When the previous day’s issue of the Spectator went to press, the case concerning sheep killing by an errant dog was still in progress, the conclusion was reported in the issue which hit the streets on February 23, 1876 :
“This case, of which a synopsis was given yesterday, was concluded last evening. The defendants brought witnesses to prove that the dog was chained in the barn on the night the sheep were killed. The plaintiffs said that they saw the dog chasing the sheep, but the question was could they not have been mistaken in the night time. When Mr. Cahill intimated that he would dismiss the case, Mr. Waddell, council for the plaintiffs, withdrew. The costs were paid by plaintiffs.”
The matter of widespread intemperance among Hamiltonians in 1876 was a serious matter. Alcohol abuse was rampant, and while taverns and saloons were licenced, there were far more per capita in Hamilton at the time than most other communities in Canada.
A number of strategies were considered to deal with the matter and the issue was a topic of constant public discussion as reported in the following Spectator account:
“A mass meeting of the citizens to consider the new Liquor Bill took place in Winer Hall last night, and was attended by a large and highly respectable audience. Among those present were Revs. Dr. Rice, W.W. Carson, S. G. Stone (editor of the Canada Christian Advocate), S. Williamson, J.P. Lewis, Wm. Benson, W. Herridge, also Messrs. P.W. Dayfoot, E.S. Whipple, D.B. Chisholm, M. Howles, Ald. Mathews, Crooker, etc.
D.B. Chisholm, Esq., by request, occupied the chair, and Mr. L.A. Morrison acted as Secretary.
After the opening prayer by the Rev. Mr. Benson, the meeting was addressed by the Chairman and Rev. W.W. Carson, who (with all the speakers of the evening) while avowing themselves prohibitionists, declared themselves in favour of doing their best under the present licence law to curtail the liquor traffic, and reduce the amount of crime, misery and want arising therefrom, expressing their regret very strongly that our City Aldermen should look at this matter solely in the light of obtaining revenue from it, or in the matter of “pounds, shillings and pence,” and they expressed the hope that our City Fathers would rise superior to such a consideration and look at the other side of the sheet which showed the licence fees to be the “Price of blood.”
Mr. E. S. Whipple being called on, moved “That the Council be requested to fix the amount to be paid for licences for 1876 at $200.” In a few pointed remarks, Mr. Whipple explained that the intention of the resolution was to relieve to as great an extent possible the financial difficulty for the Council, and enable them at the same time to reduce the number of places to be licensed.
The resolution was ably seconded by the Rev. S. G. Stone, who delivered a telling and practical speech showing, in a forcible manner, that it was a fallacy to suppose that a revenue was derived for the city from the sale of liquor licences at all, and that it would pay better to stop the traffic and thereby increase the real wealth and tax paying power of the citizens. He was firmly of the opinion that the real wealth of the nation was in the manhood of her people, and anything that decreased the power of production of the people, decreased the wealth of, and the paying power of, the people; and, further, that a very large number of the persons who are now consumers would, if this pernicious traffic were put down, be turned into producers, and thereby be adding to, instead of taking from the wealth of the nation.
The motion was carried with enthusiasm – one solitary individual raising his hand against it.
Mr. T. Copland then moved “That we ask the Council to enact in their By-law that no licences be granted to sell liquors in shops where other goods are sold.” This was seconded by the Rev. Mr. Rice (Bible Christian). It was contended, in support of this motion, that it is unjust to grocers who are not liquor sellers that others in the same trade should have the advantage which the selling of liquors gave them over their brethren in the grocery business. It was also shown that a great amount of misery was caused by this kind of traffic, which would cease as soon as the liquors were separated from other merchandise and allowed to stand (or fall) on their merits. The motion was carried unanimously, as was also another by Mr. L.A. Morrison , seconded by the Rev. S. Williams, “That petitions in support of the foregoing resolution be circulated and presented to the Council at their next regular meeting by a deputation of the city clergymen.”
Mr. P. W. Dayfoot moved that we request the City Council to further enact in their By-Law that no tavern licence be granted unless there are at least ten bed-rooms in said taverns with good and sufficient accommodation therein for sleeping apartments. The motion was seconded by Rev. W. s. Williams who said he hoped to live to see the day when Temperance men would be celebrating a grand jubilee over the end of the liquor traffic. The motion was carried unanimously.
Rev. Dr. Rice had no faith in licence laws, and questioned if this act was any improvement on preceding ones. But if anything good were to be got out of it, it was absolutely necessary that we should men of thorough moral and financial independence as Licence Commissioners in and for the City of Hamilton for the year ending December 31, 1876, viz.
D. B. Chisholm,
It was moved by Mr. E.S. Cummer, seconded by Mr. J. Finagin, and carried, “That a report of the proceedings of this meeting and a copy of the resolutions here adopted be presented by a deputation to City Council at their next regular meeting on Monday evening next, the 28th inst. Messrs. D.B. Chisholm, P.W. Dayfoot, Wm. Edgar and Joseph Lister to be said deputation, with power to add to their number.
Mr. Copland moved, seconded by Mr. Finagin, “That L. A. Morrison and E. Cummer have charge of the petition work, and be empowered to use all just means to obtain as many signatures as largely possible, and that a deputation of clergymen lay the same at the next meeting. Carried.
Rev. J.P. Lewis having made some remarks, the benediction was pronounced by Rev. Dr. Rice and the meeting closed.”
Ironically, in the very issue, a report was carried of the adverse effects alcohol addiction could cause, especially as regards domestic abuse:
“For some time past, there has resided in the west end, in the neighbourhood of the Crystal Palace, a tall, villainous looking individual named William Norton, whose little extravagances have kept the vicinity in a ferment and chronic state of uneasiness. It will be remembered that about four months ago, Norton was arrested for brutally assaulting and beating his wife. He had dragged her round the house by the hair of her head, some of which he pulled out in handfuls. The poor woman appeared in court with her face and head terribly swollen, and although she repented of her action in having him arrested, and although she pleaded hard for his release, the wretch was sent to jail. On going to jail, he left only one dollar in the house to support his wife in her absence, and the unfortunate woman and her two little children had to be relieved by kind neighbours who sent them baskets of food. On his return from jail, about a month ago, Norton refused to go to work, and treated his wife with such cruelty that she was obliged to leave him and return to her people. As soon as he got rid of his wife, Norton took into his house several women of bad repute, including the notorious Meg Smith, who was released from the penitentiary about three weeks ago. The house soon became a place of the worst description, and as its inmates were constantly fighting, drinking and howling, it became a terror to the neighbourhood. As birds of a feather flock together, the house became a resort for bad characters and especially depraved women whose presence caused a very general uneasiness to be felt in the vicinity. His wife heard of Norton’s doings and returned to him, hoping that her presence would have soon influence over him. It was a mistake, however, for Saturday last, when she refused to give him money to buy whiskey, he sold her work box and curtains to buy liquor. Mrs. Norton is a respectable looking woman, but is evidently weak-minded. She has on several occasions, after having had him arrested for assaulting her, begged him off, and sometimes paid his fine, but this morning she said she had forgiven him for eight years, but she would never forgive him again. Norton was sent to jail for forty days.”
Two distressing cases of family violence were carried in the same issue, although whether or not alcohol was involved is unclear:
“This morning two painful cases of mother abuse came up in the Police Court, the prisoners being youths of eighteen years of age. The first was a hard looking (illegible) who had formerly been in the employ of Mr. J. M. Williams, but had been discharged some months ago for fighting, or as he said himself in court, because he wouldn’t let another man kick him. His mother who is a widow and apparently in ill health, appeared against him, although every word she said against her son appeared to choke her. She said that he refused to work although she had a hard time of it to get along, and that when she reproached him for doing wrong, he became very violent and would assault her. The secret of the case was, however, that the young scoundrel had drawn a knife on his brother and her, and threatened to stab them. but Mrs. Coats begged His Worship not to make her tell all. The prisoner stood in the box grinning and seemed to enjoy his mother’s distress hugely, but when His Worship said he would send him to Penetanguishene if he could, he seemed staggered, but never lost his self-possession.
The other prisoner was named Alfred Baine, and though of the same age, appeared not as hardened as the other. He had, when his sister reproved him for not going to work, knocked her down; and when his mother interfered, he had assaulted her most viciously. Baine also stood in the dock smiling, but when His Worship mentioned Penetanguishene, he broke down and cried like a child. “
Finally, the issue of women’s rights, notably as regards the vote, was becoming prominent in the Hamilton area in February 1876, including in the rural districts. The following is an account of a women’s rights gather in the village of Lynden, Beverly Township:
“The fire of universal suffrage which burned so long and fast in the United States, has broken out in this country and promises to make rapid strides. For some time past the feeling has been brewing in the country, and the advocates of universal suffrage hailed the advent of leap year with delight and made active preparations for the campaign which was sure to come. Last evening, a women’s rights meeting was held in the village, or rather the town of Lynden, in the township of Beverly. At a very early hour in the evening, the building in which the meeting was held was crammed to suffocation, the greater majority of those present being ladies. On the platform sat several of the leading ladies of Lynden, and in their midst sat Peter Wood, Reeve of Beverly, and ex-Warden of the county.
At eight o’clock, it was moved by affair member of the audience, seconded by another of her sex, that Mrs Wm. Wing take the chair. The motion was carried unanimously, the fair chairman being conducted to her seat amid great applause. Mrs. Wing went into no flights of oratory, but in a few words, introduced and explained the object of the meeting.
Mrs. N. J. Cornell read an opening address which dealt very ably with women’s rights. The address called forth repeated rounds of applause, and after silence had been restored the chairman amid great cheering introduced Mr. Peter Wood to the meeting.
Mr Wood said : Ladies and Gentleman – The day is fast approaching when women will have their franchise and be allowed to speak in the affairs of the nation, when women will rise to be the figurehead of their country and hold the helm of the ship of state. Years ago the women suffrage movement was started in the United States, and if the world in general at large thinks that the idea has been hooted and laughed down, that world in general was greatly mistaken, and ere long the world will resound with the fame of Canadian women who are fitted mentally and physically to take part in the legislature of their country (tremendous cheers.) The people of Canada are not like the savages of the far west, who make women their slaves and who bar them from their council chambers. Women in our country have the same education as the men. They go to the same schools, they study the same branches and now more women obtain certificates to teach in our public schools than men (cheers) and it is well known that in the great race for education they are beating them everyday (Renewed cheering). Woman has every disadvantage to contend against. Her dress and her sex are the principal disadvantages, but once let her break down the barriers and let her splendid abilities free, once let her gain a name for herself and reach the pinnacles of fame, and men stand below looking up at her, bewildered, astonished, incredulous. History shows what educated woman can do. Joan of Arc, a poor peasant girl from an obscure village, buckled a sword to her side and triumphantly led the armies of France to conquest and glory, freeing her country from the yoke of a tyrant and the infamy of slavery. But not only did she show her abilities as a commander – a queen, but she showed the qualities of an orator when arraigned before a so called tribunal of justice, and she pleaded her own cause, though she knew full well her defence would be useless, and when the end came, she showed her woman’s contempt of suffering by dying bravely, as no man has died since (tremendous cheering). She has not been the only female warrior. The world ring with the fame of the maid of Sargasso who defended her native town against the overwhelming hosts of a foreign foe, and drove them from its walls, routed, demoralised and amazed. The greatest sovereigns that England has ever seen belonged to that sex which preponderates here tonight. I refer to Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria whose names will live till they are buried in the grave of time. These two illustrious women have done more for their subjects and their realm than any male sovereign before them, and if women can sit on the throne and be an ornament to their country, why can’t they sit in the Legislature and Houses of Parliament? (Cheers). Not only can a woman be a sovereign, but she can be a philanthropist. Florence Nightingale was a greater being than Napoleon in that she saved lives and he destroyed millions. The names of Miss Rye and Miss McPherson should live longer on the pages of history than the greatest warrior that ever trot the earth. They have spent the greater part of their lives in elevating the miseries of the little orphan children of England. Women have earned the greatest reforms and revolutions of the 19th century. Mrs. Beecher Stowe by her wonderful book, entitled “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” started that little streamlet which gradually swelled into a mighty river sweeping the horrible system of human slavery off the North American Continent (cheers), and Mrs. Southworth and other female writers of the day may be classed among the greatest humanitarians that ever lived. Women can be a financier as seen in the person of Baroness Burdett-Cootts who controls the sum of $6,000,000 and controls it well. There is an injustice done to women, because they are obliged to submit to laws formed by men, and they are not allowed to have a voice in framing of those laws. This is an injustice – this is tyrannical, and I contend that if women have to submit to the laws they ought to have a voice in the framing of them. If women were allowed to take a place in our Government offices, not half the cheating and trickery would be practised (cheers), and had women been well represented in our Parliament not a few branches of the Licence Law would have been cut off, but it would have been blotted out forever. (Tremendous and prolonged cheering).
The lecturer then descended, or rather ascended, into the humorous. He said : Women are more constant than men. (Hear, hear). Before marriage they are all loving and kind, but as soon as the nuptial knot is tied, they become careless, while women remain loving and true. (Laughter and cheers.)
Mr. Wood made some further humorous remarks and resumed his seat amid great applause.
Mrs. Hains was then called on and read the closing address, after which the meeting adjourned, the Lynden cornet band playing the National Anthem.”