Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bond Head The Bonehead

The House of Commons, 1833 by Sir George Hayter
This is the third in a series of posts about William Lyon Mackenzie and the birth of Canadian democracy. Part one here and part two here.

This is a painting of one of the important moments in all of British history. It's in the House of Commons. On the right-hand side are the Duke of Wellington and his super-conservative, monarchy-loving Tory Party.  On the left are the reform-loving Whigs, led by the Earl of Grey, the guy the tea is named after. While the Canadian Tories and Reformers were battling over democracy down on Front Street, the British Tories and Whigs were having their own massive political brawl over in England.

The Whigs were determined to get rid of the "rotten boroughs". They were ridings left over from the dark ages that still had seats in parliament but nobody living in them anymore. The Tories controlled the land they were on. And they gave the land to friends so that they could vote Tory. The Tories, of course, loved this system; the public, not so much. When the Prime Minster, the Duke of Wellington, openly declared his support for the system, his government fell. The Whigs took over. And when the House of Lords — kinda like our Senate but waaaay worse — tried to stop the Whigs from getting rid of the rotten boroughs, things went all to hell. Prime Minister Grey resigned in protest. The English people rose up in an angry wave of strikes and riots they called the Days of May. Hundreds of thousands of people showed up at rallies. Angry mobs attacked the homes of the Lords. There was talk of revolution. The Queen was sure she was going to lose her head. In the end, the King was forced to convince the Tories to back down. The Whigs had won. This painting commemorates the moment they handed the Tories' asses to them and passed the Reform Act of 1832. The rotten boroughs were gone forever. The Tories were so thoroughly beaten that they would soon have to re-brand themselves as the Conservative Party. And for the first time in 25 years, since the days when Toronto was a tiny, tiny, tiny little town of a few hundred people, the Whigs were calling the shots in London.

So: this all meant that the Family Compact had lost one of their main sources of support. It looked liked William Lyon Mackenzie might finally get somewhere with the British government. And things started off pretty darn well, too. When the Family Compact tried to have Mackenzie tossed out of the Legislative Assembly, he travelled to London to meet with the Whigs. And they listened. A letter was sent to Canada ordering the Canadian Tories to back off. And then, a couple of years after the cholera crisis had passed, the Whigs went even further: they fired the Lieutenant Governor, John Colborne. He'd been appointed when the Tories were running England and the Whigs intended to replace him with someone with a reputation for reform. That's when Sir Francis Bond Head was sent to Toronto.

Sir Francis Bone Head
As the new Lieutenant Governor, Bond Head had a clear mandate to make concessions and find a solution. This, they told him, was the most important moment in the history of Upper Canada. On his month-long journey across the Atlantic, he studied the list of grievances they'd asked Mackenzie to write up. All 553 pages of them. When he rode in town, there were triumphant banners welcoming him as "FRANCIS BOND HEAD, A TRIED REFORMER". And his very first act was to appoint big-name Reform leaders to his Executive Council. He even included Robert Baldwin, son of the famous, liberal, cholera-fighting doctor, William Warren Baldwin. Things were looking up for Canadian democracy.

Except that actually, Sir Francis Bond Head was a super conservative and not a reformer at all and the Whigs had accidentally fucked everything up. 

Apparently they got the impression that he was a big reform guy because he'd written some vaguely reformish-sounding things while he helped to oversee the implementation of the Whigs' totally-batshit right-wing plan to force people on welfare to live in "workhouses". They'd do manual labour there and live in conditions the Whigs made terrible on purpose in order to encourage them to stop being such lazy poor people and get jobs already. About 6.5% of the British population ended up living like this. Men and women and children were all separated. They got bread and gruel. This is the shit Dickens wrote Oliver Twist about. Bond Head had been good at that stuff. At being the kind of guy who would be a villain in a Dickens novel. And at having the army put down the riots that broke out when the Whigs started handing out welfare in coupons instead of real money.

Other than that, Bond Head had shown no interest in politics whatsoever. Before working on the poor law, he'd been a travel writer in South America. (He was the author of such hits as Rough notes taken during some rapid journeys across the pampas and among the Andes and Bubbles from the Brunnens of Nassau.) He'd gotten his knighthood because the King was impressed by his ability to do tricks with a lasso. He, like the most recent Lieutenant Governors before him, had fought at Waterloo. But he'd never joined a political party. He'd never gone to a political event. He'd never even voted. Ever.  He described his knowledge of what was going on in Toronto as "a gross ignorance of everything in any way related to the government of our colonies." And when he rode into town and saw those welcome banners, he was stunned. "I was no more connected with human politics than the horses that were drawing me," he wrote. To this day there are people who think the Whigs must have confused him with his cousin, Edward, and appointed the wrong guy.

Elmsley House, where Bond Head lived, years later
But here he was, living in the Lieutenant Governor's mansion at King and Simcoe (where Roy Thompson Hall is now). They'd sent him out across the ocean, so far away it took months to send messages back and forth, under the impression that he was the Government of Canada. And he wasn't about to do any reforming. This is a guy who wrote glowingly about the Family Compact. About their "abilities and character" and their "industry and intelligence". William Lyon Mackenzie, on the other hand, he called a "low-bred, vulgar man" and "an unprincipled, vagrant grievance-monger". Bond Head had put Reformers on his Executive Council, but he wasn't planning on listening to his Executive Council. And when they demanded that he consult with them on things, he just plain told them no. The whole Council resigned in protest. Even the Tories.

Bond Head had only been here for three weeks and things were already falling apart. Politicians in both parties were outraged. The Legislative Assembly demanded an explanation, denounced him as a despot and refused to pass any bills that had anything to do with money. In retaliation, he prorogued parliament like a punk. A month later, he dissolved it completely and called for new elections. And he was planning to do everything he could to make sure the Reform Party got crushed.

The Upper Canada elections of 1836 have been called one of the most corrupt in Canadian history. (Which, given how corrupt early Canadian elections were, is saying something.) Bond Head threw his entire weight behind the Tories. There were bribes. Threats. People got beat up. There were riots. Bond Head and the Tories made sure that all the returning officers were on their side. And that the polls were placed in Tory neighbourhoods. It was a choice, Bond Head said, between "the forces of loyalty, order, and prosperity" on one side and the "selfish and disloyal" on the other. Even worse, he claimed, Mackenzie and his friends were in league with the French Canadians and the Americans. They might very well invade if the Reformers won.

The results weren't even close. The Tories were back in power. Even Mackenzie had lost his seat. As far as Bond Head was concerned, he'd proven his point: "The people of Upper Canada detest democracy". The Whigs got another letter. "Nothing can be brighter than the moral and political state of the Canadas," he wrote them. "All is sunshine and colour of rose."

A year after he wrote that, he'd be fighting rebels in the streets of Toronto. William Lyon Mackenzie had had enough. He'd tried to bring democracy to Canada by working within the system. He'd tried reasoning with the English. But even with Whigs in power, it had failed. The time had come to try a new tactic. It was time to raise an army.

Continue reading with Part Four, An Army Gathers on Yonge Street, here.

Bond Head wrote a few hundred pages about his experiences in Toronto, which you can read here. You can check out the declaration he released when he dissolve parliament because they didn't like him here. You can read about the riots in Kent, where he was helping bring in that dumbass poor law here. There's also a lot of information about him here, at Historical Narratives of Upper Canada, which tells lots of neat stories about our early pre-Ontario years. I've been visiting it a lot as I put together these Mackenzie posts.

This post is related to dream
10 The Battle of Montgomery's Tavern
William Lyon Mackenzie, 1837

Friday, May 27, 2011

Photo: A Dapper Traffic Cop in 1912

I don't have much to say about this photo taken at Yonge and King sometime around 1912, other than to wonder when our cops lost their sense of style. And to mention that you could not pay me enough money to stand in the middle of the intersection at Yonge and King with nothing for protection other than a little hat, some white gloves and a thin pole thingy.

It was Agatha Barc over at blogTO who posted this as part of an article about the Toronto Police Force's old "Morality Department". You can read it here. And all of her "Nostalgia Tripping" columns here. (There are a few other great photos in there, too.)

And, as always, if you'd like see more old Toronto photos that I like, you can check out my Toronto Dreams Project Historical Photostream here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Uh Oh, Everyone's Dying Of Cholera, Parts I & II

Front and Simcoe, 1834
This is the second in a series of posts telling the story of William Lyon Mackenzie and the birth of Canadian democracy. You can read the first part here.

York had changed a lot in the decade since William Lyon Mackenzie first set foot here. It was no longer a tiny little town alone in the middle of the woods. The population had skyrocketed from 1,600 to  nearly 10,000. The first few blocks around the St. Lawrence Market had spread all the way west to Bathurst Street. And  with a new Lieutenant Governor, John Colborne, aggressively encouraging immigration, there were more people arriving all the time.

What they found here was a disgusting mess. There was no sewer system or running water.  People dumped their garbage everywhere. They emptied their shit buckets into the street. King and Yonge and Queen were a muddy soup of excrement and filth. And there were no sidewalks, either; you'd just wade through it, track it into your homes. Francis Collins (who published one of the big liberal Reform newspapers, the Canadian Freeman) wrote about "[s]tagnant pools of water, green as a leek, and emitting deadly exhalations". He called the lake water, where people would just dump whatever gross crap they wanted get rid of, "carrion-broth". In the winter, he said, "[a]ll the filth of the town—dead horses, dogs, cats, manure, etc. [was] heaped up together on the ice, to drop down, in a few days, into the water". That was their drinking water. That watery pig corpse horse shit juice. Soon, it would kill Collins — one of the great Reform heroes, a man who'd spent months in jail for criticizing the Family Compact too harshly. It would kill his wife, too. And his brother. And hundreds more.

It had all started in India, five years earlier and more than 12,000 kilometers away. It came from the spot where the Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal, one of the most fertile places on earth. The river widens out into an endless expanse of swamps and streams, of lush mangrove and bamboo forests. There are tigers and elephants and leopards and pythons. And there's also cholera. It's been in the water for as long as anyone can remember. Millions upon millions of deadly bacteria lay dormant in the silt and come alive in the monsoon season when the conditions are right. But in 1826, of course, they didn't know that's what was happening. They just knew that people were dying. And that the cholera was beginning to spread.

Cholera strikes Paris
It was slow at first. People started to die further up the river. And then all across India, wherever the trade routes led. It took a year to get to China and another to get halfway across Russia. But when it hit Europe and the Middle East, things sped up. Three thousand Muslims died on their pilgrimage to Mecca in 1831. Thirty thousand deaths were announced in Cairo and Alexandria. There would be 100,000 dead in Hungary. And in France. Bodies piled up in all the cobblestoned capitals of the Old World. Death struck without warning. One survivor, who had suddenly fallen ill while walking down the street, said it was like being "knocked down with an ax. I had no premonition at all." Heinrich Heine, a German poet, was in Paris when the plague sweep through a masked ball: "suddenly the gayest of the harlequins collapsed, cold in the limbs, and underneath his mask, violet blue in the face. Laughter died out, dancing ceased and in a short while carriage-loads of people hurried from the Hotel Dieu to die".  The deaths came so quick, they ran out of coffins. All over the world, corpses were being tossed into mass graves by the thousands.

In England, they were shipping cholera back directly from the source. Their British East India Company had been gradually conquering India for more than a hundred years. And when they shipped tea back home, they'd scoop up bilge water from the Bay of Bengal, carry it halfway around the world and dump it into the Thames. More than six thousand people died in London. More than fifty thousand across the UK. Ireland was hardest hit. In places like Dublin and Limerick and Cork, terrified refugees packed into ships and set sail for the New World. They crowded together in squalor, sharing cholera-ridden water and cholera-ridden piss buckets for weeks on end. By the time they reached the Canadas, some ships had already lost dozens on board to the disease. Officials in Lower Canada, where they arrived first, did their best to screen passengers and quarantine anyone who showed signs of the sickness, but it didn't seem to do much good. Cholera would devastate Quebec City that summer, killing more than two thousand. In Montreal, doctors rushed through the streets all day and night. The apothecaries stayed open around the clock. The army fired blank artillery shells at nothing — a desperate attempt to drive the cholera out of the air. More than a thousand died in a single month.

As cholera marched west, York braced for the terror. Lieutenant Governor Colborne declared a day of "Public Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer" in an attempt to stave off the disaster. The government formed a Board of Health, led by the most famous doctor in town, the staunch Reformer William Warren Baldwin (the same guy who built the first Spadina House on the hill overlooking Davenport and had Spadina Road carved out of the woods south of it so that he'd have a clear view all the way to the lake). Baldwin's Board of Health had a doctor check all new arrivals before they left their ships. They washed buildings and outhouses with lime. They shut the bars at ten. But it was no use. Eleven thousand immigrants came to York in the spring and summer of 1832. And many of them were sick. By late June, it had begun.

Cholera victims
It was terrifying. Cholera fucks you up good. Those bacteria are resilient little bastards; they can survive the acids in your stomach and make it all the way to your small intestine. There, they swim over to the intestinal wall and start to produce a toxin. It sucks the water out of the rest of your body and forces you to expel it in an endless onslaught of watery diarrhea. You can shit out 20 or 30 litres in a day, clear liquid with chunks of your intestine in it. And you vomit, too. A lot. You lose so much fluid that your hands go wrinkly. Your eyes sink back into your head. Your skin changes colour. Then you die. And it happens fast. You can go from healthy to dead in just a few hours. And all of that excrement your loved ones have tossed into the street and into the drinking water is filled with the next generation of bacteria ready to do the same thing all over again.

For the rest of that summer, our city was filled with people dying sudden, grotesque deaths. Hundreds more got sick and thousands fled to the countryside in fear. The Board of Health tried to fight back, but they didn't really know what they were fighting. They asked everyone to burn tar and sulphur in their yards to drive it away. They told people to hide under blankets at night with the windows closed. To cut back on vegetables and drink lots of coffee. To switch from cotton socks to wool ones. And even the good advice — to get rid of standing water, take a bath every day, clean up the garbage, go to the hospital if you're sick — was being ignored. They couldn't force anyone to do anything, since the Board of Health had no real power. And Colborne, who wanted to protect his authority and make sure no one screwed with his open immigration policy, refused to give them any. They reported nine deaths in the first week of the outbreak. Twenty-four in the second. The numbers went up quickly from there. By the time the plague finally died out in the fall, they figure there were at least two hundred fresh corpses in town. One out of every twenty people who'd stayed in the city was dead. It was the worst thing that had ever happened in the town.

Strangely, those horrifying few months also brought us an important step closer to democracy. In the wake of the plague, people were terrified. Cholera was still wreaking havoc all over the world. And if there was a chance it might come back, even some Tories thought the Lieutenant Governor should share some his power. Scared and overwhelmed by the soaring population, the Tory-dominated,  Mackenzie-hating, democracy-bashing legislature voted to turn the Town of York into the City of Toronto. There would be a city council elected by the people. A mayor. A new Board of Health. And they'd all have real power. They could tax people. Pass bylaws and enforce them themselves. All without having to ask the Lieutenant Governor first. This was a Big Fucking Deal.

We had our first elections in the spring of 1834. The Reform Party won. They picked William Lyon Mackenzie to be the very first mayor of Toronto. And the head of the new Board of Health.

Mackenzie's year in power is best remembered for helping Toronto to establish its own new, Canadian identity. The old British name "York" was done away with in favour of the original, native "Toronto". (No more calling us "dirty little York" to avoid confusion with New York or the English York. Plus, "Toronto" just plain sounds cooler. As one Reform leader put it, "Toronto for poets — York for men of business".) Mackenzie also gave us our own coat of arms. And our own motto: "Industry, Intelligence, Integrity." More importantly, he and his Reformers started to clean up the city. They put in sidewalks. Made it illegal to let your pigs run free in the streets. You weren't allowed to toss your shit out into the road anymore. Or to throw your garbage anywhere where you liked. There'd be garbage pickup now. And new regulations about how to dispose of corpses.

Silly cholera preventive costume
But it wasn't enough. Toronto was still a pretty gross place. And all of those big, famous doctors really had no idea what they were doing. They didn't wash their instruments. They treated most sick people with bizarre cures: concoctions of charcoal, hog fat and maple sugar; crushed deer antler and red wine; leeches. They could do little to fight the wave of disease that arrived with the thousands upon thousands upon thousands of new Canadians who were still pouring off ships at the waterfront. Too many of those ships were pulling around the islands and into Toronto Bay flying a yellow flag from their mast — a warning that there were cholera victims on board.

The outbreak that summer would be even worse than the first one. Hundreds more died. Maybe as much as ten percent of the population. Most of the city's richest citizens fled to their park estates north of Queen and up onto the escarpment, but the greatest of Toronto's leaders — Reform and Tory alike — stayed behind to battle the disease. Some of them, like Francis Collins, would die. The garbage carts became ambulances, and then death carts. Mackenzie volunteered as an attendant. And so did John Strachan, the Anglican Archdeacon and leader of the conservative Family Compact. They would both tour the town, loading the dead onto their carts and burying them en mass in a pit beside Strachan's church, an earlier version of St. James Cathedral. They're still there, those victims, maybe as many as six thousand of them, buried together in the ground beneath the park at King and Church. It was dangerous work. Mackenzie fell sick, nearly died, and was lucky to survive.

The disease did peter out here eventually. But in some parts of the world, the pandemic raged on for years. Millions died. And it would take another worldwide outbreak before a doctor in London made the first major breakthrough: in 1854, he mapped out the cases in Soho and tracked the source to a water pump. For the first time, people realized that contaminated water was the problem. Still, there would be another four cholera pandemics after that one, the most recent in the 1970s. Cholera is easy to prevent: just don't drink any water with feces in it and you'll probably be okay. But more than a hundred thousand people still die from it every year because they just don't have that option.

Toronto would never suffer at cholera's hands like that again. To fight it, the Family Compact and the Reformers had found more common ground than you'd expect. The Tories had helped to create a new city with new, democratic powers. And the Reformers had shown that while they might not support the monarchy, they still believed in the power of good, strong government. But the two sides still hated each other's guts. And on the road to Canadian democracy, things were going to get a whole lot worse before they got better. Our colonial overlords in England were about to name a new Lieutenant Governor for Upper Canada. And Sir Francis Bond Head would prove to be one of the biggest enemies of democracy Canada had ever seen.

Continue reading with part three in this series, "Bond Head The Bonehead", here.


A version of this story will appear in
The Toronto Book of the Dead
Coming September 2017

Pre-order from Amazon, Indigo, or your favourite bookseller
I pieced this together from a ton of articles, but some of the best ones are here (about cholera's impact on the founding of the city -- you need a free trial for that link, but you can find it other places too) and here (about the 1832 outbreak and the Board of Health). But they're both pretty dry. I also got lot of more fun and gross information from The Toronto Story, which is super-great kids book about our history. You can buy it here. And one of the coolest online sources is from the Toronto Public Library. Here they have a saaaaad letter from the son of one victim and other writings and images from those terrifying days.

The Star looks back at the outbreaks here. Toronto EMS looks back on their part of the history here. And there's more about how cholera swept through the rest of the world here and here and here.

Another interesting bit I didn't think I could cram into the main post: people were really suspicious of the hospital. It was at King and Peter, two-stories tall, and the precursor to Toronto General. The Board of Health begged them, but people preferred to die at home. And there was a rumour that the officials there had tried to bury at least one person alive. There was also a makeshift treatment centre in John Strachan's old blue grammar school at Jarvis and Lombard, a precursor to today's Jarvis Collegiate and Upper Canada College. I also thought it was kind of interesting that they tried to evacuated the area around Market Lane (now Market Square, where the Rainbow Cinema is). But none of that, of course, seemed to help much. As Strachan himself put it: "In short, York became one general hospital."

This post is related to dream
10 The Battle of Montgomery's Tavern
William Lyon Mackenzie, 1837

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Photo: Redpath Sugar Construction in 1958

This is the Redpath Sugar refinery being built on Queen's Quay in the late '50s. According to what I can piece together from Wikidepdia and the website of the Redpath Sugar Museum, which is inside the complex, the company was started all the way back in the 1850s. James Redpath came over from Scotland penniless and walked barefoot from Quebec City to Montreal, where he'd build the company from scratch. When the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened up by a series of locks and canals connecting us to the Atlantic in the 1950s, Redpath Sugar built this refinery on our waterfront. Queen Elizabeth was even there to celebrate the grand opening. Inside, they process huge shipments of sugar cane that come up from the Carribean on massive tankers.

Also worth mentioning: I believe that's the spire of St. James Cathedral at King and Church in the distance, which I'll be mentioning a bazillion times on this blog since it plays in an important role in much of  Toronto's history. That was the highest church spire in all of Canada when it was finished being built in the 1870s. Oh and, of course, the Redpath Sugary Refinery now has a giant whale mural on the side of it, which was added fairly recently by an artist who travels around the world painting whales all over everything.

I stumbled across this photo on the forum at the newly redesigned Urban Toronto over here. They've got more photos of the construction and of Queen Elizabeth at the grand opening, too.

If you'd like to see more old Toronto photos, this seems like a pretty good time to plug my brand new and totally spiffy Toronto Dreams Project Historical Photostream, which you can check out over here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

William Lyon Mackenzie Vs. The World

William Lyon Mackenzie
This is the first in a series of posts about the battle for Canadian democracy.

Oh boy, okay, so this is a big one. William Lyon Mackenzie is one of the giant, towering, all-important figures in the history of Toronto. In fact, he's such a big deal that telling his story from start to finish — and with it the story of the birth of democracy in Canada — is going to take at least five long posts. They will span more than 25 years. There will be riots and arson, violent mobs and hangings and people beaten in the streets. There will be plagues and mass graves. For some of it, we'll have to travel all the way to England and the Ganges River delta. By the end of it, Toronto will have grown from a small, isolated backwater into a thriving metropolis of tens of thousands of people. It's going to be crazy. I'm kind of excited. And it all starts with the story of how Mackenzie went from being a struggling newspaperman to one of the most powerful politicians in the city.

So. Dude was born in Scotland, ran a store for a while, wrote for some newspapers, gambled a lot, fathered an illegitimate child, and eventually headed across the ocean to Upper Canada in search of a better life. He settled in Toronto in November of 1824. We were just a small town back then, only about 30 years old, still called York, with a population of about 1600 people.

The whole town — the whole colony, actually — was run by a small group of rich, conservative, mostly British and thoroughly Protestant elites. Fellows like Peter Russell, William Jarvis and John Strachan. Most of them were corrupt assholes. They hated Catholics, true democracy, and maybe more than anything else, the United States of America. Many of them had fought for the British against the Americans during the Revolution; some had seen their best friends killed at the hands of Americans, had their lives and families threatened by them, had been driven out of their homes by angry mobs of them. In fact, the whole point of creating York in the first place was to help guard the Canadas against an invasion from the south. And when Mackenzie arrived, it had only been a decade since their worst fears had been realized: an American army landed near where the Ex is now, marched across the waterfront and occupied York for a few days during the War of 1812.

The invasion had made John Strachan a hero. The way they tell the story, he pretty much just yelled at the Americans until they slunk back across the border. When they came back later that year, people say he made the invaders return the library books they'd stolen from us the first time. But to hold on to power and make sure that American-style democracy didn't spread north, Strachan's allies in the conservative elite seem to have been willing to do pretty much anything. They gave all the swanky government jobs to their friends and families. They seized enormous tracts of land for themselves, stole some of it from the very citizens who were helping them build the town. When people started publicly complaining, they banned public meetings. They blamed the unrest on Americans, banned young American-born Canadians from voting and American-born politicians from getting elected. And when political means didn't work, they attacked their opponents in the streets and beat them senseless. There was tarring and feathering. There were show trials. And hangings.

William Lyon Mackenzie was outraged. He was pro-democracy and pro-American and he hated the living fuck out of the Protestant elites. He'd come to town as the editor of his very own newspaper, the Colonial Advocate, which he used to berate them every chance he got. He called them jackals and hypocrites and demons and bigots and thieves and funguses. He even gave them the nickname people still use to this day: the Family Compact. In return, they called him vermin, a conceited, red-headed reptile, and tried to make his life as miserable as possible.

In those early days, Mackenzie didn't need much help with that. The Colonial Advocate only had 825 subscribers at the beginning of his first full year in town and he soon faced stiff competition for reform-minded readers from the Irish-Catholic Canadian Freeman. His debts mounted. His readership didn't. At one point, he was forced to temporarily stop publishing the paper altogether. Finally, in the Spring of 1826, he high-tailed it out of town, fleeing to the States to avoid his creditors.

Mackenzie's home/shop, Frederick and Front
Present day Google streetview here

That's when his luck finally changed.

His escape came at a moment when the Family Compact was particularly pissed off at him. Years earlier, Samuel Jarvis, the son of the über-corrupt, über-incompetent government official, William Jarvis, had killed a man in a duel. The circumstances were a bit sketchy — the other guy had fired too early and missed, then Jarvis shot him dead (it's kind of an awesome story; you can read about it in this post) — and Mackenzie didn't hesitate to openly accuse him of murder. Now, with Mackenzie in the States, Jarvis seized his opportunity for revenge. He rounded up a bunch of young conservatives, dressed them as natives and attacked the Colonial Advocate offices. They trashed the place, smashed the printing press and threw the typeface into the lake. Mackenzie's family, including his elderly mother, who all lived in the building, were terrorized. The Types Riot, as they call it, happened right smack dab in the middle of town — the offices were at Frederick and Front, a couple of blocks east of the St. Lawrence Market — and senior members of the Family Compact watched it all happen and did nothing.

It was one superdumbass PR move. Mackenzie rushed home to sue for damages. He came out of it looking like a martyr for the cause of reform, and was awarded more money than his equipment was worth. He used it to pay off his debts and expand his operation. The Colonial Advocate was back in circulation and Mackenzie's voice was stronger than ever.

That's when he got into politics. He ran for parliament on the Reform Party ticket and won. The election was a landslide: the party of the Family Compact, the Tory Party, lost their majority and the Reformers took over.

But that didn't really mean very much. Upper Canada was not a democracy. Oh sure, there was the Legislative Assembly to take care of the small stuff, but all of the real power still rested with the Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor was appointed by the British government. And the British government was run by... waiiiiit for it... the British Tory Party. Their Prime Minister — the Napoleon-crushing Duke of Wellington himself — had given the post to one his conservative buddies, the awesomely-named Sir Peregrine Maitland. He was a hero of the Battle of Waterloo who also happened to play a kickass game of cricket and even gets a mention in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. More importantly, he was a hardcore supporter of the British crown and wasn't about to let Mackenzie and the Reformers do any reforming.

Since they couldn't get anything done, the Reform Party lost the next election. But Mackenzie didn't let that stop him. He'd been re-elected in his riding and he was determined to screw with the Tories every chance he got. He earned a reputation as a fierce debater, sometimes grabbing the red wig from off his own head and flinging it across the room at his opponents. He refused to join Tory-dominated committees and then showed up anyway to yell at them. He even got kicked out of his own church for trying to get them to cut their ties to the Family Compact. In short, he got all up in the Tories' faces pretty much all of the time.

Parliament/jail/court house, King west of Church, 1829
The Family Compact struck back. But dumbassedly yet again. They used their votes in the Legislative Assembly to kick him out of it. The result? The building (look left) was mobbed by hundreds of Mackenzie's supporters, the voters in his riding re-elected him in a staggering landslide, and then they threw a victory parade down Yonge Street complete with bagpipes and 134 sleighs. The Tories voted him out again; the voters voted him back in again. And again. And again. And again. Conservatives pelted him with garbage, rioted, attacked him in the street and nearly killed him, but were eventually forced to give up and let him stay (while refusing to let him actually vote on anything). The Family Compact was managing to avoid any real reforms, but it was coming at a price: Mackenzie and his ideas were getting more and more popular.

Ten years earlier, he'd been a poor newspaperman running a failing business with few readers. Now, he was one of the most powerful men in the city. He was helping to turn the tide: public opinion was steadily mounting against the Family Compact and in favour of true Canadian democracy.

And that's when the cholera hit.

Continue reading with, "Uh Oh, Everyone's Dying of Cholera, Parts I & II", here.


You can read more about Mackenzie on his Wikipedia page here. And from the much drier Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online here. There's some info about early Toronto newspaper here. About the house where Mackenzie lived and worked up until the Types Riot here. There are some angry quotes here. And a plaque about the Types Riot here.

This post is related to dream
09 The Ghost of John Ridout
Samuel Jarvis, 1826

This post is related to dream
10 The Battle of Montgomery's Tavern
William Lyon Mackenzie, 1837