Petty Justice: Low Law and the Sessions System in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, 1785-1867

By Paul Craven

© 2014

Until the late nineteenth-century, the most common form of local government in rural England and the British Empire was administration by amateur justices of the peace: the sessions system. Petty Justice uses an unusually well-documented example of the colonial sessions system in Loyalist New Brunswick to examine the role of justices of the peace and other front-line low law officials like customs officers and deputy land surveyors in colonial local government.

Using the rich archival resources of Charlotte County, Paul Craven discusses issues such as the impact of commercial rivalries on local administration, the role of low law officials in resolving civil and criminal disputes and keeping the peace, their management of public works, social welfare, and liquor regulation, and the efforts of grand juries, high court judges, colonial governors, and elected governments to supervise them. A concluding chapter explains the demise of the sessions system in Charlotte County in the decade of Confederation.

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Product Details

  • Series: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 568 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.6in x 1.7in x 9.3in
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SKU# SP003984

  • PUBLISHED OCT 2014

    From: $67.50

    Regular Price: $90.00

    ISBN 9781442649910
  • PUBLISHED OCT 2014

    From: $67.50

    Regular Price: $90.00

Quick Overview

Petty Justice examines the role of justices of the peace and other front-line low law officials like customs officers and deputy land surveyors in colonial local government.

Petty Justice: Low Law and the Sessions System in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, 1785-1867

By Paul Craven

© 2014

Until the late nineteenth-century, the most common form of local government in rural England and the British Empire was administration by amateur justices of the peace: the sessions system. Petty Justice uses an unusually well-documented example of the colonial sessions system in Loyalist New Brunswick to examine the role of justices of the peace and other front-line low law officials like customs officers and deputy land surveyors in colonial local government.

Using the rich archival resources of Charlotte County, Paul Craven discusses issues such as the impact of commercial rivalries on local administration, the role of low law officials in resolving civil and criminal disputes and keeping the peace, their management of public works, social welfare, and liquor regulation, and the efforts of grand juries, high court judges, colonial governors, and elected governments to supervise them. A concluding chapter explains the demise of the sessions system in Charlotte County in the decade of Confederation.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 568 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.6in x 1.7in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘Craven’s book is a compendious analysis of archival material that reveals the day-to-day workings of the magistracy system in Charlotte County… It is heartening to see excellent research bringing important questions into the spotlight.’


    Lyndsay Campbell
    Acadiensis vol 44:02:2015

    ‘Craven has effectively made accessible a wealth of knowledge and a unique glimpse of Canada’s Legal history.’


    Alex E. Hughes
    American Review of Canadian Studies vol 46:01:2016

    Petty Justice is the product of heroic archival work and patient construction, written up in polished prose.’


    David G. Bell, Faculty of Law, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

    ‘Exhaustively and meticulously researched, Petty Justice is a biographical and institutional history of “low law” in a leading New Brunswick county. Elegantly and efficiently written, this book is unique in Canadian legal literature.’


    G. Blaine Baker, Faculty of Law, McGill University
  • Author Information

    Paul Craven is an associate professor in the Department of Social Science at York University.

  • Table of contents

    1. High Law, Low Law, No Law

    I. Petty Justices
    2. The Trials of David Owen
    3. High Noon at Campobello
    4. The Empire Strikes Back

    II. Doing Substantial Justice
    5. In the Woods
    6. “Unconnected with Mercantile Pursuits”
    7. Hatheway’s Civil Docket 1847-67
    8. Hatheway’s Crown Docket, 1847-67

    III. The Sessions System and Its Enemies
    9. Called to Account
    10. Three Ships
    11. The Temperance Magistrates
    12. The Sessions System in Decline

    Appendices
    Reference Tables
    Sources
    Statutes Index
    Bibliography
    Index of Names
    Index of Places
    Topical Index

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