NBC – 1849.09.22 – Orange Riots – Grand Jury Presentments – #238 – F12220

The following document, addressed to the Foreman of the Grand Jury of the last August Court of Oyer and Terminer has been handed us for publication. Copies of the special and ordinary Presentments were, at the time forwarded by the Grand Jury to His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor.
Secretary’s Office, Fredericton, 15th Sept. 1849.
SIR. – I am directed by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor to inform you that he has received a copy of Presentment, with reference to the Riots of the 12th July last, made by the Grand Jury at the late Session of the Court in the City of St. John. The Lieutenant Governor thinks it necessary to make some observations on this Presentment, which he is desirous should be brought under the notice of the Magistrates both of the City and of the County.

His Excellency feels great satisfaction at the sentiments contained in the following paragraphs of the Presentment. He only trusts that the Grand Jury may err as to the extent in which the public “interests are set aside and compromised” as secondary considerations.

“That this Jury consider it their duty to express their opinion that all party processions, “more particularly processions obnoxious to large numbers of respectable freeman and “freeholders in the City, are improper – tending, as they do, to keep alive and aggravate feelings “of animosity between men on account of differences of religious belief.

“That this country does not require the aid of public processions of secret societies, “composed of men dressed in fantastic uniforms or badges, in order to preserve the Protestant “Religion: but hat, on the contrary, this Jury are of opinion that such a procession as took place in “this City on the 12th July, is unnecessary, and the results are calculated to scandalize and injure “any good cause.

“That this Jury do also express their belief, that the continuance of these party feuds has a “serious tendency to interfere with the progress and general prosperity of the Country; and they “regret to express their opinion that questions regarding the public good are set aside and “compromised as secondary considerations and that the gratification of party feelings, arising “from difference of religious opinions and of “national descent, take precedence in questions “concerning the general welfare.”

The Lieutenant Governor further agrees in thinking that the peace of the City must be protected by the strong “arm of the Law, and by that alone.” He is of opinion that this result is best attained by arraignment and impartial trial of all persons breaking that peace, or contributing to a breach of it. He cannot for a moment doubt that the bills found and the verdicts delivered at the last session of the Court, were found and delivered according to the law, the evidence, and the oaths of the respective Juries. It is obvious that all power of prevention conferred on Magistrates must be paralyzed by the existence of a belief in the absence of impartial justice.

With regard to the conduct of the Magistrates complained of in the presentment, His Excellency sees no reason to doubt that His Worship the Mayor exerted himself so far as the time and circumstances would allow him, to prevent the procession, and to hinder the interruption of it in the public streets. It is certainly deeply to be lamented that more Magistrates did not accompany the Mayor when he made these efforts, as it was the duty of one and all, in their Magisterial capacity, to lend the readiest assistance in anticipating or putting down any disturbance.

It must not be forgotten, however, that such duty is not confined to Magistrates. The Mayor, as His Excellency is informed, called on many of the inhabitants to attend and be sworn in as Special Constables, but wholly without success in procuring any efficient force. Every case of refusal or neglect so to attend at a time when the public peace was threatened was in itself an offence against the Law on the part of each person called on to act, and the blame of a breach of the peace, consequent on the want of a sufficient number of Constables, falls on the persons so refusing or neglecting, at least as much as it does on any Magistrate not attending on the Mayor at the time.

It must be remembered that whilst on the one hand no persons have the right to obstruct the public thoroughfares, so on the other, all processions or assemblages, even for a legal object, if they tend directly to promote or provoke a breach of the peace, become such as to justify the interference of the Magistrates in stopping them. All persons whatsoever resisting the Magistrates under such circumstances in the exercise of their authority, must do so at their own peril.