Thursday, October 30, 2008

Politics and my ancestors

Politics was never a big topic of discussion in our household. I have always voted since I became eligible and as far as I know so did my parents.

To find out the political leanings of some of my early ancestors in Canada, I turned to Markham, 1793-1900 and the chapter "Tories, Reformers and Rebels".

By the time of the Rebellion of 1837, two parties had formed -- the Tories and the Reformers. Voting took several days and up to a week as long as there was at "least one vote per hour".

To quote from the book

The organization of gangs to intimidate voters, the provision of free liquor in the taverns during election week, wholesale impersonation, bribery, the issuing of false land deeds to create voters, all made a mockery of the voting process.

The secret ballot did not exist at that time. In the 1832, election James E. Small (Tory) and William Lyon Mackenzie (Reformer) and one independent ran for the legislature to represent York County. In the list from Markham Township (p.188) none of my ancestors voted for the Tory candidate. On the list of supporters for Mackenzie, I find Josiah Hemingway, Peter Hemingway, and Henry Stiver. Also on the list were some of the other Berczy settlers and descendants.

Isabel Champion, Markham, 1793-1900. Markham, ON : Markham Historical Society, 1979.

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