Lot 45 of 382:
18532 Irish Catholic riots in Canada - letter by a Yankee emigrant  

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Canadian Irish Catholic riots against anti-Vatican speeches by Italian ex-Priest – letter by American emigrant

Buck, M.A.

Montreal, Canada


Oct. 24, 1853.


Autograph Letter Signed. 6pp.To his sister in Snowsville, Vermont. 


American emigrant to Canada, after extolling the rapid growth and booming economy of Montreal, as Canada is waking up from her lethargy” and would soon “be able to compete… with her ‘Yankee neighbors’”, describes the consequences of “that unfortunate Gavazzi affair” six months earlier – the Irish Catholic riot against speeches by Italian Monk Alessandro Gavazzi who left the Church to lead an international movement against Catholicism

Gavazzi had gone into exile in England, eventually returning to Italy to join Garibaldi and establish his own “Free Church”.  Meanwhile, in 1853, he came to New York to give lectures in New York, which passed without serious incident. But when he went on to Canada, his speeches led to violent disturbances by Irish Catholic, first in Quebec, then in Montreal, where, the church where Gavazzi was speaking was attacked by rioters. After they were at first driven back by police, the Mayor of the city called out troops, who were ordered to fire on the crowd, leaving five men dead and many wounded. As Buck writes, the Mayor and officers of the troops were brought up on a charge of murder: “In anticipation of further difficulties during the trial” the authorities have got two hundred pensioners… sworn in as special constables” to assist the police “in keeping the peace of the City.” He predicted – correctly - defendants would finally be acquitted . “I don’t believe that they could get a Jury to condemn the prisoners, no matter how strong the evidence might be against them, for they would actually be afraid of losing their lives should they do so. Such is the state of things in ours which would be peaceable and quiet City were it not for a certain class of ruffians who are led on and encouraged by another much worse class, who put on their long faces and long gowns and go parading our streets with their bible under their arms. Styling themselves Roman Catholic priests, preaching to their poor and ignorant flock out of that book which they refuse their people the privilege of reading.  Had they the power to do so I really believe that they would extinguish every protestant from off the face of the earth. They are now in the majority in our City but I think the time is soon coming when they will be the minority…”

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