A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #3: TOC
The Road To Being Canada
Chapter 9, Gentlemen Of The Clergy

In the British Colony of Nova Scotia, the Anglican order was the established social order.

"... legal marriages could only be celebrated by clergymen of the established Church; no service save that of the Prayer Book could be read over the dead; charitable and educational endowments were generally under the control of the clergy and used for Church people only; the Universities were a Church monopoly, from the advantages of which Dissenters and Roman Catholics were excluded."1
Only in 1783 were the laws prohibiting the public worship of the Roman Catholic church repealed.2 But those not subscribing to the principles of the Church of England, collectively called dissenters, continued to be politically hampered. It was only in 1822, that the council "requested the assembly to unite with them in an address to obtain an alteration of the Royal instructions, so as to admit Roman catholics, on taking the state oaths, but without subscribing the declaration against Popery and transubstantiation, to sit and vote in the legislature -- to act as magistrates, and to be admitted to the bar, and hold other offices in this province."3 This actually put Roman Catholics in Nova Scotia in a better position than those in the United Kingdom.

In 1829, the passage of the British Emancipation Bill brought to an end the statutory provisions which had limited Catholic participation in the government of their country. Before 1829, a "Catholic serving in the army could not rise as high as colonel, but was not eligible to become a general or field marshal. A comparable disability existed in the navy. Catholics in England, but not in Ireland, were disqualified from even voting for a member of the House of Commons. They were also ineligible to become sheriffs or to hold municipal office or to become king's counsel or judges or members of the privy council."4

If, in these days, a gentleman was of "superior culture, manners, and character," and, I might add, was possessed of limited means, then, to become a minister of the church might well be a good career choice. What follows is a description of an English, "Man-of-the-Cloth." With some modification the description lends itself to those found in Nova Scotia during the first part of the 19th century.

"His professional duties were services on Sundays, funerals and weddings on weekdays, and visits when needed among sick people. In other respects he lived like his neighbours, distinguished from them only by a black coat and white neckcloth, and greater watchfulness over his words and actions. He farmed his own glebe, kept horses, shot and hunted moderately and mixed in general society. He was generally a magistrate, he attended public meetings, and his education enabled him to take a leading part in county business."5

NEXT: [Chapter 10, Modern Conveniences]


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Peter Landry