25 November 2017

A little more research

I've done a little more research into the Jubilee riots, and came across a newspaper article that printed the letters that went back and forth between the mayor, the police, and the archbishop at that time, all trying to avoid further conflict.  These are an interesting window into the past, and also give some insight into the characters of those involved.  In particular, the Archbishop John Joseph Lynch takes shape through his letters.  he appears to be a man who did not suffer fools gladly.  There is, for instance, a letter he sent in the week between the two riots.

To recap: the troubles began when some Orangemen and Young Britons found an ad in the Irish Catholic newspaper which stated that there would be a procession in honour of a eucharistic conference  with bishops, bands, thurifers, banners, pontificals, etc.  The protestants were infuriated and sent a letter to the mayor asking him to put a stop to it  The mayor forwarded the letter to the bishop, warning him of the consequences that may come from such an ostentatious display, and the bishop agreed to tone the procession down to nothing.  The Young Britons who were out looking for Catholics missed the procession that was advertised, and instead ran into another procession that was taking place in honour of the jubilee year of 1875.  A riot ensued, but a bigger problem was on the horizon: there was to be another jubilee procession the following Sunday.

The Mayor, as the head of the police board, sent the archbishop the recommendations  of the police:

TORONTO, Sept. 30, 1875.

The Right Reverend John Joseph Lynch, Archbishop of Toronto, St Michael’s Palace:-
 MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,- The Board of Police Commissioners have been informed that it is the intention of the members of some of the congregationists of your Diocese in this city to walk in procession through the streets  of the city on Sunday next, and to carry revolvers and other weapons.

The Board Hopes that your Grace will exercise your influence, and, if possible, prevent the processionists from carrying any such arms or weapons.
The board are of opinion that if the processionists are unnamed and peaceable, and rely upon the police for protection, that serious disturbance may be avoided.

The Board have adjourned until to-morrow at  10 a.m., awaiting your Grace’s reply.
I have the honour to be,
Your Grace’s Obedient Servant,
(Signed,) F.H. MEDCALF
Chairman Board of Police Commissioners.

The bishop, however, was not interested in replying politely to this.  His answer was the Victorian English equivalent of a modern: "Oh, being unarmed will help them avoid violence, will it? You mean like it did last Sunday?"


October 1st, 1875.

To His Worship Mayor Medcalf, Chairman Board of Police Commissioners:-

 SIR,- I am in receipt of your communication of yesterday, in which you say that “the Board of Police Commissioners have been informed that it is the intention of the member of some of the congregations of your diocese in this city to walk in procession through the streets of the city on Sunday next, an to carry revolvers and other weapons.”

In reply I would beg to say that the Catholics performing their devotions of the jubilee in visiting the appointed Catholic churches of the city will proceed unarmed, as is usual on such occasions, under the severest penalties of the Church.

You also say that “the Board are of the opinion that if the processionists are unarmed and peaceable, and rely upon the police for protection, that serious disturbance may be avoided.” This was the case on last Sunday: had they been armed the thousands of men in the procession would have acted otherwise, and I fear bloodshed would have been the consequence. If some brainless young men fired shots at random these were not of the procession. You say “that if they rely upon the police for protection serious disturbance may be avoided.” It is true the police on last Sunday acted with prudence and discretion. They could have easily arrested the ringleader of the rioters that were pointed out to them in the acting of inciting their followers to the attack. But they replied that it would not be prudent then, that the parties were known. Have they been arrested since?

The attack by hundreds of wild young men and lads, blocking up the streets on the pilgrims walking quietly and praying silently along the streets, was certainly not looked for on last Sunday. I shall make up my mind before to-morrow at noon, as to whether I shall advise the visiting of churches on next Sunday, or the Sunday following...

The archbishop did allow the procession to go forward, and ordered the processionists to go unarmed, or they would lose the indulgences they hoped to gain.  He was, unfortunately, ignored by many members of his own flock.

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