Meeting of the loyal citizens of Montreal at Place d'Armes
The following newspaper articles were published in The Montreal Gazette in October, 1837 and reproduced in the book Assemblées publiques, résolutions et déclarations de 1837-1838, texts collected and presented by Jean-Paul Bertrand, Montréal, VLB Éditeur et l'Union des écrivains québécois, 1988, 304 p. (ISBN 2-89005-313-X)
October 24Canada. The object is well known throughout the Province; and we have no doubt the event will be as memorable as, we hope, the result will be beneficial to everyone who may be interested in the design of those who, in the present conjuncture, had the forethought and good sense to call the meeting together. In the words of the requisition — a requisition signed by nearly three thousand individuals — it was for the purpose of taking into consideration the measures it might be necessary to adopt, to maintain good order, the protection of life and property, and the connexion now happily existing between this Colony and United Kingdom, at present put in jeopardy by the machinations of a disorganizing and revolutionary faction in the Province, professedly bent on their destruction. The preservation of social order is the first law of nature, as well as of government; and they who are incapable of appreciating the value and importance - the inherent strength and solidity - of British institutions towards this great end, are unworthy of being ranked among British subjects or citizens. There are few, if indeed there be any, who witnessed the imposing and formidable spectacle of yesterday, who can hesitate for an instant in coming to the conclusion, that, throughout the whole breadth and death of the vast multitude assembled in the Place d'Armes, the institutions in question were well understood and duly appreciated. It was with the view of publicity discussing the best mode of preserving and perpetuating these institutions in this quarter of the Empire, that the loyal citizens of Montreal assembled together. They found it was time to do so; and that, if they longer submitted to be menaced by a revolutionary faction with a deprivation of the first and best inheritance of British subjects, without urging their protest against it, in a manner becoming their high and enviable rank among civilized nations, they would deserve all the shame and ignominy that could be heaped upon their dastard heads. So far the loyal citizens of Montreal have preserved their integrity; and discharged a duty as honourable to themselves as, we trust, it will be of lasting benefit to their country.
But, besides devising measures for their own safety and protection against the designs of their ennemies, the meeting of yesterday found it necessary to discharge another duty - a duty, we will venture to say, than which none can be more irksome and unpleasant to the feelings and temper of British subject. It seems to us, that, in almost every case of importance, the conduct of the British Government, in respect to this Province, has been of such a description as to excite the pity and contempt - the hatred and displeasure, of the loyal part of the inhabitants, rather than their approbation, respect and attachment. The present weak, and wretched, and vacillating Administration, in all their bearing towards Lower Canada, have been peculiarly unfortunate in bringing down upon themselves the just and unmitigated indignation of every individual in the province of British name and origin. They have spurned our claims for justice, and good and impartial Government. They have rejected all our petitions for a redress of real and undoubted grievances. Their different offices are full of these petitions; and we have reason to know that, to this hour, they are as ignorant of their contents, as if Lower Canada formed no portion of the British Empire. They have endeavoured, but in vain, to conciliate the adherence and good will of the greatest ennemies of British rule and British sovereignty in the Colonies; and have heaped office and emolument upon individuals of revolutionary principles, the business and object of whose lives were to bring the supremacy of England into contempt in Canada, and to burst asunder those bonds of filial and paternal affections which had bound us so long and so closely together. In order to screen their own imbecility and ignorance, they sent a Commission of inquiry amongst us, whose labours tended only to involve us in greater difficulties than before, and whose Report is a tissue of the most insane and childish nonsense that the human intellect has ever contrived to impose upon sane and sensible beings. They have given us an Executive Government, which is a disgrace to the name — instructed, as it has been, to favour, conciliate, and aggrandize a clamorous and ambitious faction, that had no object, as it has since been fully and satisfactorily proved, but to win the path to station, and honour, by threatening to overturn the authority of the laws, and the supremacy of the Empire. But they have done more. They have permitted a whole session of the Imperial Parliament to expire, without daring — we use the word advisedly — to legislate radically and effectually for this Province, notwithstanding that they were well aware of the desperate situation of our affairs, and the urgency of our demands for a better order of things.
It is therefore, no wonder, if the speeches and Resolutions of yesterday were conceived in terms by no means complimentary to neither the present Administration, nor to the Executive Government of the Province. But in the annals of the civilized world, can we discover a people similarly situated? Totally abandoned by a Government, to whom we have sworn both fealty and obediance, we are obligated to defend ourselves against the civil incursions of a seditious and revolutionary faction; and to defend the peace, the good order of society, and the bond of connexion with the Mother Country, while the Government of that country presumes to look upon our efforts with indifference, and to slumber in unpardonable sloth and inactivity, while a great and important section of the Empire is torn to pieces by anarchy and distraction. It is only necessary to add, that such a state of things cannot be long endured; and that, whether we shall be able to work out our own salvation or not, as entitled to a better policy of Government, we have, as yet, but little gratitude to record towards either the present Ministry of the Executive Government of this unfortunate Province.Union flag at certain intervals. Immediately after twelve o'clock, a great concourse of people began to pour into the square from every direction. The day was beautiful, and nothing could be more animating to the friends of loyalty and good government, than the alacrity with which each man took up his station on the place of meeting, and the enthusiastic cheering with which the crowd greeted the Wards as they successively wheeled into the square, with bands of music, pipers and flags and banners innumerable. The Quebec Ward was the first to march upon the ground; of whom many were on horseback; the leader bearing a magnificent Royal Standard. This Ward, as well as all the rest carried a great number of flags, having various mottoes and devices upon them. Among others, we observed the following: — "Reform-not Revolution." "Britons die, but never surrender." "United we stand." On a white field there was an Irish Harp, surmounted by a Crown, and Shamrocks in the corners, with the words "Erin ma Voureen," underneath. "Draw the Sword, Scotland!" "No Sinecures — no Pluralities." "A hint to the Government — No more Vacillation — Be Firm! — Be Just!" "A Reformed Council — not an Elective one." "Our two grand objects — Registry Offices, and the Abolition of Feudal Tenures." The St. Anne's and St. Antoine Wards were the next to march in to the place of rendezvous, in similar order and array — led by a standard bearer, with the British and Irish flags. The following are the mottoes which appeared on several of the smaller banners: — "United we stand — divided we fall." "The old Royals and the Gallant 32d — Up Guards and at them." "The Land we live in." "Civil and Religious Liberty." "God and my right." "We demand the establishment of Registry Offices." The St. Lawrence and St. Louis Wards, were the last to appear upon the field, but in such numbers, and with such an imposing display, that it is impossible to do justice to the truly loyal and British bearing of these wards. In front, and preceding an excellent band playing the "British Grenadiers", appeared their leaders and chief men, on horseback, one of them carrying a Royal standard. On their flags we observed, among others, the following mottoes: — "For God, our Queen and our country." "Our tow grand objects — Registry Offices and the abolition of the Feudal Tenures." " Canada must not — shall not be given away." "England expects every man to do his duty." "To be or not to be — that is the question." "Our fair and youthful Queen — who would not follow thee!" "The British Empire, upon which the sun never sets — Canada is part of it — Huzza!" "Remember the dreadful and fatal effects of rebellion — rapine, famine and murder." "The British Constitution, and no other." "O'Connol's cry — the Queen and old Ireland!" "The peace and happiness of the people is the object of our meeting." "Erin go bragh." "Faugh a ballach." "Unshackle British enterprise, then Lower Canada will prosper." "The British Constitution must be kept inviolate at the expense of our lives and property." "Equal rights to all men."
Speech of Peter McGill, chairman
At nearly one o'clock, the meeting was organized, Samuel Gerrard, Esq. seconded by George Auldjo, Esq. proposed the Hon. Mr. McGill as chairman of the meeting which being carried by acclamation, Mr. McGill came forward and explained the object of the meeting in nearly the following terms:
Altar, the Throne, and the Bench; having at their command a venal and licentious press, promulgating with impunity doctrines of a most seditious and disorderly nature, utterly at variance with the duty and respect which they owe to the legal and constituted authorities of the land, have cause great excitement in the public mind, and aroused and inflamed the vicious passions of the multitude in several sections of the Province, leading to a contempt of the laws, and ending in excesses in many instances. This excitement and bad-feeling have especially manifested themselves in the cities, particularly in our own. Large bodies of men have assembled and paraded the streets on the dead of night — and if report is to be credited, many of them armed. Emboldened by their success — they have openly on the Sabbath-day collected in considerable numbers, and made a semblance of learning and practising military manoeuvres, and — judging from the public declarations of their organs, — all this is not certainly for any loyal or legal purpose, but very apt to lead to breaches of the peace, riot, and bloodshed. As to a general rising against the Government by the mass of the population — still I trust under the influence of their venerable and respected pastors, and holy religion which inculcates loyalty to the Sovereign, and obedience to the laws, I think there are no grounds for alarm, — but under the circumstances and from the causes I have mentioned, there being reason to apprehend partial disturbances, it seems necessary, and prudent, and proper, that all loyal and well disposed citizens, of all origins and all creeds, who wish to maintain good government, law, and good order, should for that purpose unite and form themselves into ward and sectional Committees of vigilance and safety, that by organization, and concentration, they may be prepared to put down, or assist in putting down, any thing and every thing, tending to an infraction of the law, by which either life or property may be endangered. I do not wish for a moment to be understood, that I recommend any other measures to be adopted than those of a purely prudential and defensive character. I cannot, for a moment encourage in your breasts to growth of any other than the most brotherly feeling, towards the great body of our fellow subjects of French or of other origins, who may honestly differ in opinion with us, respecting any of the measures or acts of the Government, whether Imperial or Colonial. We must admit their constitutional right to meet and discuss such measures, and to petition and remonstrate against them, if they feel or fancy themselves aggrieved; but any and all of them who overstep the bounds prescribed by the laws in doing so, who outrage the feelings of loyal and well disposed peaceable citizens by overt acts verging on rebellion, ought to be made to understand, that such conduct can be no longer tolerated with impunity. We are, all of us, I am persuaded, at the call of loyalty and of duty, ready to make any sacrifice in maintaining the legitimate authority of our young and beauteous Queen over this important portion of her Empire. With reference to our local concerns, about which principally we are met today, I hope you will come to the determination of placing yourselves in a position and an attitude calculated to repress insult and disorder, from whatever quarter arising. In conclusion, my friends, I take leave to recommend regularity and solemnity in our proceedings, and when they are concluded, that you will peaceably and quietly return to your respective homes.
During the delivery of this excellent speech, Mr. McGill was frequently interrupted by the cheers of the meeting; and upon its conclusion, the Hon. gentleman was saluted with three distinct rounds of applause.
The following resolutions were than proposed, seconded, and unanimously carried. The first resolution was supported by an excellent and eloquent speech from Campbell Sweeny, Esq.; the second by B.A.G. Gugy, Esq.; and the third by a short but electrifying speech from Adam Thom, Esq. These, with the other speeches made on the occasion, we hope to be able to lay before our readers in our next:
RESOLVED: That all citizens have an equal right to the protection of the Government, which consists not merely in the suppression and punishment of disorder, but in the employment of adequate means to anticipate and prevent the commission of those crimes with which the social peace may be threatened, and that by the machinations of a disorganizing and revolutionary faction in this Province acting partly by means of turbulence and excitement of public meetings, at which the most unfounded and inflammatory speeches are delivered, and partly through the medium of a licentious press which inundates the Province with slander and sedition, public feeling has been excited, the foundations of social and moral order have been shaken, the Government has been brought into contempt and the connection between this Province and the Mother Country attempted to be destroyed.
Moved by George Auldjo, Esq., seconded by H. L. Routh, Esq.
RESOLVED: That this meeting has seen with alarm that the prerogative of the Crown has been deliberately perverted, by the appointment to offices of trust and responsibility of advocates of sedition and of ennemies of the existing Constitution of the Province, and that the present excited state of public feeling has been promoted and encouraged by the unjudicious and ineffectual attempts at conciliation of the Executive Government.
RESOLVED: That as isolated individual exertion would be utterly inadequate to cope with all the evil energies now arrayed against public order and the public peace, and as those evils cannot be effectually prevented without the active, zealous, and persevering co-operation of every good subject, which co-operation to be effectual must be the result of regular and systematic union of individuals, this meeting considers it expedient, that the loyal and well disposed part of the community, do form themselves into associations within their respective wards, for the purpose of organization and general concert in case of emergency or necessity; that the several Associations do appoint their respective Committees from among their resident members, to whom the local organization and management shall be entrusted; and that Sub-Committee, consisting of two members from each Ward Committee, shall assemble to concert a general system of measures to be pursued in case of urban disturbance.
RESOLVED: That this meeting is persuaded that there exists no substancial cause for apprehension of a successful rebellion against the British government, by the mass of our fellow sujects of French origin, though the utmost activity and perseverance are employed to create disorder and sedition among them; but feeling that to guard against the pernicious influence of that activity and perseverance, and to arrest it is the bounden duty of every good suject, this meeting calls upon their fellow-subjects throughout the province to organize themselves into local associations, as the most effectual means for the security of good order, the protection of life and property and the maintainance of the connexion happily existing between this province and the British empire.
RESOLVED: That this meeting seizes this present opportunity of declaring its opposition to the application of the elective principle to the legislative council of this province, and of reiterating the claims of the inhabitants of Lower Canada of British origin, to the abolition of the feudal tenure, and an establishment of an efficient system of registration for mortgages, the want of which has not only retarded the settlement and improvement of the province, but has rendered it conspicuous for its backward condition in comparision with our sister province.
After the passage of the above resolutions, which had been previously prepared, the following additional one, after and appropriate speech from the gentleman who proposed it, was unanimously adopted.
RESOLVED: That the Irish inhabitants of this city do hereby express their unqualified abhorrence of the low and base attempts that are making to draw them over to the revolutionary party, whose designs they consider inimical to all good government and to the safety and well-being of the province, and at the same time their readiness, should it ever be necesary, to repel by force those whose every action bespeak them the enemies alike of themselves and of their countrymen in general.
The business of the meeting was then closed by three hearty cheers for the Queen and the constitution; when a great proportion of the meeting formed themselves into marching order, and proceeded to different parts of the city, by St. James Street — Notre Dame Street — St. François Xavier Street — St. Paul Street, from which it diverged to the banks of the St. Lawrence near the Theatre, proceeding downwards in front of the Barracks, and thence by Dalhousie Square and Notre Dame Street to the Place d'Armes. The procession cheered in various parts of the town — particularly opposite to the residences of the Hon. chairman of the meeting, and the Hon. Mr. Moffatt. In going round it presented a very formidable appearance; but not one half of those who were present at the meeting joined the procession, although we are certain, that in numbers, it far exceeded the last Loyal and Constitutional meeting held here in July last. At the Place d'Armes, the wards, after three cheers for their chairman and the object of the meeting, separated and proceeded to their respective head-quarters, peaceably and orderly — this terminating one of the largest and most important public assemblies ever held in Montreal.
Agreeably to our promise, we have this day the satisfaction of laying before our readers two of the excellent speeches delivered at the great and loyal meeting held here on Monday last — we mean those of Messrs Sweeny and Thom. Mr. Gugy having, immediately after the meeting, gone to Quebec, we have been unable to obtain a report of his speech.
Speech of Sweeny, esq., on the first resolution
GENTLEMEN: — I have been requested to speak to this resolution, and I hold it to be a fortunate circumstance both for yourselves and me, that the object for which you are at present assembled is of a character so plain, and so easily to be comprehended, that I would deem it an unjustifiable expenditure of your precious time were I to address you at any length. I shall, therefore, confine myself to a brief exposition of the causes which have led to the deplorable effects so emphatically set forth in this resolution, and which have called into existance this vast assemblage of citizens. Gentlemen, since your last met together in thousands on this ground, the work of disorganization and revolution has been rapidely progressing. The Canadian inhabitants of this Province, in themselves a virtuous, contented and happy, but unfortunately in the mass, an uneducated race, have been assailed at all points, with every argument, and by every means calculated to excite and disturb the minds of men, by an unprincipled and seditious faction, backed by a hired and licentious press, blinded by passion and prejudice, madly bent on revolution, and fostered and encouraged by the conciliatory policy, and enervated action of an inefficient Executive. These men, freed from all restraint, have triumphantly paraded round this unhappy Province, vomiting forth undisguised treason, and on false representations of the most malicious character, urging the French Canadians to arm, throw off their allegiance, and rush into open revolt. Is it not, therefore, natural, when in the language of this resolution, the foundations of social and moral order have been thus shaken, Her Majesty's Government thus brought into contempt, and the connexion between this Province and the Mother country thus sought to be destroyed, that the minds of honest and true men should have become excited and alarmed. It is with the view of tranquilizing the public mind, with the view of allaying this natural, but in truth substantially unfounded cause of excitement and alarm, that this meeting has been called. I say substantially unfounded, because no man familiar with the history of this Colony, or who has looked with a searching and critical eye into the present position of affairs of this Province, could for a moment believe that the treasonous and rebellious efforts of that faction would ever be crowned with success, of that the leaders of that faction did themselves believe that such would be the result; but on the contrary he would give to those efforts their true meaning and character, namely a cunningly devised, and with grief we must admit, hitherto, to a successful scheme of intimidation, concocted for them by paid and disappointed demagogues of the other side of the water, by which they hope to force from the Home Government concessions altogether at variance with our ideas of good government, and, as we believe, utterly destructive of the peace and welfare of this Province — concessions which if favorably entertained, would indeed lead to a revolution; but the subjects of British and Irish origin would of necessity have the work of such revolution forced on them. Does it not, therefore in the present crisis become the duty of all loyal and well disposed subjects, of all those who would maintain order and good government, constitutionally to unite in adopting such measures and under Heaven, would be calculated to arrest so great a calamity befalling this Province. Such measures will be introduced to your notice by those who follow me, based upon a thorough system of local organization, by which aggression and violence from without may be prevented, and peace and tranquillity within maintained. I cannot suppose that there exists a man of British or Irish origin in this Province whose character is worth preserving, who will not joint heart and hand in such a system of organization, for so sacred a purpose. The mendacious press of the faction, vauntingly proclaim that some of my countrymen are with them God forbid! — I do not believe it! but as I know, my countrymen, that you are for selfish purposes perseveringly sought after by designing traitors of both French and foreign origin, I deem it my duty on this public occasion, to address to you a few words of caution. Irishmen, incline not your ears to the seductive whisperings of the traitor, whether he approaches you in the shape of the ignorant, sycophantic, and deluded partisan of the French Canadian faction, or the more cunning Yankee, with unblushing falsehood, who, incapable of enjoying the freedom of his own country, is only fit to be the corrupt and willing tool of a disorganizing faction, madly goading forward their deluded victims to rebellion, and fiendishly regardless of the confusion, anarchy, and utter destruction of all their happiness, with which their success would overwhelm them; but rather listen to the voice of your loyal and virtuous pastors. tri-colour. The Irish blood which now boils in my veins - the thick pulsations of my heart, inform my mind that such disgrace will never fall upon a true son of Erin, and convinces me, on the contrary, that Irishmen will be true to themselves, true to their allegiance, true to their young, lovely and virtuous Queen, and staunch supporters of the Constitution. In conclusion, gentlemen, let me impress upon your minds the necessity for active and persevering co-operation in the measures of local organization, about to be offered for your consideration, in order that this Province may be embraced, as it were in a cordon of British and Irish hearts, determined to support law, order, and the Constitution, and thus dispelling threatened evil, let us look forward to times of better and brighter promise, when we may bound onward in a career of prosperity and happiness, equal to that which, under the wise, moderate, and firm administration of Sir Francis Bond Head (who is determined to redress all real grievances, to maintain the Constitution of his Province inviolate, and the honour and dignity of the Crown, from which he derives his authority, unsullied), is now dawning on our sister Province; and may we soon hope to see the day when the reign of sedition will be at and end, and all classes of Her Majesty's subjects within this Province, of whatsoever origin, discarding for ever all distinction and prejudice, may dwell together in perfect peace and harmony. I now take my leave of this formidable meeting — formidable from its numerical strength, its respectability, and the moral influence with which it will force itself on the Council for Her Majesty's Empire, and more formidable still, from the terror which it is calculated to strike into the heart of every traitor.
Speech of Adam Thom, esq., on the third resolution
Glenelg and Gosford. But from the manner in which you have received certain allusions of almost every speaker that has preceded me, and more particularly the speech of the learned gentleman who has just addressed you in support of the last resolution, I may safely infer, that the admirers of the noble pair aforesaid are fewer and farther between than ever. I may therefore, without fear of disapprobation or interruption, trace the evils, which have this day brought you together, to the dastardly and conciliatory conduct of the government. I pause for a contradiction. As I anticipated, there is none. On the subject of the government, I have a particular right to speak. I waited not for Lord Gosford's acts to condemn him. I looked merely to his words, candidly considering them as the index of his feelings. At the same time I have never borne hatred towards that nobleman. As a private individual I love him; as public man I pity him. In ascribing to the Whig-Radical incapables of Downing Street the evils that led to this meeting, I do not mean that the government can interfere immediately to remedy them. Matters have not yet come to such a pass, as to justify the proclaiming of martial law; and juries in the country are unfortunately so constituted, as to render the conviction of any traitor in the ordinary course of law very problematic. On looking back, however, through the last few years of conciliation and concession I feel assured that most of you will agree with me, that our present evils do emanate from Downing Street. Does any one of you imagine, that the demagogues of this country have any serious intention of attempting a revolution? Will Mr. Papineau, with such a band of brothers as I see before me arrayed against him, with the little isle in front of our wharves bristling with cannon, with yonder Champ de Mars gleaming with bayonets, with the citadel of Quebec proudly flouting the skies with that flag, with the surrounding provinces and states teeming with men of English blood and of congenial feelings with ourselves, with the energies and resources of the mightiest and most extensive empire, on which the sun ever shone, hanging over him, will Mr. Papineau, under such circumstances, be so valiantly infatuated as to hoist the tri-color of rebellion?
|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.|
The royalist faction had a different strategy than the patriotic one. Whereas the patriots invited all British subjects in the colony to join the Canadien majority in their political struggles, in a spirit of justice for all, the royalist and tory businessmen stimulated the national prejudice of the English, Scottish and Irish immigrants against those they called the "French". It is sad that their immoral strategy is the one that ultimately triumphed. It is interesting to note how old the concept of pre-emptive war really is. It is far from being the invention of the Bush-Cheney administration!