Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea? Union Prospects and Deliberative Debate in Nova Scotia’s Public Sphere, 1863-1864
Martin, David C.
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This thesis explores Nova Scotia’s 1863-1864 public union debates and examines the roles of political liberalism and loyalism in the colony’s deliberative public sphere. It argues that these debates were thematically broad, deliberative and sophisticated. The costs and benefits of political union were examined and effective argumentation determined the positions of open-minded and receptive individuals. Though shaped largely by the colonial elite, the debates provide a meaningful example of deliberative democracy in action. Multiple schemes were considered as colonials simultaneously deliberated the consequences of a regional Maritime variant, alongside the wider B.N.A. scheme. Contrary to conventional scholarly wisdom, evidence suggests that a spirited and meaningful assessment of union prospects was indeed had by the colony’s leading citizens. It further indicates that rather than being brandished as conservative and parochial, these deliberative colonists should be appreciated as executors of reflective agency, arbiters of public opinion and sponsors of the people’s sovereignty.