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Moving Forward – Henry B. Witton and the Election of 1872

On June 13th, a month after the parade, B. Mercer of the Hamilton Trades Assembly suggested in the pages of The Ontario Workman that workingmen continue the movement by directing their energies toward the ballot box.

A sepia-coloured portrait of H. B. Witton taken later in his life. He is formally dressed with a trim, white beard. The portrait is taken in profile.

A portrait of H.B. Witton

A new Hamilton seat for the federal Parliament opened up in an election called for August 1872. By mid-July, Henry B. Witton, a painter from the Great Western Railway shops, was added to the slate of Conservative candidates.  A mass meeting of workingmen at the Hamilton Mechanics’ Institute on July 27 was presided over by Hamilton Nine-Hour League President John Pryke. After hearing rousing speeches from John Hewitt and Mr. Buchanan, key figures in the Nine-Hour Leagues in Toronto and Brantford, hundreds of enthusiastic workers heartily endorsed Witton.  After three weeks of intense stumping, Witton emerged victorious – the first workingman ever to be elected to the Canadian Parliament.