The justice of the peace, and county and township officer in the province of Nova Scotia (1837)

“With regard to our Magistrates, although in general selected from the most suitable persons, yet the greater number, as may reasonably be supposed, are but of ordinary education and attainments, and nearly all, from necessity, being actively engaged in private avocations, they have but little leisure for the acquisition of any particular knowledge of the laws. Moreover, with most of them, the means for obtaining that knowledge are extremely limited. The English Works on the office of a Justice of the Peace, are in general voluminous and expensive, and can hut rarely be procured in this country; and, comparatively, but a small part of them are of any practical use to our Magistrates, especially with reference to any Provincial enactments. No publication for their general in-formation and guidance has yet been afforded in the colony..

The work by Mr. Murdoch, although valuable and generally useful, has, evidently, not been designed to be one of that description. It is chiefly an exhibition of our Statutes in general. Now, as a very considerable part of the authority and duties of Justices of the Peace arises out of the Common and Statute Law of England, and as Precedents or Forms for their use, are of essential importance, it follows, that a work of that nature cannot form a complete and universal guide for the discharge of the almost endless variety of their duties. Then, as to the Provincial Statutes; but few of our Magistrates possess all the volumes containing them.

Some have but one volume, others two, but are deficient of the rest; and indeed, as to the first volume, it can but rarely be procured. Besides, it most candidly be admitted, that on several subjects, in which the duties of Justices are involved, our Statutes are in such a defective, or intricate state, that it requires the close application of a persons killed and exercised in legal investigations, to reconcile or rightly understand them.

It cannot, therefore, reasonably be expected, that plain persons, of ordinary attainments, and actively engaged in private pursuits, should either be fitted, or will afford time, for such an unprofitable and unpleasant occupation.

Owing to these unfavorable circumstances, many of our Magistrates remain generally uniformed as to the nature and extent of their authority, and the due and effective discharge of their duties; and in consequence, very frequently, when applied to, delay or decline to act, from a want of information as to their powers, or through a fear of erring, or from being at a loss in what manner to proceed.

Also, on many occasions, when they commence an exercise of their authority, on meeting with embarrassments and difficulties, they feel compelled or induced, from the same causes, to stop short of its full and effectual exertion.

The concurrence of these disadvantages and evils, prevents any general diffusion of the knowledge of the penal part of our Laws; while a disregard or contempt for the authority of Magistrates, is engendered and perpetuated, so that the daring violator of social regulations, or the rights of individuals, often proceeds in his course of transgression, without the fear or infliction of penal consequences.

Considering all these unfavorable circumstances, it seems highly important and requisite, that some work should be afforded for the special information and guidance of our Magistrates; particularly, as the sphere of their duties is continually increasing.

The present Publication is intended to answer that purpose. It was designed, and would have been executed some years ago, but was postponed, from a desire that the proposed revision and consolidation of the Provincial Statutes, should previously take place. It is much to be regretted that this most desirable object has not yet been accomplished, although two Legislative enactments have, at different periods, been made for the purpose.”

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) https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.36869

(Also, see the second edition, https://cityofdartmouth.ca/the-justice-of-the-peace-and-county-and-township-officer-in-the-province-of-nova-scotia-1837/)