Friday, October 31, 2014

Hallowe'en traditions

Gee, it's coming to be a tradition: reposting my 2006 post of an 1885 Hallowe'en in Toronto:
The Monday edition reported breathlessly that police constable Jenkinson, making his rounds at Parliament and Gerrard late that night, had discovered a nude female body hanging from a meat hook outside a butcher shop. “Great ghosts!” the Globe reports him as saying.
The Globe writers, on behalf of Victorian decency, seems to have been genuinely horrified. “Suppose a delicate lady had to pass an exhibition of this kind. The result would have been terrible.” 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

History of hockey (all the time)

Could that be Johnny Bower there?

Did the Franklin expedition take a hockey team to the Northwest Passage?  Puckstruck ("the culture of hockey and vice versa") is on the story, When will the Parks Canada divers bring up that stash of hockey sticks in the holds of Erebus?

While we are waiting, Jughead want to play for you "Hockeyhockeyhockeyhockey hockey all the time":

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Blogger actually gets some work done on the side

Always a warm fuzzy moment when the courier drops off the first copy of your new book.Just in time, too as the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and UTP are launching my Court of Appeal for Ontario next Tuesday. If you were a member, you would be invited and a copy would be on the way to you.

A favourite passage at the moment:

On 12 October 1938, Crown counsel Clifford Magone was having a bad day in court. Trying to argue an appeal, he found himself constantly interrupted by questions from William R. Riddell, who was acting chief justice of Ontario during Chief Justice Rowell’s illness. Eventually Justice Robert Fisher came to the lawyer’s aid, declaring that he would like to hear Mr Magone set out his case uninterrupted.
“I intend to ask counsel any questions I wish,” said Riddell, “without any objections from my brother judges.”
Fisher declared that Riddell’s interruptions were quite improper.
“I don’t care a tuppence for you,” said Riddell, who was eighty-six and had been a judge since 1906.
“I don’t care a tuppence for you,” retorted Fisher, who was seventy-three and had been a judge since 1922.
In the end, the three-judge panel (the third was Cornelius Masten, who was eighty-one) dismissed the Crown’s appeal, and Riddell and Fisher were reported to be smiling and chatting by the end. But “Don’t Care Tuppence” became a Toronto Star headline the next day, with photos of the two judges.
The incident nicely captured the reputation the Court of Appeal developed in the 1930s: elderly, anglophile, crotchety, and self-indulgent. The Star story also noted that among official circles in Ottawa, the story provoked only “amusement and reminiscences.” One justice department official joked that since neither justice cared tuppence, it was a unanimous verdict and could not be appealed.
Full disclosure: the rest of the book is not such a laff-riot all the way through. Still, judicial humour is where you find it.

Prize Watch: Chalmers to Donald Smith for Mississauga Portraits

The Chambers Award for the best book on Ontario history has been awarded to Donald B. Smith of the University of Calgary for his Mississauga Portraits: Ojibwe Voices from Nineteenth-Century Ontario.

Congratulations, Don (and faint blush here because, though the book is all his, the title was somewhat influenced by the title of a book of mine.)

The book is from University of Toronto Press. The image at right is from the website of the Champlain Society, which administers the Chalmers Award, and made the presentation recently

Leadership notes

  • Toronto mayoral loser Doug Ford says he may seek the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, currently open.  It has been estimated Ford spent as much as $500,000 of his own money in losing the mayor's race. With another $500,000, Ford could purchase 50,000 memberships in the PC party and buy the win without even campaigning.  Frankly, it would look good on them (and the whole stupid process) if he did.  Update Oct 30: apparently the party has made rule to prevent that. And party leadership spending rules are always respected and enforced, sure they are.

  • Meanwhile, the Manitoba government seems to be having one of those squalid moments when most of the cabinet and caucus wants their leader gone, but the leader does not accept that he is accountable to the majority of the people's elected representatives. Looks like the NDP will spend the next six months destroying itself. My suggestion (one retweet so far -- not setting the world on fire!):

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Security and Parliament

In the wake of the killings in St-Jean and Ottawa last week, the government is moving to empower security services to act with less restraint -- even to have the legal right to act illegally, somehow.

It was heartening the other day to read Benjamin Perrin argue that "our laws are up to the task – we must resist the urge to overreact in the coming days."

That's doubly heartening because Perrin is connected. He's a recent legal counsel in the Prime Minister's Office. You expect all those guys to be ready-aye-ready cheerleaders for the boss. But of course Perrin is able to speak frankly because he is now Professor Perrin, out of the PMO and working at a law school.

He reminds me of all those retired MPs who tell Samara there has to be more independence for MPs. Somehow they get the faith after they leave the job.

If the government proceeds rapidly with these security changes, it's easy to foresee the opposition leaders rolling over with some token protests. It's hard for a political party leader to stand up against the stampede of popular opinion in the midst of a crisis -- particularly on the verge of a national campaign.

That, actually, is what parliaments are for, standing up against stampedes in the midst of hysteria, reining in poll-driven leaders. Some years ago I profiled Adam Tomkins, a British scholar who sees the value of parliaments that are able to review and contest the doings of government, parliaments in which even government backbenchers understand the difference between the government and the legislature:
Tomkins cites the British anti-terrorism law passed in the wake of September 11, 2001. He thinks it is terrible legislation, brutal and nasty and rushed through by a majority government in a climate of panic. But he notes that, even under those circumstances, Parliament sought independent testimony on the matter, formed independent judgements and imposed significant changes on the bill the government wanted.
It was not the leader of the opposition who led that effort. It was backbenchers, government backbenchers as well as opposition ones, who saw bad legislation and accepted their responsibility to make it better. Because they could, and because it's what parliamentarians are there for.
This sort of thing happens all the time in real parliamentary democracies where leaders are accountable to caucuses and governments are accountable to legislatures.

We don't even have the language to discuss this kind of thing in Canada. Our journalists and columnists cannot even comprehend the possibility of backbenchers -- somewhat insulated, as leaders are not, from last night's polling data -- who have minds of their own and might act on principle to restrain and correct over-reactions by government.  They'd start writing columns about coups d'etat and leaders too weak to discipline their flocks.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine which Conservative backbencher might stand up and say, "You know, Benj Perrin is right. We don't need to pass panicky new laws; the government needs to use the ones it has better."  And be taken seriously, and build a bloc of support within caucus, and start to generate interest among some opposition backbenchers.

Not having that kind of parliament, we don't really encourage that kind of parliamentarian.  But it has to start somewhere. And every MP takes an oath to serve parliament, not to kiss the leader's ass.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book notes: Young on patricians

I know little of this book, but I heard some mutual friends were going to the book launch in Montreal the other day, And on his track record I'm prepared to take an interest.

I thought Brian Young's biography of George-Etienne Cartier was really enlightening years ago, and his study of the Quebec Civil Code, which does not sound exciting, actually kinda was, and there was a book about a cemetery, and a kind of polemic about universities and museums, and a survey text. (Info on his books here.) The new one is a study of "two elite families in the making of Quebec" and since Brian Young really does not do celebrity history, it should have things to say.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book notes: Warkentin on Radisson

If you were a member of the Champlain Society like you ought to be, yesterday you would have received a handsome red-bound copy of Volume 2 of Germaine Warkentin's edition of the collected works of Pierre-Esprit Radisson in your mailbox, as I did.

But did you have to be a member a couple of years ago to also have Volume 1? Actually, no. Join now and you can have both, it sez here.

History of being part of the crazy

Never anticipated this when I put up a website and started a blog about Canadian history:
Hi Mr. Moore, I hope that this e-mail finds you well. I am a producer for “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” at the Fox News Channel.  I am reaching out to you to see if you would be available tonight, in the 7p ET hour, to come on with our guest host, Kimberly Guilfoyle to discuss the shootings that occurred today. We can do the interview from anywhere in the world via satellite. If you could please let me know of interest and availability, I would appreciate it! Thank you! Sincerely,
xxxxxxx"On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren"
"No thanks."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Prize Watch: Toronto Book Award to Charlotte Gray

... for her pretty nifty The Massey Murder, about a young woman who whacked Bert Massey on his own doorstep in 1915 and got clean away with it.

It was co-published by the very serious Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, and the OS blog has all the deets.

History of mirror years

Take the year in which you were born. From that date, subtract your current age.  That's your mirror year.  Your birth was as close to that date as to today's date. It seems a bit obvious until you start doing the calculations.

Seeing how distant your mirror year is, you sense afresh how much history you have lived through. Your average baby-boomer (hello!) who probably thinks of the Second World War as history, was born as close to the 1880s as to today. But it can be pretty shocking for quite young people too.

At History Today, Chris Lowry works out some of the implications.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Canada150's Confederation mini-movies

Heritage Canada has nine new Canada150 ads up on YouTube and some at least in regular
rotation on your screens.  I dunno, I kinda liked this one.

But Andrew Coyne's quick review here:
Someone promptly responded that there is indeed a George Brown episode among 'em.  Right. But it's pretty dire.  "I was premier. Twice. [?] But I got tired of it, so I joined John A. Macdonald.  Then I died."

Update, October 24:  James Muir, from History and Law at the University of Alberta, writes:  "I agree, the Brown video is dour, but not much more than the others. They actually make for a decidedly uninteresting set of videos. A bunch of men standing on their own, not moving, lit from behind (usually)  and describing themselves as if they are ghosts reflecting on their lives and deaths

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

History of women and money

CBC News takes note of Merna Forster's campaign to get the Bank of Canada to acknowledge that there are some women from Canadian history worth featuring on the money. The petition is here

Update, October 24: 22 Minutes -- who are on fire lately --  nailed it too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

History of blogging

I thought this blog began around the beginning of November 2004.  Checking back, I see the first post was actually dated October 8, 2004.

Ten years

History of Anglicans: Ridley College at 125

At the private Catholic boys school where I did my high school years, the understanding was that there were Catholics and then there was a vast undifferentiated mass of non-Catholics all pretty much blurred together. It was something of a surprise to me some years later, to encounter an Anglican with a precisely reversed perspective: she saw the world as C of E and then everyone else. I’m not sure it had much to do with theology or faith in either case. For the Catholics it was a tribal loyalty; for my friend it was maybe more tinged with class consciousness.

Much later, the DCB asked me to write its Volume 15 entry on one Newman Hoyles. Hoyles was being included mostly for his legal career, which I knew something about. But I became intrigued to encounter through him another Christian subdivision I’d never really considered before: the low and the high Anglicans, and particularly the feud between them in Toronto and Ontario in the late 19th century.

As I now understand this (mostly from my immersion in Hoyles), low Anglicans were/are “protestant:” evangelical, anti-hierarchical, and aspiring to a direct, unmediated experience of faith, while the high Anglicans were/are “Anglo-Catholic:” respectful of hierarchy, convinced of the wisdom of authority and received tradition, and not entirely accepting that there had ever really been a “protestant” schism between Rome and Canterbury. (There is a good deal of scholarship, notably by Curtis Fahey and Alan Hayes, to put this corner of Canadian church history much better.)
Anyway, my man Newman W. Hoyles was not at all low society but he was very much low Anglican. Alongside his career in the law, he lent much time to helping build up low-Anglican institutions to parallel the high-Anglican ones Ontario had inherited from the Bishop Strachan/established church/clergy reserve times. By the end of Hoyles's career, the low Anglicans had Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto to match the high Anglican Trinity. They had the elite girls’ school Havergal as their alternative to Bishop Strachan School. They had the Evangelical Churchman to balance whatever the high Anglican paper was called.
And in 1889 they launched the private boys’ school Ridley College in St. Catharines to counter Upper Canada College in Toronto. Newman Hoyles, then 45 and established in both his legal career and his low-Anglican good works, was very much involved. The name alone suggests what the evangelical Anglicans thought of Anglo-Catholicism. None of that Cardinal Newman stuff for them: poor Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake in England during the Catholic restoration under Queen Mary. My tribal-Catholic remnant found this all two-churches-in-one thoroughly implausible, but my more dominant historian side was kinda charmed.

Which is all to say that this year Ridley College school (not just boys any more) is observing its 125th birthday, and I was asked if I’d like to take note. Duly noted.