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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part IV: Chapter VIII. The Birth of Toronto


THE population of York in 1834, the year which witnessed the birth of the City of Toronto, was, in round numbers, ten thousand souls. Within its contracted limits nearly every industrial occupation was represented; there were steam sawmills, iron foundries, and steam-engine manufactories, starch, candle and soap, and paper factories, besides a theatre, schools, and half a dozen printing offices, a lire department, and an artillery company. The management of the affairs of the town, however, was still unsatisfactory, and the feeling of the majority of the inhabitants upon the subject had, by the end of 1833, become so strong that it was decided to obtain corporation. This proposition chiefly met with favour from the Conservatives, on the ground that the increased area of taxation would cause a corresponding increase of revenue; while the Reformers opposed it on the ground that the expense of a separate administration for city and count) would more than counterbalance any benefit which the citizens would derive therefrom. In February, 1834, a Bill embodying the proposed measure was introduced in the Legislature by Mr. Jarvis, the member for the town, and carried through the House. On the 6th of March it received the Royal assent and became law. The main features of the Act, which was a formidable document, containing no less than ninety-seven clauses, were provisions for constituting the place a city, under the name of the City of Toronto, and dividing 't hito wards, with two Aldermen and two Common Councilmen for each ward, to be elected by the citizens, and a Mayor, who should be elected by the Aldermen and Common Councilmen from among themselves—such Mayor, Aldermen and Common Councilmen to undertake the management of the affairs of the city, and the levying of such moderate taxes as should be found necessary for improvements and other public purposes.

On the 15th of March a proclamation appeared iij the Gazette appointing the 27th of the same month for the first election of aldermen and common councilmen for the five wards into which the young city had been divided. As was to be expected in a place where party feeling ran so high, much excitement prevailed over the election, which was virtually a trial of strength between Reformers and Conservatives. The former won the day, a majority of their nominees—among them Mr. Mackenzie himself—being returned to the new Council. The names of the successful candidates were as follows:—

St. Andrew's Ward.—Aldermen, Dr. Thomas D. Morrison and John Harper ; councilmen, John Armstrong and John Doel.

St. David's Ward.—Aldermen, William Evon Mackenzie and James Passlie; councilmen, Franklin Jackes and Colin Drummond.

St. George's Ward.—Aldermen, Thomas Carfrae, jun'r, and Edward Wright; councilmen, John Craig and George Guinett.

St. Lawrence Ward.—Aldermen, George Monro and George Duggan, sen'r; Councilmen, William Arthurs and Eardner 13ostwick.

St. Patrick's Ward.—Aldermen, Dr. John Rolph and George T. Denison, sen'r; Councilmen, Joseph Turton and James Trotter.

Of the above gentlemen, whose names, as those of the first rulers of the City of Toronto, have been judged worthy of being preserved In these pages only two survive at the time of writing, viz., Mr. James Lesslie and Mr. John Harper.

Great as had been the victory of the Reformers at the polls, their triumph was not yet complete. The crowning event of the civic campaign was the election of Mr. Mackenzie to the honour of the Mayor's chair. The Reformers had it all their own way, and, although it was generally understood that Dr. Rolph, a prominent and deserving member of the parly, would be its candidate, it was finally decided to give the party vote to Mr. Mackenzie, as a set-off to the wrongs he had endured both at home and abroad, and as a triumphant reply to the contumelious assertions of his enemies. Dr. Rolph at first seemed unwilling to make way for Mr. Mackenzie —a man whom he appears at no time to have held in very high estimation— but he finally l)0\ved to the will of the majority, not, however, without giving evidence of his dissatisfaction by resigning his seat in the Council, and this notwithstanding the fact that he had been offered the support of the Conservative members in his candidacy for the mayoralty. On the 3rd of April, the day appointed for the election of mayor, the Council met and by a vote often to eight—Dr. Rolph being absent and Mr. Mackenzie abstaining from voting—raised the expelled member for York to the highest position in the gift of the city. The same day Mr. Mackenzie took the prescribed oath, and was formally invested.

The new Council soon set to work with a will; and there was plenty for it to do. The city's finances were in a deplorable condition; it was burdened by a debt of over nine thousand pounds, due to the Bank of Upper Canada; its treasury was practically empty, and money was urgently needed for public buildings, and still more urgently' for the repair of the streets, which were in a vile condition. In the whole city there was not such a thing as a plank sidewalk. The situation was embarrassing, but it had to be grappled with. The first action of the Council, after election its officers—among whom were James H. Price, City Clerk, and Matthew Walton, City Chamberlain —was to appoint committees to report upon certain matters, 'n dealing with which no time was to be lost. Prominent among these was the financial question, as a partial solution of which the Council, upon the recommendation of the Finance Committee, resolved to levy an additional tax of two pence m the pound upon the assessed value of all property, real and personal, within the city. An attempt was also made to effect a loan of one thousand pounds, in anticipation of the taxes, in order that the repair of the streets might be commenced forthwith. Negotiation to this end with the Bank of Upper Canada—already the city's creditors were unsuccessful; but, finally, the money was obtained from the Farmers' Bank, upon the personal security of the Mayor and the individual members of the Council. The result was that 2,618 rods of sidewalk were laid on the principal streets—miserable causeways they would appear ;n the present day consisting merely of two twelve-inch planks laid side by side longitudinally.

This work completed, the city again found itself at the end of its resources, and it was decided to levy on the taxpayers an assessment of three pence in the pound. The proposal roused considerable popular indignation, and was the occasion of two public meetings, one of which, the later, terminated tragically. A balcony at the market, upon which a number of spectators were standing, gave way under the stamping of the crowd and precipitated them into the butchers' shops below, where man were impaled upon the hooks, others broke their limbs, and some seven or eight received fatal injuries. The wisdom of the unpopular measure was abundantly proved when the first collection of taxes was made, as at the increased rate of three pence in the pound the revenue was raised to the substantial figure of £2,336, and from this time the question of municipal ways and means was no longer found to be an embarrassing one.

The year 1834 will long be remembered in Toronto as the cholera year, and the sights that met the eye on every hand during the visitation are still fresh in the memory of those who witnessed them. Five per cent, of the population of the city fell victims to the plague; and many of these, it is to be feared, owing to the absence of proper organization and treatment, although an association of noble men and women, which included the Mayor, was formed for the purpose of visiting and assisting the sick so far as lay in their power.

Old citizens will also remember this year as having been that m which the public pillory and stocks were used for the last time. The fact of the Mayer having caused a dissolute woman to be imprisoned in them caused these old-fashioned instruments of punishment to fall into disrepute, and would seem to have led to their abandonment.

The municipal elections of 1835 considerably changed the political complexion of the Council. Mr. Mackenzie had no seat in it, having been defeated by Mr. Robert Baldwin Sullivan, who successfully opposed him in St, David's Ward, and who was subsequently elected to the mayoralty. Mr Sullivan—an eloquent and brilliant lawyer—had professed Liberal principles, but had of late years evinced a decided leaning towards Conservatism. Mr. Mackenzie, however, who had been returned to the assembly in the previous October as member for one of the four ridings into which the County of York had been divided, received, on his retirement from office, a public vote of thanks for his services. The year 1836 is but little remarkable either in the political affairs of the Province or in the history of the city. It witnessed the appointment of Mr. Mackenzie's famous Committee of Grievances and the close of Sir John Colborne's term of office. Sir John, however, continued at the head of the Administration until the early portion of the following year, almost his last official act being the endowment of the forty-four rectories from the Clergy Reserves-a measure which completed the growing disfavour with which he had of late been regarded.

In 1836 Mr. Thomas D. Morrison was chosen to fill the Mayor's chair. The city had steadily progressed in prosperity, and its population had proportionately increased. On the 23rd of January the new Lieutenant-General Sir Francis Bond Head, arrived in Toronto, and with this day commences the more immediate history of the Rebellion. With Sir Francis' connections with his advisers, his futile attempt to conciliate the Reformers by the bestowal of empty office, his contemptuous reply to the address of a number of citizens of Toronto, the no less sarcastic retort which this piece of blundering evoked from the Reformers, and the gradual steps by which the Rebellion was brought about, we have nothing to do m a chapter which pretends merely to deal with the annals of the city of Toronto. But for some months after Sir Bond Head's arrival, the events which agitated the entire Province were closely connected with Toronto's history. Those events, however, have been sufficiently dealt with in former portions of this work, wherein the story of the Upper Canadian Rebellion has been told with some circumstantiality of detail.

The Municipal Council's choice of Mayor for 1837 was Mr. George Gurnett. Alderman Powell, who did the city and the Provincial Government such service by his courageous conduct, as related in the account of the Rebellion on former pages, on the memorable night of the 4th of December, received his reward at the hands of his fellow-citizens by his return for St. Andrew's Ward at the municipal elections in 1838, and by his subsequent elevation to the mayoralty, to which he was again elected in 1839 and 1840.


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