An Impartial and Authentic Account of the Civil War in the Canadas/Chapter I

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An Impartial and Authentic Account of the Civil War in the Canadas
Chapter I. Immediate Causes of the Insurrection

Table of Contents | Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII | Chapter VIII | Chapter IX | Chapter X

State of the Province at the end of the month of October — Measures of resistance entirely passive in their character — Testimony of Lord Gosford — Rumours — A Riot — The Vindicator Newspaper attacked and destroyed — Character of the Paper — Dr. O'Callaghan — The Quebec Arrests — M. Morin — A new Commission of the Peace — Alarm — The Montreal Arrests — The Departures — M. Papineau — The Acadia Arrests — The Rescue.

In the midst of the feverish excitement ever consequent upon a state of insurrection, we have undertaken to present the reader with a calm narrative of the events connected with the civil war in the Two Canadas. This task, we feel sensible, is not without considerable difficulty. A popular insurrection is an occurrence which cannot be viewed with that indifference which the historian ought to possess. On such a question, every man must have his sympathies, not to say, his prejudices. These feelings will, unless especial care be taken, materially affect his views. This, however, is a contingency inseparable from contemporary narrative. It is doubtless an inconvenience ; but it is one which cannot be gotten rid of. All that can be done is, to state the authority with the fact, on all occasions where it is practicable, so that the latter may be tested by the former, and a just conclusion thereby drawn. This rule we shall carefully attend to, in the course of the ensuing narrative, and thus we hope to reduce to the very minimum the peculiar defects of a contemporary memoir.

Whilst contemporary narration has what may be called its specific disadvantage, it has also its appropriate countervailing advantage. Its pictures are fresh and vivid — events stand out in bold relief — the various actors, as well as sufferers, are made to tell their own tales ; and if there be sometimes exaggeration, there is, for the most part, a large predominance of racy truth ; and certainly, a faithful exhibition of the actors' feelings, of their alternating hopes and fears.

Under these circumstances, the inconvenience which we have pointed out is one which the public has always been willing to bear, for the sake of the advantages with which it is allied ; the more especially if an honest care be evinced to secure the good, with as small an admixture of the evil as possible. To effect this is our especial object.

By throwing into the shape of an introduction to this volume the detail of those events, the effect of which upon the present state of things in Canada was rather remote and indirect than immediate, we are enabled at once to enter upon those interesting occurrences which immediately preceded the Canadian insurrection — so immediately, indeed, as to assume with the latter the relation of cause and consequence.

Towards the latter end of the month of October, the state of excitement throughout Lower Canada, especially in the districts of Montreal and Three Rivers, was great indeed. The several public meetings which had been held in most of the counties in the latter, and in some in the former district, had been productive of the firmest determination on the part of the people to carry out, to the letter, the plan of passive resistance detailed in the introduction. By means of the non-consumption of all duty-paying articles, the popular leaders appear to have had every hope of driving the government to a redress of those grievances of which they had so long complained. A letter, written about this time by M. Papineau to Dr. Nelson of St. Denis, and since made public in the Montreal papers — not by M. Papineau's friends, but by his political adversaries — expresses the most vivid hope of success from this expedient, and strenuously urges Dr. Nelson to persevere in the course alluded to.

Archibald Acheson, 2nd Earl of Gosford, Governor General of British North America

In this view, there is reason to believe, the popular party generally coincided ; as their newspapers, the Vindicator, in English, and the Minerve, in French, continued to urge upon the people the necessity of "destroying the revenue which the resolutions of the imperial parliament proposed to seize," by abstaining from the consumption of all articles which, by bearing a customs duty, contributed to that revenue. Some rumours were, it is true, afloat, touching "ulterior objects," "independence," and "resistance;" but Lord Gosford, writing on the 12th of October, says, "I do not myself credit these reports, nor yet apprehend any serious disturbance, although there are, I admit, some persons of experience and information who think otherwise." 1

Even as late as the 30th of October, Lord Gosford gives his opinion that the object of "the party fomenting sedition" was not active resistance or revolt, for he states it to be "evident that one of the main objects of all the recent meetings and proceedings is to produce an effect in England, and to intimidate, as it is hoped, the imperial and local authorities." 2 In other words, that moral force was to be relied on.

There is no doubt that, at the beginning of the month of November, the public mind was in a fearfully agitated state ; still there was no appearance of revolt in any part of the country. For this, we have the very best evidence, that of the governor's despatches, wherein he continued to assure Lord Glenelg that there was no reason to doubt the loyalty and good conduct of the people. Indeed, so strong was his opinion on this point, that in his proclamation of the 29th of November, after the affairs of St. Charles and St. Denis, he speaks of the loyalty of the people as "hitherto uninterrupted." We dwell upon this point as being essential to the right understanding of the true character of the struggle.

It is now necessary to remind the reader that drilling had been for some time going on, both among the popular party, and among those opposed to them. In a despatch, dated the 6th of November, Lord Gosford informs Lord Glenelg, that "large bodies of men are openly drilled every Sunday, in and near the city of Montreal;" that, "in addition to these public drills, there were daily drills going on of small bodies of men in private yards ;" whilst, "on the other hand, his lordship adds, "the English party in that city have revived an old association, called 'The Doric Club,' and are likewise drilling and arming ; and I have every reason to apprehend that some unfortunate collision will, before long, take place."

Thus, then, the armings and the drillings were not confined to one party. They took place openly — no attempt at concealment appears to have been made. And in the same despatch we find Lord Gosford lamenting that "no attempt had been made by the civil authorities to stop this treasonable practice, or to arrest and punish those engaged therein." 3 The reasons given for this want of energy were — first, the absence of sworn information to identify the parties : secondly, the want of a civil force sufficient to vindicate the law.

The non-interference of the civil authority may possibly have arisen from a dislike to disturb the Doric Club, with whose political views they coincided ; and as it would be impossible to suppress the one and not the other, both were left undisturbed. This appears the more probable from the statements in their papers, showing generally that they felt confident that, in the event of a collision in the city, their party would get the better of their opponents.

On the day on which Lord Gosford penned the despatch above alluded to, the collision which his lordship feared took place. In the afternoon of Monday, the 6th of November, the society calling themselves the "Sons of Liberty" had a meeting for the purpose (a lawful one, it must be admitted) of expressing their opinion on the resolutions of the Imperial parliament. The meeting was held in a private court-yard, at the west end of the city of Montreal. Whilst the meeting was going on, crowds of the adverse party collected around the place of meeting, and, like all adverse crowds, expressed their dissent by shouts and revilings. Subsequently stones were thrown into the meeting, soon after which it broke up. Two divisions went away ; the third, unfortunately, came into collison with the Doric Club ; stones were exchanged; the Doric Club retreated through a street called St. James's, where some windows were broken in the houses of two magistrates, one of whom was obnoxious to the people from his having called out the troops in 1832, (at an election !) when some persons were unhappily killed. Whether the windows were broken by accident or design4 is not clear, neither is it important ; suffice it to say that the troops were called out and the Riot Act was read, but in the mean time the Sons of Liberty had passed into the suburbs, and had separated.

If the matter had ended here, there would have been nothing to regret — nothing, certainly, worth recording. But this was not the case. In the course of the same evening, the Vindicator newspaper was destroyed, under circumstances at once disgraceful to the perpetrators, and to the authorities, by whom they ought to have been restrained. At about six o'clock in the evening, after the dispersion of the Sons of Liberty, their adversaries rallied, and having broken into the office of the paper in question, they proceeded to demolish the property and cast the types into the street.

The worst feature in the case is, that magistrates were present, and were applied to to protect the property, but remained inactive. It is said they even refused ; but we content ourselves with the fact of their inactivity, which cannot be disputed. Troops, too, were on the spot, but still there was no protection for the property. It has been alleged that friends would have mustered in sufficient force to afford such protection, but that they were overawed by the troops, whom they knew to be under the direction of magistrates opposed to them in politics. The impression of the people is, that had a mob, composed of the popular party, attacked one of the constitutional papers, the troops would have been ordered to fire with eager haste. The existence of such an impression is alone sufficient evidence that there is much to deprecate in the conduct of the magistracy.

The newspapers of the "constitutional," or tory party, were not slow to perceive that the first attack upon property coming from them, was likely, not merely to do them considerable injury in the minds of right thinking people in this country, but that it was also a dangerous example to their adversaries. Accordingly it was generally alluded to by them as a most untoward event — as a circumstance deeply to be regretted. The tory party of Canada generally allege that they own the bulk of the property in the province. As far as the moveable property of the cities of Quebec and Montreal is concerned, the statement is perhaps true. Before they set so bad an example, they should have reflected that their property was of a destructible nature ; indeed, this seems to have crossed their minds, for a few days after this they made application to the commander of the forces for troops to protect their steam-boats in winter quarters. It is probable, however, that at the moment no very nice calculation as to consequences was made. The perpetrators of the act were in an excited state ; the Vindicator was their untiring enemy, to annihilate it was their object, and even had it required greater sacrifices they would willingly have been made. To silence the only liberal paper in the English language was fully worth the risk, and even the obloquy inseparable from its accomplishment.

It may be well to conclude this account of the riot in the words of authority. The solicitor-general's official report to Lord Gosford is couched in the following terms : —

A riot took place last evening, about four o'clock. The accounts in the newspapers cannot be depended on, because party feelings will give an untrue colouring on both sides. Monsieur Martin gives the following statement as correct.

The Patriotes met to the number of about three hundred and fifty, in a large yard opening in Great St. James's street, near the American Presbyterian church. They had their speeches, and their huzzas, and their treason in private, the gate of the yard being shut. A number of constitutionalists were outside : stones were thrown into the yard, and towards the close of the meeting, grown-up boys were seen pushing sticks under the gate. An English flag was also carried about. The Patriotes broke out, and drove the constitutionalists before them towards the Bank, breaking the windows of Dr. Robertson en passant. They continued moving on victorious, until they reached nearly opposite the Court House ; here the constitutionalists, having been reinforced by the Doric Club, made a stand, and drove back their assailants in their turn as far as the Place d'Armes, from which the latter made their escape into the suburbs. The troops then came out, and the Doric Club having dispersed, they followed the rioters, who kept in small bodies through the suburbs. Parties of the Doric now re-assembled, broke some of the windows in M. Papineau's house, and then proceeded to the office of the Vindicator, the interior of which they demolished before the troops could return.

This last statement is an error : the troops were there, except at the commencement of the affray, quite in time, indeed, to have saved the property from destruction. Colonel Wetherall, in his report, states, that he was too late to save the property ; but he states also that the Patriotes were the aggressors, in contradiction to the solicitor-general's report ; this vitiates his evidence in the first case.5

Edmund-Bailey O'Callaghan, Irish-born Lower Canada Patriote, editor of The Montreal Vindicator

As this paper and its editor, Dr. O'Callaghan, hold a conspicuous place in the history of Canadian discontent, we shall make no apology for detaining the reader a short time on the subject. The Vindicator was established about ten years ago, under the title of the Irish Vindicator, and was then supposed to advocate the interests of the Irish inhabitants of Canada. As the Irish generally adhere to the majority of the assembly, the politics of the paper were from the first decidedly liberal ; and as the then editor was a dealer in strong language, it had the character, among the anti-popular party, of being a most merciless scarifier of its political enemies. Certain it is, that by its constant animosity to the official class and their partisans, it became as obnoxious to them as it was popular amongst its own immediate readers. In 1832, Dr. Tracy, the editor, was invited to become a candidate for the west ward of Montreal, against a gentleman named Bagg, a tory. At this election, party spirit ran very high : Tracy was of course hated by the anti-popular party, for his connection with the Vindicator. Bagg had not been previously an unpopular man, but he was now hateful because he was the opponent of Tracy. The popular party prevailed by a majority of one, Bagg retiring under protest, but not until the troops had been called out, on light grounds as it should seem, and had shot three of the citizens — an event which, like the Boston massacre, will never be forgotten.

Soon after this unhappy event, Tracy died of cholera, when the Vindicator fell into the hands of a mere trading scribe, and there seemed every reason to believe that it would lose the confidence of its subscribers. The difficulty, however, was subsequently gotten rid of, and in May, 1833, Dr. O'Callaghan became its editor, in which office he continued until its destruction, in November, 1837.

Dr. O'Callaghan6 is a native of Ireland, and, we believe, of Cork ; at least, in and about that city some of his relatives now dwell. He emigrated to Quebec about eleven or twelve years since, but for some time he does not appear to have mixed in politics ; at least, our early recollection of him is merely as a medical practitioner.

It is about the year 1830, that we first remember Dr. O'Callaghan in the character of a politician, attending public meetings during an election at Quebec ; as an elector, questioning the candidates, and speaking in behalf of those whom he deemed fittest for the trust. There must have been something in his speeches of that day, for we distinctly recollect that he was much abused in a paper owned and edited by official gentlemen.

When the cholera broke out in 1832, Dr. O'Callaghan made himself honourably conspicuous as one of the most assiduous of the medical profession, in relieving the sufferings of the poorer class of people; especially, those of his unfortunate fellow country-men, the recent emigrants from Ireland. The tory paper of Quebec forgot, for the time, his political sins, and he was only thought of as the Samaritan of the pest-house.

Soon after this period, the prospectus of a liberal paper made its appearance at Quebec, and it was understood that Dr. O'Callaghan was to be the editor. The project was not, however, carried into execution ; but O'Callaghan, nevertheless, occasionally contributed to the existing papers, in a manner to turn the eyes of the proprietors of the Vindicator towards him, in their difficulty with their editor, after Dr. Tracy's death. This ended in his assumption of the editorship in May, 1833, as we have stated ; and from that time to the period of its destruction the paper was under his sole control.

Notwithstanding he alone was responsible for the contents and tone of the paper, it was generally considered as the organ of the majority of the Assembly. Not that any one believed the speaker, or any set of members exercised any surveillance or control over its doctrines, but it was not denied that it advocated, and ably advocated their views; and thus by common consent, it was referred to, both by friend and foe, as the liberal organ ; a distinction not always conceded to the Minerve, the liberal paper in the French language.

In the management of a Colonial paper the editor is all in all. He must know every thing, — he must do every thing. The "division of labour" is scarcely known among our colonial journalists. The editor is the sole lord of both the pen and the scissors, and his work never ends. The Vindicator was published twice a week, and is certainly a standing testimony of the editor's skill and industry. During the period of his "administration," it exhibits all the energy of his predecessor, without his virulence. There was much more care as to facts, and whilst the exposure of abuses was constant, there was much less of mere personal invective, than had formerly characterised its pages. In short, it took rank as the best paper in the Canadas ; and even its enemies — those who on principle abstained from purchasing it — were anxious to learn what it said at periods of political excitement.

We have before us a long series of the Vindicator and if we were called upon to state the leading feature of that journal, we should pronounce it to be the exposure of what has been called the "origin fallacy." The "Constitutionalists" allege that the quarrel is one of origin ; that it is one of French against English. The majority of the Assembly contend, that the struggle is for good government and that origin has nothing to do with the matter. In proof of this, cases are cited where Englishmen — the representatives of English counties, are found voting with the French majority7 — whilst French Canadian constituencies are to be found returning British men, — English, Scotch, and Irish, to the Assembly.

As if to confirm the doctrine of our editor at the general election of 1834 ; an election which, be it remembered, turned on the application of the elective principle to the Legislative Council, he was returned for a French county, Yamaska ; and what is still more worthy of remark, he ousted a French Canadian, named Badeaux. Use, or rather abuse, had been made of the appeal to origin at this election; but the Canadians replied, "Better a good Irishman than a bad Canadian;" and so O'Callaghan became member for Yamaska.

In the Assembly, he fully justified the confidence which had been reposed in him. He was always at his post, and as ready in debate, as he was indefatigable in committee. He is skilled in the use of the French language, which he speaks publicly — an accomplishment of rare occurrence among "old countrymen;" and, as to his industry, some evidence of that is to be found in sundry reports signed by him, reprinted last session by order of the House of Commons. Here we shall take our leave of Dr. O'Callaghan, until the chronological order of our narrative again brings him before us.

Charles Richard Ogden, attorney-general for Lower Canada

Rumours of the excited state of the country now increased from day to day, and various circumstances tended to generate an impression, that the government intended to strike a blow. Two days after the destruction of the liberal paper, the attorney-general unexpectedly made his appearance in Montreal. As this gentleman has been all his life opposed to the Assembly in politics, his proceedings were narrowly watched by the popular leaders. Whispers of affidavits, warrants, and arrests, were heard from time to time, but as yet, all was uncertainty and doubt. The public mind was evidently agitated ; men looked suspiciously around them, as they asked "What is Ogden's business here !"

The mystery was soon cleared up. News reached Montreal that, on the 13th of November, M. Morin and four other persons had been arrested at Quebec, charged with seditious practices. This accusation probably arose out of a meeting which took place in that city in October, where some strong resolutions were passed, condemning the resolutions of the Imperial parliament. There was nothing in the language of this meeting, that we do not occasionally witness in this country; but a weak government, like that of Lower Canada, is prone to alarm, and, as former experience tells us, a vague charge of sedition may be made to spring out of a small matter.

M. Morin was obnoxious to the executive of Lower Canada, because he was one of the most active of the majority in the Assembly ; being a good writer, an effective, but somewhat plain and unostentatious speaker, and moreover, one of the hardest workers in the House.

M. Morin is the son of a substantial farmer, and was educated at the seminary of Quebec. He chose the law as his profession, and has for some time practised at Quebec ; but for many years he edited the Minerve newspaper, at which time it enjoyed considerable reputation as a sound and well-conducted paper. M. Morin has sat for seven or eight years for the county of Bellechasse, in the district of Quebec, where he has some property ; and in 1834, he received testimony of the good opinion of his fellow-members by being deputed to bring their petition to this country, and to urge its prayer in any way which should be deemed expedient. M. Morin accordingly gave evidence8 before the committee of the House of Commons which sat in 1834, which evidence may be referred to as embodying the views of the Assembly, on all the subjects in dispute between the two contending parties.

M. Morin returned from his mission just previous to the general election of 1834, and was again chosen one of the members for his own county; he has since continued his political activity, not merely voting with the majority, but taking a prominent part in preparing most of the public documents put forward by the Assembly. Such being M. Morin's character, we must not wonder that he was marked out as an object of attack. Subsequently, M. Morin was admitted to bail.

A considerable source of alarm to the liberal party now made its appearance, in the shape of a new commission of the peace for the district of Montreal. From this new commission of the peace were excluded most of the former magistrates, who were known to sympathize with the majority of the assembly. Men of the most moderate, and even passive liberality, were omitted. If these had been fierce active politicians, there would have been nothing very remarkable in it, provided the active men on the other side had been omitted also. But this was not the case : the rejected were many of them men who had taken no part in the public meetings of the summer ; whilst of those who were retained, many were among the most violent of the anti-popular party. Of course it would be alleged by the local executive, that the men who were retained, however violent, were well affected towards the government; — were, in short, of the governing party. This may, perhaps, be deemed a good and sufficient reason by many persons into whose hands these pages may fall ; all that we desire to show is, that it created alarm in the minds of the liberal party. So long as liberal magistrates remained, there was some chance of escaping the horrors of a gaol by being liberated on bail. The new commission of the peace destroyed this hope.

A very few days confirmed these fears. On the evening of the 16th of November six persons were arrested and cast into prison, charged with high treason. Among these were André Ouimette, the president of the young men's society, called the Sons of Liberty, together with some members of the committee ; and Louis Michel Viger, a member of the Assembly and president of the People's Bank. This gentleman had not mixed in politics for some time, except in the Assembly, at a public meeting of his own constituents, and at the meeting of the six counties, one of which he represented. Hence his arrest created a feeling of insecurity, and consequently of alarm, in the minds of all those who, without being active politicians, nevertheless coincided in opinion with the majority of the assembly.

It had already been whispered that warrants were issued, or were about to be issued, against the leading members of the assembly — M. Papineau, Dr. O'Callaghan, M. Ovide Perrault,9 and others. In order to judge of the effects produced on their minds by these rumours and arrests, it is necessary first to consider the constitution of the courts of justice, and the relation which the threatened parties bore to the judiciary : and second, to take in consecutive order all the events which had recently occurred. The threatened leaders had been for years endeavouring to render the judges responsible to the Assembly ; and they felt that the judges could not but feel considerable animosity towards them. An act, providing for the summoning of juries on a fair principle, had expired, and had not been revived ; so that the sheriff's will determined the mode of summoning. Now the sheriff is also an officer whom the Assembly had sought to render responsible, and to his ill-will they felt themselves in a manner entitled. In addition to this, the executive — the prosecutor in the expected proceedings, had, on the 15th of October, paid the judges and the sheriff, in virtue of the eighth resolution of the imperial parliament; and this the Canadian leaders regarded as equivalent to the bribing of their judges. With such feelings predominant in their minds — no matter whether those feelings were justifiable to their full extent or not — it must be quite clear that confidence10 in the courts of justice was entirely out of the question. We have perused a private letter, written by one of the parties under the excited feelings alluded to, and stating that" with such a combination of circumstances against them, they saw in the gaol only a road to the scaffold." They regarded the destruction of the Vindicator, the attorney-general's visit, the new commission of the peace, and the arrests, as a preconcerted chain of operations on the part of the executive to convert the plan of passive resistance, from which they hoped so much, into a state of active revolt, capable of being put down by force. Such was the impression under which the Canadian leaders withdrew from the city of Montreal, about the 17th or 18th of November last.

It has been asked, "Why were not the chief offenders arrested at once ? Why was it permitted to transpire that warrants were out against the gentlemen in question ? Assuredly," it has been said, "M. Papineau ought to have been the first person arrested ; — you denounce him as the chief fomenter of discontent, and yet you studiously, as it should seem, give him time to escape, and pounce only on the inferior persons of the drama. You had it in your power," it is further urged, "to take such a step before suspicion of your design could possibly have entered into the minds of M. Papineau's friends. While you were sounding the tocsin by Morin's arrest, by the new magistracy, by your ostentatious preparations — you ought to have been busied in possessing yourself of the chief offender. The course you have adopted lays you open to the suspicion of intending either to drive the leaders into exile, or, perhaps, into revolt."

There is, it must be confessed, some unexplained mystery in the conduct of the local executive, in relation to the proceedings of November. Lord Gosford is himself, in all probability, not chargeable with any such design ; but his executive council is composed of men, between whom and the Assembly had long existed a perpetual feud : and it is possible they may have deemed it wise and proper to pursue the course pointed out, the more especially as M. Papineau had clearly kept himself within the bounds of the law, his measures of agitation notwithstanding.

In the meantime, all persons attached to the local government were encouraged to form themselves into volunteer companies, 11 and were furnished with arms by the commander of the forces. A regiment of volunteer cavalry had long existed in Montreal. This was immediately strengthened, and promotion given to the officers ; though not, as it appears, without giving umbrage to some who considered their merits to have been overlooked. A rifle corps was also either formed, or re-organised ; and various other volunteer corps armed and equipped. In short, every man of the constitutional party called himself a soldier. The number of volunteers, at the end of November, is stated to have reached two thousand in Montreal alone; besides some few companies in Missisquoi and other counties. In Quebec too the enrolment of volunteers was very general.

John Colborne, Baron Seaton, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in North America, acting Governor General of British North America

Sir John Colborne had also called upon the pensioners scattered throughout the province to form a corps of veterans, but it does not appear that this led to any result.

An event now occurred which certainly hastened the resort to military force, and gave the character of insurrection to the defensive operations of the people. Among the persons against whom warrants had been issued, were Dr. D'Avignon and M. Demaray, a notary, both residing at St. John's, a small town at the northern extremity of the lake Champlain navigation.12 The execution of these warrants was entrusted to a party of eighteen of the royal Montreal volunteer cavalry, who, accompanied by a constable, succeeded in making the arrest. It should be observed that the regular road between Montreal and St. John's is by steam-boat to La Prairie, and thence by rail-road. By this route the prisoners could have been conveyed to La Prairie in fifty minutes, and thence to Montreal in thirty more. For some reason or other, however, the longer and more difficult route, by Chambly and Longueil, was chosen. Probably this course was adopted for the purpose of intimidating. It was natural for the volunteers to think that the parading their prisoners through the counties would have a beneficial moral effect ; and it is also not inconsistent with human nature, to suppose that a feeling of triumph at their success may have caused the captors to prefer the longer route. Be this as it may, the result was anything but fortunate to the volunteers. At several parts of their route they fell in with armed parties; but they were not molested until almost within sight of the city. Just before reaching Longueil, on the shore of the St. Lawrence, opposite Montreal, they were met by an armed party of the peasantry, of considerable strength, who demanded the release of the prisoners. This demand was, of course, not complied with ; when immediately the cavalry were fired upon, and three of their number, and some of their horses wounded. Hereupon they discharged their pistols and galloped off, leaving their prisoners. A further account states that "there were about sixty men on the knees, so as to take a deadly aim, when Malo (the constable) called out, "Do not fire!" and the command was given to the cavalry to halt, which was fortunately promptly obeyed, as a considerable portion of the enemy's fire, given at the same moment, proved ineffectual, owing to their anticipating the continued advance of the troop. The cavalry then wheeled about, and discharged their pistols among the crowd, and, it is reported, with some effect."13 There is one reason for the escape of the cavalry, not thought of by the Montreal editors, though, as it seems to us, a more probable one than any yet given — the assailants may have feared to injure the prisoners.

It is curious, that in the report of the law officers of the crown14, the cavalry are called "a body of mounted police," and one of the newspapers contended, against some disputant, that they were "acting as special constables;" this was evidently done to bear out Sir John Colborne, who had expressed his unwillingness to employ the military until the civil force had proved inadequate. In all probability, the employment of these persons was much more obnoxious to the people, than the resort to a regular military force would have been, for the very obvious reason that the cavalry consisted of their political opponents, and they would naturally regard the step as an unfair and partial arming of their political enemies against them.

As may be imagined, the return of the cavalry created great agitation in the city of Montreal. A despatch was forwarded to Lord Gosford, detailing all the particulars; and recommending (such was the conjecture of the Montreal papers) a partial declaration of martial law. On the following morning, four companies of the Royals, a party of the artillery with two field pieces, and about twenty of the cavalry proceeded, under the command of Colonel Wetherall, to the scene of the rescue; or, as it was stated, on special duty not yet disclosed, between Longueil and Chambly. This force was accompanied by two magistrates, and the deputy sheriff of the district, "to authorise its movements." Its operations will be detailed in the next chapter.

Of the absentees, little was known at the time.15 The Montreal Courier we find expressing itself in the following manner : —

Conflicting reports are current as to the locale of the unarrested leaders, and of M. Papineau in particular. By some, it is confidently stated that he is in town ; by others, that he has even left the country, and has crossed the line. We believe neither report to be correct. The authorities, we trust, will lose no time in following up the blow they have now struck. They have passed the Rubicon, and the success of their measures must henceforth depend mainly on their promptness.

No stone must be left unturned to insure the arrest of every man against whom evidence can be found to warrant a fair hope of his conviction.

There is a little doubt expressed in some quarters, as to the fact of a warrant being out against Papineau ; but we trust, there is no ground for such a doubt.

The number of warrants prepared is, we believe, considerable ; and some one of them must be for the head offender.

It is now known that there was a warrant. Moreover, at a meeting of the executive council at Quebec, on the 23d of November, the following report was agreed to : —

His excellency laid before the board the official communication from the attorney general, stating, that warrants had been issued for the apprehension of Louis Joseph Papineau, and twenty-six others, for high treason; and there being reason to suppose that M. Papineau had absconded from Montreal, and that he is now in the district of Quebec;

It was ordered by the advice of the board, and after having examined M. Duval, one of the queen's counsel on the subject, that immediate steps be taken for the apprehension of M. Papineau ; and that it being expedient that a warrant, signed by a justice of the peace, for the five districts of Montreal, Quebec, Three-Rivers, St. Francis, and Gaspé, should issue for this purpose ; it was further ordered, that M. Duval be directed to draft the warrant in accordance with the advice given by him on the subject.16

We have now brought to a close our narrative of the events which immediately preceded the first military movement against the people of the country watered by the river Richelieu. The details of this movement will form the subject-matter of the next chapter, the present we cannot better conclude than with a short biographical notice of M. Papineau.

Louis-Joseph Papineau, lawyer, Speaker of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, leader of the Parti patriote

The family of M. Papineau was originally from the west of France, whence they emigrated about a hundred and fifty years ago to Canada, then more generally called New France.

The father of M. Papineau, who is still living, exercised the profession of a notary — an occupation of considerable importance under the civil law of France, which prevails in Lower Canada, inasmuch as the whole business of conveyancing, of drawing settlements, marriage contracts, wills, &c., is assigned to them. Moreover, being better educated than their neighbours, the office of general dispute-settler to their neighbourhood falls tacitly into their hands.

Joseph Papineau, notary, Member of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada

The elder M. Papineau was a member of the first Assembly,17 summoned under the constitutional act in 1792, and he continued to be elected to each succeeding Assembly, until he retired from public life in 1814, universally respected by his compatriots.

Louis Joseph Papineau, the subject of this brief notice, was born in the year 1787, and was educated at the seminary of Quebec. He studied for the legal profession, and was in due course admitted to the bar ; but he never practised, having determined to devote himself to public life, which his election to the Assembly in 1809 afforded him an opportunity of doing.

His first election he probably owed to the respect due to his name, but he soon earned a reputation for himself by the energy and talent he displayed as an advocate of popular rights ; and, on his father's retirement, he was invited to represent the west ward of the city of Montreal, for which he has continued to sit to the present time. On the elevation of Mr. Speaker Panet to the bench in 1815, M. Papineau was chosen to succeed him, the Assembly thus conferring on him the highest honour they have it in their power to bestow.

In the same year, peace was concluded with the United States of America, and as soon as the Assembly had gotten through certain matters of legislation, arising out of the late war, the old disputes about money were renewed.18 The offer of the Assembly to take upon themselves the civil expenditure was repealed, and England being in a state of embarrassment, it was accepted. Then came the manifold efforts of the official party to avoid being amenable to the Assembly, and the counter exertions of the Assembly to bring them under their control. In all these disputes M. Papineau took a prominent part, and he rose greatly in the estimation of his compatriots.

In 1822, a proposal was brought before parliament to unite the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. This measure was not popular in either province. In Lower Canada especially, the opposition was very great; petitions were prepared, and were signed by no less than 60,000 persons, out of a population of 400,000, and M. Papineau was deputed with Mr. John Neilson of Quebec, to convey the petitions to England, and there to support their prayer. M. Papineau accordingly proceeded to England, having first resigned the speakership.

This mission was successful. The two delegates returned to Canada in 1824, when they were enabled to communicate to the Assembly that the decision was for the present abandoned ; and moreover, that "if the consideration of an union of the provinces should be resumed, the colonial minister pledged himself that the circumstance should previously be notified through the governor, to the inhabitants of the colony, in order to enable them to be heard in parliament if they should think proper, by commissioners, by petition, or in such other manner as they should see fit."19

Shortly after this period, the disputes between the Assembly and the executive, respecting the appropriation of the public money, became greatly aggravated by the conduct of the Earl of Dalhousie, who pursued a series of arbitrary measures which greatly exasperated the Assembly and the people.20 Lord Dalhousie unwisely imparted to the disputes a personal character, as Sir James Craig had done in 1810. He dismissed with ignominy from the magistracy those who were opposed to his policy, and even refused to ratify the Assembly's choice of M. Papineau as speaker. On this, as well as on all other points, however, he was beaten by the firmness of the Assembly ; as a matter of principle, they would certainly have persisted in their choice, and they were doubly disposed to do so, on account of their attachment to the object of that choice. The Earl was afterwards recalled, but not until he had set the province almost in flames; the exasperated state of the public mind resulting in the petitions of 1827, and the committee of 1828.21

We shall not further pursue M. Papineau's political course. To do so, would be to write the history of the disputes with which he is so completely identified over again. We shall content ourselves by saying, that his master spirit has guided the course of the Assembly down to the latest period. With its virtues and its errors he is undoubtedly identified ; and his public conduct must be approved or condemned, in the precise measure of the reader's approval or disapproval of the course adopted by the Assembly.

In person, M. Papineau is considerably above the middle stature ; his countenance is grave, and, at times, even stern ; in conversation, however, his expression is not unfrequently playful, though without interfering with the dignity of his air and manner. By his private acquaintances and friends he is greatly esteemed as a man of amiable disposition, and his address is certainly engaging ; — yet, by his enemies, he is deemed a man of ungovernable temper — an accusation not unfrequently made against public men who are in the habit of expressing with force and energy, both of language and manner, the indignation which they feel.

M. Papineau's commanding eloquence is admitted by all parties. He is thoroughly acquainted with the English language, which he makes use of, when the occasion requires it, with the same fluency as that with which he speaks his mother tongue. He is thoroughly acquainted with what may be called the constitutional history, both of this country and the United States ; and is even versed in the occult mysteries of our party politics. He has been said to be an enemy to trade ; this, however, will be appreciated when we know who are his accusers. They are the colonial merchants, a class of men whose life-blood is restriction and monopoly. M. Papineau is, in fact, an enemy to trade, in the same sense that Mr. Poulett Thomson, Sir Henry Parnell, Mr. Warburton, and others of similar views are its enemies.

To characterize, in short, M. Papineau's political principles, a single word will suffice — he is, by conviction, a democrat ; — a state of mind which he owes, perhaps, more to the circumstances by which he is surrounded, than to any acquired theoretical views concerning government. In a country where the mass of the people are singularly equal in point of social condition, — where everything tends to self-government, it is difficult to be otherwise. Here the matter is entirely different : those who are theoretically democratic find great difficulty in casting aside their ancient associations — prejudices, though they be. In judging of the state of opinion in Canada, we shall do well to bear this continually in mind.


1. Par. Paper, December 23rd, 1837, No. 72, p. 65. — Most of our evidence for the statements made in this and the following chapters, is drawn from the series of parliamentary papers of Canada, printed this session, and numbered 72, 80, 99 and 100.

2. Par. Paper, No. 72, p. 85.

3. Par. Paper, No. 72, p. 94.

4. It has been stated that their doors were opened, so as to afford some of the Doric Club a shelter. If this be true, the stones were, doubtless, thrown designedly.

5. Colonel Wetherall takes the merit of saving M. Papineau's house ; the Solicitor General says the mob went from M. Papineau's house to the Vindicator office. A mob which had given evidence of its destructive disposition should have been dispersed or watched.

6. It was intended to give short biographies of the leading men in a separate chapter, but it has been thought more advisable to embody them in the narrative.

7. See this question fully stated in the Introduction.

8. This evidence was suppressed at the time, but will be found printed among the sessional papers of 1837, No. 211.

9. M. Perrault's name is not on the attorney-general's list.

10. For some facts of a character to warrant this feeling, see Chap. iii.

11. For details on this subject, see Chap. iii.

12. See Chap, ii., and Map.

13. Montreal Herald.

14. Par. paper, Dec. 23, 1637, No. 72, page, 109.

15. November 20.

16. Par. paper, Dec. 23, 1837, No. 72, p. 114.

17. He sat first for the county, and afterwards for one of the wards of the city of Montreal.

18. For complete details respecting these disputes, see the Introduction.

19. Journal of Assembly, 1824.

20. See Introduction.

21. See Introduction.

Table of Contents | Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII | Chapter VIII | Chapter IX | Chapter X

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