In 1867 many Nova Scotians were reluctant to endorse CONFEDERATION. In the elections of Sept 1867 anti-Confederates captured 36 of 38 seats in the local legislature, and 18 of 19 seats in the Dominion Parliament. Opposition to Confederation was based on the conviction that Nova Scotia was a maritime community with a natural affinity to Britain and historical ties with New England. Confederation meant a reorientation of its commercial life towards the interior of the continent, an unattractive prospect for those whose prosperity was based upon international commerce and the sailing ship. Britain was unwilling to allow Nova Scotia to secede, however, and when Joseph HOWE accepted the inevitable, agreeing to enter Sir John A. MACDONALD's government in return for an increased provincial subsidy in 1869, the anti-Confederate protest collapsed.

In 1886 the secession movement re-emerged, led by Liberal premier William S. FIELDING. Campaigning on the issue of repeal and stressing the need for increased subsidies to the province, Fielding's party won 29 of 38 seats in the provincial elections that year. The bulk of support for secession came from those areas most closely tied to the traditional maritime economy and the international shipping trades. Opposition to repeal was strongest in those parts of the province which were beginning to industrialize, particularly in coal-mining areas and towns along the INTERCOLONIAL RAILWAY, which linked Nova Scotia to the continental interior. This second repeal movement quickly collapsed when the Conservative Party won 14 of 21 seats in Nova Scotia during the federal election of Feb 1887.