A Nova Scotia Scheme and the Imperial Politics of Ulster Emigration
History and Philosophy
Early in 1761, a land promoter of Ulster origin named Alexander McNutt brought before the British Board of Trade a proposal to settle several thousand Ulster Scots in Nova Scotia. The board enthusiastically approved, but when McNutt returned the following year with promising news, the board forbade him from continuing the scheme, citing fears of losing Protestants in Ireland. This episode has generally been explained as evidence of the British government's ambivalence about Ulster emigration. However, rather than expressing merely a tension between two equally desirable but conflicting goals—peopling the American colonies with Irish Protestants and protecting the Ascendancy by preventing their emigration—the board's change of mind reflected the changing political environment. The board that approved McNutt's scheme strongly favored settling Nova Scotia quickly; the board that shut it down a year later included new members who viewed settling Nova Scotia as a waste of precious funds. The case of Alexander McNutt demonstrates the profound ramifications of party politics for Ulster migration during the imperial crisis of the 1760s and 1770s. It further affirms that studies of Ulster migration must be imperial in scope.
Journal of British Studies
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