In 1835, the popular Halifax Newspaper editor Joseph Howe published a letter critical of local government and faced libel charges. He could not find a lawyer prepared to defend him so he defended himself.

During the two day trial, Howe gave a six-hour speech and was cheered on by the crowd in the public gallery. He said local magistrates were "the most negligent and imbecile that ever managed a people's affairs." The judge recommended a conviction but the jury took only 10 minutes to return with a "not guilty" verdict.