The Canadian Tory Rebellion of 1849 and the demise of street politics in Toronto

Peter J. Way, University of Windsor


Discusses the demise of the political street violence in Toronto, Ontario, conducted by Tory supporters and their Orange Lodge allies, following Canadian Governor General Lord Elgin's approval in 1849 of the Rebellion Losses Bill, which was intended to compensate victims of the Rebellion of 1837-38. Toronto had a history of popular, violent political street protests that had been given tacit approval by the city's Tory government and establishment. When riots broke out after Lord Elgin's assent to the passage of the bill, which was sponsored by the rival Reformers and bitterly opposed by the Tories, civic officials finally broke ranks with their Orange working-class supporters by prosecuting many of the participants. The Tory establishment had realized that the bedrock of their political beliefs - loyalty to the queen and England - was undermined by riotous demonstrations that defied law and order and were directed against the queen's representative in Canada, Lord Elgin. "This assertion of law and order over sectarian conflict marked a significant shift in the city's politics.