MF – 1865.12.12 – The Lieutenant-Governor at Woodstock – Fenians – #129 – F12250
The Lieutenant-Governor at Woodstock.
His Excellency arrived at Woodstock on Friday afternoon by a special train from St. Andrews, and called a meeting of the Magistrates at Blanchard’s Hotel. We are informed that he told them, as he did the people of St. Stephens, that he believed the Fenian [organisation] was formed chiefly for the purpose of raising money, but as those who subscribed might require something to be shown them for their money, it was possible some raid might be made, and he had reason for believing that at all events it was not impossible that under pretext of Fenianism a few rascals might attempt to rob and plunder in one or two frontier towns; but when vigilance was once aroused, he believed the danger was at an end. The danger at worst was only that of something like the St. Albans raid, or the attempt to rob the Calais Bank; but it would be well to arrange before hand what should be done in case of alarm, so that there might be no surprise or confusion. He said that the danger was all from without, not from within, for every one would combine against such attacks, repugnant as they would be to all in the Province, and he concluded as follows:
When he said, “all” he said so emphatically, for he excepted those of no class, creed or race. He thought that evils far worse than those which any Fenian raid could inflict on the Province might, if care were not taken, be inflicted by the suspicions which the fear of such a raid seemed to have a tendency to excite. In a raid, no doubt, property might be destroyed, houses burned, trade injured, even some valuable lives lost; but these mischiefs, great as they undoubtedly were, the lapse of time would in no long period repair. The houses would be rebuilt, trade would revive, the places of those killed (however sadly remembered) would be filled by others; but if once class were excited against class – if, instead of one community animated by common objects and a common interest, the Province were divided into two hostile camps, viewing each other with suspicion or hatred – a mischief would have been done which time would only aggravate; for the longer such estrangement prevailed, the less mutual understanding would there be, and the animosity would only deepen with each succeeding generation. Time would only make this plague-spot more deadly – would only make it spread more widely. It was with the deepest pain that he saw some symptoms of the rise of such a spirit – of a disposition to consider that Fenianism and Roman Catholicism were in some way identified. There were those who seemed to imagine that because some Fenians were Roman Catholics, therefore all Roman Catholics were Fenians – an argument about as rational as would be the assertion that because some rich men had light-hair therefore all light-haired men were rich; or that because many Jews were honest, therefore all honest men were Jews: – very absurd statements, no doubt, but not one whit more so than the suspicion to which he referred. He happened to know that many of the Fenians were Protestants – that many more were of no religion whatever; that the Roman Catholic Bishops had earnestly denounced the association, and that consequently the Irish R. C. Bishops were among those whom the Fenians had proscribed. As Lieut. Governor he rejoiced to say, and he said so emphatically, that there was no class on whom he could more safely rely in the defence of law and order, no class to whom he would more confidently appeal in support of Her throne and honor, than Her Majesty’s Roman Catholic subjects in this Province. He had spoken very warmly on this subject, for it was one on which he felt very strongly, as a man who had very deeply at heart the welfare of the whole people and was profoundly indifferent to the trumpery party politics of the hour and the petty aims and personal struggles of those engaged in them, and who felt that the evil which might be done, should such a state of things arise, was immeasurable, and might be irreparable. For those who honestly and ignorantly entertained such prejudices, he could only regret their credulity whilst he respected their sincerity; but of those (in such there be) who, God forgive them! knowing better, trade for their own ends on the credulity of others, he would say that they were inflicting a wound on their country which neither they nor their children would see healed; sowing a bitter harvest for future generations to reap and earning for themselves the contempt and execration of all honest men.