The justice of the peace, and county and township officer, in the province of Nova Scotia (1846)
“The greatest civil blessings which any people can enjoy, are a wise and just system of Laws, and their enlightened and faithful administration. On these, more than on any other political advantages, public prosperity and happiness must depend. But for securing this favorable result, these two advantages must unite.
The first however excellent in itself, and pleasing as a matter of mere contemplation, is, when alone, insufficient for the purpose. It is, indeed, by the wise and vigilant application of such a system, not only that the happy effect is produced, but that the laws become the most generally known, and most truly appreciated.
The inhabitants of this Colony, possess a very fair portion of the first of those blessings. Although some parts of our Legal Code will admit of considerable correction and improvement, yet upon the whole, there is in this branch of our social system, no very serious ground for dissatisfaction or complaint.
Favored with the chief privileges and advantages of a constitution, long and generally acknowledged to be one of the best which has ever existed, for securing the blessing of rational freedom, and enjoying the protection of a mild and tolerant Government, any general alteration or improvement in Legal regulations and establishments is not so essential, in order to our political prosperity, as a more extended diffusion of the knowledge of the Laws, now in existence, and with regard to many of them, a more extensive and active application.
On this last point, especially, must be admitted, there is, in this Province, a very prevailing and injurious defect, as far as the first steps in any criminal procedure, or the summary execution of legislative enactments, depend on persons in the Commission of the Peace, or other local officers.
This may be very well accounted for, and fairly excused, from a variety of circumstances, without imputing any criminal intention or neglect. The situation of such Magistrates and Officers in this country, is widely different in many particulars, from that of the same persons in much older countries, and especially in our parent State.
In that favored land, a knowledge and observance of the laws in general, and of the various local regulations, are perpetuated from one generation to another, so that each grows up, familiar with their existence and operation. Then, as to Gentlemen, there, in the Commission of the Peace, very many of them are persons of liberal or good education, and of early and extensive information respecting the laws in general; and many others are so wealthy or independent m their circumstances, as to be able to afford leisure for acquiring the requisite knowledge relating to their office, and for the active discharge of its duties.
In this comparatively infant country, our system of jurisprudence is not yet, on some points, accurately defined or established. Many enactments are but of recent origin, others are transient or fluctuating, while the numerous varieties in the description and characteristics of our population, and its continual in-crease from different countries, tend, in a great measure, to prevent any general knowledge or observance of the laws taking place.”
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.], 1846 (Halifax [N.S.] : Gossip and Coade) https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.38224
(Also, see the first edition, https://cityofdartmouth.ca/the-justice-of-the-peace-and-county-and-township-officer-in-the-province-of-nova-scotia-1837/)