Nova Scotia’s Blackstone

“Though Murdoch was a lawyer by profession and for several years a successful practitioner at the Bar, his tastes were essentially literary and historical . It was as a scholar and a gentleman that he impressed his contemporaries . One of these writing in the Acadian Recorder of October 11, 1863, under the pseudonym of Max, gives a very sympathetic view of Murdoch in contrast to other lawyers of his day. He describes him as, not tall, with a finely moulded head, considerably bald, soft hazel eyes, a kindly intelligent face, and a mouth that has “a peculiar twist while listening.” Capable of conversing volubly yet quietly, eager to talk of the present as well as the past, he is courteous to a fault and willing to impart information without fee. “He is, I believe,” continues Max, “a pretty sound and well-read lawyer. He has epitomized the laws of this province, and his book has done good service to others if not to himself. He is not unfrequently in the court, but always with an easy smile and a quiet voice and the demeanour of a gentleman .”

“What I like him for is that he seems to have followed the law more for the love of its science and its literature, and not to amass wealth or climb into the petty places which our politicians have to bestow. I like him moreover because he clings to the past. He is one of the few who have come out of the olden time with the fine aroma and sense of honour which belonged to it . The grasping, avaricious, sordid desires which burn the noble sentiments out of some lawyers’ natures seem not to have sunk into his grain. He has brought something of what is well worth preserving out of the past generation of lawyers to diffuse among the aspiring limbs of today.”

When this character sketch of Murdoch was written he was sixty-three years of age ; but, when he completed his epitome of the laws of Nova Scotia, he was only thirty-two. The Epitome, then, is remarkable not only for its early appearance in Nova Scotia but also for the the youthfulness of its author. It is remarkable, too that another youthful Nova Scotian, Joseph Howe, twenty-eight years of age, who had already lost heavily on the patriotic venture of publishing Haliburton’s history of his native province, should have undertaken to print a work with such a limited market as an epitome of the laws of a single province. But all three youths reflected the spirit of the new age ; and, because of this, our generation of Canadians owes a heavy debt of gratitude to the two authors Haliburton and Murdoch and to the publisher Howe.”

Harvey, DC. “Nova Scotia’s Blackstone” The Canadian Bar Review 1933