Happy Birthday, Joseph Howe

On this day in 1804, Joseph Howe was born in Halifax. He was one of the most notable Nova Scotian political figures of the nineteenth century. He was a politician, public servant, journalist, and poet.

In 1827, at the age of 23, Howe bought the Weekly Chronicle (renamed Acadian) and then the Novascotian newspaper, which became the most popular and influential medium for free press in the area. Howe was elected to the provincial legislature as a Liberal Reformer in 1836. He was renowned as a defender of the people and free speech. This reputation came to a head when Joseph published a letter in the Novascotian criticizing those in municipal government. As a result of this, Howe was brought to court on libel charges. After the evidence had been presented, Howe stood in his own defence; speaking for six hours and fifteen minutes on the merits of free press, ultimately winning the case. Howe was premier of Nova Scotia from 1860-1863. Howe was also fiercely involved in the debate surrounding Confederation. To learn more about his role, please visit Evergreen House.

Although Haligonian by birth, Joseph Howe resided in Dartmouth from 1863 to his death in 1873. He was a good friend of Judge Alexander James, and in recognition of this, we have on display a sculpture of Howe made by local artist Mary E. Moore. It has been a fixture of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum since we were on Wyse Road (and has been startling visitors ever since!).

Joseph Howe was also a published poet. Due to Howe’s relationship with Evergreen House, Howe’s descendants donated a number of artifacts pertaining to him and his father John.We are fortunate to have in our collection a book of his poems and essays published in 1874 by John Lovell in Montreal. One poem in this book is “The Birth-Day”. Howe wrote it on December 13, 1863, his fifty-ninth birthday. As this seems to be the most appropriate day to share it, please enjoy it below.

Happy 213th Birthday. Joe!

“The Birth-Day”, Joseph Howe, 1863. Poems and Essays, Joseph Howe, 1874. Dartmouth Heritage Museum. 2015.007