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CRIMINOLOGY 

Professor John Hagan 
and 

Professor Rosemary Gartner 


1988 - 89 


Faculty of Law 
University of Toronto 
































FACULTY OF LAW LIBRARY 
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 


CRIMINOLOGY 

Professor John Hagan 
and 

Professor Rosemary Gartner 


1988 - 89 


Faculty of Law 
University of Toronto 



CRIMINOLOGY 


LAW 2 4 2S: 

Professors John Hagan and 
Rosemary Gartner 

Table of Contents 

Phillips, "Poverty, unemployment, and the administration of the 
criminal law: vagrants and vagrancy laws in Halifax, 1864-1890." 

Sherman & Berk, "The specific deterrent effects of arrest for 
domestic assault." American Sociological Review , 1984, 49: 261- 

272. 

Crocker, "The meaning of equality for battered women who kill men 
in self-defense." Harvard Women’s Law Journal. 1985, 8:121-153. 

Johnson, "Wife abuse." Canadian Social Trends. 1988, Spring:17- 

20 . 

Gurr, "Historical trends in violent crime: A critical review of 
the evidence.” Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research. 
3:295-353. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. 

Lane, "Urban police in 19th-Century America." Crime and Justice. 
1980. 2:1-44. 

Bursik, "Social disorganization and theories of crime and 
delinquency: Problems and prospects." Criminology . 1988, 26 : 

519-552. 

Clarke and Cornish, "Modeling offenders’ decisions: A framework 
for research and policy." Pp. 147-185 in M. Tonrv and N. 

Morris (eds) , Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research. 
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. 

Hirschi, "On the compatibility of rational choice and social 
control theories of crime." Pp. 105-118 in The Reasoning 

Criminal . 

Norrie, "Practical reasoning and criminal responsibility: A 
jurisprudential approach." Pp. 217-230 in The Reasoning 
Criminal. 

Carroll and Weaver, "Shoplifters’ perceptions of crime 
opportunities: A process-tracing study." Pp. 19-37 in The 

Reasoning Criminal. 

Hagan and Parker, "White collar crime and punishment." American 
Sociological Review. 1985, 50:302-316. 

Wheeler and Rothman. "The organization as weapon in white-collar 
crime." Michigan Law Review. 1982, 80:1403-1426. 





















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in 2018 with funding from 
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Black, "Crime as social control." American Sociological Review. 
1983, 48: 34-45. 


Baumgartner, "Social control from below 
Theory of Social Control. Donald Black 
Press, 1983. 


" In 
( ed ) . 


Toward a Genera l 
New York: Academic 


Smith and Uchida, "The social 
American Sociological Review. 


organization of self-help 
1988, 53: 94-102. 


it 


Shearing, "Subterranean processes in the maintenance of power: An 
examination of the mechanisms coordinating police action." 
Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology. 1981, 18:283-298. 


Cohen and Felson, "Social change and crime rate trends: A routine 
activity approach." American Sociological Review. 1979, 44: 

588-608. 


Hindelang, et al, Chapter 11, Victims of Personal Crime: An 
Empirical Foundation for a Theory of Personal Victimization. 


Cressey, "The^differential association theory and compulsive 
crimes." Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police 
Science . 1954, 45:49-64. 

Glaser, "Criminality theories and behavioral images." American 
Journal of Sociology. 1956, 61:433-444. 

Martinson, "What works? Questions and answers about prison 
reform." Public Interest. 1974. 35:22-54. 

Platt, " The triumph of benevolence: The origins of the .juvenile 
justice system in the U.S." In Richard Quinnev (ed) Criminal 
Justice in America. Boston: Little Brown, 1974. 

Lemert, "Diversion in juvenile justice: What hath been wrought." 
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. January 1981, 34- 

Gottfredson and Hirschi, "The true value of lambda would appear 
to be zero: An essay on career criminals, criminal careers, 
selective incapacitation, cohort studies and related topics." 
Criminology. 1986, 24:213-233. 

Blurastein, Cohen and Farrington. "Criminal career research: Its 
value for criminology." Criminology. 1988, 26:1-36. 


































POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE CRIMINAL 
LAW: VAGRANTS AND VAGRANCY LAWS IN HALIFAX, 1864-1890 

Jim Phillips 

Vagrancy was one of the most common .offences for which 
residents of late nineteenth century Halifax were committed to the 
city prison at Rockhead, more than 1,400 incarcerations occurring 
between 1864 and 1890. Prostitutes, strangers, pr o.f essi onal 
mendicants, and the able-bodied unemployed - all were susceptible 
to classification as vagrants. Like their counterparts in urban 
centres throughout North America, members of the Halifax middle 
class perceived in the vagrant a growing threat to social 
discipline and turned in part to the criminal justice system to 
impose their notions of order and respectability on this segment 
of the urban poor. 

This article examines the characteristics of the vagrant 
class and the operation of vagrancy laws in later nineteenth- 
century Halifax, a period that witnessed the beginnings of 
industrialisation, considerable population growth, out-migration 
from the rural hinterland of Nova Scotia, and new approaches to 
providing for the urban poor. Statistical evidence on rates of 
incarceration, analyses of the ethnic, geographical and religious 
origins of the convicted, sentencing practices, and official and 
popular reactions to vagrants are used to assess their place in 
society. Of particular concern is middle-class reaction to the 
emerging lower working class - unskilled labourers uprooted from 
traditional occupations and communities yet, transient and often 
unemployed, without a regular place in the new industrialising 


1 







society. The administration of vagrancy laws in this period is 
best interpreted as part of a broader process of social control 
which involved enuring these members of the lower classes to 
bourgeois notions of industry, sobriety and respectability. 

Nova Scotians Vagrancy Laws 

Colonial Nova Scotia enacted its first vagrancy law just a 
year after the establishment of the Assembly in 1758. A 1759 Act 
providing for a workhouse in Halifax required JPs to 'commit to 
the said house of correction, ...all disorderly and idle persons, 
and such who shall be found begging, ... common drunkards, persons 
of lewd behaviour, vagabonds, runaways, stubborn servants and 
children, and persons who notoriously mispend their time to the 
neglect and prejudice of their own or their family's support.' 1 
It was closely modelled on English statutes, which by the mid¬ 
eighteenth century focussed on the vagrant as a status criminal, 
one who threatened social order by an unacceptab1e, though not 
otherwise illegal, lifestyle, or by appearing likely to commit 
other crimes. 2 In similar vein a successor statute of 1774 , 'for 
punishing Rogues, Vagabonds, and other Idle and Disorderly 
Persons' laid down eight categories of offenders to be deemed 
'idle and wandering persons', including those who ran away and 
burdened the community with supporting their families, those who 
'not having wherewith to maintain themselves, live idle and refuse 
to work for the usual wages', and all beggars. Sentence was one 
month in the prison or workhouse with hard labour. 3 

These statutes provided a comprehensive vagrancy law for the 
colony and stayed in operation until their repeal with Nova 






Scotia's first statutory revision in 1851. They were replaced by a 
single section of a short Act dealing with 'madmen and vagrants', 
which stated: * 

Persons who unlawfully return to any place whence they 
have been legally removed as paupers, and idle and 
wandering persons having no visible means of 
subsistence, and persons going about to beg alms, shall 
severally be deemed common vagrants, and may be brought 
up and summarily convicted by a justice of the peace, 
and thereupon imprisoned by not more than one month. 

This provision was reproduced at each subsequent pre¬ 
confederation statutory consolidation. It was supplemented for 
Halifax by the City Charter, which permitted the City Court to 
sentence 'common beggars' to 10 days for the first offence, 90 
days for subsequent offences, and 'vagabonds' for up to a year. = 
In 1869 the federal parliament passed a Vagrancy Act as part 
of the pre-codification campaign to consolidate the criminal 
law. It was intended primarily to punish immorality and control 
those who threatened to commit crimes, with a secondary emphasis 
on the suppression of begging and a reduction of charges on poor 
relief systems. Included in its sweeping definition were 'all 
common prostitutes or night walkers...not giving a satisfactory 
account of themselves', brothel-keepers, and persons who 'for the 
most part support themselves by gaming or crime or by the avails 
of prostitution'. All were to be 'deemed vagrants, loose, idle or 
disorderly persons', as were, inter aiia, 'Calll idle persons who, 
not having visible means of maintaining themselves, live without 
employment'. The penalty on conviction was a maximum 2-month 
prison term, with or without hard labour, - or a maximum $50 fine, 
or both. s Later amendments toughened up the law. In 1874 the 
maximum term of imprisonment was extended to six months. In 1881, 






— I—. 



.judicial doubting of the power to sentence to hard labour brought 
another, one-section, amending Act to confirm it.' 7 ’ Throughout 
this period vagrants were caught not only by federal law, but also 
by provincial and municipal laws because the types of offences 
falling under vagrancy were susceptible to concurrent jurisdicton 
under section 92(14) of the British North America Act - the power 
of the provinces to make laws to punish contraventions of 
provincial statutes enacted under another s.92 head of authority. 
This authority was judicially confirmed in 1888 in Wj.nsl.ow v 
GalJ_aqher and later again i n v Munroe.® 

The new legislation was welcomed in a number of quarters. The 
Chief Constable of Toronto, for example, commented that 'if 
strictly enforced’, it would ’tend more to the prevention of crime 
than any Acts hitherto passed by the legislature’A Halifax 
newspaper claimed that it would ’bring the street corner loafers 
and users of bad language within range of a healthy amount of 
judicious restraint and punishment’. 10 

Historians and Nineteenth-Century Vagrancy Laws 

Most studies of the operation of vagrancy laws in Britain and 
the United States have depicted them as overt instruments of 
ruling class control. To orthodox Marxist historians they 
represent a mechanism for disciplining the large numbers of 
unemployed and underemployed necessary to the operation of a 
capitalist labour market. Industrial capitalism needed this 
’reserve army’ both to discipline its workers and to maintain low 
wages, and required also a means of controlling that army. Sidney 
Harring argues that the various ’Tramp Acts’ passed from the 1870s 


4 








onwards 'offer a classic example of class legislation - thart is, 
laws specifically designed by one class to be used as weapons in 
controlling a weaker class'. 11 Others provide a subtler, but in 
many respects similar, interpretation, seeing the vagrancy laws as 
the means by which the Victorian middle classes imposed 
'respectable' values on those who threatened the comfortable and 
settled bourgeois world of church, community, and industry. Paul 
Boyer presents a 'social control' thesis, depicting an urban 
middle class struggle to combat apprehended disorder in the new 
industrial cities through a mixture of repression, self-help based 
charity, and institutions for the inculcation of morality and 
discipline. A similar interpretation is offered by a variety of 
local studies; Friedman and Percival, for example, conclude from 
the evidence of one California county that 'as the police 
patrolled the streets looking for vagrants, brawlers and drunks, 
they were also patrolling the moral and social edges of society, 
trawling for deviance, enforcing standard norms of good bourgeois 
conduct' . 

Despite such interpretive differences, common threads can be 
discerned in the work of all who have examined vagrancy in late- 
nineteenth century America. There is general agreement that 
America 'discovered' the vagrant problem in the depression years 
of the 18705, and that the level of concern about them 
corresponded with fluctuations in the economy. The importance of 
the vagrant lay not in what he or she represented, be that social 
unrespectabi 1 i ty, outlawism, or nascent labour radicalism. 
American society responded to the vagrant 


'menac e' 


principally 




F.ir.V 




with repression - long prison terms with hard labour - but also 
through an expansion of public and private charity, albeit charity 
which came increasingly to stress the importance of a labour 
test. 13 Vagrants presented similar problems to late nineteenth- 
century British society. 'To many Victorians', argues David 
Jones, 'the vagrant was the most glaring affront to the trinity of 
work, respectability and religion', even though 'a degree of 
mobility and homelessness was an inevitable part of the change 
from a rural to an urban and industrial society.' 1 ** 

In the only Canadian work on vagrants in the later nineteenth 
century James Pitsula paints a picture very similar to the 
American canvas: the number of vagrants greatly increased in the 
1870s, the incidence of vagrancy fluctuated with economic 
conditions, and their presence was met with a combination of 
middle-class private charity and public repression. Adopting a 
social control model he argues that 'the tramp symbolised 
rejection of the work ethic and middle class values', and that 'if 
social order was to be preserved, this rebellious figure had to be 
suppressed.' 13 This article comes to similar conclusions about 
another of Canada's major cities. While acknowledging that a 
variety of forces helped to shape the use of criminal sanctions 
against vagrants, I argue that the principal determinant was, as 
elsewhere, fear of the vagrant as a deviant, disruptive force, a 
fear that was manifested despite the limited degree of 
industrial 1 sation in Halifax during these years. 

IfDELiSSDCDgQt for Vagrancy^ i§&4zii!iQ 

Table 1 breaks down incarceration statistics 1S into three 


6 








principal categories - .vagrants, drunkenness and 'others'. 1 ' 7 ’ The 
percentage figure on the extreme right represents vagrancy as a 
percentage of all committals excluding those for drunkenness, 
which were always the most numerous. This separation demonstrates 


TABLE ONE: RETURNS OF COMMITTALS IQ THE CITY PRISON^. 1§64 = 1890 

VAGRANTS 


Year 

Female 

Mai e 

Total 

Drunk 

Others 

Total. 

7. * 

1864 

59 

34 

93 

173 

173 

439 

jj . U 

1865 

49 

29 

78 

264 

172 

514 

31.2 

1866 

57 

30 

87 

240 

202 

529 

30 . 1 

1867 

53 

46 

99 

119 

215 

rUU 

31.5 

1868 

40 

43 

83 

231 

206 

520 

28.7 

1869 

22 

38 

60 

255 

184 

499 

24.6 

1870 

26 

23 

49 

310 

183 

542 

21.1 

1871 

14 

21 

35 

304 

170 

509 

17.1 

1872 

21 

27 

48 

326 

21 1 

cnc 

JOJ 

18.5 

1873 

31 

35 

66 

246 

21 0 

5 2-2- 

24.0 

1874 

38 

27 

65 

282 

169 

516 

27.8 

1875 

28 

27 

55 

302 

171 

528 

24.3 

1876 

24 

33 

57 

305 

264 

626 

17.7 

1877 

22 

33 

55 

265 

214 

534 

20 . 4 

1878 

29 

63 

92 

273 

205 

570 

31.0 

1879 

37 

50 

87 

243 

205 

nr cr 
JuJ 

29.3 

1880 

26 

36 

62 

245 

223 

530 

21.7 

1881 

11 

15 

26 

186 

175 

387 

13.0 

1882 

9 

14 

23 

229 

167 

419 

12 . 1 

1883 

16 

9 

25 

167 

1 40 

LJ Lj 

15 . 1 

1884 

9 

21 

30 

163 

109 

302 

21.6 

1885 

6 

18 

24 

199 

145 

363 

14.2 

1886 

6 

24 

30 

149 

128 

307 

1 9 . 0 

1887 

5 

15 

20 

1 00 

115 

•“.ncr 

J 

14.8 

1888 

8 

13 

21 

104 

1 16 

241 

15.3 

1889 

15 

16 

31 

142 

150 

wJ -b- 

17 . 1 

1890 

15 

10 

25 

188 

143 

ncr/: 

JJ O 

14.9 


TOTAL 676 

750 

1,426 

6,010 4, 

764 

12,200 

23.0 

* Of vagrancy to 

all inc 

ar c er at i 

ons, excluding 

drunkenness 



that 23 per cent of incarcerations for the more serious petty 
crimes were for vagrancy. In some years - notably 1867 and 1879 


7 









- it was the most frequent cause of committals other than 
drunkenness, and rarely did it fall below second or third in 
importance. Measured by total committals males were more commonly 
offenders against the vagrancy laws, although only marginally so - 
52.6 to 47.4 ger cent. These are high rates for women. Rachel 
Vorspan demonstrates that 85 ger cent of vagrants convicted in 
England during the second half of the nineteenth century were men; 
the equivalent figure for Massachusetts between 1866 and 1873 was 
75 ger cent. 18 Moreover, all historical and contemporary work on 
female criminality suggests that crime rates are much lower for 
women - 20-30 ger cent of total crime only. 13 The Halifax figures 
are skewed by two factors. First, the ratio of female to male 
crime is always larger for petty offences. Second, the substantial 
prostitute population typical of a port and garrison town must 
have considerably inflated the statistics. While it was not 
uncommon for women to be convicted because they were begging or 
had no place of residence, 20 many of the female vagrants here 
were prostitutes. Given that approximately 30 ger cent of all 
committals were meted out to women, 21 it is reasonable to assume 
that prostitution accounted for the difference between that figure 
and the 47 ger cent of vagrants who were female. 

Perhaps the most instructive trend to be culled from Table 1 
is the correlation between vagrancy committals and fluctuations in 
the economy. Like other major Maritime communities Halifax was 
primarily dependent on shipping, ship repairing, and the lumber 
trade, and to a much lesser extent on ship-building. Ship 
manufacture dominated the economies of many of the Nova Scotian 
outports, from whence came some of the vagrants imprisoned in the 


8 









capital. 22 The end of the American civil war and the abrogation of 
American reciprocity in 1866 reduced both the demand for and the 


competitiveness of Nova Scotian goods there, and a decreased 
British demand for lumber and ships after 1873 contributed to the 
decline and eventual eclipse of the principal traditional props of 
the export economy of the Maritime Provinces. The 1370s was thus 
a decade of depression, with economic fortunes being restored by 
the introduction of the National Policy and, more importantly, by 
the global economic upturn of the late 1870s. The result was a 


growth in manufacturing 

in the Maritimes and a shift away from 

wholesale dependence on 

the traditional staples. While this 

represented no more than 

a partial industrialisation and was not 


sustained in later decades, in the 1880s industrial output in Nova 
Scotia increased by 66 ger cent over the previous decade; indeed 
the growth rate was the highest among the eastern provinces. 23 

Incarceration rates for vagrancy closely correspond to the 
performance of the local economy. The totals for male 
incarcerations only were considerably higher in the depression 
years of the late 1860s, probably the result of the failure of the 
fishery which sustained so many of the surrounding counties, 2 * 4, 
and in the 1873-1879 period, than in the better days of the 1880s. 
Female incarceration totals display the same trends after 1367. 


Between 1864 and 1867 

female rates were very high, almost 

certainly because they 

were greatly inflated by prostitution 

convictions in a period 

when the size of the garrison was much 

greater than subsequently. 

i The general causal relationship between 

the economy and vagranc 

:y is also evidenced by the figures for 


9 





vagrancy as a percentage of non-drunkenness committals. Only in 
1876 did they dip below 20 per cent during the 1873-80 period, and 
only in 1884 did they achieve that level in the ensuing decade. 

The vagrant 'problem' was also in part the result of 
migration trends during these years. Halifax grew from a city of 
25,026 in 1861 to 29,582 in 1871, 36,100 in 1881 and 38,556 in 
1891.This was not, as it had been in earlier decades, the 
result of the large-scale immigration of trans-Atlantic 
paupers. During this period immigration from Europe was low, and 
the provincial government exerted itself to attract only the 
sturdy, well-founded, immigrant. 26 Rather population growth had 
a localised economic origin - migration from the more depressed 
areas of the Maritimes, which from the ear 1y 1860s experienced a 
marked increase in out-migration. A first stage for many of 
those who would eventually travel south and west was the Maritime 
city. Both urban growth and vagrancy convictions were highest 
during the 1870s, the decade of recession. The better times of 
the 1880s stemmed the flow of tramps and migrants endemic to 
working-class life throughout the North American continent in 
the 1870s. 

Table 2 breaks down the incarceration totals in Table 1 by 
month, demonstrating that more occurred during the summer months 
of May to September than at other times, with the fewest coming in 
the winter and early spring, January to April. The explanations 
for this are probably fourfold. First, more women were imprisoned 
as prostitutes during the months when they would be out on the 
streets and therefore visible; women outnumbered men from May to 


July, and were only slightly less numerous in August, 


while in all 





MONTHLY INCIDENCE OF IMPRISONMENTS FOR VAGRANCY 


TABLE TWO: 


Month 

Mai es 

Females 

Total 

Jan. 

56 

28 

84 

Feb. 

52 

47 

99 

March 

56 

44 

100 

Apr i 1 

50 

43 

93 

May 

50 

67 

117 

June 

70 

72 

142 

July 

61 

79 

140 

Aug 

73 

70 

143 

Sept. 

76 

71 

147 

□ct. 

76 

46 

122 

Nov. 

63 

53 

1 16 

Dec . 

67 

56 

123 

TCTALS 

750 

676 

1426 


other months men predominated. Second, vagrants convicted in the 
fall, especially late in the fall, would often serve out their 
sentences with little remission wanted or granted during the 
winter? consistent recidivists would therefore not be 'available' 
for re—conviction until at least the following spring. Third, poor 
relief was more generally available during the winter, obviating 
the need that some offenders had to court conviction for shelter. 
Finally, this statistic may well reflect the basis of public 
antipathy for those classed as vagrants. It was easier to 
appreciate the plight of the resident poor in winter when jobs 
were few than to sympathise with the visible prostitute, the 
wandering tramp or the able-bodied resident unemployed of the 
summer months who represented the outsider and the non-conformer. 
Needless to say, few tramped from community to community durinq 
the worst of the Nova Scotian winter. 2 ® 

Tables 3 and 4 analyse the characteristics of the vagrant 
population in selected sample years. Most vagrants were in 











V_*v. . -■>. : : f. 


: ■/rn?.i , .W>l«..- ' 1 . * 




b ;iAw- 


r; 


TABLE THREE: AGE AND RELIGIOUS CHARACTERISJICS OF IMPRISONED 
VAGRANTS - SELECTED*YEARS 


Year 

Average Age 

Religion/Ethni 

city 



RC 

Prot 

Black 

1864 

29.7 

36 

39 

16 

1867 

28. 1 

59 

22 

8 

1870 

34.4 

35 

8 


1873 

35. 1 

35 

22 

6 

1875 

30.2 

29 

18 

6 

1877 

32.6 

27 

19 


1880 

34. 1 

28 

21 

8 

1883 

29.0 

10 

9 

1 

1885 

32.5 

12 

11 

•“* 

Xm 

1887 

29.2 

11 

jLm 

1 

1890 

31.7 

9 

1 1 

4 

TOTALS 

31.4 

284 

188 

56 

their later 

twenties and 

ear 1 y 

thirties, 

and 


consistency in age throughout the period suggests a considerable 
turnover in the vagrant population. Vagrants were not merely an 
incorrigible rump of Halifax society, but a renewable class of 
prostitutes, strangers, and the able-bodied unemployed. As the 
vagrants of one generation either moved on or became old or infirm 
enough to qualify for public poor relief, they were replaced by 
others unable or unwilling to find a regular place in society. 

While most vagrants were of prime working age, the law was 
also applied both to the very old and the very young. Michael 
McCarthy was in his 70s when sent up in December 1864 and again in 
July 1867. On each occasion he remained in prison for only two 
weeks; in 1864 he was released on Christmas Eve by order of the 
Lieutenant-Governor, and in 1867 he was sent to the Poor Asylum. 30 
Similarly, John Colbert was 70 when twice imprisoned in March and 
April 1875. On each occasion he received a short sentence - 10 


12 










and 20 days respectively - which, as we shall see, was very much 
lighter than the average at the time. Pat Cody was imprisoned 22 
times between 1864 and 1880, by which time he was in his late 70s. 

Boys and girls were also subject to the rigours of the law: a 
total of 81, or 5.6 per cent, of the committals were given to 
children 16 and under. Fourteen year-olds Andrew George and Susan 
Scott both received 12-month sentences in September . 1867, 
although both served their time in other institutions - the 
reformatory and the poor asylum respectively. While most of the 
very young and the very old did end up in institutions more 
suitable than the city prison, Halifax society often dealt with 
them initially through the criminal law. 11-year old Harry Fuller 
served almost all of a 3-month sentence meted out in August 
1880. One James McMaster, a boy of 12, was sentenced for a year 
in October 1880, and stayed in prison for 7 weeks until his father 
in Saint John sent $3 to pay for his return to New Brunswick. 
The Holihan brothers, 11-year old Edward and 15-year old John, 
were both given 12—month sentences in November 1875 for the dual 
offences of vagrancy and 'leaving the Poor House.' 


Table 

3 also 

shows that a SLibstantial 

major 

-P 

• rl 

some 60 

per 

cent, of 

the imprisoned vagrants were 

Cathoi l c 

, at 

a t i me 

when 

Cathoiics 

made 

Lip approxi mat el y 40 

Ber 

cent of 

t h e c 

i t y' s 

populat l on 

Moreover, they generally 

comprised 

either a min 

or i t y 

or on1y a 

narrow 

majority of arrestees 

for 

al 1 

petty 

o f fenc 

es. 3 1 

It would 

appear 

that their economic 

status caused 

them t 

o be 

singled o 

ut by 

a law aimed primarily 

at 

the 

unemp1 

eyed. 

They 

were a relatively 

impoverished group within 

the 

city, 

havinq 

1 ong 







been the major recipients of public and private poor relief. 32 

Blacks, the city's most visible and discriminated against 
minority, also appear in disproportionate numbers: 3 per cent of 
Halifax residents were black, while at least 11 per cent of 
imprisoned vagrants were. 33 Again, we can look for the cause in 
their status as an economically disadvantaged community, and 
prejudice would also obviously have made them susceptible. 3 ** Yet 
they do not seem to have been arrested every time they offended. 
'The coloured people that one sees in this city, all beg, with few 
exception', noted one Halifax newspaper in 1872. 3=5 This is 
obviously an exaggeration, but it does suggest that begging by 
blacks was highly visible, and the vagrancy laws could have been 
applied more rigorously against them. They may have been charged 
with lesser offences, or perhaps it was more acceptable to society 
that members of the long-established resident black population 
pan-handled on the streets than that whites did so. The small 
number of blacks, and their long history as a depressed minority 
within the city, may have resulted in them not being considered a 
threat, precluded them from being expected to conform to white 
middle-class standards. 

Table 4 shows the place of origin of imprisoned vagrants. The 
designation Ireland in the registers did not generally mean recent 
Irish immigrants, but probably stood for first or second 
generation Catholics of Irish origin. Occasionally they reappear 
on subsequent convictions as originating elsewhere, or they were 
sent to other communities on release. The use of this designation 
probably reflects the Catholic preponderance among vagrants, 
and/or the desire to categorise vagrants as aliens. The more than 


14 







■g>«Nwfc-. 




•S» <r 


TABLE FOUR: PLACE OF ORIGIN OF CONVICTED VAGRANTS - 
SELECTED YEARS 





Nova 

Atlantic 




Year 

Halifax 

Irel and 

Scotia 

Provinc es 

U. S.A. 

Other 

Tot a 

1864 

21 

16 

17 

12 


7 

75 

1867 

28 

20 

12 

11 

4 

6 

81 

1870 

10 

16 

11 

6 

0 

0 

43 

1873 

18 

16 

5 

9 

=*1_ 

7 

57 

1875 

21 

‘ 8 

7 

5 

1 

5 

47 

1877 

16 

11 

5 

3 

'"“i 

8 

46 

1880 

20 

10 

7 

4 


cr 

U 

49 

1883 

1 

3 

10 

0 

1 

v—> 

18 

1885 

14 

1 

2 

1 

1 

5 

24 

1887 

9 

1 

1 

1 

0 

i 

13 

1890 

9 

2 

7 

0 

1 

i 

20 

TOTALS 

167 

104 

84 

52 

18 

48 

• i “7 

4 / o 

7. 

35.9 

21.6 

17.5 

10-8 

3.9 

10.3 

100 


20 ger cent of vagrants said to be from Ireland stands in marked 
contrast to figures for all arrests; in 1S86-87 they totalled 120 
out of 1,552, and in 1888-89 53 out of 1,244 C7.7 and 4=2 ger sent 
respectively)= 36 In fact a substantial minority of convicted 
vagrants were local. Halifax consistently appears as the largest 
single designation, with some of those imprisoned altering their 
place of origin to Halifax over the years. The migration patterns 
discussed above are confirmed by the some 28 ger cent who came 
from other Atlantic Canadian communities. 

Analyses of sentencing and release practice reveal trends 
similar to those for conviction rates. Table 5 gives average 
sentence length and time served for the sample years. Through the 
1870s sentences of up to a year were common, producing an average 
of 9—10 months. 45 of the 55 sentences given out in 1375, for 
example, were for 12 months. In the 1880s sentences decreased 


15 









——' 




^iwiriSj 


;Tr*’ - "or* •’i >»*- 

i / -- --- - - • - - ~ ' -- ' 






TABLE FIVE: SENTENCING AND TIME SERVED*. SELECTED YEARS 


Year 

Average Sentence 
Months 

Average Time 
Months 

1864 

5. 48 

4.07 

1867 

7.74 

3. 73 

1870 

6.00 

3.42 

1873 

9.46 

5. 38 

1875 

10.84 

4.61 

1877 

10.95 

4. 56 

1880 

10.45 

2.34 

1883 

2. 15 

n/a 

1885 

3.54 

n/a 

1887 

3.00 

n/a 

1890 

3.30 

n/a 


drastically, demonstrating a more lenient attitude to vagrants in 
better economic times. 

The statistics for average time served are instructive in a 
number of ways. Like all petty offenders, 3-7 vagrants received 
substantial remission. As with the other figures, that for average 
time served decreased sharply after 1880; in 1880 sentences 
remained high, but time served fell to less than 2.5 months. 
While release dates are not given after 1882, time served 
throughout the 1880s must obviously have been less than time 
awarded, and therefore substantially down from the 1870s. 

Within the broad trends indicated by the statistics, 
considerable inconsistencies occurred. Mary Mackenzie (21) and 
Ann Mahony (23) were each sentenced to 12 months on 5 July 1867, 
yet Mary was out a month later while Ann remained incarcerated 
until 10 April 1868. Some clues to the reasons for such 
inconsistencies can be drawn from the cases of 6 prostitutes 
awarded 6-month sentences in September 1364. Four of them stayed 
until the middle of the following March, while the other two were 


16 








■ > r'rS- — ■ 




♦. ■!.-- --- *£ ^ ,c-r- ri. r-. t - tu vW^: -‘ 


let out in December to go to the Poor House and female 
reformatory. At times inconsistencies can be explained by 
recidivism; Ann Mahony, for example, was a consistent offender, 3 ® 
as was Eliza Cahill who was convicted three times in 1867 (5 
March, 14 August and 1 November), serving 2 months on the first 
two convictions and 11 on the third. Yet in many of these cases 
the records do not provide such logical explanations for 
differential release dates. 

A major consideration in releasing vagrants was whether they 
could be sent elsewhere. On at least 126 occasions during these 
years the old, the young, the sick and the indigent were variously 
dispatched to the poorhouse, hospital, refor mat or i es or the 
industrial school very shortly after committal. 3,3 Pat Cody is 
recorded as having been almost immediately sent to the poorhouse 
on 8 of the 21 occasions that he was imprisoned for vagrancy, 
Edward Sheehan 5 times out of 32 committals. Others would serve 
varying amounts of their sentence before being moved. John Mahony 
and John Warren, sentenced in early December 1879, were sent to 
the poorhouse just after Christmas, perhaps in a burst of seasonal 
charity. It was not uncommon, however, to serve a longer portion 
of the sentence befor remittance to other institutions. In 
addition to the poorhouse, the provincial hospital received a 
number of ex-prisoners. When 47-year old William Devines was 
sentenced to 12 months in July 1868, he served only a little more 
than a quarter of it before being sent to hospital, 'broken in 
health'. The practice of sending children to refor mator 1 es was 
commonplace, and drew applause from city officials. 41 


17 







Other vagrants obtained their release by agreeing to accept a 
.job and/or to leave the city. This method of disposing of 
offenders was implemented at least 114 times. The already 
mentioned Ann Mahony served only 2 weeks of a 12-month sentence 
in March 1873 when she agreed to go to work as a nurse in a 
smallpox hospital. She could not have stayed long, receiving a 
90-day sentence on July 9 of the same year. Annie Gore was given 
the same dubious privilege in March 1878, although domestic 
service was the most common type of employment obtained. Among 
those who got their release by agreeing to go elsewhere was 
Barbara Gibson (30), from Saint John, who was sentenced to 12 
months in December 1876, stayed in prison through the worst of the 
winter, and was released and sent back to New Brunswick in early 
April 1877. In all she was 'expelled' from the city 5 times.'* 2 
Mary Barry, twice imprisoned in 1867, was sent to Antigonish by 
order of the Stipendiary Magistrate. Ellen Hawke, following her 
second conviction in 1867 and bad conduct in prison, was put on a 
ship for her native England. One Robert Boyle, from Prince 
Edward Island, served half a 3-month sentence in 1867 and was 
then released and sent to New Brunswick. The reduction in time 
served in 1880 can largely be attributed to a greatly increased 
tendency to remove vagrants from the area. The three vagrants 
convicted in January 1880, for example, were all released after 
2-3 months of their 12—month sentences and sent away. 

The lives of many of Halifax's vagrant community therefore 
featured repeated institutionalisation, in prison, provincial 
hospital, poorhouse or reform school. The impression of a life of 
poverty, unemployment and misery is confirmed by the fact that 


18 










' y.s? < ■. ~ aa-l/lrfi* • «>‘K-i,r ■£* i i »H ..£.. ,', v . / — - 


many of the vagrancy committals were meted out to repeat 
offenders. Table 6 provides a summary of recidivism on the 
offence of vagrancy only. It demonstrates that while 540 of the 
731 (74 per cent) individuals who appear in the registers were 
only imprisoned once for vagrancy, they represented only 38 per 
cent of the total committals, with 62 per cent accounted for by 
the 131 individuals who were imprisoned more than once. Recidivism 
was thus a significant feature of the vagrant population, 
particularly since these figures underestimate it by not counting 
incarcerations that occurred before and after the 1864-1890 
period, or those meted out for other offences. Yet its importance 
should not be exaggerated. Table 6 also shows that the city's 'old 


lag' population, 

those 

constant 1y 

i n and 

out 

Ci f prison as 

vagrants, 

total1 

ing more than 

10 committals 

during 

this 27-year 

period, numbered 

only 

19 people, 

8 men 

and 1 1 

women. They 



TABLE 6: RE 

CID IVISM 



Number of 


Number 

of 

Total 


7. Total 

Committals 


Of fenders 

Committals 


Commi11 als 


Mai e 

F emale 

Total 

Mai e 

F emale 

Total 


1 

341 

199 

540 

341 

199 

540 

38.4 

9 

45 

44 

89 

90 

88 

178 

12.7 


16 

19 

c 

UwJ 

48 

57 

105 


4 

8 

6 

14 

O'”' 

'-W 

24 

5 b 

4.0 

5 

5 

6 

1 1 

25 

30 

55 

3.9 

6 

•9* 

4 

6 

12 

24 

36 

2.6 

7 

X- 

6 

8 

14 

4 

56 

4.0 

8 

0 

O 

n 

u 

(I) 

24 

24 

1.7 

9 


0 

O 

27 

0 

27 

1.9 

10 

1 

O 

r? 

u 

10 

20 

30 

■ ' - 

11-15 

5 

6 

11 

63 

77 

140 

1 0. 0 

16-23 

3 

5 

8 

61 

97 

156 

11.1 

TOTAL 

431 

300 

731 

723 

682 

1,405 

100 


19 







IIV rt£ } vir i ‘■rfluWir' 




ifOsJk m >r f XI 


. la*!**: 


represent a relatively small percentage - 21.2 - of the total 
incarcerations. Not only within this last group were women the 
more likely recidivists, they also generally accounted for a 
higher proportion of the offences than their numbers warranted. 
The women were imprisoned an average of 2.27 times each, the men 
1.67 times. This is probably the result of women being liable for 
imprisonment as vagrants both because they were poor and homeless 
and because they were prostitutes. 

The more frequent offenders among the recidivists demonstrate 
that for some the poverty-vagrancy-petty crime cycle proved 
impossible to break. A quartet of blacks - George Diminus, and 
John, Martha and Henry Killum - were incarcerated 16, 11, 8 and 13 
times respectively during these years, the three males usually 
appearing together. Edward Sheehan went in 23 times for vagrancy, 
was frequently sent to the Poor House and once dispatched to his 
brother in Shubenacadie. The hapless Pat Cody went up on 22 
occasions for vagrancy and many more times for his drunkenness and 
other offences. In 1874 a newspaper noted that he 'has been before 
the Court a score of times' and approved a sentence of 1 year for 
being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a policeman. 43 John 
McDonnell, 43, was in and out of prison for vagrancy 5 times in 
1867-8 alone. First convicted and given a 30-day sentence on 29 
March 1867, he was released on 27 April, recommitted 7 May, 
released in mid-August, convicted 3 days later and given an 
indefinite sentence, let out after a week, picked up again on 
September 11 and sentenced to 90 days, served his sentence but 
received another one shortly after Christmas and stayed in prison 
until late March 1868. He appears 9 times in the years between 


20 






1866 and 1870, but not again after 10 june 1870 when at the age of 
63 he was released on the death of his wife. 

The vast majority of vagrants were unskilled labourers, the 
marginals or outcasts of Halifax society, their numbers swelled in 
the winter months by transient workers from among the idle ships' 
crewmen and the outports. Only 32 of those imprisoned for 

vagrancy paid their fines and got out early during these years, 
most of those women convicted as prostitutes. The registers reveal 
many pathetic life histories within their terse descriptions and 
comments. They tell us about Patrick Maloney, a young man of 19-20 
- a little over 3 feet tall and a cripple - who was put inside 4 
times as a vagrant between August 1864 and October 1866. Some of 
the marginals died in prison, like Johanna Freeman and William 
FI inn, on 26 October 1867 and 25 April 1880 respectively. Two 
young men, Robert Jones and Thomas Smith, might have died in mid- 
November 1878 had they not been put inside for vagrancy; they were 
spending the night in a large packing case. An apparently 

happier fate befell Anne Burke and Thomas Drew. Burke was 
committed 12 times for vagrancy between 1869 and 1879, by which 
time she was in her mid-40s, on occasions clearly for 
prostitution. On 13 November 1879 she was released ear 1y from her 
most recent sentence in order to marry fellow inmate Drew and go 
to Saint John. Drew was a little younger than her, and had only 
been in twice before for vagrancy. Unfortunately Burke appears 
again, sentenced to 90 days in July 1880. 

The degradation of those made subject to the vagrancy laws is 
shown by the extent to which the prison was used as a winter 


21 





' at 


own 


request' appear 


--• -—'t~ •'■' - f- ^ .— ~- "-* alii ■ 


refuge. People listed as going in 
consistently in the registers, although not all must have 
appreciated the regime because there were at least 13 escapes of 
vagrants during these years. One James MacDermott, a 24-year old 
Halifax Catholic, for example, asked to go in late in November 
1873, and was not released until the following February. On 4 
September 1879 the Heral_d reported that our groom-to-be Thomas 
Drew, going to the police station for shelter, 'was kindly granted 
one for 12 months.' Later that year two men were discovered 'in 
an unfurnished rookery...sitting down around a coal scuttle in 
which there was a fire burning'. As they had no place of 
residence, they were sent up for 90 days. 46 Mary and Martha 
Killum 'applied to be sent up to Rockhead' in December 1879 
because 'dere was nuffin' doing' and 'the twain went up to board 
at the City's expense until the end of May'.' 47 ' 

This use of the .jail as refuge, by no means unusual in North 
American cities during the later nineteenth century, was also 

reflected in the pattern of serving time when offence-related 
sentences were handed out. Sentences were served for shorter 
periods if granted in the spring or summer, while those convicted 
after 1 November infrequently emerged before late March. Johanna 
Power, for example, given a 12—month sentence with the option of 
a fine in January 1870, went to prison until April and then paid 
the fine and left. One of the clearest examples of such practices 
is provided by the case of Mary Walsh, whose sentence for vagrancy 
in December 1864 is given as 'for the winter'. 

Such practices excited the disapproval of many of the city's 
respectable citizenry. The Ac.adi.an Recorder thought it 'singular' 


22 







'1 A r . Vw.r Vwf JLL r--U’.*«»nt V-rtTi r f k- \ ~tW 


■•a4wr'».Vit.. 


Lj'n Cst t-fV^ rir-> 


that the prison should be 'preferred to the Poor House by numbers 
of that class of persons, male and female, who figure in the 
annals of the Police Court.' 30 In 1885 the Mayor argued that 
hard labour would discourage the practice. 31 There was much 
hypocrisy in such views, considering that many of those sent to 
prison for vagrancy had committed only the offence of having no 
home, and should have been admitted to the Poor House. In 1886 the 
Prison Governor was moved to make this very point in his annual 
report. 32 Whatever the contemporary disapproval, the use of the 
prison for such a purpose demonstrates the dislocated, hopeless 
nature of the lives of many of Halifax's vagrant class. 33 

Society and the Di_sc i.jgl_i_n i_nq of. the Vagrant 
During these years the tenor of comments about vagrants, 
policies towards police, prison and courts, and new directions in 
poor relief combine to suggest that the Halifax middle class 
responded to vagrants in similar ways to their counterparts in 
other North American cities. The vagrant was viewed as a dangerous 
element in society, whom the police and courts should treat with 
necessary severity. There was some recognition that unemployment 
and endemic poverty were in part responsible for the problem, but 
the major thrust in public and private initiatives in poor relief 
was towards greater emphasis on distinguishing the deserving from 
the undeserving poor. Prison work and discipline were toughened 
up to discourage that institution’s use as a refuge, public poor 
relief underwent some reorganisation, and private charitable 
agencies strove, principally through the medium of the labour 
test, to force the vagrant population to conform to middle class 




'nr 







notions of the work ethic and labour discipline. 

This reaction to vagrancy mirrored that of many American 
cities, where increasing attention was paid to the phenomenon 
during these years. Lawyers, academics, charity officials and law 
enforcement agents all took an interest, and the vagrant was 
condemned in many f or a. He/she was 'lazy’ and 'shiftless', 'a 
barbarian, openly at war with society' who would refuse to work 
if 'Cclertain charitable eccentricities - such as soup-houses, 
night shelters, and depots for the free distribution of articles 
of subsistence' were made readily available. 3,4 The vagrant was 
not merely deviant, but dangerous, ever likely to commit other 
crimes. Although the depressions of the later nineteenth century 
also brought acceptance of the need for some measure of relief for 
these people and for other members of the urban unemployed, a 
labour test was generally insisted on. In part, of course, this 
was done in order that charitable institutions and societies could 
produce a saleable product to augment contributions. But behind 
this policy there also lay a belief that the fundamental cause of 
the problem was character. Rare indeed were the sentiments of 
one author who, complaining that Americans 'make the chief causes 
Cof vagrancy] ignorance, intemperance, thriftlessness, and 
indiscriminate charity', reminded his readers that 'the poorer 
classes of the United States had recently emerged from at least 
seven years of unparalleled misery'. 3& 

Canadian approaches to the vagrant problem differed little 
from American ones. Whereas before 1850 crime and poverty had 
frequently been blamed on immigrants, especially Irish Catholics, 







and the seasons, the second half of the century saw in Ontario a 
'critical transition from a perception of the seasonality of 
poverty to an apprehension of a permanent class of dependent urban 
poor'. The result was an increasing gulf 'between the respectable 
classes who define what society is and the disreputable elements 
who exist beyond their reach,' and a concomitant 'explosion of 
concern' about crime and poverty and about 'the institutional 
remedies...to meet them',° 7 Against this background Pitsula's 
study of tramps in Toronto tells a familiar story. The !31.obe 
typically characterised the vagrant as 'dissipated, shiftless, and 
it is to be feared vicious', while the Star recommended the lash 
as a suitable punishment.*® Charity organisers fought hard for a 
labour test - stone-breaking - and approved its financially and 
morally beneficial results. The 1891 Royal Commission on Prisons 
report did argue that vagrants were not universally idle, that 
some were genuinely travelling in search of work.*® But a series 
of petitions sent to the Commons in the 1880s demonstrates that as 
in the U.S. the general trend was towards a harsher, more 
disciplinary approach to vagrancy. A total of 12 municipalities 
in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia asked the House to amend 
the law to allow vagrants to be sentenced to hard labour on the 
roads outside the prison.® 0 While this may in part have reflected 
municipal parsimony, it equally represents a perception that 
vagrants should be forced to make a contribution to society. 

The response of Halifax's middle class was not markedly 
different from that of other communities north and south of the 
border. Local newspapers and city officials took a keen interest 
in poverty and crime; the underside of Halifax society was plainly 











visible and the activities of its memoers widely reported in 


the 


press. 6,1 The Halifax elite nevertheless took a special pride in 
what they saw as the peaceful nature of the city. Newspapers and 
the Annual, Reports repeatedly stressed the City's 'character for 
being...orderly.' It was 'the most orderly city in the world for 
its population,' noted one in 1889. It was 'a subject for 
congratulation' that 'there is a marked absence of serious 
crimes.'® 2 These smug assertions did not, of course, paint an 
accurate picture; the prevalence of warnings about the dangers of 
criminals testify to that. 63 But they do suggest a middle class 
longing for a Halifax safe, comfortable, and respectable. 

In these circumstances it is not surprising that attitudes 
towards vagrants were harsh. They were depicted as dishonest 
characters, idlers who looked to take a free ride on society. 
Bitter denunciations and ironic accounts of their activities 
appeared frequently in the press. In 1880 the Heral,d reported that 
a 'most delapidated specimen of the genus tramp' had been found in 
Point Pleasant Park, and that he had claimed in a foreign accent 
to have walked from Chicago. This was clearly a ploy to excite 'a 
greater compassion with his forlorn condition'. The following day 
the paper succinctly noted that he had been put away for 12 
months. 64 One writer was amused to note that Dartmouth had 
'kindly agreed to entertain' a vagrant, while another man, 'going 
to the [police! Station for shelter and having no fixed abode, was 
kindly granted one for 12 months.'®® In 1879 residents were 
warned that 'a delegation of tramps' was on its way from Saint 
John; their arrival may have prompted an article in the same 

26 











newspaper 3 days later. Entitled 'Begging and Beggars', it warned 
that 'this is the season of the year when most frequently is heard 
the voice of the professional street beggar'. Residents should 
avoid succumbing to a seasonal charitable urge, lest 'the habit of 
professional begging, which seems to be on the increase in this 
city,...be encouraged.Begging children attracted particular 
attention, the newspapers claiming that parents trained them in 
the art and that the result would be a future generation of 
professional vagrants. 

At the root of these attitudes was a perception of the 
vagrant as someone who contributed little or nothing to society. 
One alderman in 1866 condemned the practice of sending vagrants to 
prison at public expense, when they might more usefully be 
employed on public works. 67 Mixing condemnation of vice with 
self-interest, the Ci.t i_z en suggested that 'loafers' who relied on 
charity could be employed selling newspapers. Such work was 
always available, and there was no excuse for the unemployed to 
refuse it: so 

we submit that people who can get work - and light work 
at that, and won't work, deserve to starve, and boys who 
would rather beg and steal than earn an honest living 
should be arrested and punished without the alternative 
of a fine. Give them three months with hard labour and 
an occasional flogging, and it will have wonderful 
effect on their future career. 

While more compassionate references to seasonal unemployment and 
the plight of the poor do appear, &s ‘ it was generally considered 
that unwillingness to labour, not unavai1ab i 1 ity of work, was the 
root cause of the problem. Fear of the danger the vagrant posed to 
society, not qualms about wasted human potential, dominated 
middle-class attitudes. The following is typical: 7,0 


27 







■ trwrW.-i 






If one of these robust and healthy-1ooking beggars is 
asked to do a job of work for remuneration, he, or she, 
will sheer off immediately....It is a notorious fact 
that it is almost impossible to get any person, old or 
young, in this city, to go an errand, or do any other 
casual job; and when such labor is secured, it has to be 
paid for at twice, or thrice, its worth. This is not an 
indication of much poverty in Halifax. The crowds of 
dirty loungers in the City Court House of a morning, or 
about the street corners, who contemptuously decline 
employment when offered them, would lead any stranger to 
suppose that poverty was unknown here. 

These attitudes towards vagrants were reflected in three 
aspects of city policy: a greater emphasis on police efficiency 
and curial strictness; an attempt to render prison a less 
hospitable environment; and, most significantly, a mobilisation of 
citizens to impose a labour test for charitable relief. 

The City Court structure underwent significant change at the 
beginning of this period. From 1841 the court had been presided 
over by the Mayor and Aldermen, but this system came under attack 
in the 1860s because of inconsistencies in procedure and sentences 
and alleged bias. 171 In 1867 the elected officials were replaced by 
a Stipendiary Magistrate, with security of tenure during good 
behaviour. 72 The magistrate from 1867 until 1886 was Henry Pryor, 
a barrister and former 5-time Mayor of the city. 73 He therefore 
had judicial experience in the old Mayor's Court. As stipendiary 
he had jurisdiction over all cases except those involving treason, 
homicide, burglary and arson, and at first his appointment was 
welcomed as likely to be 'of great good as regards the morality of 
the city. ' 7 “* He did not, however, entirely live up to these 
expectations. He ruled his courtroom with an iron hand and with 
little regard for the niceties of procedure, 7,3 but his 
sentencing, which was often ’tailored...to fit the person, not the 


28 







crime', brought him a reputation as 'arbitrary, unprofessional and 
irasc i bl e' . 7 ’ a 

Pryor's treatment of vagrants fitted this general pattern. 
Long sentences were frequently meted out, especially in the 1370s, 
and some offenders were particularly unlucky. Anne Weston left 
Rockhead prison on 31 July 1879, was picked up that day for being 
drunk and disorderly and a vagrant, and sentenced to 60 days more. 
Yet on other occasions the accused were treated more leniently. 
When John Carey promised to leave the city to find work, he was 
allowed to go. Julia Martin and Margaret Chandler both received 
12month terms for vagrancy 'with the understand i ng that they 
might be let out if they behave themselves.' Mary McNamara was 
told to leave the city, having only been out of prison two 
weeks.' 7 " 5 ' Some offenders escaped the prison without having to go 
elsewhere, through what seems to have been a hallmark of Pryor's 
court, the granting of 'a chance.' All classes of offenders, 
including vagrants, regularly appealed for 'a chance' and on 
occasion got it, with a strict warning that the next offence would 
bring a year in prison. Hannah Baker got one because she had been 
released only a few days previously; Henry Downey was also let 
off, but when he asked for shelter at the police station a week 
later Pryor sent him up. When Thomas Drew came to the police 
station in July 1879 complaining that he had no work and nowhere 
to live, he was let off but warned that 'if he came back again he 
would get work at Rockhead for 12 months'. Margaret Schofield, 
charged with being drunk and a common vagrant, was given a chance 
when it was shown that she had stayed clear of police court 



trouble 


for 14 months and was livira at the Female Inebriate Home 


run by Mrs Harrison, who was prepared to take her back. If 
leading citizens were dissatisfied with some of Pryor’s decisions 
towards vagrants, they could do nothing about a judge with 
security of tenure. Perhaps more important than individual cases 
of leniency, however, was the fact that the consistently harsh 
sentences meted out to vagrants were as much Pryor's work as the 
granting of 'chances’. ’ 7 "* 

The second public institution concerned with vagrants, the 
police force, witnessed considerable growth as well as demands for 
more efficent policing. The force grew from 33 men in 1864 to 40 
in 1867, reached a high of 49 in the mid-1870s, and was reduced 
again to 40-44 throughout the 1880s. eo It is tempting to ascribe 
growth in police numbers simply to the increases in population, 
but this would disregard the fact that the size of the force 
actually decreased in the 1880s, while the population continued to 
grow. In fact policing policy was influenced not only by 
population but also by concern over crime rates and the 
constraints of municipal finances. While calls for more policemen 
from the press, the City Marshall, and the Mayors were not 
uncommon,® 1 the desire for protection conflicted always with 
municipal parsimony. 02 Economy nevertheless sems to have taken a 
back seat during the 1870s, the years when concern about vagrants 
was highest. 

□f greater contemporary concern than augmenting the police 
numbers was a perceived need to improve the quality of the force, 
□n many occasions the Halifax police seem to have been little more 
acceptable to their masters than those they were supposed to 


30 






control. Reports and complaints about policemen drunk on duty and 
neglecting their offices appear f r equen 11 y, 133 negating City 


Marshal1 

Cotter's claim that the men under his command were 

’steady 

and sober’. 84 The city council's police committee spent 

most of 

its time dealing with the officers' derelictions of 

duty. 63=5 

Yet the prevalence of such complaints makes clear the 


desire for a better force, and a variety of reforms were 
introduced. Pay was raised in the early i870s and this produced a 
discernible improvement, 86 although the men petitioned council 
again in 1884 for further increases. e ‘ 7 ' Cotter also tightened up 
internal discipline, ® s and while abuses did recur, complaints 


1essened 

through the 1880s, although there was a considerable fuss 

made in 

1884 when a new appointee turned out to be a man who had 

r esigned 

from the Dartmouth force rather than be dismissed. 33 

The 

culmination of the campaign for a more 'respectable' and 


efficient police force came in 1888 with the passage of a 
provincial statute regulating the police. It tightened entry 
requirements, made pay increases dependent on good behaviour, and 
specified punishments, especially suspension and dismissal, for 
offenders against the regulations. 30 The period from 1870 to 1920 
was one that saw increasing stress on professionalism in urban 


Americ an 

police forces, and to some extent Halifax followed this 

pat t er n. 

As elsewhere, the generally increased concern for 

impr oved 

'law and order' in the city emanated in part from the 

vagr ant 

problem. Better policing and stricter sentencing were 


measures to control petty offenders drawn from the lower working 
class, including vagrants. If Halifax's saw less large-scale 


31 












violence than other cities, that was because tramps and vagrants 
did not present a threat of such magnitude. But that is not to 
say that they were not perceived as a danger to accepted 
standards; the distinction is one of quantity, not of quality. 

This conclusion is strengthened by examining changes in the 
prison regime. At all times the regulations imposed strict 
standards on those 'sentenced to imprisonment' and on 'persons 
condemned to be confined...as vagrants’. ,l By municipal ordinance 
25 the sexes were strictly segregated, prisoners were solitarily 
confined except when working, and all were kept hard at work on 
the prison farm or, for those sentenced to hard labour, at stone¬ 
breaking.'* 2 ' Yet it would seem that theory and practice were not 
always aligned, that the regime was not enforced entirely to the 
council's liking. This paper has already noted the practice of 
using the prison as a winter refuge, and despite efforts to stop 
it the Mayor could still complain in 1885 that '[mlany idle and 
vicious vagabonds looked upon the city prison as a home during the 
winter.' Determined to prevent this, the Governor was ordered to 
tighten discipline, especially hard labour, and the Mayor was 
pleased to note that 'under the present management these 
individuals prefer to look elsewhere' for winter shelter. 93 In 
addition, in order to make the maximum use of prisoners, a 
provincial statute of 1881 permitted Nova Scotian municipalities 
to employ prison 1abour outside the grounds of the institution. 3 ^ 

The most direct evidence about the public perception of 
vagrants comes from those engaged in the relief of the poor. The 
Halifax poorhouse served for most of the nineteenth century as 
both poorhouse and workhouse, caring for the sick, aged and 


oc 





—**- 




disabled as well as the able-bodied unemployed. Conditions were 
kept harsh lest some prefer it to life outside an institution. 90 
The public system was supplemented throughout the century by 
private, often denominational1y-based, societies, which 
* fulfilled a basic middle-class instinct for collective efforts 
as well as for emulating the fashionable course. 196 This period 
saw both an expansion of public institutions for caring for 
society's unfortunates and a degree of consolidation and 
reorganisation. There emerged also a perception that some used 
the system to avoid working, a belief that transcended both 
genuine concern for the blameless poor and ample evidence that the 
Asylum supported primarily 'the aged, those whose constitutions 
have been broken down by dissipation and disease, 
and...chi1dren.’Nevertheless, the need for a labour test was 
constantly reiterated. Officials thought their able-bodied 
charges fundamental1y work-shy, and put them to stone-breaking 
for their moral benefit and in order that they be ’compelled to 
contribute to their own suppor t. ’ This perception was echoed in 
the public debate over the choosing of a site for a new poorhouse 
after the old one burned down in 1882. Many letters to the press 
urged that it be located outside the city so that the able-bodied 
would enjoy the life less: there were even suggestions that it 
simply be combined with the prison. 100 

Private charity reflected much the same attitude. The Night 
Refuge for the Homeless, established in May 1876 by James Potter, 
was intended initially to provide shelter, prevent crime, and, 
most of all, to ’check imposition.’ Its avowed purpose was to 


/-V/-V 




discipline both beggars and almsgivers. Citizens were urged never 
to hand out money, but to direct vagrants to the Refuge. A 
genuine case, in need of shelter, would go there; an 'impostor' 
would not. Thus the able-bodied would be forced to work for a 
living, and the middle classes could collectively provide alms and 
salve their consciences by indulging a charitable urge without 
risking the moral character of the recipient. Potter claimed to 
have reduced the problem substantially by 1879, and concentrated 
thereafter on his other charitable enterprise, a sailors' home, 
but his assertions are not supported by the evidence. 101 

The major voluntary organisation of the period - the Halifax 
Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, founded in 
1866 - espoused the same message. Run by some of the city's most 
wealthy and influential citizens, particularly industrialists 
Samuel Brookfield and John Doul1, 1 02 , its self-avowed aims were 
twofold: relief of 'the temporary distress of the deserving poor' 
and a 'check upon the vicious in their too generally successful 
schemes of imposture, for 'many evils' resulted from 'indiscrimate 
almsgiving.' 103 Temporary outdoor relief was provided to those 
who warranted it, a visitor system was established to assess need, 
and male recipients of the Association's largesse were put to work 
breaking stone, which was then sold to the city. These projects 
were supplemented by a soup kitchen and by a service providing 
washing and cleaning work for women. The Association operated from 
January to March every year. Citizens were constantly urged not to 
yield to the importunities of beggars but to direct them to its 
office. It was a scheme designed to co-ordinate and make more 
effective private charity in the city, to force the unemployed to 


34 










ft .•'«r i—*L - .ft ■,.f.-.>'.a;. i-^=r— .V~- -. V t: -> L--'-^ 


work for their welfare. and to remove the unseemly spectacle of 
begging from the city streets. 10 "* 

The work of the Association received much favourable comment 
from the Halifax press. 'A scene of busy activity meets the eye 
of the visitor to the stone-breaking sheds', noted the Morning 
Qh.L2Qi.2i.® on 20 January 1875, adding that the Association was 
performing 'a noble work.’ When the council discussed its purchase 
of the stone in 1878, the Mayor ’stated his willingness to 
personally guarantee $1,000 of the cost should the amount required 
not be forthcoming’. 10 ® Urging the council not to abandon its 
policy of buying the stone, the Citizen found ’no need...to remind 
the citizens of the amount of good’ it had done. 106 Many citizens 
clearly believed that there were deserving poor and that duty 
required that such people be taken care of; one correspondent to 
the Acadian Recorder chided his fellow residents with ignoring 
their duty to God and their fellow man by not giving generously 
enough to the Association. 107 For all contributors there was the 
satisfaction of seeing their names announced in the press. 

Yet in attempting to maintain the often delicate balance 
between charity and discipline, the Association did not receive 
universal or complete approval. A correspondent to the Herahi in 
1881, calling himself ’Syndicate’, noted that the aim of private 
charity should be ’to elevate not to degrade’, which meant ’the 
decrease not the increase of begging’. He approved what the 
Association was doing, but wanted it and other relief 
organisations to establish a registry of recipients so that none 
could apply to more than one society. He argued that 







- - 




' indiscriminate? giving' was 'the cause of half the poverty in this 
City' because 'as long as the lazy and intemperate can get fuel 
and food, work for them is out of the question.’ 1os When in 
January 1879 the city council refused to buy any more of the 
Association's stone, 'A Ratepayer' complained that the result 
would be that 'all tests as to the willingness of the unfortunate 
applicants to work will cease, and thus one of the main objects of 
the Society will be frustrated.' He demanded that the council buy 
the stone, for the alternative would be increased expenditures to 
house the destitute in the prison or poorhouse. 1 °' ; ' 

The Association claimed some success. 'Street-begging in the 
winter months is much less common than it was formerly’, it 
boasted in 1874. 110 Yet begging by residents and transients alike 
continued, for at every annual meeting the members railed against 
the practice. 111 Two problems in particular hampered the 
Association's work. On a number of occasions it had to fight to 
persuade the city to purchase stone; this happened in the winters 
of 1874-75, 1877-78, 1878-79, and 1885-86. 112 Secondly, 
charitable contributions were often in short supply. In March 
1875 the funds of the society were exhausted without meeting all 
the demands on it; in March 1877 the funds were so depleted that 
'visitors would have to exercise very great discrimination in 
giving relief'; in January 1878 the treasurer issued an urgent 
appeal for money, as 'barely one-third of the amount usually 
subscribed has been received'. 113 The unsurprising result was 
that poverty remained endemic and highly visible in the winter 
months. An apocryphal story in the Acadi_an Recorder in October 
1879 showed how much more needed to be done. The paper recounted 

36 











■ i 


.V wj< '.,v* ' r . .: *>- ; \ 

run V^\-ri^JMw^ : a>rTinn •? i T av-.fr Vjr-■';y 


iLit, 


■ v'AJiA 





•* 


that John May and his wife were forced to live in 'a shanty' at 
the rear of a house on Grafton Street. It had no glass in the 
windows, uneven floors and ceilings, had been used as a wood- 
house, and was described by the reporter as a ’kennel'. 11 '* 

The significance of the Association lay in its perceived 
solution to the vagrancy/poverty problem. It acknowledged that 
there were deserving paupers, but refused to accept that all those 
who sought relief were unable to work. The labour test, the 
demand that citizens not give alms indiscriminately in the street, 
and calls for the punishment of those who would not work, all 
point to middle-class desires to mix charity for the unfortunate 
with reformation and punishment for those who would not conform to 
accepted standards of industry. 

Conclusion 

This essay has demonstrated that in late nineteenth-century 
Halifax men and women of all ages were imprisoned on the basis of 
the vagrancy laws, most for 'crimes of poverty' - being homeless, 
wandering about, prostitution, and begging. Two principal 
conclusions emerge from this study. First, there was a correlation 
between the incidence of incarceration for vagrancy and economic 
conditions. While not all crime can be explained by reference to 
changes in economic trends, the historian of crime cannot ignore 
such developments and concomitant changes in social attitudes. In 
Halifax the depression of the 1870s accelerated economic and 
demographic trends already underway as Halifax adjusted both to 
the transition to industrial capitalism and to a redefinition of 
its role within the British North American and the qeneral 


37 






SjLiiAaiL 


. V S 



continental economy. Individuals shaken loose from traditional 
employment roles as a result of this process fed the unemployment 
problem, and society was forced to re-assess both the nature of 
the problem and the nature of the solution. The ways in which the 
vagrancy laws were administered formed a part of this solution. 

This contemporary re-assessment serves to introduce the 
second major conclusion of this paper, which concerns the 
attitudes of those at the forefront of disciplining the working 
class through the vehicle of the criminal law. Laws and 
institutions which had evolved gradually over centuries were 
increasingly perceived as inadequate during this period. This 
perception did not represent so much a sharp break with the past 
as a redefinition of the seriousness of the problem, for society 
still focused on the inadequacy of the individual vagrant and 
his/her lack of moral fibre and commitment to the work ethic. 
There was nonetheless an augmented emphasis on inculcating 
appropriate industrial attitudes and in restricting the definition 
of the worthy poor. Yet this took place in Halifax, a city 
beginning the process of industrialisation but hardly one that had 
gone very far along that road. The still predominantly commercial 
metropolis of Halifax reacted in much the same way as the advanced 
industrial cities of the US eastern seaboard and mid-west. This 
suggests that the importation of ideas and fears about vagrants 
was as important as any actual threat to the progress of the new 
industrialism. Yet whatever the cause, in Halifax as well as 
elsewhere, vagrancy laws were used as an important tool for the 
control of the non-conformist and the unemployed. 


38 







Wt» fr; - *-»- 'f^i.'U^.-i'jz.-. ■•■■^>:'a>C.- -.‘ w..1-‘W' 1 


NOTES 

1. SNS 1759, c. 1, s. 2 

2. Between the fourteenth and the eighteenth centuries, during 

which time some 48 vagrancy statutes were passed in England, 
the definition of vagrant underwent a number of evolutions. 
According to Sir James Stephen's analysis, which has remained 
largely unchal1enged, from the late fourteenth to the mid 
sixteenth centuries the overriding function of vagrancy laws 
was labour control. From then until the mid eighteenth 
century they served primarily as a criminal sanction to 
support the administration of the poor law. Although this 
aspect remained important thereafter, it gradually gave way 
to a perception that the vagrant population represented a 
threat to order and morality. This change was marked, for 
example, by the landmark case of R v. Bran worth (1704) 6 Mod. 
240, 87 E.R. 989, which established that idleness per se was 

not sufficient to ground a conviction for vagrancy, but that 
the law should be used to control those likely to support 
themselves by crime or immorality rather than industry. For 
the development of the law see, inter al_i,a, J. F. Stephen, A 
History of the Crimpnai Law ojf England (3 vols. , London; 
MacMillan 1883) iii. 266—75; W. Chambliss, ’A Sociological 
Analysis of the Law of Vagrancy', Soci_al_ Problems, 12 (1964- 

65) 67-77; A.L. Beier, Masterless Men:_ Ihe Vagrancy ELCbi^Ql 
id EnglandiS60;;.1640 (London: Methuen 1986); J.F. Pound and 
A.L. Beier, 'Debate: Vagrants and the Social Order in 

Elizabethan England', Past and Present, 71 (1976) 369-85. 


1 













• n dVPW* m «rtV. v 


3. i b i_d. , 1774, c. 5. In addition a 1787 statute regulating 
servants included a provision that 'disorderly and beggarly 
persons' found 'strolling in any part of this Province' who 
could not demonstrate how they made their livelihood could be 
jailed and/or indentured to a master for up to 7 years: 
i^idi, 1787, c.6, s.6. 

4. RSNS 1851, c.104 

5. SNS 1864, c.81, s.134 

6. SC 1869, c.28; 1874, c.31 

7. SC 1881, c.43. Its sponsor MacDonald noted that the latter 

measure was 'simply a short amendment required by the 
omission in an amendment to the Vagrant Act to insert the 
words "with or without hard labour".. .[because] one of the 
Judges, in administering the Act, held that without these 
words hard labour could not be imposed.' Commons Debates, 
1881, 1403. In 1886 the first federal statutory revision 

repealed the Vagrancy Act, and brought the offences in it 
into an 'Act Respecting Offences Against Public Morals and 
Public Convenience'. The same provisions formed sections 207 
and 208 of the first Cri_mi_nal_ Code in 1892: RSC 1836, c.157, 
s.8; H.E. Taschereau, The Cri_0iQ§L Code of the Dominion of 
Canada (Toronto: Carswell 1893.) 140-2. 

8. (1888), 27 N.B.R. 25 (S.C.); Canadian Law limes, 9 (1389), 

378; (1911), 19 C.C.C. 86. See also P. Hogg, 

Const it ut i_onal_ Law of Canada (Toronto: Carswell 2nd edn. 

1985), 399. 

9. Cited in P. Craven, 'Law and Ideology: The Toronto Police 

Court, 1850-1880,' in D. Flaherty, ed. , Essays i_n the History 








>£',7 




X-V- - 


>. ; r . j. . :- .■ £ » L .. 



of Canadian Law^ Volume Two (Toronto: Osgoode Society 1983) 
264 

1C. British Colonist, 18 Jan 1870 

11. S. Harring, Policing a Class Society^. The Experience of 

Amer i_c an Cities 1865-1215 (New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers 

University Press 1983) 201. In more detailed studies of 
Buffalo he demonstrates that the police employed vagrancy 
laws to cope with large-scale protests by unemployed and 
immigrant workers, and to suppress strikes. See his 'Class 
Conflict and the Suppression of Tramps in Buffalo, 1892- 
1894,' Law and Society Review, 11 (1976-77) 874-911. See 

also Harring and L.M. McMillin, 'Buffalo Police, 1872-1900: 
Labor Unrest, Political Power and the Creation of the Police 
Institute,' Crime and Sociai Justice, 4 (1975) 5-14 and D. 
Rodgers, 'Tradition, Modernity and the American Industrial 
Worker', Journal of Int er disciplinary y History, 7 (1977) 660. 

12. P. Boyer, Urban Masses and Moral Qlld^L ID Amer.yca.j_ I22'2::i222 
(Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 1978); L. Friedman 
and R. Percival, The Roots of Justice^ Crime and Punishment 
LQ Aiameda County^ California.,., i.8Z ( 2z!'21 ( 2 (Chapel Hill: 
University of North Carolina Press 1975) 85. See also p. 
Ringenbach, Inamgs and RejformerSj. iiZ2zl2i§l Ib§ Discovery of. 
Unemgioyment in New York (Westport, Conns Greenwood Press 
1973). 

13. In addition to the works by Boyer, Harring and Ringenbach 
cited above, see also E. Monkkonen, The Dangerous Qiassy 
Crime and Poverty in Columbus.,. Ohio*. 1860-1885 (Camb., Mass.: 



















»= 








«r ut Ti Vf»» »'I 


i-l^TtCh^ Ain 


Harvard University Press 1375); Walking to Wgrky A History of 
IUlffiEl IQ Amer i_ca (New York: 1985); and Police in Urban 
Affigr ic a^ 1860-1320 (New York: Cambridge University Press 

1981); R. Lane, Policing the SiiYl Boston i§22-iS85 (Camb., 
Mass: Harvard University Press 1967), esp. 193-4 and 206; 

J.F. Richardson, The New York Police:, Colonial Ti_mes to 1301 
(New York: 1970), esp. 264-7; D.R. Johnson, Policing the 

Ur ban Underworldg The impact of Crime on the Development of 
t he American Poiice^ i§2Qzi§§Z (Philadelphia: Temple 

University Press 1379), passim; K. Kusmer, 'The Underclass: 

Tramps and Vagrants in American Society', Ph.D. thesis, 
Chicago, 1980. 

14. D. Jones, 'The Vagrant and Crime in Victorian Britain: 

Problems of Definition and Attitude', in Jones, Cr ime j_ 
Protestj_ Community and Police in NineteenthyCentury Britain 
(London: Routledge 1982) 178. See also D. Garland, Punishment 

and Welfare (Brookfield, Vt.: Gower 1985) 64 and D. Jones, 
'"A Dead Loss to the Community": The Criminal Vagrant in mid— 
Nineteenth Century Wales', Weish History Review 8 (1977) 312- 
43. Rachel Vorspan argues that concern about vagrants was so 
great by the late nineteenth century that, but for the First 
WorldWar, Britain might have established penal labour 
colonies for the 'undeserving poor'. See 'Vagrancy and the 
New Poor Law in 1ate-Victorian and Edwardian England', 
SOSliSb Historical Review, 92 (1977) 59-81. 

15. J. Pitsula, 'The Treatment of Tramps in 1 ate-Nineteenth 

Century Toronto,' Historical Pagers (1980) 116 

16. The paper is based on prison records primarily because they 


4 























are extant for this period, whereas local court records are 
only inconsistently available before 1380. The purpose of the 
paper is to examine trends over time, and thus I have chosen 
not to reproduce partial court statistics which would not be 
comparable to preceding decades. It should not be assumed 
from the use of prison records that all vagrants were 
imprisoned; the evidence presented later in this paper 
demonstrates clearly that this was not the case. 

17. These distinctions have been drawn to isolate the offence of 
vagrancy and to delineate its importance in relation to both 
the total number of offences which brought incarceration and 
offences other than the most minor and most common one, 
drunkenness. Where an individual is noted in the records as 
having been guilty of more than one offence, including 
vagrancy, I have treated that as a vagrancy committal. The 
offences coming under the designation 'others' include 
assault, larceny, prostitution offences (lewd conduct, keeper 
or inmate of bawdy house), disorderly conduct, nuisances, 
breaches of the licensing laws, and a number of other 
infrequent crimes. Tables 1 and 2 are compiled from the City 
Prison Registers, PANS, RG35-102, Series 1SB, vol. 2 (1864- 

73) and vol. 3 (1873-90). The registers are almost complete, 
although 3 months are missing from 1881 and 1882, and the 
figures for these years were averaged upwards accordingly. 
This accounts for the discrepancy between the total number of 
committals given in Tables 1 and 2 (1426) and that noted in 


Table 6 (1405). 






: < 




IS. Vorspan, 'Vagrancy and the New Poor Law', SO; M. Hindus, 
Prison and Ei^ntat i_onj_ Crime x Justice and Authority i.n 
Massachusetts and South Carolina x IZiiZziiZi (Chapel Hill: 
University of North Carolina Press 1378) S3. 

19. See the paper by Jane Price in this volume 

20. Acadian Recorder, 10 July 1879 

21. See the paper by Jane Price in this volume 

22. See below, table 4 

23. For Halifax's economy during this period see T.W. Acheson, 

'The National Policy and the Industrialisation of the 
Wartimes, 1880—1910,' in D. Frank and P. Buckner, eds. , The 
Acadiensis Readeri Volume Two (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press 
1985) 176-201; L.D. McCann, 'Staples and the New 

Industrialism in the Growth of Post—Confederation Halifax,' 
Acadiensis 8 (1979) 47-79. 

24. See Acadian Recorder, 30 Aug, 20 and 25 Nov 1867; Unionist, 5 
and 18 Dec 1867; Morning Journal and !=,:=! [DOS I Adyer tiser , 
13 Mar 1868; British Colonist, 9 Jan 1868 

25. Censuses of Canada^ i608yi8Z0, in Census of Canada, 1870-71, 
v. 32—33; Census gj[ Canada, 1891, i. 370 

26. See JHA 1870, App. 14, Immigration Report, which announces 

the government's intention 'to discourage pauper immigration 
in whatever phase it may prevent itself.' (2). Similar 

comments reappear frequently in subsequent years, along with 
laments that 'good' immigrants were not forthcoming. 

27. A. Brookes, 'Out-Migration from the Maritime Provinces, 

1860—1900: Some Preliminary Considerations,' in Frank and 

Buckner, eds., Acadiensis Readery Volume Two, 41. On labour 


6 


















7., -t -y*c' •;i 


> ^- 2 — \S£ -1 ^vA? ,::V-Ar ;^ 


•^uUi 


mobility generally see S. Thernstrom and P. Knights, 'Men in 
Motion: Some Data and Speculations about Urban Population 

Mobility in Nineteenth Century America,' JsyLQSl 2l 
Inter di sc i pi i nary History * £1970) 7-35. 

28. Contrast this with California where vagrancy increased during 

the winter months as vagrants were attracted there by the 
climate: Friedman and Percival, Roots of Justi.ce, 84, 

29. The information in tables 3-6 has been abstracted from a 
complete name list of all those imprisoned. The Prison 
Registers list age, religion, place of origin, offence, 
sentence and release date. While the information provided by 
convicted persons was not always strictly accurate, a sample 
of this size is large enough to iron out any significant 
errors. Where there wwas doubt as to identity, I counted a 
common name as representing more than one person. The 
discrepancies between the totals for each year recorded here 
and the annual totals in Table 1 are the result of incomplete 
information, or, more generally, of counting an individual 
only once for some purposes, such as place of origin, no 
matter how many times he/she offended in one year. The 
unavailability of statistics for average time served after 
1880in Table 5 is because release dates stopped being 
recorded after 1881. 

30. The references to individuals discussed in this and 

subsequent sections of the paper are RG35-102, Series 188, 
vol . 2 (for 1864-1873) and vol . 3 (for 1873-1890). They may 
be located in the registers by date. 


7 








• i" ' v .’■ V' sl^>» T.*> - ‘ .-^ . . i J. ' <-> ? ■ 


^*Mr»r»iirl 


^ 2^22 


31. See the City Marshall's (Police Chief .) reports in the Annuli 

Reports of the City of Halifax (hereafter Annual, ■’ f° r 

1884-85, 1886-87, and 1888-89 at 118, 169-70 and 112-3 

respectively. 

32. P.B. Waite, The Man .from Halifax:. Si.r John Thompson (Toronto: 

University of Toronto Press 1985) 42; J. Fingard, 'The Relief 
of the Unemployed Poor in Saint John, Halifax and St. John's, 
1815—1860,' in Frank and Buckner, eds. , Acadi.ensi^s Readerj_ 
VlBlRQ!® One, 193-4; Report of the Poor Asylum Commissioners, 
Annual. Report 1874-75, 155 

33. This is a minimum figure; increasingly in the 1880s the 

registers stopped noting details of race. 

34. For examples of prejudice shown towards blacks in the 
operation of the courts, see Acadian Recorder, 8 Sept .1879 
and 12 Dec 1884. 

35. Ibid., 19 Feb 1872 

36. City Marshall's Reports in Annual for 1886-87 and 

1888-89, 170 and 112-3 respectively 

37. J. Fingard, 'Jailbirds in mid-Victorian Halifax', in T.G. 
Barnes et al_, eds. , Law i_n a Colonial. SocketThe Neva 
Scotia Experience (Toronto: Carswell 1984) 84 

38. She was imprisoned a total of 11 times. See the entries for 
Dec 1864, Oct 1866, July 1867, Aug 1868, March and Nov 1869, 
March 1870, March, July and Oct 1873, and May 1874. 

39. See the cases of Thomas Johnston (convicted 30 Dec 1867, sent 
to the poorhouse 6 Jan 1868); Michael Donovan, convicted 21 
Nov 1867, sent to the poorhouse 27 Nov); Anne Richards 
(convicted 2 June 1880, sent to the poorhouse 10 June); and 


8 












40. 








Mary Gaffney, (convicted 5 Oct 1864, sent to the poorhouse 15 
□c t :> 


41 . 

42. 

43. 

44. 


45. 

46. 


See the cases of Daniel Harvey (convicted 3 May 1880, sent to 
the poorhouse 16 June) and Ellen Murphy (convicted 9 Oct 
1867, sent to the poorhouse 9 Dec). 

See Mayor's Address and City Prison Reports, AQQHsii. 

1885-86, xxix-xxx and 121 

In June 1875, April 1877, April and Nov 1878, and Sept 1379 
Morni_ng Chr.oni.cl_e, 25 Dec 1874 

See the complaints of the Prison Governor that no skilled 
mechanics were available for maintenance work: City Prison 

Report, Annual, Report, 1880-81, 112-3. The best study of 

'outcast Halifax' is I. G. Mckay, 'The Working Class of 
Metropolitan Halifax, 1850-1889', Hons thesis, Dalhousie, 
1975, ch. 5. For skilled labourers' concerns that the rural 
semi-skilled threatened their position, see Royal_ Commission 
on the Rel.ati.OQS of. Labour and Capital, - Nova Scotia 
(Ottawa, 1889), evidence of F'.F. Martin. 

Acadian Recorder, 12 Nov 1878 

Ibid if 15 Dec 1879. Not all the Halifax homeless were so 
lucky. Reports of death from exposure were not uncommon: see 


Ntf^ascotian, 9 Dec 1867 

47. Acadian E’gcorder f 22 Dec 1879. For a similar attitude to the 
prison in other offenders, see the cases of Robert Wiseman 

and Henry Turner, 'two roughs' who tried to extort money by 

posing as policemen. Given the option of a fine or a prison 

term, they 'decided to go up as times is hard': Ci_ti_pen, 3 


9 










~ “'o'',' 'i 

* -a i: ! .l 


S«r -rfwn 




■^su^S. V 


Feb 1878. 

48. H. Graff, 'Crime and Punishment in the Nineteenth Century: A 
New Look at the Criminal % Journal of iQt er cU sclgllnary 
Hi_story 7 (1977) 477-81. Judith Fingard's work on Halifax 

also notes the use of the jail as a winter refuge but comes 
to different conclusions about the significance of this and 
about the role of the criminal law and petty criminals in 
society. She proposes an analysis of the criminal that places 
more stress on individual failings than social dislocation or 
economic hardship: see 'Jailbirds', 101. 

48. See also similar examples in Acadian B§£2Lh2L* 7 Aug 1379 and 
Citizen, a Feb 1878 

50. Issue of 11 Dec 1867 

51. Mayor's Address, Annual P2E2L£r 1884-85, x/ix. See also 
Ibid., 1885-86, xxx. 

52. Prison Governor's Report, itud^, 119—20 

53. Fingard notes that this can also be seen as one way in which 
the victims of the law exerted a measure of control over the 
justice system: 'Jailbirds', 101. 

54. Rev. F. Wayland, 'The Tramp Question,' PLE'LEShiQSE of the 

NsiLEQSl Q2QI2L2Q2E 2l Qh.SLLli.25 and Corrections (1877), 112; 

E.R.L. Gould, 'How Baltimore Banished Tramps and helped the 
Idle,' Forum 17 (1894), 497—504. For similar attitudes see 

also, iQter alia, J. Flynt, Tramming with Jramgs (New York: 
1899); J.J. McCook, 'The Tramp Problem: What it is and what 
to do with it', PL22EEd.LQQ5 o_f the N§iLL2Q2i Q2Q.iEL2Q.2E ojf 
Chari_ti_es and Correction (1895), and 'A Tramp Census and its 
Revelations', The Forum 15 (1893), 753-66; 0. Thanet, 'The 


10 















Tramp in Four Centuries' , LiEBiQEEtt^s !u293S.iQ2? 23 (1879), 

565-74; A. Pinkerton, Communist Sj_ IL2CDE5 and 

D©tecti_ves (New York: 1878). 

Monkkonen, Jhe Dangerous Classes, 150. Similar fears in 
Britain are discussed in B. Weinberger, 'The Police and the 
Public in mid-nineteenth century Warwickshire', in 0. 
Bailey, ed. , Policing and PuDiSbflJSQt i_n Nineteenth Century 
Britain (London: Croom Helm 1981), 85. For the Charity 
Organization movement of the Gilded Age see Boyer, Urban 
Masses and Morale Order, ch. 10. See also this warning given 
by a social worker to her colleagues: 'I would not in my 

enthusiasm for the work of friendly visiting, lose sight of 
the old adage that it is hard to make a silk purse out of a 
sow's ear. The best we can do is a sorry patchwork 
often....In many cases the more heroic treatment of cutting 
off supplies must be resorted to. So long as charitable 
people insist that they must forestall the possibility of 
"letting the innocent suffer"..., just so long the lazy man 
has society by the throat': M. Richmond, 'Married Vagabonds', 
EL 2222 di_ngs of the N 2 ti_gnal_ Conference o£ Charyti_es and 
C' 2 LL 2 ! 2 ti_gns (1877), 516. 

S. Leavitt, 'The Tramps and the Law', Forum 2 (1886), 192 

S. Houston, 'The Impetus to Reform: Urban Crime, Poverty and 
Ignorance in Ontario, 1850-1875,' Ph.D. thesis, University of 
Toronto, 1974, 5. See also Craven, 'Law and Ideology,' 293 

and J.J. Bellomo, 'Upper Canadian Attitudes towards Crime and 
Punishment, 1832-51,' Ontario History 64 (1972) 11-26. 












58. Pitsula, 'The Treatment of Tramps,' 119—20 

59. Cited i_bi_d. 122 

60. For these see Commons Journals, 1880, 31; 1885, 164, 204, 

237, 255, 265, 268, 290, 310, 465, and 555; 1886, 52 

61. Local newspapers and visitors to Halifax commented frequently 

on its taverns, brothels and slums, congregated in the 
streets running north and east from the citadel. The streets 
were still largely unpaved in this period, dusty and smelly, 
and complete with 'beggars and old drunks.' The combination 
of northern winter and an economy geared to seasonal pursuits 
meant that the winter months were especially desperate for 
those without resources to fall back on, forced to live in 
'common houses' that were 'the meanest of their kind to be 
found anywhere in this vast Dominion'. Quotations from 
Waite, The Man From Halifax, 35 and C. Roger, Gl_i_mgises of 
London and At l_ant i_c Experiences ( Ottawa: 1873) 12. See also 

Fingard, 'Jailbirds,' EL§ssi_m, and 'The Winter's Tale; The 
Seasonal Contours of Pre-Industrial Poverty in British 
North America, 1815-1860,' Historical Pagers (1974) 65-94; 

Morning Chronigie, 7 Jan 1873; Her aid, 15 Jan 1884; Acadian 
Recorder, 3 May 1867. 

62. City Marshall's Report, Annual B®E! 2 L£., 1871-72, 55; Heraid, 

10 Aug 1889; City Prison Report, Annual Report, 1881-82/1832- 

83, 100. See similar comments in the Annuai Resorts for 

1871-72, 49; 1879-80, 128; 1880-81, 122; 1884-85, xviii-xix; 

1885-86, 149-50; Herald, 27 Dec 1883; 

63. Morning £ : b!l!2Di£i®» 21 Jan 1873; Citgzen, 1 Feb 1878; Heraid, 

11 June 1884. 


12 























64. Herald, 19 and 20 Jan 1880. See also the many stories about 
crimes committed by tramps elsewhere on the continent. 
Examples can be found in Novascotian, 2 Dec 1867 and Citizen, 
16 Jan 1878. 

65. Herald, 29 July and 4 Sept 1879 

66. Acadian Recorder, 19 and 22 Dec 1879 

67. Ibid.., 3 Feb 1866 

68. Issue of 3 June 1876. 

69. See, for example, Presbyterian Witness, 20 Dec 1368 and 20 
Nov 1869. 

70. Acadian Recorder, 19 Feb 1872 

71. See Ibid., 3 Feb 1866; Unionist, 16 July, 15 Oct and 7 Dec 

1866 and 29 March 1867. 

72. SNS 1867, c.82; 1870, c.38 

73. See P.V. Girard, 'Henry Pryor', Dictionary of Canadian 

Volume I2j_ 1891—1900, forthcoming, 1989 

74. City Marshall's Report, Annual 1866-67, 49. Marshall 

Cotter claimed that the new system, and the uniformity it 
introduced, had made 'the class known as old of fender s. ..much 
more chary of making an appearance in the dock, knowing that 
there is a record of previous convictions always at hand to 
confront them'. 

75. See his summary treatment of litigants reported in Acadian 

Recorder, 8 and 21 July and 18 Dec 1879. When Nova Scotia's 
Chief Justice Sir William Young spent a morning on the bench 
with Pryor, he 'seemed surprised at the expeditious manner in 
which the judgments of the Court were given': Ib^d^, 4 July 


13 

















1879 






76. Girard, 'Henry Pryor'. On at least one occasion Pryor 

received a death threat for his harshness towards those 
convicted of selling liquor without a licence. On another 
occasion in 1879 an offender was considered 'fortunate...that 
there was an acting Stipendiary, with whom the quality of 
mercy is not strained': Herald, 9 June 1384; Ac ad i_an 

Bl'lSllder, 13 Dec 1879 

77. Ac ad i_an Recorder, 4 Jan 1886; 3 Sept and 9 Aug 1379 

78. IbicL, 29 Sept, 26 Dec 1879; 9 July 1878. For references to 

offenders being 'given a chance', see, inter al_i.a, ibid, 8 
July, 29 Aug, 15 Sept and 2 Dec 1879; 27 and 30 Dec 1886; 

Hera^d, 12 Aug 1879. 

79. This practice might fit Douglas Hay's interpretation of the 

criminal law as an ideological construct which combined 
harshness with mercy to legitimate social relations: see D. 

Hay, 'Property, Authority and the Criminal Law', in Hay et 
al. , A^bi_onis Fatal, Tree (London: Penguin 1975). For a more 
detailed attempt to apply Hay's thesis to the Toronto Police 
Court, which seems to have exhibited many of the 

characteristics of Halifax's Stipendiary Magistrate's Court, 
see Craven, 'Law and Ideology'. 

80. See MG100, vol. 156, no 28 ~ Ms. history of the Halifax 

Police Department 

81. For example, Citizen, 16 Nov 1869; Acadian E<=!2:2!ld§!!L r 4 Dec 

1884; City Marshall's Reports in Annual. Report, 1876-7, 208; 

1879-80, 127; 1885-86, 149; 1886-87, 48-49; Mayor's Address, 

i.bi.d. , 1884-85, xix-xxi. 


14 















82. ibid. See also Acadian Recorder, 18 Nov 1867 and 24 July 

1879; Ljni_oni_st, 18 Dec 1868; Morni_ng Qb.L£Qi'2i§? 30 ^ an 1333. 

Municipal finances were a constant problem in Halifax during 
this period, the city coming close to bankruptcy in 1881: 
McKay, 'Working Class', 12. 

83. For example Citizen, 16 Nov 1869 and 6 and 21 Feb 1878; 

Ac adian Recorder, 19 May 1888; City Marshall’s Report, Annuai 

Report, 1879-80, 127; 1880-81, 122; Mayor’s Address, ibid., 

1866-7, 11. 

84. Royal^ Commission on the Reiat^ons of, Labour and Cagitaij_ 

Evidence - Nova Scotia, 225. The press published a variety 
of 'stories that did not reflect well on the police. 
Policeman Brennan was fired by the magistrate for assault and 
false imprisonment; policeman Charles Lang’s 10-year old 
son fatally stabbed a 15-year old boy in a knife-fight. 
(Acadian Recorder, 21 and 29 Aug 1879). Earlier in the 

decade one newspaper complained that a man who had assaulted 
two policemen with a knife was released on an alderman’s 
order. (Morning Chronicie, 21 Oct 1872). 

85. RG35-102, Series 16, Section G, Police Committee Minutes, 
1884-90 

86. There were 35 applications for 3 vacancies in 1874: Morning 

Chrgnicie, 30 Dec 1874. 

87. See Acadian E : § 22 C£!er , 20, 26 and 31 Dec 1884 

88. Police Committee Report, Annual 1871-72 and 1874-75, 

33-34 and 131; City Marshall’s Report, ibid., 1877-78 and 
1878-79, 99 and 161-2 


15 


















B0. Ac ad i^an Recorder, 12 and 17 Dec 1884 

90. SNS 1888, c.52 

91. SNS 1864, c. 81, s.538 

92. I.bi.d and The Charter and Ordinances of the Ci.ty of Ha.li_.fax 

C1864), 170-1 

93. Mayor's Address, Annual, Regor t, 1884-85, xlix. See the 
discussion above about the use of the prison as a refuge. 

94. SNS 1881, c.14, s.l. Ironically, the Prison Governor 

objected to doing this as it was less profitable to employ 
prisoners on the streets, taking into account the additional 
security expenses. 

95. See Q. Andrews, ' The Establishment of Institutional Lar e in 

Halifax in the mid-Nineteent h Century,' Hons. thesis, 

Dalhousie University, 1974, 3-4; Fingard, 'The Winter's Tale' 
and 'The Relief of the Unemployed Poor'; SNS 1864, c.81, 

ss.567-9. 

96. Fingard, 'Relief of the Unemployed Poor,' 193 

97. Institutions such as the Inebriate Home, the Industrial 

School, and the Insane Asylum were founded at this time. In 
1878 a Board of Public Charities was constituted to take over 
the hospitals, insane asylum, and poor asylum. When it was 
abolished in 1886 these institutions were kept under one 
authority - the Commissioner of Public Works and Mines. SNS 
1878, c.16 and 1886, c.5; Mayor's Address, Annual. Report 

1885-86, x and xxxiii. 

98. Report of Poor Asylum Commissioners, Annual 1874-75, 

156; B. Potter, 'Poor Relief in Nova Scotia in the 1830s,' 
Hons thesis, Dalhousie University, 1978, 5 and 8 - 13. Potter 


16 









demonstrates that most inmates of the Asylum were over 50 
and/or genuinely indigent. See also the comment by a 

reporter in the Her aid, 9 May 1884: 'life at Rockhead seems 

infinitely preferable to life in the asylum for the poor'. 

99. Mayor's Address, Annual, Report, 1885-86, xxxv. See also 

Report of Poor Asylum Commissioners, Annual, Report, 1874-75, 
156 and 1876-77, 191. 

100. Potter, 'Poor Relief', 37-39 

101. Citizen, 9 April 1876; Night Refuge for the Homeless, Annual, 

Report, (1879), 3 and 5; J. Fingard, Jack ^n Port:, 

Sai_Xortowns of, Eastern Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto 
Press 1982), 235. 

102. Doull was president for many years; he was apparently worth 

some $150,000 in 1884. Her al_d, 1 Jan 1884. 

103. Halifax Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, 

Report, 1867, 5 

104. See the Annual, Reports of the Association, which continue to 

1890. See also the many press reports of its work, including 
Herald, 9 Jan 1879; 8 and 16 Jan 1884; Acadian Recorder, 5 

Dec 1879; 19 Jan 1886; Morni_ng Chronic l_e, 23 Dec 1374. For 

similar British campaigns to drive beggars from the streets, 
see G. Stedman-Jones, Outcast London (Oxford: Clarendon 
1976), 272—3 and 296. 


105. 

Citizen 

, 9 Jan 

1878 


106. 

I^id., 

3 Jan 1878 


107. 

Issue o 

f 23 Dec 

1879. 

Also ibid., 10 Dec 1879 

108. 

Her aid. 

31 Jan 

1881 



17 





















«• fun nir 1 -o 




109. Ibid., 13 Jan 1S79 

110. Report, 1874 

111. See for example, Report, 1883, 7-8; 1889, 5 

112. Morni_ng Chron icl e, 23 Dec 1874; Citizen, 3 Jan 1878; A 
Recgrder, 13 Jan 1879 and 13 Jan 1886 

113. Morning Chronicle, 12 Mar 1875; Chr i_st gan Messenger, 
1877; Citizen, 18 Jan 1878 

114. Issue of 12 Oct 1879 



cadian 


21 Mar 


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