Jonathan Belcher

Jonathan Belcher, lawyer, chief justice, lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia (b at Boston, Mass 23 July 1710; d at Halifax 30 Mar 1776).

Belcher, Jonathan

Jonathan Belcher, lawyer, chief justice, lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia (b at Boston, Mass 23 July 1710; d at Halifax 30 Mar 1776). Educated at Harvard, Cambridge and the Middle Temple (London, England), Belcher served at the English and Irish bars until appointed in 1754 as first chief justice of NS, an office he held until his death. The first formally trained law officer appointed in the province, he established orderly courts, English as opposed to Massachusetts legal precedents, and solidly drafted legislation.

As administrator and lieutenant-governor (October 1760-September 1763), he found himself in open conflict with the elected House of Assembly over issues affecting its mercantile leaders. His continuance of Governor Charles LAWRENCE's encouragement to New England settlements in NS was fruitful, but he also repeated, in 1762, his predecessor's inhumane expulsion of ACADIANS.

Belcher's lack of political judgement and financial ineptitude left him subject to the pervasive power of Joshua MAUGER, who, as the province's agent in London, successfully undermined the lieutenant-governor's credibility with the Board of Trade. Belcher was replaced March 1763. The Board's dissatisfaction with Belcher led to its separation of powers, excluding the chief justice from thereafter assuming the position of provincial administrator. Learned, well-intentioned but pompous, Belcher contributed most significantly as a jurist.