The Halifax Literary Walking Tour

Legislative Library, Province House, 1726 Hollis Street

8. Legislative Library

Inside Province House, home to the Nova Scotia Legislature, there is a fine example of the atmosphere and style of a 19th century gentleman’s library. Now the Legislative Library, it houses important early broadsheets, the 1758-65 journals of Canada’s first representative assembly, and a file of army lists. It also houses what is generally considered to be the first printed Canadian literary effort, Universal Prayer (1770), by lawyer William Doyle. The library opened in 1862 and its first librarian was Mr. James Venables, who was also the building’s keeper.

The Library used to be a courthouse and was where the famous Howe libel trial was held. It was also the scene of a more notorious trial, the mutinous Saladin Pirates. In 1844, the entire crew of the barque, Saladin, save a cook and a cabin boy, were murdered by a passenger and a few mutineers. While attempting to flee, their ship was thrown by rough seas into Nova Scotia waters where they were rescued. Authorities soon became suspicious of the remaining crew’s story, the last passenger was also murdered, and in no time, the cook and cabin boy spilled their hostage story. Fingers pointed in every direction, and soon the whole tale unfolded before the Nova Scotia Courts. The Honourable William Young defended the crew and blamed the dead passenger. Judge Brenton Halliburton thought otherwise, and all, except the innocent cook and cabin boy, were sentenced to hang. Their bodies now lie in the poorhouse graveyard, at the site of Grafton Park and the Spring Garden Road Memorial Public Library.

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