Previous Index Next

 

LOWER CANADIAN REBELLION, 1837–38 199

 

termined to take a share in its own government. Occasionally it happens that nothing will serve but a drastic emetic. We have heard a good deal of what Charles Buller called the "deplorable imbecility" of Downing Street, and this has by no means been confined to the Colonial Office. Wellington expressed the view of most English statesmen, including those governing the colonies, in 1836, when he said: "Local responsible government and the sovereignty of Great Britain are completely incompatible." Constitutional agitation would, no doubt, have won responsible government in time, but the forces of entrenched privilege die hard. The Rebellions, although an ugly expedient, brought forth Durham's Report, and the Union of 1841, with all that that meant for the future welfare of Canada.

The Rebellion in Lower Canada broke out a month or two after Queen Victoria came to the throne. It seems incredible that within the reign of the Queen whom we lost such a few short years ago, men were actually fighting and dying for the right of self-government. Papineau, Wolfred Nelson, Girouard, O'Callaghan, LaFontaine, and other leaders of the Patriotes, spent the first months of the young Queen's reign in making fiery speeches to enthusiastic crowds of their fellow-countrymen, who adopted numerous resolutions, based on one or other of the famous Ninety-Two Resolutions of 1834. This led, naturally enough, to counter demonstrations at Montreal and Quebec, at which the Constitutional party denounced Papineau and his followers in unmeasured terms. Fin-ally, groups of the rival factions in Montreal came to blows early in November, 1837, and the whole town was immediately in an uproar. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Papineau and several other leaders of the popular party, including Dr. Davignon and Desmarais. The two latter were captured at St. Jean d'Iberville, but, on their way to Montreal, a number of sympathizers overpowered the escort and released the prisoners.

After this initial success, the rebellious farmers along


Previous Index Next