When last we checked in, the good people of Peterborough were preparing to ring in 1886, with parties and all kinds of outdoor activities. And here we are, in the first week of that new year, and it appears to have been a successful holiday. To give but one example, the Peterborough Daily Evening Review reported, on January 2nd, that the party at the Parlor Roller Rink was attended by 48 couples, and that “[t]he evening was very pleasantly spent.”
Click on, for electoral innovation in Ontario, electoral confusion in Britain, a dramatic intervention by a faulty courthouse stove, and other things!
Municipal elections took place in Peterborough, and across the province, on January 4th of 1886, and for the first time, some women were allowed to cast ballots. Unmarried women and widows who owned a certain amount of property could now vote in local elections, although not for some time in those at the provincial or federal level. While the Peterborough Examiner noted that less than 10% of qualified women voters in the town actually turned out for the election, it nonetheless stated, in a January 8th editorial, that:
“…the result all round shows that the female element in future municipal contests is one that will have to be taken into account. No right thinking man will deny that, on principle, a woman who has the necessary property qualifications, has a right to a voice in selecting the trustees, who are to guard her material interests…”
The Examiner was very much in favour of women getting the franchise; the paper went on to opine that women voters would be better than men at opposing “the wily schemer who has an axe to grind at the public expense.” The Review, for its part, simply noted on January 5th that “[t]he ladies have not yet got into the way of voting,” and left it at that.
The country meanwhile, was just seeing the denouement of a scrap over liquor licensing laws between the federal and provincial governments – both sides felt that the responsibility for such regulations, not to mention the revenue from them, should be theirs. It was one of a number of such fights in the early years of the Dominion of Canada through which the two levels of government sought to establish the ground rules and answer the question of who had power over what. Without going into the details, which are hideously complex, the question of the liquor licenses eventually made it all the way to the Privy Council in Britain, which ruled that the matter was “NOT WITHIN THE LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY OF THE PARLIAMENT OF CANADA.” And yes, the “all-caps” was reproduced in the January 7th Examiner story on the issue. In any case, the end result of it all was that in Ontario we buy our booze at stores whose signs say “LCBO” rather than “LCBC.”
Overseas, meanwhile, there was electoral turmoil in Britain, and as you might imagine this drew a great deal of attention from Canadian newspapers. The General Election of December, 1885, produced nearly a dead heat between the Liberal Party of William Gladstone and the combined forces of the Conservatives and the Irish Parliamentarian Party. This meant that the Irish Parliamentarians, strong advocates of Home Rule for Ireland, had the balance of power, and that did not sit particularly well with either of the big parties. “The Irish question of course overshadows all others,” wrote the January 5th Examiner, and it quickly provoked another election, held in July of 1886. This time, Lord Salisbury’s Conservatives would win a majority, and Home Rule would have to wait.
Returning now to the home front. There was a particularly intriguing, or at least lurid, criminal case in the public eye, resulting from a confrontation at Darcy’s, a George Street tavern. A certain Mr. Bradburn brought assault charges against a Mr. Lasher as a result of the affair, and it was at this point that things took a turn for the bizarre, as Mr. Bradburn then failed to appear in court to testify. When he did arrive, late, he claimed that he imprisoned in the defendant’s house, and had only just escaped. At which point the chimney of the stove in the courthouse fell in, the room filled with smoke, and the whole matter was adjourned. When proceedings resumed, testimony from all parties was heard, and the judge eventually determined that “Lasher had done that which he would not have done if sober (Peterborough Examiner, January 8th), ” fined him $20, and imposed a hefty bond on him to keep the peace for a year. The claim of kidnapping was not addressed.
Mr. Lasher and Mr. Bradburn aside, the main item of interest around Peterborough in the first week of the new year was a series of talks given by the Rev. Charles Eby, a prominent Methodist missionary. Rev. Eby, who was originally from Goderich, Ontario, was in town as part of a North American tour, on which he gave lectures about his missionary work in Japan. His first lecture, at the Charlotte Street Methodist Church, dealt with the history and society of Japan (per the January 4th Examiner, Eby reckoned that the Japanese were “situated much as the Greeks and Romans were at the time of Christ”), and his second, given at George Street Methodist, described the Methodists’ missionary work. In the end, reported the Examiner, his impression of Peterborough was somewhat mixed:
“Mr. Eby… said he was pleased to see that the Methodists of Peterborough were so prosperous and had two such fine churches, but was sorry they did not contribute more to the mission funds.”
While much of what Rev. Eby had to say about Japan comes across today as paternalistic, condescending, and even racist, that is probably more a reflection of the times than of the man. As his entry at biographi.ca notes, Eby “strove to have Japan recognized as an equal member of the community of nations.”
We will end off here by returning to the celebration of the New Year. According to the January 2nd Review, “New Year’s Day opened up clear and frosty,” but without snow, so that “[s]leigh riding was impossible, but the next best thing, skating, was well patronised.” Peterborians took to the frozen surface of Little Lake in droves, and even got a bit of a game of “ice lacrosse” going. Once again, from the January 2nd Review:
“Some perennial votary of the national game brought a lacrosse ball and a lacrosse stick. He commenced tossing it in the air and soon scores were seized with the ambition to have a crack at it. The trees on the shore were considerably stripped of their branches and ere long a crowd on skates, armed with “shinnies,” were chasing the ball up and down with as much vigor as if on the turf. Even a prominent public school trustee (perhaps fired with the thoughts of his exploits in by-gone days), went in quest of a stick and ere long he was mingling with the crowd in pursuit of the rubber with as keen a zest as that which the smallest member of the class for which he legislates took in the sport.”
Next time out, we’ll check in with early January of 1887!