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Saint John

Saint John: The Making of a Colonial Urban Community

Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 326
  • Book Info
    Saint John
    Book Description:

    T.W. Acheson traces the events that lead to the change and analyses their impact on the community.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5967-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
    T.W. Acheson
  4. MAP
    (pp. x-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    In the half-century following Waterloo a significant anglophone society emerged in British North America. The small scattered remnants of the Second British Empire, anchored around the strongholds of Quebec City and Halifax, rapidly evolved from frontier fragility into complex colonial societies. A population of perhaps half a million in 1815 grew to nearly three-and-a-quarter million by 1860, a growth rate far exceeding that in any other comparable period of Canadian history since 1700; in Upper Canada and the Maritimes population rose by 750 per cent.¹

    Land settlement and trade values experienced even more striking rates of growth.² The engine that...

  6. 1 The Urban Economy
    (pp. 10-26)

    The American Revolution and the St John River were the cardinal facts that led to the creation of the port of Saint John. The city was built on the estuary of a major river system and was created as the outpost and regional centre for a defeated imperial power. Like most early Canadian towns, Saint John was a planted community designed to encourage a more general settlement in the area, and its initial form bore the marks of the familiar grid pattern preferred by the engineers of the British army.¹ The early economy was dominated by the imperial fact. The...

  7. 2 The Common Council
    (pp. 27-47)

    Like the early economy, the political institutions of Saint John were formed in response to imperial needs and reflected the structure of their English counterparts. Saint John became an instant centre of population in 1783 with the arrival of some thousands of refugee Loyalists from New York. That fact alone would not have ensured the creation of urban political institutions: communities the size of Montreal, Quebec, Halifax, and later Toronto were governed as rural parishes well into the nineteenth century. Saint John received the institutional form of a city in 1785 when Thomas Carleton, the new governor of New Brunswick,...

  8. 3 The Merchant and the Social Order
    (pp. 48-66)

    At the centre of the mercantile economy of early nineteenth-century Saint John was a merchant élite that played a central role in determining the economic priorities of the city. The Saint John experience paralleled that of most eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English and North American ports. Indeed, the most powerful statement in mid-twentieth-century Canadian historiography is Donald Creighton’s depiction of the Montreal merchant élite as the primary nation builders of the first half of the nineteenth century.¹ While Creighton’s view of the motives of this élite has recently been challenged by Gerald Tulchinsky, perceptions of their influence and social position remain...

  9. 4 Bone and Sinew: The Artisans and the Social Order
    (pp. 67-91)

    If merchants and merchant leaders were able to dominate the community agenda, particularly before 1840, the opposition to this domination came not from the manual labourers dependent on their system but from the producers’ interest. That interest bound together a number of status groups, ranging from apprentice artisans to shopkeepers to established small manufacturers, led by a petite bourgeoisie of small masters. It is an interest that Michael Katz described as a class in his early work on mid-nineteenth-century Hamilton; in his later study of Hamilton and Buffalo he argued that the journeymen and masters were members of competing classes.¹...

  10. 5 Irishmen and Bluenoses
    (pp. 92-114)

    In most North American nineteenth-century towns, the strength and impact of interest and class were mediated by the influence of ethnicity and religion. Indeed, while a variety of explanations have been offered, detailed studies of mid-century Philadelphia demonstrate that powerful cultures centred on the traditions of native evangelicalism and Irish Catholicism dominated the public life of that city.¹ Similar though less well-documented conclusions may be drawn for New York, Boston, and Toronto.² The general conclusion seems clear: before 1860 the effect of economic concerns was largely confined to the work place; the perceptions of most urban dwellers were generally informed...

  11. 6 The Evangelical Movement
    (pp. 115-137)

    The ethno-religious tradition of Irish Roman Catholicism provided a powerful source of primary identification for a significant part of the population of Saint John by the mid-nineteenth century. Another equally powerful tradition was evangelicalism. Saint John evangelicalism was distinguished by its catholicity.¹ It drew from American, English, Scottish, and Irish sources and from every Protestant denomination in the city. Focused on a few well-defined, powerful ideas, it came closest of any philosophy to reflecting the spirit and temper of the age. Evangelicals did not react against the moral decay of the city; rather they saw it as an opportunity they...

  12. 7 Temperance
    (pp. 138-159)

    Of all the institutional expressions of Saint John evangelicalism, none revealed so fully the program and problems of the culture as the temperance movement. The movement proceeded from a variety of motives and found its constituency across the whole spectrum of the social order. As in other cities, some employers used it as a means to improve the productivity of their employees. But the strength of the movement is understandable only in terms of the world-view of evangelicals and, to a lesser extent, of an uprooted Irish peasantry. The most radical temperance solutions originated among the most radical evangelicals and...

  13. 8 Education
    (pp. 160-177)

    Education, like temperance, was one of the movements for betterment that characterized the nineteenth century in most English-speaking societies. Both movements contributed in significant ways to the debate over community in Saint John because they placed activities previously viewed as matters of private discretion into the public sphere. The nurture of the young at the beginning of the century was a private undertaking carried out at the discretion of parents or guardians. Over the next half-century, no educational system emerged but parents were offered a number of options for their children, almost all of them subsidized in some fashion by...

  14. 9 The Anatomy of Political Reform
    (pp. 178-196)

    Temperance and education were two of the great urban reform movements of mid-nineteenth-century Saint John. The third was that of the civic political institutions. The demand for reform of public institutions had become endemic throughout the empire by mid-century, and the passage of the English Municipal Reform Act in 1835 made the notion of municipal reform not only possible but even respectable.¹ The conditions that precipitated the English act – the growing urban network, the claims of corruption, and the perceived inadequacies of ancient charter and custom – were present in Saint John.² To the demands of interest, class, and...

  15. 10 Private Capital and Public Purposes
    (pp. 197-213)

    All nineteenth-century cities were woefully underfinanced.¹ As the discussion in the preceding chapter has demonstrated, the Saint John council was forced to borrow heavily to provide the public works required in the expanding city. The city fathers of Saint John, like those of most British and British North American cities, did not attempt the development of public resources such as utilities and harbours.² Merchant ownership of the harbour wharves, the most valuable resource in any port, is used by Edward Pessen to demonstrate élite control of the city,³ and the fact that the question never became an issue in Saint...

  16. 11 Policing the City
    (pp. 214-229)

    Public order was a primary mandate of the Common Council. Those responsible for its maintenance were the link between the formal urban structures and the informal activities of citizens.¹ As the city evolved, the ward-based administration gave way to a city-wide system increasingly directed by professional barristers and policemen. The question of what values should or could be imposed on the city came to the fore, as did debate over the benefits received by the different elements of the urban society. Social control was certainly a central part of the constabulary’s function, but it is not altogether clear that any...

  17. 12 The People of a Loyalist City
    (pp. 230-243)

    The population of Saint John was the product of a half-dozen major groups of people. Pre-Loyalist and Loyalist Americans, trickles of Scots and English, rural New Brunswickers and Nova Scotians, and more than 100,000 Irishmen moved in successive waves into port. Most continued on within a few years. The minority that remained constituted powerful islands of stability in the midst of the general transiency that characterized most North American nineteenth-century societies, and contributed to the stratification within a social system where, by mid-century, third-generation Loyalists and Scots interacted with famine-Irish migrants.

    The dimensions of that stratification are revealed in the...

  18. Conclusion
    (pp. 244-250)

    Between 1815 and 1860, Saint John made the transition from town to city. By the latter date, it was already into what in retrospect would be viewed as a ‘golden age’ of affluence and prestige. The transformation occurred very quickly; the adjustments that the people and institutions of this small port made, or were forced to make, provide some insight into the process of nineteenth-century urban growth and into the problem of maintaining community in the face of that process. A number of questions arise in connection with this transformation. How does a traditional society hold together as it rapidly...

  19. Appendix
    (pp. 251-266)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 267-306)
  21. Index
    (pp. 307-314)