History of Sergeant-at-Arms
The title of Serjeant-at-Arms takes its name from the time of the Crusades, when Philip the August, King of France, employed special bodyguards to protect him in the Holy Land in 1192. These serjeants d’Armes were encased in head-to-toe body armour and carried a decorated battle mace (Marsden, pp. 76-77).
Later, in 1278, King Edward I of England recruited 20 serjeants-at-arms as his personal escorts. These serjeants wielded royal authority and could arrest anyone for treason. Not only was there a royal serjeant, cities and boroughs adopted the serjeant as well. These men took over the duties of the bailiffs and reeves. They were men to be feared.
In 1415, the House of Commons requested its own serjeant-at-arms to enforce parliamentary privilege. He was the “King’s officer of state, and by virtue of the King’s insignia on his mace he was empowered to exercise royal authority over ordinary citizens – but on the instructions of the Speaker” (Marsden, p. 79). His powers were suspended when parliament was not sitting, but when it was in session, he had complete powers of arrest, trial, and imprisonment.
When the Nova Scotia House of Assembly was established in 1758, there was no official Sergeant-at-Arms. There was, however, a messenger who seems to have taken on the role. John Callbeck, the first messenger, was called upon by the Speaker to confine Archibald Hinshelwood, Deputy Secretary of the Province, who had insulted a member and the House. Similarly, in a letter dated November 29, 1784, Peter Etter was asked by the Speaker to present William Shaw, Esq. at the bar of the House.
Messengers and Door Keepers
(1758-1790) 1758 – 1764 John Callbeck
1765 – 1766 Alexander Cunningham
1767 – 1774 John Kent
1775 – 1779 Unknown (No name appears in the Journals)
1780 – 1789 Peter Etter
March 9, 1790, the House “Resolved, that a proper Person be appointed to Act in the Capacity of Sergeant at Arms to this House”. There is no indication as to why a sergeant-at-arms was sought at that time.
|Adolphus Veith||10 March 1790|
|Charles Stewart Powell||9 June 1801|
|John Angus||6 February 1812|
|Robert Angus||11 February 1813|
|Judah Wells||11 February 1819|
|John Boyd||12 December 1820|
|Thomas Boyd||1 February 1827|
|John James Sawyer||8 November 1830|
|Matthew Forrester||31 January 1837|
|George A. Grassie||8 February 1844|
|Peter Spearwater||22 January 1848|
|George R. Grassie||4 November 1851|
|Edward Joyce||26 January 1860|
|Edward A. Pyke||4 February 1864|
|Angus M. Gidney||30 January 1868|
|Edward A. Pyke||6 March 1879|
|Arthur F. Haliburton||8 February 1883|
|Murdock D. McAskill||14 February 1907|
|E.R. Nickerson||27 February 1929|
|Donald Buchanan MacLeod||1 March 1934|
|Rudolphe V. Comeau||14 March 1946|
|Joseph Israel Pothier||21 March 1950|
|Harold Chisholm Long||27 February 1957|
|Delmore W. (Buddy) Daye||22 February 1990|
|Douglas Giles (Interim)||26 October 1995|
|Douglas Giles||28 May 1998|
|Noel Knockwood||22 March 2000|
|Kenneth H. Greenham||3 March 2006|
|David G. Fraser||1 January 2016|
Source: Elliott, The Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia 1758-1983.