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254 MILITARY HISTORY OF CANADA

 

So far as Thibault and de Salaberry are concerned, it may be said at once that they achieved absolutely nothing. Riel, having examined their credentials and found that they were vested with no authority, ignored them completely. But Riel was too shrewd a man to ignore Donald A. Smith. He knew that here he had found a man who was more than a match for him. Indeed the battle of wits between these two men, as revealed in the official records, furnishes one of the most interesting incidents of the Rebellion. Smith was careful to leave his papers in safe hands, on the American side of the boundary, before he set out for Fort Garry. He let it be understood that he was in the West on business of the Hudson's Bay Company. To Riel he was at first polite but uncommunicative. Riel kept him in the fort, but could not very well prevent the English and French leaders of the settlement from visiting him. Smith rapidly became seized of the situation. Riel had been playing all along for the support of the English-speaking settlers; urging them to join the French in the Provisional. Government, in which they would have equal representation; assuring them of his loyalty, and that all he desired was the protection of the rights of the people. Here was Smith's opportunity. He won the responsible men, both French and English, to his side, by convincing them of the good intentions of the Canadian Government. He then freely discussed his mission with Riel, and suggested that a general meeting of the settlers be called, at which he would present his credentials and explain the situation. Riel offered to send a trusty messenger for the papers, but Smith preferred to send his brother-in-law and secretary, Richard Hardisty. Riel countered by appointing a guard to protect Hardisty on the way—and incidentally to seize the papers. Unfortunately for the success of his plans, a party of settlers who were in Smith's confidence set off quietly toward Pembina, and escorted Hardisty back to Fort Garry with the papers. The outcome was that a convention


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