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Biography of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
Chapter VII. The Red River Expedition

This ended communication between Mr. Smith and Rid. He had done what he could to bring about a better state of feeling. He had cleared from the minds of the people their misunderstanding of the intentions of the Dominion Government. He had undermined the influence of Riel and had won over most of the people to a favorable attitude toward the Canadian Government. He had discharged a difficult duty and earned for himself the gratitude of succeeding generations. A false move—an unwise word—would have started the fires of insurrection. He says himself, 'The part I had to act was that of a mediator. Not only would one rash or unguarded word have increased the difficulty, but even the pointing of a finger might, on more than one occasion, have been sufficient to put the whole country into a flame." In the midst of these trying conditions, he carried himself as though he had been trained in the schools of diplomacy, he stepped out of the wilds of Prince Rupert's Land, and became immediately a leading figure in the political world. his services were recognized and acknowledged by the Government, to whom he presented a luminous report of his experiences in the North-West, and an official letter of thanks was sent him by The Governor-General-in-Council.

He was not, however, done with the West, for there were still matters to be settled in connection with the transfer of the Hudson Bay Company to the Canadian Government. That transfer had caused a great deal of dissatisfaction among the officers and servants of the company throughout the immense territory which had been occupied. These men were the real promoters of its prosperity. They had explored the remote parts of that great territory. They had served the company with pluck, courage and fidelity, and felt that they were entitled to some share in the proceeds for which the company was handed over to the Government of Canada. A council meeting was held at Norway house (on Lake Winnipeg), to consider the situation and formulate their claims. Mr. Smith was present at that meeting and took part in the deliberations, he had to deal with a fine body of men, hardy, resolute and of superior mental power—men who had proven their self-reliance and stamina on many a difficult occasion. The meeting was stormy, but Mr. Smith held it in check. He was recognized as a man who by his 32 years of service had been invested with a natural authority. All the way through he was reasonable and conciliatory. He inspired such confidence that, as a result of the meeting, he was appointed to go to London and present their case to the company in England. He accepted the appointment and from that moment the men in the North-West believed that their interests were safe. It was felt that even the haughty shareholders in the Old Land would give him a respectful hearing and their claim a just consideration.

But before going to England, matters were approaching a crisis in the Red River Settlement, and Mr. Smith had a part to play in the final scenes. Some time previously he had urged upon the Government at Ottawa the necessity of sending to the North-West a strong military force. This counsel was followed and in the summer of 1870 the memorable Red River Expedition was taken. Col one! Garnet Wolseley was the leader, and through bad roads, dense forests, unknown waterways, difficult portages and in leaky boats, Was pressing on to Fort Garry. It was a long and dreary journey, and it was late in August when they arrived. The route followed was that of the old-time fur-traders. The soldiers, British regulars and Canadian volunteers, travelled from Canada by way of the Lake of the Woods, down the Winnipeg River, over the Winnipeg Lake, and then up the Red River to Fort Garry. They had traversed 600 miles of wilderness, and after their experience presented a fine appearance, several hundred men in splendid physical condition. Their coming was most opportune. After many months of anxiety, the sight of this body of men raised the spirits of the people, and sent a thrill of hope through the whole settlement. It was felt that their troubles were over and the power of Riel shattered.

A hearty welcome and generous hospitality awaited the soldiers at Fort Alexander after their long and difficult journey. Mr. Smith met the Imperial force at this place, and shaking hands with Colonel Wolseley and the officers, gave them a hearty greeting. In the company were two young officers who afterwards, became distinguished in the Imperial Army. They were to be known as Sir Redvers Buller and Sir Wm. Butler. The company started across Lake Winnipeg, and paddled up the Red River. Great was the excitement. The banks of the river were lined all day with cheering spectators. Flags waved and church bells rang out their welcome. They were heralded as the saviours of the country. The tyranny of Riel, the "New Napoleon," had filled the hearts of the people with disgust and fear. The troops disembarked at the point of land known as Point Douglas—a place which, in 1816, had been the scene of a desperate conflict between the North Western Fur Company and the retainers of the Hudson's Bay Company. This place was about two miles north of Fort Garry, and thence ''the little army with its two brass guns trundling along behind Red River carts, commenced its march over the mud-soaked prairie." They reached the fort in due time without meeting any opposition, and took possession. The chief conspirators, Rid, O'Donoghue and Lepine, when informed of the near approach of the rescuing party, had fled across the river. They cut the hawser by which the ferry was worked, and from the shores of St. Boniface beheld Wolseley, Smith and the soldiery enter the fort. It is said that Rid, when lie saw Mr. Smith, was in a terrible rage, and said, "There goes the man who upset my plans," which was undoubtedly true. The brief reign of Riel was over. The Union Jack was hoisted, a royal salute fired, and three cheers were given for the Queen. Thus, without the firing of a shot, the troublous period was ended. "The transfer of Prince Rupert's Land was completed, and the governing power of the famous old company was a thing of the past." The territories of the West became part of the young Dominion of Canada.

Red River Expedition

Their work accomplished and the disorder settled, the "regulars" soon after started on the return journey home. But before they left, Col. Wolseley issued an order, part of which is well worth quoting, as it is such a remarkable tribute to their splendid services: "It may be confidently asserted that no force has ever had to endure more continuous labor, and it may be as truthfully said that no men on service had ever been better behaved, or more cheerful under the trials arising from exposure to inclement weather, excessive fatigue, and to the annoyance caused by flies."

There being no properly appointed civil authority—the new Lieutenant-Governor, the Hon. Adams G. Archibald, not having arrived—Col. Wolseley, to the satisfaction of all classes, called upon Mr. Smith to administer the affairs of the territory. A body of citizens came to congratulate him on the successful ending of the rebellion. To these he addressed the following words, which show better than anything else the spirit by which he was animated: "It lies in ourselves to continue the work of pacification, now so auspiciously begun. Let us all strive to banish discord and make this new Province a credit to the Dominion of Canada." As we look back over the intervening years we can see how that aspiration has been realized. Manitoba, with its great cities and towns, its prosperous farms and its enterprising and intelligent people, is regarded by the Dominion with pride. In a short time Archibald arrived, and Mr. Smith handed over to him the responsibilities of government.

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