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… The Right To Wear About His Neck an Orange Tawney Ribbon

King James I of England

King James I of England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the greatest gifts in the history of the world was made by King James I of England in 1621.  He gave William Alexander territory now known as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, and part of Quebec!

Alexander was tutor to King James’ son, Prince Henry, and had some reputation as a poet.  One of his works was Doomes-Day, eleven thousand lines which were very dull.  King James, who authorized the revision of the Bible used by most Protestant churches today, wanted to rewrite the Psalms himself, in metric form.  Alexander helped him, for the poetry tutor had an unusually good eye for business.  The continent of America already contained a New England, New France, and New Spain; so he persuaded King James to give him territory that could be developed as New Scotland, or Nova Scotia.

Alexander became “Sir William” and was authorized to offer grants of land 3 X 6 miles along the sea coasts “to all such principal knights and esquires as will be pleased to be undertakers of the said plantation and who will promise to set forth six men, artificers or labourers, sufficiently armed, apparelled and victualled for two years.  Alexander was to “erect cities, appoint fairs, hold courts, grant lands and coin money.”  (He certainly would “coin money” if he owned that territory today!)

The knights and esquires were slow to take up the grants of land, however, so King James provided an added incentive on October 18, 1624, by creating an order called “Knights Baronet of Nova Scotia.”  Any man could be a “Baronet of Nova Scotia” if he went to live on his grant of land, or paid a sum to £150.  He would have the right to wear about his neck “an orange tawney ribbon from which shall hang pendants in an escutcheon agent a saltire azure with the arms of Scotland.”

The scheme never developed to any great extent, but there are descendants of the Baronets of Nova Scotia still alive today.  Headquarters of the order is in the castle of Clackmannanshire in Scotland.

To read more about today’s post, I suggest visiting the Electric Scotland, and the Fortescue, and the Roots Web, and finally the History of Nova Scotia.

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The Day Louisiana Was Sold To The U.S.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One story that isn’t well-known is that Napoleon planned to recapture Canada for France.  He made himself dictator of France in 1799, on the pretext of “saving the Revolution,” but then went on to conquer most of Europe.

Napoleon’s plan to recapture Canada was inspired by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who in 1793 became the first man to cross the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Mackenzie wrote a book about his trip which Napoleon had translated into French to help him plan his campaign.

His first step was to regain Louisiana.  France had owned the Mississippi Valley all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but had handed over this territory to Spain before signing the Treaty of Paris in 1763 so that Britain would not acquire it.

In 1800, Napoleon regained Louisiana from Spain as part of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso.  He planned to move his troops up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.  In order to do this, he sent a large navy and army to recapture the former French colony of Haiti, which had been lost in a rebellion led by a mighty black warrior, Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture.

Le général Toussaint Louverture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was to be the base for the attack up the Mississippi, led by Napoleon’s favourite general, Count Bernadotte. His campaign was defeated by the same elements that beat the Scotsmen who wanted to set up a colony in Panama and make it New Scotland.  The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce.    They killed 60,000 French troops in two years!

In the meantime, the British fleet had moved powerful units to the West Indies, and Napoleon knew that it would be too risky to try to move an army to the mouth of the Mississippi.  He abandoned the plan to recapture Canada, and sold Louisiana on April 30, 1803, to the United States for $27 million between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Spain still retained claims on the Pacific coast as far north as Oregon, which had an important bearing on the future development of British Columbia.

Want to read more about what became known as the Louisiana Purchase? I suggest National Archives & Records Administration for the transcripts, and a site I just found is Booknotes.org that you just have to check out! Oh, and don’t forget Wikipedia

 

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Panama Canal

A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating ...

A schematic of the Panama Canal, illustrating the sequence of locks and passages (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was on April 19, 1850, that Britain and the United States signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty to build the Panama Canal as a joint venture.  Later the States decided to go it alone.  Great Britain withdrew, accepting the promise that the canal would be open to the ships of all nations, at equal rates.

You might ask what the building of the Panama Canal had to do with Canada, but there are some interesting sidelights.

In the first place, Panama might easily have been called Nova Scotia.  After Scotland and England united in 1707 (after this date it is correct to use the term Britain rather than England), the people of Scotland had better opportunities to migrate.  One group decided to go to Panama and develop a colony called New Scotland (Nova Scotia).  It was a failure for the same reasons that caused Napoleon to abandon his plan to recapture Canada for France years later.  The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce, even for Scotsmen! Samuel Vetch, a Scotsman who went to live in Boston, interested the British government in a plan to capture Acadia from France. Eventually he became Governor of Nova Scotia as we know it, with its capital at Annapolis Royal, formerly Port Royal.

Britain’s agreeing to withdraw from ownership of the Panama Canal also had a bearing on the unfortunate agreement made in 1905, establishing the Alaska boundary.  The British government thought that as it had given way to the United States on the Panama Canal question, the Americans would be willing to compromise on the boundary between Canada and Alaska, then in dispute. This was not the case (See my March 25 post –Boundary Established), and the Panama Canal Museum.

In fairness, it must be said that the building of the Panama Canal was a great help to the development of British Columbia. Ships sailing to and from British Columbian ports carrying the trade of western Canada have never been prevented from using the Panama Canal, thus saving themselves the long journey around South America.

So, as you can see, there are many aspects of the Panama Canal. One site that has info about this is US History (but just a warning: there are annoying ads there, but worth visiting nonetheless); there’s also the Encyclopedia Britannica ; if you are interested in trivia, I suggest Panama Canal Facts.com and the Panama Canal Museum.

 

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