Halifax, the metropolis of Nova Scotia, and the chief City of the Acadian or Lower Provinces, was founded in the year 1749, at the expense of Government, under the direction of the Lords of Trade and Plantations, and was named in compliment to George Montague, Earl of Halifax, then at the head of the Board, under whose immediate auspices the settlement was undertaken.
From the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, when Acadia was ceded to the Crown of Great Britain, to the year 1749, no progress had been made by the British in colonizing the country. The inhabitants consisted of a few thousand Acadian peasants, scattered around the shores of the Basin of Minas, Chignecto and the Valley of Annapolis. The Governor resided at Annapolis Royal, a small fortified port, with a garrison of two or three hundred regular troops, and was, in a great measure, dependent on New England for his necessary supplies. This was the only British port within the Province, with the exception of that of Canso, where, during the fishing season, a number of French, with a few Indians and New England fishermen, assembled, and where a captain's guard was usually stationed to preserve order and protect the rights of property. The French population, though professing to be neutral, had refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain, and were continually in a state of hostility to the British authorities in the country. Their poverty and ignorance placed them completely under the control of a few designing emissaries of the French Governor at Quebec, who incited the people to resent British rule, and frequently put all law at defiance, by assuming to themselves the sole management of municipal affairs in the settlements most remote from the seat of Government. The Governors of Canada had undertaken to claim all the country from the River St. Lawrence to the Bay of Fundy, as comprehended within their jurisdiction, confining the territory of Acadia as ceded under the Treaty of Utrecht, to the Peninsula alone, and had actually commenced to erect forts on the River St. John and the Isthmus while the nations were at peace.
The necessity of a permanent British settlement and Military Station on the Atlantic Coast of the Peninsula, had long been considered the only effectual means of preserving British authority, as well as for the protection of the coast fishing, which, at this time, was deemed of paramount importance to British interests. But lately the continual breaches of neutrality on the part of the French, together with the loss of Louisburg, under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle, in October, 1748, rendered such an establishment indispensably necessary to the support of the British Crown in Nova Scotia.
The scheme for settlement at Chebucto is said to have originated with the people of Massachusetts, who, in calling the attention of Government to the claims and encroachments of the French, suggested the necessity for, as well as the great commercial advantages to be derived from such an undertaking; and it has also been asserted that a committee of influential citizens had been formed in Boston for the purpose of more effectually advocating the design. No authentic information on the subject, however, has been found beyond the suggestions contained in Governor Shirley's letters to the Secretary of State, in 1747 and 8, in which one extensive plan of British colonization throughout Nova Scotia is proposed and details suggested, many of which, however, did not receive the approval of Government.