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Sketches Illustrating the Early Settlement and History of Glengarry in Canada
Chapter 23

The Rebellion of 1837-8. — William Lyon Mackenzie's subsequent Letter to Earl Grey—Extracts from Bishop Macdonell's Address. — No Rebels in Glengarry.— Statement showing where the Disaffection prevailed in Upper Canada. — Outbreak in Lower Canada in October 1837.—Four Regiments in Glengarry.—List of Officers.—Sir John Colborne notifies Colonel Macdonell that he has called on the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada for Assistance and to keep up Communication with the Upper Province.—Requests the Glengarrys Regiment to Proceed to Lower Canada.—Two Thousand Men Muster at Lancaster. — Temporary Suppression of the Rebellion.

"A course of careful observation during the last eleven years has fully satisfied me that, had the violent movement in which I and a good many others were engaged on both sides of the Niagara proved successful, that success would have deeply injured the people of Canada, whom I then believed I was serving at great risks; that it would have deprived millions, perhaps, of our own countrymen in Europe of a home upon this continent, except upon conditions which, though many hundreds of thousands have been constrained to accept them, are of an exceedingly onerous and degrading character. I have long been sensible of errors committed during that period to which the intended amnesty applies. No punishment that power could inflict or nature sustain would have equalled the regrets I have felt on account of much that t did, said, wrote and published but the past cannot be recalled." * * * " There is not a living man on this continent who more sincerely desires that British Government in Canada may long continue and give a hand and a welcome to the old countrymen than myself. Did I say so, or ask an amnesty, seven or eight years ago, till under the convictions of more recent experience? No; I studied earnestly the wordings of the institutions before me and the manners of the people, and looked at what had been done, until few men, even natives, had been better schooled. The result is not a desire to obtain power and influence here, but to help, if I can and all I can, the country of my birth." —William I,yon Mackenzie to Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the

Colonies, February 3rd, 1849.

* * *

(Extract from a pastoral address of Bishop Macdonell, dated 1st. December, 1838.)

"In exculpation of the Canadian Rebellion little can be said. The Canadians had no real grievances to complain of; they paid no tythes but to their own clergy; no taxes or any other burthen but what was imposed upon them by laws of their own making; their religion was not only free and uncontrolled, but encouraged and protected by the Government when threatened to be shackled by their own Catholic Assembly; parishes were multiplied by the consent of the Government, and subscriptions were raised by Protestants and even by the representatives of His Britannic Majesty to build their churches—in a word, the French-Canadians lived freer, more comfortably and more independently than any other class of subjects perhaps on the whole surface of the globe; and they were perfectly contented and seemed quite sensible of the blessings they enjoyed under the British Government until the folly and madness of Irreligious Papineau, Atheistical Giraud and Camelion O'Callaghan (whose religion is as changeable as the colours of that animal) of the Protestant Nelsons, Browns, Scots and others of that kidney, who, taking advantage of the ignorance and simplicity of the unfortunate habitants, made them believe that they were groaning under a galling yoke which they did not feel but in imagination, and succumbing under unsupportable burdens which had never been laid upon them; that they were to found a glorious Canadian Republic which was to surpass those of Greece and Rome, and even the overgrown mammoth of our own days.

"An unfledged gang of briefless lawyers, notaries and other pettifoggers and a numberless horde of doctors and apothecaries, like the locusts of Egypt, spread themselves through the land, and by working upon their prejudices against the British, and flattering their vanity which the hopes of the distinguished situations which they would occupy in the new republic, they unfortunately succeeded in seducing but too many of the credulous Canadians.


"The most inexcusable part, however, of the conduct of the Canadians was not to listen to the advice of their clergy, who knew well the intention of Papineau and his associates was to destroy their influence and extinguish the Catholic religion, which he publicly declared to be absolutely necessary, before liberty could be established in Lower Canada,

* * * * *

"I have slid that your loyalty is based upon the sacred obligations of your holy religion. The Apostle commands us to obey and be submissive  to the powers that be. That is to say, under the government of a King, we must honour and obey the King, and give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

In a history of Ireland once written there was a chapter on Irish snakes, which shortly disposed of the matter by stating the fact that there Were no snakes in Ireland. In similar manner might one dispense will} a discussion of the Rebellion in Upper Canada of 1837-8 so far as Glengarry was concerned by simply mentioning that there were no rebels in Glengarry; but as its people had much to do with the suppression of the Rebellion, not only in our own Province, but in the Province of Lower Canada as well, it is now in place to narrate the honourable and loyal part which our fathers bore in the events of that critical period in the history of the country.

Rebels against the British Crown and those institutions which flourish under its aegis were not indigenous to the soil of Glengarry, nor is that to be wandered at when we consider the character of the early settlers, whose views had naturally descended to their sons. Those settlers were in large part United Empire Loyalists, who had laid down at the very inception of our system of government, when the Upper Country of Canada was erected into a separate Province, the principles upon which this country was thereafter to be governed, and had declared that so far as the circumstances of the country would permit, our Constitution was to be similar to that of the Motherland, which had stood the test of ages, and which guaranteed to those who lived under it as much freedom and happiness as is possible to be enjoyed under the subordination necessary to civilized society. We have seen that the largest addition to those original settlers was composed of the soldiers of a disbanded Highland Regiment, the Glengarry Fencibles, brought to this country and established were in their homes by that loyal and devoted subject of the Crown, their Chaplain, who soon became the first Catholic Bishop of Upper Canada, who still survived, and who stood so high in the confidence of successive representatives of the Sovereign. When the country was invaded by the people of the United States, we have seen how materially they contributed to its defence, how many of them died and all risked their lives in order that our institutions should be preserved intact. That the sons born of those parents Were Worthy of them, and in their turn furnished an example for future generations to follow we shall now see.

Previous to the outbreak of the Rebellion, murmurings and muterings had for some time been heard Colonel Denison, from whose able essay I have already quoted, shows that the weak point in the policy of Colonel Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Province, was that in his anxious desire to secure additional population for the Province, his liberal offers of land induced considerable emigration from the United States, many of these Yankee settlers, coming from mere mercenary motives, and bringing with them republican sentiments most obnoxious to the loyal element which had opened up the first settlements in the Province, and it was in large part owing to the known sentiments of these undesirable residents, and the assistance expected to be derived from them, that the Americans hoped to make such an easy conquest of Canada when War was declared in 1812. and although the result cf that war left us in the enjoyment of the blessings of our free institutions, it did not eradicate the views of the disloyal faction, though during the war and for some time after, bearing in mind the example afforded by the execution of the traitors hanged at Ancaster by the order of General Drummond, and the imprisonment of others, they took care to avoid public expression of them, yet they at the same time instilled them into the minds of their children, and they bore fruit in the Rebellion of 1837-8. These people and their descendants have been a curse to this Province, and are a standing menace to British institutions.

A numerical abstract of the names and residences oi persons arrested in Upper Canada and placed in confinement in the various prisons throughout the Province on charges of insurrection or treason from 5th December, 1837, 1st November, 1838, shows the parts of the Province where these renegades were to be found, and where the embers of rebellion were ready to burst into blaze: Eastern District, none. Ottawa District, none. Johnston District, 8. Bathurst District, none-Prince Edward District, none Midland District, 75. Newcastle District, 12. Home District, 422. Niagara District, 43 Gore District, 90. Talbot District, None. London District, 163. Western District, 11.

In the Province of Upper Canada but thirteen hundred regular troops, including artillerymen, were scattered here and there from Kingston to Penetanguishene, while in the Lower Province about two thousand soldiers were stationed at various points to overawe nearly half a pillion, of partially or wholly disaffected habitants. The situation of affairs in the latter Province was set forth in Lord Gosford's despatch of 2nd September, 1837, to Lord Glenelg, the Colonial Secretary. "It is evident," he wrote, "that the Papineau faction are not to be satisfied with any concession that does not place them in a more favourable position to carry into effect their ulterior objects, namely, the separation of this country from England and the establishment of a republican form of government," and he added that with deep regret he was under the necessity of recommending the suspension of the Constitution of the Province. Communications had been passing between the leaders of sedition in both Provinces, and their aims, so far as the overthrow of existing institutions was concerned, were identical. When Sir Francis Bond-Head arrived in Toronto, and relieved Sir John Colborne (who was then appointed to the military command of both Provinces) of the Government of Upper Canada, he found that not even the famous Grievance Report contained a recital of all the wrongs the malcontents had been able to furbish up, Mr. Marshall Spring Bidwell, a very advanced "Reformer," stating to him in an interview that "there were many grievances not detailed in that book which the people had long endured with patience; that there was no desire to rebel, but a morbid feeling of dissatisfaction was daily increasing,"(0 On the 31st July, a precious document, styled "A Declaration of Independence" was published by Mackenzie and others, the first step in the road to insurrection, committing all who accepted it to share the fortunes of the rebels in Lower Canada, and a permanent vigilance committee was appointed. Mackenzie had promoted a run on the Bank of Upper Canada, and the machinations of himself and his friends had brought about the failure of the Commercial Bank at Kingston and the Farmers' Bank at Toronto, while they were daily declaiming against the loyal element as false Canadians, Tories, pensioners, placemen, profligates, Orangemen, Churchmen, spies, informers, brokers, gamblers, parasites and knaves! who he alleged were plundering and robbing with impunity, their feet on the people's necks, responsible for all the woes and waifs, and pauperism and crimes, the ruin of the merchants and the want of the settlers who, " seldom tasting a morsel of bread, were glad to gnaw the bark off the trees to keep away starvation, and were leaving the country in thousands for lands less favoured by nature but blest with free institutions and just government." Had a. few of these impassioned gentry been summarily dealt with in the first instance as Lount and Matthews were subsequently, there would have been infinitely less want and misery abroad, and many more valuable lives would have been saved; but, unfortunately, the Government permitted an undue license, not only of speech and writing, but allowed the vigilance committees to become the nuclei of military organizations. Shooting matches became fashionable, a brisk business in the manufacture of pikes was carried on, and drilling; was practised more or less openly, while Mr. Lindsey states that an occasional feu de joie on Yonge street in honour of Papineau would be nude the subject of boast in the press. Mackenzie, meantime, was appointed agent and secretary of the Central Vigilance Committee, a convention of delegates of the Reform unions was to be held, and the functions of the Legislature usurped by these sons of sedition, and by the end of November fifteen hundred names were returned to Mackenzie of persons enrolled and ready to take up arms at an hour's notice.

In Lower Canada the crisis had been reached in October of 1837, collision had occurred between the Governor and the Legislature, which had abrogated the Constitution by a continued abandonment of its duties, had refused to vote the supplies, and had consequently been prorogued. Meetings were held in different parts of the country, one at St. Charles, on the Richelieu, being attended by over five thousand people. At St. Hyacinthe the tricolored flag was displayed, while the tavern keepers substituted eagles for their former signs. Officers who had been dismissed from the militia were elected by the habitants to command them again Moos paraded the streets of Montreal, singing revolutionary songs, and nothing but the firm, loyal and patriotic stand of the Catholic hierarchy and clergy prevented the actual outbreak. M. Lartigue, the Catholic Bishop of Montreal, who had previously addressed a large body of ecclesiastics at Montreal to discourage insurrection, now, "actuated by no external influence, but impelled solely by motives of conscience," issued a pastoral enjoining the clergy and faithful to discountenance all schemes of rebellion.. The people, however, became more and more restless as they felt the influence of the clergy setting against them, and priests were insulted in their churches, on or the occasion in the presence of Papineau himself. Law and religion were on the side of the Government, and rebellion and infidelity on that of the misnamed Patriots. The popular frenzy was too great to be at once brought under control even by the powerful influence of the Catholic Church, yet even so pronounced an enemy of that Church as Mr. Lindsey admits that "there is reason to believe that the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy eventually did more than even the British troops to crush the insurrection in Lower Canada."

On the 6th November, 1837, a riot occurred in Montreal, the " Sons of Liberty',' being appropriately led by a Yankee, one Thomas Sturrow Brown. The Loyalists dispersed the rioters, captured their banners and some guns, and threw the printing material of their organ, the "Vindicator," into the street on the 12th November a proclamation was issued directing the suppression of seditious meetings. Bodies of armed peasantry began to assemble near the Richelieu River, particularly at St. John and Chambly, and Sir John Colborne, perceiving that the crisis was at hand, moved his headquarters to Montreal, where he concentrated all the troops that had been withdrawn from Upper Canada and all that could be spared from Quebec.

On the 23rd November a battle took place at St. Denis, the insurgents being commanded by Dr. Nelson and the troops by Colonel Gore, in which the " Patriots" had considerably the advantage, the troops being fatigued by a march of twelve miles through the deep mud, and their ammunition being -insufficient, while a large number of the Patricts were safely lodged in a large stone store, four storeys high, from which they were enabled to keep up a galling fire on the troops, whose loss is stated to have been about fifty, while of the Patriots nineteen were killed.

In the meantime the loyal people of Glengarry were re-organizing their Militia Regiments of which there were no less than four, the First or Charlottenburg, Second or Lancaster, Third or Lochiel, and Fourth or Kenyon. They were respectively commanded by Colonels Alexander Fraser, Donald Greenfield Macdonell, Alexander Chisholm and Angus Macdonell, all of whom fortunately had had previous military experience. Colonel Fraser had held a commission in the Canadian Fencible Regiment and had served through the War of 1812-15; Colonel Donald Macdonell had commanded one of the flank companies of the Second Regiment of Glengarry Militia, as well as being Assistant Quarter-Master-General of the Midland District during that war, and had been gazetted to the command of his Regiment in 1814; Colonel Chisholm had been an officer in the Royal African Corps for several years before settling in Glengarry in 1816, and Colonel Angus Macdonell had seen much service during 1812-15, when he held a commission in the Glengarry Light Infantry which, as we have seen, had been in almost every battle and action in that campaign. The Toronto Almanac of 1839, which contains the militia list, gives the officers of these Regiments, with the dates of their respective commissions, though I believe the Regiments were largely reorganized for the active service which they were about to be called on to perform, some of the officers having become disabled by reason of age and other causes from undertaking further active service. I am unable, however, to procure further information than is furnished by the source mentioned. The force on service in 1837-8 was paid by the Imperial Government though the commissariat, and all returns made thereto, which accounts for so little information being obtainable in the Militia Department.

to acquaint you that the District of Montreal, being in a stale of revolt and the rebels having again collected in force on the Richelieu and preparing defensive works, he has called on the Lieutenant-Governor Upper Canada for assistance, and he trusts that several Battalions will be ordered to march to our assistance.

The Lieutenant-General thinks that measures should oe adopted to keep up the communication with Upper Canada by the Coteau du Lac.

I have, etc.,

Thos. Leigh Goldie, A.D.C.

Colonel Macdonell, Second Glengarry Militia, Cornwall.

Colonel Macdonell immediately notified the commanding officers of the several regiments, took such other active steps as were necessary, and knowing full well how readily any call would be responded to, wrote to Sir John Colborne for further instructions. In answer he received the following:

Headquarters, Montreal, December 8, 1837.

My Dear Sir,—I am desired by Lieutenant Genera Sir John Colborne to acquaint you, in reply to your letter of the 15th instant, that provided your march is sanctioned by the Lieutenant Governor he is persuaded that the Glengarry battalions under your command may render essential service to our cause by marching to the Coteau du Lac to the ferry at Vaudreuil, opposite St. Anne's, at which place arms and ammunition shall be forwarded to you. Afterward! he would wish you to proceed through Vaudreuil by the take of the Two Mountains to Point Fortune, to escort he arms which are intended for the corps now forming at the Carillo; under the direction of Mr. Forbes. ' On your arrival there you will receive further orders respecting our operations against the rebels at St. Benoit and Grand Brule

I have, &c.,

Thos. Leigh Goldie, A.D.C.

Colonel Macdonell, Second Glengarry Militia.

Sir John Colborne had effectually suppressed the Rebellion in that quarter before the Glengarry Regiments were able to proceed to Lower Canada, his force consisting of the First Royals, Thirty Second and Eighty Third Regiments, with a strong party of Military, the Queen's Light Dragoons (Provincial), the Montreal Volunteer Cavalry and Rifle Corps and other militia. At St. Eustache some slight resistance was offered and a few lives lost. At St. Benoit Grand Brule, two hundred and fifty insurgents surrendered at discretion, and were for the most part dismissed, only the ringleaders being kept prisoners. The militia appear to have destroyed considerable property in retaliation for the injuries inflicted upon that of volunteers and other loyal persons- Papineau and Wolfred Nelson had now led the country.

It will be observed that the date of the first letter to Colonel Macdonell, advising him of the call for assistance from Upper Canada, was the 1st December. In nineteen days, two thousand men from all parts of the County of Glengarry were under arms at Lanaster, on the River St. Lawrence, ready to proceed to the relief of the loyal people of the Lower Province.

Mr. Christie, in a note to volume 5, page 14, quotes as follows in The Cornwall 'Observer' of the 21st instant, mentions that on the day previous the four Regiments of Glengarry Militia, mustering about two thousand strong, assembled at Lancaster for the purpose of marching down to Montreal, under the command of Colonels Donald McDonell. Fraser, Cbisholm and Angus McDonell. The field-pieces belonging to the different Regiments were mounted on strong sleighs, with horses and everything necessary for active service, which with flags and martial music of the pipes, formed a most interesting spectacle. It was intended that the troops should march on the 21st, but an express arrived from Sir John Colborne with a communication expressing his warmest thanks to the colonels of the different regiments for their exertions and activity in this critical period, and requesting them to inform the officers and men of these brave Glengarry Regiments, that in consequence of the Rebellion being put down he does not wish them to march from their homes at present.' 'We can appreciate the feeling of disappointment,' says the Cornwall "Observer," "with which this communication was received by the hardy Highlanders, anxious as we know they are to distinguish themselves as brave and loyal subjects of their Queen.'"


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