Virginia and Nova Scotia: An Historical Note

“…the first court of judicature, administering the English common law, within what is now the Dominion of Canada.. at Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia, on the 20th day of April, 1721, His Excellency, Governor Phillips, and his council, after full advisement, adopted a resolution constituting themselves a court which was to administer justice “by the same manner and proceedings as the general court” in Virginia. It is a far cry from Nova Scotia to Virginia — and more so in the early years of the eighteenth century than now, but nevertheless for several decades of that century “the lawes of Virginia” were the model and pattern for the new court in Nova Scotia…

Upon the founding of Halifax in 1749, by Governor Cornwallis, the seat of government was changed from Annapolis Royal to Halifax. Cornwallis was instructed to establish courts of justice, and in December of that year he appointed a committee to inquire into and report upon the matter. The following is an extract from their report:

The Committee are of opinion that the form of government in Virginia, being the nearest to that of Nova Scotia, the regulations there established for the General Court and their County Courts will be the most proper to be observed in the Province. The Committee have therefore collected from the laws of Virginia the following regulations with regard to the General Court and the County Courts and the forms to be observed therein

Then follows a detailed code of procedure, which concludes with the following paragraph:

That if any difficulty should arise in explaining any of the above rules and regulations that Recourse be had for explanation to the laws of Virginia, whence most of them are derived, particularly an Act entitled An act for establishing the General Court, pp. 251 to 260, and an Act entitled An Act establishing County Courts p. 332 to 338

Chisholm, Justice. “Virginia and Nova Scotia: An Historical Note.” The Virginia Law Register, vol. 6, no. 10, 1921, pp. 744–751. JSTOR,