Lawlessness

When official social organizations and special interest groups failed to adequately protect the workers, some community members took matters into their own hands. Gang violence in young Bytown was common, as labourers banded together in order to increase their collective influence and power. Brawling between factions of new immigrants was so common that Lt. Col. By was eventually forced to pull some of his best Royal Engineers from the canal project and reassign them to street patrol in order to help quell the violence and disorder, but their influence was limited. As the violence progressed, residents formed their own Preservation of the Public Peace force, made up of 200 volunteer constables acting under the municipal council. These efforts did little to curb mounting unrest as many felt the municipal authorities targeted specific people or groups. By the time a police force was established independently of the municipal authority in 1863, Bytown was already well on its way towards stabilization, thanks in large part to the successful efforts of lobby groups to secure labour and voting rights for the poorer classes.

Points of Interest

Portrait of Justice James MacaulayEnlarge

[Source: Benedict, Clarence W., John A. Cooper, and George Wilkie. The Bench and Bar of Ontario. Toronto: n.p, 1905. CIHM/ICMH Microfiche series no. 71178, Canadiana.org. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.]

Court of Justice

James Buchanan Macaulay studied law after fighting the Americans in the War of 1812, and by 1822 was admitted to the Canadian bar. Less than a decade later he had proven his worth, and was made a permanent judge. Regarded by dignitaries like Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Bond Head as a “most excellent man and lawyer,” Macaulay presided over Bytown’s first Court of Justice, located at George Street in Ottawa’s Byward Market.

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Photograph of exterior of the Court House on Nicholas and Daly StreetsEnlarge

[Source: Court House, Nicholas and Daly Streets. William James Topley, Topley Series F, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1936-270 NPC, PA-012412]

Courthouse in Bytown

In 1841, a vote was passed by Bytown councillors to build a courthouse in Bytown on land that had been donated by Nicholas Sparks. The original modest structure was built by master mason Thomas MacKay but would be lost to a fire along with its replacement. It would not be until 1870-1871 when a new courthouse, designed by City Engineer Robert Surtees, was erected. This structure, still standing today, is located at the corner of Nicholas and Daly streets.

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Photograph of a prison cellEnlarge

[Source: Jail. William James Topley, Topley Series E,Topley Studio / Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1936-270 NPC , PA-027438]

Courthouse and Jail

There were many temporary jails in Bytown that were much darker and unsanitary than the one shown in this photo. In 1842, Thomas McKay built the first permanent jail and courthouse in Bytown, both of which were destroyed by fire some years later. In 1862, a new county jail was constructed and was used for over a century before it was officially closed in 1972. William James Topley took this photograph of an individual jail cell in February of 1895.

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