Prince Edward Island. Court of Commissioners for the Recovery of Small Debt

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Prince Edward Island. Court of Commissioners for the Recovery of Small Debt

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence


During the early years of British rule on Prince Edward Island, court cases involving the recovery of small debts were dealt with by Justices of the Peace or Magistrates (the Legislation appears to use the terms interchangeably in such cases). In 1773 "An Act for the more easy and speedy recovery of small debts" allowed jurisdiction TO the Justices of the Peace which was exclusive of that of the Supreme Court. Any person to whom a debt of less than 40 shillings was owed could apply to any one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace appointed within the County in which the indebted person resided. The Justice was then required to immediately issue a summons to the debtor which the plaintiff had delivered to the debtor, usually by the Sheriff or the Provost Marshall. Upon the appearance of the debtor to the summons, the Justice enquired into the demand and passed judgment thereupon. If the Justice found for the plaintiff, the Justice had the power to award Execution against the Goods and Chattels of the party, or against the body of the person if there were no goods or chattels. The Justices could issue a writ of execution directed to the Provost Marshall of the Island who was to levy the amount of the execution - as a Sheriff would in England. If amount could not be levied from goods and chattels, the Provost Marshall might arrest the individual who was to serve a term of not more than three months in the summer season and not more than four months in the winter season. The individual would then be free of debt. Justices were required to keep a book registering the details of the cases (Books of Entry and Registry or Judgment Books). The Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island or another Justice was authorized to hear and pass judgment on any appeals. In 1776, the legislation was amended to allow claims of less than £5 to be dealt with by two Justices of the Peace sitting together and in 1801, jurisdiction over appeals was transferred to the Supreme Court. After 1828, Justices of the Peace had to be especially commissioned to judge in matters of small debt.

In 1832, "An Act to consolidate and amend the several Acts of the General Assembly therein mentioned, relating to the Recovery of Small Debts" repealed all previous acts dealing with small debt and gave the jurisdiction over the recovery of small debts to Commissioners. The Lieutenant Governor was authorized "to nominate and appoint so many persons as shall appear necessary and expedient, to be Commissioners for the Recovery of Small Debts within this Island; each Commissioner, when appointed, to have power and authority to act within the County for which he shall be appointed." Jurisdiction of Commissioners was limited to sums not exceeding £2 or 40 shillings in cases heard by one commissioner and £5 in cases heard by two commissioners. Legislation of 1843 allowed for cases involving sums not exceeding £8 to be heard by three Commissioners or Justices of the Peace. If two Commissioners differed in opinion, they were to submit the case to a third Commissioner for decision. Appeals were made to the Supreme Court. Each and every Commissioner was required to keep a Book of Causes (Judgment Book). In 1840, legislation was passed enabling Commissioners to appoint Clerks who would responsible for these Books of Record.

In 1844, the process of the recovery of small debts was formalized in the creation of Courts of Commissioners for the Recovery of Small Debts which were established in each county. Three Commissioners were to be appointed to each court as was one Clerk. The jurisdiction of these courts was limited to £8 and interest in cases of Debt and Trover. These Commissioners were no longer considered especially appointed Justices of the Peace. In 1860, the Legislation provided for the powers of Commissioners to be the same as those of Justices of the Supreme Court under the Insolvent Debtor's Act. Originally the counties were allowed six courts each. However, this number was raised to seven in 1860 and later legislation provided for courts to be established in specific communities. In 1873, the Courts of Commissioners for the Recovery of Small Debts ceased to exist with the establishment of the County Courts of judicature which assumed responsibility for hearing cases involving small debt and for relieving the Supreme Court of other minor cases.


Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

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Internal structures/genealogy

General context

Relationships area

Control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used

RAD 24.23A1


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

4 July 2000. Entered into AtoM 28 September 2016.




Maintenance notes