Canada under British Rule 1760-1900 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 335 pages of information about Canada under British Rule 1760-1900.
great landowners, on the easy condition of paying certain quit-rents—­a condition constantly broken.  This ill-advised measure led to many troublesome complications for a hundred years, until at last they were removed by the terms of the arrangement which brought the island into the federal union of British North America in 1873.  In 1769 the island was separated from Nova Scotia and granted a distinct government, although its total population at the time did not exceed one hundred and fifty families.  An assembly of eighteen representatives was called so early as 1773, when the first governor, Captain Walter Paterson, still administered public affairs.  The assembly was not allowed to meet with regularity during many years of the early history of the island.  During one administration it was practically without parliamentary government for ten years.  The land question always dominated public affairs in the island for a hundred years.

From the very beginning of a regular system of government in Nova Scotia the legislature appears to have practically controlled the administration of local affairs except so far as it gave, from time to time, powers to the courts of quarter sessions to regulate taxation and carry out certain small public works and improvements.  In the first session of the legislature a joint committee of the council and assembly chose the town officers for Halifax.  We have abundant evidence that at this time the authorities viewed with disfavour any attempt to establish a system of town government similar to that so long in operation in New England.  The town meeting was considered the nursery of sedition in New England, and it is no wonder that the British authorities in Halifax frowned upon all attempts to reproduce it in their province.

Soon after his arrival in Nova Scotia, Governor Cornwallis established courts of law to try and determine civil and criminal cases in accordance with the laws of England.  In 1774 there were in the province courts of general session, similar to the courts of the same name in England; courts of common pleas, formed on the practice of New England and the mother country, and a supreme court, court of assize and general gaol delivery, composed of a chief justice and two assistant judges.  The governor-in-council constituted a court of error in certain cases, and from its decisions an appeal could be made to the king-in-council.  Justices of peace were also appointed in the counties and townships, with jurisdiction over the collection of small debts.

We must now leave the province of Nova Scotia and follow the revolutionary movement, which commenced, soon after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, in the old British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard, and ended in the acknowledgement of their independence in 1783, and in the forced migration of a large body of loyal people who found their way to the British provinces.

CHAPTER III.

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