Dalhousie Law Journal


legal history, law, power, inequality, inconsistencies, justice, trials, Canada


In a letter to Deputy Judge Advocate Charles Gould, dated 10 April 1762, General Thomas Gage, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, wrote with regard to the proceedings of the general courts martial in Montreal that "it is a Maxim held by all Civilians That no government can subsist without Law." Over half a century later in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, William Elenes filed an affidavit with the Harbour Grace Sessions Court alleging that a group of men stole some potatoes from his house. "Late in March of [ 1817]," the statement read, "John McGrath with a gun and two men came to [Elenes'] house asking for potatoes. Twenty-one or 22 men armed with guns and sticks stood a short distance off." According to Elenes, he told McGrath that "I had no potatoes on my own room but what my own family required." Elenes then asked McGrath if he "had any authority for acting as he was doing and why a Constable had not come with him." McGrath apparently replied that "they were authority enough.., and had no need of a Constable." These men then proceeded to take two barrels of potatoes, but after Elenes had protested they took only one barrel. When Elenes tried to thwart their efforts for a second time, "one of the gang seized me by the throat and would have strangled me but for the assistance of my wife."

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