HAYES (Hays), MOSES JUDAH, businessman and office-holder; b. 1799 in Montreal, only son of Andrew Hayes and Abigail David; d. 12 Nov. 1861 in Montreal.
Moses Judah Hayes’ father, a New York City merchant freeman of Dutch origin, moved to Montreal around the year 1763. He rapidly established himself as a successful merchant and a prominent member of the nascent Jewish community centred around the Shearith Israel Synagogue. Moses, though following faithfully his family’s mercantile vocation and religious obligations, possessed a keener interest in public office and civic affairs.
In his early years Hayes held a clerkship in the Royal Engineers’ Office which he shortly resigned to devote more time to his family’s business interests. Although he possessed considerable valuable city real estate partly inherited from his David relatives, and served as a director of several corporations, notably Joseph Masson*’s gas company and the Montreal Provident and Savings Bank, fortune seemed to escape his grasp. In 1832, for example, he launched a company, in which he and his brother-in-law Isaac Valentine of Trois-Rivières were the major shareholders, to purchase the Montreal waterworks and city baths from Thomas Porteous for the sum of £60,000. Hayes, despite major improvements in the system, replacing the four-inch piping with ten-inch piping and installing a more powerful steam pumping engine, failed to improve this company’s troubled business record. In 1845, after several years of public agitation, Hayes readily sold the waterworks to the City of Montreal for £50,000. The failure in 1848 of the Montreal Provident and Savings Bank from mismanagement, and a depreciation of stocks, securities, and real estate, complicated his business affairs since he, as managing director from February 1845 to April 1846, had borrowed from it extensively. From 1848 to 1852, a period of depressed conditions generally, the Bank of Montreal issued to Hayes repeated protests for the non-payment of loans he had endorsed. Hayes, however, was far from destitute. Soon after the sale of the waterworks, he had opened an elegant hotel and theatre on his valuable property in Dalhousie Square, to replace the Molson Theatre demolished in 1845. Hayes House, a four-storey stone structure with a theatre in the back, was administered by George F. Pope, the former manager of Donegana’s Hotel. Winter entertainment featured a German orchestra and Viennese dances. But in 1849, following the burning of the Parliament Building, Hayes did not hesitate to rent the building to the parliament of the United Canadas on a six-month lease at £125 per month. Three years later during the great fire of 1852 Hayes House itself burned to the ground, and Hayes (his wife, Abigail Levy, having died in 1840 leaving him with five children) lived the rest of his life in a boarding house.
Hayes, a strong man “of restless vigour and energy,” reaped greater rewards from his community service and civic endeavours. Throughout his life he gave time and resources for the betterment of the Jewish community. In 1826 Hayes and Benjamin Hart* initiated the drive which gave the Shearith Israel congregation a new synagogue in 1838. He served as councillor and president of his congregation and in 1847 helped establish the Hebrew Philanthropic Society.
Hayes’ public activities, however, ranged well beyond his religious community. A member of the masonic Provincial Grand Lodge with the office of sword bearer, he also belonged to the Montreal Mechanics’ Institute, serving it for several years as recording secretary, and the County of Montreal Agricultural Society, being president from 1846 to 1851.
Hayes’ active participation in the civic life of the city helped establish the right of Jewish Canadians to public office. In August 1837 Hayes and Benjamin Hart, both quiet but firm friends of the government and the Montreal Tory merchants, accepted appointment as justices of the peace, the first Jewish Canadians to hold the post; Hayes retained it until his death. In 1849 the city named him to the Central Board of Health. Hayes’ reputation for justice and fair play led to his appointment in 1854 as city police chief with the rank of captain and control over some 100 constables, a far from comfortable post in this era of religious and ethnic strife. Nevertheless he performed his difficult duties with apparent success.
Moses Judah Hayes died, from a heart attack, on 12 Nov. 1861. He had earned, despite his unfortunate business record, the respect and confidence of his community, and had helped establish the right of men of his religious faith to public office.
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