- The Fault Lines of Empire: Political Differentiation in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, ca. 1760-1830
In The Fault Lines of Empire, Elizabeth Mancke juxtaposes the historical development of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Machias, Maine (until 1820 a part of Massachusetts) from 1760 to 1830, describing how a variety of factors such as land grants, imperial relationships with Great Britain, and religious revivalism determined how colonists settled these townships and responded to the American Revolution. Mancke weaves a narrative that details the nuances of colonial settlement in Liverpool and Machias, but is mindful of the larger imperial connections that contributed to how people understood political relationships with colonial governments in Halifax and Boston as well as Great Britain. Settled by New England "Americans" in the 1750s and 1760s as a result of land pressures in the more settled New England colonies, it would seem that Liverpool and Machias would have a common historical experience. In fact, the involvement (or lack thereof) of colonial government in Halifax and Boston in the evolution of these townships acutely influenced the historical trajectory that Liverpool and Machias would take. While the political and social character of each township ultimately would be defined by the [End Page 698] liberal impulse that was defining the Anglo-American Atlantic world in the early nineteenth century, liberalism in Nova Scotia would be more state directed and similar to British liberalism, while it was more privatized, corporate oriented, and thus more democratic in Machias.
The fundamental shifts in British imperial policy in the early eighteenth century marked the ways American colonists settled Liverpool and Machias. Although Nova Scotia was originally ceded to Britain from France in 1710, a programmatic imperial effort to settle the colony did not take place until 1749 with the founding of Halifax, now the provincial capital. Despite its geographic connections to New England (and ultimate settlement by transplanted New Englanders), Britain was directly involved in the governance and settlement of Nova Scotia. Over the course of the eighteenth century, Britain sought to tighten imperial control over its North American colonies, moving away from the decentralized approaches that characterized early New England settlement. Imperial, provincial, and eventually county government modeled on Virginia would define British colonial policy in Nova Scotia. In answering the question of why Nova Scotia did not secede with the other thirteen North American colonies, Mancke challenges traditional Nova Scotian historiography that stresses either the strong presence of the British military in Halifax or the recent settlement of the colony.
Mancke begins her study of colonial settlement in Liverpool and Machias with the conflict over land grants. While Machias followed the traditional custom of allowing corporate groups to allocate land grants and then submit them for provincial approval, the colonists of Liverpool had to work directly with the provincial government in Halifax, which followed the directive of the Board of Trade. The establishment of settlements and ultimately the incorporation of towns into municipalities enabled local networks to evolve in Machias and surrounding areas, facilitating communication and strengthening local control. Machias and nearby towns received support from the provincial government in Boston, even from the future Tory Governor Thomas Hutchinson, because of historic and customary practices of granting land and establishing town government in the province. Without [End Page 699] such a history in Nova Scotia, and a concerted effort not to establish such a precedent, Halifax (and by extension Britain) could maintain a more centralized control over granting land and allocating resources. If the settlers of Machias were frustrated by British efforts to delay approval of their land grants, magistrates in Boston provided a buffer that did not negate their claims. Without such an intervening body, settlers in Liverpool conceded to provincial and imperial policies. Mancke suggests that a more independent spirit reigned among the Machias colonists that would ultimately lead them to attack a British naval ship, while the colonists of Liverpool were more dependent upon provincial and imperial government for their needs. When the American...