THE HISTORY OF CANADA
|Mackenzie and Papineau Rebel
The period following the War of 1812 was one of expansion of population, business, and settlement. This was especially true in Upper Canada, where large numbers of newcomers were attracted by low-cost land grants. The very growth of the colony offered many opportunities for profit by those who could control the land grants.
One of the loudest accusers of the government's administration of the land grants was William Lyon Mackenzie (see Mackenzie, William Lyon). His criticisms centered on a group that was known as the Family Compact. This was a loose and somewhat misleading name for the members of the governing class and their friends, among whom were actually many leaders of great honesty and competence. Mackenzie, however, never clearly understood the principles of responsible government by which the executive would carry out the wishes of the government and the government would hold office only so long as it had the support of the people's elected representatives. Thus when the government failed to redress the long series of grievances that he listed, Mackenzie began to call for the independence of Upper Canada.
As affairs in Upper Canada moved toward a climax, an equally serious crisis was building in Lower Canada. The grievances were different, but the causes were similar. Here the real power was in the hands of a British governor and his councilors, referred to critically as the Chateau Clique, who constantly rebuffed the elected representatives of the French-Canadian majority. The leader of the radical reforms in Lower Canada was Louis Joseph Papineau (see Papineau). Papineau, like Mackenzie, had been several times elected to the provincial assembly. Like Mackenzie, he had finally come to the conclusion that no lasting reform could be achieved unless the bonds with Britain were severed.
Rioting occurred in Montreal in 1837. When the government decided to arrest Papineau, he immediately fled across the border to the United States. Largely because the radicals interpreted this as persecution of their leader, open rebellion followed in several centers. All revolts were quickly put down.
Similar troubles broke out in Upper Canada almost immediately. Mackenzie prematurely called for an advance toward Toronto from his headquarters just north of the city before his ill-equipped followers were sufficiently well organized. The attack was driven back; and the city, rapidly filling with Loyalist supporters, was fully alerted. A few days later these forces marched northward against Mackenzie and, after a short skirmish, dispersed his troops.
Like Papineau, Mackenzie fled across the United States border, but he had not abandoned the struggle. Early in 1838 he took possession of Navy Island in the Niagara River and, with a small number of followers, tried to organize his planned republic under what he spoke of as a "provisional government of Upper Canada." The army and militia were now in full control of the situation, and they forced Mackenzie to return to the United States once again. Other disturbances followed along the border during 1838. After a few unsuccessful raids, the United States took steps to prevent its territory from being used for further attacks against the Canadas.
The struggle for reform was more peaceful in the Maritimes. Here the leading reformers included Joseph Howe, in Nova Scotia, and Lemuel Allan Wilmot, in New Brunswick. Howe had a much clearer understanding of the principles and advantages of responsible government than had either Mackenzie or Papineau. Although he was persecuted for some of the criticisms he voiced in his newspaper, the Novascotian, he rallied widespread support. When sued for libel, he won his case.
|Discovery of Canada|