Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

dominant majority. The persecuted editor had now become the most popular man in Canada, and in 1834 was elected first mayor of the city of Toronto, as the newly incorporated town of York then began to be called. This victory took place in the very centre of Family Compact influence.

In the same year, a letter received from a leading English radical of renown, Joseph Hume, was published in the Colonial Advocate by Mackenzie. In this letter, referring to Mackenzie's expulsion, the English radical said such proceedings must “terminate in independence and freedom from the baneful domination of the mother country.” This unfortunate expression thus adopted by Mackenzie alienated many of his associates, including the astute clerical politician, Egerton Ryerson. Notwithstanding the defection of some of their supporters, the opponents of the oligarchy carried the elections of this time, and Mr. Bidwell was elected speaker of the house by a small majority. This assembly was one of the most important that ever met in Upper Canada. A special committee on grievances was appointed, with Mackenzie as chairman. In April, 1835, there was prepared the Seventh Report of the Grievance Committee, a most comprehensive and telling exposure of the whole system of Family Compact government, and which led to the recall of Sir John Colborne, the oligarchist gov

[graphic]

ernor.

had

The friends of liberty, rejoicing over

the departure of Governor Colborne, were in high expectations when it was announced that Sir Francis Bond Head, a distinguished author and traveller, and heralded as a “tried reformer," been appointed governor. .

SIR FRANCIS B. HEAD.* But the new governor was absolutely unacquainted with the duties of his office, and at once showed a strong dislike to the opponents of the government, considering that they were not a party of gentlemen. took a prominent and undignified part.

prominent and undignified part. On Mackenzie's section of the liberal party suspicion had fallen in consequence of the “baneful dominaThe Family Compact organized the “ British Constitutional Society," and

Cry was, “Hurrah for Sir Francis Head and British connection!" The population of the province had nearly doubled by the influx of British

After a likeness in Charles Lindsey's Life and Times of Mackenzie (Toronto, 1863).

their

settlers, and to the great surprise of Mackenzie and his followers these were found to respond to the misleading cry of British connection; and so overwhelming was the triumph of the Family Compact in the general election that Bidwell, Perry, Lount, and even Mackenzie himself were all defeated, and their party left in a hopeless minority.

Mackenzie was exasperated. His newspaper was resumed under the name of The Constitution, and its attacks were most virulent. The popular mind, however, soon reacted from the position taken in favor of Family Compactism, and public feeling turned against the governor who had interfered

in so grossly unfair a manner in carrying the elections. Now would have been the time for wisdom and selfcontrol. But these were the very qualities lacking in Mackenzie. Secret messages passed constantly between Papineau, the leader of the Lower Canadian sedition, and Mackenzie. Indeed, one of the main instruments in carrying the elections against the friends of liberty was an unwise letter from Papineau, which Bidwell, the speaker of the assembly, had read to the house while in session. About the end

of July, 1837, a society called MACLEOD.*

the “Committee of Vigilance was formed, and Mackenzie was chosen as agent and correspond ing secretary. There does not seem to have been any intention of rebellion in the forming of the organization. Bidwell was entirely opposed to violent measures ; Rolph temporized; on the ardent Mackenzie must be the responsibility of shaping its action. The troops had all been taken to Montreal on account of Papineau's rebellion, and concerted action was intended by Mackenzie and Papineau. Less than twenty-four hours before the St. Charles attack in Lower Canada, Mackenzie left Rolph's house in Toronto to rouse his followers. On the following day a revolutionary manifesto was issued, headed, “Proclamation by William Lyon Mackenzie, Chairman pro tem. of the Provisional Government of the State of Upper Canada.” In the document were such sentiments as, “Rise, Canadians! Rise as one man, and the glorious object of our wishes is accomplished."

* After a likeness in Charles Lindsey's Life and Times of Mackensie (Toronto, 1863).

[graphic]

!

The rendezvous of the rebels was on Yonge Street, a few miles north of Toronto. On the 4th of December, 1837, some eight hundred insurgents had assembled. The country was certainly very apathetic. Toronto, a town of twelve thousand people, had no defenders, and the rebels might easily have taken possession of it. No action being taken, time was given for Colonel Allan MacNab and the men of Gore district to arrive at Toronto for its defence. A skirmish ensued, in which the rebels were scattered, and Mackenzie, with £1,000 reward upon his head, became an exile. A toilsome and dangerous journey led the arch-rebel to the United States, by way of the Niagara River. The provisional government was organized on Navy Island. The patriot flag, with twin stars and the motto “ Liberty and Equality," was then given to the breeze.

he breeze. A daring action, which threatened international complications, was the cutting out the steamer "Caroline” from under the guns of Fort Schlosser, an American vessel, which was, on capture, sent adrift over the falls of Niagara. This was done by a band under Captain Drew, an officer of MacNab's command, and was participated in by one Macleod, who by his action gave his name to a famous case in the diplomacy of the United States and Great Britain. Other slight skirmishes brought the Upper Canadian rebellion to an end.2

The wrongs which led to the rebellion may justly be laid at the door of the Family Compact. Both in Upper and Lower Canada there was a direct refusal, in the existence of the executive and legislative councils, which were crown-appointed, to acknowledge the popular will. Undoubtedly the most beneficial results followed these rebellions.

They broke down the unfair system of governing French Canada; they sounded the knell of Family Compactism in Upper Canada; but they reflect no glory not even credit - on those who led them. Mackenzie, by constitutional means, by patiently awaiting the tide which had turned in his favor, might have secured all that was obtained. Desolated homes, himself and his compatriots in exile, hatreds and bitter feelings which took a score of years to allay, might all have been avoided, had more pacific and considerate counsels prevailed.

The rebellions in Canada led to a rude awakening of the authorities in London. Too often it has been the case in colonial affairs that only after serious injury has been done is attention paid to the storm of discontent. The young Queen Victoria had just ascended the throne, and her reign was to be one of benevolence. A brilliant young statesman of Britain, of the liberal school, was sent to Canada as governor-general in 1838, to study the wants of Canada and recommend a remedy for the grievances. This was John George Lambton, better known as the Earl of Durham, a cultivated, keen-sighted man, albeit somewhat sybaritic in his habits. Amid much splendor the new governor arrived in Quebec. A difficulty met him on the very threshold. This was the disposal of the prisoners taken in the Lower

i See ante, VII. 494.

* On the battle of Fighting Island (Detroit River), see Michigan Pioneer Collections, vii. 89.

VOL. VIII.

II

Canadian rebellion. Intending it as a merciful expedient, Lord Durham, contrary to the law of the land, exiled sixteen of these rebels, including Wolfred Nelson, sending them to Bermuda. His political enemies in Britain were not slow to take advantage of the earl's mistake. They contemptuously denounced him as the “Lord High Seditioner," and made out so clear a case that the home government was compelled to disallow his exile ordinance. This stung to the quick the mettlesome governor, and led him into the grave error of publicly attacking his British superiors, and made his stay in Canada but a short one. Notwithstanding this irritation and his delicate health, Lord Durham undertook his work with immense energy and rare skill. No one in the whole range of colonial governors ever showed such keen insight into Canadian affairs and was so fertile in expedients to remedy the evils. The report which was prepared by the earl, with his band of skilled assistants, chief of whom was Mr. Charles Buller, is, with its elaborate appendices, a monument of wonderful industry and acuteness. It declares “that the same grievances to a large extent prevail in all the provinces; while the present state of things is allowed to last, the actual inhabitants of these provinces have no security for person or property, no enjoyment of what they possess, no stimulus to industry.” These were strong words, but they were equalled by the decided opinion expressed of Lower Canada. While Lord Durham admired the French-Canadians for their mildness and amiability, he saw danger to the state in their being "an utterly uneducated and singularly inert population.” “They remain," he continued, “an old and stationary society in a new and progressive world." He boldly asserted that “in Lower Canada the real struggle was not one of principles but of race." The report stated that in all the colonies “there was a collision between the executive and representative bodies.” Lord Durham struck the keynote of the reforms of later years in declaring that “since 1688 the stability of Britain had depended on the responsibility of the government to the majority of the legislature.”

Lord Durham's report suggested a union of all the provinces, and was thus the prophecy of confederation, though for immediate action the union of Upper and Lower Canada only was recommended, and the establishment in united Canada of a responsible government. No grander work was ever done for Canada than the writing of this report. John Stuart Mill spoke of it as “laying the foundation of the political and social prosperity not of Canada only, but of all the other colonies of Great Britain.” Justin McCarthy, in his History of Our Own Times, thus sums up Lord Durham's mistakes and successes : “ But if Lord Durham's personal career was in any way a failure, his policy for the Canadas was a splendid success. It established the principle of colonial government. One may say, with little help from the merely fanciful, that the rejoicings of emancipated colonies might have been in his dying ears as he sank into his early grave."

In 1839 Lord John Russell introduced a bill into parliament embodying Lord Durham's suggestions; but before its final passage a messenger was sent to Canada to feel the pulse of the provinces regarding it. The envoy charged with this delicate task was an English merchant, John Poulett Thomson, and well did he accomplish his work. In Lower Canada the legislative assembly had been suspended during the rebellion, and its substitute, a crown-appointed body, accepted the act because it emanated from the Colonial office, and this without consulting the French-Canadians. In Upper Canada it needed all the commissioner's skill to gain its acceptance. The loyalists, flushed with their victory over the rebels, were in no humor to give up any advantage, which they saw must be done should the radicals of Upper Canada, aided by the vast majority of Lower Canada, be banded against them. A strong appeal to their patriotism, however, at length gained their consent. After this consultation with the provinces the matter again came up in the British parliament, and the “ Act to reunite the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada” became law, July 23, 1840. The chief new features of the measure passed were that the legislative assembly was to consist of an equal number of members from Upper and from Lower Canada. The English language alone was to be used in parliament, but this was modified in after years. A new, fixed civil list was made, over which the assembly had no control, and ecclesiastical rights also were under the immediate protection of the crown, while the assembly was given exclusive power to levy taxes. The "burning question " in the minds of the people was the direct control of the executive by the legislature. This was not specifically declared in the new act, but there was a proviso that the governor should only exercise power according to instructions from Her Majesty. The intention of this provision was shown shortly after by a despatch received by the governor-general in 1841, that "the governor must only oppose the wishes of the assembly when the honor of the crown or the interests of the empire are deeply concerned."

The people waited now with anxious expectation to see whether their long struggle for liberty was really to be fruitless, for experience had shown them that fair promises were often deceptive. The various elements of the people received the new constitution in different ways. The moderate opponents of the Family Compact were delighted with the changes; the rebel party of Upper Canada were only partially satisfied; the French-Canadians of Lower Canada showed their want of appreciation of the act by sending a petition signed by 40,000 persons to the imperial parliament against it; while the loyalists were naturally nervous lest all their privileges should be shorn away by the new measure, which they thought the outcome of the democratic tendencies of Lord Durham.

The golden mean had evidently been gained, and the astute commissioner, Mr. Thomson, was raised to the peerage as Lord Sydenham, by an appreciative government in London.

The influx of British colonists not only to Upper and Lower Canada, but to the maritime provinces, more especially to New Brunswick, was very great during the years from 1830 to 1850. The two years of the rebellion,

1

« AnteriorContinuar »