The Register,

November 8,1933


(By Jean Ritchie Anderson in Montreal Herald)

New light on the early affairs of Nova Scotia is afforded the student of Canadian history, through the volume entitled, "Documents Relating to Currency, Exchange and Finance in Nova Scotia" with prefatory documents, 1675 – 1758, - the latest work of the Board of Historical Publications at Ottawa.

The real history of Nova Scotia as a British possession began with the capture of Port Royal in 1710. After that was accomplished, the fort was garrisoned by the New England troops who had captured it and the name changed to Annapolis Royal. In 1713 the conquest was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht, and Nova Scotia has remained a British possession ever since.

There were a few small settlements of French Acadians in the peninsula in 1710 mainly in the Annapolis Valley, but the inhabitants were a non-trading people who had few contacts with the outside world, consequently they had little use for money. Nearly everything they used, they raised and made, themselves. It is true that some had their little hoards of gold and silver French coins which had been brought to Acadia by military, civil or clerical agents of the French Government, but these were not in active circulation, and though card money had at one time been issued in Acadia, its use was prohibited by the French Government.

For a good many years the only English settlement was composed of the garrison at Annapolis Royal, and a few traders from Boston. The money they used was what was in circulation in Boston, but in accounts with the British Government they used pounds, shillings and pence as their basis of value. Hence it would appear that Nova Scotia in its early days had three basis of value: French money, Boston money and sterling.

Until the founding of Halifax in 1749, Nova Scotia was more or less an outpost of Boston, the basis of whose wealth lay in the cod fisheries. The garrisons were merely a counterpoise to those of the French at Louisbourg, and they were maintained at the expense of Great Britain for the protection of New England. They were paid with Boston money and their supplies and clothing were bought in New England.

The general financial system of the Thirteen Colonies was based on their commercial relations. Up to about the time of the conquest of Nova Scotia they had an unfavorable balance of trade with Great Britain; that is, their imports from the Mother Country exceeded their exports in that direction. Their imports were principally manufacture goods, and their exports fish, lumber and raw materials.

The colonies had also a large market in and about the Mediterranean, and also in the West Indies whence they imported great quantities of sugar and molasses.

The result was that gold and silver foreign coins, mainly of French, Spanish and Portuguese money, were in common circulation, while English coins were at a premium. In spite of this, accounts were kept in sterling and prices were based on sterling as the ultimate standard of value.

As population increased and internal trade expanded, Massachusetts attempted to stabilize the currency by an issue of paper money. This was in 1690, and it is notable for the fact that it was the first time such an expedient had been attempted in British territories. It was just after Phipps’ attempt to take Quebec, and a contemporary document regarding the paper currency reads:

"This expedition has brought the Colony of the Massachusetts Ray above $50,000 in debt, for payment whereof the General Court hath laid Grevious Taxes upon the Inhabitants, which they force from those who refuse to pay. And for the satisfying the Clamours of the Soldiers and Sailers whom most were pressed and sent in this service. They, upon the return of their Ships from Canada, made a Law, dated at Boston the Tenth of December, 1690 ordering a Committee of five Persons, three whereof should be impowered for granting forth Printed Bills (none to be under 5 s nor exceeding the Summ of 5 in one Bill) by which some of the Soldiers and Seamen get anything for them above half their value, they being only used to pay Rates with."

Ten years after this was written Mr. Penn put a movement on foot to standardize the currency for all the colonies. From one of the "Documents Relating to Currency, Exchange and Finance," just published, we learn how the Spanish "pieces of eight" varied in value in different places. The document dated 9th December 1700, and drawn up by Mr. Penn, reads: "We are humbly of opinion for the more easie and certain commerce of the northern colonies in American under

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the Crown of England; it would be convenient that there would be one Standard or coin, or that money were of the same value; for in Boston that pieces of eight, 6 shillings, goes in New York for 6 s, 9d, in Jersey and Pencilvania 7 s, 8d, in Maryland 4 s, 6d, Virginia and in Carolina 5 s.

"It would be much for the despatch of trade and business if a mint for small silver to the value of 6d were allowed in the City of New York."

It was not until the winter of 1707 – 08 that anything like an understanding was arrived at. A statute of that season established paper currencies, as the currencies of the colonies. In describing the condition of Nova Scotia’s early finance, at that period Mr. V. Kenneth Johnston, in an introduction to the above-mentioned book, says:

"The currencies of the Thirteen Colonies were, consequently, mixtures of foreign coins and of local paper mills of credit. New England, having a large external trade, imported foreign coins; in addition, New England issued large amounts of paper money for the convenience of its internal and intercolonial trade. Consequently, when Port Royal was captured in 1710, and subsequently became an outpost of Massachusetts Bay, importing supplies from Boston, discounting and selling bills of exchange on London in Boston, and importing money for the support of the garrison from Boston, the currency in use in New England, became the currency used by the garrison. The first currency of the first British garrison stationed in Nova Scotia was, therefore, the currency of Massachusetts Bay and Boston, which was in small part, foreign coin, and almost wholly New England paper money, then generally and more properly known as Boston Bills."

One gets an idea of the conditions of the unfortunate French Acadians from an order dated November 1st, 1710, and written by Samuel Vetch, the first English governor of Nova Scotia. It was addressed to Paul Mascarene and concerned a "present" to Vetch. It reads in part:

"As soon as it please God you arrive at Minas if the weather will permitt, you are to go ashore to the most Convenient place for Assembling all the principall Inhabitants of the place whom you shall Order before to be ready to wait upon you there. You are in my name to acquaint them by the fate of War they are become prisoners at discretion and that both their persons and Effects are absolutely at the Disposal of the Conquerours, and had I not Interposed to protect them the Army would have plundered, ravaged, carried away and destroyed all that they now have. But as out of pitty I have hitherto saved them, so that their fate is three times better than those under the capitulation who have lost most of what they had.

"Upon which Consideration you are to acquaint them that I expect of right due to me of a very good present to the value of at least – Beaver or 6000 Livres value in money or peltrie together with a Contribution of 20 pistols per month from amongst them all of Minas and Chignecta towards maintaining my Table, to commence from the day that the fort was surrendered. You are first to make the proposal in General Terms and see how much they will voluntary offer, and then if they do not come up to the Sum you may acquaint them what I expect at least. After you have settled this matter you are to assure them of a free liberty to come with all safety to trade here, and sell what goods they have and return home with the produce of the same. And to acquaint them that they are not to trade with any person or vessels that may come to them unless they have a written order under my hand for such doing.

In spite of such drastic orders from Vetch, we read that in 1720 the Acadians did all of their trading with their own people at Louisbourg, with whom they exchanged corn and cattle for French woolen and linen goods. That year, too, the Governor complained to the Lords of Trade that all the trade of Nova Scotia was going to Boston and that the New Englanders contributed nothing, in taxes or otherwise, towards the large expenses of governing and holding the peninsula against the French. Articles of export, he said, were fish, furs, feathers and oil. Ten thousand pounds worth of furs, which were paid in West Indies’ goods and New England provisions were bought annually by four or five New England vessels. The same people caught a hundred quintals of fish per season in Nova Scotia waters and in addition, worked the coal mines of the peninsula without even asking permission. The trade in furs alone brought a profit of from four hundred to five hundred per cent.

In 1732 a Boston company was granted the right to mine coal in Nova Scotia and during that year the half bushel measure was standardized.

Though St. Paul’s Church, Halifax, is generally looked upon as the first Protestant church to have been built in Canada, a document dated April 25, 1733, shows that during that year funds were being collected for the building of a church at Annapolis. Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong gave 40 "for divine work, the Propation of our hold Religion and the Edification of Ourselves and Others that may hitherto come and inhabit this His Majesty’s City of Annapolis Royal, or Trade here."

In 1734 we find the Governor complaining of the high rate of quit rents, and saying that the land in Nova Scotia, was not sufficiently fertile to attract settlers. He believed that if the quit rents were lowered more settlers would come in. That year, Agatha Campbell, an heir of LaTour who was himself one of the original French founders of Acadia, was paid two thousand pounds by the British Government for seigniory at Annapolis.

After the capture of Louisbourg by New England troops in 1744, conditions were bad in Nova Scotia. The whole peninsula was overrun by French soldiers and their Indian allies, and the only British possessions was the fort at Annapolis. Supplies were very scarce and the garrison stood in constant fear of attack from a French fleet. The Acadians traded freely with the French, providing no assistance to the English. They were paid in French money by bills of credit drawn on Bigot of Quebec, which were redeemed in French crowns. The French realized that Nova Scotia was much more valuable than Cape Breton in natural resources and they ----- ----- ----- to the English would ---- ---- ---- British Colonial trade and --- ----

The whole situation of the English and French in Cape Breton and the peninsula of Nova Scotia at that time is made very plain by the publication of the government documents of that time. In 1748, by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Louisbourg was returned to France. "Louisbourg," says Mr. Johnson, "had been a haven for French marauders and privateers, who had committed serious depredations on English trade and New England fishing; it was also the base from which agents had surreptitiously worked against the Acadians, keeping them in a passive ferment against English rule. It seemed necessary and advisable, therefore to establish a counterpoise to Louisbourg; for that reason, in 1749, the British Government determined to settle Nova Scotia with British subjects, and to make of it another British colony. For this purpose, in the summer of 1749, some three thousand settlers were sent out, at government expense, to Chebucto, then re-named Halifax. From 1749 to 1775, therefore, Nova Scotia became the fourteenth colony.

The first taxing ordinance in Nova Scotia became effective on May the tenth, 1751, when it was required that all liquor retailers were to be licensed. In 1752 the trade and commerce of Halifax is said to have been flourishing. Soon after that we read much about Halifax currency, which in 1753 was on a sounder basis than the currencies of some of the other colonies, - for instance, in July of that year 64, 6s, 1 d Halifax currency was equal to 102, 17s, 10d of New York money.

The Board of Historical Publications is doing Canada good service, and the latest addition is worthy of a place alongside those invaluable works which have already been published by authority of the Secretary of State under the direction of the Archivist, Dr. A. G. Doughty.