New HeinOnline Library: Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture and Law

heinonline_logoWe are pleased to announce that we now have access to this new library on HeinOnline.  Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law, edited by Paul Finkelman with the assistance of Hein’s editorial staff, brings together for the first time all known legal materials on slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. An introduction to the collection by the editor is available here.

The collection also includes more than 1,000 books and pamphlets about slavery – defending it, attacking it or simply analyzing it, including an expansive slavery collection of mostly pre-Civil War 0materials from the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. The editors have also gathered every English-language legal commentary on slavery published before 1920, including many essays and articles in obscure, hard-to-find journals in the United States and elsewhere. The collection will continue to grow, not only from new scholarship but also from historical material that is added as it is located.

A note about Hein and their commendable model of access:

HeinOnline is to be commended on the model of access they have developed for this new library. We at Osgoode and York will have access through our subscription to HeinOnline. However, as a sign of their dedication to the dissemination of information and knowledge on this important subject, Hein is making this database available to anyone in the world who would like access, at no cost! While there is no charge for access to Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture & Law, Hein encourages everyone who registers for access to the valuable material in this database to make a donation, if they are able, to the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund, or another charity of the user’s choice which supports civil rights, equality, or the advancement of people of color. Making a donation is voluntary, and is not required to access the database.

For information on using and searching Slavery in America library, click here.

Historical NS Hansards Now Online

Nova-ScotiaAll of the available early debates and proceedings (Hansard) of the of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for the period 1868-1993 are now online on the Legislature’s website. The production and posting of these materials was a project of the NS Legislative Library.

This gives Nova Scotians and everyone access to the historical debates of the House, such as the 1907 debate on Prohibition in Nova Scotia and the debates leading up to the opening of the Angus L Macdonald Bridge in Halifax.

Hansard did not transcribe debates from 1917-1919, and 1921-1950, so debates during those dates are not available.

The collection also includes all of the available Legislative Council debates, from 1858-1861 and 1875-1922. Historically (pre-Confederation), the Legislative Council acted as the Governor’s cabinet, with a combination of executive, legislative and judicial powers, and subsequently as the Upper House of the legislature. The Council was finally abolished in 1928.

These Hansards join a growing online collection of legislative materials for Nova Scotia, including:

The Legislative Library is now in the process of making the Journals of the House of Assembly from 1867-1900 available online.

New Legal History Journal Subscription

Jus Gentium Front CoverThe Osgoode Library now subscribes to JUS GENTIUM: Journal of International Legal History, the first issue of which has just recently been published. Jus Gentium is the first American journal dedicated to addressing the history of international law. Much of modern scholarship on the history of international law is preoccupied not with international law, but with international legal doctrine; the doctrinal writings of remarkably few individuals dominate the discourse while the rest remain unseen or overlooked. This journal will encourage further exploration in the archives, for new materials and confirmation of the accuracy of past uses, but welcoming the continued reassessment of international legal history in all of its dimensions.

Our subscription is online only and is available on the HeinOnline Law Journals Library.

A Brush with History: Where were you when Louis Riel was tried?

Deeds are not accomplished in a few days, or in a few hours. A century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time – Louis Riel

Two years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, news agencies across the continent were in a flurry publishing memorial articles entitled, “Where were you when JFK was shot?” The phrase has become a commonplace that speaks to the individual experience of a shared national event. On the fateful day when the presidential motorcade passed through Dallas, only a small handful were actually where JFK was, as compared to the millions who learned of the event via radio or television. But no matter how far removed from the situation, each and every contemporary has their own story that places the unforgettable event in the context of their own lives. I was not alive for Kennedy’s term as President, but I can answer different “Where were you when…?” questions in my own way.

I remember returning from recess on the second day of Grade 6 to have my teacher address my class: two planes had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, a suspected terrorist attack. I was eleven years old and entirely failed to grasp the significance of the situation, but I could tell from the comportment of the adults around me that something big had happened. After school, I turned on the news for the first time in my life. Ten years later, late on May 2, 2011, I remember sitting in a quiet bar with my friends from university. We had just finished the final exams of our final year, and we’d all be splitting up the very next day to head for home. As we chatted and casually watched sports highlights, one of my friends received a text and asked the bartender to change the channel. President Obama was addressing his nation to let them know that Osama bin Laden was dead. I had an eerie sense of my personal life aligning with the “everlasting wheel of time” to simultaneously mark the end of two eras, one personal, the other global. My presence in that bar with my friends in front of the television is of no relevance to posterity, but I will never forget what I witnessed and what I learned there. Individual experience is important only individually.

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These days, the answer to “Where were you when…?” is usually where your eyes first locked on a screen of a television, computer, or smartphone. Before the invention of these technologies, the answer might be where you first heard it via the radio. Before that? It might very well be where you heard cry of the corner paperboy. A book I chanced upon recently in our Special Collections, A Review of the Authorities as to the Repression of Riot or Rebellion, with Special Reference to Criminal or Civil Liability (London, 1868), demonstrates how one Archdeacon Dixon of Guelph, Ontario, answers in his own way “Where were you when…?” and finds an intersection of his life with the epic of national history.

The Archdeacon’s book bears two inscriptions.

Archdeacon's Inscription

The first reads, “Archdeacon Dixon, Rector of Guelph, May 1884”. The second inscription, in what looks to be the same hand as the first, though with lighter ink and smaller letters, reads “This book was lent by me to Christopher Robinson, my old college friend, to take with him to the trial of Riel, he being crown prosecutor, May 1884. A.D.”

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Louis Riel (1844-1885)

The Trial of Louis Riel (one hundred thirty years ago to the day as of this writing) was a cause célèbre in the young Dominion of Canada, and to see why the Archdeacon Dixon would want to mark his book’s involvement isn’t difficult. After all, Dixon’s dear friend, Christopher Robinson, prosecuted a man who was controversial in his day and who wound up among the most divisive figures in Canadian history. Riel was, depending on who you ask, a folk hero or seditious traitor, and already nationally known for his role in the Red River Rebellion and the killing of Thomas Scott in 1869. He fled to the States, and resurfaced in Canada in 1884 to lead the North-West Rebellion in 1885, for which he was eventually tried and executed later that same year. I imagine that to see a man so prominent in the cultural psyche answer for his deeds years after committing them would resonate for Dixon much in the same way bin Laden’s death resonates for me. As I have my story, the Archdeacon has his, and his book was a part of it; while he left little for later generations to remember him by, he had his brush with history, and that is enough. Can you picture him entertaining guests, taking this book from the shelf and telling his tale? How he might trump up his involvement with the trial so as to seem of greater importance?

Next to an autograph of John A. MacDonald (also accompanied by a note detailing the books historical provenance), this is probably the most fascinating inscription I’ve chanced upon in my short time here at Osgoode, not only for its slight historical connection, but for the Archdeacon’s motivations in writing it. This is what I love about inscriptions, that they are often so personal and intimate, of real importance to the writer but to no one else.

Once I finished musing, I realized something didn’t add up, and that something was the second inscription’s date of May 1884. We can tell, ex post facto, that this date must be an error, since Riel’s trial transpired in July 1885. The Archdeacon could not have written the inscription in 1884 since the information contained within it (i.e. the fact of Riel’s trial; Christopher Robinson’s appointment as crown prosecutor in the case) is contingent upon the events of 1885. By the same logic, since Dixon necessarily wrote the inscription at a point after Riel’s trial in 1885, we must conclude that the date of 1884 was written in error. I think it is likely that the Archdeacon signed only his name in May 1884 as a simple mark of ownership when lending the book to Robinson, and was simply muddled when wrote the later inscription and copied the same date upon the book’s return to him.

Unfortunately, if Robinson employed the book during his preparation for the trial, he did not leave us any markings by which we could trace how he used it. I’d like to add, however, that though he deprived later generations of what would be a remarkable (if minute) insight to the case, Robinson earns top marks for observing proper book-borrower’s protocol, returning the pristine volume to Archdeacon Dixon in the same condition in which it was first lent. Christopher Robinson: a prosecutor and a gentleman. Take note, readers of today — if you find yourself amidst history in-the-making, pull out your pen and mark the occasion, and do so in a book if one is handy.

 

A Canadian Pirate, and Other Notable Trials

We at the library would like to offer heartfelt congratulations to Osgoode’s Class of ’55, who recently celebrated their 60th Anniversary reunion! Helmed by Mr Morley Wolfe, the Class of ’55 took this occasion to offer the library a sum collected at their get-together, to be dedicated to collection development. This donation allowed the library to purchase a rare piece of Canadiana, an eight-page pamphlet detailing the trial of a pirate, “a Canadian by birth”, published in Philadelphia in 1800: The Confession of Joseph Baker, A Canadian by Birth, Who, For Murder & Piracy on the High Seas on Board the Schooner Eliza […] Was Tried On the 25th of April, 1800. As far as we can determine, ours is the only copy in Canada.

Our bookseller, from whom we acquired the pamphlet, summarized the already brief account thus:

Baker, whose real name was Boulanger, with La Croix (alias for Peterson) and La Roche (alias for Berrouse or Brous) killed the mate and supercargo on the schooner Eliza, but only wounded Captain Wheland. They agreed to let him live so he could navigate the ship ‘to the Spanish Main.’ Seizing a chance when two of the culprits were below deck, Wheland locked them in the cabin, and with an ax, drove the third into a rigging. He reached St. Kitts fourteen days later, and his three prisoners were brought back to Philadelphia in the U.S. sloop of war Ganges. Baker states that he was born at Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, in 1779, and came to New York City in 1799, where he joined with La Roche (Brous) and La Croix (Peterson), probably “a Dane or Swede,” according to Captain Wheland, whose Narrative of the Horrid Murder & Piracy was also published by Folwell at the same time as Baker’s Confession. Wheland’s account is detailed and graphic; Baker’s is even more so. Baker claimed to be a reluctant pirate who was forced into action by La Roche. As he tells it, Baker was ordered by La Roche and La Croix, who had also capitulated to La Roche, to “take the captain’s sword, and if he was a-sleep, to run it through his body, and if I did not do it, they would kill me: I went down but I could not find it in my heart to kill the captain, but struck him on the hand with a hatchet; he then jumped up and made a catch at me, and I then struck him on the head. Immediately I ran up on deck: Brous then attempted to kill me, because I had not killed the captain …” In his Narrative Wheland draws no distinction between Baker and the others that might reduce his culpability. Nor did the court. All were sentenced to hang. The confession is dated May 8th, 1800, one day before Baker and two accomplices were to be executed.

Reading Baker’s confession, I cannot help but be touched by his affirmations of innocence and reluctant participation in the crime. Apparently I’d make a terrible judge. The pamphlet is available online through the Library of Congress here, but if you have a connection through York, you can find higher quality scans through HeinOnline and Early American imprints, Series I, Evans (1639-1800). If Baker’s confession is of interest to you, the Library of Congress maintains an excellent collection of piracy trials, most of which are available online here.

Mr Wolfe, pleased to hear about the purchase facilitated by his class’s generous donation, was kind enough to stop by the library to see our new pamphlet first-hand.

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While visiting, Mr Wolfe also took some time to admire another donation of which he was a major part – that of his Notable Trials Library. These book club editions, with their decorated, quarter-leather custom bindings and gilt edges agleam, add distinction to any shelf. These editions are reprints of classic works of trial literature, covering everything from the trial of Socrates right up to the Cold War era’s most contentious courtroom battles. Each book features a short introductory essay by celebrated American lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz that contextualizes the trial and explains just why it is “notable”. From historic precedents to the attendant media frenzies, reverberations from these trials ring throughout the legal landscape still. Dershowitz himself is, among other things, a noted criminal lawyer. He is perhaps best remembered in this capacity for representing Claus von Bülow for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny von Bülow, recounted in Dershowitz’s own Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case (which is, of course, one of the volumes in this collection). A list of Mr. Wolfe’s trial library can be viewed here.

A sincere thank you to Mr. Wolfe and the rest of the Class of ’55 for their donations to our collections! We’re always on the lookout for Legal Canadiana and were happy to be able to add this curious account of a Canadian pirate to our trial holdings.

The Jarvis-Irving Collection

Samuel Jarvis, 1792-1857

Samuel Jarvis, 1792-1857

In several separate purchases over the past year, the Osgoode Library has managed to acquire a collection of law books, the Jarvis-Irving Collection, comprising 32 titles (67 volumes) that belonged to Samuel Peters Jarvis (1792-1857), a lawyer and prominent Toronto citizen and member of the Family Compact in Upper Canada.

Jarvis was born in Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) in 1792, when it was the capital of the colony of Upper Canada. His father, William Jarvis, enjoyed the patronage of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, who granted him the offices of provincial secretary and registrar. Samuel Jarvis was educated at Reverend  John Strachan‘s Grammar School in Cornwall, after which he took up legal studies in the office of Attorney General William Firth. His articles were interrupted by the War of 1812, in which he saw considerable action, including service with Major-General Sir Isaac Brock at the capture of Detroit and at the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was called to Bar in 1815.

Though from an established family and well-positioned for success, Jarvis’s fiery temperament and impetuous nature initially thwarted his chances at preferment. In 1817, he killed John Ridout, son of Surveyor General Thomas Ridout, in a duel, though he was later exonerated. In 1826, with a group of other Tory young bloods, he invaded and ransacked the offices of William Lyon Mackenzie, an offence for which he was heavily fined. Despite these blots on his character, Jarvis was appointed deputy provincial secretary and registrar by Lieutenant Governor Sir Peregrine Maitland in 1827, and subsequently Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs by Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head in 1837. Jarvis did not prove a great success in either of these roles. After several investigations into mismanagement, the office of Chief Superintendent was abolished in in 1845 and Jarvis, in disgrace, retired to private life. Faced with financial problems, he subdivided and sold off most of the 100-acre park east of Yonge Street in Toronto that he had inherited from his father. In 1847, Hazelburn, the house he had built there 23 years earlier, was torn town to make way for for the street which still bears Jarvis’s name. Jarvis died in 1857.

This collection is called the Jarvis-Irving Collection, as it was subsequently passed on to Jarvis’s daughter-in-law’s brother, Sir Aemilius Irving (1823-1913), the longest-serving Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada. We are extremely proud of this collection, as it is rare to be able to rebuild such a substantial collection of law books from so early a period in our national and legal history.

In the News: An Octocentenary of Note: Magna Carta Turns 800

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“JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.”

In 2015, such an aureate introduction won’t even fit in a tweet. But in 1215, a full eight centuries past, politicians and leaders were not constrained by 140-character limits when they wanted to make a proclamation. King John knew he had ample space on his luxuriously vacant vellum for a loquacious lead-in, and by Jove, he was going to use it.

As John Allemang’s recent (Feb 2) excellent spread in The Globe and Mail reminds us, this year we are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the truly remarkable Magna Carta. In his thoughtful piece, Allemang roundly considers arguments from both Magna Carta’s devotees and detractors, noting that, for all the praise given it for establishing the rule of law and basic tenets of human rights, “sometimes, it is just a self-interested legal document that attempts to settle a bunch of long-simmering quarrels between one very powerful man and a few almost-as-powerful men.” However you choose to view the Magna Carta at 800, for Allemang, its “statement of principle is good enough: Don’t let the bullies push you around.” But enough with the sound-bites; please, read on at The Globe and MailPart I and Part II.

As everyone should know, the Magna Carta — also known as the Great Charter — was signed by King John in the presence of his barons at the field of Runnymede near Windsor on June 15, 1215. There are four extant copies of the Magna Carta: two at the British Library and one each at Salisbury and Lincoln cathedrals. During this octocentenary year, all four copies will be on display at the British Library, which is also hosting an exhibition, “Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy”, from March to September this year. If you find you’re too busy with law school to take a trip to England (an understandable excuse), you can view the exhibition online.

Also as part of this year’s celebrations, a copies of the Magna Carta will be sent on tour around the world. A copy of the Magna Carta from Durham Catheral — a “reissue” from 1216, accompanied by Durham’s 1225 copy of the companion Charter of the Forest — will be on exhibit in Canada from June through December, making stops in four Canadian cities (Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton). Toronto’s Fort York, will be host from October 4 to November 7, 2015. For more information, visit the Magna Carta 800 Canada website.

Coat of Arms of Osgoode Hall Law School

Coat of Arms of Osgoode Hall Law School

The Magna Carta is also features on the coat of arms of Osgoode Hall Law School. On the left side of the shield is portrayed a Doric column surmounted by a crouching beaver. Around the column is a white scroll with the words “Magna Carta Angliae” (Great Charter of England). The beaver, of course, represents Canada. The column and scroll indicate that law, the rule of law and civil rights, descending from Magna Carta, are a pillar of Canadian society. These symbols — the pillar, the beaver and the scroll — are taken directly from the Seal of the Law Society of Upper Canada in Osgoode Hall, the School’s home until 1969.

If you’d like to learn a little more about the Great Charter, a quick search through our holdings reveals numbers of texts and commentaries regarding the eminent document. Our collection includes Blackstone’s famous treatise of 1759.