Previous Index Next

 

CHAPTER VI

LOWER CANADIAN REBELLION, 1837-38

THE War of 1812–14 left its inevitable aftermath of trouble. Two neighbouring countries, particularly when closely allied by blood, language, political ideals, and habits of thought, cannot go through three years of conflict without experiencing lasting evil effects. Men of broad vision, large-minded, unselfish, may find it possible to transform yesterday's enemy into to-day's friend, but such men are rare. Most of us, we might as well admit it, are built on comparatively narrow and selfish lines. And the average American or Canadian of this period, particularly if a citizen of one of the border towns, and a non-combatant, found it difficult for several years to tolerate his neighbour across the boundary. Trivial plots and squabbles, charges and counter-charges, kept the pot a-boiling, and made work for the diplomatic representatives of the two countries.

Despite all this, however, a period of peaceful stagnation fell upon the Canadian militia. Like the mother-country, Canada has never shown much interest in her "thin red line of 'eroes" except when the "band begins to play." Her militia has been treated much like the umbrella, highly prized when the clouds lower, thrust into a corner when the sun shines. One is not surprised to find, therefore, that between 1814 and 1837 the subject of the militia was rarely raised in the legislatures of Canada, either Lower or Upper, except as a convenient political football.

The legislative action in Lower Canada can be summed up in a very few words. In 1815 the Militia Act was amended by legalizing substitution, that is to say, a man drawn for service might provide a substitute. Provision was made at the same time to indemnify officers of the

196


Previous Index Next