John C. Weaver


Equity--History--19th century; Law--History--19th century; Ontario

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Until 1837, Upper Canada had no Court of Chancery. This omission forced stop-gap measures which in the area of mortgages produced a muddle. The confusion introduced into the land market led to protracted controversies among politicians and jurists during the 1820s and 1830s. The many complex principles and motives raised by the lack of an equitable jurisdiction generated much legislative controversy and experimentation. John Beverley Robinson often was central to vital discussions where he revealed both his intelligence and social biases favouring gentlemen of capital. Extremely complicated issues have deflected attention from the central issue: whether the colony needed equity, whether it needed to follow English law. The episodes show that Upper Canadians of many political outlooks were not at all convinced that their society should embrace English law. Moreover, the neglect of equity and opposition to it should not be treated just as a demonstration of frontier circumstances. Social attitudes, personal motives, political circumstances, and disputes about colonial independence from English models and Crown influence greatly affected the law. The law as abstraction and the law as social product clashed quite early in the life of this society.

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