Bailiff Records


In 1768 John Paterson was appointed Bailiff for Gaspe and Richard Ascah was appointed sub-Bailiff.  This appointment was announced in the Quebec Gazette and appeared every year until at least 1773.  His continual service as Bailiff for this period was unusual as Bailiffs were only supposed to serve for two consecutive terms.


The Bailiff’s were normally selected by means of lists that were prepared by vote in the local parishes.  In the case of a number of Gaspe communities the Bailiffs were appointed without election.  The election results from the various parishes can be found in the National Archives in Ottawa.  Not included among these records is any information on the selection of Bailiffs for the communities where elections were not held.  It seems reasonable to assume that someone made recommendations to the government in Quebec City as to who would be good candidates for Bailiff and that these recommendations would include some reasoning for the recommendation, such as “John Paterson served for 8 years in the XX Regiment of Foot, serving for the last 3 years as Sergeant.”


Bailiff’s were expected to prepare annual returns, although annual lists of Bailiffs that were prepared indicate that John, along with a few others, often did not provide annual returns.  Unfortunately none of the annual returns have survived, or if they survive they have not been found.  Such a return might provide some information on some of John’s activities and a verifiable signature for comparison to other documents.


The Bailiffs’ appointments were through the Provincial Secretary who, from 1764 to 1780 was Hector Cramahe.  At that time many records, that we would consider public or government records were considered private papers, and on his departure from Quebec he would have been at liberty to take these with him.  An extensive search of the surviving papers of the Provincial Secretary for the Province of Quebec held at the National Archives in Ottawa have been made, but nothing regarding the appointment of John as Bailiff has been found.  It is not known what happened to Carmahe’s personal papers after his death, but in many cases they were simply burned as a means of getting rid of unwanted trash.