Halifax and War – the Castine Fund; Dalhousie University and the spoils of war

Dalousie.Castie cairnIn the early 19th century, George Ramsay, the ninth Earl of Dalhousie and Nova Scotia Lieutenant-Governor at the time, wanted to establish a Halifax college open to all, regardless of class or creed.

The spoils of war helped fulfill his dream. During the War of 1812, Castine, a small port in Maine, was being used as a base by American privateers who harassed ships along the Eastern Seaboard. In August and September 1814, Sir John Coape Sherbrooke sent a Royal Navy force and 500 British troops to conquer Maine and (again) establish the colony of New Ireland.

In 26 days, they succeeded in taking possession of Hampden, Bangor, and Machias, destroying or capturing 17 American ships. They won the Battle of Hampden and occupied the village of Castine turning it into a customs port of entry for the rest of the war.

The Treaty of Ghent returned this territory to the United States. The British left in April 1815, at which time they took £10,750 obtained from tariff duties. This money, called the “Castine Fund”, was used in the establishment of Dalhousie University. Lord Dalhousie invested £7,000 of this treasure as an endowment for the college and put aside £3,000 for its construction.

This act of pillage was justified on the basis that, even though hostilities had ceased, no treaty was in force as the treaty negotiations were still ongoing. On the Halifax & Castine cairn in front of the University Administration Building, these embarrassing facts are conveniently omitted.

No Harbour For War newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 3, May 2014

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Filed under No Harbour for War (Halifax)

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