“A New and Sparsely Peopled Country”: Attitudes to Immigration in pre-Confederation Nova Scotia
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In the years 1862-1865, the prospect of Confederation was hotly contested in Nova Scotia. Scholars of Canadian Confederation often frame the debate as one that was most taken up by political ideologies and visions of nationhood; however, in this thesis, I challenge this conception of Confederation by demonstrating that the public discourse during the pre-Confederation period in Nova Scotia was deeply concerned with questions of population and colonial settlement; namely, immigration. Using evidence from the Halifax Morning Sun (later renamed The Sun and Advertizer) and the Halifax Citizen, my thesis offers a close reading of debates and discussions taking place in these two colonial newspapers during the lead up to Confederation. This thesis examines the treatment of immigration in the public sphere during the pre-Confederation period through three phases: first, I show how the government of Nova Scotia established the Office of Immigration in 1863, creating a systematized program of immigration, to reify and solidify colonial institutions and assert governmental competence. Secondly, I investigate how this immigration program, and the desire for immigration by the public generally, was so filled with internal conflicts and oversights as to be rendered ineffective. Finally, I demonstrate how Canadian delegates used Nova Scotia’s struggle to recruit immigrants as a selling point for Confederation, and how this possibility also drew much anxiety from these two newspapers in relation to losing Nova Scotia’s population, and with it, its colonial identity. Ultimately, I argue, the debates about Confederation in Nova Scotia were as much about settler-colonialism and demography as they were about political philosophy and state-making.