Council of Twelve

 The Council of Twelve was established 1719 in Nova Scotia to advise the governor, deliberate on bills in the legislature's upper house and act as a civil court of appeal. Councillors were appointed by the governor and served for life. Until the 1750s the council was dominated by military officers.

Wentworth, Sir John
Wentworth was governor of Nova Scotia and an active promoter of consolidating Halifax's control over the province (courtesy Province of Nova Scotia).

Council of Twelve

The Council of Twelve was established 1719 in Nova Scotia to advise the governor, deliberate on bills in the legislature's upper house and act as a civil court of appeal. Councillors were appointed by the governor and served for life. Until the 1750s the council was dominated by military officers. After the introduction in 1758 of Representative Government, the council, now including a growing Halifax merchant elite, began to perform both executive and legislative functions, controlling local patronage and land grants and ensuring Halifax's domination over the colony. Loyalists were added after Sir John Wentworth, a Loyalist, became governor in 1792. By 1830 the council consisted of an anglophone Anglican merchant elite linked by family connection and including Bishop John Inglis, R.J. Uniacke and Samual Cunard.

Growing opposition to the council's domination came from the middle class non-Anglicans and a number of young professionals, including Joseph Howe. In 1836 Howe was elected to the Assembly and demanded an elected council. In 1837 the old council was divided into an appointed legislative council of 19 members and an executive council of 12 which remained dominated by the old elite. The agitation for Responsible Government continued, however, and by the 1840s the power of the Halifax elite was broken and its bastion, the legislative council, had collapsed. The executive became the focus of political conflict as reformers continued the struggle until 1848, when responsible government was granted.