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Canada’s broad St. Lawrence River and its tributaries have been the websites of intensive water use within the mid-nineteenth century. They served as fishing grounds, highways for water craft, conduits for floating logs and sources of energy for each conventional grist mills and new industrial services. Makes use of and customers usually got here into battle, and these conflicts usually landed up in courtroom.

Jonathan Sewell
(Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1900)

The earliest absolutely reported case of this sort was the 1832 case of Oliva v. Boissonnault. James Oliva sued Nicolas Boissonnault within the courtroom of King’s Bench, District of Quebec, for putting obstructions within the Rivière du Sud, blocking the floating of logs downstream to the St. Lawrence. Chief Justice Jonathan Sewell dominated for Oliva, explaining that below French regulation the general public had a proper of passage on each stream able to floating logs or rafts. Alongside his dialogue of French regulation, he famous that the general public’s proper was the identical in England and America, citing Kent’s Commentaries with regard to the latter. Two years later St. Louis v. St. Louis, one other water regulation dispute, reached the courts. This time the case concerned a riparian landholder diverting water by means of a canal to his sawmill in order that it bypassed the gristmill and carding and fulling mill of his downstream neighbours. Sewell, sitting this time within the Provincial Court docket of Appeals, once more cited Kent, right here in help of the proposition riparian landowner may ‘conduct such portion of the stream as he requires for the amelioration of his – property by canals or in any other case by means of the extent of the land which he occupies, however he should return it to the stream earlier than it reaches the confines of his neighbour’s property’.

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