Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Give Me Liberty, Or Give Me Death -- But You Can Keep Halifax

We Canadians do have this unfortunate habit: we take a perverse sort of pride in occasions when the immortals of history notice us, in either a positive or negative light.

So even though George Washington delivered a "thumbs-down" review of Halifax in his 1776 letter to Charles Lee, Haligonians are still going to point to it with some pride.

The complaints about Halifax aren't exactly Washington's; he's just reporting what he heard from the Loyalists who'd fled Boston and then decided to come back after spending some time in Nova Scotia.

They complained about a) bad weather, b) overpriced lodging, and c) overcrowding. If it weren't for a), I would've thought they'd landed in Toronto by mistake. (I was in Halifax last year for an exercise in the fall. Ever try sleeping through a hurricane?)

But you gotta love this quote:

Washington said in the four-page letter that some of the Loyalists returned to Boston, and thought facing death there was preferable to being in Halifax.

He said some of the revolutionaries "were for sending them immediately back as the properest, & severest punishment they could Inflict, but death being preferred to this, they now wait, in confinement, any other that may be thought due to such parricides."

Of course, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for the Loyalists' complaints: when they arrived, Halifax was just a small colonial port settlement, ill-prepared for crowds and ill-equipped to show people a good time.

You see, the Loyalists showed up in Halifax about 50 years before Alexander Keith.