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Law and Order

Law, Order and the Irish in Mid Nineteenth-Century Canada

David A. Wilson
University of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, Ontario

One of the most striking things about the Irish-Canadian relationship with law and order is the wide gap between image and actuality. In the popular imagination, Irish Canadians were frequently associated with lawlessness and disorder, and acquired a reputation for hard drinking and hard fighting. This view was applied primarily to Irish Catholics, but could also be extended to Irish Protestants. Alexander MacKenzie, for example, believed that Irish "Protestants and Papists" were as bad as each other. Many of the "Orange Irish," he wrote, "would prefer the Pope as soon as anyone else, if he would supply them with plenty of Whiskey," while Irish Catholics, in his view, were feckless, lazy and violent. Read more »

Irish-Canadian Revolutionary Nationalism

David A. Wilson
University of St. Michael's College, University of Toronto, Ontario

When Patrick James Whelan was arrested in Ottawa in 1868 for the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, the two principal detectives and the police magistrate who handled the case were Irish Catholics. The crown counsel was James O'Reilly, an Irish Catholic from Kingston; ironically, Whelan was defended by the Grand Master of the Orange Order, John Hillyard Cameron. Read more »