Dalhousie Law Journal


legal history, Saint John's Island, Prince Edward Island, Treaty of Paris, land, lottery, townships, settlement, absentee landlords


On 23 July 23 1767, some four years after its acquisition of Saint John's Island [now Prince Edward Island] in the 1763 Treaty of Paris, Britain held a one-day lottery through which it distributed almost the entire island in sixty-six lots [townships] of about 20,000 acres each.' Many lots went to individuals, civil and military servants of the crown, including such notables as John Pownall, secretary to the Lords of Trade, and Admiral Augustus Keppel. Although none of the proprietors met the principal condition oftheir grant-that they settle the land within ten years with one Protestant settler for every 200 acres-the proprietorial system remained in place for over a century. Some large proprietors lost their lands when they were sold by the local government for failure to pay quit rents, while others sold because they were worried about such legal action, with the result that by the 1830s about one-fifth of Island land was in the hands of small farmer-owners. Yet the vast majority of the land continued to be owned by descendants of the original large proprietors, and mostly worked by tenant farmers. Most of the large proprietors were absentee landlords, residents of the United Kingdom.

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