The statue of Edward Cornwallis by New York sculp;tor J Massey Rhind had stood in downtown Halifax since erected in 1931. Gone this weekend. PHOTO: hantsheroes-wiki

Statue of Cornwallis, city founder removed: rewriting history?


(public commenting open at very bottom of page)

Edward Cornwallis was a British career officer when he arrived in the rough lands of Nova Scotia in 1749.

His orders were to create a colony with his 2,500 settlers and soldiers, the first permanent British settlement in the region.  He decided on the location of the new settlement, today the busy port city of Halifax, with Dartmouth on the other side.

As the founder of Halifax, his name is common throughout the region on streets, schools, geographical features, and with a large bronze statue in the city.

Edward Cornwallis painted by Joshua Reynolds in 1756 several years after the officer had resigned as Governor of Halifax IMAGE- Wiki

That statue was removed last week and put in “temporary” storage at the loud demands of local M’ikmaq aboriginals who said he was a bloody murderer who attempted a genocide of their people.

Villain, or victim, or both?

Cornwallis is vilified for his edict to pay a bounty for M’ikmaq scalps, the aboriginal group that occupied the region.   But, who started the atrocities, which occurred on both sides, and which apparently included a French payment for British scalps? These are stories which are very seldom heard in the current politically correct atmosphere which has solely targetted Cornwallis.

The Cornwallis statue being removed by city workers before being sent for temporary storage while the city decides its fate. PHOTO-Craig Paisley-CBC

Cornwallis was given a tough military assignment designed to establish a British presence to counter the French bastion of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, not far away, and the still strong French settler presence in the surrounding region

Although England and France were not at war at that point, the tension was thick and the local M’ikmaq were mostly French allies.

The M’ikmaq were also very concerned about the British presence in their territory.  Apparently inspired and armed by a zealous French priest working as an agent provocateur, they suddenly attacked, murdered, and scalped a group of woodcutters near the settlement.

The vicious sneak attack prompted Cornwallis to issue a proclamation of paying for M’ikaq scalps, an act which has led to his present-day vilification.

British action “cannot be viewed entirely by today’s standards and values, . . . there’s too much present-day emotional weight.” Historian John Grenier

Meanwhile, M’ikmaq raiders attacked and murdered the settlement at Dartmouth some eight times over the next ten years leaving many dead.  In one pre-dawn raid in 1751, a dozen settlers were killed and scalped. An account of the period said, “they spared not even women and children . . . (and among the wounded) . . . the casualties mounted each day for about a month.”

Half the settlers left the settlement by 1752 over fears of attacks, and the settlement was virtually abandoned in later years as sporadic deadly raids by the M’ikmaq continued.

Payment for British scalps

As for paying for scalps, the French priest “Le Loutre” is reported to have paid a substantial sum to M’ikmaq for 18 British scalps.

Another report sent to British church officials by a local priest in 1751 said, “many outrages and most unnatural barbarities (of the Mi’kmaq) at Dartmouth, (which) have so intimidated the inhabitants that they have mostly deserted it.”

Meanwhile Cornwallis attempted peace with the M’ikmaq by rescinding his own scalping edict signing a treaty with one group of aboriginals in 1751.

A group of M”ikmaq women celebrate the removal of the Conrwallis statue and its pedestal in central Halifax
PHOTO: E McMillan-CBC-twitter

This however did not stop the conflict, and frustrated, Cornwallis resigned as governor and left the fledgling colony.

That didn’t solve much, as the conflict under new leadership continued with atrocities on all sides, eventually leading to a much larger British military presence to quell the conflict which also then led to a mass expulsion of the region’s French speakers, the Acadians, who refused to swear allegiance to Britain.

Presentism  (the anachronistic introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past-Wikipedia)

Although the local M’ikmaq are today claiming victory with the removal of the Cornwallis statue, some historians are questioning the reasons.

In a PostMedia article by Len Canfield, American historian John Grenier is quoted saying that actions like those of Cornwallis “cannot be viewed entirely by today’s standards and values, . . . there’s too much present-day emotional weight.”

Additional information- sources

Categories: Politics, Society
Tags: , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.


4 comments on “Statue of Cornwallis, city founder removed: rewriting history?
  1. Avatar Blair says:

    Council acted too fast and gutless… only four members voted the way they felt… mob mentality won the day…

  2. Avatar David Parker says:

    Nobody would say our shared history was without terrible consequences. I don’t think anyone can claim innocence. Why are we seeing this “Presentism” in the US UK and now Canada?
    What is behind this?
    In grade 13 and first year university we learned about both sides of conflicts- it was about understanding I think it was called historiographical history? Understanding from the contemporary point of view. A very good way to look at history through the eyes of the folks who lived then. How else would you understand? My issue is how can arm chair self styled historians have the ability to change our view- they either don’t understand or they are doing it for another reason. We are not ignorant we already know Cornwallis wasn’t perfect from some perspectives. But really, tear down the statute? If people view Edward Cornwallis as a criminal then I would refer you to the John Howard Society- “a man is better than the worst he is ever done.”
    Please shed light on this perilous trend- you and independent journalists
    are our defense!
    We should remember we live in a democracy and not bend to the latest pressure group out of fear- politicians need to get a backbone
    Best regards

  3. Avatar Stanley Isherwood says:

    While I have some appreciation of the desire to acknowledge the “wrongs” perpetrated so long ago, would it not serve reconciliation better if leadership and bravery on the part of M’ikmaq were celebrated alongside that of the “invaders”.
    From a long time resident of Halifax and student at Cornwallis Junior High.

  4. Avatar Roger Morais says:

    So Cornwallis had a bounty on MkMaks” scalp, however where did he get the idea of “SCALPING”? looks like tit for tat on this one and while we’re at it, let’s change history,so as to appease the native, what a sad looking bunch with their feathers and drums.Next on the menu would be Christopher Columbus for discouvering the new world and I hear some aren’t too happy with the results of WW2.No recognition for F.N.”s soldiers