LOVETT, PHINEAS, farmer, merchant, militia officer, office holder, jp, judge, and politician; b. 15 May 1745, probably in Milford, Mass., second child of Phineas Lovett and Beulah Morse; m. 6 April 1768 Abigail Thayer in Mendon, Mass., and they had 11 children; d. 17 June 1828 in Annapolis Royal, N.S.
Phineas Lovett came to Nova Scotia with the New England planters who settled on the fertile lands left vacant by the deportation of the Acadians. His father appears to have taken up land in Nova Scotia in 1760 and both father and son are listed among the grantees for Annapolis Township in October 1765. By 1770 Lovett was established on the substantial farm at Round Hill, Annapolis County, where he lived throughout his life.
Like many Nova Scotians of his day, Lovett was both farmer and merchant. He had a ship in the West Indian trade by the late 1780s, and in later years seems to have devoted more time to commerce than to agriculture. He took full advantage of the lucrative trading opportunities offered by the American embargo on British imports adopted in 1807. During the War of 1812, in fact, he spent so much time in New Brunswick trafficking across the American border that he was criticized for neglecting his public duties as a magistrate in Nova Scotia.
While in New England in 1775, possibly on a business voyage, Lovett encountered a rebel spy and came briefly to prominence by warning Nova Scotian authorities of invasion plans afoot in that hotbed of rebellion, Machias (Maine). While travelling from Salem, Mass., to Machias, Lovett was questioned about the strength of the forts at the Saint John River and at Annapolis Royal. He disclaimed any knowledge of their condition but on arrival at Machias was again quizzed about the probable reaction at Annapolis Royal to an American attack. Again Lovett pleaded ignorance. He observed that, since he had been away from home for some time, he had no idea of the public attitude towards the rebels’ cause. On his return to Nova Scotia, Lovett travelled to Halifax to report the conversations to the Council. His actions, which aligned him squarely with government, were in contrast to the revolutionary sympathies held by many of his fellow New Englanders, including his own father. Fort Frederick (Saint John) at the mouth of the Saint John River was destroyed by the Machiasmen later that year, but the expected assault on Annapolis Royal did not occur until 1781 when two American privateers raided the town. Accounts of the attack alleged that the local militia had taken no steps to defend the town, a charge that Lovett, lieutenant-colonel of the regiment, vehemently denied. Lovett’s personal courage was also impugned in local tradition that was still current a century later.
During his long life, Lovett held many public offices in Annapolis County. He served as high sheriff for the county in 1781 and 1782 and was named a justice of the peace in December 1794. In 1810 he was appointed a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Lovett also served in the House of Assembly for several periods. In 1775 he was returned in a by-election to represent Annapolis Township. Like many country representatives before the introduction of a system of payment for assemblymen, Lovett did not attend regularly, and in November 1783 his seat was declared vacant for continued absence. He was again elected for Annapolis Township in 1799 but took little part in the political controversies of the turbulent eighth assembly [see William Cottnam Tonge], seldom serving on committees and almost invariably voting with the executive’s supporters. He appears not to have contested the general election of 1806. Although he was returned for Annapolis County in a by-election held in 1808 after the death of the incumbent, his attendance was again irregular, probably because of his commercial pursuits.
Lovett exemplifies the many “country squires” who played a leading role in rural Nova Scotia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Such men sustained family traditions of public service at the local and the provincial level: both Lovett’s father and his sons in turn served as assemblymen and magistrates. Similarly, the homes of the Lovetts provided a fitting stage for the entertainment of touring dignitaries; in Phineas Lovett’s case, Prince Edward* Augustus’s visits gave the added distinction of royalty. As merchants, farmers, or shipowners, the Lovetts were an integral part of the community they represented.
PANS, RG 1, 168–69, 171, 173, 189, 225, 278. PRO, CO 217/51. N.S., House of Assembly, Journal and proc., 1775–83, 1800–11. Nova-Scotia Gazette, and the Weekly Chronicle (Halifax), 4 Sept., 2 Oct. 1781. W. A. Calnek, History of the county of Annapolis, including old Port Royal and Acadia . . . , ed. A. W. Savary (Toronto, 1897; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972).