In the early 1830s, pressure from Patriote leaders briefly aligned with British merchants, made it possible to establish a city council. Voting was restricted to landowners and tenants whose rent or property values exceded a determined threshold and who had paid their municipal taxes. Consequently, a large percentage of citizens, and almost all women, were excluded from the electoral process.
As a pre-industrial city, Montréal was regularly afflicted by large-scale disasters such as fires, epidemics and floods. Hygiene was deplorable, public services nearly non-existent. The worst fire occurred in 1852, destroying 1,200 houses and leaving 9,000 people homeless. Several cholera epidemics spread across the city between 1832 and 1854, and typhoid fever struck in 1847. In all, more than 8,000 Montrealers perished. The massive arrival of immigrants exacerbated these problems and converged to worsen poverty. Private charities, especially religious communities, did their best to relieve suffering, but their resources were insufficient.
In sum, Montréal had grown too fast and its leaders seemed to be caught unawares. During the second half of the 19th century, however, a series of public services more suitable to the needs of a large city would be implemented in Montréal.