The first premier of Nova Scotia, Hiram Blanchard, served for only a few months. With his 88 days as premier, he remains the second shortest serving premier in Nova Scotia history.
The next premier of the province, William Annand, served much longer, over seven years in fact and had a long career in politics in the colony and province.
William Annand was born on April 10, 1808 in Halifax. His father had come from Scotland to Halifax in the 1780s, and was a successful merchant in the city.
As a child, Annand worked in his father’s store. He had a keen interest in politics at the time, and often spent his quiet hours reading the newspaper and learning as much as he could.
After Annand’s father died in 1824, he left his two sons, William and James, a small amount of money that they could use to gain an education in Scotland.
After his education in Scotland, Annand returned to Nova Scotia to become a farmer, having purchased some cattle and a house that he described as being in an excellent style. His goal was to be a gentlemen farmer, and that led him to community affairs. While farming didn’t suit him, politics and community affairs certainly did.
In 1830, he married Emily Cuff but she passed and he married Martha Tupper in 1834. In all, he had 11 children, six sons and five daughters with his two wives. Annand’s brother also married Emily’s sister, and both couples were married on the same day.
In 1836, Annand was elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. He had campaigned on bringing reforms to the Assembly, including curtailing official salaries, improving rural roads and creating a more efficient school system.
He was elected the same year as his good friend, Joseph Howe, a man who would have a large impact on his life.
In the Assembly, he was a strong supporter of responsible government but he rarely spoke in debates.
In 1843, he proposed ending public financial grants to the sectarian colleges of Nova Scotia. His proposal was to create a single, non-denominational institution of higher education.
The idea for this came after the Qualification Bill failed. Annand said that the university would be,
“free from sectarian control, open to all denominations, maintained by a common fund, and rallying round it the affections of the people.”
His proposal stated that the existing system of small colleges was inefficient and wasteful.
Unfortunately, rivalries within the Assembly caused this idea to fail.
What it did achieve was the unfortunate disintegration of his party’s support in the colony, leading to an election loss for both his party and his own seat in the Assembly.
While out of politics, he started the Novascotian and Morning Chronicle newspapers. This move into Halifax was greeted with enthusiasm by his wife, he did not like being a farmer’s wife and preferred being a lady of the city.
Annand returned to the Assembly in 1851 and remained in politics for the next quarter century.
Working with his friend Howe, he took compiled all the speeches made by Howe, edited them and published them in 1858. The two volumes included letters Howe had written dating back to 1839.
Under the government of Joseph Howe, Annand served as the financial secretary from 1860 to 1863. He had the nickname of Boots for his unfailing loyalty to Howe, but despite speaking more in debates he was said to have a poor and thin voice, with a halting speaking style.
His opponents considered him to be a man who was slick and had been elevated to a position beyond his abilities.
In 1862, Charles Tupper, future prime minister and current leader of the Conservative Party in the Assembly, revealed that Annand had been speculating on land, and conning British investors who wanted to invest in gold mines in Nova Scotia. While the charge was not proven, it did contribute to the downfall of the government in the 1863 election.
In 1864, Annand returned to Nova Scotia from a trip to England to find that the new premier, Tupper, was pushing Nova Scotia towards a new Confederation.
Annand was not a supporter of Nova Scotia joining Confederation. In December 1864, he spoke at a rally where he called for a Maritime Union, rather than a Union with the Province of Canada. He said,
“The time for the consummation of the larger scheme has not arrived.”
Annand wrote in the Halifax Chronicle, calling the idea of Confederation “The Botheration Scheme.”
The editorial in the paper attacked Confederation and the Quebec Resolutions. Many believed it was written by Howe, not Annand.
He travelled to London in 1866 with Howe to lobby against the colony’s inclusion. At the time, Howe was wavering on his opposition towards Confederation.
As for Annand, he was still very against the idea of Nova Scotia joining Confederation. He wrote at one point,
“while nobody denied the power of the Imperial Parliament to sweep away the constitution of a colony, should the preservation of the national life or the great interests of the empire demand the sacrifice, yet in such a case flagrant abuse, corruption or insubordination, must be shown, or the existence of a high state necessity, in presence of which all ordinary safeguards of existing institutions should give way.”
In May 1867, with Nova Scotia committing to joining Canada, Annand told the Assembly he would spend the remaining years of his life trying to extract Nova Scotia from the union.
After Joseph Howe left provincial politics to join the federal government cabinet of Sir John A. Macdonald, Annand took up the anti-Confederation cause.
As leader of the Anti-Confederation Party, he won a landslide victory in the first Nova Scotia election and found himself the second premier of the province on Nov. 7, 1867.
Late in 1868, Annand announced he would be petitioning the British government to grant Nova Scotia release from Confederation. He also said that if the petition failed, he would seek annexation with the United States.
Howe wrote to him, stating that if removing itself from Confederation failed for Nova Scotia, what would Annand do.
Annand wrote back with one word.
This wasn’t as strange as it sounds today as a majority of Nova Scotia residents actually supported joining the United States, rather than a Canadian Union.
For Howe, such an idea was beyond comprehension. It was at this moment that the two friends saw their friendship end.
When Howe came to Halifax at one point on business, Annand wrote in the Halifax Morning Chronicle,
“Turn backward, turn backward and blush for shame, O man whom Nova Scotia has hitherto been delighted to honor, whom she has raised and petted and placed high in honorable office and who has made her so bare and ungrateful a return.”
Eventually, public opinion started to shift on the whole issue.
Annand’s cabinet began to push for inclusion in the talks for better terms within Confederation for the province, but this was not allowed by the federal government.
The party would morph into the Nova Scotia Liberal Party as anti-confederation sentimentality disappeared.
In 1871, now leading the Nova Scotia Party as it was being called, his party won re-election but just barely. His party lost 12 seats, finishing with 24, enough for another majority.
In the 1872 federal election, Annand put his support behind Alexander Mackenzie and the Liberals.
As an ally of the Mackenzie Government, which had come to power after the Pacific Scandal, Annand began to push for the construction of a new rail line in Nova Scotia. The government agreed, but only for a shorter version of the railroad. This collapse of the railroad proposal as Annand had envision and promised to his constituents damaged his popularity, as did claims he was making money off mining and railway stocks at the public expense.
Annand won the 1874 election, but lost four seats and barely held onto a majority. At this point, the writing was on the wall as his popularity was fading. He was soon replaced as leader of the party by Philip Hill.
Despite leading the province for over seven years, Annand was seen as mediocre as a premier and generally considered to be a weak party leader.
After he left politics and the premiership on May 8, 1875, Annand became the agent-general for Canada in London until 1878.
He died on Oct. 12, 1887 in London, England. The Halifax Herald wrote,
“Though he had reached a ripe old age, the unexpected news was received with expression of sincere regret by citizens of all parties and creeds.”
The newspaper continued, stating
“He was one of the fathers of responsible government and with the exception of Samuel Chipman, was the last survivor of the galaxy of brilliant men who won the great boon for Nova Scotia.
Information from Canadian Encyclopedia, Biographi, Wikipedia, Electric Canadian, Macleans, Halifax Herald, Nova Scotians At Home and Abroad, History of Nova Scotia,