British Settlement in Halifax
Halifax, Nova Scotia was founded by British General Edward Cornwallis in 1749. The British created Halifax to act as a naval and army base to protect them from the French who had established the town of Louisbourg on the northern island of Nova Scotia. Halifax acted as a British naval base until 1906 when the Canadian government took it over.
Cornwallis arrived at the southern, peninsular area of Nova Scotia with 2,500 British settlers. The area had acted as a French fishing station. Beginning in the 17th century, the French and the British had struggled over control of the Atlantic provinces of Canada, most specifically Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The French-speaking people living in the areas of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, known as Acadians, were unique people; French, Scottish, Irish and even Portuguese influences were apparent in their culture. About 8,000 Acadians lived in those areas when the British claimed them as their own in the mid-18th century. Six thousand Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick between 1755 and 1760. Yet, by 1800 many Acadians had returned. This clash of cultures lasted through the 19th century and many Acadian influences never left the area.
During the mid-18th century many foreigners immigrated to Halifax. New Englanders moved north attracted by Halifax's shipping and fishing industries. The 1750s and 1760s brought German, Scottish and Irish immigrants into the city. After the American Revolution many British loyalists moved to Nova Scotia from New England. By 1784 Halifax's population had reached 5,000.
During the early 19th century, 2,000 black loyalists who had fought for the British in the War of 1812 moved to Halifax. They established the beginnings of a black community in Halifax based in the north end of the city. The 1830s brought the first group of Irish Catholics into Halifax. They introduced a new religion to the city which had previously been Protestant. By 1851 Halifax's population had grown to 20,749.
The first half of 19th century was quite a prosperous time for Halifax. Halifax's harbor was busy; trade between New England and Canada was friendly and profitable. In 1854, Canada and the United States, signed the Reciprocity Treaty which allowed duty free trade between the two countries. However, the treaty was not renewed in 1866 because the United States was suspicious that Canada had supported the Confederate army along with the British. By the second half of the 19th century Halifax's trade started slowing down.
Canadian tariffs further discouraged ships from docking in Halifax and soon the US ports became more desirable. However, Halifax continued to develop as a city. In 1866 the first street railway system was put into place. Halifax had an electric streetcar system by 1896. Halifax opened its first city hall in 1890. In 1906, the Canadian government officially took over the army and naval base in Halifax from the British.
Halifax acted as an important naval base during World War I. Ally ships waited in Halifax Harbor until they were able to be safely escorted across the Atlantic.