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Petty Justice

Petty Justice: Low Law and the Sessions System in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, 1785-1867

Paul Craven
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 568
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  • Book Info
    Petty Justice
    Book Description:

    Petty Justiceexamines the role of justices of the peace and other front-line low law officials like customs officers and deputy land surveyors in colonial local government.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2177-0
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    R. Roy McMurtry and Jim Phillips

    Local administration and law enforcement in pre-Confederation Canada was largely done through a coterie of appointed officials, most notably the justices of the peace, but also including constables, parish officers, overseers of the poor, and the like. Justices and grand juries met at sessions courts to make local regulations, and justices and other officials enforced those regulations as well as the common law and provincial statutes. Justices exercised a minor civil jurisdiction and shared petty criminal jurisdiction with the sessions court. This system, inherited from Britain, has not previously been closely examined for Canada, and Paul Craven’s masterful study of...

  6. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction: High law, low law, not law
    (pp. 1-36)

    On October 24, 1805, George Leonard, superintendent of trade and fisheries for North America, preventive officer of His Majesty’s Customs in New Brunswick and a member of the province’s executive council, seized the American sloopFalmouthoff Campobello Island in Passamaquoddy Bay for a breach of the navigation acts.¹ In the litigation that followed, described by one historian as ‘comic opera,’ local customs officers on both sides of the border testified in New Brunswick’s court of vice-admiralty against Leonard’s seizure.² The act provided that no goods should be loaded aboard ship in a British possession unless the ship had been...

  8. Part I Petty justices

    • Chapter 2 The trials of David Owen, 1787-1803
      (pp. 39-80)

      The Reverend David Owen M.A., senior wrangler (1777), and Fellow (1779) of Trinity College, Cambridge, came to New Brunswick in October 1787, in his thirty-third year, to wage law.¹ He expected to stay six months, a year at most. When he died at Campobello in December 1829 he had lived forty-two years on the island, straying no further afield than occasional visits to Saint John, Fredericton, Boston, and Philadelphia.

      Owen’s mission was to supervise litigation to recover the family property at Campobello. His swashbuckling uncle Captain William Owen RN had been promised the whole island in 1767 for services rendered...

    • Chapter 3 High noon at Campobello: St Andrews and the islands in the 1820s
      (pp. 81-112)

      On April 9, 1822, the eight justices of the peace then attending Charlotte general sessions, all of them residents of St Andrews, resolved to complain to the lieutenant governor about three absent colleagues for conduct ‘derogatory to the character of Magistrates.’¹ One chose to resign rather than stand an investigation and immediately gave up his commission.² West Isles magistrates Gilbert Ruggles and Warren Hatheway stood their ground.³ Ruggles wrote in his own defence and provided character references including three of the St Andrews justices who had joined in the resolution.⁴ Hatheway produced a petition signed by one hundred and seven...

    • Chapter 4 The empire strikes back: Executive action, 1824-32
      (pp. 113-146)

      The naive young officer whom Owen had taken into his confidence and employ had become a ‘pimping spy and snake in the grass,’ a willing tool of the enemy at St Andrews.¹ Hatheway’s complaint about Owen’s obstruction of the militia law prosecutions was referred by Major Hatch to the adjutant general ‘for the information of the President and Commander in Chief.’² It arrived at Fredericton during the brief presidency of Ward Chipman, who had long experience of Owen as counsel to several of his antagonists and victims over the years.³ It was now time for Owen to be sprinkled with...

  9. Part II Doing substantial justice

    • Chapter 5 In the woods: Low law and the Crown Land Office
      (pp. 149-190)

      The new commission of the peace that issued in December 1833 deprived Hatheway of more than the dignity of his magistracy; it meant the loss of about half his income as well. He owned no property but his house lot in St Andrews. So far nothing had come of his application for a grant of wilderness land made two years earlier. He could hardly support himself, his wife Julia, and their nine children ranging in age from eighteen months to sixteen years, on his lieutenant’s half-pay alone. And Julia was five months’ pregnant with their tenth child.¹ To shore up...

    • Chapter 6 ‘Unconnected with mercantile pursuits’: The justice business, 1840-1
      (pp. 191-224)

      Sir John Harvey replaced Archibald Campbell as lieutenant governor in 1837. He had hardly settled in at Government House before Charles Reid Hatheway renewed his campaign for reinstatement, asking why he had been removed from the commission of the peace and pressing for the opportunity to answer any charges against him.¹ The first intimation of a return to official favour came in December 1838 when Hatheway was reappointed as a notary public.² It is probably no coincidence that this happened just as Harris Hatch and Thomas Wyer were made legislative councillors.³ Hatheway caused a stir at April sessions 1839 when...

    • Chapter 7 Hatheway’s civil docket, 1847-67
      (pp. 225-276)

      New Brunswick magistrates were not required to report regularly to the government but on a few occasions (like the 1832 Chipman commission) they were asked for statistics of their work. In March 1851 the assembly called for returns from all the magistrates in the province showing ‘the number of Suits brought for the recovery of Debts or Damages under the Justices’ Act …[and] the number of Prosecutions for the recovery of Penalties and Demands arising from County and Parochial Rates or Assessments.’¹ The returns were tabled in the assembly in April 1852 and referred to a select committee, but no...

    • Chapter 8 Hatheway’s crown docket, 1847-67
      (pp. 277-320)

      With these words to an 1831 grand jury, chief justice Chipman summed up the common law’s understanding of the JP’s role in felony prosecutions.¹ But to state the magistrate’s role in the administration of criminal justice in this way was at the same time to obscure the extensive discretion it implied and to ignore the various means by which justices of the peace acted to determine the great majority of criminal offences outside the system Chipman described. In Charlotte county criminal trials at the circuit court (presided over by a judge of the supreme court) were relatively few, especially after...

  10. Part III The sessions systemand its enemies

    • Chapter 9 Called to account: Justices, assemblymen, and ratepayers
      (pp. 323-360)

      As county governors, the bench of magistrates had significant responsibilities but limited access to resources. Under the province’s poor law the court of sessions assessed the parishes for the relief of paupers. Under the liquor law it sold tavern and retail licenses and fined bootleggers. Under a variety of provincial acts the justices collected penalties for minor offences and used them to subsidize poor relief or county contingencies. For other purposes, including the major public works that every county was expected to supply, sessions had to seek the co-operation of the legislature both for direct appropriations from provincial funds and...

    • Chapter 10 Three ships: Poverty, paternalism, and politics at mid-century
      (pp. 361-414)

      In May 1847 the St Andrews justices sent an urgent appeal to the lieutenant governor. Five vessels loaded with destitute emigrants from Ireland were expected within days; the poor house commissioners¹ disclaimed all responsibility for their support; the town’s inhabitants were much alarmed; no-one had authority to act. The magistrates called on the provincial executive to ensure that ‘some efficient means may be taken to meet the emergency.’ They enclosed a report from the commissioners, who said they were advancing money out of their own pockets for support of the local poor and that there would be nothing left over...

    • Chapter 11 The temperance magistrates: License and prohibition
      (pp. 415-458)

      Alcohol was an important ingredient of Charlotte county society, economy, and politics and an ongoing concern for its magistrates and other low law officials.¹ The sale of liquor licenses was one of the relatively few sources of county, as distinct from parish, revenue which the bench could control without seeking special dispensation from the provincial assembly. Spirits figured among the common articles of contraband smuggled across the Passamaquoddy narrows and so attracted the attention of the local customs establishment.² Alcohol was important as an item of trade and a component of wages, both of which meant that the businessmen-justices had...

    • Chapter 12 The sessions system in decline
      (pp. 459-486)

      From a St Andrews viewpoint the health of the sessions system was closely associated with the prosperity of the town, and that in turn with the fortunes of the St Andrews & Quebec Railroad scheme. From its founding in October 1835 the railroad was promoted by the most prominent businessmen-magistrates, most of them also directors of the Charlotte County Bank.¹ This first railway promotion in British North America proposed to link the ice-free port of St Andrews with Quebec City, replacing twelve hundred miles of seasonal navigation with some two hundred miles of track operable year-round.² Following an exploratory survey by...

  11. Appendices

    • Appendix A Reference tables
      (pp. 488-509)
    • Appendix B Commission of the Peace, 1845
      (pp. 510-511)
    • Appendix C Sources cited
      (pp. 512-515)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 516-526)
  13. Index of Names
    (pp. 527-534)
  14. Topical Index
    (pp. 535-542)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 543-547)