Joseph Howe, journalist, politician, premier and lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia (b at Halifax 13 Dec 1804; d there 1 June 1873). Taking over the Novascotian in 1828, Howe quickly made it the leading provincial newspaper. Originally defending the political status quo, he gradually became convinced through personal experience that serious ills abounded throughout the government. Charged with criminal libel in 1835 for criticizing local government officials, he was acquitted in the province's most celebrated trial. He entered politics in 1836 and was primarily responsible for the election of a majority of Reformers (Liberals). A conservative Reformer, he entered a coalition with the Tories in 1840, hoping to achieve his aims step-by-step. Having failed, he prepared the way for the Reformers' success in the election of 1847. As a result, Nova Scotia secured RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT in February 1848, the first colony to do so, and Howe could boast that it had been done without "a blow struck or a pane of glass broken."
Seeking to rise above "the muddy pool of politics," he tried unsuccessfully to arrange the building of the Halifax-to-Québec Railway. As chief commissioner, he began the Nova Scotia Railway in 1854, however, and saw completion of the lines from Halifax to Windsor and Truro. Devoted to Britain, he recruited forces in the US in 1855 for the CRIMEAN WAR, one outcome of which was a rupture with the Catholics and the defeat of the Reformers in 1857. Following the Liberal victory of 1859, he was premier 1860-63 and imperial fishery commissioner 1863-66 under the RECIPROCITY Treaty of 1854. Between 1866 and 1868 he led the movement against CONFEDERATION on the grounds that it was being effected without popular consent and that it conflicted with his plans for the organization of the British Empire. Although overwhelmingly successful in the provincial elections of 1867, as a delegate to Britain in 1866-67 he could not prevent passage of the BNA ACT or, a year later, secure its repeal. Having no further means of opposition he entered the federal Cabinet in January 1869. In a celebrated midwinter by-election in Hants his health was so impaired that he never fully recovered. As a federal minister, he played a prominent role in bringing Manitoba into the union. Becoming lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia in 1873, he served only 3 weeks before his death.
Despite his failings, many consider Howe to have been the greatest of all Nova Scotians. The Nova Scotian patriot par excellence, he could use his oratorical powers to influence his compatriots as no other man has ever done. He sought, in his own words, to elevate them to "something more en[n]obling, exacting and inspiring, calculated to enlarge the borders of their intelligence, and increase the extent and area of their prosperity."