Head Tax Incident, 1848

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Transcribed by Dave Hunter - dhunter@islandregister.com

Head Money: A tax which was imposed upon immigrants upon landing. Two events took place in late 1848, dealt with in the session of Spring, 1949. Nova Scotia was collecting their head tax on those destined to go to P.E.I., with the result that immigrants had to pay dual head tax, taxing poor immigrants beyond their means. The first you will find covered here, and the second you will find covered in the passenger list and surrounding documents of the "Schooner Dolphin".

Head Money

Note: From Appendix 0, Journal of the House of Assembly, Prince Edward Island, Third Session of the 17th General Assembly, Charlottetown, 1849.

Scourie by Golepie, N.B.,
[N.B. = North Britain]
9th February, 1849.


Having last year chartered, as Factor in this district, of the estate of Sutherland, the Barque, "Ellen," to carry Emmigrants from this coast to Pictou, and having had some correspondence with one of the Emigrants, Hector Falconer, who, after this ship's arrival, proceeded to Prince Edward Island, I find that he and others received much attention and sympathy at your hands; and therefore I deem it proper to express to you my sincere and best thanks for your kind and feeling interest in these poor people, in who's welfare and prosperity, you may naturally suppose, I am much interested.

Falconer writes me, that on their arrival in Prince Edward Island they were charged with Head Money, although all the legal charges had been previously paid at Pictou -- which I know to be the case, as I gave money for this special purpose to the Captain. Falconer further states, that he came back to Pictou and got a certificate from the Custom House authorities that this Head Money had been paid for his family and all those who accompanied them. That on returning to Prince Edward Island with this Certificate, it would not satisfy the authorities there; that their baggage was arrested, and that they had to sign a Bond, agreeing to pay the amount within six months, and that until the Assembly met, he knew not how they were to be dealt by.

This appears a very strange business; and I suppose that Falconer, owing to some ignorance of the neccessary form, did not comply with the Custom House regulations; still, as he was a very decent, honest fellow, I think there must be some truth in his statement, and for the sake of others, I am anxious to ascertain the truth.You will, therefore, add to the obligation you have already conferred on these men and upon me, by letting me know what you know of this matter, and what is my best plan, in case I may be chartering a ship again, to prevent the occurance of such annoying treatment. If the authorities at Prince Edward Island are to blame, you will please let me know in what respect - such harsh, unfair treatment of poor people would not be tolerated in Britain.

I must apologize for thus troubling you, and again thanking you for your generous conduct to these poor people in their difficulties.

I remain, &c.,


Mr. Alex G. Mackay,
Custom House, Pictou, N.S.

Pictou, Nova Scotia,
12th March, 1849.

May it please your Excellency;

By the mail from England, which arrived here yesterday, I have received the accompanying Letter from Evander McIver, Esquire, one of the Factors of His Grace the Duke of Sutherland, and now hasten to submit the same for your excellency's consideration.

Aware of the kindness manifested by Your Excellency towards the Passengers to whom the letter refers, in directing that their baggage should be releived, on their giving bond for the Head Money, until the matter should be investigated, and intending to reply to Mr. McIver, as soon as possible, I will deem it a special favor should Your Excellency be pleased that information be afforded me, in order that I may be enabled to comply with the writer's wishes; and also cause the accompanying letter to be returned to me.

I have the honor to be,

Your Excellency's
Most ob'dt humble Serv't.,

To His Excellency
Sir D. Campbell, Lieut Governor,
Prince Edward Island.


Pictou, Nova Scotia,
12th March, 1849.

Hon. T. H. Haviland,


As the accompanying documents refer to Head Money demanded by Island Authorities, from passengers who arrived at Charlottetown during the past Season, after the same had been paid at this Port, I have deemed it advisable to address the same, under cover, to you, trusting that you will be pleased to submit them to the consideration of His Excellency, Sir Donald Campbell, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, at your earliest possible convenience.

I have the honor to be, Sir,

Your most obedient Servant,

Page 56, same volume:


The Hon. Mr. Thornton, by command of His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, presented to the House several Papers relating to Head Money, for the payment of which Bonds had been given here by certain Immigrants last Season, after the same had been paid at the Port of Pictou.

Ordered, that the said Documents be referred to the Committee of the whole House on the consideration of the Report of the Special Committee, appointed to examine and report on the Public Accounts.

The coments returned on Page 66:

With regard to certain papers submitted by His Excellency to the House, respecting the exaction of Head Money in Pictou, Nova Scotia, and to this Island, from several Emigrants who arrived here in July last, your Committee find that the said persons took passage from North Britain to this Island, but the vessel having first touched at the Port of Pictou, and the Emigrants being landed for a few hours, the head money was extracted from them; and on their arrival in this Island, they were liable under the provisions of the Emigrant Act of this Colony to pay a second amount of Head Money, which was accordingly demanded; and not having the money to pay the tax, their Bonds were taken for the amount. Your Committee, under these circumstances, consider it a hardship that the authorities in Pictou felt compelled to extract the Head Money from these persons; but as they are now located on this Island - and being in indegent circumstances, have been already oblidged to apply to the Legislature for Relief - your committee cannot recommend any remission of the Head Money in this Colony; but consider the claim ought to be made by the parties on the Government of Nova Scotia.

[Note: This instance is also referred to in the Passenger list and Documents of the Schooner Dolphin]

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Last Updated: 07/12/2001 6:54:31 PM
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