Law & Order

A non-descript mid-rise building now sits on the north side of King Street on the site of the gallows where Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hung in 1838 for their role in the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. A bit farther east on King at the intersection with Church, stately St. James Cathedral dominates.

The public hangings of Lount and Matthews in Toronto, April 12, 1838 (public domain).

In the 19th century, Toronto was piously known as the City of Churches. But in the late 1800s, the city also earned the nickname “Toronto the Good” as a centre of 19th-century conservative Victorian morality, and in response to Mayor William Holmes Howland’s determined efforts to clean up the city’s rampant corruption. Toronto stopped on Sundays. Sports were banned, and some stores not only closed but even draped their windows.

The nickname stuck well into the mid-20th century. Though Toronto is statistically one of North America’s safest cities, it has had its share of crime, as some of the stories in this theme recall. And as the stories show, at times Torontonians have had to confront uncomfortable associations with “moral” offenses, crime and their definition of “good.”

A selection of sites from this theme is laid out in the trail Righteous Toronto.

The Stories