Whitecapping Heroes of Wheatley. ('as We Were' Clippings from Canada Past)

Canadian Speeches, March-April 2003 | Go to article overview

Whitecapping Heroes of Wheatley. ('as We Were' Clippings from Canada Past)


Nearly a century ago, those who misbehaved were in danger of being "whitecapped" by their neighbors--dunked in a well, or walked in snow, and thrashed. The Advertiser of London, Ontario, commented editorially on July 22, 1905 on the whitecapping of one Thomas Dulmage of Wheatley.

Dulmage, from all accounts, is a bard drinker, but it is said that he is not in other respects a bad citizen. He is a merchant, and was thought well enough of to be made president of the local Conservative association. While walking in the street the other evening, he was seized by a party of men, who dipped him several times in a well of cold water, and then flogged him.

Many will say that this treatment served Dulmage right, and will applaud his punishers, but whoeverthey are, and they are said to be prominent residents of the town, they should be disciplined for having taken the law into their own hands. It was a resort to "whitecapping;" a practice which must not be permitted in this country. Six or seven years ago a similar outrage occurred in a town not far north of London. The victim, who was accused of gross immorality, was walked in the deep snow on a bitterly cold night by a party of men in disguise, and died from the effects of the exposure...Local feeling is apt to run strong against any efforts to punish the perpetrators of these outrages, but the authorities should be made to do their duty.

Threedayslater, it was revealed in The Advertiser that the whitecappers included a doctor, a police constable, and Mrs. Dulmage, all of whom were generally thought to have acted quite properly. Once again, The Advertiser called for punishment:

Before applauding the chivalry of the Wheatley whitecaps, it may be asked whether their example is one to be encouraged. If a man's neighbors are to constitute themselves the judge of his manners and morals, and be allowed to carry out their sentence on him, who will be safe?... In this law-abiding province, it [whitecapping] has no excuse or justification. …

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