwhile, the Catholic population had grown significantly due to increased immigration following the Napoleonic Wars. In Halifax alone, the 1827 census showed that Catholics comprised about a quarter of the population (3,627 of a total population of 14,443), (2) and lay leaders had emerged to campaign for complete emancipation from civil disabilities. In 1827, a petition signed by 1,000 Roman Catholic inhabitants asked the Crown to remove the test oaths as a requirement for membership in the House and appointment to certain offices. John Garner has described this as the "first overt political act of the Irish [Catholic] population of Halifax." (3) The Assembly endorsed the petition and passed a resolution that would have granted the request. The Legislature was prevented from implementing the act until an equivalent law was passed in the United Kingdom in 1829, but the final Catholic Emancipation Act of Nova Scotia followed the next year. (4)

The admission of Laurence Kavanagh to the Nova Scotia Assembly and ensuing events were momentous developments, whose significance extended far beyond the borders of Nova Scotia. As Karly Kehoe has argued, Catholic Emancipation, with Nova Scotia in the vanguard, entailed an amended and expanded definition of British citizenship, one that saw no inherent conflict between Catholicism and Britishness. (5) By 1830, all legal obstacles had been removed to Catholic participation in politics, the professions, and (with a few exceptions) civic offices. In Nova Scotia, Catholics gradually took advantage of their new freedom by entering the practice of law, running for election to the Assembly, and accepting appointments to the Executive and Legislative Councils. However, without detracting from the importance of this change, it is also important to recognize that Emancipation by itself did not lead automatically or immediately to equitable treatment in public life. The focus on Emancipation as a decisive turning point should not be allowed to obscure the process of gradual empowerment that unfolded over the ensuing decades. This paper examines some of the principal obstacles in the way of this process and traces the steps by which they were largely overcome.

Progress was often slow. While no longer formally excluded from office, Catholics frequently felt under-represented or ignored. In some cases, this was due to deliberate exclusion, while in other instances Catholics were simply overlooked or taken for granted. Genuine advances, therefore, were achieved against a background of mounting complaints about persistent inequities. Grievances covered a wide range of areas, including electoral politics, appointments to public office, jury selection, and support for education. These issues intersected with the shifting political allegiance of Catholics, as they transferred their support from the Reformers to Conservatives; and controversy was exacerbated by rising sectarian tensions in the 1840s and 1850s. But the demand for fairer treatment in public life is not subsumed under either of these topics. Catholic complaints were directed against "pretended friends" as well as "dastardly enemies." (6)

The most vociferous demands for more equitable treatment of Catholics came from the mostly Irish Catholic community of Halifax and it is from their point of view that the issues are examined here. Still very much an immigrant community, Halifax Catholics were deeply influenced by the ongoing struggle for civil rights among the Catholics of Ireland. Linked to the homeland through newspaper reports, travellers, personal correspondence, and branch membership in nationalist organisations such as the Repeal Association, they quickly came to see that Daniel O'Connell was right in describing Emancipation as a beginning not an end. (7) Irish Catholic newspapers in the capital, such as the Cross, the Register, and the Halifax Catholic, became important outlets for airing grievances and promoting reform. (8) Bishop William Walsh, though disavowing partisanship, (9) joined Catholic politicians such as Laurence O'Connor Doyle in denouncing injustices and prejudice. (10) While they approached the issues from a decidedly Irish point of view, their concern extended beyond their ethnic community to other Nova Scotian Catholics, including Acadians but especially their fellow British immigrants from Scotland. Relations between Irish and Scottish Catholics in Nova Scotia were often strained but this did not prevent Irish spokesmen from citing the experience of their co-religionists as proof of discrimination.

The direct participation of Catholics in the Nova Scotia government in the generation following Emancipation illustrates both the extent and the limits of change due to the removal of civil disabilities. In 1832, a Catholic, James Tobin, was appointed to the Executive Council for the first time. In 1838, when the Council was divided into Executive and Legislative branches, his brother, Michael, succeeded him on the Executive Council and served for three years, while James was given a seat on the Legislative Council until his death later that year. In 1841, Michael took James' place on the Legislative Council. The Tobins were merchants and very influential in both the business and Catholic communities, but until 1843, when Edward Kenny joined Michael Tobin on the Legislative Council, there was never more than one Catholic on either Council. At most, they held one of six seats on the Executive and two of 18 seats on the Legislative Council. For six years, beginning in 1841, the Executive Council had no Catholic member. Census figures from 1851 leave no doubt that Catholics were under-represented on both Councils, as by that date they comprised a quarter of Nova Scotia's population. (11) Even if Catholics were less numerous in the affluent class of persons likely to be appointed to government, finding more than two suitable Catholic candidates for the Legislative Council and more than one for the Executive Council would not have been difficult.

The overt commitment of most Catholics to the Repeal of the Union of Ireland with the United Kingdom greatly exacerbated the problem. The cause of Repeal smacked of disloyalty, and both the Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley, and Lieutenant-Governor Falkland opposed the appointment of its advocates or sympathisers to the Councils. This issue came to a head when three prominent reformers--Joseph Howe, James Boyle Uniacke, and James McNab--resigned from the Executive Council in protest over Falkland's appointment of Mathers Byles Almon, a Conservative without any legislative experience, (12) to the Executive and Legislative Councils. Falkland wished to replace them with other Reformers to balance the Conservative members and avoid any hint that he was accepting party government and, by inference, responsible government. But he was at a loss to do so without men linked directly or by association with Repeal. (13) When he appealed to Stanley for guidance, the Colonial Secretary replied:
   I have received your despatch of the 1st Feb. [1844] on the subject
   of the appointment to the Executive Council of Nova Scotia of
   Gentleman holding opinions favourable to the Repeal of the Union
   between Great Britain and Ireland. The question which your Lordship
   has proposed to me admits of a ready and immediate answer. I have
   not the slightest inclination to interfere with any man's private
   opinions but I cannot take it upon myself to sanction the
   appointment to office under the Crown of any person who belongs to
   or aids the Repeal agitation in Ireland. (14)

The situation did not improve until the late 1840s by which time Daniel O'Connell had died, the Repeal movement had lost momentum, and responsible government had triumphed in Nova Scotia. By 1849, Halifax Catholics of Irish birth or descent occupied two seats on each of the Councils, (15) and Michael Tobin was named President of the Legislative Council. Tobin held that position until 1856, when it passed to his Catholic colleague, Edward Kenny.

The progress of Catholics in the Legislative Assembly followed a similar pattern of slow growth. In Halifax, where the Catholic portion of the population had grown to one-third (approximately 7,000 of 21,000), (16) no Catholic was elected to the House until 1843 (fourteen years after Emancipation), when Laurence O'Connor Doyle gained one of the two seats for Halifax County. Even then, his nomination came only after the Catholics threatened to abstain from the election to the detriment of the Reformers if they overlooked him. (17) The close association of Catholics with the campaign for Repeal also figured in this controversy, for a number of Reformers wished to avoid the taint of disloyalty while also staving off undue Catholic influence over their party. (18) Faced with an open revolt among Catholic supporters, William Annand, a leading Reformer, reluctantly stepped aside in favour of Doyle.

Cape Breton, with its population of Acadians, Scottish and Irish immigrants was a potential stronghold for Catholic politicians. Yet in the 1847 election, Cape Breton returned four Protestants and only two Catholics for its six seats. (19) In Cape Breton such an imbalance was not seen as problematic. The prevailing concern was to have strong advocates for the island's pressing material needs, and ethnic ties made Scottish Presbyterian candidates quite acceptable to Scottish Catholic voters. (20) For Halifax Catholics, especially in light of rising anti-Catholic sentiment, it was another matter. Proximity to the centre of government and the growth of a strong mercantile and professional elite made them determined to secure a share of political power. The influence of Ultramontanism, vigorously promoted by Archbishop Walsh, fostered an expansive and assertive attitude, compared to which the accommodating approach of the Cape Breton Scots seemed timid and complacent. The Cross asked pointedly why Catholics should continue to support Protestant candidates, when Protestant ridings never elected Catholics. "When will Catholics open their eyes to their humiliating and ignominious position? When will they refuse to become accomplices in their own degradation?" (21) In its next issue, the Cross published an article decrying the fact that the current distribution of seats meant that Cape Breton was seriously under-represented in the Assembly, the inference being that this injustice was due to its large Catholic population. (22)

The lack of reciprocity on the part of Protestants became a recurring theme in Catholic commentaries. In 1854, when a seat normally reserved for Cape Breton became vacant on the Legislative Council, the Halifax Catholic insisted that a Catholic should be appointed. To complaints from Protestants that an ostensibly religious publication should not meddle in politics, the editors responded sharply that they would do so whenever Catholic rights were at stake. "The Catholics," they wrote, "for many years have been the principal means of elevating their fellow citizens to many situations of power, dignity, and emolument. Now, to be candid, we must say that those favours have never been returned." (23)

While inequities in predominantly Catholic districts such as Cape Breton certainly existed, it was simplistic of Catholic spokesmen to attribute them solely to religious bias. The problems were due in large part to structural features of the electoral system. Seats were unevenly distributed largely because of the entrenched double representation enjoyed by freeholders in the older towns. (24) These rights were established long before large-scale immigration of Scottish immigration to Cape Breton took place. At irregular intervals after 1830, new constituencies were added to Cape Breton, but never enough to achieve an equitable balance. (25) By the same token, removing religious barriers to the franchise did not mean that Catholics would qualify to vote in the same proportions as non-Catholics. Except for the ten years between 1854 and 1864, (26) the franchise was based on property. Catholics, who were disproportionately represented among the labouring and tenant classes, were significantly less likely to meet the requirement. In Halifax, Catholics comprised approximately two-fifths of the population in 1843 but only one-fifth of the eligible voters. (27)

Under-representation in positions that depended on appointment rather than election also figured prominently among Catholic grievances. In varying degrees, these appointments carried with them influence and emoluments as well as public recognition of individuals and the religious or ethnic communities that they represented. Catholics complained repeatedly that they enjoyed far less than their fair share of such posts. Tempers flared over this issue as the 1847 election approached. In an effort to woo Protestant Liberals away from the Reformers, the Tories raised the spectre of impending "Catholic ascendancy" in politics. (28) This was one occasion when Irish Catholics cited injustices to their Acadian co-religionists. On 27 February 1847, the Cross decried
   the manner in which the many thousands of French Catholics in the
   Province, the descendants of those primitive settlers who were so
   brutally expelled from their country, are treated in Nova Scotia as
   far as public situations are concerned. Not one Frenchman in the
   Province receives Two Pounds a year in any official situation. And
   yet these worthy Acadians form no small portion of the "usurping
   Denomination." (29)

The Times, a staunchly Conservative paper that first raised the charge of Catholic Ascendancy, added insult to injury by declaring that Catholics should be grateful for the concessions they had already received. (30) In reply, the Cross snapped:
   We were treated as if we had nothing to complain of, as if we got
   more than our fair share of public patronage, as if we ought to be
   grateful for the toleration we received, and chew our bitter cud in
   silence.... The fact is that no Catholic in the province held a
   situation at all, or at least anything that would deserve the name.

What made matters worse was the lack of transparency in how the appointments were made. James McKeagney, the Catholic member for Inverness, called for a return on all paid public offices held by Catholics and Protestants. When this was refused, Patrick Power, member for the County of Sydney, said the figures for Catholics could be obtained by taking a large sheet of paper and writing "0" at the bottom. (32)

Dissatisfaction over patronage appointments became a contributing factor to the rift between Catholics and their Liberal allies. The full story of this rupture has been closely analyzed elsewhere (33) and it is not necessary here to trace the events except as they relate to the Catholic pursuit of equitable inclusion in civic offices. However, an important step occurred in 1856, when James McLeod, one of two Catholic ministers, resigned over what he called a "want of candor" in the making of such appointments. A year later, Catholic Reformers John Tobin and Peter Smyth abandoned the government over the dismissal of William Condon from his position as a customs gauger, after he exposed Joseph Howe's surreptitious recruitment of Irishmen in the United States to fight in the Crimean War. Tobin and Smyth subsequently joined six other Catholics and two Protestants representing Catholic ridings in defeating the Liberals on a non-confidence motion.

The appointment of local magistrates was a particular bone of contention for Catholics. (34) Here as elsewhere, they felt deprived of their fair share, as can be seen in an unsigned letter to the editor of the Cross in 1846. The writer noted that the recent appointment of two Catholic magistrates in Cumberland County was a move in the right direction, but complained that there was no Catholic magistrate in Halifax or Dartmouth, where there were "upwards of ten thousand Catholics." (35) Before the Liberal victory of 1847, the Tories had controlled the appointment of magistrates, who were responsible for drawing up grand jury lists. Bias in the selection process was obvious, as both Reformers and their Catholic allies were for the most part excluded. In January 1845, the Irish Catholic Register complained that while Catholics formed a third of the population of Halifax, and 100 of them were eligible for grand jury service, not a single one of them appeared on the jury list. (36) Because grand juries played a major role in local governance, the exclusion of Catholics severely restricted their role in decisions affecting their communities, while also depriving them of an important symbol of respectability and citizenship.

The role of grand juries in local government became much less important for Halifax after the town was incorporated as a municipality governed by an elected mayor and council in 1841. Yet this change gave new grounds for complaint inasmuch as few Catholics were elected to the council. Edward Kenny, who played a significant role in achieving incorporation, was elected as an alderman and served briefly as mayor in 1842. (37) Three years elapsed before the next Catholic, Daniel Creamer, was elected as a councillor. Creamer was joined by Thomas Ring in 1846, but Creamer's term ended in 1847, leaving Ring as the only Catholic on a council with eighteen members. Not until the 1850s, with the election of Patrick Power, Peter Morrisey, Patrick Donohoe, and others did the number of Catholic councillors begin to approach the Catholic proportion of the population.

Jury selection was also an issue in civil and criminal trials. Complaints on this score were fuelled by the example of Ireland, where in 1844 Daniel O'Connell was convicted of sedition by a Protestant jury. Halifax Catholics and Reformers saw an immediate parallel to the O'Connell case in the trial of Richard Nugent, an Irish Catholic and close associate of Joseph Howe. (38) Nugent claimed that he had been unjustly convicted of libel a year earlier by a packed jury selected by Tory magistrates. The damages awarded the plaintiffs forced Nugent to sell his interest in the Novascotian, principal organ of the Reform party, and even to serve time in jail until the damages awarded were fully paid. (39) Nugent lashed out at the politically biased system that had placed him in such dire straits: "Special juries are admirable contrivances," he wrote, "to punish the conductors of Liberal Journals, especially when the Grand Jury list from which they are drawn is made up almost exclusively of violent and uncompromising Tories." (40)

Dissatisfaction with the jury system continued to mount until 1845, when a large public meeting was held in the Mason's Hall to demand change. The first speaker, the Catholic Laurence O'Connor Doyle, was followed by other prominent Reformers, including Joseph Howe and George Renny Young. Pursuant to resolutions passed at the meeting, Doyle steered a bill through the Assembly that provided for much more transparent selection procedures and resulted in a new and greatly expanded jury list for Halifax. The new list included Irish Catholics and also African Nova Scotians. (41)

The Liberals' electoral victory in the landmark election of 1847 did not immediately end such abuses. The Reformers used their increased authority to dismiss Conservative appointees and replace them with men of their own party. With the reversal of roles, the Conservatives now became the critics, suspecting that juries were being rigged to their disadvantage. (42) Declining confidence in so flawed a system eventually led to successive reforms requiring magistrates to compile jury lists more fairly. Nevertheless, the reforms did not end religious tensions in the courts. Catholics, now more fairly represented on juries, came in for accusations that they were using their role to protect their own from justice. Such charges were most notably made following the violent clash in 1856 between Catholic and Protestant railway workers, known as the Gourlay Shanty Riots. Joseph Howe, the railway commissioner, was then locked in a bitter conflict with Halifax's Irish Catholics. Nine Irish navvies were charged as a result of the incident, but three trials with mixed Protestant and Catholic juries failed to deliver verdicts. This enraged Howe. Famously acquitted by a jury in his 1835 libel case, he now depicted the system as frustrating the course of justice. The British Colonist meanwhile declared that the failure to get convictions meant that Nova Scotia had been convulsed with fear "because Irishmen and Catholics were determined to shield those of their countrymen and creed from the operation of the law." (43)

The controversial issues discussed thus far all relate to access for Catholics to civic offices, whether elected or appointed. A major concern of a different, but equally important, kind centred on Catholic educational rights. Rightly or wrongly, Catholics regarded separate educational institutions, infused with the spirit of their religion, as essential to preserve their identity and collective integrity. Providing for such institutions required that they contend with two key and closely related issues. The first was the right to establish and maintain Catholic schools and a Catholic college; the second was entitlement to a fair share of government educational funding. The success that Halifax Catholics achieved on both these fronts marked a watershed in their quest for civic inclusion.

The idea of establishing a Catholic college in Halifax dates back to 1802, when Edmund Burke was appointed Vicar-General for Nova Scotia. Burke, who was determined to have such an institution, took some preliminary steps towards achieving it. For example, he constructed a building intended to house the proposed college; and he instructed a handful of seminarians in his own household to prepare them for ordination. Not until 1839, however, did St. Mary's College begin classes under the direction of Richard Baptist O'Brien, a secular priest recently arrived from Ireland. (44) One year later, with the help of Reform politicians Joseph Howe and William Young, the college secured a provincial charter and an initial grant of 300 pounds. (45) That assistance should have come from those quarters was somewhat paradoxical, since most Liberals were opposed in principle to denominational colleges, favouring a single non-sectarian institution to serve the province as a whole. But Dalhousie had failed to establish itself as such an institution, and in 1840 the Baptists had set a precedent for denominational colleges by securing a charter and, thereafter, a government grant for Queen's College, soon to be renamed Acadia. This situation, combined with Liberal reliance on Catholic votes, made resistance to the establishment of St. Mary's untenable. Nevertheless, strong support persisted for a single non-denominational college, and in 1849 W. A. Henry made a motion in the Assembly to abolish all grants to denominational colleges. The motion was defeated, but it stirred up fears that the St. Mary's grant was in jeopardy and that it might be forced into a merger with other colleges. The Cross declared in no uncertain terms that Catholics would never be content to merge with "four other sects" in a single institution. (46) Likewise, it took a very firm stand on the government grant:
   We have no exclusive or intolerant claims to set up. We ask no
   better treatment for the Catholic College than shall be shown to
   other existing institutions ..., [but] If St. Mary's be injured or
   destroyed, and any other college be suffered to exist or to receive
   a higher Grant, then and only then we will complain ... (47)

These fears proved unfounded, and St. Mary's continued to receive government support until 1881 when an attempt to create a federated University of Halifax failed and all grants to colleges were suspended. Forced to close for lack of funding, St. Mary's re-opened as a Catholic college in 1903.

The question of Catholic elementary schools was even more central to securing Catholic rights in Halifax. The first Catholic schools in the city were St. Mary's boys' and girls' schools, opened by Bishop Edmund Burke in 1819 and 1820. Like most other schools at the time, St. Mary's schools relied for financial support on a combination of tuition fees, government assistance, and money raised directly or indirectly by voluntary subscription. Almost from the start, the legislature awarded them a grant, which they continued to receive without obvious controversy. (48) Trouble erupted in 1846, however, by which time the Catholics had founded a second parish and opened schools at St. Patrick's in the North End. For three years in a row, they petitioned the legislature for grants for the new schools, only to be rebuffed. (49) Frustration over the denial of their requests brought the whole issue of school funding to the fore. Articles appeared in the Cross complaining not only about the treatment of St. Patrick's schools, but also about the inadequacy of funding for the schools at St. Mary's and the composition of the Boards of School Commissioners, whose responsibility it was to distribute education funding in the various parts of the province. (50) When a petition on behalf of St. Patrick's was referred to the Halifax Board, the Cross declared that given the "complexion of these functionaries," it was well known that "they would not give the Papists a single penny." (51)

Catholic complaints on this and other issues, especially those that appeared in the Cross, sometimes relied on hyperbole or simplistic statements of the facts. In arguing the case for a grant to Saint Patrick's school, for instance, the Cross repeatedly said that Catholics were "approaching one half of the entire population" of the city, (52) when a phrase such as "exceeding one third" would have been closer to the mark. In discussing the underrepresentation of Catholics among school commissioners, the Cross took little notice of the fact that Michael Tobin was one of five members of the Central Board of Education, which oversaw all of the province's commissioners. (53) More fundamentally, however, the statement of grievances with respect to school funding was detached from the context of the times. Legislators were struggling in good faith with ways to achieve urgently needed improvement in elementary education throughout Nova Scotia. Many saw sectarianism as an obstacle that had to be overcome before progress would prove possible. (54) Whether they were right about this or not, reluctance to add the recently founded Saint Patrick's school to the list of denominational institutions receiving government support owed as much to this belief as it did to anti-Catholic prejudice.

Nevertheless, bias against Catholics no doubt played a role. Events in England, including the conversions arising from the Oxford Movement, fanned the flames of anti-Catholic sentiment in the colonies as well as at home. Under the system in effect in the 1840s, Halifax Catholics had legitimate grounds for complaint. St. Mary's schools at this stage received 100 pounds per year, as did five other schools in the city. The fact that all the schools received the same amount created a superficial appearance of fairness. But one-sixth of the total was not, by any accounting, proportionate to the percentage of Catholics in the total population. In 1849, Bishop Walsh organized a meeting of his increased flock to press Catholic claims. (55) Events overtook this initiative because, in 1850 the government replaced individual grants to denominational schools in Halifax with an allocation of 700 pounds, which the school commissioners could distribute according to their best judgement. (56) St. Patrick's took a small step forward under this new arrangement in 1851, when the City School Board awarded it the modest sum of 40 pounds. (57)

The whole question of Catholic education entered a new phase in the 1850s. Until then, all schools in Nova Scotia were essentially private institutions supported in part by government subsidies, and many children received no formal education. Calls for a comprehensive system of common schools as an alternative to this arrangement began as early as 1825, (58) but more than thirty years elapsed before these calls seemed poised to succeed. In 1856, William Young, leader of the Liberal government, introduced a bill that would have established public schools based on compulsory taxation. Young, who had already supported the Catholics in the school grants controversy as well as with the incorporation of St. Mary's, was persuaded by his Catholic colleagues in the Assembly to include a provision for separate schools within the public system. (59) In the months preceding Young's initiative, the Halifax Catholic unequivocally expressed the Catholic position:
   Catholicity and Protestantism are so essentially different that
   they can hardly ever unite, but least of all on such a subject as
   education. We do not desire others to adopt our views, we only ask
   to be left in the enjoyment of our own ... and that ... we
   participate in an equitable distribution of funds to which all
   contribute. (60)

Protestant opposition to the provision for separate schools, combined with resistance to new taxes, forced Young to defer the bill. (61) Catholic disappointment over his backpeddling contributed to their growing rift with the Liberals. In 1857, partly on the strength of Catholic votes, the Liberal government was defeated, and the bill never made it into law.

A free public school system was finally achieved in 1864-1865 by the Conservative government led by Charles Tupper. By this time, the pragmatic and congenial Thomas Louis Connolly had succeeded the more combative William Walsh as Archbishop of Halifax. A political ally of Tupper over the issue of Confederation, Connolly tried to convince him to include separate schools for Nova Scotia in the scheme, but Tupper refused, insisting on common rather than denominational free schools. However, Tupper reminded Connolly that the Council of Public Instruction, which was to oversee the new system, was the province's Executive Council acting under a different name, and that the Council would always include Catholic members, who could safeguard the interests of their community. (62) He also agreed to a special clause in the Common Schools Act which allowed the School Commissioners for Halifax--which by this time included a Catholic priest and two Catholic laymen--to cooperate with the governing body of any existing city school as they saw fit. (63) On the strength of this provision, Connolly was able to negotiate an arrangement for Halifax Catholic schools to be incorporated in the new public system. While this provision applied specifically to Halifax, similar arrangements eventually prevailed in other parts of Nova Scotia with heavy concentrations of Catholic population. (64) The compromise in Halifax was achieved by mutual agreement and, unlike the separate schools of Ontario and Quebec, it did not become a constitutional right under the British North America Act of 1867. Nevertheless, it did become a distinguishing feature of Halifax Catholicism and lasted until the early 1970s, when a cluster of new circumstances led to greater integration.

The achievement of the unique provision for their schools was a milestone in the development of the Catholic community in Halifax. The significance of the agreement on separate schools goes beyond the provision of Catholic education, important as this was. By accommodating Catholic demands on this crucial issue, their Protestant fellow citizens conferred a recognition on their culture that allowed them to feel increasingly secure in Halifax society and less in need of contentious self-assertion. (65) The Catholic approach to education reflected the separatism typical of the Ultramontane ideology which dominated the Roman Church by the mid-nineteenth century. It was equally evident when the Catholics developed other social institutions, from hospitals to orphanages and recreation clubs. But separatism of this kind tended more to peaceful co-existence than to mutual hostility. The determination of Catholics to protect their rights remained strong, but it was pursued from a position of greater strength and in a spirit of increased cooperation.

The gradual pace at which Halifax Catholics progressed between Emancipation in 1830 and the pivotal agreement on separate schools in 1865 was in large measure inevitable. A change in the law could not be expected to lead to an immediate change in behaviour or attitudes. An upsurge in sectarian sentiment in the 1840s and 1850s was an obstacle to progress, as was the fact that Catholic demands became enmeshed with broader political tensions between Conservatives and Reformers. However, advances did occur. Even if their presence in the Executive and Legislative branches did not reflect their proportion of the population, they had established a strong beachhead in government and had demonstrated their capacity to influence elections and help to topple governments. Their demands for a greater share of patronage appointments could not lightly be ignored. Problems with the jury system remained, but Catholics were no longer blatantly excluded. They had achieved a unique and enduring agreement with respect to separate schools. Upward mobility within the Catholic community and the eventual expansion of the franchise meant that more Catholics qualified for the vote. All of these changes were stages in a process rather than a definitive solution to inequities. By the time of Canadian Confederation, however, Halifax Catholics had achieved a very significant measure of civic inclusion. Emancipation had opened the way to this result, but it took the struggles of the ensuing decades for Catholic rights to be firmly established in practice.

(1) John Garner, The Franchise and Politics in British North America, 1755-1867 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968); John Garner, "The Enfranchisement of Roman Catholics in the Maritimes," Canadian Historical Review, XXXIV, no. 3 (September 1953): 203-218; Terrence Murphy, "The Emergence of Maritime Catholicism: 1781-1830," Acadiensis, XXX, no. 2 (Spring 1984): 29-49.

(2) The tabulated results of the census by district were printed in the Novascotian, 3 April 1828.

(3) Garner, "The Enfranchisement of Roman Catholics," 217-218.

(4) Following Catholic Emancipation in the United Kingdom in 1829, Catholics in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick were also made eligible for election to local legislatures. In Newfoundland, a change in 1779 to the Royal Instructions to the Governor had the effect of including Catholics in the general provision for religious toleration. Newfoundland Catholics were admitted to the Assembly from the beginning of representative government in 1832. See Terrence Murphy, "Catholic Emancipation," Gerald Hallowell, ed., The Oxford Companion to Canadian History (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2004), 120.

(5) S. Karly Kehoe, Empire and Emancipation: Catholics in Britain's Atlantic World, 1780-1880 (forthcoming).

(6) Cross, new series, II, no. 11 (14 March 1846).

(7) "How mistaken men are who suppose that the history of the world will be over as soon as we are emancipated! Oh! That will be the time to commence the struggle for popular rights." Daniel O'Connell to Edward Dwyer, 11 March 1829, as quoted in Fergus O'Ferrall, Catholic Emancipation: Daniel O'Connell and the Birth of Irish Democracy, 1820-1830 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1985), 253.

(8) All. three papers were influential, though short-lived. The Cross, whose content was primarily religious, was published between 1843 and 1850. The Register, an Irish nationalist publication, appeared between 1843 and 1845. The Halifax Catholic was published between 1854 and 1857.

(9) Cross, new series, II, no. 36 (5 September 1846).

(10) By his own admission, Walsh wrote many of the articles in the Cross. After he suspended publication due to problems with his health, he complained to Tobias Kirby at the Irish College in Rome that not one of the clergy or ecclesiastical students "assisted me with a single line or even to correct the Proof Sheet." Archives of the Irish College, Rome, Kirby Papers, KIR/1836-61/837, Walsh to Kirby, 16 January 1851. Since articles were unsigned, it is impossible to identify his contributions for certain, but his influence was such that the paper consistently reflected his strong opinions.

(11) Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management [hereafter NSARM]. Journals and Proceedings of the House of Assembly, 1852. Appendix 94, 421. This census lists 256,255 adherents of various religious denominations, of whom 69,634, or 27 percent, are Roman Catholics. The total population of the province is given as 276,117, of whom those identified as Catholics comprise 25 percent. A summary of these census figures is included in Statistics of Canada, IV (Ottawa: I.B. Taylor, 1876), 232, but the numbers given there are slightly different.

(12) See Brian Cuthbertson, Johnny Bluenose at the Polls: Epic Nova Scotian Election Battles, 1758-1848 (Halifax: Formac Publishing, 1994), 82.

(13) National Archives of the United Kingdom [hereafter TNA], CO 217, 186, Falkland to Stanley, [1 February 1844?].

(14) TNA, CO 217,186, Stanley to Falkland, 2 March 1847.

(15) Michael Tobin and Laurence O'Connor Doyle had been appointed to the Executive Council; Michael Tobin and Edward Kenny sat on the Legislative Council.

(16) Archives of the Archdiocese of Halifax [hereafter AAH], St. Mary's Cathedral Fonds, Wardens Minute Book, fols. 108r-109r, where a detailed census of the Halifax Catholic population is reported.

(17) They had already abstained from the City election in protest, a fact that contributed to the defeat of Reformer William Stairs. Cuthbertson, Johnny Bluenose, 78-81. Doyle had represented the town of Arichat from 1833 to 1840 when he withdrew in favour of a French-speaking Catholic candidate, Henry Martell.

(18) Cuthbertson, Johnny Bluenose, 78.

(19) Cuthbertson, Johnny Bluenose, 287.

(20) Peter Ludlow, '"Disturbed by the Irish Howl': Irish and Scottish Roman Catholics in Nova Scotia, 1844-1860," in Irish Catholic Halifax: from the Napoleonic Wars to the Great War, CCHA Historical Studies, 81 [Occasional Paper] (2015): 36.

(21) Cross, new series, III, no. 7 (13 February 1847).

(22) Cross, new series. III, no. 8 (20 February 1847).

(23) Halifax Catholic, I, no. 8 (6 May 1854).

(24) Freeholders in the older towns could vote for both town and country representatives. Brian Cuthbertson, The Evolution of Parliamentary Democracy in Nova Scotia, (accessed on 15 March 2016).

(25) Garner, The Franchise and Politics, 39.

(26) Manhood suffrage was introduced on the initiative of the Conservatives in 1854. It was repealed by the Liberals in 1863, but the Conservatives managed to get an amendment passed that deferred the change until 1864. Garner, The Franchise and Politics, 31-38.

(27) Cuthbertson, Johnny Bluenose, 74. In the 1847 election campaign, an ugly clash took place between Irish Catholic supporters of the Liberals and African Nova Scotian partisans of the Conservatives. The Catholics used blatantly racist language to complain that the small land holdings of the African Nova Scotians entitled them to vote, while many Catholics were excluded. See David A. Sutherland, "Race Relations in Halifax, Nova Scotia, During the Mid-Victorian Quest for Reform," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, new series, 7, no. 1 (1996): 35-54.

(28) At the time, the Reformers were beginning to refer to themselves as Liberals, but both names were commonly used.

(29) Cross, new series, III, no. 9 (27 February 1847).

(30) Times, 30 February 1847, XIV, no. 7.

(31) Cross, new series, III, no. 8 (20 February 1847).

(32) Cross, new series, III, no. 8 (20 February 1847). The Patrick Power referred to here was an Antigonish merchant and member of the House of Assembly from 1843-1847, not the better known Patrick Power, Halifax merchant and member of the federal Parliament following Confederation.

(33) See J. Murray Beck, Politics of Nova Scotia, vol. I, (Tantallon, N.S.: Four East Publications, 1985), 143-145; Cuthbertson, Johnny Bluenose, 303-304; A.J.B. Johnston, "Popery and Progress: Anti-Catholicism in Mid-Nineteenth Century Nova Scotia," Dalhousie Review, LXIV, no. 1 (Spring 1984): 147-163; Terrence M. Punch, "Joe Howe and the Irish," Collections of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, 41 (1982): 119-140.

(34) For the following discussion of magistrates and jury selection, 1 am heavily indebted to R. Blake Brown, A Trying Question: the Jury in Nineteenth-Century Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009).

(35) Cross, new series, II, no.21 (23 May 1846).

(36) Register, V, no. 2 (14 January 1845) and V, no. 3 (21 January 1845).

(37) Terrence M. Punch, Some Sons of Erin in Nova Scotia (Halifax: Petheric Press, 1980), 32; D. A. Sutherland, "Edward Kenny," Dictionary of Canadian Biography (hereafter DCB), (accessed 9 January 2017)

(38) Brown, A Trying Question, 71.

(39) J. Murray Beck, "Nugent, Richard," DCB, VIII.

(40) Richard Nugent, Letter to the Editor of the Acadian Recorder, 32, no. 19(11 May 1844); reprinted in the Novascotian, 5, no. 20 (13 May 1844). The Novascotian, 6, no. 2 (20 January 1845) reprinted the critique of the Grand Jury system from the Register, V, no. 2 (14 January 1845) with the ironic comment that" ... it merely says in civil language what every Irishman has been saying to himself for the last month--that there is nearly as much fairness in the system here as there is in Ireland."

(41) NSARM, Statutes of Nova Scotia. VIII Victoria cap. 1. Brown, A Trying Question, 11. See also, R. Blake Brown, "Three Cheers for Lord Denham: Reformers, the Irish and Jury Reforms in Nova Scotia, 1833-1845," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, vol. 16, no. 1 (2005): 165. Erudit (accessed 30 June 2016).

(42) Brown, A Trying Question, 10.

(43) Halifax British Colonist, 29 November 1859, 2, as quoted in Brown, A Trying Question, 113.

(44) The official name of Saint Mary's University includes the full spelling of "Saint," but in the nineteenth century, "St." was used. For early ventures in higher education in the eastern portion of the province, see James D. Cameron, For the People: a History of Saint Francis Xavier University (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996), 11-16.

(45) NSARM, Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Journals and Proceedings, 1841: 254. The grant was increased to 444 pounds for one year, afterwards lowered to 250 pounds, the same as the amount awarded to Acadia College. The grant is also mentioned in a handwritten report found in National Archives of the United Kingdom, CO 217/178, fols. 284r-286v. On the role of Young and Howe in helping to secure the charter, see J. Murray Beck, "William Young," DCB, (accessed on 10 January 2017).

(46) Cross, new series, IV, 1 (22 January 1848).

(47) Cross, new series, V, no. 8 (24 February 1849).

(48) Sister Francis Xavier Walsh, "The Evolution of the Catholic Public Schools in Nova Scotia," (M.A. thesis, Boston College, 1958), 34.

(49) Sister Francis Xavier, "The Evolution of Catholic Public Schools," 51.

(50) Cross, new series, II, no. 14 (4 April 1846). The St. Mary's schools received 100 pounds a year, divided equally for the salaries of the male and female teachers. The Cross claimed there was currently not "one Catholic Commissioner of Schools, from Halifax to Yarmouth, or from Digby round by Windsor to Halifax."

(51) Cross, new series, IV, no. 13 (15 April 1848).

(52) Cross, new series, II, no. 14 (4 April 1846) and IV, no. 1 (22 January 1848) and V, no. xxx (20 January 1849).

(53) Charles Bruce Fergusson, The Inauguration of the Free School System in Nova Scotia (Halifax: Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Bulletin No. 21, 1964): 15.

(54) Fergusson, Inauguration of the Free School System, 17.

(55) Cross, new series, V, no. 7 (17 February 1849) and no. 8 (24 February 1849). A special committee of the Assembly charged in 1849 with investigating the situation at St. Patrick's school gave the number of students as 800, though it is unclear whether this was the actual enrolment or an estimate of the number of children in the North End eligible to attend the school. See Sister Francis Xavier Walsh, "Evolution of Catholic Public Schools," 51. Firm numbers for St. Mary's School at this time are not available but within a few years of the arrival in Halifax of the Sisters of Charity in 1849, there were approximately 400 pupils in the girls' section alone. See Archives of the Sisters of Charity, Halifax, unsigned and undated typescript.

(56) Fergusson, Inauguration of the Free School System, 20. See also Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Journals and Proceedings, 1850, Appendix 51, 183.

(57) Sister Francis Xavier Walsh, "Evolution of Catholic Public Schools," 51.

(58) Fergusson, Inauguration of the Free School System, 6-9.

(59) Beck, Politics of Nova Scotia, 143.

(60) Halifax Catholic, II, 25 (30 June 1855).

(61) Beck, Politics of Nova Scotia, 143-144.

(62) Sister Francis Xavier, "Evolution of Catholic Public Schools," 60. See also Sister K. Fay Trombley, Thomas Louis Connolly (1815-1876): The Man and his Place in Secular and Ecclesiastical History (Leuven: Catholic Faculty of Theology, 1983), 300-301.

(63) NSARM, Statutes of Nova Scotia. 28 Victoria (1865), cap.29, section 49 (3). For a discussion of this provision, see Sister Francis Xavier Walsh, "Evolution of Catholic Public Schools," 62.

(64) The Sisters of Charity, who established convents in many of these areas, were available as teaching staff. In an undated letter of Archbishop O'Brien of Halifax (18831906) to Msgr. Falconio, Apostolic Delegate to Canada (1899-1902), the Archbishop explained: "In other parts of the Diocese there are five houses of the Sisters of Charity whose inmates teach in public schools. The trustees of the district, as all the people in these places, are Catholics and engage the Sisters. In other places, where Catholics abound, the trustees are Catholic and Catholic teachers are secured for the schools. In this way full nine-elevenths of the Catholic children are attending schools which, whilst not Catholic separate schools, are nevertheless Catholic in tone and free from all possible danger to the Faith." AAH, O'Brien Fonds, O'Brien to Falconio, [c. 1899]. I am grateful to Peter Ludlow for sharing his knowledge of Catholic schools in eastern Nova Scotia, where both the Sisters of Charity and members of the Congregation of Notre Dame staffed schools. In 1877, a similar agreement allowed de facto Catholic schools in Charlottetown and other parts of Prince Edward Island.

(65) On the recognition accorded Catholic culture by Protestants in Halifax, see Judith Fingard, "Seaport City (1841-1871)," in Judith Fingard, Janet Guildford, and David Sutherland, Halifax: the First 250 Years (Halifax: Formac Publishing Company, 1999), 86.
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