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Pioneer Life in Zorra
Chapter X. Zorra and the Rebellion of '37


"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."—HORACE.
It is sweet and noble to die for one's country.")

THE first settlers in Zorra were not from Scotland, but represented various nationalities; some of them were United Empire Loyalists, or more or less remotely connected with them. Among these early settlers were the Hodgkinsons, Codys, Karns, Youngs, Coukes, Burdicks, Reeds, Galloways, Wilkersons, Aldridges, and Tafts. Many of these names are still familiar, and those bearing them regarded as among the most intelligent and progressive in the district. One of them, Marvin Cody, writes to me from Sarnia, as follows: "I came to Zorra in March, 1824. When in my seventeenth year, under a deep sense of my lost condition as a sinner, I went out one evening into the field by the fence- side and cried for mercy, and mercy was given me. There and then I became a new creature. The peace, the love, the joy which followed made me very happy; I united with the Baptist Church. And now, in my eighty-fourth year, I must be nearing the great solemnities of eternity; but I have a confident hope in my dear Saviour, who has stood by me these many years; and the prospect of going to be with Him in heaven through eternity is very delightful."

The war between the United States and Canada began in 1812 and lasted about three years, and was the cause of much bloodshed and hardship to the Canadian people; which, however, only intensified their loyalty to Great Britain.

Soon after this began the political struggle that ended in the rebellion of 1837-9. In this struggle we find on the one hand, a number of patriotic men fighting for popular rights, and on the other hand, what is well known as the "Family Compact." The Family Compact was a small but compact body of men, most of them Loyalists, combined together for the purpose of securing and retaining all the government offices for themselves or their relatives. There was at this time no responsible government as now understood; that is, the Governor and his cabinet were not responsible in any way to the people. The Governor was sent out by England, and he had the power to choose his own cabinet to suit himself. He did choose, not according to the wishes of the representatives of the people, but according to the dictates of the Family Compact, who had wormed themselves into power, and were determined to stay there regardless of the wishes of the people. For some twenty-five years the struggle for responsible government continued to be the burning question of the day, the particular matter in dispute during the latter part of the period being the "Clergy Reserves." A word of explanation may be in place:

The Clergy Reserves had their origin in what is known as the "Constitutional Act of 1791." By the thirty-sixth clause of that Act provision was made for reserving out of all grants of public lands in Upper and Lower Canada, past as well as future, an allotment for the support of a "Protestant Clergy." This allotment was to be equal in value to the seventh part of the lands so granted. By, the next section, it was provided that the rents, profits, and emoluments, arising from the lands so appropriated, were applicable solely to the maintenance and support of a "Protestant Clergy." These provisions were in their result most unfortunate for both Ontario and Quebec. Especially so for the former province. They sowed the seeds of sectarian and political strife, retarded the growth of the country, divided the people, called into existence bitter feelings, which have hardly yet subsided, and were the immediate cause of the rebellion of 1837. As the holders of public offices were chiefly members of the Church of England, that body obtained, under the Family Compact system, then in force, fully eleven-twelfths of all the reserves. According to a return made to the House of Assembly of lands set apart as glebes in Upper Canada during the forty-six years from 1787 to 1833, it appears that 22,345 acres were so set apart for the clergy of the Church of England, 1,160 acres for ministers of the Kirk of Scotland, 400 for Roman Catholics, and none for any other denomination.

Besides which the lands of the Clergy Reserves, instead of being set apart in blocks, were interspersed with the grants made to settlers, thus giving the Church the benefit of the increased value of the neighboring land caused by improvements made by settlers; while the Church lands were left unappropriated and wild, thus increasing the difficulties of road-making and causing other inconveniences. The grievance was first felt by the settlers in their private capacity, and the first protest made against the reservations on purely secular grounds. In 1836 great indignation was caused by the discovery that Governor Colborne had, on January 15th, while sitting in Council, created forty- four rectories of the Church of England, and endowed them with extensive and valuable glebe lands, out of the Clergy Reserves; thus creating practically an Established Church. This was done in a clandestine manner, without the knowledge and in opposition to the declared policy of the Imperial Government, and also in opposition to the resolutions of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. This act of the Governor-in-.Council was regarded as a breach of public faith and a violation of the rights of the people, and led to open rebellion a few months after.

At last, under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie, things came to a crisis. Perhaps unwisely, recourse was had to arms, but desperate diseases require desperate remedies. Blood was shed, and a number of executions followed, but the result was the inestimable blessing of popular government as we have it in Canada to-day.

W. Lyon Mackenzie has been stigmatized by a certain class of writers, as an agitator, a firebrand—injudicious and reckless. This, however, has always been the fate of patriots and true reformers. To him more perhaps than to any other man we owe the popular, civil, and political rights we enjoy to-day. The Family Compact was a strong and unscrupulous party and it took a man of dauntless courage and indomitable perseverence to fight it. Such a man was W. L. Mackenzie. Several times he. was expelled from Parliament, and as often re-elected by his loyal constituency in York. Once he had his type thrown into the lake by a mob headed by the chief men in Toronto. But against tremendous odds he persevered in his struggle for the rights of the people; nor did he struggle in vain. The rebellion brought the misgovernment of the country, for a quarter of a century by the Family Compact, prominently before the British people, and woke them up to a sense of their duty, and the necessity of giving to Canada the right to govern herself according to the wishes of the majority, expressed through the representatives in parliament. This is what we now call responsible government, which we largely owe to W. L. Mackenzie, and for which we cannot be too thankful. We hope to see the day when Canada will erect a monument to the memory of Mr. Mackenzie and honor him for his patriotic readiness to shed his blood, rather than see his country enslaved by an unprincipled and wicked oligarchy.

In 1854 the Canadian Parliament, authorized by the Imperial Government, alienated the Clergy Reserves from religious to secular purposes, having due regard to the life-interests of all beneficiaries, whose stipends were not to be reduced.

The money was divided among the municipalities, and each municipality decided for itself what use to make of it. Many apportioned it to public roads, but Zorra, we think greatly to her credit, set it apart for the permanent benefit of her public schools.

But what part did Zorra take in the rebellion?

"I hae but ae son, my brave young Donald,
But gin I had ten they would follow Prince Charlie."

When the news of the uprising came, great indeed was the excitement. No question was asked as to the justice or injustice of the cause. The Highlanders, as well as their neighbors, the United Empire Loyalists, were prepared to do or die in defence of the Crown, right or wrong.

To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin."

A call was made for volunteers, and promptly two hundred stalwart men presented themselves in Embro ready for drill. Crittendom's distillery was extemporized for a drill-shed. The vats were filled with snow well packed in, so that the floor was all of one uniform level. There were not guns enough, but Cooper Welsh's hoop-poles were used instead. The drill-master was Mr. Nasmyth. After about a week's practice, word came that the rebels were marching on to Woodstock. At once the Embro company, reinforced by another company from the country, headed by their respective pipers, and carrying guns, clubs, poles, etc., set out on the march to meet the enemy.

It was at the time of the Fenian raid, many years after, that an old lady in Zorra is reported as having declared with much vehemence, "They may tak Montreal, and they may tak Toronto, and they may tak Woodstock, but they'll never tak Z-o-r-r-a." This was certainly the spirit of the Highlanders in 1837. Having reached Woodstock, they found no enemy anywhere in the neigiborhood; and, after remaining under arms for afew days, they were permitted to return home.

The homeward journey from Woodstock to Embro was made on foot through the woods. The night was very frosty. When the volunteers were about two miles east of the village, suddenly they heard the loud cracking of the trees because of the frost, resembling the reports of rifles. The brave boys instantly concluded that Mackenzie's rebels were after them. They became panic-stricken, and took helter-skelter to their heels, hiding behind trees, logs, and brushes, until, after some difficulty, they were persuaded that there was no real cause for alarm. But the boys never liked to be reminded of this exhibition of weakness. It is related that some years ago, when there were no railroads in Scotland, an Englishman and a Scotchman were riding together on the top of a coach running between Stirling and Dumblane. The Englishman inquired of his neighbor the name of a certain place. With feigned surprise, the Scotch- man replied, "Dinna ye ken whaur ye were weel lickit?" In this way the Englishman was given to understand that he was unconsciously passing over the field of Bannockburn. So it is said the Zorra people would, for years after, point out to the volunteer boys the famous woods, reminding them, "that's whaur ye were lickit by the rebels."

However, the volunteers stood high in the estimation of their countrymen, and at a gathering given in their honor great was the praise bestowed upon them. It is said that in the gathering there was an old woman who, observing some young men not cheering as lustily as she thought they should do, remonstrated with them, saying, "Why you no cheer? These are the men who fought and dee'd for ye."
I have before me as I write a very interesting document. It is dated July 5th, 1838, and is very much the worse of the wear of three-score years, although still quite legible. It is the pay-sheet of the Zorra volunteers, and the heading reads as follows: "\Ve, the undersigned officers, non-commissioned piper, and privates of the detachment of the 3rd Oxford Regiment, under the command of Captain Wm. Mackay, serving from the 30th of June to the 5th July, 1838, acknowledge to have received our pay for that period, for which we annex our names."

Then follow sixty-four names, nearly all written by the persons themselves, and the greater number of them written in a good round hand, speaking well for the literary training of these pioneers.

Among the names are Macdonalds, Murrays, Munros, Mathesons, Macleods, Sutherlands, Campbells, and Mackays—the latter, of course, predominating. Not one of those whose names are on this document is now living. Peace to their ashes.


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