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The Scot in British North America
Chapter IV, Part A The Company and Colonization


In this chapter it is intended to bring the history of British settlement in the North-West down to the present time, including the disputes regarding the Charter of the Hudson Bay Company, the purchase of its vested rights, the formation of the Province of Manitoba, the Red River rebellion, and other matters of more recent date. After the union of the Companies, as already stated, the settlers met with a new enemy, against which forts and ammunition were futile, the grasshopper. But there was still another fruitful source of trouble and loss which intervals marred and retarded the progress of the co1ony. In 1826, and much more recently, in 1852 and 1861, the sudden thawing of the snows upon the banks of the great rivers which form the arteries of the North-West, caused wide-spread desolation by floods, on some occasions covering hundreds of square miles. The year 1826 was one of the most disastrous in the history of the Settlement. It was ushered in with a terrible season of want and suffering amongst the hunters, the story of whose appalling destitution on the plains seemed to indicate a sum of misery beyond the power either of the Company or the colony to do more than slightly alleviate with their slender resources. The prospect was not less desperate than the cry of India for help a short time ago. Mr. Donald Mackenzie was Governor of the colony at that time, as well as the Company’s representative at Fort Garry, and what could be accomplished was cheerfully set about, but the success of any relieving movement was not so much problematical as hopeless. The starving people were scattered over great distances; the snow was unusually deep, and there was no mode of conveyance but by dog-sleighs, and this was tedious and difficult. Sympathy and assistance were freely extended to the poor creatures, and all that thought or pity could suggest was promptly put in execution. The scenes on the road from Pembina to the colony were harrowing in the extreme, and the feeling of utter despondency which prevailed was only dispelled by a great calamity at the colony itself.

The severe frost, and the fearful snow-storms which had wrecked the hopes of the hunters, killed their horses, and starved or chilled to death many of themselves, their wives and children, soon wrought mischief in another shape when the iron rule of winter was broken by the summer sun. There had been drifting snows of unusual depth; the thermometer had fallen to 45 degrees below zero; the ice measured five feet seven inches in thickness, and, when on the 2nd of May the great thaw came, there was an alarming inundation On that day, just before the ice started, Red River rose nine feet in the twenty-four hours—an unprecedented occurrence even in the traditions of the Indians. Soon the whole country appeared like a vast lake. Human lives were destroyed, cattle, horses and every living thing that encountered the flood was swept out of existence; the houses were demolished, the movable property, with the debris of buildings, carriages, furniture, and all "were seen floating along over the widely extended plain, to be engulfed in Lake Winnipeg." The height to which the water had risen above its ordinary level was fifteen feet. When it subsided, the tale may best be told in the language of the prices current, "Wheat, which had fallen to 2s. per bushel at the commencement of the disaster, now rose to 15s.; beef from 1/2d, per pound to 3d." It was not until June 13th that the colonists were again able to draw near to the site of their old habitations. [Hargrave: Red River, p. 81. Also in Ross: Red River Settlement, pp. 101-105, where a graphic account of the inundations is given by an eye-witness.]

During these early years of peace, several events occurred of considerable importance to the struggling colony. The distresses of the settlers had placed them more or less at the mercy of the Hudson Bay officers, and the result was an immense amount of extortion, either in the shape of overcharges or of usurious interest. Mr. Halkett, one of Lord Selkirk’s executors, put a stop to this nefarious system. Armed with a decision pronounced by Lord Ellenborough, he compelled the local Governor to strike off five per cent. from all accounts, and to withdraw the claim of five per cent. for interest altogether "as a fraudulent and legal transaction." [See Ross, p. 68, where the Lord Chief Justice’s judgment on this point is given.] In future, English goods imported at York Factory were to bear 33 1/2 per cent. on their prime cost, and 25 per cent, on their arrival at the colony, and nothing additional. Mr. Halkett also discovered that, in order to enhance the price of provisions, the Company’s servants had secreted large quantities in their depositories. Two experiments were tried at this period which resulted in financial collapse. The first was the formation of the "Buffalo Wool company," a joint-stock concern by which everybody at Red River was to be suddenly enriched. The idea was that, as owing to the prevalence of wolves at the time, sheep-raising was precarious, a substitute must be found for wool, and the speculators proposed the shaggy hair of the buffalo. Counting the raw material as nothing, they soon reared many financial castles in the air. Expensive machinery was imported, and an extravagant establishment set up. Hides rose in price, and agriculture was set aside in favour of buffalo-hunting. Had the visionary scheme succeeded, a step backward into barbarism would have been taken; but the result proved to be an ignominious collapse.

The other scheme was of a different stamp, but was also foredoomed to failure. Lord Selkirk, who well knew the rude sort of husbandry his Highlanders had been accustomed to, had projected an experimental farm and dairy. The "Hay Field Farm" was placed in charge of a Scotsman of great agricultural experience named Laidlaw, specially brought out for the purpose; "but," says Mr. Ross (p. 77), "in this, as in every other attempt to benefit the colony in those early days, mismanagement, disappointment and ruin, were the only results. Expensive buildings were erected, good labourers and servants employed; "and yet all the time there was not an ox to plough or a cow to milk." Finally the manor-house or mansion, which had cost £600 was accidentally burned, just at its completion, in a drunken orgy. "After several years’ labour, waste and extravagance, every vestige of property on the farm had disappeared"—the experiment having sunk £2,000 of Lord Selkirk’s money. In view of all that had thus befallen the settlers, it may surely be said that the most patient and unyielding perseverance was never so sorely tried before; and it speaks volumes for the singular energy and persistence of the Scot, that, after so many years of loss, suffering, hardship and disappointment in every form, they continued to hold on with dogged pertinacity until they at last achieved a complete victory for themselves and for civilization.

The union of the Pembina settlers with the colonists of Red River, was another event worthy of note, inasmuch as it placed in juxtaposition the Scottish, the French-Canadians, and the half-breeds, in much the same relation to each other as they still remain. When all the immigrants were united they numbered about 1,500; and the French, finding their old occupation gone, and being also in dread of the Sioux raid, betook themselves to the colony. These alien elements did not mingle well together; the French half-breeds "squatted" on the land, but they never attempted cultivation—the Indian penchant for hunting, fishing and a roving life generally, being too strong to be eliminated. The Scottish settlers, who retained the strong religious feelings they had brought from home, felt disquieted about the future of their children, liable, as they were, to contamination from the semi-savage influences about them. A separation was resolved upon, the Scots remaining on their lands at the centre of the colony; the French were settled in one parish, St. Boniface, now the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishopric; whilst the half-breeds, under Cuthbert Grant, were removed to "White Horse Plains," twenty miles up the Assiniboine; the Forks being the common centre.- - - Mr. Ross (p. 81) is probably right in his opinion that this separation was, on the whole, a mistake. The Canadians and half-breeds gradually grew together, and although they and the Scots have generally lived on passable terms, there has never been a cordial understanding, and party spirit has continued to grow more intense from that day to this.

Meanwhile agricultural progress, though slow, was continuous. Successive importations of cattle had raised the quality and amount of the stock, and Governor Simpson gave a powerful impetus to the settlement by promising to take all the Company’s supplies from the colony. This stimulated the people to extraordinary exertions, with the unfortunate result that, after the Company’s wants were supplied, there was no market for the surplus. Prices rapidly fell, and Red River suffered from all the consequences of an evil heard of in later times and more settled communities—that of over-production. But the want of markets was not the only difficulty in the path of the farmers. There were not the necessary appliances for ordinary agricultural operations. At that time there was not to be found in the whole colony, it is said, either a smut-mill, or fanning machine, to clean the grain, and but few barns to thrash it in, and still fewer kilns to dry it; much, therefore, of the grain had, of necessity, to be thrashed on an ice-floor, in the open air, during all weathers, and then ground, in a frozen state, and immediately packed off in casks of green wood, furnished by the Company itself. It was the same with butter and all other products of the dairy and farm. It was no wonder that the difficulties of their situation, with lack of experience and judgment, should have caused many failures. The Orkney men, a frugal and industrious people, from whom sprang such hardy explorers as Dr. John Rae, who first ascertained positively the fate of Sir John Franklin—were wanting still more than their mainland brethren in agricultural skill and resource; they were poor and could not, procure the necessary conveniences, and yet they toiled on and prospered in the land.

A bare reference to Governor Simpson’s attempt to establish a second experimental farm, under Chief Factor McMillan, will suffice. It was a failure, and cost the Company £3,500 sterling; worst of all the Governor, whose hobby it had been, lost his self-control, and exclaimed in the bitterness of his heart:—"Red River is like a Lybian tiger, the more I try to tame it, the more savage it becomes; for every step I try to bring it forward, disappointments drag it two backward." Then followed the "Assiniboine Wool Company," in which the sheep was to take the place of the buffalo; but the views of its projectors were too extravagant, and the new project followed its predecessor into the limbo of abortive speculations. This was also a device of Governor Simpson’s, and that it failed was not his fault. He desired to divert the people from over-production in grain, and if his agents had only carried out the scheme reasonably, it might have succeeded; but, as a resident there remarks, "The people of the Red River grasp at anything new, as hawk pounces upon a bird, and then abandon it without waiting with patience for the anticipated result." The catastrophe, in this case, resulted from over-eagerness at the outset, and want of constancy in the sequel.

In 1835 and 1836, a change took place in the management of the Red River Settlement. After Lord Selkirk’s death his executors attempted to direct its affairs; but finding the task impracticable they transferred the government to the Company. The time arrived when this anomalous state of things was to be succeeded by the Company’s rule as proprietors of the colony. In 1834, it may be as well to note, the first outbreak of the half-breeds, thoughtless, thriftless, and dependent as usual, startled both the Company and the colony; but no great harm befell the latter except the necessity of submitting to extortionate charges and demands. The Hudson Bay officers had thus two totally different sorts of people to deal with. The half-breeds required support, control and advice at every turn, whilst the colonists, true to their national genius, were proud, self-reliant, impatient of restraint, and passionately fond of freedom and independence. The former were always in a state of tutelage, expected everything from the Company and complained vigorously if they were denied what they sought. The Scots, on the other hand, could not work the paternal system, and rebelled against the leading-strings of the Company. Notwithstanding the honest desire of Governor Simpson, and many of his subordinates, to assist the Colony, Hudson Bay rule was always galling to the true-born Briton, and in addition to that irregular, arbitrary and capricious.

As the representatives of Lord Selkirk took little or no active interest in the progress of the settlement, the Hudson Bay Company offered to purchase their proprietary rights in the colony. Altogether, the Earl had expended no less than £85,000 upon his scheme—three times as much, says Mr. Ross, as the whole colony would have brought if put up at auction at any time in the first twenty years of its existence. In 1836, an agreement was come to under which the Company paid the heirs of his lordship £84,000 in full satisfaction of their claims, proprietary or otherwise, saving only the rights of those who had purchased lands between the years 1811 and 1836. Strange to say this transfer was effected without consultation with the people of the colony, who were made over as unceremoniously as French Alsace or Turkish Bosnia to a power they were not by any means attached to ["During all these political changes, the colonists were kept in the dark never having been put in possession of their intellectual rights, by knowing what was going on, or to whom the colony belonged. Nor was it till many years after the settlement became virtually the Company’s own property, that the fact was made known to the people, and then by mere chance. Till this eventuality the people were under the persuasion that the colony still belonged to the executors of Lord Selkirk, and were often given to understand so. By this political finesse, or shall we rather call it, political absurdity, the Company preserved themselves clear of all responsibility, whatever transpired." Ross: Red River, pp. 173-4.] This step, and more especially the secret manner of it, only tended to widen the breach already open between the Company and the colonists. Under the new regime, a Council was constituted, and a brief code of laws, fiscal, judicial and administrative was drawn out. These changes might, of themselves, have aroused the suspicions of the colonists, had not the country been under the Company as representing Lord Selkirk’s representatives for some years past. That the Company desired to conceal the transfer of the Selkirk rights is clear from the fact that when the Church of England chaplain—the only Protestant minister at hand—refused any concession to presbyterian feelings touching the Liturgy, the answer to their remonstrances was an evasive reference to Lord Selkirk’s executors, who had no longer any more to do with the matter than the President of the United States.

The history of the colony during succeeding years, was one of considerable fluctuation; still no temporary check to its prosperity stayed the march of progress. The few incidents, it may be well to mention, may be compressed into a paragraph. The first petit jury under the new code was empannelled on the 28th of April, 1836, to try a prisoner for theft. The unfortunate, who attained a bad eminence on this occasion, was Louis St. Denis, and one part of his sentence consisted of a public flogging. A German wielded the "cat" on this occasion, and he was permitted to perform his novel task without molestation. But he had no sooner stepped out of the ring than the mob began to raise cries of "stone him," and he was marked out for public execration under the name of "Bourreau," the hangman. So unaccustomed were the people to the execution of a legal sentence, and so venial an offence were theft and violence in their eyes, that the punishment of St. Denis seemed to the French a gross violation of the liberty of the subject. At an early period (1839), a Scot named Thom—Judge Thom, as he was popularly called—became Recorder of Rupert’s Land. He was a lawyer of ability; but there were two objections to him. He had been no favourite with the French party of Lower Canada during Papineau’s rebellion, and therefore the French portion of the population at Red River were prejudiced against him from the start. Besides that, he was interested in the prosperity of the Company, was its officer during pleasure and therefore, in any case between the Company and the colony, he was looked upon as an interested party. Although Mr. Ross. from whose work these facts are taken, was no admirer of the Company’s procedure in many respects, he was clearly of opinion that the monopoly of trade was decidedly a benefit to the population, and more especially to the Indians. He regards the cry of the French and half-breeds "Le commerce est libre"— "Trade is free"as merely a pretence used by lawless and ungovernable men to cover rapine and violence. Into these disputes, as well as the controversies concerning Judge Thom’s decisions and Major Caldwell’s method of administration, it would be beside the present purpose to enter. It may not be amiss, however, to notice here once more the striking contrast, apparent to every visitor, between the frugal, provident and intelligent Scots and the other colonists or quasi colonists around them. One illustration in the shape of a scrap of conversation between Mr. Ross and a friend with whom he was riding about on a tour of inspection may suffice. At "a place called the middle-church, my friend made a halt, and turning to me observed, ‘This part of the colony we have just passed, is the thickest settled I have yet seen and, if we may judge from outward appearances-—horses, barn-yards, parks and inc1osures – the land of industry has been indeed busy.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘these are the Scotch settlers, the emigrants sent hither by Lord Selkirk; the people who have suffered so much, and to whose fortitude and perseverance the colony owes that it is what you see it this day.’ ‘This spot,’ he rejoined ‘is really full of interest.’" (p. 201).

The predominance of the Scot during the early years of the settlement did not, of course continue, as new elements were introduced by immigration from other branches of the English-speaking people. [The writer, already quoted so often, remarks this fact with a touch of patriotic regret: The first ten years of their sojourn in the colony, the Scots were almost the only settlers; the next ten years they were the majority (of course the French and half-breeds are taken into account here); but the last ten, they have been the minority; and, by a combination of untoward circumstances, they can hardly now be said to retain their nationality, being a mere fraction in the mass of the community. It is as if they had come to Red River merely to endure its hardships, and as trusty pioneers to bear the burden and heat of the day, where a people of less hardihood and perseverance must necessarily have succumbed." – Red River Settlement, p. 343.] They broke up the soil and planted it; others reap the fruit of their honest toil and patient endurance. The glory of having first raised the standard of religion and civilization, in these western solitudes, is theirs. The Scots were the advance guard of that peaceful British army of colonization, which has followed them to see the fertile land, and to possess it. The assumption of the North-West by the Crown and its incorporation into the Dominion, have made new work for Scotsmen, not quite so heavy and disheartening, but still hard enough to try the sterling Caledonian mettle. Up the valleys of the Assiniboine, along the branches of the Saskatchewan, on Peace and the Qu’Appelle, the avant çouriers of North Britain, are making their way, making the crooked straight and the rough places smooth for the settlers of years and centuries yet to come. If the Scot has lost ground at Red River, there is still a greater Scotland ready to his hand in the boundless prairies far beyond.

This is not the place to enter into the events which led to the purchase of the Hudson Bay Company’s proprietary rights. The causes of discontent amongst the settlers were manifold. They were hampered by the paternal restraints of the monopoly, which without being absolutely unfriend1y, was deeply impressed with the truth of the North-Wester’s maxim that "colonization is at all times unfavourab1e to the fur trade." The Hudson Bay people did not, like the Montreal traders plot "the downfall of the colony, by fair means or foul," but, however kindly disposed such Governors as Sir George Simpson might be, their interests were distinctly opposed to any expansion of the area of settlement. In addition to the natural discontent of the Colonists at being governed by a trading Company, through an irresponsible Council, the regions to the west were becoming better known in Canada, in the United States and in Europe. Moreover, the period during which the Hudson Bay Company were licensed to hold the territory was to terminate in 1859, and a vigorous agitation was commenced to oppose its renewal. This license had been granted by Act of Parliament in 1821; it expired and was renewed in 1838 for twenty-one years; and strong efforts were early put forward to prevent any extension of the term. The people of the colony, and above all the Canadian Parliament set about collecting information, procuring legal opinions, and urging the assumption of the whole territory by the Crown, and its annexation to Canada. A voluminous literature was accumulated upon the subject, but so far as its object was to impeach the validity of the old charter, the result was a failure. It is true that the Act confirming the grant by Charles II. had long since expired by effluxion of time, but as the law-officers of the Crown showed conclusively, it had been cited in a number of statutes passed at different times and thus confirmed by the Imperial Parliament over and over again. Canada despatched Chief Justice Draper to England to present her case against the Company, and, in 1857-58, an exploring expedition was sent out under Messrs. Dawson and Hind, to make a careful survey of the territory. Meanwhile a Committee of the House of Commons had investigated the subject minutely in all its bearings. Its report was, on the whole, favourable to the company, but although it did not recommend a renewal of the exclusive license to trade, no conclusion was come to as to the future government of the North-West, and matters remained as they were. [The whole spirit of the report returned to the House of Commons was such as to justify the Company and its friends in believing that no serious fault had been found with its management. The inquiry, however, produced no immediate effect. The Committee recommended that a bill should be introduced by the Government embodying their views with reference to a change in the management of the country, and expressed a hope that such grave interests being at stake, all parties would approach the subject in a spirit of conciliation and justice, but the recommendation has never been acted on." – Hargrave’s Red River, p. 141.] In 1868, however, the subject was finally set at rest. In that year, the Hon. (afterwards Sir) George E. Cartier and the Hon. William Macdougall, were despatched to England by the Canadian Cabinet in order to negotiate with the Home Government for the transfer of the territory to the Dominion. The validity of the charter had perforce to be admitted, and all that remained was to come to terms with the Hudson Bay Company. By the terms of the agreement thus concluded the sum of £300,000 sterling was to be paid to the Company, as well as grants of land around its trading-posts, amounting in all to fifty thousand acres. In addition to this, it is to have, so soon as the territory is surveyed and laid out in townships, one-twentieth of all the land in the great fertile belt south of the north branch of the Saskatchewan. The privilege of trade is, of course, retained, but the monopoly exists no longer. [See A Popular History of Canada: By the Rev. W.H. Withrow, M.A., p. 537.]

These terms were absurdly liberal to the Company; it was certainly not entitled to anything approaching so extravagant a land-grant as was thus conceded to it. Already the grant at Red River is an obstruction quite as injurious to the progress of the district as if the lands were locked up in mortmain. The impropriety of the grant will appear more evidently year by year, as the Saskatchewan valley filled up, but expostulation with the Imperial Government, or the Company, was vain. Canada was determined to have the region as part of the new Dominion at all hazards, and was compelled to pay for it at an exorbitant rate. In April, 1869, the Dominion Parliament fulfilled that part of the compact which related to the indemnity, and constituted a provisional government for the entire country, under the name of the North-West Territory. On the first of the following December, a formal surrender of the region was to take place, and affairs were put in train for taking possession. Suddenly an unforeseen trouble supervened, which, for the time, caused great excitement and alarm, and, also temporarily kept the Dominion out of its newly acquired possessions. The history of these events will be found fully detailed in works specially devoted to Canadian history in general or of this region in particular. Still a brief account of the so-called Rebellion seems necessary in order to complete the sketch attempted here of the colony. [See Begg’s History of the Red River Rebellion, and also Withrow’s History, chap. xivii. where an admirable concise account of the episode is given.]

In the month of September, the Hon. William Macdougall who had been appointed first Governor, approached the territory by way of the United States in order to enter upon the duties of his office.

The events which followed have been variously interpreted by those who have undertaken to relate them, and perhaps it is even now impossible to apportion the blame justly to the different parties concerned. Much of the excitement at Fort Garry was unquestionably due to a misunderstanding largely the fruit of ignorant fears on the part of the Métis or French half-breeds. Some time before the arrival of Mr. Macdougall the storm had been brewing, and it, at first, took the form of sullen apprehensions and visible uneasiness. A party of surveyors, under Col. Dennis, had been sent from Canada to run lines for roads, and lay out townships. Mr. Begg states that the half-breeds at once took the alarm, and, although they made no overt attack upon the surveyors, had very grave suspicions of Canada’s purpose. Their alarm was caused by a suggestion that it was the intention of the new Governor and Council to dispossess them of their lands, and a causeless panic ensued, such as has been witnessed in more civilized countries in connection with railway enterprise. The Company’s friends deny that its officers had anything to do with the feverish state of public feeling. It is their contention that all the trouble which ensued was the fruit of mischievous agitation got up by the Nor’-Wester, a rather lively little paper published in the settlement, and by a few turbulent spirits recently imported into the colony. These men, it is alleged, went about exciting discontent with the Company, and, by their overbearing conduct, causing profound distrust amongst the half-breeds. Hitherto the settlement had been at peace, happy in its ignorance of politics and party spirit, and contented under the benign rule of its Hudson Bay guardians. Moreover, the surveyors and others are charged with "squatting upon," or rather claiming without any attempt at occupation, all the vacant lands they can get at. [Begg: The Creation of Manitoba, or A History of the Red River Troubles, chap. 1. It may be remarked that this work exhibits a strong bias in favour of the Company, and lays the entire responsibility upon the malcontents at the Settlement, Mr. Macdougall and the Canadian Government. The statements in it, therefore, must be taken with considerable reserve.]

On the 20th of October, Mr. Macdougall was met near the boundary line by an armed force, and compelled to withdraw again to Pembina in the State of Minnesota. The discontent of the half-breeds had culminated in open revolt; a provisional government was appointed under the guidance of Louis Riel, who acted as Secretary with John Bruce as President. The Hudson Bay Governor, at this time, was Mr. William Mactavish, a well-known name in the annals of the North-West. Donald Mactavish, a native of Stratherick, Scotland, was as already noted, one of the partners of the North-West Company. For about a quarter of a century he was employed in trade and exploration, visiting and conciliating the Indians, with whom he was in great favor and in promoting generally the interests of his co-partnery. He had projected an expedition with the object of striking a route across the continent for trade with China, and after much hardship and danger, had reached the mouth of the Columbia River when he and six companions were lost near Cape Disappointment in the North Pacific, on the 22nd of May, 1815. [Morgan: Celebrated Canadians, &c., p. 153.] Governor William Mactavish had been resident ruler of Assiniboia for some years when the usurpation at once relieved him of further trouble for a season. Fort Garry was seized, with all the stores, rifles, cannon and ammunition; and, that having been done, the party met Mr. Macdougall, as already stated, near the border, and forced him to withdraw.

The Hon. William Macdougall, though a Canadian, bears a name which clearly proclaims his Scottish origin. According to Morgan’s Parliamentary Companion his grandfather, John Macdougall, was a Scot by birth, and a U. E. Loyalist attached to the British Commissariat service during the American Revolution. After the termination of hostilities, he settled in Nova Scotia, but subsequently removed to Upper Canada. William Macdougall was born in Toronto, and has taken an active part in public affairs for many years past. He was early connected with the press, both agricultural and political, having conducted the Canada Farmer and the Canadian Agriculturist in the interest of the tillers of the soil, and a Reform journal, the North American, for a period of seven years, until its absorption by the Globe with which he was connected also for some years. In 1847 he had already been admitted as an attorney; but only applied for and obtained a call to the Bar in 1862. He has been a prominent member of several Canadian administrations, a member of the Ontario Legislature for South Simcoe, and, once more, of the Dominion Parliament, as M.P. for Halton. The check which the new Governor and his party met on the frontier, although it had been threatened, was hardly expected; but it completely overturned Mr. Macdougall’s plans for the development of the country. It is much to be regretted that this should have been the case. The hon. gentleman possessed the requisite abilities for the onerous task he had undertaken; he was active, intelligent, and well-fitted by his tact and acquaintance with public affairs; and it must have been deeply mortifying to him to have fallen a victim to the ignorant passions of an unruly mob, before the opportunity had been given him to declare his intentions and to unfold his policy at Fort Garry.

Col. Dennis was a Canadian officer of volunteers, and so soon as Mr. Macdougall had met the armed force of rebels and retreated, the gallant Colonel was commissioned to organize a loyal force to suppress the revolt. Forty-five of the men, however, were taken prisoners by the malcontents at Fort Garry and committed to prison; and thenceforward Riel and his associates were masters of the position. At a convention on Feb. 7th a new government was formed with the noted French half-breed as President; a bill of rights was drawn up, in which local self-government was demanded, together with a general amnesty. An attempt to quell the disturbances was made by Major Boulton, with some hundreds of men. Fort Garry was to be attacked; but as Riel released the prisoners, the movement was abandoned; but the Major, who was arrested with his followers on their way home, was, after a mock trial, sentenced to death. He was with difficulty saved from his fate; but afterwards, a less fortunate prisoner, named Thomas Scott, was brutally murdered, in spite of the exertions of the Rev. George Young, the Wesleyan minister, and Mr. Donald A. Smith, of the Hudson Bay Company. The wide-spread horror which prevailed throughout Ontario precipitated matters. In May an Act was passed by the Dominion Parliament creating the Province of Manitoba out of the Red River Settlement, and it was admitted as a member of the Confederation on the 16th of July, 1870. The remaining, and, of course, far the larger portion of the territory, was to be governed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, assisted by a Council of eleven members.

Riel’s early success had evidently turned his head, and his conduct throughout was arbitrary, unjust and vindictive. Even after Mr. Macdougal’s departure from Pembina eastward (18th December), the half-breed President was never at ease. He managed to raise supplies by forced levies upon the Company and the settlers; arrested Governor Mactavish, and abused him in violent language, whilst confined to bed by illness; put Mr. Halkett in irons; imprisoned Dr. Cowan; and threatened Mr. Bannatyne who endeavoured to act as peacemaker; strove to deprive Mr. Donald A. Smith of his credentials as Commissioner; and was guilty of other acts suggested by a violent and impulsive nature. One of his officers, in fact, his judiciary, was James Ross, a Scottish half-breed, the son of Alexander Ross from whose works extracts have been made in former pages. He was a young man of considerable ability, and his early promise attracted the special attention of the Bishop of Rupert’s Land when studying at St John’s College, Red River. In 1853 he entered the University of Toronto, and graduated with honours in 1857. In 1860, on the retirement of Mr. Buckingham (late Deputy-Minister of the Interior) from the proprietary of the Nor’-Wester, Mr. Ross entered into partnership with Mr. William Coldwell, the remaining member of the firm. In 1864 Dr. Schultz, M. P., purchased Ross’s share, and the latter left for Canada, where he was engaged at Toronto for a considerable time upon the staff of the Globe. Mr. Ross had always taken strong ground against the Company, and he was not more favourable to the scheme of government proposed to be set up by Canada. His sympathies were, therefore, to a constitutional extent with Riel and his followers; but he had no share in the violent and arbitrary acts of the so-called President. The provisional government appointed him Chief Justice, and he is said to have drawn up the petition of right. When at the University, he appeared to his fellow-students to combine the steady, plodding and cautious character of the Scot with the fertility of resource and the quiet reserve of the Indian, and the pride of both races. He was cut off in his prime, and perhaps it may not seem unkind, especially for a fellow-graduate of their common Alma Mater, to say that a life, which might have been of essential service in his native settlement was marred by being involved in its turbulent, yet altogether insignificant party strifes.

In the month of June Col. Garnet Wolseley, who afterwards succeeded in a tougher task under the Equator, started with a force of twelve hundred men to oust Louis Riel from the government of the country. With the exception of a company or two of the 60th Rifles, this body was composed of Canadian volunteers. On the 24th of August, after considerable difficulties had been surmounted, the expedition arrived at Fort Garry, only to find that Riel had abdicated and left his staff of office to anyone who might choose to assume it. Early in September, the Hon. Adams George Archibald arrived, and assumed the duties of the Lieutenant Governorship. [See Withrow’s "Popular History," pp. 541, 542.] Mr. Archibald, however, speedily resigned, preferring the Lieutenant-Governorship of Nova Scotia, his native Province, to the vice-royalty at Red River. He was succeeded by the Hon. Alexander Morris, the son of a Scot, who fills a considerable figure in the history of Ontario, and, especially of the eastern portion of it. He was born at Perth, a little more than half a century since, and was educated partly at the Scottish University of Glasgow, and partly at our Canadian University of Montreal, which was founded by a Scot, the Hon. Peter McGill. He has served as President of the St. Andrew’s Society at Montreal, and as Trustee of the Presbyterian University of Queen’s College. Mr. Morris attracted notice, as a young man by his pen, and amongst the subjects which attracted his attention, nearly twenty years before, was the future of the Great North-West, over which he was now called upon to rule. Mr. Morris did not leave Canada and arrive a perfect stranger at Winnipeg as Lieutenant-Governor, since he had already been Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba,—its first Chief Justice in fact,—for some months previously.

No survey of Scottish work in the North-West, however cursory, can be complete, which fails to give special prominence to the interests of religion, and its foster-sister, education. In the introduction an attempt was made to outline those broad and salient features of the national character as it has been moulded by nature and by man. That sketch will have been drawn in vain, if it has not proved conclusively that the Scot is by virtue of his descent, and must always of necessity be, a religious man in bent and bias, if not in practice. An old legal maxim, the cause of much international strife, affirms that no man can put off his country, as if it were a discarded suit of clothes. In the jurists’ sense this dictum has been happily abandoned, but it remains irrefragably true, as applied to individual characteristics, be they physical or intellectual, moral or spiritual. If, as we know, both from science and Scripture, the transgressions of an ancestor are visited upon posterity, with the unfailing sequence of cause and effect, so also are his endowments, whatever they may be, and his qualities and tendencies for good or evil, transmitted to the latest generation. The newest born infant is no isolated atom of humanity, but the last link formed in a living chain whose other extremity is lost in the impenetrable mists and darkness of the past. What he is, historical and congenital tendencies have made man; it is in what he shall become that his responsibility lies.


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