Dartmouth has a long legislative history, more than 110 years before “Confederation”. Several bills specify “Dartmouth Town”, “Dartmouth Township” or the “Dartmouth Town Plot” long before it was incorporated. Nova Scotia actively dissuaded local self government for much of its colonial history, so these bills formed the regulatory flavor of Dartmouth township until Dartmouth was incorporated as a town in 1873.
The “Dartmouth Town, Act to enable the inhabitants of the Town Plot to use and occupy the common field as they may think fit” of 1789 seems to be an earlier incorporation in everything but name. It allowed proprietors to meet quarterly, to choose a Clerk to enter and record votes and orders relative to the Common and to sue or defend suits for proprietors respecting the Common.
It allowed for the same mode of raising taxes to defray expenses of “law suits, etc”, “as the collectors in the Town of Halifax are empowered”, it included a repugnancy clause, the same kind of clause Nova Scotia operated under in regards to the crown, and finally a limitation of powers in respect to the common that taxes could only be levied on those who use it.
Can Dartmouth’s incorporation be traced back to 1789, or was the Dartmouth Common a separate entity? Was the Town of Dartmouth incorporated in 1873 the successor body or did the Dartmouth Common operate as a kind of Imperium in Imperio within the township of Dartmouth, within the future Town and City of Dartmouth?
Dartmouth township was defined on January 3rd 1757, whether it had been defined previously at the very beginning of the settlement is unknown to this author. “That the township of Dartmouth comprehend all the lands lying on the east side of the harbour of Halifax and Bedford Basin, and extending and bounded easterly by the grant to the proprietors of Lawrencetown, and extending from the north easterly head of Bedford Basin into the country, until 100,000 acres be comprehended.”
This township was initially just a vessel for the Sessions and Grand Jury, a number of regulations were passed, powers were delegated to appointees.
- Dartmouth Town, Act to enable the inhabitants of the Town Plot to use and occupy the common field as they may think fit, 1789 c6
(see P&L Acts of 1851, page 128)
- To extend Act respecting Guns and Firearms to (Dartmouth), 1793 c12
- To appoint Trustees for the (Dartmouth) Common, 1797 c2
(see P&L Acts of 1851, page 130)
- To extend the provisions of c15 of 1761 relating to Trespasses, to the Town of Pictou and the Town Plot of Dartmouth, 1818 c23
- To extend the Act for appointing Firewards to (Dartmouth), 1820-21 c32
- To extend the Act relating to Commissioners of Highways, 1828 c27
To amend the last named, 1840 c21
- For regulating the (Dartmouth) Common, 1841 c52
(see P&L Acts of 1851, page 131)
- For establishing a Public Burial Ground, 1842 c25
To amend the last named 1843 c47
(see P&L Acts of 1851, pages 150, 151)
- To extend the Act to regulate the Assize of Bread to, 1843 c48
To continue the last named, 1844 c25
To further continue the same, 1845 c69
- Dartmouth Water Company, Act to incorporate, 1846 c45
To amend the same, and increase number of shares, 1847 c56
To continue and further amend (1st Session), 1851 c7
(see also P. & L. Acts of 1851, pages 217, 223,224)
- In relation to Assessment for a Fire Engine, 1847 c29
- To provide for the opening of a new Road to Eastern Shores, 1847 c38
To provide for extending.(1st Session), 1851 c13
(see also P. & L. Acts of 1851, page 328.)
To extend from Ship Harbour to Sheet Harbour, 1855 c52
- Relating to Streets and Highways, 1847 c46
- Additional Act relating to the (Dartmouth) Common, 1848 c10
(see P&L Acts of 1851, page 134)
- Concerning Town Property in 1850, 1850 c53
(see P&L Acts of 1851, page 127)
- To authorize the appointment of Trustees for the Public Burial Ground, 1850 c61 (see P&L Acts of 1851, page 152)
- Respecting Fire Engines at (Dartmouth) (1st Session), 1851 c28
(see P&L Acts of 1851, page 330)
To amend the last named, 1857 c34
- Relating to the Roman Catholic Cemetery at (Dartmouth), 1859 c61
To amend c61 of 1859, 1867 c112
- Dartmouth Gas Light and Water Company, Act to incorporate, 1861 c76
- For the establishment of Police Regulations in (Dartmouth), 1862 c42
- For the appropriation of Police Fines, 1865 c105
- To assess the inhabitants of the (Dartmouth) Town Plot, 1866 c56
- Dartmouth Water and Gas Company, Act to incorporate, 1867 c55
For more details on Dartmouth’s legislative history you can refer to Dartmouth in the Legislature, Public Acts 1789-1996.