24 October 2017

Prelude to Riot.

I went back and completed my transcription of the article I mentioned yesterday. It is from the Mail, Saturday, October 2, 1875.  The meeting described here takes place just before the second of the two riots mentioned in a post below.  The city is holding a meeting in order to try and prevent more violence such as happened the Sunday before.  Not included here is a meeting of the city council on the subject, where Mayor Medcalf stated that he thought he had the power to stop the processions, but was told by the law enforcement that he did not. The Orange Lodge and the Order of Young Britons also had meetings during the week, in which they declared it would be the fault of the Catholics having a procession that the first riot occurred, and would be their fault again if a second riot were to take place.  Meetings have also been taking place among the Young Hibernians and other Catholic groups, and rumours are flying.  With that, here is a fascinating (for me, anyway, and perhaps one other person) window into the past of my city and the position of my religion within it.  It is a trifle dry at times, but try to make it all the way through. It is worth it.

Immense Audience and Great Excitement.
Leading Orangemen Advocate Peace and Order.

Pursuant to proclamation of the Mayor , a public meeting was held last night in St. Lawrence Hall “to take into consideration the best steps to be taken to prevent a repetition of the public procession and the acts of violence resulting therefrom on the Sabbath Day, and generally to calm the public mind and to preserve the sanctity of the Lord’s Day, and the peace and tranquility of the city.”

The hall was packed and hundreds could no obtain admission.  About a dozen policemen were scattered throughout the audience to preserve order.  Amongst those on the platform were the Mayor,  who presided; Col. O.R. Gowan, P.G.M., B.N.A; Major Bennett, D.M., D.G.M.W.O.;  Rev. A. Sanson, G.C.W.O.; Ald. Adamson, Co. M.; J. Hewitt, D.M., No. 212; J. Campton, D.M. O.Y.B.

It is safe to say there were not half a dozen Roman Catholics present.

The Mayor said the meeting was a public one, and everybody, no matter what his creed, had a right to be heard, and he (the Mayor) would do all in his power to give him a hearing. (Hear, hear).

Mr. J Case, on being nominated, was appointed secretary.

The MAYOR read the proclamation calling for the meeting.  He then said that if he were to judge by the number of persons present, he should certainly say it was necessary to call a public meeting. Now, when the public mind was so much agitated was hardly the time to judge things fairly.  Those present were part and parcel of the people, and they wanted to calm the public mind as much as possible with regard to matters going on in our city.  Of course it was not for him, as Chairman of the meeting, to express his opinions so strongly as he might do if he stood alone on the platform. After again asking the audience to give a fair hearing to all the speakers, he called upon the speakers to proceed.

Col O.R. GOWAN was the first speaker.  He stated that a committee had been appointed to draft resolutions, copies of which he held in his hands.  In order that the audience might have an opportunity of judging their tenor, he thought it best that they should be read altogether, first, as follows:

1.       Reolved, -That this meeting is profoundly moved by the disgrace brought upon the usually peaceful city of Toronto by the recent conflicts which have taken place in the streets of the city between certain processionists called Pilgrims, and other classes of the population opposed to them in religious opinion; and that every good citizen must deplore the riotous and disorderly conduct which took place; and that all should use all legitimate and proper means to prevent a repetition of it.

2.       Resolved,- that in the present excited state of public feeling, this meeting can scarcely hope that either of the opposing elements will give way to the other; and with the view of discountenancing the appearance of a triumph by either party, this meeting entrusts both parties to give way by abandoning all appearance of public processions and gatherings, and by attending as individuals their respective churches on the Lord’s day in the usual quiet and unobtrusive manner.

3.       Resolved,- That copies of these resolutions be sent by his Worship the Mayor, to the Roman Catholic Archbishop, and to the Orange and Young Briton District Managers, respectfully calling upon them to prevent, so far as their power lies, all ostentatious display on the Sabbath day, and thus prove their good sense and Christian feeling by eschewing all things calculated to give offence, and by cultivating all things conciliatory and peaceful.

4.       Resolved,- That should all attempts to preserve the public peace unfortunately prove ineffectual, his Worship the Mayor be respectfully requested to the Riot Act and to command all disorderly persons to disperse, and, if necessary, call out the civil and military powers to preserve the public peace of the city of Toronto.

He said that is would be seen that the matter was approached in a Christian and friendly spirit.  In conversation he had with Roman Catholics, he had been told that as some of the pilgrimages had already taken place, it was necessary for the good of the participants’ souls that the whole series be gone through. (Derisive jeers.)  If the pilgrimages must be performed, surely every man would desire that they should take place at such an hour as to make them as unobtrusive as possible, or even postponed, in order that human life might not be lost The Sabbath Day was set apart by God and the law as a holy day, and if Roman Catholics thought that if walking from one church to another was keeping it holy, they should be respected. His Grace the Archbishop should recognize and appreciate the kindly feelings of the Protestants of the city. Attention was drawn to the advance of the ultramontane views in Europe and Lower Canada. If it was determined to have the pilgrimage, and blood spilled, and lives lost, then let the guilt rest on those who were responsible. He trusted that every conciliatory measure would be eployed by both parties, and that if there were and disturbance his Worship the Mayor would see that the civil authority was exerted against any party who disobeyed the law. He then moved the first resolution, and hoped that a Roman Catholic would second it.

Mr. A. FLEMING, it is understood, seconded the resolution, and it was carried amid loud applause. Only one person dissented from it, and he was heartily hissed.

The MAYOR said, if better order were not kept, another chairman would have to be appointed.

The Rev. Mr. SANSON moved the second resolution.  After some noise down at the lower end of the hall had been stopped by police, the rev. gentleman said that while he would not be able to induce his roman Catholic fellow citizens to abstain from making a public display on Sunday, yet he was sure that Protestants would not act illegally, and he would have no hesitation in going bail for the meeting. That habit of walking the streets to gaze upon processions on the Sabbath day was owing simply to idle curiosity; and those who were wise and anxious for the credit of their religion would go to their own churches quietly, no matter who walked the streets; while he was certain that id the “pilgrims” were actuate by the same spirit, they would either abstain from making an offensive demonstration, or else change the route. If they persisted in walking, however, the protestants would gain a grand moral triumph if they allowed others the same liberty they claimed for themselves. (Loud cheers.)  He thought it very wrong that the Young Britons as a body should be charged with the offence of breaking the law last Sunday. (Enthusiastic cheers.)  He called upon all good men to their respective churches and to leave the procession to take its own course and it would die out. (Cries of “Nonsense.”) Let the fault rest with those who made themselves offensive, and not with the Orangemen.  He hoped that his hearers, rather than have a collision, would give way. (Loud cries of “No, no.”) he did not mean to give way to matters of principal; but there was no principal involved. (Cries- “What about the procession?”) Mr. Sanson continued: We call upon the Roman Catholics in this resolution to abandon it; and at all events, if not inconsistent, to make it as little offensive as possible.  He then went on to say that it must be left to Roman Catholics to do their duty, but Protestants should see to it that they did not break the law.”

Dr. SMITH seconded the motion.  He said we were brought face to face with a great fact. He described the disturbance as the most brutal and disgraceful he had ever beheld.  He did not offer an opinion as to whether the pilgrimage was an obtrusion of religious views of an idolatrous character. Roman Catholics had a perfect right in their opinions. But they had not a right to obtrude them in public streets. He would bow his knee to no mortal but her Majesty; but he would entreat his Grace and every Catholic priest to forego the procession.  If there were a disturbance on Sunday this meeting would not be responsible.  In the name of God, he asked his audience, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, to adopt and carry out the resolution. (Cheers.)

Major BENNET  denied that there was any premeditated attack upon the procession as stated in some papers.  When it was recollected that the mandate of her Majesty was disobeyed, and what was occurring in Europe, it was not to be wondered that something should take place when the innovations were introduced here.  He affirmed the Orangemen were not a bloodthirsty lot, but, on the contrary, they were sworn t obey the laws of the country, and also slow to take offence, and offering none. (Cheers.)He wanted the Orangemen and Young Britons to show that, although their brethren were not allowed to walk in Montreal, yet they would allow the pilgrimage to walk their way. (Loud cries of “No, no.”)  He knew very well that Orangemen would not go out to break the peace of the city in acting against the laws of the country. If the laws were wrong, then let Orangemen by their votes see that they were made right.

On the votes being taken on the resolution only three or four were in favour of it, most of the audience crying “No, no.”

              Col. O.R. GOWAN was surprised to hear the dissentient voices.  Did his hearers, he asked, have any confidence in the resolution, or in those who prepared them? (Cries- “Not a bit.”) He had never betrayed them; but if such sentiments governed them, he denounced them totally. (Uproar.)  He reminded the Orangemen of their solemn oaths to obey the law, and he said any man who opposed the resolution was acting in open violation of his Orange oath.  He could not conceive that those who cried “NO, no,” were Orangemen; they must be men in disguise; if they were Orangemen, they were void of Orange principles.

              Mr. R. TAYLOR, amid some confusion, got on the platform, and asked Mr. GOWAN whether he would guarantee that the Roman Catholics would not hold a procession next Sunday? This is what the audience wanted to know, as Protestants and Orangemen.  (Loud cheers.)

Col. GOWAN said he was not Archbishop LYNCH. (Laughter.) He did not hold the conscience of his Roman Catholic fellow subjects in his pocket to se them when he pleased. The resolution asked the Catholics to forego their procession, but the meeting would not force them.  If they could make them forego it, they would. (Cries-  “Now you’re talking.”)

              Mr. TAYLOR said that if the Roman Catholics stayed in their chapels, there would be no disturbance. The Roman Catholics had “the right” of Montreal, and Protestants had “the right” of this city, and would keep it. (Cheers.) He had gone against Roman Catholics before, and would be willing to do the same tomorrow, if necessary.

              Mr. A. FLEMING said he appeared before his brother Orangemen to advise peace and good will; but if the Buffalo and Cleveland Fenians come to parade over here, as announced in some of the papers, his hearers would be no men if they permitted the procession. (Prolonged and enthusiastic cheers.) he disclaimed most solemnly any desire to play upon their feelings, but if the gauntlet were thrown down he, for one, would take it up or fall. (Loud applause.) There was a great deal more of the matter than the simple parade; he was not ashamed nor afraid to make this statement.  While he advocated all that the resolution implied, he protested against being intimidated by “these cut-throats.”  He could not as a Briton or member of the Tenth Royals submit to it. (Cheers.)

              The Rev. SANSON thought the resolution must stand on its own merits, and it was entitled to be carried by the meeting. If it failed to be passed; perhaps the next resolution would meet with approbation.

              The audience were again asked to vote on the motion, when about one hundred voted for it, they being saluted with cries of “Fenians.”

              This objectionable resolution being apparently dropped, the next (the third) was moved by (sic)

              Mr. John HEWITT. He trusted that the meeting would be able to be a moral force to show that Protestant usages and sentiments must prevail in this city.  Nobody present desired that any of their Roman Catholic fellow citizens should be killed. (“No, no.”)  They were present in a spirit of reconciliation; ; not by riot, but by calm, deliberate action to appeal to the minds of those interested. Roman Catholics should be satisfied with equal rights, but they should not expect special privileges.  (Loud cheers.) How would it be if the great Methodist body went on pilgrimages from one church to another? (One of the audience- “It would look well.” Laughter.)  The meeting would have done its duty. Roman Catholics would have to be satisfied with equal rights, and the moral sentiments of the Protestants of this country must be respected.

Mr. JAMES BURNS seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously.

Mr. J. CRANE moved the fourth resolution. He gave it as his opinion that the Orangemen present did not seem inclined to be directed by their superior officers.

Mr. J. CAMPTON seconded the motion. He said he was glad to see that the meeting was changing from a fiery to a calm character. The resolution which raised so much opposition must have been misunderstood. He was satisfied that if Young Britons only thought of what was taught in their lodges, viz- peace and kindness to all parties- they would do their duty. Orangemen talked of next year going to walk in Montreal; how could they expect to be unmolested if they attempted to stop the procession on Sunday? He trusted there would be no disturbance. If the volunteers were called out, it would be very hard for them to have to fire upon men who belonged to an institution of which they themselves were members; and perhaps they would not feel like protecting the Roman Catholic procession and then a great deal of blood might be shed. He hoped that all Young Britons at least would be found going to church next Sunday, instead of parading the streets.

Before the motion was put to the meeting, the MAYOR asked the audience to consider the position in which it was probable he would be placed.

The resolution was unanimously adopted, at which the MAYOR said he was glad.

Ald. ADAMSON too the chair, and on motion of Major Bennett, seconded by the Rev. Mr. Sanson, a vote of thanks was tendered to the Mayor for the manner in which he had presidied.
            In accepting thanks the MAYOR expressed his pleasure at the speeches made. He thought the speech of Mr. Campton, the O.Y.B. District Master, was especially to be commended. If he (the Mayor) had any knowledge of Orangemen, they did not wish to provoke the law of the country; on the contrary, it was their duty to protect them. No one believed that he and the gentlemen around him would truckle to popery; but in the present there was no principle involved; if there were, he would advise them to stand by that principle.  Roman Catholics asked the privilege of marching through our streets on the Sabbath Day in a peaceful and orderly manner.  They did not carry banners or have music. HE did not advocate Sunday processions, but the prejudices of others should be considered a little least. He asked his hearers  to give Roman Catholics the privilege of walking; that was all they asked, as he understood it.  He had made strict enquiries, and he found there were no flags or music.  (Cries of “There were;”) it might be. If Protestants denied Roman Catholics these privileges, how could they themselves sk for privileges? Were they not all of the same flesh and blood? (Cries of “No, no.”- Great laughter.) They had a right to walk as the law allowed them to do so, although he held that the laws were wrong., and the Legislature should be petitioned to have them altered. His Worship then made a strong appeal to the audience not to disobey the law, but to assist him to carry it out. He asked them to consider what his position would be if he were forced to call out the police, and worse than that, the military. (Cries of “Stop the procession”) His official position forced him to carry out the law. If there were any law against the procession- the smallest crack through which he could creep- he would soon stop it. (Cheers and laughter) But there was no such thing, and he was bound to deal justly with everybody.  He looked upon the Orangemen to keep the peace, to go quietly to their several churches, or to stay in their houses, and not to be the originators of a row.  In concluding his remarks, he dwelt upon the probable awful consequences of a riot.

A Mr. BOYD managed to get upon the platform, and said he objected to what the Mayor had state about the inoffensive nature of the procession last Sunday.  He (the speaker) declared that there were both banners and music.

After cheers for the Queen, the meeting broke up.

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