Diary of a Fils de la liberté
Later, I will give an account of these serious events, their causes and their probable consequences. Today, the author limits himself to a statement of some of the reasons which lead him to begin a diary of what has occurred in Canada since a few months, of what will occur from now on, with daily notes of his own actions, etc.
I have always noticed that men, satisfied with the knowledge they themselves have of the events which occur during their days, very often neglect the means of making these same events known to the men who must follow them in the career of life. And yet with what interest does man seek to know the smallest details of the past! With what pleasure an old man would read the story of his life, written by his own hand! And this old man's grandson read the story of his grandfather! How details, which appear so meticulous in time, are filled with interest when one sees them far in the past!
During my stay in Albany, I desired to read the history of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. After some research, I found in the Capitol's public library but a single work, by Thomas Moore, on such remarkable events in the political history of the unfortunate Ireland. And how this work is far from satisfying your curiosity! How a crowd of particularities, which today would be full of interest, are forever lost in oblivion! This circumstance did not little influence my determination.
Also, I do not see that, among the refugees, there is another who has undertaken this task. Moreover, there are few who can better put together the materials for such a work than myself. My own position during these events, that which my father held among the public men of my country, and consequently my contacts with a great number of the actors in these scenes, place me in the capacity to gather a crowd of details which, later, will be very interesting and could be used by the historian.
I do not know if ever this daily journal will see the light; but if it were the case, there would be many things to cut off from it, that it would not be advisable to put under the eyes of the public. I will write it for my parents, my friends and for myself; and later, with the necessary corrections, it could perhaps be displayed on the bookseller's shelves.
I will begin the diary with the recapitulation and relation of the events which my unfortunate fatherland has experienced since a few years, though I only started to write on loose leaves, on the road to the United States and, in this book, only today.
Since treason, weakness, or indifference, made Canada pass under English domination, this province was almost always badly governed: almost always its inhabitants have had complaints, prayers, and protests to deposit at the foot of the throne, and almost every time these prayers and these complaints were pushed back with arrogance. Often, they only served to redouble the power's persecutions and injustices.
I will in a few words give a summary of the political history of the country since it had the misfortune to be ceded to England in 1763.
1760 - By the capitulation treaties of Montreal and Quebec, certain property, religion and government rights were guarantied to us, and, later, in 1774, were confirmed in a more extended manner, when the power of the tyrants staggered and when the colonies, today the United States, tore off the British standard from their ramparts and replaced it with nobler colours.
1773 - The previous year, in 1773, the Canadians had gathered in public meetings, to ask for a constitutional legislature, tired as they were of the military regime that had ruled since the Cession.1
1774 - In consequence, the Act of the Imperial Parliament of 1774 declared the laws of the country into force and solemnly confirmed the capitulation treaties. The Act established a Legislative Council at the same time.
1775 - In 1775, the Americans attacked England in her colony of Canada. They took Montreal and general Arnold marched on Quebec. On December 31, was given the final unfruitful assault during which general Montgomery was killed by a cannonball, as he was approaching one of the city's doors. The siege was lifted and the province evacuated.
1778 - In 1778, English pride having been softened by the bravery and the success of the American people, the Parliament renounced forever the power to tax colonies and, consequently, to dispose of their taxes. England has proved lately that she is faithful to the words of treaties only when she has to deal with those who can scare her.
It was political then to buy the Canadians out.
Fooled by these promises and these declarations, the Canadians remained tied to England. What may have further engaged them to take this party, is that the continual and bloody wars they had had with the Americans, under the French domination, created a lot of hatred and aversion between the inhabitants of the old colonies and those of Canada. It appears nevertheless that many among them helped the Americans with all their strength, during their invasion. The brave Ethan Allen, in his Memoirs, says that the majority of his people were Canadians, in the battle of Longue-Pointe, near Montreal, where he was made prisoner and with him several Canadians. They were all transported to England, stayed there for some time, and having been returned to Halifax, the Canadians took advantage of their sojourn in this town to break their irons and go back to their country and in the breast of their families. As for Ethan Allen and his American companions, they were transported to New York and suffered still more ills before they could escape the vengeance of their torturers.
A rich merchant of Montreal, Mr. Cazeau, experienced considerable losses because of the help he furnished the Americans; and last year, I believe, the Congress granted an indemnity to his heirs. May the name of this worth citizen, who wanted his fatherland free, be passed on to posterity! How many evils would have been avoided if all Canadians had thought as he did!
One must still remark that our fathers may have had reasons to hesitate to join the rebels, by the fear of not receiving enough support and relief from them. The Conquest of Canada does not appear to have been very popular, and Washington himself has always opposed it, either because he found American forces, which already had difficulty defending their vast borders, too weak, or because he believed, for the reasons already mentioned, the Canadians hostile to their former enemies. Maybe he thought that, when the new Republic would be stronger, it would always be time to think of this conquest.
At all events, the old colonies conquered their independence alone and Canada remained under yoke.
1784 - In 1784, the people petitioned England anew in order to obtain a Constitution, a true Constitution, different from that of 1774.
1786 - Dad was born on the 7th of October, at 1:45 PM.
1791 - During seven years, these petitions were neglected and it was only in 1791, when the French Revolution made England afraid for the conservation of her colonies, that the Imperial Parliament passed the Constitutional Act, dividing the province into Upper and Lower Canada, and granting us in small the "glorious" English Constitution. Accustomed to hear high praises on this English Constitution, our fathers believed they had received a great favour, them who had up to that point been ruled as a conquered people, or about. The illustrious Fox opposed of all his might the passing of the bill, as defective under more than one aspect, among others in the idea, that the government seemed to entertain, that it was possible, by means of a Legislative Council, to create an aristocracy and a House of Lords in America. Mr. Pitt pleaded in defence of the bill that "it was only a test and that, if the machine did not work well, it would be easy to modify it." With that answer, the bill passed.
We would perhaps have waited a long time for this Constitution, had it not been for the burst of the French revolution. England is always just when she is afraid.
1792 - My grand-father Papineau took an active part in the efforts of the Canadians to have a Constitution and, the year after, the elections over, he was made member of the first Provincial Parliament, which assembled shortly after the elections. The English give the name of speaker to the president of the representative body; but, as the literal translation (babillard or parleur) would not be a compliment, one then used the term "orateur" in French, and the first elevated to this place was Mr. Panet. I believe that his son is presently judge of the Court of the King's Bench, at Quebec. By the way, I will remark that, of all the members of the first Parliament, only two remain alive today, in 1838: Mr. Bonaventure Panet (not the speaker) and my grand-father, Joseph Papineau.
1794 - The establishment of today's courts of the King's Bench goes back to 1794. As of 1796, the Tory, or bureaucratic, oligarchic party, as you will want to call it, appeared in Canada.
It first showed itself to be what it always has been since, and was composed in principle of the Loyalists whom the American Revolution forced to seek refuge under the British bayonets and whom the government rewarded by vast land concessions, lucrative places and seats in the House of Lords in embryo. These former despots of the Americans now wanted to enslave the Canadians and take revenge on them for the well-deserved punishments they had received from their old victims. The Devil could never learn to correct himself.
1796 - They did all they could to abolish the use of the French language in the House of Assembly and to represent the province as in state of rebellion. Fortunately success did not crown their abominable intentions.
Under the French domination, the famous Order of the Jesuits had established at Quebec a superb and vast establishment for the education of the Canadian youth and had richly endowed it. When the Order was abolished, the Jesuits still continued to teach sciences in their college. However, not being able to receive new members, their number fell gradually until finally the last Jesuit died, in 1800.
1800 - Then the government seized all their properties which, having been given from the beginning for the education of the youth, could not be employed differently.
Eh well! what did the government do? It converted the most beautiful college of Canada into barracks to lodge its troops! Since then, the House of Assembly never ceased, in the name of the country, to claim these properties; after much correspondence and evasive answers, the government, only two or three years ago, came to the conclusion to propose the House to return the Jesuits properties to their first purpose, if the House wanted to give the required funds to build barracks! The business stayed there, and the college of the Jesuits is used to lodge the men who cut our throats, and their properties are used to buy slaves to the government.
1809 - The year 1809 is remarkable by the arbitrary conduct of the governor, Sir James Henry Craig, of odious memory. Difficulties rose between him and the House of Assembly, about the eligibility of judges, and, the House not wanting to yield to the requirements of this proud despot, the Parliament was dissolved. The use, for the first time, of this prerogative of the Crown created a great sensation. Nevertheless, the people, without being frightened, prepared for the elections, well resolved to prove the tyrant that the House had the support of the people.
My father was then a law student; he was however presented as candidate for the Chambly riding, which then bore an English name which, for the moment, escapes my memory.2 The poll was held at the village of Longueuil, the county town. The owner of the barony by this name, Mr. Grant3, became, with his name, his age and his influence on his tenants, the antagonist of an young man, who had for himself no recommendations other than the services his father had rendered the country. In spite of that, after a warmly disputed election, my father was elected. A few years ago, while visiting old papers in the attic of our house, I found a song published during the election and where “the beardless one” is not spared. It is reported that Miss Grant travelled across the country by horse, to bring voters in favour of his father4.
The Parliament having been convened shortly after the elections, my father took his seat in House. Thus started his public career, in a time of great difficulties between the people and the government.
1810 - As one was to expect, from the result of the elections, the new Parliament took the same position as the preceding one, and the governor, on his side, continued to dissatisfy the legislature and the people. Meanwhile, the province, through its representatives, offered to take care of the civil government's expenses. The difficulties with the governor continued and he launched a new dissolution of the Parliament. A few days afterwards, a company of soldiers transported itself, by higher orders, to the printing works of the only newspaper in the interests of the people then published in Canada. They seized the press and the printing types and I do not know even if they did not destroy them. This newspaper was entitled: Le Canadien. Going through its pages, it is easy to make an idea for oneself of what was then freedom of the press in Canada: today this newspaper would pass for being very moderate. Following this outrage came the arrests of the editor5, the owners, etc., of Le Canadien and several other citizens and members of Parliament, for high treason. Among these honourable citizens, figured the honourable and honoured Mr. Bédard, one of the first men of the opposition. They were all thrown in irons.
It is at the time of this crisis, I believe, in 1809 or 1810, and after the entry of dad in the House, that my grandfather withdrew from public affairs.
1811 - The following year, in 1811, Craig the tyrant was recalled and left the province in the middle of the people's curses. Sir George Prévost succeeded him.
1812 - In 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. This power then needed the assistance of the Canadians; and the compliments and the caresses and the promises poured in abundance; it was like an oasis in the desert. The Canadians, too trustful, fell into the trap. And while the Tories were buying vacations to leave the province, or offered to garrison the towns, the Canadians prepared themselves to walk to the border to defend it against the enemy's attacks. With the little English troops there were in Canada, England was going to lose this province had it not been for the courage and the zeal of the Canadians. The militia battalions were soon incorporated. And the House, which had assembled after new elections, contributed generously to the expenses of the war. Several members of the legislature and the Bar which, by their condition, were free from service, nevertheless walked as volunteers. Dad was among them and had a commission of captain. He was stationed a whole winter at Lachine and had, I believe, for lieutenant, the honourable Frédérick-Auguste Quesnel, of Montreal.
The following anecdote appeared some time ago in a Vermont newspaper. I asked dad if it were true, he said to me: “Yes, about so”. When Hull, the American general, was made prisoner and brought to Montreal, dad and his company escorted him part of the way to downtown. Along the way, he treated him with all the regards which his situation required. While approaching the city, a company of regulars joined the escort and led the prisoners by the streets, playing the air: “Yankee Doodle, etc.” in order to insult them. Dad with the other Canadian officers and soldiers were made so indignant at this conduct that they broke rank and gave up the escort, not wanting to take part in such a degrading act. The following day, at the parade, they were reprimanded and some told them that, if they had been regulars instead of militiamen, they would have been severely punished.
1813 - On October 27, 1813, the American army was defeated at Châteauguay by a body of voltigeurs and Canadian militias, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Charles de Salaberry. There is no doubt that this battle does much honour to the Canadians, if the reports are true that they were only 300, and the Americans 8,0006. It is nevertheless due justice to say that the Americans attributed their defeat to treason, and a board of inquiry was appointed to examine the conduct of the commander, general Hampton7. I am unaware of the result of these proceedings.
It is certain that the various attacks on the two Canadas were in general badly directed and one knows that the war was unpopular in the Southern States and that the party opposed to the government sought to block all its steps.
1814 - In 1814, there were engagements in various places in Upper Canada. The Canadian militias which were there have always distinguished themselves.
Sir George Prevost attacked Plattsburgh by land, while the English fleet attacked that of the Americans on Lake Champlain. The English fleet was taken, and the governor with the remainder of his troops returned to Canada8. On December 24th of the same year, peace was signed at Gand.
Sir George Prevost, who had always shown himself the friend of the Canadians, became the object of their enemies' calumnies, and went to die of sorrow in England. His full-length portrait was engraved in London and, after his death, his only daughter sent a copy of it to dad and several others of his friends. Before leaving Montreal, I did not forget to tear off from vandalism the portrait of the best governor that we ever had. I placed it in safety, where the hands of tyrants, red from the blood of our brothers, cannot reach it.
1815 - Nothing remarkable occurred in 1815, except maybe that the House laid charges against the judges.
1817 - Since a Constitution was granted to Canada, the House of Assembly in Lower Canada only had two speakers. In 1817, after Mr. Panet's death at a very advanced age, dad was named orateur.
1818 - In 1818 only, England answered the offer of the province to take care of its own expenses. Since that time, the country pays to sustain its civil government and must have the absolute control over the Treasury. Later, we will see how this right was unworthily trampled under foot and the difficulties which that occasioned.
1819 - In 1819, the governor, the duke of Richmond, died at Quebec as a result of a mad fox's bite.
1822 - In 1822, the famous project of the union of the two Canadian provinces appeared, invented by guilty intriguers, and submitted for adoption by the Imperial Parliament, the whole time without the knowledge of the people. In the person of Sir James Macintosh11, the country found a skilful and powerful defender. This really noble man came about to persuade the Parliament to wait before passing the bill that the opinion of the colonists be known.
1823 - When the news of this attempt reached Canada, the country expressed its astonishment and its indignation about this bill. One immediately adopted measures, and John Neilson, esquire, and dad left for England, as the country's agents.
Mémé Bruneau took me along to spend the winter with her, in Chambly. I remember very well the difficulties that we met on the crossing of Montreal to Longueuil. The ice was bad and often our drivers were forced to extend from poles and paddles to pass above it and carried me in their arms. I was then 4 years old.
1824 - Dad and his colleague succeeded in having the Union bill rejected. Dad then passed to France where he remained a few weeks. Mr. Neilson returned immediately in Canada. While passing in Montreal, he came to see us. I was by chance close to the door when he entered. I recognized him at once, though I had seen him only once, and already several months ago. I ran to tell mom that “the Mister who had left with dad had arrived”. Some time after, one morning, before we were awake, one knocked on the door. One opened the door and it was dad! He had arrived late, the evening before, in Longueuil: the night was rainy and obscure, consequently nobody wanted to cross him, and he was forced to sleep there. Impatient to see his family again, after one year of absence, he had crossed in the morning.
That year, the legislature passed a new education bill. The difficulties continued between the governor and the House, concerning finances. The imperial Parliament passed the famous “Canada Trade Act”, thus violating the rights of the people, in legislating on the interior affairs of the country.
1825 - In 1825, the governor being away from the province, I do not know for which reason, sir Francis Burton replaced him pro tempore. His administration was equitable and appears it more so, when one compares it to that of Dalhousie. Unfortunately, the latter soon returned to take back his place, and the difficulties continued.
It is that year that the bishop of Quebec, Mgr Joseph-Octave Plessis, died. He had been holding the episcopal see of this diocese for many years and was one of the most distinguished bishops which Canada had. I remember perfectly the circumstances of his death. It was him who married my parents.
According to the general census of that year, the population of Lower Canada was 423,630 souls.
1827 - The arbitrary conduct of Dalhousie reached, that year, the apogee of its violence. The Parliament was dissolved after an insolent speech by the governor. The old militia ordinances were put into force and any officer of militia and magistrate who showed some independence was relieved from duty. Dad was captain and consequently was on the dismissal list.
One evening, some friends stayed in the house and the conversation rolled on the daily persecutions of the Executive. I said that, if I had a rifle and if I were to meet Lord Dalhousie, I would kill him. Still young, I already despised tyrants.
The system of favouritism, the contempt poured on the inhabitants and the institutions of the country, the inquisitorial espionage, the imprisonments, all the usual acts of despots in general, were implemented to choke the voice of the people, who dared complain about the tyrannical administration of Lord Dalhousie. The government brought lawsuits for alleged libels against Mr. Jocelyn Waller, editor of the Spectateur canadien (newspaper published in the two languages) and Mr. Duvernay, owner of La Minerve.
The people triumphed in the general elections. That of the Western district from Montreal was very warmly disputed. There were four candidates: Dr. Robert Nelson and dad, patriots; Misters Peter McGill (now the honourable) and Delisle, Tories. As one feared disorders during the election, my brothers and I were sent to Verchères, and it is in this riding12 that, in the interval, our friends had elected dad, so that at any event he would have a seat in the House, if he lost the election in Montréal. Since the triumph that took place on this occasion, we no longer held any [triumph] in Montreal following the elections. They were always so disputed that these public demonstrations of joy could have been regarded as insults by the opposite party and lead to serious disorders.
When the Parliament assembled, the House chose dad for its speaker and asked the governor, according to usage, to confirm this nomination. The governor, by hatred, rage and desire to insult and harass the House, refused his confirmation. This new insult put a term to the patience of the House and it resolved to appeal to England. One organized “constitutional committees”, set up public meetings and signed many petitions.
1828 - Misters John Neilson, (the honourable) Denis-Benjamin Viger and Augustin Cuvillier left for London, charged with the delivery of the country's complaints. There were long debates in the House of Commons, and the committee set up to enquire on the state of the province submitted a favourable report: that there were great and many abuses, that they had to be rectified.
Sir James Kempt was appointed governor. A little after his arrival, and the departure of Dalhousie the tyrant, our agents returned from their mission. At once, the Parliament was convened and dad was elected speaker. It is in the autumn, I believe, or at the beginning of the winter, that the country lost one of its devoted and and most ardent defenders, Mr. Waller. He died of an inflammation of the brain and of sorrow, caused by the persecutions of our common enemies. I have known him well. He was a man of a strong stature, fiery complexion, and having some defect of sight13. A man of great talents, of character and of a boundless devotion to the cause of his adoptive country. He had in Canada but one son, a doctor, and two girls. He was not rich, though from an easy and respectable family of Ireland. His older daughter, who had the same sight defect her father had, had an excellent education and taught a small school of a dozen children, boys and girls. I had entered this school at the age of 4 years old and remained there until the death of Mr. Waller. The little English that I know, and which is so useful to me today, my notions of geography, history, morals, it is mainly to her that I owe them. Ah! I will never forget my good mistress, the mistress of my childhood. What tender souvenirs her memory recalls to me! Alas! these times are gone!...
In 1831, I descended to Quebec, during the holidays, with dad and Lactance; we knew that the Waller family stayed near the city, so we went to see them. We found only Mrs. Waller and the youngest of her daughters. My mistress had passed to Ireland; this brought much sorrow to me. Dr. Waller worked downtown in his profession. I did not hear since of this family which is so dear to me and which must be so to the country.
1829 - At the end of 1828 and the beginning of 1829, the legislature had a laborious session. The difficulties with the preceding administration had stopped the passing of bills, so that there were many new laws to be made, and old acts to be renewed. A new bill to favour education was one of the fruits of these efforts.
Toward the middle of April, we left our city house, which we had rented, to go to the mountain and inhabit the beautiful settlement of the late Mr. McGillivray, one of the directors of the former North West Company. This superb property now belongs to Mrs. Selby of Montreal.
Since the death of Mr. Waller, I had entered to the Academy of the reverend Mr. Esson. I stayed there only a few months and left when we moved to settle at the mountain. On the 15 of next May, I believe, I entered the college of Montreal as boarder, to begin my course of studies there.
In the course of the summer occurred the dedication of the greatest religious building of America, after the cathedral of Mexico City, the new parish church of Montreal. This solemnity was done with great pump, the governor, etc., assisted the event.
1830 - In 1830, sir James Kempt was replaced by Lord Aylmer. Before his departure, the patriots presented him an address of thanks. During his short administration, he did neither good nor bad, did not change anything, gave many compliments and handshakes, and the grievances were not redressed. Nevertheless, the Canadians, accustomed to the persecutions of Dalhousie believed that sir James, by not doing evil, had deserved this mark of public regard.
1831 - The attorney general, James Stuart, was accused of high crimes and offences by the Parliament, and was suspended of his functions by the governor, until his conduct be examined and judged in England. The Honourable D.-B. Viger was again appointed agent of the province and left at once for his new mission.
1832 - At the beginning of the year 1832, Mr. Daniel Tracey, editor of The Vindicator, and Mr. Duvernay, owner La Minerve, having dared publish how the Legislative Council was “a nuisance”, this worthy and immaculate body summoned them before the bar of their House and condemned them to one month of imprisonment! During the interval, the session ended and the patriots, in Montreal, prepared to receive them in triumph. The day of their arrival from Quebec, we had leave from college and I obtained the permission to go and spend the day on our premises, so I saw the triumph. At the head came two horsemen, holding large standards. Followed musicians in a sleigh, and then Misters Tracey and Duvernay in a covered carriole, the soufflet rabattu, and drawn by two superb horses. They were presented each with a gold medal which they wore around the neck, with a red ribbon. They were followed by more than 150 cars of which almost all bore several flags, with suitable inscriptions: “Down with the Legislative Council”, “Long lives freedom of the press”, “Vive Duvernay and Tracey”, etc. It is in this triumph, I believe, that for the first time the Canadian tricolour flag appeared: green, white, and red in horizontal bars. The procession stopped in front of the Bonsecours House14.
Shortly afterwards, we had to elect a new member for the Western district of Montreal, to replace Mr. Fisher, who had resigned. There initially was a difference in opinion among the patriots on the choice of a candidate; and it is what gave rise to a small coterie of Chouaguens15 insignificant enough in itself which, in the course of the summer, established the newspaper L'Ami du Peuple, “whose very name is a lie”. It is still alive, but its health is very dilapidated. It would have been in the kingdom of the dead a long time ago, had it not been the spoiled child of the good Sulpicians who from time to time administrated it a small pectoral dose of jujube or sagou and, through this, prolonged its miserable existence a little longer.
At all events, Mr. Tracey was supported by the mass of the Canadians, and Mr. Bagg by the Tories. The election lasted more than one month and the Tories, seeing that all their votes were exhausted and that the patriots were going to succeed, resolved in spite to put an end to the election in a violent way. On the evening of 20 May, all their plans were prepared. The magistrates together with them had sworn in a great number of special constables, all Tories and bullies, to keep the peace, and distributed massive clubs to them. Two campaign pieces were crossed over from the Île Sainte-Hélène and armed with grapeshot. And the soldiers had orders to be ready. In a word, these Januses predicted that the following day there would be a riot at the poll and were prepared to choke it.
Early in the afternoon of the 21, a company of the 15th regiment, commanded by colonel McIntosh and captain Temple, was stationed under the gantry of the parish church. It was pouring a heavy rain. The poll was held opposite the Place d’Armes, in a small appentis which was used to lodge a fire pump. The officer rapporteur Hippolyte St-George-Dupré, esquire, showed himself the partisan of the Tories during all the election: a weak man and without energy, who almost went insane and died of it two years after from an inflammation of the brain.
Toward 3 PM, the predicted riot started. The Tories attacked the patriots with stones and clubs; those counteracted and the special constables gave their assistance to Mr. Bagg's partisans. While one fought in a corner, two or three magistrates in another read in low voice, for themselves only!, the Riot Act, which consists in declaring martial law and calling in soldiers to restore peace, when civil authorities cannot succeed alone. During the interval, Mr. Tracey and the majority of its partisans had left the place and had withdrawn each to their homes. When the Riot Act had been read, the magistrates moved the troops forward. At once the Tories took their place behind them, and these went against patriots who had left by the large rue Saint-Jacques, today the rue du Sang. The majority fled. Some however stopped and counteracted the Tories, who were stayed behind the troops the whole time and never ceased overpowering them with a hail of stones, by throwing them over the head of the soldiers. These halted in front of Dr. Robertson's house16. This culprit and sanguinary magistrate was at his doorstep. He took his handkerchief and shaked it in the air, while shouting to the troops: “Fire! Fire!” The order was repeated by their officer and they fired!
Three peaceful citizens, who had not taken any part in the election and which happened to pass at the moment, Pierre Billet, François Languedoc and Casimir Chauvin, fell dead, and several were seriously wounded! Chauvin was a young printer, employed at the office of La Minerve. The two others were workmen and old folks.
This crime has remained unpunished to this day!
Hitherto I had been a patriot only by name. I hardly knew what the word meant: I was patriotic probably because my parents were. Since the atrocious murder of May 21st, I followed the affairs of my country closely, as much as it was in my power to do it. Since I was a boarder, I persuaded several of my friends, among the external ones, to bring me newspapers, which they did rather regularly. It was an enormous infraction to the rules of the college, so I was forced to hide myself to read them. Often it was where my sense of smell was hardly satisfied, though my spirit and my heart were.
Public meetings were held from one end of the province to the other, to demand justice for the attack of May 21st and concerning the waste lands of the country, that a company created in London wanted to invade, and to demand for a change in the constitution of the Legislative Council.
The Asian cholera having burst in Montreal on the 10th of June, on the 11th, my brother and I left college and, the 12th, we embarked with all the family on a boat for Verchères, where we stayed for the remainder of the summer. Dad refused to leave the city, despite all our supplications, saying that it was the duty of a public figure to remain at his station at the hour of danger. He came to spend almost every Sunday with us and returned every Monday. What an anxiety during all week! This dreadful disease caused horrible devastations in all the province! When it had reached its highest degree of intensity, the number of deaths for several days in Montreal was of 100 per day! Poor Mr. Tracey died of it.
Then came the screens of all kinds to cloak the murderers of May 21st with the coat of justice. Up to that point, the governor had acted so as to make it believe that his administration would be equitable, but the intrigues of our enemies lost him. Before any procedure had taken place, he launched a proclamation by which he approved the soldiers and the magistrates. Misters Joseph Roy and André Jobin (now both M.P.P.), magistrates, having arrested colonel McIntosh and captain Temple, under suspicion of murder, the governor ordered that their names be stricken from list of magistrates; and the murderers, having been released and having obtained permission, left the province. On his arrival to England, colonel McIntosh was made a knight of the “very honourable Ordre of the Bath” by our “gracious sovereign”! The Provincial Parliament having been convened, the House began its investigation into the events of bloody May 21st. The charges of the House having been judged grounded by the ministers, attorney general Stuart was dismissed.
1833 - The investigation on May 21st continued: a witness, Delisle, one of the peace clerks, was imprisoned for false testimony.
Mr. Ralph Taylor, member for the district of Missisquoi, was imprisoned during 24 hours for contempt of the House, in the person of its speaker. Reiterated and unjust refusal by the governor to communicate documents which are needed by to the House, and this lack of documents delayed the conduct of affairs. Supply Bill passed by the House, rejected by the Council.
William Lyon Mackenzie, esquire, member elected by the district of York, editor of the Colonial Advocate, returns from England where he had been sent to represent the grievances of the people of Upper Canada to the ministers.
1834 - Memorable session of the House of Assembly, which adopted, with a majority of 56 against 24, 92 Resolutions containing the complaints of the country. A.-N. Morin, esquire, member for Bellechasse, was deputed to England to carry and defend these resolutions. Debates in the House of Commons, on April 15, during which Misters Roebuck, Hume and O'Connell defended the country. Petitions sent from all parts of the province, signed with more than 100,000 signatures, to support the 92 Resolutions. Return of Mr. Morin in September and return of the honourable D.-B. Viger in October, the latter after a stay of three years and a half in London. General elections, which confirmed the principles stated in the 92 Resolutions, by the choice of 80 reformists against 8 crayfish members.
Assassination of Louis Marcoux during the election of Sorel. Fourteen people declared guilty of this murder by the jury of the coroner. Release under bail for thirteen of these defendants, by chief justice Reid, on habeas corpus. Triumph of the reformists in the district of the Deux-Montagnes and the Western district of Montreal. Excess and insults from the bureaucrats during these two elections... Patience of the Canadians.
1835 - First session of the 15th Parliament; the House continues its requests to the Parliament of England; nomination of Mr. Roebuck as the agent of the province. Lord Aylmer's refusal to grant the contingencies of the House, firmness of this body, energetic resolutions on this subject: the House adjourns itself, after passing 36 bills in a single law, which is rejected by the Legislative Council: this refusal caused great damage to the province.
Arrival of Mr. Chapman in England, in charge of a petition signed by 68 members of the House and four legislative counsellors. Vigourous debates in the House of Commons concerning the affairs of Canada: Mr. Roebuck defends our interests as well as Misters Hume and O'Connell. The Tory ministry proposed the appointment of only one commissioner. Lord Aberdeen was replaced by Lord Glenelg as colonial secretary, and the whig ministry appointed three commissioners: Lord Gosford, governor, sir Charles Grey and sir George Gipps. They arrived in Canada on August 23.
Departure of Matthew Lord Aylmer; he did not miss the occasion, before giving up power, to reward his creatures, by distributing places; there were several who were unworthy to fill them. After several convocations, the Parliament was finally assembled on October 29; conciliating speech by the governor, especially regarding the grievances detailed in the 92 Resolutions; energetic reply of the Assembly, which persevered in its resolutions on an organic change in the government; the governor granted the contingencies; din by the bureaucracy on this subject, great meeting of the Scottish party at the Tattersall: they made terrible threats against the House and the Canadian party, they threaten to resort to arms; the Canadians scorned these bravados and awaited the events! The House scorned these low attacks by a troop of adventurous and paid writers, and continued its work in the interest of the people.
Death of the venerable Louis Bourdages, senior of the House of Aassembly. This worthy citizen was native of Acadia, today Nova Scotia, and was among the unfortunates whom English tyranny drove out of their fatherland and dispersed on all sides. He never ceased being one of the firmest champions of the freedoms of his adoptive country. Since many years, he resided in the village of Saint-Denis, where he died and was buried.
1836 - The legislature continued to sit. The Tories of Montreal, after all their threats, had come to the point of organizing a company of rifleman, for which Adam Thom, editor of the Herald, was a captain. On the evening, they paraded in the streets, insulted citizens, etc. Lord Gosford launched a proclamation defending them to assemble, with injunctions sent to the magistrates to put an end to this organization. The “honest riflemen” made fun of the royal proclamation and declared that they would continue to organize, with the acknowledged intention of crushing “these French dogs”. The magistrates applauded these maniacs and did not take any action to stop them. Satisfied however to have told the governor that they made fun of him and to seem like they were not intimidated, little by little their ranks cleared up, their meetings became less frequent and the new Don Quichotte ended up returning to oblivion. It is from such a noble stock that flourished, some time later, the “Doric Club”, so famous today.
Sir John Colborne, governor of Upper Canada, having been recalled on the complaints of the inhabitants of this province, sir Francis Bond Head was appointed in his place. Arriving in Toronto, he summoned the legislature and submitted it the instructions with which he was commissioned, and some extracts of those addressed to the “Royal Commission” in Lower Canada. These instructions were revealed at a timely moment and showed all the duplicity, the lowness of Lord Gosford, who repeated unceasingly: “I love the Canadians, I want their happiness; I come with full powers, we (the Commission) want to assess the extent of the grievances to rectify them as soon as possible”, etc. the instructions of the ministers were published, and one could read: “Try to obtain a vote on the supplies, reconcile the Canadians; if it is needed, grant small reforms, add new members to the Councils; as for the great reforms in the Constitution, that cannot be granted for the moment.” Quite the sensation was produced here by the publication of these instructions: general indignation in the reformist ranks; nominal appeal of the House of Assembly for February 11, carried by 29 against 28; reference of the reports on public accounts to a committee of the whole House sitting on February 11, 31 against 28.
Here, I must underline that Lord Gosford succeeded but too well in “reconciling the Canadians”, i.e. to sow division among them and to detach from the mass of the people a part of their defenders, to turn them into creatures of the government. Since the day of his arrival in Canada, this vile hypocrite never ceased to cajole the Canadians, to promise them places and to give them a few, to lavish champaign and good dinners, to travel across our countrysides to shake the hand to every inhabitant he met, etc. As of the beginning of this year, 1836, his infamous means of corruption had partly succeeded, and it is what explains the division on the nominal appeal, of which I just spoke, and of the subsequent events which largely contributed to our misfortunes. May the men who let themselves be misused by Lord Gosford recognize their error, and today that our enemies ask for our social destruction, and that the government even prepares it before receiving this liberticide request from the “loyals”, may these men, says I, feel the need for union among ourselves, and work with the remainder of their fellow-citizens to divert the evils which threaten them all! For my part, I would readily forgive their passed errors, if they now sought to repair the evil which the disunion has done. Here are the names of a few of them: honourable P.-D. Debartzch, [F.-X.] Malhiot, Sabrevois de Bleury, Jacques Viger, etc. in Montreal; and Misters Bédard, Vanfelson, Caron, Huot, Parent, editor of Le Canadien, in Quebec.
These days, by reading the newspapers of Canada, I saw that Lord Gosford had promised places in the executive and legislative Councils to most of these men, which explains their conduct in the past two years. But let us return to the question.
On February 11, the majority of the members were on duty, and at the same time the commissioners made use of all kinds of intrigues toward them, to induce them to vote on the supplies which the House refused to pay since three years, in order to force the tyrants to grant us justice. After having uselessly prayed for so many years, it was time to employ some more effective methods. Since that measure had been adopted, the House had solemnly declared more than once that it would vote the supplies only when the grievances had been redressed, and not a single grievance had been redressed yet. In his opening speech, the governor had promised reforms in the Councils by adding new members to them; he had not yet done so after three months, so that the House owed to its honour, to its character of firmness and consistency, to withhold the supplies as before. One must not rely on vain promises for trust, when one has been misled so many times. Unfortunately for the country, the three intriguing commissioners had gained the support of a party in the House and, surprising everyone, Mr. Vanfelson proposed to vote all the arrears for the past three years and the supplies of the current year, pleading that it was time to show England the Canadians' desire of seeing these affairs dealt with amicably. One answered Mr. Vanfelson that the House had to be consistent with itself and its past decisions, that the government and public officers started to feel embarrassed by the stop of the supplies, and that since the House had believed that this was the better means of obtaining a prompt and complete justice, one should not lose in an instant the fruit of tree year of sacrifice, more so since the smallest reform had not even been carried. That it was necessary to consider the general good of the country, before that of a handful of officials, enemies of the people. That in the remainder, in order to prove the government the good dispositions of the Canadians, one would agree to vote six months of supplies.
I could elaborate much more at length on this important question, which brought so many misfortunes along with it; but my goal is not to write a history of the country, but only to give an outline of the more striking transactions and to quickly move to the narration of recent events.
The debates in the House were very lively and excited much animosities. Our oppressors had managed to sow the seeds of discord among the reformists, hitherto so united. Dad made a speech which lasted three hours and a half, in which he spared neither the commissioners nor their intrigues. Mr. Vanfelson's proposal was finally rejected and the supplies voted for six months, with the same division of 42 against 31. The Council did not want to concur with the House, and this bill of supplies was lost.
The House then sent the governor an address based on its vote, “insisting on the elective Council, the control of the public money, the recall of the Tenures Act and that of the Land Company, the non-intervention of the metropolis in the interior affairs of the colony and the reform of the abuses”.
On March 21, ended this long session, which had begun on October 27, 1835. Closing speech by Lord Gosford, expressing his disappointment and his determination to take the public money without the vote of the legislature, which he does illegally; the Legislative Council rejects or leaves on the table 34 measures or bills passed by the House in the popular interests; the Council mutilated 15 others bills so as to prevent the House from concurring in its amendments. Among the rejected or amended measures so as to destroy them, are the jury bill, that of the corporations, that for a better roadway system, that voting £2,800 for the Chambly canal, and £9,400 for the lock of Saint-Ours, the education bill, by which rejection the Council closed 1,600 elementary schools and refused the means of instruction to 40,000 children; rejection finally of the bill for the election of parish officers, magistrates and other officers included. Charges brought by the House against several public officers for malversation, among whom are judge Thompson for drunkenness, judge Fletcher for legal oppression, the sheriff of Montreal, Gugy17, sheriff Whitcher, the legislative councillor Felton, the peace clerk and coronary Chisholm, for malversation. Promises by Lord Gosford to reform his Executive Council and to abolish the office plurality of employment, are not carried out: promises to change the mode of adjudication the Jesuits' properties, violated with regard to the Sillery lots to favour members of the “constitutional association”.
The grand jury of the district of Montreal submitted a presentment to the court, accusing La Minerve of contempt for the court: decreed mandate against the owner of this newspaper for his appearance, on August 27; guarantees of £1,000 are required for this purpose.
“728 voters of Quebec City present an address to Mr. Papineau, approving the vote on the six months of supplies. Mr. Charon resigns”, forced by the public opinion: “a new election takes place; the voters, deserted by a pusillanimous candidate”, Dr. Painchaud, “protest against the report of Mr. Andrew Stuart; riots and brawls during this election”.
All that preceded, between quotation marks, occurred during the session, before and after the vote on the question of supplies.
The House of Assembly of Upper Canada, wanting to force the government to rectify the grievances of that province, followed the same path as that walked by our House and refused to vote the supplies. It was dissolved at once and the governor, by means of small land lots granted for the circumstances, which created new voters, and by means of a troop of bullies paid to move away the reformists from the poll, ensured a majority of slaves to the House.
In June, the seat of the “Royal Commission” was transported from Quebec to Montreal and Lord Gosford arrived in this last city the day when the “Constitutionals” played the joke of a Convention and during the day the Canadians celebrated the patronal day of St. John the Baptist. This national patron had been adopted two or three years before. The welcome given to Lord Gosford was very cold. He was already scorned by all the parties. The patriots did not want to visit him because of his conduct toward to the House, and the Tories because of the way in which he had treated the “Riflemen”.
Since many years, the Catholics had wished that the diocese of Quebec be divided into two and that monseigneur de Telmesse [Mgr J.-J. Lartigue] be recognized as bishop of Montreal. The Court of Rome had agreed to it, but that of St. James had always opposed it. It nevertheless allowed it that year; but, so that the “papists” be not favoured over Protestants, it appointed on its side a bishop of Montreal.
Here I must say a few words on my own life. I had entered to the college of Montreal, as boarder, in May 1829. I remained there until the holidays of 1834. After these holidays, I went back, but as an external, so that I saw with my own eyes and took part in the tumultuous election of the Western district. It would be too long to give the story of it here.
During the examinations which preceded the holidays of 1835, I had some difficulties with the professors, who only sought a pretext to torment me and get rid of me, because I was a patriot and that several times, in the course of the year, I had commented in public newspapers the principles of the Sulpiciens, alias the “Supliciens”, on “the divine right of kings”. I happened to be speaking to some comrades when the director, Mr. Bayle, saw us. What a good occasion! He issued at once that after the meeting we would go to his room, “to receive a remedy against the itching of the tongue”. We conformed to the decree; but fortunately for us, in his zeal and his eagerness, the good director forgot, against his habit, to close the door of his room behind his patients and to put the key in his pocket. The consequence was that, while he administered “his remedy” to one of us, I reflected that it was hardly admissible for a student of rhetoric to receive the whip without cause nor reason and I left through the door, and was soon far from the college. I went back there only for the last meeting, resolved to face the enemy if he dared to attack me.
When the time came for the awarding of prizes, I expected to be called. I was not and left the room, pensive and disappointed, before the end of the meeting and without being seen. Approximately an hour afterwards, I met in the street a schoolboy who gave me a small package and, before I could ask him what it was, he had disappeared. This package was addressed to “Mr. Amédée Papineau, rue Bonsecours”. I went home and I opened the package: two prizes for Latin version and French essay! Out of spite, I was close to throw them in the fire; I reflected later that it was better to return them to Mr. Bayle and finally I decided to await the return of my parents, who had gone to the examinations of the college of Saint-Hyacinthe. They decided that I would spend one year in this college and that I would complete my studies there, and that is what happened. With the approach of the examinations, towards the end of the year, we learned that the governor would be attending them. And indeed, on July 26, during the afternoon meeting, Lord Gosford made his appearance in the practise room. I saw him there and the following day at the evening supper, at my aunt Dessaulles. The 28, I left college never to return: I had finished my studies! What a beautiful day!
After the holidays, I started a brevet with my uncle Philippe Bruneau, as clerk lawyer, and another one with my cousin Joseph Truteau, as clerk notary. By these, I could, at the end of my cléricature, embrace one or the other profession, according to my taste.
On September 10, Mr. Duvernay, deprived of trial by jury, forced to incriminate himself, condemned without being heard, was sent to prison for one month for alleged contempt for the court, and moreover forced to pay a fine of $80. He was accompanied to the prison by several of our first citizens, and crowds of patriots made it a duty to visit him during his captivity; I did not fail to be among them.
Provincial Parliament assembled on September 22: answer by Lord Glenelg to the address of March; new address of the House refusing to unnecessarily take care of public affairs with the current Legislative Council. Presentation in the House of Assembly of Mr. Duvernay's request, complaining of the illegal conduct of judges Reid and Pyke, and the attorney general: the legislature is prorogued after a session of 13 days. Lord Gosford renews his reproaches and the expression of his disappointment. The Banque du peuple, founded on July 10, 1835, is prosperous and pays 10% of interest on the first year. The Assurance mutuelle insurance association is founded in the county of Montreal. Monument erected in the centre of the Place du Marché, in Saint-Denis, in memory of Louis Marcoux, by the patriots of the Chambly river. “Constitutional Convention” plays a second farce, more ridiculous than the first. Sir Charles Grey, one of the commissioners, leave for England with the last Commission Report. Lord Gosford continues to manage the affairs of the colony with weakness and inertia. The Canadian people suffer and still wait with patience.
I have just given the quick and concise relation of the most outstanding events of our political history since the Conquest. We are now arrived at this year of 1837, which will stand out in such a salient manner in the annals of an unfortunate country, which today seems destined to long misfortunes, to great sufferings, before the sun of its emancipation rises on its devastated soil. After many years of persecution, injustices and insults, a people pushed to the edge, who sees their leaders and their defenders taken away, and sees them dragged into dungeons, cannot support this new insult. With a devotion worthy of themselves, they surround their public men and say that they will share their dangers, that, if they succumb in this noble fight, they will succumb together. At once the slaves of power are launched against these generous people. Inferior in number, weapons and discipline, they nevertheless succeed in pushing them away, initially, and hope delights all the hearts. But soon the troops of our tyrants return, their forces are doubled, they roll heavily on the heroes of Saint-Denis, and the star of our destiny darkens anew, the deep darkness of an odious despotism extends like a veil from one end to the other in this region, and Freedom flees this unfortunate land, only to return… no mortal can predict in which time!
I will enter at length into the details of all that occurred this year: the smallest particulars, I will report, as much as my memory will allow, persuaded as I am that in due time and place, and for some people, they will be of great interest.
1837 - At the beginning of the year, sir George Gipps, one of the commissioners, and Mr. Elliot, their secretary, left the province and all appeared calm and suspended while we were waiting the publication of the report by these three men who held the fate of a whole people between their hands! This report was finally presented to the House of Commons and at once some copies were sent in Canada, one for dad. It was a volume of more than 400 octavo pages! “It is singular that they took all their information from officials and their political friends. It is strange that, in spite of that, they acknowledge that all the complaints of the people are founded. And, stranger still, they recommend the government to refuse all the reforms asked.”18
When the ministers learned the result of the session of September 1836, when they saw the firmness of our House, they took the party to violate all our rights, to sacrifice all our freedoms, to make us a people of slaves, to satisfy their pride, which did not want to yield to “some colonial demagogues! ” Since the day when they put all shame aside, these despots have shown to know no limits in their injustice.
On March 6, 1837, the Home Secretary, Lord John Russell, introduced 10 resolutions into the House of Commons, which say all in all that we complain, that we are have no reason to complain, that it is not appropriate to grant us our demands and that, since the House refuses to vote the supplies, it is appropriate that the Imperial Parliament authorizes the government to take our money in our Treasury to pay our public officers, without our assent, or, which is clearer and no less true, to steal our money from our pockets! Mr. Leader proposed in amendment “that it is appropriate to replace the Legislative Council of Lower Canada by an Elective Council. ” This amendment was rejected and the consideration of the “monster-resolutions” was postponed until Wednesday.
Wednesday, March 8, some of the “coercive resolutions” were passed; others postponed.
Friday, on April 21, the debates on these resolutions resumed in the House of Commons. Mr. Leader proposed to give the consideration of them “6 months from this day”. His motion was lost by a majority of 153; the resolutions were passed and sent to the House of Lords.
All these resolutions were adopted by great majorities, but what explains why they were so a long time before the House, is that the radicals declared as of the beginning that they would employ all their energy to prevent their adoption. And it is what they did. The debates were very long and very lively. And our friends defended every inch of the ground. Among them were Misters O'Connell, Hume, Roebuck, Leader, Molesworth, etc.
I believe that it is on the 24 of April that the first number of a violent and small Tory newspaper appeared, in French, founded in Montreal by Misters Debartzch, de Bleury, Jacques Viger and other renegades, entitled Le Populaire and for which one can say, as with L'Ami du Peuple: “Its very name is a lie”.
April - One day, at the end of April, I was coming back home in the afternoon. In entering the dining room, I found there several of our parents and friends. They appeared absorbed in sad reflexions and kept silent. I broke it to know what all this meant and I learned that one had just received the news of the introduction, in the House of Commons, on the 6 of March, of the infamous resolutions of the infamous Russell! I said at once “now only blood will settle this question.” I was not mistaken; and today I still say: “blood will settle this question.” Our proud tyrants will never be just; We will have to tear off Canada from them through iron and fire, and to put down the British flag, before this unhappy country can enjoy a good government! What will posterity say of the infamy of the English government with regard to my dear fatherland? It will be enough to pronounce these four words and England will be judged: America, Acadia, Ireland and Canada!
It would be difficult to express the sensation which this news produced and the general indignation that it created in all the extent of the country. Hardly one week had past when the county of Richelieu showed the noble example.
May 7 - On May 7th, took place at Saint-Ours the first “anti-coercive meeting”. Dr. Wolfred Nelson, who was for several years member of our representation, but who had retired from public life, understood that at this critical hour the fatherland needed the help all her children, and he was among the first to rise in the noble and constitutional resistance to the robbers of our treasury. Here are in two words the analysis of the resolutions passed at this meeting; they will give an idea of those adopted at the subsequent meetings, because they did not differ in substance from each other.
1. Ten-years period (from the capitulation in 1763 up to 1774) which was terrible. Military despotism, martial law. Time of great sufferings and of the most vile injustices, of which only a few are still well-known today for lack of historians. And it is also one of the main reasons which committed me to write this diary.
2. Kent. It is only in 1829 that the current names and divisions for the counties took place.
3. Baron Grant is still alive and, I believe, resides in Upper Canada.
4. Miss Grant, currently Mrs. the widow of Montenach, resides at Montreal. It was singular to see a young and pretty girl transformed into such an ardent political partisan.
5. The editor was a Mr. Roy, who died a few years ago. He is the first French Master I had, while I was at reverend Esson's school, in Montreal, in 1829.
7. This general Hampton died in the United States two or three years ago.
8. Chancellor Walworth, who was aide de camp of the American general, told me several anecdotes on this day.
9. In Montreal, in the Bonsecours House.
10. April 28, 1838: The Albany Argus of yesterday announced his death, known by the last arrivals from Europe.
11. He died for several years ago.
12. Then called Surrey.
13. An opaque spot on one eye.
14. Dad left and went to greet the triumphant victors.
15. One pronounces it "Chouayens". One gives this name to the Canadian Tories.
16. Which is about the middle of the street.
17. Gugy is the only one, I believe, who was relieved from the charges brought by the House.
18. See Rise & Progress etc., the Appendix.
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