An Act for Establishing and Regulating a Militia

This is an enactment, not a law passed by a legislature (which didn’t exist for another five years, and which was quiet in regards to Dartmouth until the 1780s), though it carried the same authority as such a law.

“The Town and Suburbs of Dartmouth“, notable to me as it’s the first record I’ve seen of Dartmouth in law, previous to a record of Dartmouth Township from 1757 and the Royal instructions that accompanied Cornwallis that presumably referred to Halifax and Dartmouth but didn’t specify either (more here), only that two townships were to be created at or near the harbor.


The following Act of this Province for establishing and regulating a Militia, being in the hands of but a few persons; we thought the publishing it at this time of Military watches, might not be unacceptable to our readers.

Province of Nova Scotia.

At a council holden at the Governor’s House in Halifax, on Thursday the 10th Day of May, 1753.


Whereas by His Majesty’s Royal Instructions to his Excellency the Governor of this Province, he is directed to cause a Militia to be established as soon as possible: And whereas the security and preservation of this Province greatly depends upon the said Militia being put into methods, and under such rules as may make the same most useful for the support and defence thereof, and that the inhabitants should be well armed and trained up in the Art Military, as well for the honour and service of his most sacred majesty, and the security of his province, against any violence or invasion whatsoever, as for the preservation of their own lives and fortunes, and that every person may know his duty herein, and he obliged to perform the same:

It is resolved by his Excellency the Governor, by and with the Advice and Consent of His Majesty’s Council of this Province, and by the Authority of the same IT IS ENACTED.

I. That from and after the Twenty Second Day of this instant, all Male persons, planters, inhabitants and their servants, between the ages of sixteen and sixty, residing in and belonging to the Town, Suburbs, or the peninsula of Halifax, the Town and Suburbs of Dartmouth, and the Parts adjacent, shall bear Arms and duly attend all musters and military exercises of their respective companies where they shall be listed or belong, allowing three months time to every son after coming to sixteen years of age, and every servant so long after his time is out, to provide themselves with arms and ammunition.

II. And the Clerk of each company, once a Quarter yearly, shall take an exact List of all Perfons living within the Precincts of such Company, and present the fame to the Captain or chief Officer, on pain of forfeiting Forty Shillings for each Default, to be paid to the Captain or chief Officer to the Use of the Company, and in Case of Non-payment to be levied by Distress and sale of the Offender’s Goods, by Virtue of a Warrant from the Captain or chief Officer, who is hereby impowered to grant the same.

III. That every Person lifted in any Company, shall so continue and attend all Duty in such Company, or otherwise suffer the Penalty by Law provided, until orderly dismissed or removed out of the Town or Precinct of such Company; and in case of Removal into the Precinct of another Company in the fame Town, to produce a Certificate under the Hand of the Captain or chief Officer of the Precinct whereunto he is removed that he is lifted there..

IV. If any Person liable to be listed as aforesaid, do exempt himself by shifting from House to House or Place to Place, to avoid being so lifted, he shall pay as a Fine for every such Offence, to the Use of the Company to which he properly belongs, Ten Shillings, being thereof convicted before any one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the County of Halifax.

V. That every Militia lifted Soldier and other Householder residing as aforesaid, Shall be always provided with proper and sufficient Fire Arms, consisting of a Musket, Gun, or Fuzil; not less than Three Foot long in the Barrel, two spare Flints, and Twelve Charges of Powder and Ball suitable to their respective Fire Arms, and to the Satisfaction of the Commission Officers of the Company to which he belongs, on Penalty of Forty Shillings for want of such Arms as is hereby required, and Two Shillings for each other defective Appurtenant, and the like Sum for every four Four Weeks he shall so remain unprovided or deficient: The Fine to be paid by Parents for their Sons under Age and under their Command, and by Matters or Heads . of Families for their Domestics and Servants, other than Servants upon Wages; to be levied on the Goods and Chattels of the Offender or Offenders, their parents or Masters, by Warrant under the Hand and Seal of one or more of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the Town and County of Halifax, arid for want of sufficient Distress, such Offender or Offenders to suffer One Month’s Imprisonment and hard Labour.

VI. That Regimental Musters shall be made once in every Six Months, or as often as shall be required by the Governor of Commander in Chief of this Province for the Time being, and every Captain or chief Officer of any Company Regiment, shall be obliged, on Penalty of Five Pounds, to draw forth his Company, or cause them to be drawn forth once every Three Months and no more, to exercise them in Motions, the Use of Arms and Shooting at Marks, or other Military Exercises, which every Person liable to be trained, having three Days Notice thereof, and not appearing and attending the fame, shall, for each Day’s Neglect, pay a Fine of Five Shillings.

VII. That the Commission Officers of any Company, or the major Part of them, may order the correcting and punishing Disorders and Contempt on a Training Day, or on a Watch; the Punishment not being greater than Riding the Wooden Horse, or Five Shillings Fine.

VIII. That there be Military Watches appointed and kept at such Times, in such Places, in such Numbers, and under such Regulations, as the Governor or Commander in Chief of this Province for the Time being shall appoint; and that all Persons able of Body, and that are of Age and not exempted by Law, shall by themselves, or some proper Person in their Stead, to the Satisfaction of the Commanding Officer of the Watch, attend the fame, on Penalty of Ten Shillings for each Defect, there having been due Warning given.

IX. Every Militia Soldier or other Person liable by Law, refusing or neglecting to attend Military Exercises on Training Days, or Military Watches, that shall not pay or have any Estate to be found whereon to levy the Fine, it shall be in the Power of the Captain or chief Officers of such Company, on the next Training Day after such Neglect (he not having satisfied the Clerk) to punish him for such Offence by Riding the Wooden Horse, not exceeding One Hour’s Time; and if such a Delinquent shall absent himself the second Training Day without giving sufficient Reason to the Captain or chief Officer for such Absence, it shall be in the Power of the chief Officer of the Company to direct a Warrant to any of the Constables of the said Town or Suburbs of Halifax, requiring him to apprehend such Delinquent, and bring him into the Field that he may be punished as by this Law is provided; and all Constables are hereby required to execute such Warrants accordingly.

X. That the Persons hereafter named be excepted from all Trainings, viz. The Members of His Majesty’s’ Council, the Secretary, Justices of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Justices of the Peace, Masters of Art, Ministers, Elders and Deacons of Churches, Provost Marshal, allowed Physicians or Chirurgeons, and Licensed School Matters, all such as have had Commissions and served as Field Officers, or Captains, Lieutenants, or Ensigns, Coroners, Treasurer, Attorney General, Deputies to the Provost Marshal, Clerks of Courts, Constable’s, constant Ferry-Men, and one Miller to each Grift-Mill, Officers employed in and about His Majesty’s Revenues, all Masters of Vessels of Thirty Tuns and upwards usually employed beyond Sea, and constant Herdsmen, Lame Persons or otherwise disabled in Body, producing a Certificate thereof from two able Chirurgeons.’.

XI. That the Persons herein after named be, and hereby are exempted from Military Watches and Warding, viz. The Members of the Council, Secretary, Ministers and Elders of Churches, allowed Physicians and Chirurgeons, Constables, constant Ferry-Men, and one Miller to each Grift-Mill.

XII. That the Captain and Commission Officers of each Company shall and hereby are fully impowered to nominate and appoint proper Persons to serve as Serjeants and Corporals in their respective Companies, and to displace them and appoint others in their Room, as they shall see Occasion.

XIII. That twice every Year, or oftner if required, ‘every Captain or chief Officer of each company shall give Order for a diligent Enquiry into the State of his Company, and for taking an exact List of the Names of his Soldiers and other Inhabitants within the Limits of his Company, and of the Defects of Arms or otherwise, and Names of the defective Persons, that they may be prosecuted as the Law hath provided, and that such Care may be taken as is proper to remedy the fame.

XIV. That if any person who is by Law obliged to provide Arms and Ammunition, cannot purchase the same by such Means as he hath, if he bring to the Clerk of the Company merchantable Provision, or other vendible Goods, so much as by Appraisement of the Clerk and two other Persons mutually chosen shall be judged of greater Value by one Fifth Part than such Arms and Ammunition is of, he thereupon shall be excused from the Penalties for want of Arms and Ammunition until he can be provided, which the said Clerk shall provide as soon as may be by Sale of such Goods, and render the Overplus, if any be; but the Party shall notwithstanding give his personal Attendance upon all Occasions as other Militia Soldiers until he be supplied, and at such Times shall perform any proper Service he may be put upon by the Captain or chief Officer of the Company he belongs to : But if the Person be adjudged unable to buy Arms, or to lay down the Value
proposed

XV. THAT such proper Person as by the Commission Officers of any Company shall be appointed Clerk, and shall refuse to serve, shall pay Forty Shillings Fine, and another be chosen in his Room, and so until one do accept, which Person shall be under Oath for the Faithful Discharge of his Office, to be administered unto him by a Justice of the Peace of the County of Halifax, in the Words following,

YOU do swear truly to perform the Office of Clerk of the Military Company under the Command of A. B. Captain, to the utmost of your Skill and Power, in all Things appertaining to your Office, according to Law. So help you GOD.

And for every Destraint made for any Fine not exceeding Forty Shillings, he shall have one Quarter Part for his Pains and Trouble, and for such Fines he may detrain ex officio, and in such Distress shall observe such Rules as the Law hath provided in other Cafes ; and upon Ten Days Notice shall account with and pay the Captain or chief Officer what Fines he hath receiv’d, his own Part being deducted.

XVI. The chief military Officer of the Regiment, as often as he shall see Cause, shall require the Captain or chief Officer of each Company in his Regiment to meet at such Time and Place as he shall appoint, and there with them to confer and give in charge such Orders as shall by them, or the major part of them be judged meet for the better ordering and settling their several Companies, and for the better promoting of Military Discipline amongst them; and the chief Officer is hereby impowered, by his Warrant directed to any Clerk or Officer of his Regiment, to summon or cause to be brought before them any Offender against this Act, and according to Law to hear and determine all Matters proper for their Cognizance, and to give Sentence, and to grant Mittimus or Warrants of Distress to the Clerk of the Company where the Offence is committed, for executing which Warrant, if above Forty Shillings, he shall have Ten Shillings out of the same for his Pains and Trouble the rein, and no more.

XVII. That no Clerk, ex officio, make Destraint for any Fine until fix Days after the Offence is committed, that so the Party may have Opportunity to make Excuse, if any he hath, why he should not pay the Fine ; and every Clerk that neglects or refuses to account or make Payment as by this Law is provided, he by a Warrant from the chief Officer of the Company, directed to the Constable, may be distrained on for so much as he hath or should have collected or distrained for.

XVIII. That all Officers yield Obedience to the Warrants or Commands of their superior Officers, on Penalty of Five Pounds, to be heard and determined at the next Meeting of the chief Officers and Captains of the Regiment, and the Fine to be taken by Distress and Sale of the Offender’s Goods ( returning the Overplus if any be) by Warrant from the chief Officer of the Regiment, directed to the Clerk of the Company to which each Offender belongs, and to be applied to the Use and Benefit of such Company as the Officers so met shall agree, their Expences being first defrayed out of the fame, not exceeding Twenty Shillings.

XIX. That an Alarm at the Citadel of the Town of Halifax, being made upon such Causes as are agreeable to Instructions to be given by the Governor or Commander in chief for the Time being, to the Officer commanding at the said Citadel, shall be by firing a Beacon at the Summit of the said Citadel-Hill, or such other place as the Governor or Commander in chief for the Time being shall hereafter appoint, and by firing four Guns at the Parade in the Town of Halifax, or at such other Place as the Governor or Commander in chief for the Time being shall appoint, distinctly one after the other, and also by firing four Guns at Georges- Island, distinctly one after the other, and at the Distance of Five Minutes after the Firing of the Four first mentioned Guns at the Parade or such other place as aforesaid, all Persons being called up to Arm, upon which all the trained Officers, Soldiers, and others capable to bear Arms, that are then resident in the said Town, Suburbs, or Peninsula of Halifax, in case the Alarm should be made, shall forthwith appear complete with their Arms and Ammunition according to Law, at such Place or Places of RendezVous as may from Time to Time be appointed by the Governor or Commander in chief for the Time being, there to attend such Commands as shall be given for His Majesty’s Service, and that on the Penalty of Five Pounds, or Three Months Imprisonment. The Members of His Majesty’s Council, Justices, and Provost- Marshal to attend upon his Excellency the Governor, if at Halifax, and in 0ther Places to appear and advise with the chief military Officers of the Place where such Alarm shall be made, and to be assisting in His Majesty’s Service according to their Quality. And if any Person shall willfully make any false Alarm, he shall be fined to His Majesty Fifty Pounds, for Support of the Government, or suffer Twelve Months Imprisonment.


And for the better preventing of false Alarms, Be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That no Captain, Master or Commander of any Ship or Vessel, riding at Anchor or being within the Harbor of Chebucto, or any other Person or Persons whatsoever, either afloat or on shore, within the Town, Suburbs, or Peninsula of Halifax, the Town or Suburbs of Dartmouth, or Places adjacent, shall presume to fire any Guns or Small Arms, or beat any Drum after Sunset, unless on some lawful Occasion, under the Penalty of Forty Shillings for every Gun or Small Arm so fired, or Drum beaten, to be levied by Warrant from any one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the County of Halifax, ( who is hereby empowered to issue the fine and to give Judgment thereupon) by Distress and Sale of the Offender’s Goods, and for want of such Distress to commit such Officer to the Goal, there to remain until Payment be made of the same.

Provided always, That this Clause shall in no wise be construed to extend to any Captain or other Officer of any of His Majesty’s Ships of War, for their firing at setting the Watch, nor to any of His Majesty’s Troops on Shore or on Board in the Execution of their Duty.

XX. That all Persons exempted by this Law from Training, shall notwithstanding be provided with Arms and Ammunition complete, upon the fame Penalty as those that are obliged to Train.

Provided also, And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That nothing in this Act contained be expounded construed, or understood to diminish, alter, or abridge the Power of the Captain General or Commander in Chief tor the Time being, but that in all Things, and upon all Occasions, he may cat as fully and freely as Captain General or Commander in Chief, to all Intents and Purposes, as if this Ad had never been made, any Thing in this Act contained to the contrary notwithstanding.

Provided also, That no Person or Persons whatsoever shall be sued, prosecuted, or his Goods and Chattels liable to any Seizure by Virtue of any Clause in this Act before mentioned, but within the Space of Three Months after the committing the respective Facts hereby made Offences, and not at any time after the said Three Months.

XXI. All Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures arising by Virtue of this Act or any Breach thereof (not otherwise disposed of therein) shall be for the Use of the Regiment or Company respectively wherein the fame doth arise, that is to say for the procuring and repairing Drums, Colours, Banners, Halberts, pay of Drummers, or other Charge of the said Company, and the surplus, (it any be) to be laid out in Arms and Ammunition for a Crown Stock; and be recoverable by Action, Bill, Plaint, or Information in any of His Majesty’s Courts of Record,

And whereas it is intended by His Excellency the Governor forthwith to settle a Township in the Harbour of Merlegash in this Province by the Name Lunenburg, and for the better Security of which a Militia is to be Established there, It is therefore hereby further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, Thar such Militia to be raised shall be deemed, construed, and understood to be to all Intents and Purposes within the Invention and Meaning of this Act, and the Offender or Offenders against the fame shall be subject to all the Pains and Penalties herein continued.

See also:

Halifax Gazette, January 5-12, 1754. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=4p3FJGzxjgAC&dat=17540105&printsec=frontpage&hl=en, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=4p3FJGzxjgAC&dat=17540112&printsec=frontpage&hl=en