“Poetry was the maiden I loved, but politics was the harridan I married.”- Joseph Howe
[Harridan = n. a strict, bossy or belligerent woman]
Over the years many important events have happened in Canada on January 1.
In 1743, sons of Pierre de la Verendrye were the first (known) white men to see the Rockies.
In 1748, Francois Bigot, perhaps one of Canada’s top ranking criminal, was appointed Intendant of Quebec.
In 1823, Nova Scotia became the first province to issue coinage.
The one event that happened in 1835 helped to establish the principle of freedom of the press in Canada, and for that reason, i think it is outstanding.
Joseph Howe, son of King’s Printer in Halifax, worked as a “printer’s devil” from the time he was fifteen years old, and managed to buy the newspaper The Nova Scotian. He paid the equivalent of $5,000 for it, in instalments of $1,000 a year.
On January 1, 1835, The Nova Scotian printed a letter to the editor which accused the magistrates of Halifax of imposing excessive fines so that they could line their own pockets. The writer said he was prepared to prove his charges.
The magistrates had Howe arrested on the charge of libel, and no lawyer would defend him. So Howe decided to fight his own case, although He had little education except for what he had learned through reading. In preparation he studied the laws of libel for two weeks before he appeared in court.
When the magistrates asked him, “Are you a devil?” Howe replied, “Yes, but only a printer’s devil.” That got the jury on his side. He spoke for six hours in his defense, and parts of his address to the jury rank with the most eloquent statements in the English language.
The judge practically ordered the jury to declare Howe guilty, but it brought in a verdict of “not guilty” after deliberating for only ten minutes. Howe was carried out of the court on the shoulders of the people, and there were celebrations in Halifax for two days, with bands marching in the streets. It was a significant victory for freedom of the press.
Joseph Howe eventually became one of Canada’s greatest statesmen.
There’s one site I recommend to get the full story. Go to the Nova Scotia legislature, and read about the case and Howe’s own defense. Great read!
Want to read more about Francois Bigot? I suggest starting at The Canadian Encyclopedia Online.
Happy New Years everyone!