Constitutional History of England (Vol II)


IT has been the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race to spread through every quarter of the globe their courage and endurance, their vigorous industry and love of freedom. Wherever they have founded colonies they have borne with them the laws and institutions of England, as their birthright, so far as they were applicable to an infant settlement. In territories acquired by conquest or cession, the existing laws and customs of the people were respected, until they were qualified to share the franchises of Englishmen. Some of these, held only as garrisons, others peopled with races hostile to our rule or unfitted for freedom, were necessarily governed upon different principles. But in quitting the soil of England to settle new colonies, Englishmen never renounced her freedom. Such being the noble principle of English colonization, circumstances favored the early development. of colonial liberties. The Puritans, who founded the New England colonies, having fled from the oppression of Charles I., carried with them a stern love of civil liberty, and established republican institutions. The persecuted Catholics who settled Maryland, and the proscribed Quakers who took refuge in Pennsylvania, were little less democratic. Other colonies founded in America and the West Indies, in the seventeenth century, merely for the purposes of trade and cultivation, adopted institutions, less democratic indeed, but founded on principles of freedom and self-government. Whether established as proprietary colonies, or under charters held direct from the Crown, the colonists were equally free.

The English constitution was generally the type of these colonial governments. The governor was the viceroy of the Crown ; the legislative council, or upper chamber, appointed by the governor, assumed the place of the House of Lords ; and the representative assembly chosen by the people was the express image of the House of Commons. This miniature Parliament, complete in all its parts, made laws for the internal government of the colony. The governor assembled, prorogued, and dissolved it; and signified his assent or absent to every act agreed to by the chambers; the upper house mimicked the dignity of the House of Peers ; and the lower house insisted on the privileges of the Commons, especially that of originating all taxes and grants of money for the public service. The elections were also conducted after the fashion of the mother country. Other laws and institutions were imitated not less faithfully. Jamaica, for example, maintained a court of King’s bench, a court of common pleas, a court of exchequer, a court of chancery, a court of admiralty, and a court of probate. It had grand and petty juries, justices of the peace, courts of quarter sessions, vestries, a coroner, and constables.

Every colony was a little state, complete in its legislature, its judicature, and its executive administration. But, at the same time, it acknowledged the sovereignty of the mother country, the prerogatives of the Crown, and the legislative supremacy of Parliament. The assent of the king, or his representative, was required to give validity to acts of the colonial legislature; his veto annulled them; while the Imperial Parliament was able to provided for their own defence against the Indians and the enemies of England. During the seven years’ war, the American colonies maintained a force of 25,000 men, at a cost of several millions. In the words of Franklin, ” they were governed, at the expense to Great Britain, of only a little pen, ink, and paper: they were led by a thread.”

But little as the mother country concerned herself in the political government of her colonies, she evinced a jealous vigilance in regard to their commerce. Commercial monopoly, indeed, was the first principle in the colonial policy of England, as well as of the other maritime states of Europe. She suffered no other country but herself to supply their wants; she appropriated many of their exports ; and, for the sake of her own manufacturers, insisted that their produce should be sent to her in a raw, or unmanufactured state. By the Navigation Acts, their produce could only be exported to England in English ships. This policy was avowedly maintained for the benefit of the mother country, for the encouragement of her commerce, her shipping, and manufactures, to which the interests of the colonies were sacrificed. But, in compensation for this monopoly, she gave a preference to the produce of her own colonies, by protective and prohibitory duties upon foreign commodities. In claiming a monopoly of their markets, she, at the same time, gave them a reciprocal monopoly of her own. In some cases she encouraged the production of their staples by bounties. A commercial policy so artificial as this, the creature of laws striving against nature, marked the dependence of the colonies, crippled their industry, fomented discontents, and even provoked war with foreign states. But it was a policy common to every European government, until enlightened by economical science bind the colony by its acts, and to supersede all local legislation. Every colonial judicature was also subject to an appeal to the king in council, at Westminster. The dependence of the colonies, however, was little felt in their internal government. They were secured from interference by the remoteness of the mother country, and the ignorance, in difference, and preoccupation of her rulers. In matter of imperial concern, England imposed her own policy ; but otherwise left them free. Asking no aid of her, they es caped her domination. All their expenditure, civil and military, was defrayed by taxes raised by themselves. The and commercial advantages were, for upwards of a century, nearly the sole benefit which England recognized in the possession of her colonies.

In all ages, taxes and tribute had been characteristic of a dependency. The subject provinces of Asiatic monarchies, in ancient and modern times, had been despoiled by the rapacity of satraps and pashas, and the greed of the central government. The Greek colonies, which resembled those of England more than any other dependencies of antiquity, were forced to send contributions to the treasury of the parent state. Carthage exacted tribute from her subject towns and territories. The Roman provinces ” paid tribute unto Cesar.” In modern times, Spain received tribute from her European dependencies, and a revenue from the gold and silver mines of her American colonies. It was also the policy of France, Holland, and Portugal to derive a revenue from their settlements.

But England, satisfied with the colonial trade, by which her subjects at home were enriched, imposed upon them alone all the burdens of the state. Her costly wars, the interest of her increasing debt, her naval and military establishments, adequate for the defence of a widespread empire, were all maintained by the dominant country herself. James II. would have levied taxes upon the colonies of Massachusetts; but was assured by Sir William Jones that he could no more “levy money without their consent in an assembly, than they could discharge themselves from their allegiance.” Fifty years later, the shrewd instinct of Sir Robert Walpole revolted against a similar attempt. But at length, in an evil hour, it was resolved by George III. and his minister Mr. Grenville, that the American colonies should be required to contribute to the general revenues of the government. This new principle was apparently recommended by many considerations of justice and expediency. Much of the national debt had been incurred in defence of the colonies, and in wars for the common cause of the whole empire. Other states had been accustomed to enrich them selves by the taxation of their dependencies ; and why was England alone to abstain from so natural a source of revenue? If the colonies were to be exempt from the common burdens of the empire, why should England care to defend them in war, or incur charges for them in time of peace? The benefits of the connection were reciprocal; why, then, should the burdens be all on one side? Nor, assuming the equity of imperial taxation, did it seem beyond the competence of Parliament to establish it. The omnipotence of Parliament was a favorite theory of lawyers; and for a century and a half, the force of British statutes had been acknowledged without question, in every matter concerning the government of the colonies.

No charters exempted colonists from the sovereignty of the parent state, in matters of taxation ; nor were there wanting precedents, in which they had submitted to imperial imposts without remonstrance. In carrying out a restrictive commercial policy, Parliament had passed numerous act providing for the levy of colonial import and export duties. Such duties, from their very nature, were unproductive, imposing restraints upon trade, and offering encouragements to smuggling. They were designed for commercial regulation rather than revenue ; but were collected by the king’s officers, and payable into the Exchequer. The state had further levied postage duties within the colonies.

But these considerations were outweighed by reasons on the other side. Granting that the war expenditure of the mother country had been increased by reason of her colonies, who was responsible for European wars and costly armaments? Not the colonies, which had no voice in the government, but their English rulers, who held in their hands the destinies of the empire. And if the English treasury had suffered, in defence of the colonies; the colonists had taxed themselves heavily for protection against the foes of the mother country, with whom they had no quarrel. But, apart from the equity of the claim, was it properly within the jurisdiction of Parliament to enforce it? The colonists might be induced to grant a contribution, but could Parliament constitutionally impose a tax, without their consent? True, that this imperial legislature could make laws for the government of the colonies; but taxation formed a marked exception to general legislation. According to the principles, traditions, and usage of the constitution, taxes were granted by the people, through their representatives. This privilege had been recognized for centuries, in the parent state; and the colonists had cherished it with traditional veneration, in the country of their adoption. They had taxed themselves, for local objects, through their own representatives; they had responded to requisitions from the Crown for money; but never, until now, had it been sought to tax them directly for imperial purposes, by the authority of Parliament.

A statesman imbued with the free spirit of our constitution could not have failed to recognize these overriding principles. He would. have seen, that if it were fit that the colonies should contribute to the imperial treasury, it was for the Crown to demand their contributions through the governors; and for the colonial legislatures to grant them. But neither the king nor his minister were alive to these principles. The one was too conscious of kingly power, to measure nicely the rights of his subjects; and the other was blinded by a pedantic reverence for the authority of Parliament.

In 1764, an act was passed, with little discussion, imposing customs’ duties upon several articles imported into The stamp the American colonies, the produce of these duties being reserved for the defence of the colonies them selves. At the same time, the Commons passed a resolution, that “it may be proper to charge certain stamp duties” in America, as the foundation of future legislation. The colonists, accustomed to perpetual interference with their trade, did not dispute the right of the mother country to tax their imports; but they resolved to evade the impost, as far as possible, by the encouragement of native manufactures. The threatened stamp act, however, they immediately denounced as an invasion of the rights of Englishmen, who could not be taxed otherwise than by their representatives. But, deaf to their remonstrances, Mr. Grenville, in the next session, persisted in his stamp bill. It attracted little notice in this country; the people could bear with complacency the taxation of others; and never was there a Parliament more indifferent to constitutional principles and popular rights. The colonists, however, and their agents in this country, remonstrated against the proposal.

Their opinion had been invited by ministers; and, that it might be expressed, a year’s delay had been agreed upon. Yet when they petitioned against the bill, the Commons re fused to entertain their petitions, under a rule, by no means binding on their discretion, which excluded petitions against a tax proposed for the service of the year. An arbitrary temper and narrow pedantry prevailed over justice and sound policy. Unrepresented communities were to be taxed, — even without a hearing. The bill was passed with little opposition ; but the colonists combined to resist its execution. Mr. Pitt had been ill in bed when the stamp act was passed ; but no sooner were the discontents in America brought into discussion than he condemned taxation with out representation, and counselled the immediate repeal of the obnoxious act. ” “When in this House,” he said, ” we give and grant, we grant what is our own. But in an American tax, what do we do? We, Your Majesty’s Commons for Great Britain, give and grant to Your Majesty, what? Our own property? No; we give and grant to Your Majesty, the property of Your Majesty’s Commons of America.” At the same time, he proposed to save the honor of England by an ad declaratory of the general legislative authority of Parliament over the colonies. Lord Rockingham, who had succeeded Mr. Grenville, alarmed by the unanimity and violence of the colonists, readily caught Repeal of the at Mr. Pitt’s suggestion. The stamp act was repealed, notwithstanding the obstinate resistance of the king, and his friends, and of Mr. Grenville and the supporters of the late ministry. Mr. Pitt had desired expressly to except from the declatory Act the right of taxation without the consent of the colonists; but the Crown lawyers and Lord Mansfield denied the distinction between legislation and the imposition of taxes which that great constitutional statesman had forcibly pointed out ; and the bill was introduced without that exception. In the House of Lords, Lord Camden, the only great constitutional lawyer of his age, supported with remarkable power the views of Mr. Pitt; but the bill was passed in its original shape, and maintained the unqualified right of England to make laws for the colonies. In the same session some of the import duties imposed in 1764 were also repealed, and others modified. The colonists were appeased by these concessions; and little regarded the abstract terms of the declaratory act. They were, indeed, encouraged in a spirit of in dependence by their triumph over the English Parliament; but their loyalty was as yet unshaken.

The error of Mr. Grenville had scarcely been repaired, when an act of political fatuity caused an irreparable breach between the mother country and her colonies. Lord Chatham, by his timely intervention, had saved England her colonies ; and now his ill-omened administration was destined to lose them. His witty and accomplished, but volatile and incapable Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Charles Townshend, having lost half a million of his ways and means by an adverse vote of the Commons on the land tax, ventured, with incredible levity, to repeat the disastrous experiment of colonial taxation. The Americans, to strengthen their own case against the stamp act, had drawn a distinction between internal and external taxation, a distinction plausible and ingenious, in the hands of so dexterous a master of political fence as Dr. Franklin,1 but substantially without foundation. Both kinds of taxes were equally paid by the colonists themselves; and if it was their birthright to be taxed by none but representatives of their own, this doctrine clearly comprehended customs, no less than excise. But, misled by the supposed distinction which the Americans themselves had raised, Mr. Townshend proposed a variety of small colonial customs duties, — on glass, on paper, on painters’ color, and lastly, on tea. The estimated produce of these paltry taxes amounted to no more than 40,000l. Lord Chatham would have scornfully put aside a scheme, at once so contemptible and impolitic, and so plainly in violation of the principles for which he had himself recently contended; but he lay stricken and helpless, while his rash lieutenant was rushing headlong into danger. Lord Camden would have arrested the measure in the Cabinet; but standing alone, in a dis organized ministry, he accepted under protest a scheme, which none of his colleagues approved. However rash the financier, however weak the compliance of ministers, Parliament fully shared the fatal responsibility of this measure. It was passed with approbation, and nearly in silence. Mr. Townshend did not survive to see the mischief he had done; but his colleagues had soon to deplore their error. The colonists resisted the import duties, as they had resisted the stamp act; and, a second time, ministers were forced to recede from their false position. But their retreat was effected awkwardly, and with a bad grace. They yielded to the colonists, so far as to give up the general scheme of import duties; but persisted in continuing the duties upon tea.

This miserable remnant of the import duties was not calculated to afford a revenue exceeding 12,000l; and its actual proceeds were reduced to 300l. by smuggling and the determination of the colonists not to consume an article to which the obnoxious impost was attached. The insignificance of the tax, while it left ministers without justification for continuing such a cause of irritation, went far to secure the acquiescence of the colonists. But their discontents, met without temper or moderation, were suddenly inflamed by a new measure, which only indirectly concerned them. To assist the half bankrupt East India Company in the sale of their teas, a drawback was given them, of the whole English duty on shipments to the American plantations. By this concession to the East India Company, the colonists, exempted from the English duty, in fact received their teas at a lower rate than when there was no colonial tax. The Company were also empowered to ship their teas direct from their own warehouses. A sudden stimulus was thus given to the export of the very article, which alone caused irritation and dissension. The colonists saw, or affected to see, in this measure, an artful contrivance for encouraging the consumption of taxed tea, and facilitating the further extension of colonial taxation. It was met by a daring outrage The first tea-ships which reached Boston were boarded by men disguised as Mohawk Indians, and their cargoes cast into the sea. This being the crowning act of a series of provocations and insults, by which the colonists, and especially the people of Boston, had testified their resentment against the stamp act, the import duties, and other recent measures, the government at home regarded it with just indignation. Every one agreed that the rioters deserved punishment ; and that reparation was due to the East India Company. But the punishment inflicted by Parliament, at the instance of Lord North, was such as to provoke revolt. Instead of demanding compensation, and attaching penalties to its refusal, the flourishing port of Boston was summarily closed: no ship could lade or unlade at its quays ; the trade and industry of its inhabitants was placed under an interdict. The ruin of the city was decreed; no penitence could avert its doom; but when the punishment had been suffered, and the atonement made; when Boston, humbled and contrite, had kissed the rod; and when reparation had been made to the East India Company, the king in council might, as an act of grace, remove the fatal ban.1 It was a deed of vengeance, fitter for the rude arbitrament of an eastern prince, than for the temperate equity of a free state.

Nor was this the only act of repression. The republican constitution of Massachusetts, cherished by the descendants of the Pilgrim fathers was superseded. The council, hitherto elective, was to be nominated by the Crown; and the appointment of judges, magistrates, and sheriffs, was transferred from the council to the governor. And so much was the administration of justice suspected, that, by another act, accused persons might be sent for trial to any other colony, or even to England. Troops were also despatched to overawe the turbulent people of Massachusetts.

The colonists, however, far from being intimidated by the rigors of the mother country, associated to resist them. Nor was Massachusetts left alone in its troubles. A congress of delegates from twelve of the colonies was assembled at Philadelphia, by whom the recent measures were condemned, as a violation of the rights of Englishmen. It was further agreed to suspend all imports from, and exports to, Great Britain and her dependencies, unless the grievances of the colonies were redressed. Other threatening measures were adopted, which proved too plainly that the stubborn spirit of the colonists was not to Le overcome. In the words of Lord Chatham, “the spirit which now resisted taxation in America, was the same spirit which formerly opposed loans, benevolences, and ship money in England.”

In vain Lord Chatham, reappearing after his long prostration, proffered a measure of conciliation, repealing the obnoxious acts, and explicitly renouncing imperial taxation, but requiring from the colonies the grant of a revenue to a king a measure might even yet have save the colonies; but it was contemptuously rejected by the Lords, on the first reading.

Lord North himself soon afterwards framed a conciliatory proposition, promising that, if the colonists should make provision for their own defence and for the civil government, no imperial tax should be levied. His resolution was agree to; but, in the present temper of the colonists, its conditions were impracticable. Mr. Burke also proposed other resolutions, similar to the scheme of Lord Chatham, which were rejected by a large majority.

The Americans were already ripe for rebellion, when an unhappy collision occurred at Lexington between the royal troops and the colonial militia. Blood was shed; and the people flew to arms. The war of independence was commenced. Its sad history and issue are but too well known. In vain Congress addressed a petition to the king, for redress and conciliation. It received no answer. In vain Lord Chatham devoted the last energies of his wasting life to effect a reconciliation, without renouncing the sovereignty of England. In vain the British 1778. Parliament, humbling itself before its rebellious subjects, repealed the American tea duty, and renounced its claims to imperial taxation. In vain were Parliamentary commissioners empowered to suspend the acts of which the colonists complained, to concede every demand but that of independence, and almost to sue for peace. It was too late to stay the civil war. Disasters and defeat befell the British arms, on American soil ; and, at length, the independence of the colonies was recognized.’

Such were the disastrous consequences of a misunderstanding of the rights and pretensions of colonial communities, who had carried with them the laws and franchises of Englishmen. And here closes the first period in the constitutional history of the colonies.

We must now turn to another class of dependencies, not originally settled by English subjects, but acquired from other states by conquest or cession. To these a different rule of public law was held to apply. They were dominions of the crown; and governed, according to the laws prevailing at the time of their acquisition, by the king in council. They were distinguished from other settlements as crown colonies. Some of them, however, like Jamaica and Nova Scotia, had received the free institutions of England, and were practically self governed, like other English colonies.

[In reference to Nova Scotia: Edwards, ii. 419; Haliburton’s Nova Scotia, ii. 319]

Canada, the most important of this class, was conquered from the French, in 1759, by General “Wolfe, and ceded to England, in 1763, by the treaty of Paris. In 1774, the administration of its affairs was intrusted to a council appointed by the crown; but, in 1791, it was divided into two provinces, to each of which representative institutions were granted. It was no easy problem to provide for the government of such a colony. It comprised a large and ignorant population of French colonists, having sympathies with the country whence they sprung, accustomed to absolute government and feudal institutions, and under the influence of a Catholic priesthood. It further comprised an active race of British settlers, speaking another language, professing a different religion, and craving the liberties of their own free land. The division of the provinces was also a separation of races ; and freedom was granted to both alike. The immediate objects of this measure were to secure the attachment of Canada, and to exempt the British colonists from the French laws; but it marked the continued adhesion of Parliament to the principles of self-government. In discussing its policy, Mr. Fox laid down a principle, which was destined, after half a century, to become the rule of colonial administration. ” I am convinced,” said he, “that the only means of retaining distant colonies with advantage, is to enable them to govern themselves.” In 1785, representative institutions were given to New Brunswick, and, so late as 1832, to Newfoundland; and thus, eventually, all the British American colonies were as free, in their forms of government, as the colonies which had gained their independence. But the mother country, in granting the:;e constitutions, exercised, in a marked form, the powers of a dominant state. She provided for the sale of waste lands, for the maintenance of the church establishment, and for other matters of internal polity.

England was soon compensated for the loss of her colonies in America, by vast possessions in another hemisphere. But the circumstances under which Australia was settled were unfavorable to free institutions. Transportation to the American plantations, commenced in the reign of Charles II., had long been an established punishment for criminals. The revolt of these colonies led to the establishment of penal settlements in Australia. New South Wales was founded in 1788, and Van Diemen’s Land in 1825. Penal settlements were necessarily without a constitution, being little more than state prisons. These fair countries, instead of being the homes of free Englishmen, were peopled by criminals sentenced to long’ terms of punishment and servitude. Such an origin was not promising to the moral or political destinies of Australia; but the attractions which it offered to free emigrants gave early tokens of its future greatness. South Australia and New Zealand, whence convicts were excluded, were afterwards fount.led, in the same region, without free constitutions. The early political condition of the Australian colonies forms, indeed, a striking contrast to that of the older settlements, to which Englishmen had taken their birthrights. But free emigration developed their resources, and quickly reduced the criminal population to a subordinate element in the society; and, in 1828, local legislatures were granted to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.

While these colonies were without an adequate population, transportation was esteemed by the settlers, as the means of affording a steady supply of labor; but as free emigration advanced , the services of convicts became less essential to colonial prosperity; and the moral taint of the criminal class was felt more sensibly. In 1838, Sir William Molesworth’s committee exposed the enormities of transportation as part of a scheme of colonization; and in 1840 the sending of convicts to New South wales was discontinued. In Van Diemen’s Land, after various at tempts to improve the system of convict labor and discipline, transportation was finally abolished in 1854. Meanwhile, an attempt to send convicts to the Cape of Good Hope in 1848, had been resisted by the colonists, and abandoned. In the following year, a new penal settlement was founded in Western Australia.

The discontinuance of transportation to the free colonies of Australia, and a prodigious increase of emigration and productive industry, were preparing them for a further development of freedom at no distant a period.

From the period of the American war the home government, awakened to the importance of colonial administration, displayed greater activity, and a more ostensible disposition to interfere m the affairs of the colonies. Until the commencement of the difficulties with America, there had not even been a separate department for the government of the colonies; but the board of trade exercised a supervision, little more than nominal, over colonial affairs. In 1768, however, a third secretary of state was appointed, to whose care the colonies were intrusted. In 1782, the office was discontinued by Lord Rockingham, after the loss of the American provinces ; but was revived in 1794, and became an active and important department of the state. Its influence was felt throughout the British colonies. However popular the form of their institutions, they were steadily governed by British ministers in Downing Street.

In crown colonies, acquired by conquest or cession, Colonies the dominion of the crown was absolute ; and the authority of the colonial-office was exercised directly, by instructions to the governors. In free colonies it was exercised, for the most part, indirectly, through the influence of the governors and their councils. Self-government was there the theory; but in practice, the governors, aided by dominant interests in the several colonies, contrived to govern according to the policy dictated from Downing Street. Just as at home, the crown, the nobles, and an ascendant party were supreme in the national councils, so in the colonies, the governors and their official aristocracy were generally able to command the adhesion of the local legislatures.

A more direct interference, however, was often exercised. Ministers had no hesitation in disallowing any colonial acts of which they disapproved, even when they concerned the internal affairs of the colony only. They dealt freely with the public lands, as the property of the crown, often making grants obnoxious to the colonists ; and peremptorily insisting upon the conditions under which they should be sold and settled. Their interference was also frequent regarding church establishments and endowments, official salaries and the colonial civil lists. Misunderstandings and disputes were constant; but the policy and will of the home government usually prevailed.

Another incident of colonial administration was that of Patronage. patronage. The colonies offered a wide field of employment for the friends, connections, and political partisans of the home government. The offices in England available for securing parliamentary support, fell short of the demand, and appointments were accordingly multiplied abroad. Of these, many of the most lucrative were executed by deputy. The favored friends of ministers, who were gratified by the emoluments of office, were little disposed to suffer banishment in a distant dependency. Infants in the cradle were endowed with colonial appointments, to be executed through life by convenient deputies. Extravagant fees or salaries were granted in Downing Street, and spent in England ; but paid out of colonial revenues. Other offices again, to which residence was attached, were too frequently given to men wholly unfit for employment at home, but who were supposed to be equal to colonial service, where indolence, incapacity, or doubtful character might escape exposure. Such men as these, however, were more mischievous in a colony, than at home. The higher officers were associated with the governor in the administration of affairs ; the subordinate officers were subject to less control and discipline. In both, negligence and unfitness were injurious to the colonies. As colonial societies expanded, these appointments from home further excited the jealousy of colonists, many of whom were better qualified for office, than the strangers who came amongst them to enjoy power, wealth, and distinction, which were denied to themselves. This jealousy and the natural ambition of the colonists, were among the principal causes which led to demands for more complete self-government. As this feeling was increasing in colonial society, the home government were occupied with arrangements for insuring the permanent maintenance of the civil establishments out of the colonial revenues. To continue to fill all the offices with Englishmen, and at the same time to call upon the jealous colonists to pay them, was not to Le at tempted. And accordingly the home government surrendered to the governors all appointments under 200l a year; and to the greater number of other offices, appointed colonists recommended by the governors. A colonial grievance was thus redressed, and increased influence given to the colonists; while one of the advantages of the connection was renounced by the parent state.

While England was entering upon a new period of extended liberties, after the Reform Act, circumstances materially affected her relations with the colonies; and this may be termed the third and last period of colonial history. First, the abolition of slavery, in 1833, loosened the ties by which the sugar colonies had been bound to the mother country. This was followed by the gradual adoption of a new commercial policy, which overthrew the long-established protections and monopolies of colonial trade. The main purpose for which both parties had cherished the connection was lost. Colonists found their produce exposed to the competition of the world; and, in the sugar colonies, with restricted labor. The home consumer independent of colonial supplies, was free to choose his own market, wherever commodities were best and cheap est. The sugars of Jamaica competed with the slave-grown sugars of Cuba; the woods of Canada with the timber of Norway and the Baltic.

These new conditions of colonial policy seriously affected the political relations of the mother country with her dependencies. Her interference in their internal affairs having generally been connected with commercial regulations, she had now less interest in continuing it; and they, having submitted to it for the sake of benefits with which it was associated, were less disposed to tolerate its exercise. Meanwhile the growing population, wealth, and intelligence of many of the colonies, closer communications with England, and the example of English liberties, were developing the political aspirations of colonial societies, and their capacity for self-government.

Early in this period of transition, England twice had occasion to assert her paramount authority ; but learned at the same time to estimate the force of local opinion, and to seek in the further development of free institutions the problem of colonial government. Jamaica, discontented after the abolition of slavery, neglected to make adequate provision for her prisons, which that measure had rendered necessary. In 1838, the Imperial Parliament interposed, and promptly supplied this defect in colonial legislation. The local assembly, resenting this act of authority, was contumacious, stopped the supplies, and refused to exercise the proper functions of a legislature. Again Parliament asserted its supremacy. The sullen legislature was commanded to resume its duties ; and submitted in time to save the ancient constitution of Jamaica from suspension.

At the same period, the perilous state of Canada called forth all the authority of England. In 1837 and 1838, the discontents of Lower Canada exploded in insurrection. The constitution of that province was immediately suspended by the British Parliament ; and a provisional government established, with large legislative and executive powers. This necessary act of authority was followed by the reunion of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada into a single colony, under a governor-general.

But while these strong measures were resorted to, the British Government carefully defined the principles upon which parliamentary legislation was justified. “Parliamentary legislation,” wrote Lord Glenelg, the colonial minister,” on any subject of exclusively internal concern to any British colony possessing a representative assembly is, as a general rule, unconstitutional. It is a right of which the exercise is reserved for extreme cases, in which necessity at once creates and justifies the exception.” Never before had the rights of colonial self government been so plainly acknowledged.

But another principle was about to be established in Canada, which still further enlarged the powers of colonial assemblies, and diminished the influence of the mother country. This principle is known as the doctrine of responsible government. Hitherto the advisers of the governor in this, as in every other colony, were the principal officers appointed by the crown, and generally holding permanent offices. whatever the fluctuations of opinion in the legislature or in the colony, whatever the unpopularity of the measures or persons of the executive officers, they continued to direct the councils of the colony. For many years, they had contrived, by concessions, by management and influence, to avoid frequent collisions with the assemblies ; but as the principles of representative government were developed, irresponsible rulers were necessarily brought into conflict with the popular assembly. The advisers of the governor pursued one policy, the assembly another. Measures prepared by the executive were rejected by the assembly; measures passed by the assembly were refused by the council, or vetoed by the governor. And whenever such collisions arose, the constitutional means were wanting, for restoring confidence between the contending powers. Frequent dissolutions exasperated the popular party, and generally resulted in their ultimate triumph. The hostility between the assembly and permanent and unpopular officers became chronic. They were constantly at issue ; and representative institutions, in collision with irresponsible power, were threatening anarchy. These difficulties were not confined to Canada, but were common to all the North American colonies; and proved the incompatibility of two antagonistic principles of government.

After the reunion of the Canadian provinces, a remedy was sought for disagreements between the executive and the legislature in that principle of of responsible government ministerial responsibility, which had long been accepted as the basis of constitutional government in England. At first, ministers at home were apprehensive lest the application of that principle to a dependency should lead to a virtual renunciation of control by the mother country. Nor had Canada yet sufficiently recovered from the passions of the recent rebellion, to favor the experiment But arrangements were immediately made for altering the tenure of the principal colonial offices; and in 1847, responsible government was fully established under Lord Elgin. From that time, the governor-generals elected his advisers from that party which was able to command a majority in the legislative assembly, and accepted the policy recommended by them. The same principle was and other adopted, about the same time, in Nova Scotia ; colonies. and has since become the rule of administration in other free colonies.

[Concerning Nova Scotia: Despatch of Earl Grey to Sir John Harvey, Nov. 3d, 1846; Parl. Paper, 1848, No. 621, p. 80]

By the adoption of this principle, a colonial constitution has become the very image and reflection of parliamentary government in England. The governor, like the sovereign whom he represents, holds himself aloof from and superior to parties ; and governs through constitutional advisers, who have acquired an ascendency in the legislature. He leaves contending parties to fight out their own battles; and by admitting the stronger party to his councils, brings the executive authority into harmony with popular sentiments. And as the recognition of this doctrine, in England, has practically transferred the supreme authority of the state from the crown to Parliament and the people, so in the colonies has it wrested from the governor and from the parent state the direction of colonial affairs. And again, as the crown has gained in ease and popularity what it has lost in power, – so has the mother country, in accepting to the full the principles of local self-government, established the closest relations of amity and confidence between her self and her colonies.

There are circumstances, however, in which the parallel is not maintained. The Crown and Parliament have a common interest in the welfare of their country; but England and her colonies may have conflicting interests, or an irreconcilable policy. The crown has, indeed, reserved its veto upon the acts of the colonial legislatures ; but its practical exercise has been found scarcely more compatible with responsible government in the colonies than in England. Hence colonies have been able to adopt principles of legislation inconsistent with the policy and interests of the mother country. For example, after England had accepted free trade as the basis of her commercial policy, Canada adhered to protection, and established a tariff injurious to English commerce. Such laws could not have been disallowed by the home government without a revival of the conflicts and discontents of a former period ; and in deference to the principles of self-government, they were reluctantly confirmed.

But popular principles, in colonial government, have not rested here. While enlarged powers have been intrusted to the local legislatures, those institutions again have been reconstituted upon a more democratic basis. The constitution granted to Canada in 1840, on the reunion of the provinces, was popular, but not democratic. It was composed of a legislative council, nominated by the crown, and of a representative assembly, to which freeholders or roturiers to the amount of 500l. were eligible as members. The franchise comprised 40s. free holders, 5l. house-owners, and 10l. occupiers; but has since been placed upon a more popular basis by provincial acts.

Democracy has made more rapid progress in the Australian colonies. In 1842, a new constitution had been granted to New South Wales, which, departing from the accustomed model of colonial constitutions, provided for the legislation of the colony by a single chamber.

The constitution of an upper chamber in a colonial society, without an aristocracy, and with few per-sons of high attainments and adequate leisure, has ever been a difficult problem. Nominated by the governor and consisting mainly of his executive officers, it has failed to exercise a material influence over public opinion; and has been readily overborne by the more popular assembly. The experiment was, therefore, tried of bringing into a single chamber the aristocratic and democratic elements of colonial government. It was hoped that eminent men would have more weight in the deliberations of the popular assembly, than sitting apart and exercising an impotent veto. The experiment has found favor with experienced statesmen; yet it can scarcely be doubted that it is a con cession to democracy. Timely delays in legislation, a cautious review of public measures, resistance to the tyranny of a majority, and the violence of a faction, the means of judicious compromise, are wanting in such a constitution. The majority of a single chamber is absolute.

In 1850, it became expedient to divide the vast territories of New South Wales into two, and the southern portion was erected into the new colony of Victoria. This opportunity was taken of revising the constitutions of these colonies, and of South Australia and Van Diemen’s Land. The New South Wales model was adhered to by Parliament; and a single chamber was constituted in each of these colonies, of which one third were nominated by the crown, and two thirds elected under a franchise, restricted to persons holding freehold property worth 100l, and 10l. householders or leaseholders. A fixed charge was also imposed upon the colonial revenues for the civil and judicial establishments and for religious worship. At the same time, powers were conceded to the governor and legislative council of each colony, with the assent of the queen in council, to alter every part of the constitution so granted. There could be little doubt that the tendency of such societies would be favorable to democracy; and in a few years the limited franchise was changed, in nearly all of these colonies, for universal suffrage and vote by ballot. It was open to the queen in council to disallow these laws, or for Parliament itself to interpose and suspend them ; but, in deference to the principle of self-government, these critical changes were allowed to come into operation.

In 1852, a representative constitution was introduced, after some delay, into New Zealand, and, about the same period, into the Cape of Good Hope.

To conclude this rapid summary of colonial liberties, it must be added that the colonies have further enjoyed municipal institutions, a free press, and religious freedom and equality. No liberty or franchise prized by Englishmen at home, has been withheld from their fellow-countrymen in distant lands.

Thus, by rapid strides, have the most considerable dependencies of the British crown advanced, through successive stages of political liberty, until an ancient monarchy has become the parent of democratic republics in all parts of the globe. The constitution of the United States is scarcely so democratic as that of Canada, or the Australian colonies. The president’s fixed tenure of office and large executive powers, the independent position and authority of the senate, and the control of the supreme court, are checks upon the democracy of congress. But in these colonies the nominees of a majority of the democratic assembly, for the time being, are absolute masters of the colonial government. In Canada, the legislative council can offer no effectual resistance ; and in Australia even that check, how ever inadequate, is wanting. A single chamber dictates its conditions to the governor, and indirectly to the parent state. This transition from a state of control and pupilage to that of unrestrained freedom, seems to have been too precipitate. Society, — particularly in Australia, — had scarcely had time to prepare itself for the successful trial of so free a representation. The settlers of a new country were suddenly intrusted with uncontrolled power, before education, property, traditions, and usage had given stability to public opinion. Nor were they trained to freedom, like· their English brethren, by many ennobling struggles and the patient exercise of public virtues. But such a transition, more or less rapid, was the inevitable consequence of responsible government, coupled with the power given to colonial assemblies, of reforming their own constitutions. The principle of self government, once recognized, has been carried out without reserve or hesitation. Hitherto there have been many failures and discouragements in the experiment of colonial democracy; yet the political future of these thriving communities affords far more ground for hope than for despondency.

England ventured to tax her colonies, and lost them ; she endeavored to rule them from Downing Street, and provoked disaffection and revolt. At last, she gave freedom, and found national sympathy and contentment. But, in the mean time, her colonial dependencies have grown into affiliated states. The tie which binds them to her, is one of sentiment, rather than authority. Commercial privileges, on either side, have been abandoned ; transportation, — for which some of the colonies were founded, — has been given up ; patronage has been surrendered, the disposal of public lands waived by the Crown, and political dominion virtually renounced. In short, their dependence has become little more than nominal, except for purposes of military defence.

We have seen how, in the earlier history of the colonies, they strove to defend themselves. But during the prolonged hostilities of the French revolutionary war, assaults upon our colonies naturally formed part of the tactics of the enemy, which were met, on our part, by costly naval and military armaments. And after the peace, England continued to garrison her colonies with large military forces, — wholly paid by herself, — and to construct fortifications, requiring still larger garrisons. Wars were undertaken against the natives, as in the Cape of Good Hope and New Zealand, — of which England bore all the cost, and the colonies gained all the profit. English soldiers have further performed the services of colonial police. Instead of taxing her colonies, England has suffered herself to be taxed heavily on their account. The annual military expenditure, on account of the colonies, ultimately reached £3,225,081, of which £1,715,246 was incurred for free colonies, and £1,509,835 for military garrisons and dependencies, maintained chiefly for imperial purposes. Many of the colonies have already contributed towards the maintenance of British troops, and have further raised considerable bodies of militia and volunteers ; but Parliament has recently pronounced it to be just that the colonies which enjoy self-government, should undertake the responsibility and cost of their own military defence. To carry this policy into effect must be the work of time. But whenever it may be effected, the last material bond of connection with the colonies will have been severed; and colonial states, acknowledging the honorary sovereignty of England, and fully armed for self-defence, — as well against herself as others, — will have grown out of the dependencies of the British Empire. They will still look to her, in time of war, for at least naval protection; and, in peace, they will continue to imitate her laws and institutions, and to glory in the proud distinction of British citizenship. On her part, England may well be prouder of the vigorous freedom of her prosperous sons, than of a hundred provinces subject to the iron rule of British pro-consuls. And, should the sole remaining ties of kindred, affection, and honor be severed, she will reflect, with just exultation, that her dominion ceased, not in oppression and bloodshed, but in the expansive energies of freedom, and the hereditary capacity of her manly offspring for the privileges of self-government.

Other parts of the British empire have — from the conditions of their occupation, the relations of the state to the native population, and other circumstances — been unable to participate in the free institutions of the more favored colonies; but they have largely that spirit of enlightened liberality, which, during the last twenty years, has distinguished the administration of colonial affairs.

Of all the dependencies of the British crown, India is the most considerable in territory, in population, in revenue, and in military resources. It is itself a great empire. Originally acquired and governed by a trading company, England was responsible for its administration no further than was implied in the charters and Acts of Parliament, by which British subjects were invested with sovereignty over The East distant regions. Trade was the first, dominion India company. the secondary object of the company. Early in the reign of George III. their territories had become so ex· tended, that Lord Chatham conceived the scheme of claiming them as dominions of the crown. This great scheme, however, dwindled, in the hands of his colleagues, into an agreement with the company to pay £400,000 a year, as the price of their privileges. This tribute was not long enjoyed, for the company, impoverished by perpetual war, and mal-administration, fell into financial difficulties ; and in 1773, were released from this ouligation. And in this year, Parliament, for the first time, undertook to regulate the constitution of the government of India. The court of directors, consisting of twenty-four members, elected by the proprietors of India stock, and virtually independent of the government, became the home authority, by whom the governor-general was appointed, and to whom alone he was responsible. An Asiatic empire was still intrusted to a company, having an extensive civil and military organization, making wars and conquests, negotiating treaties, and exercising uncontrolled dominion. A trading company had grown into a corporate emperor. The genius of Clive and Warren Hastings had acquired the empire of the Great Mogul.

But power exercised by irresponsible and despotic rulers was naturally abused; and in 1773, and again in 1780, the directors were placed under the partial control of a secretary of state. Soon afterwards some of the most glaring excesses of Indian misrule were forced upon the notice of Parliament. English statesmen became sensible that the anomalies of a government, so constituted, could no longer be endured. It was not fit that England should suffer her subjects to practise the iniquities of Asiatic rule, without effective responsibility and control. On Mr. Fox and the coalition ministry first devolved the task of providing against the continued oppression and misrule, which recent inquiries had exposed. They grappled boldly with the evils which demanded a remedy. Satisfied that the government of an empire could not be confided with safety or honor to a commercial company, they proposed at once to transfer it to an other body. But to whom could such a power be in trusted? Not to the crown, whose influence they had already denounced as exorbitant; not to any department of the executive government, which could become accessory to Parliamentary corruption. The company had been, in great measure, independent of the crown and of the ministers of the day; and the power which bad been abused, they now proposed to vest in an independent board. This important body was to consist of seven commissioners, appointed in the first instance, by Parliament, for a term of four years, and ultimately by the crown. The leading concerns of the company were to be managed by eight assistants, appointed first by Parliament, and afterwards by the proprietors of East India stock. It was a bold and hazardous measure, on which Mr. Fox and his colleagues staked their power. Conceived in a spirit of wisdom and humanity, it recognized the duty of the state to redress the wrongs and secure the future welfare of a distant empire; yet was it open to objections which a fierce party contest discolored with exaggeration. The main objections urged against the bill were these : that it violated the chartered rights of the company, that it increased the influence of the crown, and that it invested the coalition party, then having a Parliamentary majority, with a power superior to the crown itself. As regards the first objection, it was vain to contend that Parliament might not lawfully dispossess the company of their dominion over millions of men, which they had disgraced by fraud, rapine, oppression, cruelty, and bloodshed. They had clearly forfeited the political powers intrusted to them for the public good. A solemn trust, having been flagrantly violated, might justly be revoked. But had they forfeited their commercial privileges? They were in difficulties and debt; their affairs were in the utmost confusion ; the grossest mismanagement was but too certainly proved. But such evils in a commercial company, however urgently needing correction, scarcely justified the forfeiture of established rights. The two latter objection were plainly contradictory. The measure could not increase the influence of the crown, and at the same time exalt a party above it. The former was, in truth, wholly untenable, and was relinquished ; while the king, the opposition, the friends of the company, and the country, made common cause in maintaining the latter. And assuredly the weakest point was chosen for attack. The bill nominated the com missioners, exclusively from the ministerial party; and in trusted them with all the power and patronage of India, for a term of four years. At a time when corrupt influence was so potent in the councils of the state, it cannot be doubted that the Commissioners would have been able to promoted the political interests of their own party. To add to their weight, they were entitled to sit in Parliament. Already the Parliamentary influence of the Company had aroused jealousy; and its concentration in a powerful and organized party naturally excited alarm. However exaggerated by party violence, it was unquestionably a well-founded objection, which ought to have been met and counteracted. It is true that vacancies were to be filled up by the crown, and that the appointment of the commissioners was during good behavior; but, practically, they would have enjoyed an in dependent authority for four years. It was right to wrest power from a body which should never have been permitted to exercise it, and by whom it had been flagrantly abused; but it was wrong to constitute the new government an instrument of party, uncontrolled by the crown, and beyond the immediate reach of that Parliamentary responsibility which our free constitution recognizes as necessary for the proper exercise of authority. The error was fatal to the measure itself, and to the party by whom it was committed.

Mr. Fox’s scheme having been overthrown, Mr. Pitt proceeded to frame a measure, in which he dexterously evaded all the difficulties under which his rival had fallen. He left the Company in possession of their large powers; but subjected them to a board of control representing the crown. The Company was now accountable to ministers, in their rule; and ministers, if they suffered wrong to be done, were responsible to Parliament. At the same time, however, power and responsibility were divided; and distracted councils, an infirm executive, and a cumbrous and perplexed administration, were scarcely to be avoided in a double government. The administration of Indian affairs came frequently under the review of Parliament; but this system of double or divided government was continued, on each successive renewal of the privileges of the Company. In 1833, the first great change was effected in the position of the Company. Up to this time, they had enjoyed the exclusive trade with China, and other commercial privileges. This monopoly was now discontinued, and they ceased to be a trading company ; but their dominion over India was con firmed for a further period of twenty years. The right of Parliament, however, to legislate for India was then reserved. It was the last periodical renewal of the powers of the Company. In 1853, significant changes were made; India Bill, their powers being merely continued until Parliament should otherwise provide, and their territories being held in trust for the crown. The Court of Directors was reconstituted, being henceforth composed of twelve elected members and six nominees of the crown. At the same time, the council of the Governor-General in India was enlarged, and invested with a more legislative character. The government of India being thus drawn into closer connection with ministers, they met objections to the increase of patron age, which had been fatal to Mr. Fox’s.scheme, by opening the civil and medical services to competition. This measure prepared the way for a more complete identity between the executive administration of England and India. It had a short and painful trial. The mutiny of the native army in 1857, disclosed the perils and responsibilities of England, and the necessity of establishing a single and supreme authority.

The double government of Mr. Pitt was at length condemned ; the powers and territories of the Company were transferred to the Queen ; and the administration was entrusted to a secretary of State, and Council. But this great change could not be accomplished without a compromise ; and of the fifteen members of the council, seven were elected by the Board of Directors, and eight appointed by the crown. And again, with a view to restrict the state patronage, cadet ships in the engineers and artillery were thrown open to competition.

The transfer of India to the crown was followed by a vigorous administration of its vast dominions. Its army was amalgamated with that of England; the constitution of the council of India was placed upon a wider basis; 1 the courts of judicature were remodelled; the service enlarged; and the exhausted revenues of the country regenerated. To an empire of subjugated states and Asiatic races, self-government was plainly impossible. But it has already profited by European civilization and statesmanship; and while necessarily denied freedom, its ruler; are guided by the principles upon which free states are governed ; and its interests are protected by a free English Parliament, a vigilant press, and an enlightened and humane people.

Beyond these narrow isles, England has won, indeed, a Freedom of vast and glorious empire. In the history of the world, no other state has known how to govern territories so extended and remote, and races of men so diverse; giving to her own kindred colonies the widest liberty and ruling, with enlightened equity, dependencies unqualified for freedom. To the Roman, Virgil proudly sang,

“Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento: Hae tibi erunt artes.”

To the Englishman may it not be said with even juster pride, “having won freedom for thyself, and used it wisely, thou hast given it to thy children, who have peopled the earth; and thou hast exercised dominion with justice and humanity!”

May, Thomas Erskine. The constitutional history of England since the accession of George Third, -1860. New York, W.J. Widdleton, -77, 1876. Pdf. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Bards & Co’s business and professional directory [Dartmouth, N.S.] 1900


Acadia Roller Mills

Allen John, boots and shoes, Water

Allen J W, stationery, 70 Portland

Atkinson Geo, grocery, 62 Portland

Atlantic Mineral Water Co, Water

Atlantic Weekly, Water

Baker Wm, boarding, baiting and livery stable, 24 Ochterloney

Bell Isaac, dry goods, Portland

Bertram Stubbs O, photo, Portland

Bowes E M, painter, 96 Portland

Bowser B & A, flour, feed, etc, 151-3 Portland

Casey J A, grocery, Portland

Conrad Jabez, livery stable, 120 Portland, ‘phone 34

Conrod John, blacksmith and horseshoer, Portland

Conrod S M, meat market, 86 Portland

De Wolfe G C & Son, grocery, 33 Ochterloney

Dares F Q, grocery, prov, feed, etc, 80 Portland

Dares S B, hardware, lumber, painting, oils and glass, 217 Portland

Donovan Mrs E, grocery, 142 Portland

Douglas & Co, gin foundry

Earle George J, mer tailor, 45 Portland

Eisener A, victualler. Water, cor Queen

Forsyth Andrew, grocery, cor Water, and Church

Forsyth Bros, grocery, prov, etc. Water

Forsyth Jr, grocery and china. Water

Gay & McLean, painters and decorators, 143 Portland

Gentles T & Sons, grocery and baking, 63-71 Ochterloney

Graham J R, meat market, Portland, also Water

Greene John, watchmaker and jeweller, 59 Portland

Hutchinson A, mason and builder, 250 Ochterloney

Hutt A, blacksmith, Portland Laidlaw R, fruit, 90 Portland

Layers W G, boarding and livery stable, 35 Ochterloney

Leslie J G, grocery, 190 Portland

Lloy Alexander, grocery and produce, 176-78 Portland

McCarthy Owen, dry goods and millinery, 74 Portland

McHanna Peter, undertaker and casket mnfr, Wilson

McNab Colin & Co, grocery, fruit and feed, Portland cor Prince

McNabb J A, dry goods, 132 Portland

Maclean J B, grocery, feed, etc, 67 Portland

Misener G A, estate of Fenwick G Misener, prop, undertaker, Portland

Misener & Merson, carpenters, Portland

Moseley W P & Co, grocery, 92 Water

Ormon G A, fine groceries, flour, fruit, teas, etc, Portland, cor King

Pereril, C E, yictualer. Water

Power J & Co, carriage and express builder, repairing and blacksmithing, 115-19 Portland

Richards G, livery, Portland

Ritchie John, plumber, tinner, stoves, etc, 180 Portland

Russell N & Co, stoves and tinware, 179 Portland

Sellers H W, boots and shoes, 92 Portland

Settle H H, horse shoer and general blacksmith, Portland

Simmonds Jas & Co, hardware, Water

Simpson S, harness, Portland

Smith W McV, harness, 95 Portland

Starr Mfg Co The Ltd, mnfr of skates, ry and ship spikes, bolts, nuts, washers, electroplating, canners’ dies, gen machine works, etc, Dartmouth

Sterns G A, druggist, 48 Ochterloney

Stevens W H, drugs, 87 Portland

Sutherland Bros, grocery, Portland

Thomson Samuel, grocery, 22-24 Portland

Tuttle W L, boots and shoes, 56 Portland

Union Bank Of Halifax, F O Robertson, mgr, 42 Water

Walker E M, grocery, 52 Ochterloney

Walker H C & Co, men’s furnishings, hats, caps, etc, 46 Portland

Walker H C, grocery and furniture, 51 Portland

Wamboldt R L, fish market. Water

Warner E, coal and wood, Ferry wharf

Wisdom A, dry goods, Portland

Bards & Co. “Bards & Co’s business and professional directory: of Halifax, Amherst, Charlottetown, Dartmouth, Chatham, Fredericton, Kentville, Moncton, New Glasgow, Sydney, N. Sydney, Pictou, Quebec, St. John, St. Stephen, Summerside, Yarmouth, Woodstock, Truro, Windsor, etc. : embracing a list of all business and professional men in the cities above named for the year 1900” New York; Toronto : Bards & Co.

Oligarchical despotism

Most of our large banks have operations in the United States…

How many American banks have operations in Canada?

How many American telecom players operate in Canada?

How many American dairy producers have access to the Canadian market or vice versa?

How is political power concentrated in Canada versus the American system?

What are the barriers to entry in the Canadian market versus the American market?

How competitive is the Canadian market versus the American market?

Oligarchical despotism is a form of governance characterized by a small group of powerful individuals or families, known as an oligarchy, who hold effective control over a society or state. In this system, the ruling elite often exercises despotic or tyrannical power, often serving their own interests at the expense of the broader population.

— The Family Compact, a network of influential individuals in Upper Canada during the early to mid-1800s, epitomized oligarchical despotism. These loyalists monopolized political, economic, and social power and set the stage for the framework that would govern Canadian society in the future. Their control extended over legislative, bureaucratic, and judicial realms, stifling democratic reform and responsible government.

Originating from political appointments made to unelected branches of government — something Canadian subjects certainly witness in abundance today — they upheld a hierarchical class structure favoring their interests. The Family Compact, characterized by close relations and preferential treatment, enforced loyalist ideology and resisted democratic influence.

Contrasting this historical oligarchical dominance to today, the top 87 wealthiest Canadian families each hold thousands of times more wealth than an average family. This concentration of wealth surpasses that of the bottom 12 million Canadians combined, highlighting the persistence of oligarchical structures albeit in a modern economic context.

COVID further exacerbated this gap, with Canadian billionaires growing their wealth by 51% since the pandemic began, while at the same time those in the bottom half of the income distribution saw their average total income decline by nearly 7%. Such disparity underscores a system wherein a select few maintain immense economic power to the detriment of the majority.

Key features of oligarchical despotism include:

Concentration of Power: Power is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals or families who control key institutions of the state, such as government, military, and economy. This concentration enables the ruling elite to make decisions unilaterally and without accountability.

— The Prime Minister and the Cabinet wield significant power in Canada’s political system, often at the expense of parliamentary oversight. This can lead to accusations of executive dominance and a lack of accountability. That the current office holder is part of a political dynasty of unilateral operators certainly doesn’t detract from the optics of tyranny. The Senate and many other facets of Canadian governance exist primarily as bastions of patronage.

The Prime Minister possesses certain prerogative powers, such as the authority to dissolve Parliament and call elections, as well as the power to appoint senators, judges, and thousands of other key officials including the head of state that supposedly restrains his office, all without the advice and consent of parliament.

Limited Political Participation: Oligarchical despotism typically restricts political participation and representation to a select few, excluding the majority from meaningful involvement. Elections, if they exist, may be manipulated to ensure the continued dominance of the ruling elite.

— Canada’s unilateral executive appointments, lack of direct election for the executive, absence of term limits, and executive control over election timing reduce citizens’ influence over government composition and policies. Without direct election, citizens have limited control over the executive, potentially leading to prolonged incumbency and a lack of fresh perspectives.

Executive control over election timing raises fairness concerns. Absence of subnational constitutions limits citizen rights assertion and subnational government accountability. Limited electoral choice further restricts citizen influence. These characteristics indicate a political system with limited citizen participation, input, and influence, raising concerns about democratic legitimacy, representation, and accountability across various government levels.

Suppression of Dissent: Opposition is often met with repression, censorship, or violence. Freedom of speech, assembly, and association may be severely curtailed to prevent challenges to the status quo.

— The court ruling on the government’s use of emergency powers to suppress the “Freedom Convoy” protests found it unreasonable and a violation of Charter rights, indicating governmental overreach. Prime Minister Trudeau’s use of emergency powers, including protester arrests and bank account freezes, coupled with plans to appeal the ruling, suggests a tendency to quash political dissent through legal avenues.

Additionally, Bill C-63’s proposal for civil penalties for hate speech, alongside existing criminal laws, not to mention its ex-post-facto provisions raises free speech concerns, potentially leading to self-censorship and stifling legitimate discourse. The history of misuse of hate speech complaints by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), yet another body unilaterally appointed by the executive, highlights the risk of further suppression of dissent and infringement on free speech for political purposes. Financial incentives for complaints and subjective interpretations of hate speech exacerbate worries about curtailing free expression and association.

Corruption and Cronyism: Oligarchical despotism is characterized by widespread corruption and cronyism, where opportunities are reserved for those with ties to the ruling elite.

— With so many examples to choose from it’s hard to know where to begin on this front, but the SNC-Lavalin affair is as good as any. The RCMP’s investigation into the SNC-Lavalin affair faced obstacles due to limited access to crucial information, notably cabinet confidences, raising concerns about transparency and accountability. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s alleged attempt to influence legal matters undermines judicial independence and may serve political or corporate interests unfairly.

Partisan influences, evidenced by the adjournment of the parliamentary committee meeting, hinder accountability efforts and perpetuate a culture of impunity. The RCMP’s handling of the investigation, constrained by restricted information and perceived superficial examination, calls into question the integrity of law enforcement agencies. This situation highlights how corruption and cronyism thrive through opaque decision-making, political interference in legal proceedings, and the prioritization of partisan agendas over justice and accountability.

Suppression of Economic Freedom: Oligarchical despotism involves heavy government intervention in the economy, restricting economic freedom.

— Canada’s supply management system for egg, poultry, and dairy products illustrates the limitations on economic freedom through various factors. Price fixing and control hinder market responsiveness, leading to higher consumer prices and reduced choice. Protectionist measures shield domestic producers, stifling competition and innovation while maintaining incumbents’ dominance.

Regulatory capture by industry stakeholders perpetuates the system, disadvantaging consumers. The system’s inequitable impact disproportionately affects lower-income households, contradicting social welfare goals. Despite criticism, bipartisan political support and vested interests impede reform efforts, hindering market-oriented approaches. Overall, the system restricts economic freedom, distorts price signals, and perpetuates inefficiencies, detrimentally affecting consumers and societal welfare.

Distorted Price Signals: Price signals may be distorted due to government manipulation, leading to inefficient resource allocation.

— Canada’s single-payer health system, acting as a monopoly, distorts price signals by eliminating market competition. With the government as the sole insurer and controller of healthcare financing, there’s no competitive pressure on providers to innovate or control costs, while at the same time, many provinces sink a third of their budgets or more into financing them.

This lack of market dynamics can lead to arbitrary pricing decisions, inefficiencies, and limited patient choice. Patient outcomes are dead last among ‘developed’ countries on a wide variety of metrics while at the same time adverse effects and malpractice affect 1 in 4 users over their lifetime and remains the third leading cause of death.

Without the feedback mechanism of competitive pricing, resources may be misallocated, leading to underinvestment in certain areas and overutilization in others. As a result, the system may struggle to adapt to changing healthcare needs and advances in medical technology, impacting both quality of care and cost-effectiveness.

Rent-Seeking Behavior: The concentration of power creates opportunities for rent-seeking behavior, diverting resources away from productive uses.

— Rent-seeking behavior in the Canadian economy is evident in various forms, hindering innovation and economic growth. Canada’s sluggish GDP growth, coupled with stalled productivity, reflects a persistent lack of innovation and weak competitiveness. Instead of fostering a competitive environment, government policies often cater to specific industries through regulations, tariffs, and subsidies, shielding them from competition. This reliance on government protection fosters a business environment where firms seek favors rather than competing on merit.

Consequently, Canada experiences a loss of business dynamism, with fewer new firms entering the market and leading corporations losing global competitiveness. To address this, Canada needs to reevaluate its public policies, prioritizing competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship over rent-seeking behavior and protectionism. Such a shift is essential for fostering economic growth and ensuring long-term prosperity.

Barriers to Entry: Oligarchical despotism erects barriers to entry in the marketplace, protecting incumbent firms and stifling competition.

— Barriers to entry in the Canadian economy are substantial, with the country ranking high in terms of regulations and restrictions on foreign investment. The OECD’s Product Market Regulation and FDI restrictiveness indices highlight Canada’s position as one of the most regulated and restrictive economies. These barriers include limitations on foreign businesses, state-owned monopolies, and explicit regulations limiting competition.

Industries such as air transportation, telecommunications, and agriculture face significant restrictions, hindering competition and innovation. Conservative estimates suggest that over one-third of the Canadian economy is shielded from competition, suppressing incentives for productivity and innovation. Removing these barriers could significantly enhance productivity growth and improve living standards for Canadians.

The deliberate increase in immigration levels by the current government amidst the pandemic, despite housing market constraints, benefited specific groups, particularly those involved in housing investment, while exacerbating socioeconomic challenges. Homeowners, leveraging their properties through reverse mortgages, reap profits, consolidating wealth and power while working-class families are displaced and young individuals remain unable to afford homeownership.

Such policies reflect a manipulation of governmental policy for self-interest, fostering corruption and collusion. By exploiting vulnerable populations and widening socioeconomic gaps, this underscores the oligarchical nature of Canadian governance, wherein a select elite perpetuates its dominance at the expense of the well-being of the populace, using a pandemic in order to solidify power and tilt the scales towards their favor.

Canada’s reliance on unchecked immigration and temporary foreign workers has not only exploited vulnerable workers but has depressed wages for low-skilled workers, amplifying the wealth chasm between the affluent and the working class. The prioritization of business interests over worker welfare has eroded governmental accountability, shielding elites from scrutiny.

Ill-planned immigration has served to exacerbate urbanization and housing crises, reinforcing policies favoring corporate interests over social cohesion, neglecting immigrant and citizen welfare alike.

The prevalence of oligarchical despotism in Canada, characterized by concentrated power, limited political participation, suppression of dissent, corruption, and economic restrictions, has profound implications for the nation’s governance, economy and future. Historical precedents, such as the Family Compact, illustrate the enduring nature of elite control, regardless of supposed partisan involvement, over Canadian society and institutions.

Contemporary manifestations of oligarchical dominance, exemplified by the concentration of wealth among a select few, further exacerbate socioeconomic disparities, particularly highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The manipulation of governmental powers, as seen in policies favoring specific groups at the expense of the broader populace, underscores the oligarchical nature of Canadian governance.

Moreover, the distortion of market forces through monopolistic privileges enjoyed by entities like crown corporations and the healthcare system impedes competition and innovation, hindering economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. Barriers to entry in the marketplace, rent-seeking behavior, and distorted price signals perpetuate inefficiencies and stifle entrepreneurial spirit.

The maple syrup is sweet, but it’s all aboot where you live, who you know and who you’re related to. Since 1867 Canada exists, not as a country, but as a proprietary colony — an exercise in racketeering vis a vis the American market — created primarily to serve as a protection racket for the benefit of a handful of oligarchical interests, to insulate them from any ‘dangers’ a broader competitive marketplace might present.

Ultimately, oligarchical despotism contradicts the principles of a free market economy, where voluntary exchange, competition, and individual freedom are paramount. Instead of fostering prosperity for all, it consolidates wealth and power in the hands of a privileged few, perpetuating socioeconomic inequalities and hampering the well-being of the broader population. Thus, addressing these systemic issues is crucial for ensuring a more prosperous future for Canadians.

“Fed Chair Powell delivers remarks at the Washington Forum on the Canadian economy”, April 16, 2024.

Ran Away


From the subscriber, Daniel Craney, a black man, a regular indented servant, whoever is found harbouring or employing the said Daniel, will be prosecuted to the utmost rigour of the law – he is between 40 and 50 years of age, of middle stature and stout made. Whoever will bring the said man back, shall be handsomely rewarded for their trouble. James Norris. Fort Ellis, Nov. 6.

Acadian Recorder, 2 December 1815, Volume 3 Number 49.

Securities And Exchange Commission: Annual Report Of Province Of Nova Scotia, 1997

An interesting document for a number of reasons. What stood out to me most of all was the proviso regarding Quebec secession. The specter of Quebec separation clearly did a number on the other provinces, who had to decide what they would do in such a scenario. Perhaps this is especially true of the Atlantic provinces, who would be cut off from the rest of Canada, and who might not have the resources and economy to survive on their own. Then there’s Quebec’s generally expansionist stance both physically, culturally and ideologically within Canada over the years, which seems to come in fits and starts.

Most recently, you can see it at work in a logo put forth by the Bloc Quebecois.

“Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet addressed supporters of Quebec’s federal sovereignty party on Sunday, speaking at a podium adorned with a map that removed the border between Quebec and Labrador, making it look as if it were all Quebec.”


This kind of taunting continues, recently more overt. To be sure, this messaging isn’t by accident.

Screenshot 2024 04 07 113006

Quebec separation is an issue which comes up time and again, and if current polling holds true into the future, might present itself yet again as the impetus for serious constitutional change for points to the east.

“As a province of Canada, Nova Scotia could be affected by political events in another province. For instance, on September 7, 1995, the Government of Quebec presented a Bill to the National Assembly entitled An Act respecting the future of Quebec (the “Act”) that included, among others, provisions authorizing the National Assembly to proclaim the sovereignty of Quebec. The Act was to be enacted only following a favorable vote in a referendum. Such a referendum was held on October 30, 1995. The results were 49.4% in favor and 50.6% against.

In 1996, the Government of Canada, by way of reference to the Supreme Court of Canada (the “Supreme Court”), asked the court to determine the legality of a unilateral secession of the Province of Quebec from Canada, either under the Canadian Constitution or international law. On August 20, 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Province of Quebec did not have the unilateral right of secession, and that any proposal to secede authorized by a clear majority in response to a clear question in the referendum should be construed as a proposal to amend the Constitution, which would require negotiations. These negotiations would have to deal with a wide array of issues, such as the interest of the other provinces, the Federal Government, the Province of Quebec, and the rights of all Canadians both within and outside the Province of Quebec, and specifically, the rights of minorities, including Aboriginal peoples.”

Province of Nova Scotia, 2017. “FORM 18-K For Foreign Government and Political Subdivisions Thereof SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION Washington, D.C. 20549 ANNUAL REPORT Of PROVINCE OF NOVA SCOTIA CANADA (Name of Registrant) Date of end of last fiscal year: March 31, 2017”

“On the Nature of Sovereignty”

I don’t agree with Webster’s conclusion, that the Constitution isn’t a compact between sovereign states, but I do certainly agree with his feelings in terms of the unsuitability of monarchy and European forms of governance anywhere on this continent—that the source of all political power is the people, that it is they who bestow sovereignty on State governments and through them, the sovereignty and legitimacy of the Nation itself, which is its safeguard.

Daniel Webster Photograph edited

“Mr. President, the nature of sovereignty or sovereign power has been extensively discussed by gentlemen on this occasion, as it generally is when the origin of our government is debated. But I confess myself not entirely satisfied with arguments and illustrations drawn from that topic. The sovereignty of government is an idea belonging to the other side of the Atlantic.

No such thing is known in North America. Our governments are all limited. In Europe, sovereignty is of feudal origin, and imports no more than the state of the sovereign. It comprises his rights, duties, exemptions, prerogatives, and powers.

But with us, all power is with the people. They alone are sovereign; and they erect what governments they please, and confer on them such powers as they please.

None of these governments is sovereign, in the European sense of the word, all being restrained by written constitutions. It seems to me, therefore, that we only perplex ourselves when we attempt to explain the relations existing between the general government and the several State governments according to those ideas of sovereignty which prevail under systems essentially different from our own.” —Daniel Webster

Nova Scotia Constitutional Timeline

An expanded version of what’s put forth by the Nova Scotia legislature.

1493 – May 4, Alexander VI, Pope of Rome, issued a bull, granting the New World. Spain laid claim to the entire North American Coast from Cape Florida to Cape Breton, as part of its territory of Bacalaos.

1496 – March 5, Henry VII, King of England issued a commission to John Cabot and his sons to search for an unknown land

1498 – March 5,  Letters Patents of King Henry the Seventh Granted unto John Cabot and his Three Sonnes, Lewis, Sebastian and Sancius for the “Discouerie of New and Unknowen Lands”

1502 – Henry VII commissioned Hugh Eliot and Thomas Ashurst to discover and take possession of the islands and continents in America; “and in his name and for his use, as his vassals, to enter upon, doss, conquer, govern, and hold any Mainland or Islands by them discovered.”

1524 – Francis I, King of France, said that he should like to see the clause in Adam’s will, which made the American continent the exclusive possession of his brothers of Spain and Portugal, is said to have sent out Verrazzano, a Florentine corsair, who, as has generally been believed, explored the entire coast from 30° to 50° North Latitude, and named the whole region New France.

1534 – King Francis commissioned Jacques Cartier to discover and take possession of Canada; “his successive voyages, within the six years following, opened the whole region of St. Lawrence and laid the foundation of French dominion on this continent.”

1578 – June 11, Letters patent granted by Elizabeth, Queen of England to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, knight, for “the inhabiting and planting of our people in America”.

1584 – March 25, Queen Elizabeth renewed Gilbert’s grant to Sir Walter Raleigh, his half-brother. Under this commission, Raleigh made an unsuccessful attempt to plant an English colony in Virginia, a name afterwards extended to the whole North Coast of America in honor of the “Virgin” Queen.

1603 – November 8, Henry IV, King of France, granted Sieur de Monts a royal patent conferring the possession of and sovereignty of the country between latitudes 40° and 46° (from Philadelphia as far north as Katahdin and Montreal). Samuel Champlain, geographer to the King, accompanied De Monts on his voyage, landing at the site of Liverpool, N.S., a region already known as “Acadia.”

1606 – April 10, King James claimed the whole of North America between 34° and 45° North latitude, granting it to the Plymouth and London Companies. This entire territory was placed under the management of one council, the Royal Council for Virginia. The Northern Colony encompassed the area from 38° to 45° North latitude.

1620 – November 3, Reorganization of the Plymouth Company in 1620 as the Council of Plymouth for New England, encompassing from 40° to 48° North latitude.

1621 – September 29, Charter granted to Sir William Alexander for Nova Scotia

1625 – July 12, A grant of the soil, barony, and domains of Nova Scotia to Sir Wm. Alexander of Minstrie

1630 – April 30, Conveyance of Nova-Scotia (Port-royal excepted) by Sir William Alexander to Sir Claude St. Etienne Lord of la Tour and of Uarre and to his son Sir Charles de St. Etienne Lord of St. Denniscourt, on condition that they continue subjects to the king of Scotland under the great seal of Scotland.

1632 – March 29, Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, between King Louis XIII. and Charles King of England for the restitution of the New France, Cadia and Canada and ships and goods taken from both sides.

1632 – May 14/24 – Concession of the River and Bay of St. Croix to Commander Razilly, by the Company of New France

1635/6 – January 15/25 – Concession of Acadia to Sir Charles La Tour, By The Company of New France.

1638 Grant to Charnesay and La Tour

1647 – February – Commission To Lord D’Aulney Charnizay, By Louis XIV of France.

1651/2 – February 25th,March 7th – Letters Patent Confirming Sir Charles La Tour In Acadia, By Louis XIV. Of France.

1654 – August 16, Capitulation of Port-Royal

1656 – August 9/19, The Grant of Acadia, By Oliver Cromwell

1656 – September 17/27 – Commission to Colonel Temple, By Oliver Cromwell

1667 – July 31, The treaty of peace and alliance between England and the United Provinces made at Breda

1668 – February 17, Act of cession of Acadia to the King of France

1689 – English Bill of Rights enacted

1691, October 7, A charter granted by King William and Queen Mary to the inhabitants of the province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England

1713 – March 31, Treaty of peace and friendship between Louis XIV. King of France, and Anne, Queen of Great Britain, made in Utrecht

1713 – April 11, Treaty of navigation and commerce between Louis XIV, king of France, and Anne, Queen of Great Britain

1719 – June 19, Commission to Richard Philips to be Governor (including a copy of the 1715 Instructions given to the Governor of Virginia, by which he was to conduct himself)

1725 – August 26, Explanatory Charter of Massachusetts Bay

1725 – December 15, A treaty with the Indians (Peace and Friendship Treaty, ratification at Annapolis)

1727 – July 25, Ratification at Casco Bay of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1725

1728 – May 13, Ratification at Annapolis Royal of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1725

1748, October 7–18, The general and definitive treaty of peace concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle

1749 – September 4, Renewal of the Peace and Friendship treaty of 1725

1752 – November 22, Treaty between Thomas Hopson, Governor in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Province of Nova Scotia and Major Jean Baptiste Cope, Chief Sachem of the Tribe of the MickMack Indians inhabiting the Eastern Coast…

1758 – Nova Scotia Legislature established (consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, his Council and the newly established, elected legislative assembly called the House of Assembly)

1760 – March, Treaty of Peace and Friendship concluded by the Governor of Nova Scotia with Paul Laurent, Chief of the La Heve tribe of Indians

1761 – November 9, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Jonathon Belcher and Francis Muis

1763 – February 10, France ceded, for the last time, the rest of Acadia, including Cape Breton Island (‘île Royale), the future New Brunswick and St John’s Island (later re-named Prince Edward Island), to the British (Treaty of Paris) and it was joined to Nova Scotia

1763 – October 7, Royal Proclamation

1769 – Prince Edward Island established as a colony separate from Nova Scotia

1779 – September 22, Treaty signed at Windsor between John Julien, Chief and Michael Francklin, representing the Government of Nova Scotia

1784 – Cape Breton Island and New Brunswick established as colonies separate from Nova Scotia

1820 – Cape Breton Island re-joined to Nova Scotia

1838 – Separate Executive Council and Legislative Council established

1848 – Responsible government was established in Nova Scotia (Members of the Legislature appointed a majority of those in the Legislative Council)

1867 – “Union” of provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as the “self-governing” federal colony of the Dominion of Canada (British North America Act, 1867 — now known in Canada as Constitution Act, 1867) & the Parliament of Canada established (consisting of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons)

1928 – Abolition of the Legislative Council (leaving the Legislature consisting of the Lieutenant Governor and the House of Assembly)

1931 – Canadian “independence” legally recognized (Statute of Westminster, 1931)

1960 – Canadian Bill of Rights enacted

1982 – “Patriation” of the amendment of the Constitution of Canada & adoption of the Constitution Act, 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canada Act 1982)

Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. J. Stockdale, 1787.

Legislature of the State of Maine. “The Revised Statutes of the State of Maine, Passed August 29, 1883, and Taking Effect January 1,1884.”, Portland, Loring, Short & Harmon and William M. Marks. 1884.

Farnham, Miss Mary Frances. “Documentary History of the State of Maine: Volume VII Containing The Farnham Papers 1603-1688”. Maine Historical Society. Portland. 1901.,

Kennedy, William P. Statutes, Treaties and Documents of the Canadian Constitution: 1713-1929. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1930.

Harvard Law School Library. “Description Legislative history regarding treaties of commerce with France, Spain relating to New Foundland, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton,” ca. 1715? Small Manuscript Collection, Harvard Law School Library., Accessed 07 June 2021

Thorpe, Francis Newton. “The Federal and State constitutions: colonial charters, and other organic laws of the States, territories, and Colonies, now or heretofore forming the United States of America” Washington : Govt. Print. Off. 1909.

Murdoch, Beamish. “Epitome of the laws of Nova-Scotia” [Halifax, N.S.? : s.n.], 1832 (Halifax, N.S. : J. Howe) Volume One:, Volume Two:, Volume Three:, Volume Four:

Marshall, John G. “The justice of the peace, and county and township officer in the province of Nova Scotia : being a guide to such justice and officers in the discharge of their official duties” [Halifax, N.S.? : s.n.], 1837 (Halifax [N.S.] : Gossip & Coade), Second Edition:

Livingston, Walter Ross. Responsible Government In Nova Scotia: a Study of the Constitutional Beginnings of the British Commonwealth. Iowa City: The University, 1930.

Bourinot, John George. “The constitution of the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia” [S.l. : s.n., 1896?],

Laing, David, editor. “Royal letters, charters, and tracts, relating to the colonization of New Scotland, and the institution of the Order of knight baronets of Nova Scotia. -1638“. [Edinburgh Printed by G. Robb, 1867]

Labaree, Leonard Woods. “Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors 1670–1776“. Vol. I and Vol. II. The American Historical Association. (New York : D. Appleton-Century Company, 1935),

Beamish Murdoch, “On the origin and sources of the Law of Nova Scotia” (An essay on the Origin and Sources of the Law of Nova Scotia read before the Law Students Society, Halifax, N.S., 29 August 1863), (1984) 8:3 DLJ 197.

Shirley B. Elliott, “An Historical Review of Nova Scotia Legal Literature: a select bibliography”, Comment, (1984) 8:3 DLJ 197.

Legitimacy, or otherwise, of the BNA

Is the BNA illegitimate? Let these facts speak for themselves.

  1. The members of the Legislative Assembly elected in 1863 were only authorized to legislate under the Colonial Constitution and had no authority to make significant changes to it without first obtaining the people’s consent through a vote.
  2. The resolution of April 10, 1867, which preceded the enactment of the British North America Act, was the only authority possessed by the delegates who procured the Act, and it did not empower them to arrange a federal union without including Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
  3. The delegation was not legally constituted, as it did not have equal representation from each colony as required by the resolution.
  4. The delegates did not ensure just provision for the rights and interests of Nova Scotia, as mandated by the resolution, and the proposed union would deprive Nova Scotians of their rights, liberty, and independence, furthermore it would expose them to arbitrary and excessive taxation, by a Legislature over which they can have no adequate control.
  5. The scheme of confederation was never submitted to the people of Nova Scotia for their approval before it came into effect, which the resolutions argue is essential for its constitutionality.
  6. The resolutions express dissatisfaction with the way Confederation was forced upon Nova Scotia without their consent and against their will.
  7. The people of Nova Scotia expressed loyalty to the Queen and her government but requested the repeal of the British North America Act as it pertains to Nova Scotia and asked for the revocation of the Queen’s Proclamation regarding Confederation.

Wilkins examines the unique constitutional situation of Nova Scotia, which was granted a constitution by King George II, further developed by his successors on the English throne. Despite its effectiveness, the constitution had some deficiencies, notably the lack of a court for impeaching and punishing political offenders.

He expresses a preference for Nova Scotia’s constitution, molded after British monarchy, which he sees as superior despite acknowledging the United States’ constitutional craftsmanship. The speaker then shifts focus to contrasting Confederation with Canada, which he finds “hateful and detestable”. He argues that joining the United States would afford Nova Scotia more freedom and self-governance than being part of Canada’s oligarchical system.

He highlights the loss of Nova Scotia’s freedom under the British North America Act, which gives Canada extensive power to tax Nova Scotia arbitrarily. He criticizes the lack of control Nova Scotia has over Canada’s legislature, with only 19 out of 253 members representing Nova Scotia at the time, since dwindling to 11 out of 338 members.

He concludes by asserting Nova Scotia’s right to preserve its own constitution, which he claims belongs to the people of Nova Scotia and cannot be taken away by the Parliament of England. He argues that Nova Scotia has never been legally confederated with Canada and asserts that it is up to Nova Scotia to decide its future regarding Confederation.

Speeches delivered by Hon. Martin I. Wilkins, (attorney general) in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, session 1868, on resolutions relative to repeal of the “British North America Act, 1867”. Wilkins, Martin I. (Martin Isaac), 1804-1881.

On the Nature of a Colonial Constitution

What was Nova Scotia’s colonial constitution?

According to Hon. Martin I. Wilkins, attorney general at the time of the imposition of the BNA, Nova Scotia possessed a chartered constitution, irrevocable except through force. Nova Scotia, once known as Acadia, was possessed by both the French and English, ultimately becoming British territory after a conquest and subsequent cession by Louis XIV to Queen Anne in 1713.

The treaty of Utrecht solidified Nova Scotia’s status as belonging to the British Crown “forever.” This grant to Queen Anne is emphasized as absolute ownership, surpassing typical property titles. Wilkins argues that neither the people nor the Parliament of England had jurisdiction over Nova Scotia at that time; it belonged solely to the Queen and her heirs.

In 1747, under George II, a patent was issued to Lord Cornwallis, granting Nova Scotia a constitution. This constitution mimicked Britain’s, establishing a Governor, Council (Senate), and House of Assembly. Wilkins highlights the power vested in Cornwallis to summon general assemblies and enact laws for the province’s welfare, emphasizing the constitution’s permanence.

However, subsequent governors delayed convening the Legislative Assembly, preferring to govern through the Council. In 1755, Nova Scotians protested, arguing that only the House of Assembly could enact laws under the granted charter. The matter was referred to England, where Attorney and Solicitor Generals affirmed that the Governor and Council alone lacked authority to make laws for the colony.

The irrevocability of the charter is underscored, with a comparison drawn to a similar case in Grenada (now known as Cambell v Hall). After issuing a commission similar to Cornwallis’, the King attempted to impose taxes on Grenada, leading to a legal challenge. The Court of King’s Bench, led by Lord Mansfield, ruled that the King had relinquished legislative authority over Grenada upon issuing the commission, thus invalidating the taxes.

Wilkins asserts that Nova Scotia’s charter is binding and immutable, having been granted by the Crown. The legal precedents cited affirm that once such charters are granted, the Crown relinquishes legislative authority, making any subsequent attempts to impose laws or taxes illegitimate.

Speeches delivered by Hon. Martin I. Wilkins, (attorney general) in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, session 1868, on resolutions relative to repeal of the “British North America Act, 1867”. Wilkins, Martin I. (Martin Isaac), 1804-1881.

Sovereign Citizens

Be alert when you hear “sovereign citizen”, it’s a very specific term that both the RCMP and FBI used to identify those who wish to operate outside the mechanisms of the state.

To them, it refers to those who believe “courts have no jurisdiction over people, that the use of certain procedures (such as writing specific phrases on bills they do not want to pay) or loopholes can make one immune to government laws and regulations.” They create their own identification cards, their own States or nation states, they refuse to file taxes and generally don’t feel they are bound to any laws.

As with most things, there is a nugget of truth in the idea, at least in Canada.

In my opinion, agents of the state use this term purposefully in order to conflate “Sovereign citizens” with “Popular Sovereignty”, the idea that “the leaders of a state and its government are created and sustained by the consent of its people, who are the source of all political legitimacy”, in other words, the basis for all political power that enabled the creation of the United States. It’s otherwise known as the “consent of the governed”, the same referred to in the Declaration of Independence.

Excerpt from “Despotism”, by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films. 1946.

Obviously that isn’t the case in Canada, never has been the case, and never will be the case under such a system as “constitutional monarchy”.

From the start Canada has been an imposition, it has operated as an inversion of the concept of popular sovereignty where “the people” are subjects, not involved in drafting, ratifying or implementing the constitution, where the laws are imposed by a caste of operators with a very specific set of political ideas (adherence to the “the crown” which they have now self-assessed is synonymous with the Canadian state, even though all the links that previously conveyed royal prerogative still exist), where the legitimization of villeinage and socage as “citizenship” appears to be the priority.

The arbitrary and ad hoc nature of “Canadian ‘democracy'” is best understood through those earlier feudal implementations, not through the American meaning and understanding of “democracy” or a republic, since we are still in a very real sense held as chattel under an 18th century British Whig interpretation of “representation”. It is “the crown” that is represented, not the people, the perfection of democracy is to be found in the total insulation of the people from political power, not in their participation.

So, in terms of the mechanics of the state, those “sovereign citizens” are on to something, in that Canada operates as if it were a proprietary colony, not as a “democracy” or nation state as we have all been told exists in order to completely delegitimize the individual in terms of political power.

I don’t say this to suggest anyone refuses to file taxes, though tax protest movements are a legitimate way to thumb your nose at the legitimacy of the state. I don’t suggest anyone should believe those who say the courts have no jurisdiction, since you will find out in short order their sovereignty is absolute.

What I am saying is that there’s a purposeful sleight of hand used to confuse these two terms and the underlying concepts are key to understanding the road to serfdom, which no other nation on Earth might encapsulate better than “Canada”. The breadcrumb trail is there once you start pulling back the clumsy carpentry that’s been holding it together since 1867.

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