The Story of the Upper Canada Rebellion, Volume 1
by John Charles Dent
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[262] See despatch of 30th December, 1836, in Narrative, chap. vii.

[263] Mr. Charles Lindsey, in his pamphlet on "The Clergy Reserves: their History and Present Position;" appendix, p. i. He adds: "The clear, pointed, classical diction of the speaker; the learning and historical research he displayed; the beauty and appositeness of his illustrations; the breadth and depth and immovable basis of his arguments; the clearness, the syllogistic accuracy and force of his logic, and the impressive eloquence of his delivery produced an effect upon those who heard the speech never to be forgotten. Its publication in the newspapers of the day aroused the people. It convinced them (for, strange as it may seem now, there were many who needed to be convinced) of the unscriptural, immoral and unjust character of a State religion; while it confirmed them in their determination to rest not until they had exterminated the curse from Canadian soil.... This noble effort of an able, learned, bold and patriotic defender of the cause of the people against their corrupt, unscrupulous and then powerful enemies, ought to be printed in letters of gold, and preserved for the instruction and warning of all future generations of Canadian freemen." This was written in 1851, when the Clergy Reserves question yet remained unsettled, and while it still continued to agitate the public mind almost to the exclusion of other matters. Now that the subject has ceased to be a practical one, the encomiums so lavishly bestowed upon Dr. Rolph's famous speech will perhaps seem a little over-strained; but it was most unquestionably a great oratorical and intellectual effort, such as had never before been heard within the walls of the Provincial Legislature. Even at this distance of time, when all interest in the subject has died out, the speech cannot be read without arousing a feeling of admiration for the orator.

[264] Ante, p. 330.

[265] Lindsey's Life of Mackenzie, vol. i., p. 392.

[266] Member for Middlesex.

[267] See the report in the number of The Correspondent and Advocate for Wednesday, March 15th.

[268] Forty-two members were present at the vote on the Speakership, all of whom voted for Mr. McNab with the exception of David Gibson, of the First Riding of York, who recorded his solitary vote in the negative.



It will be remembered that, during the summer of 1836, Dr. Baldwin, George Ridout and J. E. Small had been dismissed by Sir Francis Head from certain offices held by them at the pleasure of the Crown. Mr. Ridout had appealed to Lord Glenelg, to whom the Lieutenant-Governor had soon afterwards found himself called upon to defend his conduct. The only reason which had at first been assigned by his Excellency for Mr. Ridout's dismissal was that the latter was presumed to be a member of the Constitutional Reform Society. This society, just before the election, had issued and circulated a printed address wherein his Excellency was charged with a disregard of constitutional Government, and of candour and truth in his statements. Mr. Ridout had undoubtedly attended and spoken at some of the meetings of the society, but he was not a member of it, and had no difficulty in establishing the fact to the satisfaction of the Colonial Secretary, who, after mature consideration, conveyed to Sir Francis His Majesty's commands that Mr. Ridout should be reinstated in the various offices from which he had been removed. With this command, as mentioned towards the close of the last chapter, Sir Francis did not see fit to comply. Finding himself beaten upon the case as it stood, he proceeded to amend the record by alleging other matters against the accused. In this course he met with little encouragement from his Lordship, who patiently combated his untenable positions, and repeated the injunction that Mr. Ridout should be reinstated. While the matter was in abeyance, another difference of opinion arose between Lord Glenelg and Sir Francis. During the spring of 1837, Mr. Jameson having been appointed Vice Chancellor, and Archibald McLean and Jonas Jonas having been appointed Judges of the Court of King's Bench, it became necessary for Sir Francis to submit these appointments to his Lordship, together with those of Mr. Hagerman and Mr. Draper respectively to the offices of Attorney-General and Solicitor-General. His Excellency seems to have felt that it was necessary to assign some reason for passing over Mr. Bidwell, whose legal acquirements were certainly superior to those of any other member of the Upper Canada bar since John Rolph had abandoned the long robe. "That gentleman's legal acquirements," wrote Sir Francis,[269] "are, I consider, superior to at least one of the individuals whom I have elevated. His moral character is irreproachable. But, anxious as I am to give to talent its due, yet I cannot but feel that the welfare and honour of this Province depend on His Majesty never promoting a disloyal man." His Excellency then went on to represent Mr. Bidwell as having been desirous of effecting the separation of the colony from the parent state, and of exchanging the British constitution for "the low, grovelling principles of democracy." There was no allegation that any such desire had ever been personally expressed or manifested by Mr. Bidwell, but it was inferred from the conduct of his associates. This was somewhat more than the Colonial Secretary could quietly pass over. He pointed out[270] to the Lieutenant-Governor that the disloyalty imputed to Mr. Bidwell's associates had not been charged against himself, or attempted to be proved by any act of his; that he had withdrawn himself from political strife; and that as his professional abilities and high moral character were respected by his political opponents, the political stand formerly taken by him ought not to operate against his advancement. It was further urged by his Lordship that the elevation of such a man to the bench would convince the Upper Canadian public of the impartiality of the Executive in such matters. Finally, his Excellency was informed that should another vacancy occur among the Judges of the Court of King's Bench, it was the wish of His Majesty's Government that the situation should be offered to Mr. Bidwell.

Upon receipt of the missive containing this intimation the Tried Reformer was almost beside himself. He had none of that magnanimity which impels a man to admit that he is in the wrong when he has been clearly proved to be so. Nor could he boast of that skill of graceful concession which enables its possessor to recede without discredit from an untenable position. He replied to his Lordship[271] in the following blunt and explicit terms: "After very deliberate consideration, I have determined to take upon myself the serious responsibility of positively refusing to place Mr. Bidwell on the bench, or to restore Mr. George Ridout to the Judgeship from which I have removed him." He went on to deprecate the necessity for this "overt act of hostility," but added that disobedience on the part of a Lieutenant-Governor does not necessarily imply disaffection to the Minister. He hinted that he was quite prepared for an immediate dismissal. A great part of the despatch was taken up with libels upon Mr. Bidwell and his father. In order that there might be no misunderstanding on the matter, he emphatically repeated his refusal to elevate the former. "So long as I remain Lieutenant-Governor of this Province," he wrote, "I will never raise Mr. Bidwell to the bench; and I think it proper to confess to your Lordship that I have at this moment two appointments to make of King's Counsel, neither of which can I conscientiously bestow upon that gentleman." He declined to argue the question as to Mr. Ridout any further, and again refused in the most explicit terms to reinstate him in office. This language left the Colonial Secretary no other discretion than to "accept Sir Francis's resignation," but before this determination was officially conveyed to him the peace of the Province was disturbed by the outbreak of the rebellion.

During the whole summer of this year Mackenzie was doing his utmost to add to the prevalent feeling of discontent against the Government. A superlative bitterness had possessed him ever since the elections, and the fate of his petition had inflamed his resentment almost to madness. He felt that he had been cheated out of his seat, and that nothing was to be hoped for on behalf of either himself or his fellow-workers so long as the existing Government remained in power. To subvert that Government thenceforth became the dominant passion of his life. He was ready to adopt any means, lawful or unlawful, to secure that end. The tone of the Constitution was not to be mistaken. The mind of the editor had evidently run a long course since he had first begun to concern himself with public affairs. In one of the early numbers of the Advocate[272] he had boasted that disloyalty could never enter his breast. "Even the name I bear," he had written, "has in all ages proved talismanic, an insurmountable barrier." What a change had come over him since giving utterance to those words. He now boasted of his "rebel blood," which he declared would always be uppermost. "I am proud," he wrote, "of my descent from a rebel race."[273] And, as if this were not sufficiently specific, he added: "If the people felt as I feel, there is never a Grant or Glenelg who crossed the Tay and Tweed to exchange high-born Highland poverty for substantial Lowland wealth, who would dare to insult Upper Canada with the official presence, as its ruler, of such an equivocal character as this Mr. What-do-they-call-him—Francis Bond Head." Ever and anon the Tory press retorted on him in a spirit by no means calculated to soften the asperity of his heart. The most contemptuous epithets were freely bestowed upon him, and he was from time to time taunted with his humble origin. It seems almost unnecessary to say that those who indulged in such taunts as these had very little wherewith to reproach Mackenzie on the score of birth and breeding. There must surely be some foul taint in the blood of any man who can stoop to such methods of humiliating a beaten enemy. Still, such insults, coming, as they did, in the wake of serious material injury, added fuel to the flame which burned within Mackenzie's heart like a consuming fire. All the worst part of his nature was up in arms. There were times when he wrote and spoke like one who has lost all self-control. But he was in such deadly earnest that he carried conviction to many a wavering mind. In the Home District, where his paper chiefly circulated, there were scores of people who had seen enough of irresponsible Government to be ready to receive his preachments with favour. His efforts were not restricted to writing virulent articles. He openly went among the people, and disseminated his doctrines by word of mouth. He spoke better than he wrote; and it was only natural that he should exercise a strong influence over the rural communities wherein the Radical element was in the ascendant. His influence became specially conspicuous at this time throughout the Second Riding of York, which he had represented in Parliament, and which, as previously mentioned, had been the scene of much high-handed corruption during the last election contest. The voters of that constituency awoke to the fact that they had been beguiled by the Tories, and that their representative, Mr. Thomson, was not likely to be of much service in the role of a Reformer. They eagerly listened to Mackenzie's tabulation of grievances, and cheered him to the echo when he hinted that the time had arrived for the Spirit of Freedom to assert herself.

Among those who warmly sympathized with Mackenzie was Samuel Lount, of Holland Landing, who, it will be remembered, had sat in the last Parliament for Simcoe, and who had been beaten, as he believed, by corrupt methods, at the last election. He had contemplated a petition to the Assembly, but had been discouraged by the conviction that it would be impossible to obtain an impartial inquiry. He now made common cause with Mackenzie in promoting the establishment of a series of "Union meetings," as they were called, in the various townships of North York and Simcoe. These meetings were convened at irregular intervals for the ostensible purpose of political organization. At first they seem to have been conducted with a good deal of craftiness, for as a general thing nothing was said which could in strictness be regarded as treasonable. But there can be little doubt that the intention of the original promoter of these assemblages was the spread of revolutionary ideas, with a view to an ultimate resort to arms, and in a short time the mask of political organization was completely thrown off. Those who had once put their hands to the plough did not care to draw back, and, before they were aware of what they were doing, they found themselves committed to projects of which at the outset they had not so much as dreamed.

Lount's example was followed by most of the leading Radicals among the farming community where he was best known. The Lloyds, Gorhams, Doans, Fletchers and others had long been active advocates of Radical principles, and had marked with ever-growing hostility the tactics of Sir Francis Head. They saw right persistently violated by might. They saw the respectful complaints and petitions of the people disregarded and set at naught. They saw the Government in the hands of persons who were not only devoid of sympathy with progressive ideas, but who seemed to have no regard for the principles of plain right and wrong. They found themselves of no account in the commonwealth. Their cherished principles were held up to public scorn, and their chosen candidates for Parliament were beaten by fraudulent means. They were utterly without weight in public affairs. After a long and hard fight with the Family Compact, they saw that clique more strongly entrenched in power than ever before. The Tried Reformer who, in response to their long and loud appeals, had been sent over to administer the Government, had stooped to a barefaced violence and tyranny in excess of anything which could be truly charged against the Tory Sir John Colborne. All the old abuses were maintained in full vigour. The incubus of the Clergy Reserves was not removed. Appointments to office were still made from one political body only. The Legislative Council still had the power to paralyze the efforts of the Assembly. The Assembly itself was at present as retrograde as the Upper House, and it had been formed by a corrupt and venal race of officials against whom there was no remedy. The Act to prevent the dissolution of Parliament would probably have the effect of maintaining the existing Assembly for years. To all these evils was now superadded great commercial depression. And there seemed to be no prospect of brighter times. The future seemed overcast and hopeless. Is it any wonder if those who were compelled to contemplate the picture from this dark point of view were forced to the conclusion that a change of any kind must surely be for the better?

It is impossible to say at what precise date the idea of armed resistance to authority was adopted among the rural Reformers, but I can find no distinct trace of it until the 30th of June, when, at a secret meeting held at Lloydtown, a resolution was passed to the effect that constitutional resistance to oppression having been for many years tried in vain, it behooved every Reformer to arm himself in defence of his rights and those of his fellow-countrymen. Within a fortnight afterwards resolutions of a similar character were passed by small gatherings in other parts of the Home District. As yet, however, the idea of actual rebellion does not seem to have taken definite shape in the minds of the supporters of Mackenzie and Lount. At most, there appears to have been a sort of understanding that recourse to arms was justifiable, and might some day become expedient; but even this view of the case did not meet with universal acquiescence, and the advocates of insurrection sometimes found themselves confronted by hostile majorities, even among assemblies of the most trusted Radicals.

But meanwhile Reformers in the cities and towns were beginning to bestir themselves. Toronto was the headquarters of the Reform party of Upper Canada, and it was natural that the adherents of that party throughout the Province generally should contemplate their proceedings with interest. As yet the idea of an armed rising against the Government had not been seriously hinted at among the Reformers of the capital. Profound sympathy, however, was felt and expressed among them for the Lower Canadians, who made no secret of their determination to rebel in case certain resolutions adopted by the British Parliament, at the instance of the Ministry, were acted upon. These resolutions had been adopted in consequence of the Lower Canadian Assembly's persistent refusal to grant supplies. They authorized the seizure of certain funds in the hands of the Provincial Receiver-General, and the application of them to the general purposes of the Provincial government. Papineau and his adherents had been maddened by this proceeding, and were actively engaged in preparations for an outbreak. The Upper Canadian Reformers warmly sympathized with their neighbours, and passed resolutions condemnatory of the obnoxious resolutions. On the 5th of July, Mackenzie, in the Constitution, reviewed the state of affairs in the Lower Province with exceeding boldness. He discussed the probability of an outbreak there, and the chances of success, very clearly indicating his own opinion in the affirmative as to both contingencies. Other Reform papers expressed strong opinions in favour of Papineau's side of the quarrel, but, with the exception of the Constitution, none of them ventured to predict and hope for the success of the rebel arms. The fact is, that a comparatively small number of Upper Canadian Reformers were either ripe for or desirous of rebellion. They were aroused to hot anger, and were prepared to advocate the most radical measures of agitation. Their hostility, however, was not chiefly directed against Great Britain, but against Sir Francis Head and those by whom he was surrounded. It was felt that the Home Office had failed in its duty, but the more intelligent were ready to make allowances for the ignorance respecting Canadian affairs of a Minister three thousand miles away. Such were the sentiments of Robert Baldwin and hundreds of other persons the sincerity of whose Reform principles were equally free from doubt. Dr. Baldwin felt and expressed less moderation than his son, though he was not the man to venture upon what he could not have regarded otherwise than as a hare-brained scheme of rebellion, more especially when his chief allies would be composed of the Mackenzie element of Radicals. Rolph and Bidwell were precisely of the same opinion as Dr. Baldwin. They were sick and weary of all that they saw around them. They would have cordially welcomed a bloodless revolution. As for Bidwell, he would gladly have seen the Province quietly absorbed by the United States, for Family Compact domination would then have been at an end, and there would have been a chance for a man to be rated according to his merits. One situated as he was could not be expected to be devotedly loyal to a Government which did its utmost to keep him down, and which raised a lawyer like Jonas Jones to the bench over his head. Like his father before him, he was a republican in principle, and would doubtless have been willing enough to see a republican form of Government established in Upper Canada; but he had never permitted his predilections to interfere with his duties as a citizen and legislator. Moreover, he was before all things a Christian and a man of peace. It is not by such as he that revolutions are planned or accomplished. If questioned on the subject, he would doubtless have admitted that rebellion, under certain circumstances, may be justifiable, but it is hardly possible to conceive of any circumstances under which he could have been induced to take part in such a movement. Assuredly, nothing short of an almost absolute certainty of success would have impelled him to such a course. The inherent probabilities of success in the case of the Upper Canadian rebellion were from the first very few and remote. There was a brief interval during which, owing to the stupidity and supineness of the Government, success might have been achieved, but whether it would have been temporary or permanent must ever remain an open question. In any case, the contingency was one upon which no prudent man would have allowed himself to count beforehand. As a matter of fact Mr. Bidwell had no more to do with the rebellion than had Robert Baldwin.[274] Dr. Rolph, Dr. Morrison, David Gibson, James Hervey Price, Francis Hincks, John Doel, James and William Lesslie, John Mackintosh,[275] and many other leading Reformers were full of vehemence and indignation, ready to go any reasonable length to bring about a state of things more satisfactory to their party; but up to the close of summer I cannot learn that any serious thought of rebellion had taken possession of the minds of any prominent Toronto Reformer with the exception of Mackenzie himself. Even up in North York and Simcoe, where the feeling of discontent was strongest, and where there was much talk about rebellion against the Government, no one seems to have realized or believed that there would be any actual outbreak.

There could be no doubt, however, that the Reformers in both town and country were more thoroughly in earnest than they had ever been before. Energetic measures were in favour among them, and the number of advocates of passive endurance was very small. There were regular communications between them and the opponents of the Government in Lower Canada. They held frequent meetings, at which schemes of agitation were discussed, and where every member was encouraged to speak his mind without fear or favour. A very frequent place of meeting in Toronto was Elliott's tavern, on the north-west corner of Yonge and Queen Streets. A place for holding more secret and confidential caucuses was the brewery of John Doel, situated at the rear of his house on the north-west corner of Adelaide and Bay Streets.[276] Towards the end of July a number of leading Radicals assembled at Elliott's for the purpose of discussing the draft of a written Declaration, which was intended to embody the platform of the local members of the party. It reads very much like a cautious parody on the Declaration of Independence of the United States, upon which it was evidently modelled. It set forth the principal grievances of which the Reform party complained; declared that the time had arrived for the assertion of rights and the redress of wrongs; and expressed the warmest admiration of Papineau and his compatriots for their opposition to the British Government. It further expressed the opinion that the Reformers of Upper Canada were bound to make common cause with their fellow-citizens in the Lower Province; and to render their cooeperation more effectual it recommended that public meetings should be held and political associations organized throughout the country. Finally, it recommended that a convention of delegates should be held at Toronto to consider the political situation, "with authority to its members to appoint commissioners to meet others to be named on behalf of Lower Canada and any of the other colonies, armed with suitable powers as a congress to seek an effectual remedy for the grievances of the colonists." Mr. Lindsey,[277] doubtless upon the authority of Mackenzie, represents this Declaration as having been the joint work of Dr. Rolph and Dr. W. J. O'Grady, somewhile editor of The Correspondent and Advocate. I can find no confirmatory evidence of this statement, and some of Dr. Rolph's letters would seem, at least by implication, to contradict the assertion that he had any hand in its preparation. The question of authorship, however, is not important. The document was discussed at considerable length. Dr. Morrison, who was present, fully approved of its contents, but objected to sign it, as he would thereby place himself in a dubious position as a member of Parliament. This argument was not acquiesced in by James Lesslie, and the Doctor finally appended his signature. His example was followed by all the other members present except James Lesslie, who withheld his name until the document should be signed by Dr. Rolph, who was absent from the meeting.[278]

On the afternoon of Friday, the 28th of the same month, the Declaration was submitted to and discussed for the second time by a number of Reformers assembled at Elliott's. There was to be a large meeting the same evening at Doel's brewery, at which it was thought desirable that the platform should be adopted. Some discussion arose as to several clauses, however, and one or two immaterial alterations were made, after which it was thought best to postpone the final adoption of the Declaration in its entirety until a subsequent meeting. The meeting held during the evening at Doel's was very numerously attended. About three hundred persons were present,[279] and a good deal of important discussion took place. A motion expressive of sympathy and admiration for Papineau and his compatriots was proposed by Mackenzie, and passed without a dissentient voice, and it was resolved that "the Reformers of Upper Canada" should make common cause with those of the Lower Province. The persons present at this meeting of course had no authority to speak on behalf of the Reformers of Upper Canada as a whole, but they fairly enough represented the Radical wing of the party, which was quite large enough to be formidable. The meeting further resolved that a convention of delegates should be assembled at an early period in Toronto, "to take into consideration the state of the Province, the causes of the present pecuniary and other difficulties, and the means whereby they may be effectually removed;" and that persons be appointed by the said convention to proceed to Lower Canada, "there to meet the delegates of any congress of these Provinces which may be appointed to sit and deliberate on matters of mutual interest to the colonies during the present year." The Declaration was not submitted, as final judgment had not been passed upon it by those who had it in charge. After a long and busy session, the assemblage adjourned to meet in the same place on the evening of Monday, the 31st.

It was matter of much regret among the Radical leaders that Dr. Rolph had not up to this time taken any active part in their deliberations. He was known to be in sympathy with the project of a movement in concert with the Lower Canadians for the purpose of impressing the Imperial Government with the necessity of changing their colonial policy. He had become the trusted counsellor of all the leading Radicals, who looked up to him as the one man in the Province who was capable of directing any large or wise measure of Reform. But he had not identified himself with them by actual cooeperation in their projects, and had attended none of their secret meetings, although he was kept fully informed of all that occurred thereat. The Radicals, recognizing how much would be gained by securing the presence among them of Rolph and Bidwell, resolved to press both those gentlemen into service. At the adjourned meeting on the evening of the 31st, the movement made considerable progress. The Declaration was formally adopted clause by clause. According to a contemporary newspaper report,[280] it "called forth from the meeting the most unequivocal marks of approbation." As already mentioned, one of its clauses recommended the holding of a convention at Toronto. A resolution was accordingly unanimously adopted appointing Rolph, Bidwell, Dr. Morrison, James Lesslie and others as delegates to the proposed convention. This, it was confidently believed, would have the effect of identifying Rolph and Bidwell with the Radical cause, for it was not thought that either of them would refuse to attend as delegates. Other resolutions were adopted with a view to placing the party in a state of efficient organization throughout the Province. The persons who had previously appended their names to the Declaration[281] were appointed "a permanent Committee of Vigilance, for this city and liberties, and to carry into immediate and practical effect the resolutions of this meeting for the effectual organization of the Reformers of Upper Canada." John Elliott, a Toronto scrivener, who was also Assistant Clerk of the City Council, was requested to continue to act as Secretary-in-Ordinary, and Mackenzie to act as "Agent and Corresponding Secretary." Both of these requests were assented to. A resolution, doubtless adopted in emulation of similar resolutions at meetings held under Papineau's auspices in Lower Canada, pledged the members to abstain as far as possible "from the consumption of articles coming from beyond sea, or paying duties." A sort of rider to this was moved by Mackenzie, and adopted by the meeting: "That the right of obtaining articles of luxury or necessity in the cheapest market is inherent in the people, who only consent to the imposition of duties for the creation of revenues with the express understanding that the revenues so raised from them shall be devoted to the necessary expenses of Government, and appointed by the people's representatives; and therefore, when the contract is broken by an Executive or any foreign authority, the people are released from their engagement, and are no longer under any moral obligation to contribute to or aid in the collection of such revenues." On Wednesday, the 2nd of August, the Declaration was published in full, together with the names of the committee, in The Correspondent and Advocate, and in Mackenzie's Constitution. Each of these papers also published a report of the proceedings at the meeting.

The part assigned to Mackenzie—that of "Agent and Corresponding Secretary"—was an important one, and involved him in the necessity of giving up all his time and energies to the cause. In so far as his abilities enabled him to do so, he was to virtually play the same part in Upper Canada that had long been enacted by Papineau in the Lower Province. He was to be a supreme itinerant organizer, and was to go about the country stirring up opposition to the Government. This would involve the arranging and holding of public meetings and secret caucuses, the selection of local correspondents, the supervision of local reports, and various other duties not definitely specified, much being necessarily left to his own discretion. He had been engaged in precisely similar tasks for some weeks previously, but henceforth he was able to carry out his designs as the accredited emissary of the Reformers of Toronto, a fact which of course gave him additional importance in the eyes of the Reformers generally. His appointment was due to his own manoeuvres, but it must be confessed that he was in many respects well qualified for the post.

He addressed himself to his tasks with redoubled assiduity. The Province was mapped out into four districts, each of which was again subdivided into minor divisions. Local branch societies were formed or remodelled in all neighbourhoods where Reformers were numerous. Each of these was directed to report regularly to a central society, and all the latter were to report to the Corresponding Secretary, by whom the reports were classified, digested, and laid before the central committee in Toronto. Mackenzie at once proceeded to hold a fresh series of meetings, beginning with the townships in which he was best known, and thence flitting hither and thither as was deemed advisable. In this way, in the course of the late summer and autumn he went over the whole of the Home District, and over a great part of the adjoining country. His soul was in the work he was doing, and he put into it all the energy which he could command. He did not succeed in arousing such a feeling in the west as Papineau did in the east. He had not Papineau's marvellous Gallic eloquence, nor were the farmers of Upper Canada composed of such inflammable material as the habitans of the Lower Province. But Mackenzie, when thoroughly aroused, as he now was, had considerable power to move the masses, and he exerted himself to this end as he had never done before. The manifold wrongs he had endured had exasperated his nature almost beyond endurance, and he could lash himself into a storm of indignation at a moment's notice. He succeeded in awakening enthusiasm in persons who had formerly been remarkable for stolidity. He presented few new subjects for the consideration of his auditors, but he presented old subjects in a light which was suggestive of new ideas. He declaimed against the iniquities of the Executive, the supineness of the Imperial Government, and the culpable indifference of the British Parliament. The Declaration, in fact, was the test upon which his harangues were founded, but he presented its respective clauses in ever-recurring novelty of aspect. The document was itself submitted to the various meetings for approval, accompanied by Mackenzie's fiery commentary. As a general thing the Radical element was largely in the ascendant at the gatherings, and he had no trouble about carrying his resolutions, frequently by very large majorities. He adapted his oratory to his audience. Where he knew that he would encounter little or no opposition he was much more outspoken than where the feeling was less favourable to him. Wherever he felt that he could carry his audience with him, he boldly advocated separation from the mother-country, and the establishment of elective institutions under an independent Government; though he took care to deprecate any appeal to physical force,[282] and generally advocated a money payment to the British Government as the price of a full release and quittance of all Imperial claims upon the colony. He employed all the paraphernalia which he thought likely to impress the people, and banners bearing revolutionary inscriptions were freely displayed from the platform in neighbourhoods where such a course was deemed safe. Lount, Gibson, Nelson Gorham and others occasionally reinforced him by their presence and their oratory. These gentlemen were all gifted with more than ordinary powers of expression. The subject-matter was one which they all had deeply at heart, and upon which they could speak with never-failing freshness and vigour. The audiences were sometimes moved to rapturous demonstrations of applause. Even in communities where the popular sentiment was less enthusiastic the recommendations embodied in the Declaration were generally assented to, and local vigilance committees were formed. Delegates to the proposed Toronto convention were appointed, but the date of holding it was for the time left open. About seventy of these delegates were appointed in the Home District alone. The necessity for making common cause with the Lower Canadian Opposition in their efforts to establish civil and religious liberty was vehemently pressed by the speakers, and commonly recognized by the audiences. Any reference on the part of the speakers to what "our brethren in Lower Canada" were doing for the cause of liberty was almost certain to evoke applause. A trusted emissary—Jesse Lloyd of Lloydtown—acted as a medium of communication between the Radical leaders in the two Provinces, and passed to and fro from time to time with despatches and intelligence between Papineau and Mackenzie. By this and other means the Lower Canadian leaders were from first to last kept promptly informed of the progress of the movement in the Upper Province.

Sometimes—not often—Mackenzie met with considerable opposition. The idea of separation from Great Britain was a stumbling-block to a few even of the ultra-Radicals, and had to be handled with extreme delicacy. Others were chary of any concerted action with the Lower Canadians on account of the latter's religious faith. In several instances, moreover, the meetings were actually broken up by the Tories, in whose ears the language used by Mackenzie and his coadjutors was neither more nor less than treason. In other instances, though the opposition was not effective enough to actually break up the meetings, it was found impossible to carry any resolutions founded upon the Declaration. In two cases the meetings were broken up in confusion by local bodies of Orangemen, and a number of persons sustained more or less physical violence. Such incidents as these, however, were the exception, and not the rule. Out of all the meetings—considerably more than a hundred in number[283]—held between the adoption of the Declaration and the actual outbreak of rebellion, seventy-five per cent seem to have passed off without serious disturbance or interference. Most of those who disapproved of the meetings staid away from them, and regarded those who promoted them with settled hostility, frequently accompanied by contempt. Of those who attended and supported the resolutions, a very small number had any suspicion that matters were shaping themselves, or were being shaped by Mackenzie, towards rebellion.

As for Mackenzie himself, he seems to have been intent on mischief during the whole summer of this eventful year. He however recognized the necessity of moving slowly, for no one knew better than he that a very small percentage of the Reformers of the Province could be brought to sanction such a project as rebellion under his auspices. What they might have been disposed to do if rebellion had been mooted by Robert Baldwin, Bidwell, Rolph, and other eminent Reformers, it would now be idle to inquire. It would be as profitless as to discuss what would have been the fate of the Revolution of 1688 if James the Second had died while he was Duke of York. The mental constitution of Baldwin and Bidwell were such that it would have been an impossibility for them to take part in a rebellion, and the general belief with respect to Rolph was that his doing so was equally out of the question. All this was well known to Mackenzie. He also well knew that the Reform press would have promptly denounced him had his designs been known. If he had encountered such denunciation his bubble would have burst there and then. But the Reform press knew nothing of his designs. He was believed to be agitating for constitutional Reform. It was of course known that he was carrying his agitation to an unprecedented length, but it was supposed that he was doing so for the purpose of intimidating the Government, and thereby coercing them into concessions; and the Reform press throughout the land was fully prepared to support him in such a course. He accordingly acted with much greater caution than he had been wont to display in the management of either public or private affairs. He perceived that the machinery of vigilance committees, branch societies, public meetings and what not, which had been so successfully set in motion under the auspices of the Reformers, might be turned to account for insurrectionary purposes. To a few of his friends in the country, over whom he possessed almost unbounded influence, and who, as he knew, felt almost as bitterly towards the Government as he himself did, he imparted a project involving a resort to arms. Among them were Samuel Lount, Jesse Lloyd, Silas Fletcher, Nelson Gorham and Peter Matthews. The communication was doubtless made to the several persons at different times, but all of those mentioned seem to have been made acquainted with the project before the beginning of autumn. They all yielded a ready enough acquiescence, but no thought of bloodshed was in their minds. It was intended to get together a great body of Reformers from all over the country, and then to advance upon the capital in the form of a monster demonstration. This idea seems to have originated with Lount. It was at first objected to by Mackenzie as unlikely to prove efficacious. He urged that demonstrations had been made in his favour several years before, and that none of them had had any effect in moderating the policy of the Government, or in inducing the Assembly to permit him to sit therein. He especially instanced the occasion upon which a great crowd of the York electors had accompanied him to the House of Assembly, and had filled the galleries and lobbies while Parliament was sitting.[284] All this, he pointed out, had been labour in vain, and if such a scene were to be re-enacted it must, in order to produce any satisfactory effect, be on a very large scale indeed. His argument was unanswerable. It was clear that any appeal to the Government's sense of right would be made in vain, and that they could only be influenced through their fears. If anything was to be effected by means of a demonstration, the number of persons taking part in it must be sufficiently numerous to overawe, and if necessary to coerce, the Government.

Some weeks appear to have elapsed before any scheme was definitely fixed upon and approved by all the nine or ten persons concerned, who thus took upon themselves the responsibility of directing the future course of our colonial polity. The understanding arrived at was that the time of holding the proposed convention in Toronto would also be the appropriate time for making the proposed demonstration. The convention would afford a reasonable pretext for the assembling of great numbers of Reformers at the capital. It will be remembered that no definite time had been fixed upon for the holding of the convention. It was now settled that it should be held early in the spring of the year 1838. When the gathering should be complete, it was proposed to wait upon the Government, as the barons waited on King John at Runnymede, and wring from them their assent to a constitution founded upon the propositions embodied in the Declaration. It was agreed that if this assent should be obtained, Sir Francis Head was, at any rate temporarily, to be left undisturbed in his position of Lieutenant-Governor, but that the Executive Council should be altogether remodelled, and that Rolph, Bidwell and Mackenzie should have seats therein. The Government was to be carried on upon the principle of Executive responsibility to the Assembly. This re-adjustment was to be followed by a general election, after which the future of the colony would be in the hands of the Assembly.

But how if the Government would not be coerced? What was to be done if they refused to be dictated to? In that case there was only one course open. The Lieutenant-Governor and his Council were to be seized with as little violence as possible. A Provisional Government was to be formed with Dr. Rolph at its head, provided that that gentleman could be induced to accept the position. It was not believed that the carrying out of this project would necessarily involve any sacrifice of life, for the force at the disposal of the Provisional Government would be such as to render any opposition futile. Moreover, the bulk of the population of the capital were known to be favourable to Reform principles, and it was believed that they would readily take part in the movement if they saw an assured prospect of success.

The conspirators were sanguine as to obtaining Rolph's cooeperation, for, unlike Bidwell, he had not repudiated the position of a member of the convention, which had been thrust upon him by the meeting at Doel's brewery in July. Bidwell, immediately upon becoming acquainted with what had been done, had notified the secretary that he had withdrawn from political life, and that he could have nothing to do with the proposed convention. Rolph also had at first felt disposed to decline the appointment, but he had taken time to consider, and had talked the matter over with Dr. Baldwin, who had strongly counselled him to accept. I can find no documentary evidence of either acceptance or rejection on his part, but he seems to have been favourable to the holding of the convention, which he doubtless regarded as a possible means of consolidating the Reform party, and of rendering its opposition to the Government more effective. It was agreed that for the present nothing should be said to him about the contemplated subversion of the Government by force. The boldest features of the scheme were intended to be kept secret from nearly everyone until the time for action should be near at hand, but no oath of secrecy was imposed, and, in spite of all resolutions, more or less accurate hints of what was in contemplation were conveyed to hundreds of Radicals throughout the Home District and elsewhere.

As the autumn advanced, the conspirators proceeded to prepare their adherents for the impressive display of the ensuing spring. It was evident that even a very numerously-attended demonstration would not impress the Government unless those taking part in it carried about with them a suggestion of strength. In order to be strong they must have arms, and they must furthermore know how to use them should the necessity arise. A system of secret training and drill was accordingly organized throughout the townships. People met after nightfall in the corners of quiet fields, in the shadow of the woods, and in other sequestered places, and there received such instruction in military drill and movements as was possible under the circumstances. Old muskets, pistols and cutlasses were furbished up after long disuse, and pressed into service once more. Small quantities of rifles and ammunition were surreptitiously obtained from the United States. Disaffected blacksmiths in the rural districts devoted themselves to the manufacture of rude pike-heads, which, after being fitted to hickory handles of five or six feet in length, formed no contemptible weapons for either attack or defence. Lount's blacksmith shop at Holland Landing was for some weeks largely given up to this manufacture. As there was no attempt at interference with these proceedings, the disaffected became bolder, and began to assemble at regular periods to engage in rifle practice, pigeon-matches, and the slaughter of turkeys. As intimated in a previous note,[285] Mr. Bidwell was applied to for a legal opinion as to the lawfulness of such gatherings. He advised with great caution, specifying how far he conceived this sort of thing might be carried with impunity. Gatherings for the slaughter of birds and for trials of skill with the rifle he conceived to be clearly within the law.

Before the middle of October the movement had extended in all directions. The four districts into which the Province had been mapped out were called respectively the Toronto Division, the Midland Division, the Western Division and the Eastern Division. The first-named consisted of the counties of York, Simcoe, Durham, Halton, Wentworth, Haldimand and Lincoln. The second included the counties of Northumberland, Hastings, Prince Edward, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington. The Western Division consisted of Oxford, Norfolk, Middlesex, Huron, Kent and Essex; and the Eastern included all that portion of the Province to the east and north-east of the Midland. Preparations for the demonstration were more or less active everywhere, and there were nights when the whole country side might be said to be in arms. In some portions of the Western Division, which was under the direction of Dr. Charles Duncombe, the feeling against the Government was as intense as in any part of the Home District, and the preparations there were carried on with special activity. Dr. Duncombe and a few leading personages among the Radicals were entrusted with the full plan of the conspiracy, so far as it had been matured; but in no part of the Province were the rank and file taken into anything like full confidence. Most of those who engaged in drill, and in the manufacture of pike-heads and handles, supposed that they were merely getting ready for a formidable procession which was to intimidate the Government by reason of its numerical strength. The enquiry may not unnaturally be made: What were the Government about all this time? Were they in total ignorance of what was going on all around them? Not at all. They were kept regularly informed of the banners, speech-makings, drillings, pigeon-matches and what not; and—at least in some instances—they contrived to obtain pretty accurate reports of the proceedings at Mackenzie's meetings. But they committed the grave error of undervaluing their opponents. They would not believe it possible that Mackenzie could ever again be dangerous. He had been so completely worsted in his hand-to-hand fight with Toryism that it was not to be credited that he would ever again be able to secure a following large enough to be worth seriously considering. True, he threatened all manner of dire calamities, but he had for so many years been accustomed to indulge in loud-mouthed threats that he had lost all power to create alarm. He was like the shepherd's boy who had cried "wolf" so often that nobody paid heed to him. The official party spoke of him as an upstart mannikin who had enjoyed his little day of notoriety, but whose power for either good or ill was past and gone. Sometimes, when he published anything of special ferocity in his paper, the attention of the Lieutenant-Governor would be drawn to it by his supporters, who would urge that a prosecution should be instituted. But Sir Francis's wiser counsellors knew better than to adopt any such foolish course. They knew that State prosecutions had done more to alienate popular sympathy and to weaken the power of the Government in times past than any other cause whatever. The editor of the Constitution, they believed, had steadily lost his influence—an influence which he could never hope to regain unless some imprudent act of his enemies should once more create for him a specious sympathy and notoriety. Nothing, it was felt, would be so certain to give him a fictitious importance as to prosecute him for treason, at least until he should proceed to such lengths as to render a prosecution imperative. Sir Francis Head, Chief Justice Robinson, Attorney-General Hagerman, Judge Jones, and the whole race of officialdom refused to believe in the possibility of an actual rebellion. They all declared that there were not fifty men in the Province who would consent to take arms against the Government. Plenty of low Radicals, it was said, were ready enough to boast and bluster, but their courage was only skin-deep. As for Mackenzie, he was admitted to be an exception, so far as the mere disposition to rebel was concerned, but he had lost any influence he had ever possessed, and counted for nothing. It was tolerably certain that he would sooner or later overstep the limits at which it would be possible to leave him alone. Then, when he should have placed himself in such a position that no loyal subject could defend him, would be the time to make an effectual disposition of him. By all means, then, give him an abundance of rope. This was the spirit in which the little man and his proceedings were regarded by the authorities, and he availed himself of the freedom of speech and action to the fullest conceivable extent. "First," says Sir Francis,[286] "he wrote, and then be printed, and then he rode, and then he spoke, stamped, foamed, wiped his seditious little mouth, and then spoke again; and thus, like a squirrel in a cage, he continued with astounding assiduity the centre of a revolutionary career." Attorney-General Hagerman was instructed to report to his Excellency as soon as Mackenzie had proceeded so far in the direction of treason that his conviction would be certain, and meanwhile he was permitted to invoke the Spirit of Freedom, both in prose and poetry, to his heart's content.

In the Lower Province matters had so shaped themselves as to favour Mackenzie's designs. Sir John Colborne was kept tolerably well informed as to the proceedings of Papineau and the other fomenters of revolt, and he had become aware that he would very soon be compelled to have recourse to the strong hand. He felt perfectly secure, but at the same time determined to neglect no precaution which might conduce to a swift and decisive victory. He mustered all the forces at his command, and satisfied himself, from personal supervision, as to their efficiency. There were a few troops stationed in Toronto. Sir John shared Sir Francis Head's confidence in the loyalty of the Upper Canadians, and acquiesced in the opinion that an Upper Canadian rebellion was altogether out of the question. As he believed that there was no likelihood of the troops being needed there, he deemed it prudent to strengthen his position by removing them to Kingston, where they would be more readily available in case of his requiring their services to crush the rebellion in Lower Canada. When this removal had been effected, Toronto was left wholly unguarded by military. By command of the Lieutenant-Governor, several thousand stand of arms which had recently been sent from Kingston, together with a quantity of ammunition, were committed to the custody of the municipal authorities and deposited in the City Hall. Two constables were placed in charge, and this was absolutely the only precaution taken against the seizure of both arms and ammunition by any determined body of men who might think proper to possess themselves thereof.

Mackenzie believed that the propitious time had arrived, and that the resolve to postpone until the following spring any active measures against the Government should be rescinded. He received an additional impetus from certain messages which reached him through Jesse Lloyd, on Monday, the 9th of October, from the leaders of the movement in Lower Canada. These messages apprised him that the French Canadians were about to make what they called a "brave stroke for liberty" without further delay. They entreated him to cooeperate with them by simultaneously raising the standard of revolt in the Upper Province. Lloyd himself favoured the idea, and counselled its adoption.

Such a momentous step, however, could not very well be taken without the concurrence of others. Mackenzie, who at the time of receiving the messages was out on Yonge Street, some miles from Toronto, hastened into town, and summoned a small secret caucus to meet at Doel's brewery. I am unable to fix the exact date of holding this caucus, but it must have been on the evening of either Monday the 9th or Tuesday the 10th of October.[287] Eleven persons were present. They were, 1. Mackenzie himself; 2. John Doel, the owner of the brewery; 3. Dr. Morrison; 4. John Mackintosh, who sat in the Assembly for the Fourth Riding of York; 5. John Elliott, who, as already mentioned, acted as Secretary-in-Ordinary to the Reform Union meetings in Toronto; 6. Timothy Parson, who kept a straw bonnet and fancy warehouse on King Street; 7. Robert Mackay, a grocer and wine merchant; 8. William Lesslie, one of the firm of Lesslie & Sons, booksellers, stationers and druggists, at number 110-1/2 King Street; 9. John Armstrong, a manufacturer of edged tools, having a place of business at number 33 Yonge Street; 10. Thomas Armstrong, a carpenter, residing at number 11 Lot (now Queen) Street; 11. John Mills, hatter, 191 King Street. Dr. Rolph and J. H. Price had been asked to attend, but they did not see fit to do so. No one except Mackenzie appears to have had any idea of the real object for which the meeting had been summoned. The other ten merely repaired to the appointed place to hear whatever communication the Agent and Corresponding Secretary might have to make to them. Upon being called upon to state the purpose for which he had called them together, Mackenzie proceeded to unfold his project. He had no sooner entered upon it than he encountered murmurs and expressions of dissent. He stated that he could count upon the active cooeperation of at least fifteen hundred men in the Home District alone, of whom, however, not more than a third were supplied with arms. Beyond the limits of the Home District he could count upon from two to three thousand, but of these not one-fifth were properly armed. All these, he declared, might be implicitly depended upon to support any project which might then and there be determined upon. He proposed to send out trusty messengers in all directions to summon these "good men and true" to repair at once to Toronto. But there was no need, he said, to wait for the arrival of these supporters. He had taken pains to ascertain the exact condition of the city, and it was absolutely defenceless, owing to the sending away of the troops. Why should not the decisive blow be struck at once? Why not instantly send for Dutcher's[288] foundry-men and Armstrong's axe-makers, all of whom were true to the good cause? With these men at their backs, they might proceed straightway to Government House and seize Sir Francis, who had just come in from his daily ride on horseback, and who was guarded by only one sentinel. His capture having been effected, they might proceed to the City Hall and seize the arms and ammunition. The next thing would be to proclaim a Provisional Government, and give Sir Francis the alternative of conceding what the Radicals demanded or taking the consequences of refusal. There was absolutely nothing, Mackenzie averred, to interfere with the carrying out of this programme. Four-fifths of the citizens would join them when they saw that success had attended their efforts, and of the other fifth at least half would remain neutral, while the small residue of the population would be too insignificant in point of numbers to render it possible for them to offer any serious opposition.

Such was the astounding scheme propounded by Mackenzie. His small audience could hardly credit the evidence of their senses. When he had proceeded thus far, Dr. Morrison could restrain himself no longer, but burst forth with an impetuosity and indignation which had but seldom been observed in him. He asked if it was possible that Mackenzie could be serious in unfolding so foolhardy a design. "This," said he, "is treason; and if you think to entrap me into any such mad scheme, you will find I am not your man!" He declared that if another word were said on the subject he would forthwith leave the room. The others present also repudiated the proposal with more or less of vehemence, but they all regarded it as a mad freak of Mackenzie's, and hardly worth grave consideration. Mackenzie found that nothing was to be done, and a few minutes later the little conclave broke up.

On the following day Mackenzie called upon Dr. Rolph, who had meanwhile heard from Dr. Morrison of the proposal of the previous evening. Dr. Rolph questioned Mackenzie strictly respecting the accuracy of his details as to the number of men who could be depended upon as adherents in the event of a revolution. Mackenzie repeated his assertion that about four thousand could easily be got together, every one of whom was ripe and ready for taking up arms. He produced certain documentary evidence which went to confirm the truth of his statements, and vehemently declared that a successful revolution was not only feasible, but inevitable. He proposed not to wait for the proposed convention, but to speedily assemble all the men who could be got together at some point within a few miles of the city. This he proposed to effect as secretly as possible. The men could then advance upon the city and proceed in a body to the City Hall, where they could possess themselves of arms and ammunition. They would then be masters of the situation, and could set up a Provisional Government on such terms as might be agreed upon. Dr. Rolph was so far impressed by the documentary and other evidence placed before him that he consented to give the matter his consideration, and to discuss it with some of his friends.

After turning the subject over in his mind, Dr. Rolph appears to have arrived at the conclusion that the subversion of the Government was perfectly feasible. The capital of the Province was defenceless. The Lieutenant-Governor had not only sent away the troops, but had persistently refused to take any steps for the organization of the militia. If several thousands of the people were really disposed to assert themselves, there was nothing to prevent them from carrying out the programme outlined by Mackenzie. They could capture Toronto and seize the members of the Government before any measures could be taken to successfully oppose them. This having been quietly effected without bloodshed, it seemed probable enough that the population at large would not refuse their support. The Reformers of the Province constituted a large majority of the inhabitants, and there was not a Reformer in Upper Canada but was heartily weary of Sir Francis Head and his clique. Only a small minority would have consented to enter upon the risks and dangers of a rebellion; but there is a great difference between a rebellion to be encountered and one which has been successfully accomplished. Thousands of persons who would strenuously refuse to have any connection with the former would readily acquiesce in the latter. If the Government were once subverted and in the hands of the Reformers, and if the entire Reform element were in sympathy with the change, the rebellion would so far be a success, for at this time there were comparatively few persons in the Province who cared sufficiently for the Family Compact to risk life or limb for the purpose of restoring them to power. But there was another important question to be considered: What would the Imperial Government have to say about it? If the might and majesty of Britain were to be enlisted against the project, no Upper Canadian rebellion could hope for permanent success, unless in the very unlikely event of national interference on the part of the United States. But was it not probable that the Imperial Government would be strongly impressed by this uprising of a long-enduring and much-wronged people, and that a sense of justice would compel them to adopt a new policy with respect to the Canadas? Should this conjecture prove to be correct, all that was sought to be effected by rebellion would have been accomplished. In any case, the condition of the Reformers could hardly be altered for the worse. The leaders of the movement would be driven to take refuge in the States, but some of them had already begun to regard such an emigration as desirable, for there seemed to be no future for them under Family Compact rule.

With such thoughts as these passing through his mind, Dr. Rolph had several conferences with Dr. Morrison, with whom Mackenzie also had some conversation after the caucus at the brewery. Dr. Morrison was disposed to attach great weight to any suggestion emanating from his professional colleague, and when he had been placed in possession of the latter's views he was able to contemplate a rising of the people with much greater complacency than before. The idea gradually took form and shape in his mind. At Mackenzie's urgent request he gave him a letter introducing Jesse Lloyd to Dr. E. B. O'Callaghan, of Montreal, who was editor of a Radical newspaper, and known to be favourable to insurrection. Lloyd was about to start from his home in the township of King on one of his expeditions to the Lower Province, to confer with the leaders of the insurrectionary movements there. This was sometime during the third week in October.

Dr. Morrison, having thus put his hand to the plough, regarded himself as in a measure pledged to support the cause of the people, if they were really bent on subverting the Government. One day about a fortnight later he received an urgent message from Dr. Rolph to call at the latter's house on Lot (Queen) Street. Upon repairing thither he found Rolph and Mackenzie in conference with Lloyd, who had just returned from the Lower Province with a letter to Mackenzie from Thomas Storrow Brown, one of the directors of the insurrectionary movement there. The letter seemed, on the surface, to be a mere business communication, but its phraseology had a secret meaning understood by Mackenzie, who expounded it to the others. Lloyd supplemented the letter by certain verbal communications. It appeared that the Lower Canadians were prepared to act, but they wished the Upper Canadian Radicals to make the first move, so as to divert attention from their proceedings. This would involve grave consequences, and could not be resolved upon all in a moment. After some consideration, it was agreed that Rolph, Morrison and Mackenzie should meet at Morrison's house on Newgate (Adelaide) Street that same evening to take serious counsel together. The meeting was held as agreed upon. Rolph and Morrison pointed out to Mackenzie the momentous consequences which would flow from acting on the suggestion from Lower Canada. They expressed some doubt as to whether the people were really sufficiently desirous of a change to risk their liberties and lives in a rebellion, and they pointed out the disastrous consequences of failure. Mackenzie, however, who possessed much better opportunities for judging as to the bent of popular opinion among the Radicals, would hardly listen to such remonstrances. For the hundredth time he pointed out the defenceless state of the capital. Within the last few days the troops which had been removed from Toronto to Kingston had been withdrawn from the Province altogether by Sir John Colborne, in order that they might be used against the rebels in Lower Canada. The whole of the Upper Province was therefore without means of defence. Mackenzie pledged his word that the whole Radical element were anxious to rise in the good cause. He asserted that he had received lists signed by thousands of persons, each one of whom had pledged himself to rise in revolt at any moment when summoned. Rebellion, he declared, must come, as the spirit of insurrection had been thoroughly aroused; and he upbraided his interlocutors for their lukewarmness in the cause of the people. After several hours of discussion and deliberation it was agreed that Mackenzie should proceed through the country and distinctly submit the question to the different political unions. If they really felt ready and anxious to put down the existing Government by force of arms, as Mackenzie declared, they should have their way. A plan was discussed for seizing the arms in the City Hall, for taking into custody the chief Government officials, and for establishing a Provisional Government with Dr. Rolph at its head. All this, it was believed, could be easily effected without firing a shot, and without the sacrifice of a single life. It was also distinctly understood that private property was to be respected, and that all money in the banks was to be regarded as private property, except such as actually belonged to the Government. It was however expressly stipulated that nobody was to be finally committed to any definite course of procedure until Mackenzie's return from his rural tour with the sanction of the various political unions. No authority whatever was meanwhile given to Mackenzie, either expressly or by implication, to stir the people up to rebellion. He was simply authorized to ascertain their views. At his own urgent request permission was given him to use the names of Rolph and Morrison, but only so far as to state that if the people were really desirous of effecting a revolution, they might depend upon receiving the countenance of those two gentlemen. On this distinct understanding Mackenzie left Dr. Morrison's house, and started the same night or early on the following morning for the north.


[269] See his Despatch to Lord Glenelg, dated 5th April, 1837, in Narrative, chap. ix.

[270] See his Despatch dated July 14th, 1837.

[271] On the 10th of September.

[272] See the number for June 10th, 1824.

[273] This boast seems to have been made in the columns of The Constitution, but I have been unable to find it there. I make the quotation on the authority of Mr. Lindsey's Life of Mackenzie, vol. i., p. 395, note.

[274] Mr. MacMullen, writing, doubtless, from honest conviction, endeavours to convey the impression that Bidwell was more deeply implicated in the rebellion than he chose to acknowledge. See his History of Canada, p. 446, note. But no substantial proof has ever been offered in support of such a belief, whereas the proof on the other side is unanswerable. There is, first of all, the character of the man. His moral courage was great, and he could stand up for a cherished principle with much firmness and vigour. But he fought with weapons which were not carnal, and would have suffered almost any wrong that could have been inflicted upon him rather than resort to physical violence. Then, there is the fact that he always denied all knowledge of the rising. No man who knew Marshall Spring Bidwell would have hesitated to accept his bare word as against any but the most direct evidence to the contrary, and in this case there can hardly be said to be any countervailing evidence whatever. Again, there is the fact that he declined to act as a delegate to the proposed Reform convention, as subsequently mentioned in the text. But there is no need to resort to circumstantial or conjectural evidence. We have the testimony of Mackenzie himself, who, after his return to Canada, was ready enough to betray the secrets of his somewhile coadjutors, and who would have been only too glad if he could have pointed to Bidwell as one of the number. In his Flag of Truce, published in 1853, he says; "The question is often asked me—What part Mr. Bidwell took in 1837"—and his answer is explicit enough: "None that I know." It is quite certain that Bidwell could not have been concerned in the movement without Mackenzie's knowledge. The only circumstances which might be adduced as indicating a knowledge of the intended rising on the part of Mr. Bidwell are two in number, and neither of them will bear a moment's examination. First, it is true that he was consulted by the Radicals as to the lawfulness of their assembling for drill exercise and other purposes. He advised that, under certain restrictions, such assemblies were within the law, and that there could be nothing culpable in rifle-matches involving mere trials of skill. But when his advice was sought there was no intention, even on Mackenzie's part, to rise at any definite period, and Mr. Bidwell may very well have believed that the projects would end as most of Mackenzie's enterprises had ended—in talk. The other circumstance calling for explanation is his allowing himself to be frightened into leaving the country. This will be duly considered in its proper place. Suffice it for the present to say that, taking everything into account, the mere fact of his expatriation affords no evidence either one way or the other; whereas the attendant circumstances afford strong presumptive evidence of his innocence.

In examining the papers of the late David Gibson within the last few weeks I have come upon what may not unfairly be regarded as conclusive evidence that Bidwell was in no manner privy to the rising. Gibson, after his escape to the State of New York, was desirous of obtaining employment as a land surveyor, and, at Dr. Rolph's suggestion, he wrote to Bidwell for a certificate as to his character, and for advice as to the best means of obtaining employment. Bidwell was then in the City of New York, casting about in his mind to what he should direct his attention as a means of livelihood. His reply and the certificate enclosed therein—both in his own handwriting—are now lying before me. The latter is as follows:—

"I was acquainted with David Gibson, Esquire, until the recent disturbance in Upper Canada, and know that by his integrity, good sense and amiable character, he had acquired the confidence and esteem of his neighbours and acquaintances. His services as a land surveyor were highly valued. Since the trouble commenced in Upper Canada I have not been in communication with him, but I have no doubt that the utmost reliance may be placed on his industry, ability and fidelity in all his engagements. I have seen his name mentioned with respect for his humanity in one of the most violent newspapers published in Upper Canada. He has my warmest wishes for his success and happiness.


The following is the text of the letter accompanying the certificate:—


I received to-day your letter, and have sent you a certificate. I am unable to refer you to any place or situation for employment. I am myself unsettled, and do not know what I shall do or where I shall settle.

I lament the recent proceedings in Upper Canada, and cannot to this day reflect upon them but with amazement. How men of good sense like you and others could be involved in so absurd and hopeless a project fills me with continual surprise. However, I would not upbraid you, though I shall perhaps be ruined in consequence of these movements. On the contrary, I wish you well, and have the same kind feelings towards you as I was wont to have. I trust you may find some situation where you may be happy.


David Gibson, Esq., 6th March.

After the publication of this letter—written, it will be remembered, to one of the chief participators in the rebellion—it will hardly be pretended that Bidwell was concerned in the enterprise. It is a characteristic epistle, breathing Christian kindness and good will, and, independently of its bearing upon the question at issue, is well worthy of publication as illustrative of Bidwell's individuality.

[275] For the sake of consistency I adopt a uniform spelling of this gentleman's name, which however is spelt indifferently "Mackintosh" and "McIntosh," in the Journals of Assembly, in various official documents, in the newspapers and advertisements of the time, and even in private correspondence. Walton's Toronto Directory for 1837 gives it as "McIntosh," which seems to have been the form commonly adopted by members of the family.

[276] A part of this building, used as a planing-mill, is still in existence on Bay Street, a short distance north of Adelaide Street.

[277] Life of Mackenzie, vol. ii., p. 17.

[278] According to Mr. Lindsey, James Lesslie induced his brother William, who had signed the Declaration, to erase his signature. See Life of Mackenzie, vol. ii., p. 18.

[279] See the evidence of John Elliott, on the trial of Dr. Morrison for high treason, at Toronto, in the following April.

[280] Correspondent and Advocate for Wednesday, August 2nd.

[281] These were nineteen in number, and consisted of Dr. Morrison, John Elliott, David Gibson, John Mackintosh, Dr. O'Grady, E. B. Gilbert, John Montgomery, Dr. John Edward Tims, J. H. Price, John Doel, M. Reynolds, Edward Wright, Robert McKay, Thomas Elliott, James Armstrong, James Hunter, John Armstrong, William Ketchum and W. L. Mackenzie.

[282] At a meeting held in the township of Caledon, however, during the second week in August, a very outspoken resolution was discussed. After setting out with some general principles as to the duties of kings, governors and subjects, it ran as follows:—"If the redress of our wrongs can be otherwise obtained, the people of Upper Canada have not a just cause to use force. But the highest obligation of a citizen being to preserve the community, and every other political duty being derived from, and subordinate to it, every citizen is bound to defend his country against its enemies, both foreign and domestic. When a government is engaged in systematically oppressing a people, and destroying their securities against future oppression, it commits the same species of wrong to them which warrants an appeal to force against a foreign enemy. The history of England and of this continent is not wanting in examples by which the rulers and the ruled may see that, although the people have been often willing to endure bad government with patience, there are legal and constitutional limits to that endurance. The glorious revolutions obstinately persisting in withholding from their subjects adequate security for good government, although obviously necessary for the permanence of that blessing, that they are placing themselves in a state of hostility against the governed; and that to prolong a state of irresponsibility and insecurity, such as existed in England during the reign of James II., and as now exists in Lower Canada, is a dangerous act of aggression against a people. A magistrate who degenerates into a systematic oppressor, and shuts the gates of justice on the public, thereby restores them to their original right of defending themselves, for he withholds the protection of the law, and so forfeits his claim to enforce their obedience by the authority of law."—For the text of this resolution I am indebted to Mr. Lindsey. See his Life of Mackenzie, vol. ii., p. 27, note.

[283] Mr. Lindsey places the number at two hundred. See Life of Mackenzie, vol. ii., p. 32. I have not been able to find any trace of more than 117. Mackenzie seems to have been present at fully half of these.

[284] Ante, p. 256.

[285] Ante, p. 362.

[286] The Emigrant, p. 157.

[287] John Elliott, in his testimony on Dr. Morrison's trial, places the date in October; and I have evidence in my possession that Mackenzie received the intimation mentioned in the text on the second Monday in October. The second Monday fell on the 9th. There would be no delay in summoning the caucus, which would therefore be held on the evening of either Monday or Tuesday.

[288] William A. Dutcher had a foundry on Yonge Street, where a good many hands were employed, most of whom were readers of the Constitution, and supporters of the Radical cause. The Armstrong whose axe-makers it was proposed to press into service was John Armstrong, who was himself present at the meeting.


My authorities for the foregoing chapter are too numerous for citation. In addition to printed works and official records, they consist of manuscript letters, statements, affidavits and other documents which have never seen the light, and the most important of which will be given, in whole or in part, in the second volume.


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