Winslow Papers

The Partition of Nova Scotia

Since the Loyalist migration more than doubled the population of Nova Scotia, it is not surprising that the settlement process was fraught with difficulties. The "old settlers" jacked up prices to take advantage of the unprecedented demand for goods and services, which made the Loyalists feel that they were again on the losing side. Meanwhile, by demanding special privileges because of their sacrifices, the Loyalists earned the resentment of Nova Scotians who argued that they, after all, were Loyalists too.

Edward Winslow, who had responsibility for settling Loyalist regiments in Nova Scotia, became a leading exponent of a plan to create a separate colony north of the Bay of Fundy. Not only would this relieve many of the tensions between old and new settlers, it would also open up administrative positions for deserving Loyalists. Winslow argued that a new colony under Loyalist stewardship would yield a better administration than could be found in either the United States or Great Britain. In a letter to his friend Ward Chipman written 7 July 1783, Winslow proposed

a plan which affords the grandest field for speculation that ever offered. Take the general map of this province (even as it is now bounded), observe how detached this part is from the rest, how vastly extensive it is, notice the rivers, harbours, &c., Consider the numberless inconveniences that must arise from its remoteness from the metropolis and the difficulty of communication. Think what multitudes have and will come here, and then judge whether it must not from the nature of things immediately become a separate government, and if it does it shall be the most Gentlemanlike one on earth.1

This passage is the earliest known reference to the partition of Nova Scotia and the creation of a new colony.

Underlying Winslow's proposal were a few unacknowledged assumptions. First, it was to be a Loyalist province, governed by the exiles with no concessions to the Aboriginal peoples, Acadians, and other "old inhabitants" already living in the area. Second, its leaders were to be members of the Loyalist elite — those officers and gentlemen whose impeccable backgrounds and long experience in colonial affairs would enable them to establish a model government. Indulging in wishful thinking, Winslow foresaw the day when the cream of American society, disillusioned by their faltering republic and the loss of British West Indies trade, would move north and settle in the projected province.

The partition of Nova Scotia would not come easily, in part because Halifax officials were stoutly opposed to the plan. In a 7 March 1784 letter to Winslow, Chipman, now in London, opined that "The present administration, even if convinced of the propriety of the measure, dare not adopt it; their continuance in office is so uncertain that they will undertake no business but what turns up in the common routine of office every day."2 Chipman pinned hopes on the possibility that a new ministry might be more open to the idea: "we are here forming a plan of application as soon as the ministry is established that will meet your fullest wishes, and if exertion perseverance and opportunity are of any avail to secure its execution, they will not be wanting."3

Winslow and Chipman would not have to wait long. Less than a week later, on 13 March 1783, Chipman informed Winslow that "Things begin to wear a much more favourable aspect respecting Nova Scotia. The present ministry begin to find their situation more stable and permanent." This led Chipman to tell Winslow that "there is no doubt a separate Government at St. John's will be established, and that all your wishes will be carried into effect."4 Within a month, Chipman again wrote Winslow on the matter, indicating that he was "in hopes before this time to have congratulated you upon the decided arrangement of the new Government of Nova Scotia, an event which I do not however think far distant. The separation of the Province into two Governments is determined upon in the Cabinet, that of St. John's which is to be called New Ireland."5 The name of New Ireland for the new province did not stick, and it was soon replaced by New Brunswick, in honour of the royal house of Brunswick. On 18 June 1784, with an order-in-council of King George II and the Privy Council, the province of New Brunswick formally came into existence.

Corey Slumkoski
University of New Brunswick


1. Letter from Edward Winslow to Ward Chipman, 7 July 1783, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 2-104. Back

2. Letter from Ward Chipman to Edward Winslow, 7 March 1784, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 3-62. Back

3. Letter from Ward Chipman to Edward Winslow, 7 March 1784, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 3-62. Back

4. Letter from Ward Chipman to Edward Winslow, 13 March 1784, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 3-63. Back

5. Letter from Ward Chipman to Edward Winslow, 13 April 1784, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 3-73. Back

6. Letter from Ward Chipman to Edward Winslow, 17 April 1784, Winslow Family Papers, Volume 3-76. Back

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