Conflict and Struggle
There were many bumps along the road to peace and equality in Bytown. One of the worst stretches of violence occurred between 1835 and 1845 when an increasing number of unemployed Irish vied for jobs in the timber industry typically held by French Canadians. Being too poor to relocate, and treated badly because of their refusal to assimilate, many Irish settlers saw no choice but to lash out violently against the French in a longstanding battle called the Shiners War. Timber baron Peter Aylen played a key role in organizing attacks on other timber camps. While early battles like this were fought over employment, later confrontations took on explicitly political overtones. Following riots in Montreal over the controversial Rebellion Losses Bill, Governor General Lord Elgin scheduled a visit in September 1849 to explore the possibility of naming Bytown the seat of parliament. Even as supporters of Lord Elgin were preparing a welcoming address for his visit, outrage from opposing Tories triggered the infamous Stoney Monday Riots. Armed with stones, sticks, muskets, firearms, and cannons, Tories (Catholics) and Reformers (Protestants) faced off over the Rideau Canal at Sappers Bridge. While the potential for extreme violence was high, the local military was largely successful in keeping the two sides a safe distance apart. Still, the threat was high enough to convince Lord Elgin to cancel his trip to Bytown, and alternative seats of parliament were explored, at least for the moment.