I am not happy with this part. I did not intend to focus so heavily on newspapers, much less write a section dealing with how each paper represented the riots, but they were my only real source of information on the Riots. Even the scholarly articles I found on the subject depended on the papers for their information. so it seemed to me that outlining the assumptions and prejudices of my source material may be of some value. As always, if you could give me any sort of feedback I would appreciate it.
Monday, September 27th- Wednesday, September 29th, 1875
The riot was the dominant news story the next day, indeed for the rest of the week, and it is from these accounts that most of our information about the riots comes. But it should be borne in mind that these papers were not neutral reporters of dispassionate facts, though they may have occasionally claimed to have been such. Those claims aside, for each newspaper on that Monday- and the following Wednesday, when The Irish Canadian weekly came out- the reality of what happened, of what the riot represented, and what the riots meant varied widely. Since the newspapers are the main source of information for these events, it is appropriate to spend a few moments to consider the sources.
Let's begin with The Globe. The Globe began its issue with a brief front page article about the riot- a rarity, and a sign of how important the editors at the paper felt the story was. Normally the front page was for ads, international and national news. City news was kept for page four, the back page. The brief article, under the title of "DISGRACEFUL DISTURBANCES" began thus:
The quiet which usually pervades the city on Sunday was yesterday disturbed by a disgraceful, and to all appearances premeditated and organized breach of peace, A full report of these discreditable proceedings will be found elsewhere, and in the minds of all respectable and order loving citizens they can excite only a feeling of indignation.1
The key word in that paragraph was "organized". Whether or not these riots had been organized would be hotly debated in other newspapers and in the city council coming week.
rather peculiar, The Globe dedicated nearly an entire page to printing out Bishop Walsh's sermon at the opening of the council. The Globe would continue to print news about the council the entire week long, even though that newspaper was not a Catholic organ. Their article on the riot, under the title THE PROCESSION” began
The jubilee procession in connection with St Paul’s parish took place yesterday afternoon. About an hour before High Mass concluded in St. Michael’s, crowds of young men and boys began to assemble on Shuter and Bond streets, many of course attracted there out of mere curiosity. It was soon whispered abroad that trouble was expected, and several young men were heard to utter threats that no procession would be permitted, and that if it were attempted, they would break it up. Many respectable citizens were at a loss to divine what the trouble was, and so being informed of the nature of the procession spoke freely on the subject.2
In Globe’s version of the events, the young men waiting to break up the procession were aware that it was a jubilee procession, and not the one advertised in The Irish Canadian. The riot that was to come was, at this point, and as stated in the brief article on page one, planned. A little bit later, the paper will claim that some of the people involved in the early stages of the event were “undoubtedly under the influence of alcohol.”
The Globe article on Monday was, on the whole, a recitation of the facts as best as they were aware of them. It was on Tuesday that they began to editorialize on the consider the implications and issues that the riot raised.
We could not do more in our yesterday’s issue than notice in a few condemnatory words the riotous proceedings of Sunday afternoon. We now recur to the subject at greater length, for it is one which involved very grave and important requires to be treated in a very firm and decided manner.3
They did not question whether or not there should be processions. That question had been decided by the will of the public and the law. “There is implicit in this permission the principle that in a free country persons must learn to have so much self-command as to be able to look calmly which they may not altogether approve, and on the other hand that it should also be the study of all to consider their feelings, and opinions, and comfort to as great an extent as possible so as to avoid giving annoyance or pain except when forced to do so by a strong sense of duty.”
The editors touch upon the requisition of against the advertised procession of the morning, a procession which, they state, “exceeded not fifty yards.”
It was but the walking of the Roman Catholic Bishops with a few attendants from the door of the Archbishop’s residence on Church Street, the corner of the Cathedral and along Shuter Street, the length of the Cathedral, to its western entrance. St. Vincent’s chapel, thought by some to be at the other end of the city, is actually part of the Cathedral….
It is incredible to the editors that anyone would object to a walk over such a trivial distance.
The requisition sent to the Mayor to stop the procession from the Bishop’s Palace to the Western entrance of the Cathedral was, in our opinion, was impertinent, uncalled for, and not entitled to the slightest attention at the hands of the Mayor. When men ask that a lawful proceeding shall be stopped under the professed fear that its being allowed will lead to a breach of the peace, then every self-respecting authority will say, “I am here to protect the citizens in the enjoyment of all their privileges. If you choose to resort to violence in order to stop what is not unlawful, then upon your head be the responsibility. I shall know how to make authority respected and obeyed.”
For Globe, the fundamental question presented by the riots was a matter of what should rule the city- the law, or the mob?
Patrick Boyle's The Irish Canadian, when it came out on Wednesday, took a different tack. In the previous issue, merely one week earlier, the paper had praised and flattered the Orange Lodge in one of its articles. The reason for this was simple and could be found in another article in the paper: the author of the paper was promoting an Irish voting bloc- all the Irish, not merely the Irish Catholics. Now all that was gone. Whereas the previous week he had praised the Orange Lodge for its truth and loyalty, this week published his article on the riot under the title; "ORANGEISM IN ITS TRUE COLORS riot, to which he claimed to be a witness- he was a marcher in the St Paul's procession- was a revelation of the true nature of the Orange Lodge. No flattery or attempt at ingratiating the Lodge would be done today- this rock throwing mob was heart and core of the Lodge. Here are the first two paragraphs, almost completely free of facts, and long on diatribe, invective, hyperbole and superlatives:
It is indeed to us a painful duty to be compelled so frequently to notice the lamentable occurrences which are born so (sic) in this Western Province of the Orange institution; and we would fain close our eyes to many of the faults which are justly laud at the door of that body for the sake of smothering bad passions and fostering a more Christian spirit. To bear and forbear, in times of great trial of temper, is a golden rule; and he who inculcates it which sincerity is a benefactor of his kind and a blessing to the circle in which he moves. There are, however, those on whom is a virtue wasted, and with whom it is as impossible to reason intelligently and rationally as it is to change the skin; and of this number we must say are many of the members of the orange organization. We are not speaking from any feeling in this matter; we speak from the hard logic of facts as they loom up in the light of day- facts it would be well for all there were less or no foundation for.
We indulge in no idle charge when we say that on Sunday last certain members of the orange Association were guilty of an outrage that disgraces our common must remain a blot on the good name of Toronto for many a day to come. It will hardly be credited outside this city that the lives of a number of its inhabitants- men, women and children- were for hours in imminent peril; yet it true that peaceable, law abiding and worthy citizens were wantonly assailed, without the shadow of pretext or provocation, by a band of the worst characters that could be possibly scraped together from the foulest sources; and that the assault was planned deliberately and in cold blood. It is true that this band of Orangemen had resolved on breaking the peace; and that they carried their wicked design partially into effect the Chief of Police and those under his immediate command on Sunday can give the testimony. If they did not succeed altogether in their object of creating a riot and committing premeditated murder, it is not certainly because they did not come armed with deadly weapons, with a firm determination to use them on their unsuspecting victims.4
When Boyle finally got around to discussing the actual events of the riot, he situated it solely within the context of the Jubilee Year. He makes no mention of the ad that ran in his own newspaper for the Provincial Council. The "circumstances of this gross outrage on the liberties of the people," as he puts it, are briefly that the people marched together, and they were attacked. he quickly reverts to invective, hyperbole and sensationalism. ‘The wrath of the Orange Lodge” was unleashed upon the . The detail of boys following the procession and calling out “To hell with the Pope!” was an opportunity for snide sarcasm: “The parents of these hopeful youngsters may not be aware of the pious training their children are undergoing in the lodges; but if they lay any claim to the solicitude of their future well-being as respectable and honored members of the community they must at once withdraw them from these hives of waywardness and transgression, and teach them it is enjoined on them from on high that, after God, they must love their neighbors as they love themselves, and they must do unto others as they would be done by.”
It is his hyperbolic invective against the Lodge that dominates the article. He makes constant use of the superlative to launch attack after attack against the Lodge. The Catholics, on the other hand, are displayed as pure victims. Meek as lambs, not one threw a stone, not one fought back against the assaults from the Lodge.
Boyle begins his conclusion of the article, seemingly without a sense of irony or even self-awareness: “Taking a calm and dispassionate view of this unfortunate business…’
…no one will hesitate to say that a grievous blow has been aimed at the very foundations of society, which, if not checked and corrected in time, may lead to most disastrous consequences. A more fatal stab has never been aimed at the heart of liberty- a more peaceable body of order loving citizens was never so shocked and outrageously assailed by a such a brutal and characterless rabble in this city before.
In considering who is to blame for the riot, Boyle lays the blame all the way to the top of the city
Why such licentious conduct is permitted by our civic authorities can only be accounted for on the supposition that, as his Worship the Mayor is an Orangeman himself, he is inclined to screen the offenders and save them from merited chastisement. Emboldened by the knowledge, Young Britons give rein to their lawlessness, and are guilty of extravagant excess…5
But it not the fault of the Mayor alone: one should also consider those foolish enough to elect him.
Yet all the blame cannot be fairly placed on Mayor Medcalf’s shoulders. Much of it must attach to those persons calling themselves Catholics who voted him into the Chief Magistracy of the city. After what transpired on Sunday those selfsame honest, manly and independent Catholics will carry a load on their tender consciences that nobody will care to envy.6
Boyle concludes that the authorities need to prove that they are interested in protecting the of the Catholics of Toronto by quickly apprehending the ringleaders of the riots. If not, the they must take matters into their own hands.
If, however, the Catholic people of Toronto are to be made targets of for the amusement of as vile a lot of ruffians as ever disturbed the peace and denied redress, it will become the duty of the Catholics of this city to devise some other means for protecting themselves. He is underserving the name of man that would quarrel with his neighbor on ‘points of belief.” There is but one thing meaner- he who submits his rights to be trampled with impunity.7
The Mail took still another approach. The events left The Mail in something of a quandary: the paper was a staunch supporter of the Orange Lodge, but, at the same time, the Lodge appeared to have just launched an unprovoked attack against unarmed men, women and children. The Mail attempted to solve this problem in a two-fold manner: first, they maintained that, while the mob had been composed in part by members of the Lodge and the Young Britons, most were not members of wither group, and the orders themselves had not been involved. In other words, this was not an officially sanctioned riot. The question of whether or not this riot had been organized or planned by the lodges would be a thorny question in the coming week, and one which the Lodge, and The Mail would hotly deny. Second: The Mail claimed that the mob had been provoked by the Catholics.
The article, printed under a multiple headline
A Sunday Street Fight
Collision Between a Roman Catholic Pilgrimage and a Street Mob.
Free Use of Stones and Revolvers.
Full Account of the Affair.
As was the case with The Globe and The Irish Canadian, The Mail began its article by placing the events in a context, but unlike the others, the context began well before that Sunday morning. The first thing that is mentioned is the announcement contained in The Irish Canadian and the requisition being sent to the Mayor. That was the first provocation. The riot itself was actually a case of mistaken identity on the part of the rioters “But, unfortunately, many among the , confounded the pilgrimage of yesterday afternoon with the procession that had been advertised to be held,” not that this was a valid excuse for what happened: “neither misapprehension of one of the opposing parties nor the riotous conduct of the other an be taken as any excuse or palliation of so gross a breach of the public peace on the Lord’s day.”8
The Mail tells several stories and incidents that are not to be found in any of the other newspapers. According to The Mail, after the mob had followed the procession to St Patrick’s- no mention is made of the mob yelling insults at the procession- some of the young men staying around St. Patrick’s while the were inside minding their own business when a woman in the house at 44 (which they misnamed. By the time of this article, was William Street. Now it is St Patrick’s Street) began shouting insults at the young Britons standing outside her house, telling them they had no business being there. The men responded, and the people of 44 &46 began throwing stones at them from the houses. The pilgrims left the church, the men left, the people from 44&46 chased after and caught up with the pilgrimage. Word of the disturbance spread through the pilgrims and the regular Sunday pedestrians, police heard of the disturbance. “Stones were thrown by both parties, but it is believed the were the aggressors.” Everything was peaceful, then, until Catholics began throwing rocks. No mention is made of hundreds of young men blocking the way of the procession after it left St. Patrick’s, only the locals throwing stones. The Young Britons and the Orangemen’s attack on the Procession was due to a simple mistake: “The best that can be said is that if the pilgrimage had not been mistaken for the procession of the morning the city would probably have been spared this exhibition of brutality and violence."
The Mail continues along these lines for the entire account, and for the rest of the week. The mob is to blame for their riotous behaviour, but the Catholics must bear some blame. This becomes even clearer in the editorials of the next day.
The editorials begin by praising the account of the day before for its details being “...set forth in graphic and unbiased detail by our reporters yesterday”9, and continues on to call for the rule of law: “So long as such processions are not prohibited by legal enactment no one has the right to illegally interfere with them, and Sunday's rioters were therefore to blame in any case.“ However, the Catholics are not entirely innocent: “We may question the taste of the Archbishop in obtruding upon the community, largely Protestant, a display which would be infinitely better confined to those portions of the city set apart for the religious exercise of the Catholic people...” The editors praise, “We cannot praise highly enough,” the bishops who refused to make any display upon their arrival in Toronto on Saturday night, thus avoiding the spectacle the Archbishop ”was anxious to make.” In addition, Catholics are wrong to have such processions at all in the first placeIt is not easy to see how such displays help the cause of Him who said "My Kingdom is not of this world."” Finally, the Catholics should remember where they are and be grateful, for in Catholic countries "Protestants are permitted the enjoyment of but few liberties and fewer " That the Catholics are in part to be blamed for being attacked is stated nakedly and openly: “We cannot hold the Archbishop and his advisors blameless in throwing such a firebrand into the community as his advertisement in the Irish Canadian." However, the editors grudgingly admit “they may at all events say they did nothing contrary to the law.”10 That is all they are willing to concede to the Catholic processionists. Otherwise, throughout the editors and writers of The Mail insist that the Catholics were the chief instigators and promoters of the riot. They provoked the Protestants by placing an announcement in a Catholic newspaper. They provoked by having a procession that did not meet with Protestant sensibilities. They provoked by not staying in their part of town. Unfortunately, taken all for all, the and greatest provocation offered by the Catholics to the Protestants of Toronto was the simple fact that they were Catholic at all,
The next day, The Mail printed an editorial on the riots. The editorial began by praising their articles of the previous day, claiming their report on the riot was "set forth in graphic and unbiased detail by our reporters yesterday..."11
I wish to dwell a little more on The Mail, because, as it was the paper to dwell the longest on the events surrounding the riots and to go into the most detail, it became the main source for the few scholarly papers that have been written on the Jubilee Riots. But, as I said earlier, it is not an unbiased source, and, to be blunt, its narrative of the events is full of holes and there are important parts of it that simply make no sense.
The first and most obvious example of this is their insistence that the riots began with the announcement of a procession to mark the opening of the Provincial Council. The connection is easy to make and is very tempting, and it would seem to be confirmed by the Requisition sent to the Mayor and passed on to Archbishop Lynch. The fairest interpretation of the Requisition- that the framers and signers of it heard that some people would cause trouble at that procession and sought to stop the trouble before it happened- helps make the connection. But that interpretation overlooks the simple fact that the procession was changed so as not to offend the Protestants and occurred without incident. The insistence that the second procession was mistaken for the first overlooks the fact that the second procession bore no resemblance to the procession as occurred a full five hours later. The final claim involved in mistaking the two processions- that had the second procession not been mistaken for the first, the riot would not have happened is risible. That Mail would claim, apparently seriously, that the people who came with the intent of putting a stop and breaking up one procession and ‘accidentally’ broke up the wrong procession would have done nothing at all had they met with the procession they wished to put a stop to in the first place beggars belief. The only claim that can be made about the possibility that they mistook one procession for the other is that the mistake delayed the riot by approximately five hours.
their story of the people on Street who by The Mail’s account may or may not have thrown the first stones. The Mail spends some time on this story to imply that the real fighting was caused by the Catholics. But that would require the reader to believe that a large group of young protestant men followed Catholic procession for no reason, that they maneuvered in front of the procession to block it also for no reason, and had no ill intent, until someone threw a stone at them. Or may not have thrown a stone at them- The Mail only said ‘it is believed’ they threw first. The people living in number 44 and 46 Street would pay a heavy price for The Mail’s claim in a week’s time.
For each paper, the riot represented a different issue, and a different problem. For The riot raised the fundamental issue of order in society: what shall rule the city, the law or the mob? For Irish Canadian the riot was a revelation of the very worst of the old enemy of the Irish, the Orangeman, and he called upon the Irish to rise up and resist. The Mail found itself on the defensive, trying to hold on to a narrative which the facts simply did not support, and to try and clear the name of the organization that lay at the heart of the matter. Though Mail, like The Globe, called for the rule of law, they also sought a compromise- a compromise which, we shall soon see, was hardly seen as a compromise at all by anyone else. "Surely his Grace, the Archbishop, and those who fought with the congregations will come to some understanding by which bloodshed will be avoided."12 However, they also announced that the Young Britons would be having a meeting on Wednesday to see if any further pilgrimages could be prevented.13 They would not be debating an understanding or a compromise in any real sense, though they may have believed they were. The only 'compromise' that would be offered is that the Catholics should cancel any further processions, and the Protestants would not attack them for having processions.
But these are the voices of the papers, their ability to influence public opinion only went so far, and though all the major papers were against the recurrence of such violence, their stances on that issue failed to prevent another clash. And with that it is time to leave this examination of the newspapers, and return to the events themselves, beginning with the meeting of the town council that took place on Monday night.