Saturday 26 May 2012

May 27, 1876

“The attention of the police is called to the unruly conduct of young men and boys who, in the evenings, frequent the hill above the boat houses and interfere with those who resort there to enjoy the prospect or seek the pleasures of the bay.”
Hamilton Times    May 27, 1876
The reporter for the Hamilton Times seems to have been in a grouchy frame of mind as he wrote items for the May 27, 1876 edition of his paper.
First to feel the sting of his prose were some fellows who were in the habit of gathering at the bayfront and acting in unacceptable ways:
 “It is said ladies are often insulted by the language that is purposely used within their hearing, and that no remonstrances have so far served to stop it. An arrest or two would teach these young blades a salutary lesson.”

Next on the Times reporter list of complaints was an address on King William street which was being kept in a deplorable manner:
“The quagmire in rear of the buildings on the south side of King William street, between James and Hughson street, is positively disgraceful. Indeed, the entire open yard is in a most filthy state, the exhalations from which must, of necessity, breed fever and kindred diseases. The owners of the property should be compelled to fence off the back lots, clean out their back premises, and prevent its being as it is now, free commons. This should be seen to immediately, or the consequences, as soon as the hot weather sets in, will be fearful.”
As always the municipal services provided by the City of Hamilton were ready targets for complaints:
“What is the use of having a steam roller if the Corporation are determined to let it “stand idle all day long,” rusting on Hughson street? If the city had no use for it, why did they spend $4,000 uselessly in having it manufactured? A great deal was said about the benefit of it after it was introduced, but how in the name of fortune is it that orders have not been given to have the machine run along the streets requiring to be smoothed down.”
“Those corporation employees who are laying down new sidewalks on Bay street, near the Springs Brewery, should exercise a little discretion and bring a little sense to their work. We learn that they are in the habit of leaving behind them the old sleepers with the nails adhering. Yesterday, Joseph Grimes was passing by with his horse and wagon, when the horse trod on a nail that was projecting from an old piece of scantling and injured its foot very badly, so that Mr. Grimes is now debarred from the use of the animal, causing him very serious inconvenience. The Streets and Sidewalks Committee should see to this, and save a recurrence of the trouble.”
In a long-standing tradition both before and long after 1876, it was okay to criticize Hamilton, if you were a Hamiltonian. But if you were not a Hamiltonian, and especially if you were from Toronto, any negative comments about Hamilton would not be taken lightly:
“It is reported to be among the eccentricities of Satan that he sometimes rebukes sin. We are prepared to believe this now that we find Toronto rising to rebuke what it is pleased to term municipal mismanagement in Hamilton. There is probably no city in Ontario that has won such a reputation for municipal mismanagement and incapacity as Toronto. Its debt has ground, and is growing, beyond all legitimate proportions; its ratepayers being “bonused” to death; its streets are almost impassable, and its merchants are rising to make legal war against its Aldermen for their dereliction of duty; is street railways are a constant annoyance and irritation to the public; its city fathers for years have been divided into rings and cliques for the advancement of personal and party purposes, at the expense of the best interests of the city. The people’s money is expended in a score of different ways having no relation whatever to the people’s welfare or comfort. Its Aldermen are only happy when on some wild goose deputation at the city’s expense, drinking champagne paid for out of the city treasury, and multiplying city offices for the gratification o ward politicians. Its water works construction has been marked by a constant succession of intrigues and extravagances. Scarcely a month ever passes but some city official is being charged with irregularity or malfeasance. A former city chamberlain was howled at for years by a section of the city press as incompetent and unreliable. Its whole civic management has been yearly growing worse, until such have been the displays of incompetency, irregularities, extravagance and gross corruption that if Toronto were polled today the more respectable portion of its citizens would declare for the city being managed by a Government Commission, instead of the kind of Councils it has had for years past. It is this city that, through one of its newspapers, reads the City Council of Hamilton a lecture on how to manage its municipal affairs.
The text the discourse is founded on is the re-appointment of our City Treasurer to his former position. Insofar as that re-appointment is concerned, we can say that we have not been enthusiastic in is favour. It would have been well if, after Mr. Stuart’s character for honesty had been vindicated, he had not been re-engaged in the service of the city. But, after all, the battle about him was mainly a personal one. Those who were personally hostile to him had no charge to make against his honesty, and could not deny that, as Treasurer, he had managed the duties of his office creditably and well. Those who were personally in favour of him could not deny that, many years ago, when he was collector, he had shown incompetence and negligence for which he justly deserved censure. The manner of his re-instatement has been such that has been such that the interests of the people are as fairly guarded as it is possible they could have been even had he been rejected and someone else put in his place. As at the very worst he has only been charged with errors in book-keeping, and as loss from them has been made impossible, the majority of Council are justified in feeling that whether Mr. Stuart’s re-appointment is popular or unpopular, it is at least safe.
Consequently, when this Toronto newspaper (evidently under the inspiration of some unclean Hamilton bird, which seeks, through an outside medium to foul its own nest) asserts that by Mr. Stuart’s re-appointment “a blow has been directed against ‘the credit of the city,’ ’’ it is guilty of an impudent and malicious falsehood. A blow has been aimed at the credit of the city of Hamilton, but it is by those false hearts in it who have sought to strike that blow through a journal that has always been hostile to Hamilton’s interests. And we may say that the personal enemies of Mr. Stuart have not strengthened their cause in the eyes of our citizens by making use o a Toronto newspaper to inflict – if anything appearing in such a newspaper could hurt anyone – a serious blow on the credit and financial standing of the city. It makes Mr. Stuart no better because his enemies have resorted to such gross measures to hold Hamilton up to public contempt, but it does make his enemies appear much worse, more malignant and more reckless than they have hitherto appeared. Apart from the maliciousness of the charge and even greater than it, is its absurdity. Our Toronto enemy and its Hamilton inspirers can rest assured that the credit of this city is quite safe in the hands of the present Council. Its affairs are economically administered, its debts are promptly paid, and though its Aldermen are not as enterprising as those of Toronto in making raids on the city chest for their own profit and pleasure., they are at least in advance of them in intelligent oversight of the affairs committed to their charge.
Our City Council can afford to treat with indifference the impertinent advice that comes from a city in which municipal mismanagement is the rule, and an honest and intelligent administration of civic affairs the rare exception – more especially when that advice is evidently tinged with the personal vindictiveness and greed of interested parties in this city.

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