The Halifax Literary Walking Tour

Nova Scotian Building, 5140 Prince Street

7. Joseph Howe

As you walk up Prince Street, you will notice a bronze plaque commemorating the offices of the Halifax newspaper The Novascotian. Perhaps no one shaped Nova Scotian politics, literature or freedom of the press more than its publisher, Joseph Howe, youngest son of John Howe. He expressed his love for the province in all he did, from the push for responsible government to his Halifax inspired poetry, such as the Ode to the Town Clock (1836).

The Novascotian was a spirited and popular newspaper, with commentaries on the day’s events. Howe loyally promoted notable Nova Scotian literature, including the first of Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s Sam Slick series. Haliburton was a regular contributor to the paper, and would become one of Nova Scotia’s greatest satirical writers. Both Howe and Haliburton were members of an informal literary group, known simply as “The Club”. Today, Howe’s printing press rests at the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management building.

Howe is perhaps best known for his rousing speeches. In particular, his famous 1835 defense of free speech for the press. Howe had been accused of libel for comments found in The Novascotian towards the magistrates. He was called before the court, and as no lawyer would defend him, Howe represented himself. He spoke to the court for two days, and after a short deliberation, was acquitted of all charges. The event is commemorated on a statue of Howe located next to Nova Scotia Province House. At the base is a bronze plaque showing the newspaper publisher addressing the court.

Howe eventually became a member of the Legislature in 1836, then Premier from 1860-1863 and then finally, a federal cabinet minister. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor for a short time before his death in 1873 and now lies buried beneath a slab of Nova Scotian granite in Camp Hill Cemetery. Many of Howe’s speeches, poetry and travel accounts were published after his death, much to the delight of his admirers.

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