RED RIVER REBELLION, 1869-70 247
that he knew. The buffalo, his staff of life, was vanishing; and the old Company, whose paternal rule had been familiar to himself, his father, and his father's father, was, as a fur-trading company, rapidly falling into decay. The air was full of disquieting rumours of change; the Metis was worried and suspicious, and he was glad to put his trust in one of his own people, one who had been out into the world and could put into fiery words his own voiceless protest against the breaking up of his little kingdom.
This was the inflammable material to which Riel put the torch in 1869. Much has been written about the causes of the Rebellion, and probably no two writers are quite in agreement in fixing the responsibility. The difficulty has been increased because of the racial and religious passions aroused as an aftermath of the Rebellion, passions that have influenced more or less nearly everything written on the subject. The fact seems to be that the Rebellion was largely the result of obtuseness on the part of the Canadian Government and its officers. They had to deal with a community of simple-minded and ignorant half-breeds, jealous of their privileges and suspicious of outside interference. Had the situation been handled tactfully, it is more than probable that it would never have got beyond control. Riel was a firebrand, but he would have been powerless to start a conflagration if the Canadian Government had not played into his hand.
Here are the essential facts. After prolonged negotiations, an agreement had been reached, between the Imperial and Canadian Governments and the Hudson's Bay Company, for the transfer to Canada of the immense territories claimed by the Company under its charter. The negotiations had been carried on and brought to completion without either the Red River settlers or the officers of the Company in the West having been consulted. Both naturally resented the cavalier way in which they had been treated. Added to this,