Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - December 8, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta
Wodnosdoy, December 0, 1971 THE IETHDRIDGE HERALD _ 41 Cuimdifiu fliislihack Rebellion was tragic By R. .1. ANDERSON Canadian I'ITSS Slaff Writer To Lhe conqueror, nothing seemed more certain, after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, than that the French- speaking inhabitants of the valley of the St. Lawrence would easily be absorbed and assimilated. The peace was gentle. There was no interference ivith religior or language. In a generation or two, Whitehall thought, they would be British and Protestant. Events, as Joseph Schul! re- ports poignantly in his hook entitled Rebellion, bore no re- lation to pious hope. The habitant swore alle- giance to a new king. But he clung stubbornly to his church, his language and his culture. He distrusted those of his race with vested interest who foracd in the English gover- nor's would be called collaborators in a later age. He stirred rcbel- liously at the tide of British immigration that threatened his way of life of them being scum of the Lon- don cholera. PROBLEMS UNSETTLED Stupidity and indifference in the heart of empire, which learned nothing from the A m e ri c a n Revolution, in- flamed the longer French but certainly not Rritish. Inflamed, too, were the "English" of Upper Canada, the Loyalists who hsd given ur> their al! rather than a-cent the revolutionary ideas of the radicals who dared to eccouse democracy. They lacked the passion of the French-Canadians but their goal was the same freedom of choice, representa- tive government. Publication o" Schull's his- tory, welcomed by many re- viewers as the first in English to give a full, balanced ac- count of the rising in Lower Canada in 1337, coincides with the 134th anniversary of the Upper Canada rebellion. Tlie Quebec rising was tragic, heavy in its loss of life and with problems unsettled. That in what now is Ontario was a comic-opera fiasco. The rebellion in Upper Can- ada was little more than a one-day affair. William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the Re- form party, newspaper pub- lisher, Toronto's first mayor and member of the provincial legislature, led a group of dis- sident farmers down Toron- to's Yonge Street Dec. 7, 1837, in what has become known as the Baltic of Montgomery's Tavern. They were routed to government troops. PAPINEAU IN SHADOW The Lower Canada rebel- lion, which coincided with but was distinct from that in Upper Canada, was bloodier and left a heritage of hostility that remains today.' ft opened a fortnight ear- lier. Nov. 23, with the brutal, panicky slaying of a captured British army officer in an cb- scure Quebec village. It con- tinued to mid-December with a half-hundred or more rebels killed in pitched battles with British troops. The regulars also suffered heavily. In Schull's account (Mac- mill an of Canada. Louis Joseph P a pi n e a u, Speaker of the provincial as- sembly and lord of a seig- niory, is not the great rebel he is depicted to be in English histories. He is a shadowy fig- ure in the background who was reluctant to lake up arms and who fled early to the United States. He played no part in the fighting of 1837 nor ill the bloodier revolt of 18.18. Schull, who grew up in Moose Jaw, Sask., but now lives in Montreal, tackled tho Lower Canada rebellion with the thoroughness and atten- tion to delail and authenticity that ho put into Laurier, tho biography of Sir Wilfrid Lau- rier, Canada's first French- speaking prime minister, which won a special award from the Quebec department of cultural affairs. DISCONTENT HIKE He spent a decade on Urn research, starling with tho discovery of shot marks on a church in St. Eustache, near Montreal. More than 70 rebels died there as British regulars moved in for the kill Dec. 16, He has said in interviews: "For the mosl part, in the writing of Canadian hislory in Knglish, Ilio Lower Canada rebellion was more or less nvrpl under tho an unfortunate incident, perhaps, in tin; struggle for responsible government. It was a lot morn Him Ih.'il. I don't think one can even begin to undersland Fmieh Canada the si70 and .scope, of ils wounds in those troubles is realized. "Some of the effects of that rebellion are still stamped on our national character and still eating at us." The rebellion in Lower Can- ada in its aftermath the following the most violent expression of dis- content in Quebec from the time of the conquest in 1759 to the present. Years of famine and chol- era, growing distrust between the French and the British and tension between ap- pointed governments and the elected assembly, headed by Papineau, produced an explo- sive situation. Schull goes deeply and sym- pathetically into the back- ground and causes of the re- bellion. A lenient new gover- nor, the Earl of Durham, who understood the habitant better than his predecessors, but was still surrounded by the "chateau 'Clique" which the hs'bitent distrusted, was repu- diated by his home govern- ment and his work undone. TWELVE EXECUTED That led directly to the trou- bles of '38 and penalties were harsh. Twelve rebels were hanged, hundreds jailed and some transported to the penal colonies of Australia. The United States was a haven for many rebels. The political reform move- ments that appeared in the Caaadas and in Nova Scotia after 1815, culminating in achievement of responsible government, were the result of a variety of forces. in Nova Scotia, the move- msnt WES British in expres- sion, conservative and consti- tutional. In Lower Canada, basic political issues included tho elements of lan- guage and religion. In Upper Canada, leadership was prov- ided by a number o. dsspar- cle personalities. Mackenzie them. They opposed the preferred position of the Church of England in educa- tion, marriage and burial rites. In Upper Canada, a major grievance was the so-called "Family an alli- ance of prominent conserva- tives that ruled as an oligar- chy. In Lower Caneda, the equivalent was the "chateau clique." Both groups saw their power broken. The Upper Canada rebellion was centred around Toronto, then known as York, though restlessness was widespread throughout the province. The rebels in what now is the sub- urb of North York decided to march on York because tile Lower Canada rebellion had deprived Governor Sir Fran- cis Bond Head of troops, and to force responsible govern- ment. If this did not succeed, they would seek independ- ence. REBELS ROUTED Montgomery's tavern on Yonge Street was the central meeting place for the Reform party and rebels from throughout the province were to gather there Thursday, Dec. 7. Skirmishes began be- fore that date. On Dec. 4, a loyalist from Thornhill, 20 miles north of the city, set out to warn York that rebels were concentrat- ing. He ran into rebel pickets at the tavern and was shot dead. A rebel was killed in another clash but the city was warned. On Dec. 5. a group of rebels clashed with loyalists and were repulsed and the main was set for Dec. 7. It was a fiasco. A thousand loy- alist volunteers and militia, headed by two cannons and two bands, met the main body of tho rebels near the tavern. The insurgents scurried into the woods. Montgomery's tav- ern was burned to the ground. Two of the rebels wore hanged and others were im- prisoned. Eighty-four in were transported to Australia on the same British warship, the Buffalo, that carried 58 of the Lower Canada rebels. 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