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History General

Rough Justice

Policing, Crime, and the Origins of the Newfoundland Constabulary, 1729–1871

by (author) Keith Mercer

foreword by Edward Roberts

Flanker Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2021
General, Law Enforcement, Pre-Confederation (to 1867)
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price

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Rough Justice is a history of policing and crime in early Newfoundland. It focuses on the period between the appointment of the first constables on the island in 1729 to the establishment of the Newfoundland Constabulary in 1871, now known as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. This makes the Constabulary the oldest continuous police service in Canada.

This book concentrates on regular constables and their lived experiences in the court system and in the community. These law officers, who were largely ignored by politicians at the time and by historians in recent decades, were critical to making that justice system work. This social and legal history brings their stories to life for the first time. Case studies provide fascinating glimpses into the dangers of law enforcement across the island, not just in St. John's and Conception Bay, but also in rural districts such as Trinity and Placentia.

These early policemen, mostly untrained amateurs, were officers of the court, but they also played important roles in some of the most notable historical events and social crises of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The establishment of the Constabulary in 1871 built upon that strong foundation of community service. Rough Justice weaves that narrative into the larger history of Newfoundland.

About the authors

Keith Mercer was born in Gander and holds graduate degrees in history from Memorial and Dalhousie Universities. He works for Parks Canada as the Cultural Resource Manager in Mainland Nova Scotia. He lives in Bedford, Nova Scotia, with his wife, Amy, and children, Abby and Sam.

Keith Mercer's profile page

Edward Roberts has been involved in public life in Newfoundland and Labrador for fifty-five years, as a journalist, lawyer, and politician. He was a member of the House of Assembly for twenty-three years and served as Newfoundland and Labrador’s lieutenant governor between 2002 and 2008. He was honorary colonel of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment from 2003 to 2008, thus re-establishing the link between that office and that of the lieutenant governor, the Queen’s personal representative in Newfoundland and Labrador. He has long been passionately interested in the history of Newfoundland and her people. His first book, as editor, Peter Cashin: My Fight for Newfoundland (2012), was a Globe and Mail bestseller.

Edward Roberts' profile page

Other titles by Keith Mercer

Other titles by Edward Roberts