Biography of Howe, Joseph, 1804-1873

Born in 1804 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Joseph Howe was a colonial reformer who entered the Nova Scotia executive council in a coalition government with the Tories in 1840. He became speaker of the assembly the following year. He led a reorganized Reform party to victory in 1848 and served as provincial secretary. He later became railway commissioner, but resigned the position when the Conservatives came to power in 1856. The Liberal victory at the 1859 general election paved the way for Howe to become Premier of Nova Scotia the following year. His premiership ended with the defeat of the Liberals to Charles Tupper’s Conservatives in 1863. Howe refused Tupper’s invitation to be one of Nova Scotia’s delegates at the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. Until March 1866 Howe played no part in the discussions of confederation in Nova Scotia. He then re-entered politics to voice his active opposition to union with Canada, which he felt would lead to the loss of independence and the economic ruination of Nova Scotia. Only at the end of 1868 did he finally come to accept the union. He was able to reach an agreement with the federal minister of finance for granting “better terms” to Nova Scotia and in January 1869 he entered the dominion cabinet as president of the council. In November 1869 he became Secretary of State for the provinces and it was in that capacity that he oversaw the arrangements for bringing Manitoba into Canada. When the lieutenant governor designate, William McDougall, could not enter the new province because of insurrection, Howe visited the Red River Settlement to study the matter first-hand. In May 1873 he became lieutenant governor of his native province. He held that office less than three weeks and died in Halifax on 1 June 1873.

Mentioned in:


  1. Lettre du 7 avril 1870 de Alexandre Antonin Taché à Sir George Etienne Cartier
  2. Letter of 17 May 1870 from Alexandre Antonin Taché to Joseph Howe
  3. Lettre du 4 juillet 1870 de Joseph Howe à Alexandre Antonin Taché
  4. Letter of 8 February 1873 from Joseph Howe to John Schultz
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