An Impartial and Authentic Account of the Civil War in the Canadas/Chapter IX
M'Kenzie at Buffalo — Meeting at the Theatre — Adjourned meeting — M'Kenzie's address — Modes of supplying arms — Extension of Sympathy — Meeting at New York — Rationale of American Sympathy.
AFTER the defeat of the insurgent patriots under M'Kenzie, in Yonge-street, and whilst M'Nab was marching with very little check through the London district, the field of operations was shifted from Upper Canada to the State of New York, by the arrival of M'Kenzie at Buffalo.148
M'Kenzie's escape from the province was not without considerable difficulty. He was disguised as a farm labourer, and slept under hay-stacks or in out-houses. Being thus poorly clad, but at the same time well mounted, he fell under suspicion of being a horse-stealer.149 He was armed, and in case of emergency, could have shot the officer who apprehended him, but not wishing to do so, exact in self-defence, he began talking politics, in order to ascertain the officer's leaning. The officer, much to M'Kenzie's satisfaction, expressed himself strongly in favour of the popular party, and of M'Kenzie himself, upon which the latter avowed himself. The sheriffs officer, however, thought it a mere trick to escape from justice, until at length M'Kenzie proved his identity, by exhibiting the mark upon his linen. On producing this evidence, he received considerable aid from the officer in effecting his escape. He does not appear in the sequel to have been much beforehand with his pursuers, for before he had got much beyond the mid-channel of the river, a party of horsemen in pursuit appeared on the bank he had just quitted.
As Mr. M'Kenzie's name has been so long connected with Canadian discontent, as he is something more than what he has occasionally been called, the "Papineau of Upper Canada," having identified himself with the outbreak, we shall here state what we know of his history.
William Lyon M'Kenzie was born in the Highlands of Scotland, and is connected, on the side both of his father and of his mother, with some of the most respectable families in that part of Scotland ; of his early career we have the following brief notice written by himself in his paper, the Constitution. It exhibits a degree of candour which autobiography is generally destitute of.
I got an excellent education — several of my school-fellows are inhabitants of the city. Two of my uncles, with my mothers consent, articled me as a clerk to George Gray, the wealthiest, as he was one of the oldest merchants of Dundee. I was at fifteen admitted a member of the Commercial Reading Room. Before I arrived at that age, I was an active member, and for some time secretary of a scientific society, of which the late Mr. Edward Lesslie was vice-president. We were members together for several years. Although early instructed in the principles of religion and good morals, and kept constantly at school under excellent masters from the time I was five years old, I acknowledge that at seventeen I was reckless, wild, a confirmed gambler, and somewhat dissipated (more so perhaps than I like to own.) But, even at that age my thirst for useful knowledge was unquenchable. At twenty-one, I paused, threw down cards and dice for ever, and became temperate. Other twenty-one years have now elapsed since I began to exercise that salutary self-control, leaving me a constitution so hale and sound, that I hope to be able to weather the storms of twice twenty-one years more.
I was several years in Canada before I got so angry with the conduct of the executive as to resolve to step out of my way to oppose it. My Toronto neighbours first knew me when I had a share in the profits of the business now carried on here by the Messrs. Lesslie — next, as a person in business, under the firm of " M'Kenzie and Lesslie," and afterwards on my own account. A thousand copies of No. I. of the old Advocate brought me at once before the Canadian people as a supporter of their rights, and in that capacity I have since enjoyed their confidence, and received the highest honours in their gift.
It was as editor and proprietor of the Colonial Advocate that M'Kenzie was first generally known as a politician. He may have attended local meetings, and so may have become known within a small circle ; but as he himself says, it was the thousand copies of the Advocate which brought him at once before the Canadian people.
The history of the first publication of this paper is curious, as showing the difficulty of establishing a newspaper in a young colony. We find it thus stated by Mr. M'Kenzie himself, in a book150 he published when in England in 1833.
In that year (1824), I frequently crossed the Niagara river, seven miles below the falls at the hour of midnight, and alone ; the ferrymen on both sides having retired to rest. These dismal voyages I made in the infancy of printing in Upper Canada, in consequence of a contract then subsisting, by which an Irish gentleman at Lewistown had agreed to print from 1000 to 1500 copies of my earliest numbers. I was detained from home, making selections from the British journals which were obtained, via New York. On one occasion it was very dark, and I missed my way, going down the river a considerable distance towards fort George, and being in the greatest danger of upsetting, without knowing what course to take, and the river full of little whirls which change their place, and are not altogether free from danger.
I have now in my possession a newspaper, one of the numbers of the Colonial Advocate for 1824, the paper for which was made at the falls of Niagara ; the first side composed and printed off by an American and an Irishman at Lewistown, in the United States, on the south151 bank of the St. Lawrence, and the second side set up and pressed off at Queenstown, Upper Canada, on the northern bank of that river. This number so printed was afterwards published and issued in York152, north of lake Ontario, and is probably the only newspaper sheet ever printed in two nations.153
The Colonial Advocate was established for the express purpose of exposing the manifold abuses of the dominant party. This was new to those who profited by the existing system — a numerous class in all our colonies, and in Upper Canada especially so — and they had not then learned to treat such exposures with indifference. The consequence was, that the hard-working editor became especially obnoxious to them and their adherents, and they took every occasion to make M'Kenzie feel the violence of their hatred. In proportion to the hatred of the dominant party, did Mr. M'Kenzie acquire popularity among the yeomen of Upper Canada, and in 1828, he was invited to represent the metropolitan county, York, which had before that time been in undisputed possession of the anti-popular party. To their astonishment, however, M'Kenzie and his radical coadjutor were returned. "At five succeeding elections," says M'Kenzie himself, writing in 1833, "I have been returned by a county containing nearly 50,000 inhabitants, and 5000 freeholders, with continually increasing majorities ; and although the first contest was attended with great expense to me, I must do the yeomanry the justice to acknowledge, that they never allowed me to expend one farthing during any subsequent struggle."
In the month of February 1830, M'Kenzie was elected for the fourth time by a majority of 628 against 23, the latter number being all the government nominee polled. Finding it was impossible to prevail on the hustings, a new scheme was now tried, which in due time ripened into a successful means of getting rid of the obnoxious member, but at the cost of disfranchising the county, and thereby exasperating the people.
Just before the election, M'Kenzie had, at his own expense, printed and circulated 200 copies of the journals of the house, without note or comment, "to show the people how their representatives had voted." On the 10th of February of the following year, Allan M'Nab, who now commands a detachment of the volunteers in Upper Canada, moved that Mr. W. L. M'Kenzie had abused his trust, and been guilty of a breach of parliamentary privilege, by distributing the journals of the former parliament among persons not entitled to copies thereof. For this session, however, the scheme was defeated by a small majority. The next session they succeeded ; and on the 12th of December, 1831, the first step was taken towards making M'Kenzie the John Wilkes of Upper Canada, by his expulsion from the House.
On the 2nd of January, 1832, he was re-elected almost unanimously by his indignant constituents. A nominee of the ruling party was set up against him, but as he had only one vote when M'Kenzie had 119, he was withdrawn. Immediately after the close of the poll, a gold medal and chain, of the value of 250 dollars, or about 60Z., were presented to Mr. M'Kenzie. It bore the following inscription : "Presented to W. L. M'Kenzie, Esq. by his constituents of the county of York, Upper Canada, as a token of their approbation of his political career, January 2d, 1832." Five days afterwards, he was again expelled.
The people now turned their eyes towards the colonial office for redress. On the 19th of the same month, a large meeting was held of the population of the Home and adjoining districts, when Mr. M'Kenzie was delegated to England to endeavour to obtain a redress of their grievances. Petitions were afterwards prepared, and signed by about 10,000 land-owners and others, which were transmitted to Mr. M'Kenzie to act upon as he could deem lit.
Up to the time of his departure from Upper Canada for this country, Mr. M'Kenzie had continued to edit the Colonial Advocate; he had also printed political almanacs, of which the following is his own account : —
In order the more effectually to unite all classes of the people against the system of misrule in Upper Canada, I compiled and published an annual fourpenny almanac, filled with political facts and astounding disclosures concerning the colonial authorities. Such a work is referred to at all times of the year, and becomes a sort of family record. In 1829, 30 and 31, I disposed of from 30,000 to 40,000 of these "poor Richards," and was sorry that my absence in England this year will cause them to be neglected.154
In November 1832, during his absence on his mission to this country, he was unanimously re-elected member for the county of York. Mr. M'Kenzie's enemies now modified the course they had hitherto pursued ; on the 9th of February, 1833, they carried a motion to the effect, that he was not entitled to vote, "on account of his former expulsion." In the summer of the same year, M'Kenzie returned to Upper Canada, without having obtained the redress he sought. He resumed the editorship of his paper, and, in order to influence the coming elections of 1834, he published a black list,155 and a political almanac, under the pseudonymous signature of Patrick Swift. The result of the elections was a great triumph to the reformers of the province. They had an overwhelming majority, and to work they went, opposing the dominant party to the fullest extent in their power. The county of York had been divided into four ridings, for one of which M'Kenzie was returned. He was also chosen mayor of the newly elected town-council of Toronto ; in short, as he himself says, he received "the highest honours his country had to bestow."
In order to give him more time to devote to his increased duties, the Advocate was given up, being incorporated with another liberal paper, called the Correspondent ; but on the defeat of the liberal party in 1836, as already recorded,156 Mr. M'Kenzie again entered the field as a journalist, by establishing the Constitution. Just before the rising in Upper Canada, the subscription list of the Correspondent was handed over to the Constitution which thus became the sole organ of the ultra-reformers. It has since, of course, ceased.
Mr. M'Kenzie's characteristic is indefatigable laboriousness. As a member of the Assembly, as a municipal officer, as a journalist, in short, in everything he undertakes, this feature is conspicuous. A harder worker exists not in the British provinces. He has been for the last fourteen years a perpetual thorn in the side of the ruling party in Upper Canada. Their hatred of him is of course great, and they have never lost an opportunity of showing it. His repeated expulsion from the Assembly, an unwise and intemperate course, which entirely defeated its object, is evidence of this. Besides this, his printing office was destroyed certainly once, and we have an impression that it was more than once, by a "loyal," "well affected" mob. No baseness, no atrocity, has been deemed too bad to attribute to him; on the other hand, the warm attachment of a considerable portion of the people towards him is a proof that he is not without good qualities. One fact has been elicited lately greatly to his credit. His enemies accused him of having run away from Scotland in debt, and for some time they rung the changes on such words as cheat, swindler, rogue, thief, and so forth. It turned out that they only told half the story, and that half they coloured. He had some debts when he left Scotland, but having got on in the world, he paid them all in full.
No one was more fit for the position he for many years filled than M'Kenzie ; but as a leader he appears to have failed. He has generally had the character among his friends of being injudicious, and even rash, in his proceedings. The recent movement in Upper Canada appears to have been precipitated by him in the first instance ; and yet at the moment when precipitation would have been of use — namely, on the night of the 4th of December, he seems to have failed. However, we deem it no more than just to remind the reader, that our judgment in this respect ought to be received with caution, inasmuch as it is formed on the facts stated by M'Kenzie's enemies only.
We must now follow Mr. M'Kenzie to Buffalo. His appearance in that town on the 10th of December, created a considerable degree of excitement. On the following day, a meeting was held in the Theatre, which is thus described in the Buffalo papers : —
Last evening, much the largest public meeting we ever saw in Buffalo assembled at the Theatre, the use of which had been generously proffered by Mr. Dean. Every foot of the house, from the orchestra to the roof, was literally crammed with people — the pit was full — the boxes were full — the galleries were full — the lobbies were full — the street was full — and hundreds were obliged to go away without being able to gain admittance.
The stage was set with the appropriate scene of a Roman forum ; a fine military band occupied the orchestra, and played patriotic airs while the house was filling.
It had been announced that Dr. Rolph would be present ; but at the time of opening the meeting he had not appeared. The committee still expected him, and said he was on his way as fast as horses could bring him.
It was expected that the officers of the former meeting would preside at this, but, from some cause or other, they did not make their appearance.
The venerable Dr. Chapin was called to the chair. He made a few remarks on the object of the meeting.
'Gentlemen,' said he, 'we have met on an important occasion. Our neighbours on the north are at war, fighting for liberty. We have met to express our sympathies and good wishes. But, fellow-citizens, we must act with wisdom, prudence, and discretion ; we sympathise with the oppressed, and it is highly proper we should do so ; but, as I said before, and have said on a former occasion, let prudence and wisdom characterise all our proceedings. Let us act as high-minded, honourable men should act in view of the delicate position in which we are placed, with a country on one side resisting oppression, and enlisting all our warm and holy sympathies in its favour, and on the other a powerful nation, with which we are at peace, and towards which we are bound to act according to the most friendly treaties.
'I have one word more to say,' he continued — 'I have now men under my protection at my house on whose life a price is set, and whom I am bound to protect !'
'Who are they !'
'One of them is William L. M'Kenzie.'
"The whole vast assembly," continues the Buffalo papers,
... burst into a thunder of applause. Never saw we such a scene — never heard we such a burst of exultation ! Such enthusiasm is honourable to the feelings of our citizens. It was not M'Kenzie who called forth such electrical feelings. A few months ago he might have come among us and excited little interest. He comes now as the champion and martyr of liberty. A price is set on his life by the agents of Transatlantic power. That circumstance alone is enough to call out all the feeling of an American assembly.
'Fellow-citizens,' continued the veteran, 'his life is in our power, he has thrown himself upon our protection — will you protect him !
'We will ! — we will ! Bring him out !'
'Gentlemen, he is too fatigued — too sick,157 to come here tonight ; but to-morrow night he shall address you [cheers]. I am an old man, but at the hazard of my life will I protect those who throw themselves upon my hospitality. If any mean scoundrels, for the sake of the reward of $4,000 which is offered for him, should undertake to get him, they must first walk over me. I am rather old to fight, but I have got a good bowie knife158 [here he showed one of very respectable dimensions, which was greeted with three cheers]. Now we must act with prudence and discretion. I want six strong, brave young men, as good sons as God has got among us, to go to my house to-night, for fear of any attempt on the part of the loyalists.'
'A hundred !'
'No, I want only six — who'll go ?'
'I — I — I,' was heard all over the house. A dozen sprang upon the stage.
Mr. Stow was loudly called for. He said : 'It had been expected that others far more competent than himself would be there to address them, and he hoped they would yet have a hearing [They shall, they shall !] It was proper they should. Shall we refuse them what was granted by a corrupt court to Franklin, when they come upon the same errand [No]. They come here, as he went to the court of France, for sympathy and assistance. Gentlemen, I envy not the heart that does not sympathise warmly in this cause. Far be it from me to uphold a violation of treaties ; by so doing we should follow the example of Great Britain in the wars of the Peninsula — the taking of Copenhagen — the attack of the Turkish fleet at Navarino [cheers]. We will go no farther than it is proper for us to go — than it is our duty to go [cheers]. It was not likely that this country, after fulfilling her treaties for half a century, would now, for the first time, break them.
'Our feelings are natural — it is natural we should express them. On this spot where I now stand — when, in the mimic scene, tyranny is displayed, you are filled with involuntary emotions of hate — when freedom triumphs over oppression, your enthusiasm bursts forth in loud huzzas. Will you show less feeling when such scenes are acted before you in reality?' [cheers].
Mr. Stow moved an adjournment to this evening.
Previous to the motion being put, it was moved that the address of the Sons of Liberty be read. Mr. Edward H. Thomson was unanimously called upon to read it. It was warmly applauded, approved, and recommended to be printed in the papers of this city.
After giving three cheers for M'Kenzie — three for Papineau — three for Rolph and others, the assembly left the house. They then formed a procession, and marched to music through the streets to the residence of Dr. Chapin, and gave three cheers for M'Kenzie and his worthy host.
To-night the theatre will again be crowded, and we shall learn why M'Kenzie left his co-patriots at this critical juncture, and what he thinks of the present prospects of his party.
On the following evening the adjourned meeting took place ; and the following is a report of what took place from a Buffalo paper.
"The meeting," says the paper alluded to,
... was thronged by an enthusiastic and excited multitude." Mr. Tillinghast was called to the chair, and after a few introductory remarks, he led forth Mr. M'Kenzie, the leader of the agitators in the Upper Province, who was received with repeated cheers. "M'Kenzie," says The Buffalo Commercial Advertiser "is a little Scotchman, five feet five, with a big head and sandy wiskers, bearing some slight resemblance to Martin Van Buren. He spoke for about an hour, in a plain matter-of-fact style, with an occasional dash of humour, but with no attempt at eloquence. As the speech of Mr. M'Kenzie, as we find it reported in The Advertiser appears to present a condensed summary of the causes and prospects of the insurrection, we copy it at length, confident that we can give nothing which will be read with greater interest at the present moment.
To prove the justice of the cause, he took the Declaration of Independence — went through it, article by article, and stated that, in every particular, the Canadas had the same grievances, and in some cases that they were even more onerous.
He spoke of the government of Great Britain as good at home, but uniformly bad abroad — of laws made in the province, repealed at London after being six years in operation — of the enormous salaries of their public officers — of taxation without the consent of the taxed — of the British monopoly of the trade of the St. Lawrence — of packed juries, and packed legislatures — of a perpetual senate, the creatures of the governor — of supporting church establishments with which the people have no sympathy — of the want of education, and the sequestration by the government officers of the funds raised for that purpose — of colleges endowed by the King of France turned into British barracks — of the London Company's land monopoly — of the repeated overwhelming majorities chosen by the people in the lower house, whose reform acts were uniformly set aside and vetoed — of his own repeated expulsion from the house, and his being elected mayor of Toronto in consequence — of the frequent and large petitions sent to the home government, but uniformly disregarded.
He said that the recent unfortunate rising was in consequence of a mistake in the time specified in one of their despatches. They were organized, acting in concert with the people of the lower provinces, running almost daily expresses — despatches had been sent to the different towns who had joined in the league, but one of them, by accident or design, was written "Tuesday" instead of "Thursday." They came on Tuesday, and made a forced march to the neighbourhood of Toronto, expecting to meet the citizens of the whole province. They were too weak to attempt the town that night, the government took the alarm, the munitions of war were placed in the hands of the retainers of the executive and the opportunity was lost.159 They had a slight skirmish, in which some three or four lost their lives, and being destitute of arms, were obliged to retreat. Parties were coming in every direction, with bold hearts and strong hands, but they were unarmed, and there were no arms to be given them. Why ? There are not probably 300 muskets in the Upper Province, except those in the hands of the government. Arms and gunpowder are, and have long been, contraband. They have nothing but pitchforks to oppose bayonets.
He described the death of Colonel Moodie, who was shot by a sentinel, endeavouring to escape, and after he had first fired on the soldier.
He spoke of the interest of the United States in the freedom of the provinces, the navigation of the St. Lawrence, the north eastern boundary question, the trade of the Upper Province ... wheat, its lumber, and its millions of acres of the best land in North America, and especially of the interest of Buffalo in the present struggle.
They had little to contend with — a few thousand men would do the business in a hurry. There were no British troops — none but the pensioners of the government, and a few of the old Tory brood, who still adhered to the principles for which their fathers fled from the states to this province of Upper Canada.
There is, he said, no probability of England's debating the question. In her former struggles she had lost money, honour, men, and been shamefully defeated. He had watched the progress of seventeen successful revolutions : he did not believe that of Canada would be an exception.
He had by chance seen some despatches from government officers in the Lower Provinces, which got into his camp instead of going into the post-office. One of them to the commandant at Niagara said, they were all rebels below, and made inquiries in regard to the Upper Province ; recommending, moreover, that spies should be sent to Buffalo, as they apprehended danger from this quarter.
He said he was not the principal man, he acted in an humble capacity ; there were leaders abler than himself.
Thirty-five hundred had come to them : they had no arms to give them — they were obliged to go home. They wanted arms — they wanted powder — they wanted ordnance — and they wanted blankets. Of those assembled in the neighbourhood of Toronto, there were but 200 armed.
Would they be successful ? He could not tell. They depended on the same overruling power that guided our fathers, and defended the life of Washington. The battle was not for the strong ; he trusted that God would strike for the oppressed.
England can hardly spare troops or money to carry on a foreign war. It takes 30,000 bayonets to keep Ireland quiet; those who make war in England are tax payers — they would hardly take money out of their own pockets to oppress their countrymen.
"Mr. M'Kenzie," adds the Buffalo paper, "was listened to attentively throughout, and frequently interrupted with bursts of applause. At the end he was greeted with prolonged cheering."
These two meetings increased the excitement in and around Buffalo, in favour of the Upper Canadians. Supplies of arms and ammunition were furnished from various quarters ; provisions were promised when they should be required ; and a considerable number of men engaged to embark in the liberal cause. One man publicly announced, that he had at home forty stand of arms — he did not intend to give them away, but he did not much care if they were stolen ; others furnished arms and ammunition openly.
This process of collection from private sources does not appear to have been sufficiently fruitful or rapid for the friends of the Canadians. On the night of the 20th of December, the Buffalo watch-house was entered, and about 130 muskets belonging to the state of New York, were stolen therefrom. It is amusing to observe the tone of surprise and ignorance assumed by the Buffalo papers on the subject. One says, "no clue is given by which the public can form any opinion who are the thieves ;" another "wonders how any one could have the audacity to commit such an outrage, and cannot conceive by whom, or for what purpose, they were carried off." A third put the following ludicrous construction on the matter : —
This is a 'little the slickest,' at the same time the boldest trick that has yet been played in reference to those oft-captured and re-captured arms. Who could have taken them is a mystery. It is suspected, however, by many, that Sir Francis Head had a hand in it, somehow or other ! No watch was kept up against him and his royal myrmidons, and it is supposed to be altogether fair to infer that he has taken advantage of the circumstance ! But be this as it may, the arms in question have walked off — either of their own accord, or in accordance with the wishes of others. Who these others are we should like to know !
The official account of this important capture is thus given by the captain of the watch : —
On Thursday morning, about 1 o'clock, a citizen of this place entered the watch-house, and informed me that there was a row at the points, and hearing a great noise in that quarter, I immediately despatched the watchmen in company with him to the scene of riot. He had not left the watch-house more than ten minutes, when about twenty-five men marched into the room, and there being but one watchman (whose hour it was to rest) and myself there, any opposition on our part would have been ineffectual, and of course was not attempted.
The arms were taken, packed into waggons, and driven off in ten minutes from the time they entered.
Other captures of a similar kind were made in other places. At Batavia in Genesee county, about 40 miles east of Buffalo, a similar scene was enacted. Being the county town, or capital, as the Americans call it, there is a state arsenal here. Into this a body of men contrived to enter, taking as many arms as they could conveniently carry off. A supply was also obtained in a similar manner at Geneva, which is still further from Buffalo. In short, for two or three weeks from the time of M'Kenzie's appearance, every place was ransacked for arms ; but New York not being, like Kentucky, Indiana, or Tennessee, a hunting state, the supply was not very abundant, and the arms were not very good. Rifles there were but few ; and of the muskets, many of them were almost useless, being such as were used during the war, and being of little worth, they had not been kept with much care.
Every succeeding seizure of arms was treated by the American newspapers in the manner described in the case of that at Buffalo. They spoke, it is true, of preserving the national neutrality inviolate, but individual violations thereof were deemed venial, if not absolutely praiseworthy acts. There seemed, in short, to be that nice sort of distinction which is sometimes drawn in the House of Commons, when one man calls another every thing base and mean, in a public sense, a distinction which no one can understand but those who are in the plot.
Contributions of money, too, were not omitted. Subscriptions were raised at Buffalo, and other towns on and near the frontier, to an extent sufficient to purchase a good supply of provisions for the garrison on Navy Island, the occupation of which will form the subject of the next chapter. A sample of the mode of extending pecuniary aid to M'Kenzie, and his adherents, is furnished by the following extract from the Buffalo Journal : —
The Spirit of the Country ! — We give the following extract from a letter from a gentleman in Tompkins county, to a business firm in this city, as one among the many which we have seen, indicating the feeling which prevails all over the country, in reference to the cause of the Canadian reformers.
Dear Sirs, — I herewith send you a ten-dollar bill, which, with my respects and good wishes, please give to my friend, W. L. M'Kenzie, who I discover by the papers is in your city. If, however, he should have previously left, give it to some other Canadian patriot, and if the cause of freedom and disenthralment from petticoat government will be subserved by drawing on me for 50 or 100 dollars, I shall be happy to meet the demand.
We have already alluded to the sympathy excited in the state of Vermont, and in that portion of the state of New York lying along lake Champlain, by the affairs of St. Charles and St. Denis ; we must now carry the reader to the city of New York.
If we had been asked in what part of the United States the insurgent patriots of Canada had been least likely to find sympathy and succour, we should certainly have named New York beyond all places. New York is overrun with a bad class of British commercial adventurers — ignorant, intolerant, and vulgar-minded, whose only means of distinction is pretended admiration of every thing that is aristocratic, according to their narrow notions, and "British." Of course these persons' minds are perpetually on the stretch to do some overt-act of loyalty, if we may be allowed the expression, in order to show how remote is their connexion with the vulgar crowd, the "common people." Their imitation of what they conceive to be genteel is the most amusing thing in the world, provided you can, by a strong effort, shake off the first impression of its offensiveness. Liberalism in any shape, or of any degree, is their abhorrence, as it might lead to a suspicion of the genuineness of their gentility, which would be intolerable ; it is therefore to be denounced and avoided. Any thing that savours of democratic associations is treated — much as a well-married milliner's girl treats a needle — as something of the existence of which they had been told, but of which they had no very clear conception. Not only was no demonstration in favour of the Canadians to be expected from these persons ; but as all their aspirations would naturally be in favour of the dominant party in the colonies, composed in part of the same class of persons, all their efforts would therefore be directed to the suppression of anything like a public exhibition of sympathy.
The Americans of New York, too, are not very prone to side with the popular party in any country. To hear a New York mercantile man talk of the people, you may suppose yourself listening to a London shopkeeper. They accumulate wealth as the same class in England, and they then feel, and immediately regret, how little wealth will purchase in a democratic country, after the extreme point of comfort is attained. Like the rich Mr. Touchandgo,160 the runaway banker, they sigh that they cannot purchase a seat in Congress' with their own notes, and they soon earn to fall out with their simple and cheap government.
Thus taking off the "foreign" and "mercantile" portions of the population, the liberal portion, we should have conceived, would have found some difficulty in getting up a demonstration in favour of a revolutionary movement so near home; and this impression the tone of the New York papers was not calculated to allay, for, with some exceptions to be presently noticed, they were all opposed to the Canadians at the first outbreak.
It may not be out of place here to mention that we are perpetually falling into error in this country, as to the state of opinion in the United States, from the fact, that all our papers take their views of America and Americans from the New York commercial papers alone. These papers represent the opinions and desires of their supporters, and are generally opposed to the prevailing opinions of the people. They depend for their existence on advertisements, which the mercantile class can alone give, and the consequence is, that out of the thirteen daily papers, certainly only two, and we believe only one, is attached to the democratic party. The consequence is, that they are almost always at issue with the ballot-boxes — the great and all-commanding index of opinion in America. A singular instance of this occurred at the last presidential election. Nearly all the New York papers foretold a triumph against the democratic party, but the ballot-boxes soon gave evidence of the extent to which they had deceived their party and themselves. Now if this be the case, it is not very wonderful that they deceive us. To judge of the average state of opinion on any great question, involving a principle of government or affecting large interests, we should see the provincial papers, and these we conceive seldom fall into the hands of London editors. There are a large number of penny, and even halfpenny (cent) papers in New York, which are also a sealed letter to us ; these are all democratic, and all, or nearly all, in favour of Canada.
The American correspondents of the London papers are equally mischievous as guides to the state of opinion in America. They have a purpose to serve at home, and by neither Whig nor Tory is democracy likely to be pictured in colours too attractive. The only correspondent who strikes us as giving generally a fair view of American politics is that of the Times who calls himself "a Genevese traveller."
Notwithstanding this apparently unfavourable soil, a very enthusiastic demonstration was however made in New York in favour of the "suffering people of Canada." Of this demonstration, we have before us an animated picture drawn by an eye-witness, and transmitted in the shape of a letter161 to his friend in London.
I told you in my last that it was proposed to call a public meeting of the citizens of New York on Wednesday the 27th ult., to express their sympathy for the 'suffering people of Canada.' According to arrangement, this meeting was holden at the appointed time, at Vauxhall Gardens in this city. An effort was made to get the Bowery Theatre, Niblo's, or some other large building, but they were engaged, and though Vauxhall is rather at a distance up town, nothing could surpass the splendour and enthusiasm of the meeting. Fully three thousand people attended, whilst hundreds remained in the street unable to make their way in. I have put into the letter-bag to your address some newspapers containing an account of the meeting, with a copy of the report presented by a committee to the meeting on Canada grievances, and the resolutions passed on the occasion by this immense multitude of intelligent and wealthy American citizens. But nothing can convey to you an idea of the feelings of the meeting — the sympathy of all present in behalf of the Canadians, and their fervid enthusiasm.
When seven o'clock, the hour fixed for opening the meeting, arrived, the large room was crowded almost to suffocation. Alderman Mangle Quackenboss took the chair. Several most respectable citizens acted as vice-presidents. The meeting was addressed by various citizens. After the resolutions and report were read, the president announced that Dr. O'Callaghan, member of the Lower Canada House of Assembly, and editor of the Vindicator for whose arrest the British government had offered 2000 dollars, was present, and would, if permitted, address the meeting.
It must be remarked that it was not previously publicly known that the Doctor was present or in town. The announcement that he was in the room, called forth the loudest burst of applause I ever witnessed, which positively shook the house ; when he presented himself to the assembly — "Up on the table ! up on the table !" was the cry from all parts of the house, and up the Doctor accordingly got. "Hats off," was the next order ; and forthwith the assembled thousands, composed of a most intelligent and respectable class of citizens, many venerable by their white locks, stood uncovered before this stranger, whom none of them, except, perhaps, half-a-dozen, knew, and who had nothing to recommend him except his simple title of a Canadian patriot, suffering persecution in the cause of liberty.
It is well to remark, that it is not the custom for the people to take off their hats at public political meetings in this country. Uncovering their heads is a particular mark of respect, such as has been paid to no public man in this city for a great many years, except to Mr. Cambreling, representative in congress for this city, on his last return from Washington, when he attended a meeting to give an account of his conduct.
The cheering called forth by the Canadian patriot's safe and sound appearance among them continued for a full quarter of an hour. It was one wild and hearty cry of joy, excited by the sympathy felt in favour of Canada, and spoke trumpet-tongued in testimony of the feelings of the people towards Canada at the present crisis. It is unnecessary to enter here into a recapitulation of the Doctor's address. You will find a meagre report of it in one of the papers transmitted to your address. It was frequently interrupted with the most enthusiastic applause. When he met the 'national origin' fallacy, by asking them if their forefathers rejected Lafayette, because he spoke French, and then asked them if they would show themselves unworthy of their ancestors, by abandoning the Canadians, because they spoke the language of Lafayette the early friend and champion of their republic ? — one general shout for 'Canada, and liberty,' conveyed a full conviction to the minds of all present that the American people were not to be imposed upon by this 'national origin' fallacy. Three cheers for Papineau were most cordially given, when the Doctor pointed to the portrait of the honourable speaker which hung in one comer of the room.
My pen is too feeble to convey to you a perfect idea of this enthusiastic meeting. I must remark that it was composed of all political parties without discrimination. Some active partisans of the British tories in Canada, attempted to turn the tide against the Canadians at this meeting, but without the least success. They scattered hand-bills through the meeting, threatening the States with war from England, if the people here sympathised with the patriots of Canada ; and also threatening to send the free blacks of the West Indies to 'sympathise' with the slaves of the southern states, if the Americans expressed any sympathy for the Canadians ; but it produced no effect.
A. Dr. Anderson came forward to speak against the Canadians, but he could not get a hearing. Whilst Dr. O'Callaghan was speaking, he happened to mention the name of O'Connell. Immediately an agent of the British tories, who was present at the meeting, endeavoured to create a row by stating that O'Connell was 'an abolitionist.' The only answer this cunning gentleman received was, to be taken by the collar and pushed out of the meeting before you could count three.
I casually turned my head to speak a word to a gentleman near me, when I heard the word abolitionist ;' and before I had time to look back for the person who mentioned the unfortunate word, he was passed out of the room. All this was done with the greatest possible order and regularity.
It may be said, perhaps, that this is a proof that the meeting was composed in great part of Irishmen ; but it was not so. The meeting was almost exclusively American ; but, although the feeling of the great majority certainly was anti-abolitionist, yet the man who interrupted the meeting was put out, because all present felt that local politics should be dropt ; that they assembled on neutral ground ; and that the man was a common enemy who would attempt to divert them from expressing their sympathy in behalf of the suffering people of Canada.
I could convey to you other proofs of the generous feeling exhibited towards Canada on this occasion. Before adjourning, the meeting pledged itself to protect the Doctor whilst he remained in the city ; this was lest an attempt should be made to get him delivered up to the British authorities.
Many most respectable gentlemen came forward after the meeting, to congratulate him on his safety, and 'to have the honour of shaking hands with him.' Now all this kind and overpowering reception the Doctor is by no means so vain or so foolish as to take to himself personally — it was not intended for the man — it was intended for his country, for Canada; it was intended as a marked demonstration to England of the manner in which public opinion here pronounces itself regarding the suffering people which inhabit that province.
The gentleman who stood before the meeting was a representative of that country — of the persecutions that Canada was undergoing at the hands of the British government — of the sufferings inflicted on the Canadian people by the myrmidons of British rule in the province, and the warm reception and welcome they gave him. The cordial response they gave to his speech in behalf of Canada, was a proof on their part how much they disapproved of these persecutions, and how warmly they sympathised in the sufferings of the Canadians.
This reception, this expression of opinion on the part of New York in behalf of Canada, will be felt throughout the Union. It will give the tone to other cities ; and in line, will furnish a very good answer to the tory lies, and to the misrepresentations of Ellice and the royal commissioners, who would make you and us believe that there is no sympathy in those States for Canada. T told you in a recent letter that you would soon have proof to the contrary. You now have that proof. What's more, even the British newspapers in this city have much moderated their opposition to Canada, and now begin to acknowledge that their friends in Canada misconceive the state of public feeling here relative to the Canadians.
P.S. — Every post brings intelligence of increased sympathy amongst the people of this republic in favour of Canada. The Indiana Journal of the 19th Dec. announces that the journeymen printers of Indianapolis have formed themselves into a volunteer corps, and set out on their march to Canada, 'to assist the patriots in their struggle for liberty.' They are commanded by Capt. Z. B. Gentry. The paper adds, 'May the bold spirits of the enlisted meet with success.' This will show you how the contagion is spreading.
The example set by New York is about to be followed in the capital of this state, under the very nose of Governor Marcy. The citizens of Albany are to meet to-morrow, 'to sympathise with the Canadians.' The following is a copy of the notice, as extracted from the Albany papers : — 'Public meeting of the friends of North American liberty ! — The citizens of Albany and vicinity, who sympathise with the oppressed, and who are in favour of the extension of republican principles among the nations of the earth — who have a desire for the independence of the entire continent of North America from foreign vassalage, and who wish to perpetuate the blessings of self-government among their fellow-men, are requested to attend a public meeting in the City Hall, on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 1838, at 2 p. m.'
Another meeting is called in the interior of the state. The following is the notice, as extracted from the Rochester papers : — 'The people of Monroe county will assemble at the Court-house in Rochester, on Wednesday, Dec. 27th, at 1 o'clock, p. m. to express their sympathy in the cause of freedom by all lawful means, in contributing money, clothing, provisions, &c. for the relief of the struggling patriots in Canada. A committee will be appointed at the meeting to receive and apply the contributions which may be made on the occasion.' Here follow the names.
In addition to this, the walls of this city are covered with notices of a Benefit to be given to-morrow evening at the Franklin Theatre, in this city, 'for the Canadians.' At the foot of the notice it is announced that 'Dr. E. B. O'Callaghan, one of the proscribed Canadian patriots, for whom the British government has offered a reward of 2000 dollars, will be present.' This benefit is to be followed by a grand ball 'for the benefit of the Canadians,' on Thursday evening, at the Masonic Hall.
A meeting of the citizens of Brooklyn is, I understand, to be holden also, to encourage the movement to the north of line 45 degrees.
I am satisfied that these meetings will multiply throughout the Union, and that the Canadas will be assisted with money, arms, and ammunition ; aye, and with men from these states, to drive the authority of England from this continent.
The reader will not fail to perceive from the fervid tone of the writer, that he is warmly attached to the cause of the insurgent patriots. We must observe, however, that although the writer's evident bias may have warmed his hopes, and induced him to give a very favourable colour to the state of feeling prevalent at the time, there can lie no dispute about the facts. We have examined various American newspapers, and they all agree that the meeting was, as above stated, of the most enthusiastic kind. The reader may, therefore, make what allowances he thinks fit for the peculiar leaning and expressions of the above letter, bearing in mind, that of the facts related therein there can be no doubt. They are confirmed, and in some few particulars more than confirmed, by other testimony.
The only additional circumstance which occurred at the meeting worthy of being mentioned is, that Mr. William Hoare, a member of the London Working Men's Association, who presided at their meeting at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in favour of Canada, in April 1837, and who has since emigrated to America, addressed the citizens of New York in vindication of the mass of the English people in relation to the treatment of the Canadians. The sum of his argument was this : — that the people of England not being represented in parliament, the acts of the parliament must not be charged against the people. He showed that the persons of full age, in the United Kingdom, exceed 6,000,000 ; whilst the elective franchise is confined to a number not much exceeding 800,000 ; hence, it is only one-eighth, or at the most one-seventh of the population that has any control over the acts of the government. He quoted numerous instances in which the people and the government were at issue, and referred to numerous meetings to prove that, if universal suffrage prevailed in England, the Canadians would not now have to complain of the injustice of the mother country. His speech is described as eloquent, and above all, argumentative; as being fraught with a manly and generous spirit ; and as having abundantly proved his case.
What may have been the case had the suffrage been universal, or even much more extended than it is, is of course impossible to say. Notwithstanding the demonstration which has been made in many places against the course pursued towards Canada, we fear that prejudice and ignorance respecting the nature of our dominion over our colonies, has materially influenced opinion on the Canadian question. In the House of Commons, certainly, the tone of the debates exhibit no improvement, as compared with those which took place during our disputes with our old colonies. On the subject of those disputes we take leave to make a quotation from one of the most masterly — we ourselves are tempted to say, the most masterly work of the present age, expressing at the same time our deep regret, that the hope expressed at the conclusion has really proved more "romantic" than the philosopher who breathed it could then foresee.
If the bulk of the people of England had thought and reasoned with Mr. Burke, had been imbued with the spirit, and had seized the scope of his arguments, her needless and disastrous war with her American colonies would have been stifled at its birth. The stupid and infuriate majority who rushed into that odious war, could perceive and discourse of nothing but the sovereignty of the mother country, and her so called right to tax her colonial subjects.
But, granting that the mother country was properly the sovereign of the colonies ; granting that the fact of her sovereignty was proved by invariable practice ; and granting her so called right to tax her colonial subjects, this was hardly a topic to move an enlightened people.
Is it the interest of England to insist upon her sovereignty ? Is it her interest to exercise her right without the approbation of the colonists ? for the chance162 of a slight revenue to be wrung from her American subjects, and of a trifling relief from the taxation which now oppresses herself. Shall she drive those reluctant subjects to assert their alleged independence, visit her own children with the evil of war, squander her treasures and soldiers in trying to keep them down, and desolate the very region from which the revenue must be drawn ? These and the like considerations would have determined the people of England, if their dominant opinions and sentiments had been fashioned on the principle of utility.
And if these and the like considerations had determined the public mind, the public would have damned the project of taxing, and coercing the colonies, and the government would have abandoned the project. For it is only in the ignorance of the people, and in their consequent mental imbecility, that governments or demagogues can find the means of mischief.
If these and the like considerations had determined the public mind, the expenses and miseries of the war would have been avoided ; the connexion with England and America would not have been torn asunder ; and in case their common interests had led them to dissolve it quietly, the relation of sovereign and subject, or of parent and child, would have been followed by an equal, but intimate and lasting alliance. For the interests of the two nations perfectly coincide ; and the open and the covert163 hostilities with which they plague one another, are the offspring of a bestial antipathy begotten by their original quarrel.
But arguments drawn from utility, were not to the dull taste of the stupid and infuriate majority. The rabble, great and small, would hear of nothing but their right. 'They had a right to tax the colonists, and tax them they would, ay, that they would.' Just as if a right were worth a rush of itself, or a something to be cherished and asserted independently of the good that it may bring.
Mr. Burke would have taught them better; would have purged their muddled brains, and 'laid the fever in their souls,' with the healing principle of utility. He asked them what they would get if the project of coercion should succeed, and implored them to compare the advantage with the hazard and the cost. But the sound practical men still insisted on the right ; and sagaciously shook their heads at him as a refiner and a theorist.
If a serious difference shall arise between ourselves and Canada, or if a serious difference shall arise between ourselves and Ireland, an attempt will probably be made to cram us with the same stuff. But such are the mighty strides which reason has taken in the interval,164 that I hope we shall not swallow it with the relish of our good ancestors. It will probably occur to us to ask whether she be worth keeping at the cost of a war ? I think there is nothing romantic in the hope which I now express ; since an admirable speech of Mr. Baring, advising the relinquishment of Canada, was seemingly received a few years ago with general assent and approbation.165
The Albany Meeting took place on the 4th of January, and the following is a brief report of its proceedings, extracted from the Albany Daily Advertiser.
On the 4th inst. the largest meeting ever held in the city of Albany, assembled at the Capitol in pursuance of a previous call, to sympathise with the oppressed and persecuted patriots of Canada, and to adopt such measures as might be deemed necessary to afford relief and mitigate their sufferings. It is estimated that between five and six thousand persons were present. The large hall of the Capitol, sufficiently capacious to contain fifteen hundred persons, was completely thronged an hour before the time designated in the call for the meeting. Thousands were in the park, unable to gain admission. At three o'clock the meeting was called to order by Samuel S. Lush, Esq., who stated, in a few brief but eloquent remarks, the object for which the meeting had assembled. — On his motion,
His Honor Teunis Van Nechten, mayor of the city, was appointed President ; Erastus Corning, John Townsend, James Porter, Ichabod L. Judson, John W. Bay, Gerrit Y. Lansing, James Maher, James Robinson, John N. Quckenbush, and Gideon Hawley, Vice-Presidents; and Peter Cagger, Asa Fassett, and Charles S. Olmsted, Secretaries.
At this stage of the proceedings, a motion was made that an adjournment be had to the park, and unanimously carried.
After a meeting had organized in the park, the president, on motion of Mr. H. V. Hart, appointed the following gentlemen a committee, to draft and report resolutions, viz. Samuel S. Lush, Samuel Beardsley, Samuel Stevens, Dudley Burwell and S. De Witt Bloodgood.
The committee retired, and after a short absence returned, and, through their chairman, reported the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted, amidst the cheers of the assembled multitude : —
That, recognising the right of the people in every country to adopt and establish such forms of government as are in their judgment best suited to their wants, we naturally sympathise with those of every clime who seek to achieve their independence.
That, while in accordance with these principles we have sympathised with the Greeks, the Poles, the patriots of South America, and the reformers of Canada, we owe it to the character of our institutions, the policy of our government, and the sacred obligations of neutrality, to repudiate and disavow any and every attempt to disturb the friendly relations subsisting between two countries, allies by commerce, by mutual interest, and a common language.
That, acknowledging the obligations of neutrality on our own part, we also insist upon their fulfilment on the part of others, and avow our most solemn conviction, that full and ample satisfaction and atonement should be insisted upon for the recent lawless and cold blooded murder of our unarmed citizens, and the destruction of American property by a British armed force at Schlosser166 in this state; and that we pledge ourselves to sustain the government of our country in enforcing any satisfaction promptly, and at all and every hazard.
That in conformity with the principles of our government, and a full appreciation of the weighty interests involved in, and the peculiar difficulties arising out of, the present situation of our western frontier, we respectfully recommend to the executive and legislature of this state, to take immediate measures both to repel aggression and maintain a strict neutrality.
That we approve of the prompt and energetic manner in which his excellency the governor had presented the subject of the recent outrage on our fellow-citizens at Schlosser, to the attention of the legislature.
Samuel Stevens, Esq., being loudly called for from all parts of the park, ascended a platform raised at the foot of the steps of the Capitol, and addressed the meeting in an eloquent and spirited speech — during the delivery of which he was repeatedly interrupted by loud bursts of applause.
Joshua A. Spencer, of Utica, Daniel S. Dickinson, of the Senate, and D. B. Gaffney, were also loudly called for, and severally addressed the meeting in a manner replete with ability and patriotism. Loud and continued cheering interrupted these gentlemen during the delivery of their addresses.
Mr. H. V. Hart offered the following resolution, which being read, was unanimously adopted : —
That a committee of four from each ward be appointed to receive contributions for the relief of the Canadians in distress : and that the following gentlemen constitute such committee : —
After the passing of the foregoing resolutions, Mr. Tracey, from Lower Canada, briefly returned thanks to the meeting for the sympathy evinced in behalf of his suffering countrymen.
On motion, resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be signed by the president, vice-presidents, and secretaries, and published in the daily papers of this city ; and that the several papers throughout the state be requested to publish the same.
The sympathy so generally expressed was, without doubt, greatly augmented by the accounts, both true and false, of the shocking atrocities committed by the successful party, and by the perpetual cry for blood which was kept up in their newspapers. Of these accounts, there were quite enough which were true to excite the commiseration of a generous and humane people. The burnings on the Richelieu river ; the vindictive character of the attacks on, and destruction of St. Eustache ; the brutal conduct of the volunteers at St. Benoit all tended to excite the horror of the Americans. The party of the volunteers are continually speaking and writing of their British feeling. We must not, therefore, wonder that all those horrors are attributed by the Americans to the "British." The misconception is the price we must pay, and, perhaps, ought to pay, for the sanction given to a cruel and vindictive party ; a misconception which can only be removed by a course of generous clemency, which we have great confidence will be pursued. The following article from the Albany Evening Journal bears testimony both to the prevailing sympathy and to the cause which we have pointed out : —
THE REVOLUTION IN CANADA. — This question is assuming a more formidable character. It has already excited much feeling among us, and is likely to become one of pervading interest. The whole subject is surrounded with difficulties. The position of our state is one of equal delicacy and responsibility.
The public sympathy and the popular feeling are with the patriots. These cannot be repressed. And yet our relations with England are of a character so amicable as to impose the strictest neutrality upon us. With these views we have thus far pursued a course dictated by convictions of duty. We cannot promise, however, to remain long indifferent, if the royalists continue their sanguinary mode of warfare. Defenceless villages may not be burned with impunity. Fires thus kindled, will blaze higher and burn longer than the incendiaries contemplate. This is not the age for oppressors to pierce the hearts of the oppressed.
The government officers are pushing their advantages too far. There is a principle in human nature which rulers are slow to comprehend. — Men fight most desperately when driven to extremities.
The government is not so clearly right, nor the revolutionists so palpably wrong, as to warrant the rigorous course pursued. If a majority of the citizens of Canada are in favour of governing themselves, there is nothing ‘worthy of death or bonds’ in the expression of that opinion. Nor was it in accordance with the spirit of the times, for the royalists to mob and destroy the presses which ventured to discuss this question.
If the lessons taught by our revolution have been forgotten in England, that government will assuredly lose its Canadian provinces. The Tory presses in Canada are thirsting for blood. ‘The gallows,’ says a Toronto paper, ‘is impatient for its prey, and will speedily have carrion in abundance.’ Should the government venture to try and hang for treason, its power to wreak such vengeance will be short lived. The moment the royalists condemn citizens to the 'gallows' for political offences, a warfare will be commenced which must terminate in the independence of Canada.
The following commentary on the tone of one of the Toronto Journals is from a Buffalo paper : —
It is to be hoped, for the honour of human nature, that but few persons can be found in Canada, or elsewhere, who will respond to the brutal sentiments of Dalton, the editor of the government paper at Toronto, His ferocity knows no bounds when directed towards the reformers of Canada, in whose ranks he once was. Human sympathy and a sense of justice have alike departed from him, and he exhibits a fiend-like blood-thirstiness that would disgrace a savage.
On reviewing the sympathy expressed by the Americans, in favour of the supposed revolutionary movement in Canada, it is impossible to withhold from ourselves the conclusion, that had the Canadians in either province been able to maintain themselves for a very short time, and to secure one or two moderate successes, such as the affair of St. Denis, so as to afford something like a guarantee that they were in earnest, there would have been a very general movement among the people of the Northern and Western States in their favour.
It is beyond measure important, that Englishmen should fully understand the state of opinion in America, on this question. It is the impression at this moment that the disturbances are over, hence the sympathy would very naturally subside. We must not, however, imagine that it was a mere "nine days' wonder," and that before this time it would have subsided at any rate. It may suit the columns of a party newspaper, to preach such a doctrine,167 but it never can be the interest of Englishmen as citizens of the Metropolitan State, so completely to blind themselves to what may be called the strongest position, or rather bulwark of a revolting colony. The recent risings have, we repeat, proved that the people of Canada have but to commence with a few successes, and thousands of western rifles will be at their backs.
The interest which the Americans have in promoting the independence of Canada is obvious enough. Territory they do not certainly want. The vulgar European idea of conquest is at present, and may it ever be unknown to them ; what they want is to get rid of European influence, and European opinion, and therewith remove the many latent causes of dispute and quarrel which the present proximity of the colonies entails upon them. No one can have observed the state of opinion in America, without perceiving that the ejectment of kingly government from that continent is one of their most dominant wishes.
The powerful interest they take in the boundary question, has less reference to the few "acres of snow, somewhere towards Canada," of which Voltaire spoke, than to the greater question of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, and to the still greater question of elbowing monarchy off the continent.
The Texas question has an intimate bearing on that of Canada in more ways than one. About ten years ago, Texas tried a revolt, and was unsuccessful ; the second time she was more fortunate. And why was she so ? because she maintained the revolt for a sufficient time to enable the sympathies of American citizens to assume the tangible shape of an armed assistance. "Oh! but Texas is a country in which slavery is permitted, and the interference in favour of the independence of Texas was, in point of fact, for the sake of an extension of slave-holding territory, out of which several slave-holding states might be carved." Let this be granted, and to what conclusion does it lead ? Simply to this, that the creation of a new slave-holding state generates an immediate demand for a counterpoise, and where can be found one so obvious as that which would be afforded by the Canadas, and the other British possessions, out of which would grow at least as many states as out of the territory of the Texas. Thus, whilst the sympathy in favour of Texas may be said to reside in the slave-holding states of the south168 and south-west ; that in favour of the Canadas finds its habitation among the active, enterprising, and adventurous spirits of the north and north-west. Among these, there is a strong opinion against slavery growing up. It is daily gaining proselytes. Men there are, who are willing to suffer martyrdom for what they believe to be a holy cause. The perseverance of these men is gradually breaking in upon the indisposition, and even repugnance, to discuss the question which has hitherto prevailed. In the northern and eastern states, men will just listen to anti-slavery doctrines. Thus, the question may be said to be brought to that favourable state in which we find the question of free trade, and some others in this country; namely, that although old abuses are not abated, new violations are not tolerated. This being the case, any movement, either individual or national, by act, or the expression of opinion, in favour of Texas, will, we repeat, excite a countervailing movement in favour of Canada. This will undoubtedly operate in some measure in checking the sympathy of the south in favour of Texas. This is a deduction, but only a deduction, from the sum of our argument. From the determination, however, which has been exhibited in Texas to achieve independence, the question must be sooner or later raised in the States ; and then it is that the more populous, and therefore more largely represented States, will look to the Canadas.
Another question which increases the interest of the Americans in the independence of the North American colonies, is that respecting the boundary between the State of Maine, and provinces of New Brunswick and Lower Canada, "the north-eastern boundary question," as it is usually designated, dating of course from the United States. The dispute about this boundary arose out of the vague wording of a treaty.169 The boundary between the two countries was to be a line drawn due north from the source of a certain, or as it turned out, an uncertain river, called the St. Croix, "to the highlands," thence along the highlands which divide the rivers which empty themselves into the St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, &c. Now it so happened that there are two ridges of highlands, one within a few miles of the St. Lawrence, and the other many miles south, but both lying between "the rivers which fall into the St. Lawrence, and those which fall into the ocean." Moreover the St. Croix river, obvious and assignable enough at its mouth, is not so as to its source. Further, the treaty speaks of the north-west angle of Nova Scotia as a pointe d'appui, as though the angle of a country were as easily determined as the corner of a street. Now not one of these points hath as yet been determined. After more than half-a-century of disputation and negotiation, references and arbitration, the source of the St. Croix, the highlands, and the north-western angle of Nova Scotia still, remain as uncertain as before, leaving a large extent of neutral territory, over which neither nation can exercise jurisdiction. Now this territory is not the real, though it is the ostensible, matter in dispute. It is the St. Lawrence which the Americans desire to approach, and from which the British authorities desire to exclude them. Must it not be obvious that the independence of Canada would settle the whole question. Whether the few "acres of snow on the confines of Canada"170 went to Maine or Canada no one on that continent would care. The St. Lawrence would be a highway to the ocean open to all Americans, and this teterrima belli causa — this most dismal cause of war would be for ever set at rest. This is no speculative statement, we have seen the settlement of the boundary set down in more than one American newspaper, among the catalogue of advantages likely to accrue to them from the independence of Canada. From these considerations, those who are in the habit of carrying their views beyond the mere occurrences of the moment, will do well to ponder on the peculiar relations which subsist between the people of the United States, and the discontented population of the British colonies.
The enlistments at Buffalo produced on the executive of the State of New York the same effects as those at and near Swanton had produced on the executive of the state of Vermont.171 The following proclamation was issued by Governor Marcy : —
Whereas, information has been received that an armed body of men is assembled at or near the city of Buffalo, with the avowed intention of taking part in the disturbances which prevail in the neighbouring province of Upper Canada, and that similar movements are to be apprehended in other parts of the state adjoining the province of Lower Canada : and whereas any attempt to set on foot such military expeditions or enterprizes is in direct violation of the law and of the relations of amity subsisting between the kingdom of Great Britain and the United States :
I do hereby call upon the persons who may be assembled, or who may design to assemble, as aforesaid, to desist from their unlawful proceedings ; and upon the citizens of the state to cooperate with the officers and magistrates of the United States in their efforts to suppress all such violations of law, and to bring the offenders to punishment. I do also enjoin upon the good people of this state to abstain from all illegal interference with the domestic concerns of the said provinces, and they are hereby cautioned not to allow their feelings of sympathy for those who, for political causes, have fled from other countries and taken refuge in our own, to mislead the a into any infraction of the law, or of those principles of neutrality which it is the duty of the government to maintain in relation to the dissensions, whether external or domestic, of foreign states.
This proclamation is not quite so fine drawn in its language as that of the Governor of Vermont. Instead of "national interference" and "intermeddling as a nation," it deprecates all illegal interference, and especially the assembling of armed men. The Vermont proclamation seemed almost to invite individual interference ; the above has not that feature. Both the proclamations arose out of a request from the general government to the governors of all the frontier states, to take measures to preserve neutrality, as we learn by the following notice from the Albany Argus — a paper which is in the confidence of the government, but which has all along been favourable to the Canadians :—
We understand that a communication has been addressed by the Secretary of State of the United States, by direction of the President, to the Governor of this State, requesting his attention to any movements growing out of the present contest in the Canadas, that may violate the laws of the United States, passed to preserve the relations of amity with foreign powers, and fulfil the obligations of our treaties with them ; and requesting also his prompt interference to arrest the parties concerned, if any preparations are made of a hostile nature against any foreign power in amity with the United States. Similar communications have been addressed to the executives of Vermont and Michigan, and to the district attorneys and marshals of those states and this.
With these friendly demonstrations on the part of the several governments of the frontier states, the Canadian authorities could not but be satisfied, however much they might marvel at the audacity of the people who could hold a meeting at Albany soon after the above proclamation, "under Governor Marcy's very nose."172
The artillery, arms, ammunition, and provisions, collected in the few days following the Buffalo meeting, and the men moreover who joined them, enabled M'Kenzie and his friends to take possession of Navy Island, in the Niagara river, just opposite the mouth of the Chippewa. The occupation of this island, and the events which grew out of it, will form the subject of the following chapter.
148. For the situation of Buffalo, see the sketch at the head of Chapter X.
149. In 1835, Sir Francis Head, riding through the country plainly dressed, was apprehended on a similar charge, and had some difficulty — so said the newspapers — in proving that he was the governor.
151. The river runs due north, so that this should be east, and that which is called north, west. It is customary to speak of the Canadian shore as the northern, without reference to occasional deviations.
152. Now Toronto.
153. M'Kenzie's Sketches, p. 339.
154. Sketches of Upper Canada, p. 284.
155. Alluded to in the note at p. 101 of Chapter vii.
156. Chapter vii. p. 118.
157. Sick is the American word for ill or unwell.
159. This statement strengthens the view we have taken of the Toronto affair, Chap. viii. p. 136.
161. This letter first appeared in the Weekly Chronicle. It may be relied on as authentic.
162. In the case of Canada, there is not even this chance.
163. Corn laws and tariff, for instance.
164. This proposition is undoubtedly true in a general sense, but not as applied to the House of Commons, which represents the wealth, and not the reason of the country.
165. The Province of Jurisprudence determined, by John Austin, Esq., p. 57-60 ; a book to which it is impossible to allude without expressions of the most profound admiration. We may here mention that in the course of the discussions which arose out of the House, as well as in the House of Commons, on the subject of the Canadian Coercion Bill, it was our good fortune to listen to one speech, which from the excellent observations that fell from the speaker on the nature of sovereignty, convinced us he had read, nay, had carefully and profitably studied, Mr. Austin's work. That speaker was a working man of the name of Vincent.
166. See the next chapter.
167. This doctrine has been held by more than one paper. It may render a colonial minister's position stronger against a hostile motion, but it can serve no good purpose to deceive the people of England on the point.
168. It may not be deemed out of place to give the slave-population of the chief slave-holding states and territories in 1830 : —
Maryland .. .. .. .. .. .. 102,294
Virginia .. .. .. .. .. .. 469,757
N. Carolina .. .. .. .. .. 245,601
S. Carolina .. .. .. .. .. 315,401
Georgia .. .. .. .. .. .. 217,531
Alabama .. .. .. .. .. .. 117,549
Mississippi .. .. .. .. .. 65,659
Louisiana .. .. .. .. ... 109,588
Tennessee .. .. .. .. ... 141,603
Kentucky .. .. .. .. ..... 165,213
Missouri .. .. .. .. .. ... 25,081
Florida .. .. .. .. .. .... 15,501
Arkansas .. .. .. .. .. .... 4,576
Columbia, D. .. .. .. .. ... 6,119
In the other fourteen States and Territories, there were then only 7681 slaves in gradual process of emancipation, The aggregate population of each section of the Union was, in 1830 :
Non-slaveholding States .. .. .. .. .. 7,100,000
Slaveholding States .. .. .. .. .. ... 5,800,000
170. See Chap. iv. p. 65.
172. See the letter quoted in this Chapter, p. 160, and the report of the meeting, page 163.
|This text is in the public domain worldwide either because its author died at least 100 years ago or because it was published by a public body. Translations published later may still be copyrighted.|