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ANNAND, WILLIAM, farmer, politician, publisher, and businessman; b. 10 April 1808 at Halifax, N.S., son of William Annand and Jane Russell; m. first 19 Nov. 1830 Emily Cuff of Halifax, and they had two sons; m. secondly, in January 1834, Martha Tupper of Stewiacke, N.S., and they had four sons and five daughters; d. 12 Oct. 1887 in London, England.
William Annand’s father, a Presbyterian from Banffshire, Scotland, immigrated in the mid 1780s to Halifax where he achieved modest success as a merchant. Annand Sr died in 1824 leaving to his two sons, William and James, an estate valued at £7,000. Dispatched to Scotland for further education, the Annand brothers returned to Nova Scotia in the late 1820s intent on becoming gentlemen farmers. They brought a “number of well bred cattle” with them to the several hundred acres of land they had inherited from their father in the upper Musquodoboit River valley. Although not initially profitable, their farm, with its “very handsome and commodious house . . . furnished in very excellent style,” gave the Annands the rank of country squires.
Anxious to lay claim to a formal leadership role in community affairs, William in 1836 rallied support among his neighbours and secured nomination to a seat in the assembly. His candidacy had radical overtones, since the Musquodoboit area had traditionally been represented by members of the Halifax business and professional élite. Annand’s challenge to convention was underscored when he issued an election card pledging to work for such reforms as assembly control over all public revenue, curtailment of official salaries, improvement of rural roads, and “a more efficient School system . . . [so] that the advantages of education may be extended to all classes of the community.” By articulating rural alienation against the prevailing urban-commercial oligarchy, Annand became part of the reform movement then taking shape in Nova Scotia under the leadership of Joseph Howe*. Once elected, Annand rarely spoke in debates, but, by dutifully following Howe’s lead, he consolidated his reputation as a Reformer. In 1843, however, he conspicuously called for an end to public financial grants to Nova Scotia’s sectarian colleges in favour of establishing a single, non-denominational institution of higher education. The scheme died amidst sectional and sectarian rivalries, but by polarizing public opinion his proposals contributed to the disintegration of the coalition government led by Howe and James William Johnston*, thereby hurrying the coming of responsible government.
Annand was dumped from the Reform ticket in 1843 in favour of Laurence O’Connor Doyle*, a representative of Halifax’s Irish Roman Catholic community, but in compensation Howe offered him a loan to buy and be editor of the Novascotian, Halifax’s most widely read weekly newspaper. Annand’s entry into publishing satisfied his personal ambition and relieved the domestic pressures caused by his second wife’s desire to leave Musquodoboit and “play the lady instead of the farmer’s wife,” in Howe’s words. Within a year Annand founded the Morning Chronicle, a penny tri-weekly, while continuing the Novascotian. Reinforced by Howe’s occasional services as editor, Annand’s papers championed the cause of responsible government. In 1851, three years after the overthrow of oligarchy, he re-entered the assembly as member for Halifax County. Inside the house he acquired the nickname “Boots” for his unswerving loyalty to Howe through the various party realignments precipitated by railway and religious issues. Impeded by a “poor and thin” speaking voice and a “halting” oratorical style, Annand was nevertheless considered “an industrious committee man.” His loyalty was rewarded in 1854 with the lucrative post of queen’s printer. Although he lost the appointment in 1857 after ethnic and denominational feuding had brought the Conservatives to power, he retained his seat in the assembly. When the Liberals regained power in 1860 Annand’s seniority in the party and friendship with Howe secured him the post of financial secretary.
By this time political opponents were describing Annand as a “slick, oily” individual who had been elevated to a position beyond his ability by obsequious loyalty to his party superiors. Circumstantial evidence confirms that Annand had attained only second-rank status in Halifax society. Although elected vice-president of the prestigious North British Society, he never attained the presidency nor did he appear as a director of other philanthropic or business organizations in the capital. Nevertheless, as proprietor of the Morning Chronicle, a daily by 1864, and as a ratepayer occupying premises valued at £1,800 in 1862, Annand was firmly established within Halifax’s middle class. His political position proved to be less secure. In 1862 controversy erupted when Charles Tupper*, de facto leader of the Conservative party, disclosed that Annand had been speculating in land, allegedly in an effort to fleece British investors anxious to acquire gold mines in Nova Scotia. Although fraud could not be proven against Annand, the incident contributed to the defeat of the Liberal government in the general election of 1863. Paradoxically, Annand retained his seat and was able to establish himself as a leading figure among the small band of Liberals who survived the election.
In the autumn of 1864 Annand returned from a business trip to England to find Nova Scotia alive with controversy over the attempt by Tupper and several other members of the province’s political and business élite to carry Nova Scotia into a British North American political union. The Morning Chronicle had come out in favour of union, but its editor, Jonathan McCully*, had acted on his own initiative. After a brief period of hesitation, Annand declared himself opposed to the federation scheme worked out at Quebec. Speaking at a public rally held at Halifax in December 1864, Annand declared that, while he favoured Maritime union, “the time for the consummation of the larger scheme had not arrived.” This announcement was followed by McCully’s dismissal from the paper and the publication of Howe’s “Botheration” letters which maintained that only traitors and fools could advocate Nova Scotia’s union with Canada.
Despite having established himself as a leading anti-confederate in the assembly debates in early 1865, events over the next few months suggested that Annand’s opposition to colonial union lacked total conviction. With Howe temporarily absent from Nova Scotia and the imperial government exerting strong pressure to win converts to confederation, Annand began to equivocate. After an interview with the colonial secretary in London in the summer of 1865 he was convinced that the imperial authorities would “use every means in their power, short of [physical] coercion” to implement confederation. Significantly, Annand’s return to Halifax was followed by the appearance of editorials in the Morning Chronicle proposing another intercolonial conference to work out revised terms of union. He later rationalized this seeming endorsement of the principle of union by insisting that his editorials had been written “in the hope that the delegates would not agree when they met, and, even if they did, that the question would be referred to the people for their ultimate approval.” Many contemporaries concluded, however, that ambition had prompted Annand to edge toward union once its achievement became probable.
Before the 1866 session Annand again urged his anti-confederate allies to support a new conference on colonial union, but he remained evasive as to whether his ultimate objective was pure obstructionism or the negotiation of better terms. In all probability, Annand had not yet made up his mind. Under the circumstances his indecision proved disastrous for the anti-confederate forces. A number of assemblymen, anxious to curry favour with the ascendant unionist forces, bypassed Annand to make independent deals with the Tupper government. By the time the house convened Annand commanded no more than a weak minority and was powerless to defeat Tupper’s pro-confederation resolution in April 1866 or to shape the Nova Scotian delegation sent to London to negotiate the final terms of union.
When Howe returned to Halifax in March 1866 he immediately supplanted Annand as anti-confederate leader and set about organizing a mass protest against Tupper’s legislative coup. A delegation headed by Howe and including Annand went to London in July 1866 to lobby against Nova Scotia’s inclusion in confederation. While in London Annand contributed a pamphlet to the anti-confederate cause, and then after the passage of the British North America Act in March 1867 returned home in May to lead a final but futile struggle against Tupper on the floor of the assembly. Annand declared that he had resolved to “dedicate the remaining years of my life” to the goal of extracting Nova Scotia from the “hateful and obnoxious” union. As an active campaigner in the joint federal and provincial elections held in September 1867, Annand could claim a measure of credit for the massive repudiation of the unionists at the polls. In March 1868 he and Howe were in London to protest Nova Scotia’s inclusion in confederation. The imperial government’s refusal to countenance more than minor revisions to the BNA Act plunged the anti-confederate movement into divisive debate, and launched Annand into the most controversial phase of his political career.
Although he had been defeated by Tupper in the September 1867 federal election in Cumberland, Annand was given a seat in Nova Scotia’s appointed Legislative Council. With Howe removed to the federal scene, Annand became provincial treasurer and took command of the anti-confederate provincial administration. But leadership over a motley collection of ex-Liberals and ex-Conservatives, including such strong-minded individuals as Attorney General Martin Isaac Wilkins, presented Annand with a major challenge. Temperamentally incapable of more than cautious manipulation to maintain unity among his tempestuous followers, the new premier prudently avoided taking bold initiatives on controversial issues. Thus, when the anti-confederates met at Halifax in the summer of 1868 to plot future. strategy, Annand let Howe speak first. Howe recommended negotiations with the Canadians for better terms, but Annand, fearing a revolt among his assembly supporters if he abandoned repeal, declared himself opposed to compromise. Simultaneously, however, the premier sought a “backstairs” interview with Sir John A. Macdonald* to ascertain what terms Nova Scotia might secure from the Ottawa government.
Late in 1868 Annand announced that his administration would petition Britain’s new Liberal government to grant Nova Scotia release from confederation. At the same time he told Howe that should the petition fail, he would “go for annexation” with the United States. The prevailing atmosphere of diplomatic and military tension gave this empty boast sinister implications. Howe emotionally repudiated Annand and with Archibald Woodbury McLelan began negotiations for better terms with the federal government. Confronted by Howe’s action, the provincial cabinet shifted course and pressed for inclusion of one of its members in the talks. Both Howe and Macdonald refused to allow provincial participation, and in January 1869 Nova Scotia was granted a modest increase in her financial subsidy from the federal treasury and Howe agreed to enter Macdonald’s cabinet.
Rocked by Howe’s defection and the simultaneous rejection of repeal by the imperial government, the Nova Scotia government sought retaliation. When Howe entered a by-election in Hants County to confirm his acceptance of federal executive office, Annand engineered a savage campaign designed to destroy the career of his lifelong associate. Howe’s victory, combined with detailed revelations of what one contemporary described as Annand’s “insincerity and wavering imbecility of purpose” might have been expected to demolish the premier’s public reputation. He clung to office, however, extending his political career for another five years by identifying himself with the Nova Scotian majority which was reluctant to accept confederation.
Following the débâcle in Hants, the provincial executive placated their more extreme followers with defiant reaffirmations of the repeal cause. Rhetoric aside, however, Annand remained content to work within the existing constitutional framework, seeking greater autonomy for Nova Scotia, an expanded federal subsidy, greater Maritime representation in the House of Commons, and provincial nomination of senators. Ignored by Macdonald, the Nova Scotia government retaliated by disenfranchising federal employees and refusing to surrender possession of a new government building in Halifax. While frivolous, these gestures gave Annand the appearance of being a champion of provincial rights. In 1871, campaigning as the “Nova Scotia Party,” his government secured re-election, albeit with a sharply reduced majority. During the federal election of 1872 the Annand government supported Alexander Mackenzie*’s Ontario-based Liberal party. The Morning Chronicle said this tactic would punish unionist “traitors” and help elect a party that would provide “moderately good government for the Dominion while we remain part of it.” After the revelations of the “Pacific Scandal” brought Mackenzie to power in 1873, Annand’s administration dropped talk of repeal and began stressing how Nova Scotia would profit from a close alliance with the new national government.
Annand’s political metamorphosis was dictated more by considerations of expediency than principle. As public enthusiasm for the anti-confederate cause declined, the Nova Scotia government manœuvred to find alternate means of legitimizing its existence. Annand decided that his political survival required a commitment to resource development. Accordingly, his government in 1872 inaugurated a policy of subsidizing the construction of branch railways throughout the province. But a scarcity of private investment capital and regional demands for railway service hampered the programme and threatened to bring down Annand’s government. By allying himself with Mackenzie’s administration, Annand hoped to receive federal assistance for Nova Scotia’s railways. In December 1874 he went to the electorate with a pledge of “immediate construction” of a line from New Glasgow to the Strait of Canso. Seemingly victorious at the polls, the government saw its majority dissolve after the federal government declared it would cooperate only in the construction of a railway reaching into the Cape Breton coal fields. This announcement devastated the province’s development strategy since private contractors willing to build the longer line could not be found.
The collapse of his railway programme, persistent though unsubstantiated rumours of personal speculation in mining and railway stocks at the public expense, and his refusal to seek election to the assembly damaged Annand’s position. Late in 1874, Philip Carteret Hill*, former leader of the anti-Annand forces in the assembly, joined the administration and in May 1875 replaced Annand as premier. Annand was appointed Canada’s agent general in London, a post with little prestige which he was forced to vacate when Mackenzie’s government was defeated in 1878. Annand continued to live in London and served as Nova Scotia’s agent until his death in 1887.
William Armand possessed neither outstanding ability nor great depth of character. After leading an essentially prosaic business and political career, the confederation crisis gave him a leadership responsibility he could not discharge successfully. In his hands, the anti-confederate movement deteriorated into a parochial defence of the status quo and then expired amidst cynical inertia. Despite a remarkably long tenure as premier, Annand left no lasting imprint on provincial affairs and was remembered only as a mediocrity who lived in exciting times.
William Armand was the author of Confederation: a letter to the Right Honourable the Earl of Carnarvon, principal secretary of state for the colonies (London, 1866), and editor of The speeches and public letters of the Hon. Joseph Howe (2v., Boston, 1858).
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