Planter 2010 Celebration
in Nova Scotia

250th Anniversary
1760-2010

New England Planters
Demand Representative Assembly

Governor Lawrence proclamation
1757 January 3


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Legislature's First Meeting

A new era in the Judicial annals of Nova Scotia commenced with the arrival in October 1754 of Chief Justice Jonathan Belcher.  Hitherto no one pretending to the necessary qualifications of a Judge had presided in the Courts.  Belcher was a man of good ability, good education, of experience in legal proceedings, and of a vigorous and determined character.  This is evidenced by the reforms and improvements he undertook and carried out until the first Assembly was called in 1758.  Cornwallis' commission (1749) authorized the summoning of an assembly chosen by the people, but in the then state of the province it could not be carried into effect.

Five years and more had elapsed since 1749 – before Belcher came in 1754 – and the condition of affairs had considerably changed.  He, it appears, had doubts as to the validity of at least some of the Acts and regulations of the Governor-in-Council, and pressed strongly for the calling of an elected assembly.  The subject was considered in Council and he drew up a scheme for the election of members in the different inhabitated districts of the province.  It was submitted and discussed at great length, and finally adopted after peremptory instructions from England came to call the assembly.

The Attorney and Solicitor-General of England, Murray and Lloyd, gave their opinion, "that the Governor and Council alone are not authorised under his commission and the royal instructions to make laws.  Till there can be an assembly, his Majesty has ordered the Government of the infant colony to be pursuant to his commission and royal instructions, and such further directions as he should give under his sign manual, or by order in Council."

The Lords of Trade appear to have been much concerned over this matter, andfind among their despatches to the Governor, dated May 7th, 1755, the following reference to the subject: "As the validity of the laws enacted by the Governor and Council or the authority of those acting under them does not appear to have been hitherto questioned, it is of the greatest consequence to the peace and welfare of the Province that the opinion of His Majesty's attorney and Solicitor-General should not be made public until an Assembly can be convened, and an indemnification passed for such acts as have been done under laws enacted without any proper authority." This suggestion, as will subsequently appear, was carried out, and no doubt the perilous position in which the Governor and Council and the officers acting under them found themselves hastened the measure for calling the Assembly.

On Monday, January 3, 1757, the necessary resolutions for the purpose were passed in Council.

On Monday, October 2, 1758, the newly elected members met at the Court House in Halifax, 19 in number, and were sworn in.  They elected Robert Sanderson their speaker; the Governor-in-Council constituted the other House, and the two the civil Legislature of the Province.  Thus came into existence the only body which henceforth could make laws for the Province of Nova Scotia...

Excerpted from:—
History of the Court of Chancery in Nova Scotia by Hon. Charles J. Townshend, one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.  Published 1900 in Toronto by The Carswell Co. Limited.



This is an image of the original Proclamation issued by Nova Scotia Governor Lawrence in January 1757.
The original Proclamation issued by Nova Scotia Governor Charles Lawrence
in January 1757 – "Calling General Assemblies... the first House
(Legislature) to be elected and convened in the following manner..."

NOTE: For better detail, this image can be expanded (CTRL +) to triple size (300%) without pixelation.

On Monday, October 2, 1758, the newly elected members met at the Court House, 19 in number, and were sworn in.  They elected Robert Sanderson their speaker; the Governor-in-Council constituted the other House, and the two the civil Legislature of the Province.  Thus came into existence the only body which henceforth could make laws for the Province of Nova Scotia.

We must now turn our attention to the Journals of the House of Assembly and to the Statutes of the Province, and follow the course of legislation as regards the courts.  One of their first acts was on October 3rd, 1758 to pass a resolution requesting the Governor that all the resolutions of His Majesty's Governor and Council heretofore made and passed, may be laid before the House, and also the collection of the English Statutes.

The Governor having complied with their request, a committee was appointed, October 5th, to inspect and examine the resolutions of the Governor and Council and report to the House which of them ought to have the force of law.  This report was adopted, and it was decided to incorporate the same in one General Act.

October 9th they voted that a Bill be passed for confirming the past practice of the Courts of Judicature and establishing their practice for the future, and on October 11th an Act was passed, 32 George II chapter 27, entitled "An Act for confirming the past proceedings of the Courts Judicature, and for regulating the further proceedings of the same."  Be it enacted: That His Majesty's Supreme Court, Court of Assize and General Gaol Delivery shall be held, and kept at the usual times and places (that is to say) on the last Tuesday in the month of October and on the last Tuesday in the month of April in every year in the town of Halifax, and that a Court of General Sessions of the Peace shall be held quarterly, as usual, in every year in the said town, that is to say, on the first Tuesday in the months of December, March, June and September, and that the Inferior Court of Common Pleas shall be held as usual on such first Tuesday in said months of December, March, June and September." The last clauses ratified and confirmed all proceedings to date.

At the same session another act was passed, entitled "An Act for confirming the past proceedings of the Court of Judicature, and for regulating the further proceedings of the same," and then another entitled "An Act in addition to and in further explanation of the last Act," which completed the legislation directly bearing on the status of the Courts and their proceedings.  Thus was ratified and placed on a sound and legal footing all that had been done in our Courts up to this time.

Excerpted from:—
History of the Court of Chancery in Nova Scotia by Hon. Charles J. Townshend, one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.  Published 1900 in Toronto by The Carswell Co. Limited.


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Latest update:   23 December 2014