An Important Association Copy: George-Étienne Cartier and Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine

The Osgoode Library’s Canada Law Book Rare Book Room contains many treasures illustrative of Canadian law and history. One of my favourites is a small book, not of great value in its own right, but valuable both because of its association with two great of Canadians and because of the insight it gives us into their politics.

The book is:

Lucas, Charles. Recueil des débats des assemblées législatives de la France sur la question de la peine de mort : avec une introduction et des annotations. Paris: M Ve Charles-Béchet, 1831.

The book itself (digital text available on the Internet Archive here) is not especially rare or valuable. Its value to us lies in a short inscription, in pencil, on the top right corner of the title page:

“À G.[eorge] É.[tienne] Cartier , esq M.P.P. de la part du Juge en chef [Louis Hippolyte] LaFontaine” (Translation: To G[eorges] É[tienne] Cartier, esq M.P.P. from Chief Justice [Louis Hippolyte] La Fontaine)

La Fontaine-Cartier Insscription

George-Étienne Cartier (1814-1873) (he was named after the English king and spelled his first name à l’anglaise) and Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine (1807-1864) were not only friends but also partners in both the practice of law and as liberal-reformist politicians. When Cartier was called to the bar of Lower Canada in 1835, he joined La Fontaine’s law practice in Montreal. They were both also Patriotes and fervent supporters of Louis-Joseph Papineau in his rebellions against the “Chateau Clique” for responsible government and equal rights for French Canadians. (Cartier was exiled for a year after the first rebellion failed in 1837.) When LaFontaine was appointed first Canadian-born Prime Minister of the United Province of Canada (and first head of an elected, responsible government in Canada) in 1841, Cartier joined him as an elected member of the parliament. The two men worked together to abolish the system of seigneurial land tenure in Quebec and both also pushed for the adoption of a new Civil Code to replace the Coutume de Paris as the basis of private law in Quebec.

George-Étienne Cartier

Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine









La Fontaine was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench  in Canada East (formerly Lower Canada, now Quebec) in 1853. He did not live to see the Confederation of the British colonies as the independent Dominion of Canada in 1867. Cartier, however, became the leader of pro-confederation forces in Quebec and is, in my opinion, the greatest of the “Fathers of Canadian Confederation” and its kingpin, as he was responsible for bringing not only French Canada, and was instrumental subsequently in also bringing British Columbia and Manitoba into Confederation.

Why do I find this document so interesting? I like to think that Canada has a long liberal tradition and find it interesting to imagine that one reformer, La Fontaine, gave and recommended this book, discussing the abolition of the death penalty, to his friend Cartier in the decade preceding the founding of this great country. It would be a hundred years before the goal of abolishing the death penalty would be realized in Canada, but I like to think that this book is one of the first incentives to the realization of that goal.

New Coat of Arms for Osgoode

New Osgoode Coat of Arms

Over the past few years, the Library has been closely involved in working with the Canadian Heraldic Authority in Rideau Hall on the design of a new coat of arms for Osgoode to reflect the law school’s association with York University and in celebration of our 50th anniversary at York. That task is now complete. The new coat of arms features a border with white roses surrounding the familiar shield from our old coat of arms (which is otherwise unchanged) and the addition of “supporters” – two red owls, complete with barrister’s tabs, to hold it up. The heralds at the Heraldic Authority tell me that, as far as they know, these are the only red owl supporters in all of heraldry. The owls are an appropriate addition to the Osgoode arms because, from the founding of the school in 1889, students have been calling their teams “The Osgoode Owls”.

The full blazon (description) and symbolism of the coat of arms can be read in the Canadian Heraldic Authority’s official Register of Arms, Flags and Badges.

The white roses in the new coat of arms represent the “white rose of York”, a symbol that also appears in the coats of arms of York University and the City of Toronto (known as York until 1834). The classical portico in the “crest” at the top of the arms is, of course, one of the side porticos of “old Osgoode Hall” on Queen Street in the heart of downtown Toronto, home of Law Society of Upper Canada and the Court of of Appeal of Ontario, and of Osgoode Hall Law School from its founding in 1889 until it’s move to York University in 1969.

In addition to the coat of arms, Osgoode has also been granted an official “badge” for more casual uses than the coat of arms. A “badge” is a personal emblem or device, usually taken from the coat of arms, intended for more casual or flexible use than the arms proper. Osgoode’s badge is a variation on the owl supporters from the more formal coat of arms, but “full frontal”.

Osgoode Hall Law School Badge

One of my favourite things about heraldry is the archaic, almost secret language used to describe heraldic devices. It’s a funny carry-over from Anglo-Norman-French, similar in many ways to Law French. As an example, here’s the official description of the Osgoode badge in heraldic terms:

An owl affronty Gules (ie, a red owl facing forward) beaked and legged Or (ie, with gold beak and legs) gorged with barrister’s bands Argent (ie, with white barrister’s band around its neck)

How can you not love the Osgoode owl affronty?

When True Crime Meets Crime Fiction: A Bibliographical Mystery

The Osgoode Library recently acquired for its Trials special collection in the Canada Law Book Rare Room copies of the following publication:

Life and Confession of Sophia Hamilton Who Was Tried, Condemned and Sentenced to be Hung at [name of city] for the Perpetration of the Most Shocking Murders and Daring Robberies Perhaps Recorded in the Annals of Crime / Carefully Selected by the Author, William H. Jackson. Printed for the Publisher, 1845.

Sophia Hamilton at Work

This is a most interesting and confusing little publication. Here at Osgoode we were fortunate to obtain copies of both extant Canadian editions of this work, one published in Montreal and the other in Fredericton, both in 1845. Both editions are rare, especially the Fredericton edition. More interesting, however, is the fact that the person and crimes described in both editions are completely bogus and fictional. In the Montreal edition, the evil Sophia owned and operated out of a cottage tavern located in La Prairie, “a neat village about nine miles south of Montreal”, where she fleeced and murdered some of her more affluent guests, as well as a few witnesses to her crimes, for which she was tried and hung in Montreal on 22 January 1845. The Fredericton edition claims that her inn was located in Woodstock, New Brunswick, while she was tried, condemned and executed for her avaricious thefts and 10 murders in Fredericton on 8 April 1845. Other than these details, the text (though not the typsetting) of both editions is identical.

An article from the University of New Brunswick Faculty of Arts alerts readers to the fact that Sophia Hamilton is in fact a fictional character, but misses the bibliographical interest that her fictional misdeeds were recorded in two different cities in two separate imprints.

The earliest edition of this work, however, seems to have been printed in New York. A dgitized copy, from the Cornell University Library, can be viewed here. In this edition, Sophia was hung in Montreal on the 25th of November, 1844, two months before the Montreal edition saw her go. The illustration on the title-page is also different from the Montreal and Fredericton editions. The title-page illustration in the Canadian editions shows Sophia with one of her murdered victims lying on the floor, while the New York edition shows her in the act of making her confession. This latter illustration is rendered further in the text in the Canadian editions. (The image above is from the Osgoode copy of the Montreal edition.)

The Catalogue of Law Trials [from] the Collection of the late E.B. Wynn, of Watertown, N.Y. [To be sold at auction] February 7th to 11th, 1893 (New York, 1892), which can be viewed on the Hathi Trust here, records copies of both the Montreal and Fredericton (but not the New York) editions of the work. This catalogue claims that Sophia committed her crimes in Fredericton but was tried, condemned and hung in Montreal. Wrong again!

You can read the Montreal edition of the pamphlet, from the collection of the Boston Public Library, on the Internet Archive here. A copy of the Fredericton edition, seemingly published a few months later, from the collection of the National Library of Canada, is available on the Internet Archive here.

Bibliographically speaking, Sophia Hamilton was one busy bad girl!

Significant New Additions to HeinOnline’s American Indian Law Collection

Nearly 30,000 pages of Indian Tribal Codes have been added to the American Indian Law Collection on HeinOnline. These materials have been made available by Ralph Whitney Johnson and Susan Lupton at the Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law. Included is the first edition from 1981, and the second edition from 1988. The project collects in one place in a usable and readily accessible format research materials that would otherwise be virtually unattainable, and this content addition greatly increases the value of a subscription to this database.

The Osgoode Law Library has the 1981 edition in microfiche, but not the 1988 editiion, so their availability in digital format — and searchable full-text — on HeinOnline is a wonderful development.

Osgoode Digital Commons: One Million Downloads and Still Counting!

ODCBannerOsgoode Digital Commons, the institutional repository and digital archive of Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, offering world-wide access to the research and publications of the School’s scholarly community, achieved a significant milestone when it reached one million downloads in the early morning of Monday, November 21, 2016, less than three years since its inception.

The honour of being the one-millionth full-text download from Osgoode Digital Commons goes to the article “Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference?” by the late Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson (Osgoode Hall Law Journal 28.3 (1990) : 507-522). This article is illustrative not only of the breadth of scholarship connected to Osgoode, but of Osgoode’s commitment to social justice and the engagement with the legal profession. It’s also indicative of the power of an open-access publishing platform on the web: this article, which has had over 3,000 downloads in the past year, is almost thirty years old, but enjoys continued relevancy and currency because of Digital Commons.

This map illustrates the distribution of downloads from Osgoode Digital Commons around the world and the consequent international impact of Osgoode research:

International Distribution of Osgoode Scholarship

International Distribution of Osgoode Scholarship (Click to enlarge)

Osgoode Digital Commons was launched in February, 2014, as the institutional repository of Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. The first publication to be posted to the Commons was the complete archive of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, the School’s flagship journal, which continues to be our most popular resource, generating half the full-text downloads. Osgoode Digital Commons has proved a successful platform for the open access publishing of journals and is now home to five of the law reviews connected to Osgoode, including the Journal of Law and Social Policy and the Supreme Court Law Reivew: Annual Constitutional Cases Conference.

But law journals are only one part of the story. Osgoode Digital Commons is the digital archive of the scholarly activities and publications of the research community of Osgoode Hall Law School. Though the Commons was created and is maintained by the Osgoode Library, it is very much a collaborative undertaking, enjoying the active support and collaboration of both the School’s research office (Associate Dean, Research & Institutional Relations) and advancement office (External Relations & Communications). With the commendable support and co-operation of faculty, the archive is comprehensive, including records of every publication, media appearance or mention, conference presentation and event for each active faculty member. Whenever possible, the record includes the full text of the publication or related documentation, including videos and image galleries. Because of this comprehensiveness and inclusiveness, our Digital Commons in not only Osgoode’s institutional repository but also, since this past September, officially the site for the personal research pages of all Osgoode faculty. If our Digital Commons has been a success, it is a reflection of the unreserved support of our faculty and the quality of their scholarship.

Osgoode Digital Commons has been a cornerstone of Osgoode’s institutional digital initiatives and research intensification activities, as well as the Library’s commitment to scholarly communication, the preservation of the School’s research archive and the provision of open access to research. It has been instrumental in making Osgoode research available not only to the wider international scholarly community but to a world of people hungry for quality information about the law, all of it free and open access. Osgoode Digital Commons has played a significant role in enhancing the impact of Osgoode research both in Canada and internationally; in fact, two-thirds of the downloads from Osgoode Digital Commons are from people and institutions outside of Canada.

Finally, we would like to thank the technical and client support folks at bepress Digital Commons, especially Dave Seitz and Camille Peters, without whose knowledge, insights and unfailing assistance there would be no Osgoode Digital Commons.

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Final Report (1966) and Documents Now Online

RCAP_Logo_rev2016In recognition of the twentieth anniversary of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), and just in time for the Sharing the Land, Sharing a Future National Forum currently underway in Winnipeg , Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has digitized and made available not just the full text of the Royal Commission’s 5-volume Final Report, but also many supporting documents, including research reports and transcripts of testimonies from the Commission, available online in a searchable database. This new database supersedes the earlier CDRom version of the report (Seven Generations ) which has been inaccessible due to its outdated software platform.

The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) was established by Order in Council on August 26, 1991, and it submitted its Final Report in October 1996. The RCAP was mandated to investigate and propose solutions to the challenges affecting the relationship between Aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Inuit, Métis), the Canadian government and Canadian society as a whole.

This database provides access to documents, such as intervenor project submissions, publications, research reports and hearing transcripts that supported the writing of the report of the RCAP.

The database is keyword searchable and filterable by:

  • Document Type
  • Public Hearing Date
  • Place

For more information about LAC’s initiative, click here.