The Story of the Upper Canada Rebellion, Volume 1
by John Charles Dent
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That these, or something like these, were among the chief motives whereby Mr. Mackenzie was actuated in establishing The Colonial Advocate seems tolerably certain. Nor is there anything unusual or censurable in such an ambition. The labourer is worthy of his hire, and no labourer is better entitled to a full recompense than is the man who, through long and weary years, struggles to win success for a depressed and righteous cause. That he was not devoid of a spirit of sincere patriotism is evident, alike from his words and his deeds. He had amassed a few hundreds of pounds, and was in no dread of poverty, being sanguine and self-confident to an uncommon degree. He ardently longed to see this fair colony rescued from the thraldom under which it groaned. In a letter[65] written many years afterwards, when he was an outlaw and an exile, he gives his own version of the motives which impelled him to embark upon what he calls "the stormy sea of politics." "I had long," he writes, "seen the country in the hands of a few shrewd, crafty, covetous men, under whose management one of the most lovely and desirable sections of America remained a comparative desert. The most obvious public improvements were stayed; dissension was created among classes; citizens were banished and imprisoned in defiance of all law; the people had been long forbidden, under severe pains and penalties, from meeting anywhere to petition for justice; large estates were wrested from their owners in utter contempt of even the forms of the courts; the Church of England, the adherents of which were few, monopolized as much of the lands of the colony as all the religious houses and dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church had had the control of in Scotland at the era of the Reformation; other sects were treated with contempt and scarcely tolerated; a sordid band of land-jobbers grasped the soil as their patrimony, and with a few leading officials, who divided the public revenue among themselves, formed the Family Compact, and were the avowed enemies of common schools, of civil and religious liberty, of all legislative or other checks to their own will. Other men had opposed, and been converted by them. At nine-and-twenty I might have united with them, but chose rather to join the oppressed, nor have I ever regretted that choice, or wavered from the object of my early pursuit."

A man entertaining such views as these, more especially a man of energy and intelligence, with a newspaper at his back, could not fail to be acceptable to the little knot of politicians who formed the nucleus of the Reform Party of Upper Canada. Mr. Mackenzie was cordially welcomed into the ranks, and was soon recognized as a most useful and valuable acquisition thereto. He could make no pretence to the various learning, fine presence, subtle intellect or polished eloquence of Rolph, nor even to the high but less marked qualities of the Bidwells, but the time was at hand when he was to prove that he possessed the power to move audiences, by his voice as well as by his pen. In person he would have been pronounced by a casual passer-by to be rather insignificant, being exceedingly short in stature, and not well proportioned as to his figure, which was slight, wiry, and—owing to a restless habit and a highly-strung nervous system—seldom in repose. Still, no one who contemplated his features with attention would ever have dreamed of pronouncing him commonplace. His intellectual vigour and determination were attested by his large head, massive brow, keen, light-blue eyes and firmly-set mouth. His physical energy was placed equally beyond doubt by the nervous activity above mentioned. Until he was long past the prime of his manhood he was never still for many consecutive moments during his waking hours. When labouring under any unusual excitement his frame seemed to be set on steel springs. As his temper was easily aroused, it was no uncommon thing to see him in one of these phases of excitement. But though he was thus quickly moved to anger, it could not with justice be said that his temper was bad, for, so far from being implacable, he was readily appeased, and always quick to forget and forgive. Altogether, he had an active but ill-balanced organization. His sympathies were too quick and strong for his judgment, and he frequently acted from impulse and hot blood. From his cradle to his grave he was never fit to walk alone and without guidance through any great emergency.

No two human beings could well be more unlike than were William Lyon Mackenzie and John Rolph. They were compelled to work together in a common cause for many years, but the two entities were thoroughly antagonistic, and there was never much personal liking between them. The structure of their bodies was not more dissimilar than was that of their minds. The one, slight, wiry, and ever in motion, seemed as though it might be blown hither and thither by any strong current. The other, solid almost to portliness, was suggestive of fixity—of self-dependence, and unsusceptibility to outside influences. The one was suggestive of being in a great measure the creature of circumstances; the other of being a law unto himself—one who would be more likely to influence circumstances than to be influenced by them. Mackenzie's nature, though it could not strictly be called a shallow one, at any rate lay near the surface, and its characters were not hard to decipher, even upon a brief acquaintance. There were depths in Rolph's nature which were never fathomed by those nearest and dearest to him—possibly not even by himself. Mackenzie seems to have long regarded Rolph with a sort of distant awe—as a Sphinx, close, oracular, inscrutable. Rolph evidently estimated Mackenzie correctly, as one whose politics were founded upon deeply-rooted convictions, and not upon mere opinions, although he would probably have found it difficult to subject those opinions to a rigid analysis; as one whose energy and journalistic resources might be turned to good account in the cause of Reform, but whose discretion was not always to be relied on. This estimate, indeed, was sufficiently obvious to any one who maintained frequent or familiar relations with Mackenzie, and was concurred in by most, if not all, of his friends. His earnestness and good faith, however, were manifest to all who knew him, and these were sufficient to cover much more culpable weaknesses than any which he had hitherto displayed.

Having now become acquainted with some of the FATHERS of Reform, it is desirable to cast a momentary glance at the material which went to the composition of the Reform Party generally. That material was of the most heterogeneous character imaginable. It included a few U. E. Loyalists of advanced opinions, and their descendants; but the bone and sinew were made up of more recent immigrants from Great Britain and the United States. The organization of the party, such as it was, was of too recent a date at this time to admit of any absolute unanimity of opinion on all questions of public policy having been arrived at among so numerous a body. On one cardinal point, however, all were agreed: it was in the highest degree desirable that the Canadian constitution should be more closely assimilated to that of the mother-country, and that the Executive Council should be made responsible to the popular branch of the Legislature. True, there was a small element—almost entirely made up of immigrants from across the border—who held republican theories, but no class of the community clamoured more loudly for Responsible Government than did the advocates of republicanism, very few of whom regarded their opinions as coming within the domain of practical politics in Upper Canada. On the question of the Clergy Reserves there was less uniformity of sentiment. Many sincere Reformers disapproved of the voluntary principle, and believed in a State provision for the Clergy,[66] though very few of them went so far in that direction as to defend the exclusive pretensions of the Church of England. On this and other important public questions, however, the diversity of opinion henceforth became less and leas from year to year. In point of numbers the adherents of Reform principles constituted a majority of the inhabitants of the Province.

The Advocate was only six months old when its proprietor removed to York. If any good service was to be done to Reform by his means it was clear that the Provincial capital must be the seat of his operations. The removal took place in November, 1824, and in the following January the new Parliament met for the first time. Much of the interval was spent by the Reformers in preparations for organization. In all these proceedings Mr. Mackenzie took an active and prominent part. He also assumed, to a greater extent than he had previously done, the role of a public censor, and, in the columns of his paper, opened a hot fire upon the official party and their myrmidons. His writing was "personal journalism," with a vengeance, for he usually expressed himself in the first person singular, and directed his animadversions against any one who, for the time being, happened to have attracted his notice. He wrote very erratically, and from the impulse of the moment; in one number lauding some particular personage in extravagant terms, and in subsequent numbers assailing the self-same individual in language which certainly reflected no credit upon the writer. Sometimes he even extended his attacks to the friends and relatives of those who had become obnoxious to him. In all this he merely followed the example of his opponents, from whom better things might have been expected, but he certainly lessened his influence, even among his friends and fellow-labourers, by his onslaughts upon particular individuals. There can be no manner of doubt, however, that he achieved his object of holding some of his opponents up to public ridicule, and that in at least one or two instances he was the means of affecting votes in the Assembly thereby. To what extent, if at all, his efforts in this direction contributed to the election of Mr. Willson, the Reform candidate for the Speakership in the Assembly, already referred to, is not easy to say. That his deliverances may have produced an effect upon one or two waverers, and thereby have brought about the desired result—the vote, it will be remembered, was a close one, standing twenty-one to nineteen[67]—is possible enough. It is at all events certain that the combined action of the Reform Party in and out of Parliament produced early and specific consequences. On a number of questions the Government found themselves confronted by a hostile majority considerably greater than they had encountered on the Speakership. But these seeming triumphs were of no immediate advantage to the Opposition. Let the majority against the Government be ever so great in the Assembly, the official policy remained the same. The Upper House rejected Bill after Bill which had been passed by the Lower, and the Executive clung to their places in undisturbed serenity.


[57] Ante, p. 44.

[58] The repealing statute is 1 Geo. IV. chapter 4. The statute repealed is 59 Geo. III., sess. 1, chapter 2.

[59] It was however a bare majority, the vote standing 17 to 16.

[60] See Stat. 2 Geo. IV. chapter 4, passed 17th January, 1822.

[61] Six years later Francis Collins, editor of The Canadian Freeman, lay in York jail for having charged Attorney-General Robinson with "native malignancy." During his incarceration he addressed several open letters to his prosecutor, in one of which may be found the following comments upon the episode referred to in the text:—

"In the next place, a most respectable portion of the colony returned the venerable Mr. Bidwell, Sen., to Parliament, and upon this occasion I think you displayed more 'native malignancy' than I ever witnessed, in a political way, in the colony. A hired pimp was despatched to Boston to hunt up slanders, originating in political feuds there. Mr. Bidwell was put on his trial before a corrupt House, and when thus you saw your innocent victim within your reach, then it was you lifted up the flood-gates of your loyal wrath, and let your vengeance fall upon his devoted head. Then it was that the overflowings of your 'native malignancy' hurled the tears of loyalty down your pallid cheeks. Then it was that your natural flippancy gave rapid birth to the most gross, unqualified and unjustifiable abuse I ever heard heaped, not only upon a member of Parliament, but even upon the commonest member of society. 'Am I,' said you, 'the son of a U. E. Loyalist, who fought and bled for his country, to sit within these walls with disloyal runaway felons, pickpockets and murderers from the United States?'—(the loyal tears flowing.) Yes, Sir, you coaxed, you threatened, you argued, you wept, until you prevailed upon a corrupt and cringing House, as I have before remarked, to turn Mr. Bidwell out of his seat, unconstitutionally, illegally and unjustly; and the next day you were obliged to get one of your tools to bring in a Bill to cover this illegal proceeding, and prevent his re-election, thus forever depriving the country of the valuable services of a man better qualified for a legislator, in point of learning, talent and experience than yourself, or any other man, perhaps, in Upper Canada. Now, Sir, if you viewed it as a disgrace to sit in the same House with the father, although in every respect your superior, how will it suit you to bend your outrageously loyal neck to his son in the Speaker's chair, who, it is my opinion, is the most fit person in the new House to fill it, and who, I doubt not, will be elected?"

The letter from which the foregoing extract is taken bears date December 25th, and appears in the Freeman of that date. The prediction in the concluding sentence was verified. Mr. M. S. Bidwell was elected Speaker at the opening of the session in January, 1829.

[62] See 4 Geo. IV., sess. 2, chapter 3, passed 19th January, 1824.

[63] Canadian Portrait Gallery, Vol. I., pp. 17, 46.

[64] It is to the exertions of Robert Baldwin himself that we owe the abolition of the doctrine of primogeniture as applied to real estate in Upper Canada. He it was who, while Attorney-General for the Western Province, introduced and carried through the measure of 1851.

[65] Quoted by Mr. Lindsey, in his Life and Times of William Lyon Mackenzie, Vol. I., pp. 40, 41.

[66] Among those who approved of such a provision no one was more outspoken than was Mr. Mackenzie himself. In the very first number of the Advocate he clearly laid down his platform on this question. "In no part of the constitution of the Canadas," he writes, "is the wisdom of the British Legislature more apparent than in its setting apart a portion of the country, while yet it remained it wilderness, for the support of religion." He expressed himself in favour of a law whereby the ministers of every body of professing Christians, being British subjects, should receive equal benefits from the Reserves. On this, as on many other subjects, however, the editor of the Advocate subsequently saw fit to alter his opinions. The instability of his opinions, indeed, was one of his most dangerous characteristics, and this alone marked him out as unfit to be trusted with the guidance of others.

[67] Ante, p. 110.



Mr. Mackenzie's newspaper devoted much space to the advocacy of Responsible Government, which for many years constituted the main plank in the Liberal platform. He pointed out the injustice and absurdity of the existing state of things, where the people were beguiled with a mockery of representation in Parliament without having any voice in the nomination of the persons composing the Government of the day. There was no attempt on the part of the official body to distort the real facts of the case. They straightforwardly avowed their independence of public opinion, and sneered at arguments founded on the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. They proclaimed their immunity from all outdoor influence whatever, and smiled pleasantly when taunted across the floor of the Assembly with repeated violations of the constitution. Rolph, Bidwell, and other Reform members in the House were sufficiently masters of themselves to argue this and other questions on purely public grounds, and without gross violations of the laws of Parliamentary discipline. This, however, Mr. Mackenzie's impetuous temperament prevented him from doing, and as he was not in the House he felt at liberty to give full rein to his impetuosity. He made every important question a personal matter between himself and each individual supporter of the Government who contradicted him. Through the columns of his paper he poured out much bitter invective. What he said was for the most part undeniably true, but he had such an offensive way of expressing himself that the amenities of journalism were constantly violated. By this means he brought down upon his head the rancorous hatred of those whom he made the objects of attack.

The feelings entertained towards him by the members of the Government, and by the Tory party generally, were largely personal and independent of politics. The conflict between them may be said to have begun before the removal from Queenston to York, and indeed almost before the ink was dry upon the first number of the Advocate. In that number Sir Peregrine Maitland, the Lieutenant-Governor, was accused of indolence, and of being the cause why Upper Canada was less progressive than her enterprising republican neighbour. He was referred to as one who, after spending his earlier days in the din of war and the turmoil of camps, had gained enough renown in Europe to enable him to enjoy himself, like the country he governed, in inactivity; whose migrations were, by water, from York to Queenston and from Queenston to York, like the Vicar of Wakefield, from the brown bed to the blue, and from the blue bed to the brown. Such comparisons as these could not be expected to find much favour with Sir Peregrine, more especially as they notoriously contained more than a soupcon of truth. The faction naturally sympathized with the Lieutenant-Governor, and only waited a suitable opportunity to give adequate expression to their abhorrence of Mackenzie and his doctrines. As for Sir Peregrine, he was ready enough to cooeperate with his supporters in any proceeding for the suppression of this free-spoken and most objectionable little Radical, who dared to wag his plebeian tongue against the son-in-law of a Duke. An occasion for the first overt act of hostility was afforded by certain rites connected with the erection of the monument on Queenston Heights to the memory of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock. The construction of the monument having been determined upon, and considerable sums of money having been granted by Parliament for the purpose, commissioners were appointed to superintend the work, which was duly proceeded with. The second funeral of the dead hero, and the removal of his remains from Fort George, had been fixed for the 18th of October (1824), being the twelfth anniversary of the battle; but in the interim some of the local magnates of the Niagara District resolved that the foundation-stone should be laid with masonic honours. The 1st of June was appointed for this ceremonial, and on that date a considerable number of persons assembled on the Heights to witness it. Mr. Mackenzie, who, it will be remembered, then resided at Queenston, seems to have taken an active part in the proceedings, and this with the full consent and approval of the committee of management. A glass vessel, hermetically sealed, and enclosing a number of coins and a copy of The Upper Canada Gazette, together with the recently-issued first number of The Colonial Advocate, was produced for the purpose of being placed within the hollow of the foundation-stone. The vessel and its contents, enveloped in an otter's skin, were placed by Mr. Mackenzie in the cavity, the spectators looking on in quiet approval. The stone was then touched with the trowel, the deposit was covered up, and the rite was complete. An account of the proceedings found its way into the newspapers, and Sir Peregrine Maitland learned, to his intense disgust, of the part which Mackenzie had been permitted to take in the ceremony. He sent for Colonel Thomas Clark, one of the commissioners appointed by Parliament to superintend the construction of the column, and, in a voice of undisguised passion, gave orders to that gentleman that the glass vessel should forthwith be disinterred, and the copy of the Advocate removed therefrom. The mandate was of course obeyed. As the column had by this time reached a considerable height, the excavation was no slight task. Mr. Mackenzie himself, who personally attended at what he called the "premature resurrection," claimed and obtained possession of the number of the paper which had caused so much unnecessary labour and ill-temper.

From this time forward there was almost incessant warfare between Mr. Mackenzie and the official party: warfare sometimes suppressed, sometimes altogether concealed for a brief season, but always ready to break out upon the slightest pretext—sometimes, indeed, without any apparent pretext at all.

Soon after the Advocate's removal to York, and not long before the opening of the Legislature, the Honourable D'Arcy Boulton, one of the puisne judges, laid himself open to attack by conduct of the most reprehensible kind. In a case tried before him, in which his son, the Solicitor-General, appeared on behalf of the Crown, the Judge displayed such gross partiality that one cannot read the report of the proceedings, even as chronicled by one of the organs of the Government, without mingled feelings of wonder and disgust. At the present day such conduct on the part of an occupant of the judicial bench would bring down upon his head the animadversions of the press of the whole country. Sixty years ago it passed without editorial remark from any of the journals of the time, with the single exception of the Advocate, which certainly used some very plain words in characterizing the Judge's behaviour. It appealed to the Legislature to address the Governor on the subject, with a request to dismiss from office the whole of the Boulton race, root and branch. "If a Government emanating from England," wrote Mr. Mackenzie, "can cherish such a corrupt, such a Star Chamber crew, then the days of the infamous Scroggs and Jeffries are returned upon us; and we may lament for ourselves, for our wives and for our children, that the British Constitution is, in Canada, a phantom to delude to destruction, instead of being the day-star of our dearest liberties."

Such language as this, which was a mild specimen of the writer's trenchant style, was not, upon the whole, too strong for the occasion. In other instances he was roused to greater fury on less provocation, and used phrases unbefitting the columns of any paper which aspires to be a public instructor. But he was not alone in his scurrility. Some of the persons attacked in the Advocate retorted upon the editor through the official press in language far less defensible than his own. He was denounced as an upstart and a demagogue, whose low origin placed him far beneath the notice of gentlemen. This language, be it understood, was used by at least one wealthy and influential personage whose own origin was such that Mr. Mackenzie's might have been pronounced aristocratic by comparison. To all such vapourings Mr. Mackenzie responded in the Advocate in kind. He had a large vocabulary of Billingsgate at his command, and as his temper became thoroughly aroused he proved that he could fully hold his own in this sort of wordy warfare. He followed the example of his antagonists, invaded the sanctities of private life, and descended to outrageous personalities. The persons thus placed in the journalistic pillory were merely paid back in their own coin, but they had never been accustomed to yield to others the privileges they claimed for themselves, and could not understand how "this fellow" dared presume to retort the foulness hurled at him. His paper meanwhile enjoyed a fair circulation, and his enemies periodically saw themselves held up before the people of the Province in a light well calculated to bring down public execration upon them. They winced, and hated their aggressor with a hatred which knew no bounds.

Before the close of the first session of the Ninth Parliament, in 1825, the struggle between the two political parties had assumed a distinct form. The Opposition contended for a responsible Executive; the Government repudiated the contention with sarcastic contempt. There were various other grounds of dispute, but this great question overshadowed and practically included all. It cannot truly be said that there was much perceptible progress in reform during the session; indeed material progress was impossible so long as the Government controlled the Legislative Council, and while the Executive Councillors held on to office in spite of the hostile votes of the Assembly. The way towards reform was however paved by the debates. Never before had the Government of Upper Canada been subjected to the incessant criticism of a watchful and vigorous phalanx of censors within the walls of Parliament. They were not wise enough to read the signs of the times, and would yield nothing to the demands of their opponents. They still believed in the efficacy of repression, and the next few years were marked by a series of high-handed persecutions which did more to speed the progress of reform than all the eloquence of Rolph and Bidwell could have effected in half a century.

As for Mackenzie, he would doubtless have been dealt with as Gourlay had been, could such a course have been adopted towards him with safety. Isaac Swayzes in abundance might no doubt have been found to swear that the obnoxious personage had not been a resident of the Province for the preceding six months. Doubtless, also, phrases had been used in the Advocate which, isolated from the context, might have been tortured into something like sedition. But the party in power were not so dull as to be unable to perceive that that experiment must not be repeated. The Liberal schoolmaster had been actively at work within the last few years, and any attempt to re-enact that glaring iniquity would, to say the least, be attended with serious risk to the actors. The most feasible method of disposing of the noisy little firebrand presented itself in the shape of successive indictments for libel, to which his aggressive and unguarded mode of writing would be certain to expose him. It is of course impossible to obtain direct evidence of an express conspiracy on the part of the Government to destroy him by such means. A conspiracy of that nature would not be likely to take the shape of a written contract which might be produced against the contracting parties in the future. Nor would the parties to such a conspiracy be likely to leave any written traces of it behind them. Still, anyone who has the opportunity and inclination to go minutely into the question will be irresistibly driven to the conclusion that there was some sort of understanding among the chiefs of the official party that the publication of the Advocate was to be stopped, and that its editor was to be either driven out of the country or reduced to silence.

In the meantime Mr. Mackenzie himself had serious difficulties to contend with. The Advocate, notwithstanding its considerable circulation, did not yield any appreciable income. Subscribers were backward in their payments, and the cost of making collections reduced the profit to little or nothing. The postage to country subscribers had to be paid in advance by the publisher, which was in itself a considerable drain upon his resources. The issue of the paper was moreover necessarily attended by a good deal of expense. It did not appear regularly, and the intervals between successive numbers were sometimes of considerable duration. This irregularity was a serious drawback to its prosperity, and a source of much dissatisfaction to its patrons. Such a combination of discouragements could have but one result. By the beginning of June, 1826, Mr. Mackenzie had been reduced to serious pecuniary embarrassment, and had temporarily withdrawn himself from the jurisdiction, pending an arrangement with his creditors. It is in the highest degree improbable that another number of the paper would ever have been issued. It was moribund, if not already dead. But when matters had arrived at this pass, the violence of Mackenzie's enemies led them to commit an act of lawless ruffianism which gave the Advocate a new lease of life. The act moreover aroused much popular indignation against the perpetrators, and a proportionate degree of sympathy for their victim, to whom it gave additional importance, while it at the same time materially improved his financial condition.

During the spring of the year 1826 the Advocate's criticisms upon certain members of the oligarchical faction were marked by exceptional acerbity. The persons attacked, however, sought in vain throughout the closely-packed columns for any material upon which a criminal prosecution might be founded; for Mr. Mackenzie, whether by prudence or good fortune, contrived for some weeks to say very acrid things without rendering himself liable to an indictment. Among the persons who were compelled to pass through the fire of his criticism was the Honourable James Buchanan Macaulay, a gentleman who in after years attained the honour of knighthood, and became Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas for Upper Canada. At the period under consideration he was a member of the Executive Council, and occupied a high position at the local bar. The language employed by the Advocate with respect to him was comparatively mild, and did not even mention him by name. Moreover, the editor's remarks appear to have been entirely in accordance with facts. At any rate they were altogether insufficient to account for the state of ferocity into which Mr. Macaulay allowed himself to be lashed. He prepared and published a pamphlet, in which he gave vent to such scurrility as it seems incredible that any man of education, or even of decent social training, could ever have descended to write. Truly, no man is ever so effectually written down as when he himself holds the pen. Those readers who wish to be better acquainted with the depths to which an angry man can lower himself, and who have not access to Mr. Macaulay's pamphlet, can obtain some inkling of the truth by reference to Mr. Lindsey's "Life and Times of William Lyon Mackenzie."[68] As Mr. Lindsey very justly remarks:—"The cause of the quarrel was utterly contemptible, and Mr. Macaulay showed to great disadvantage in it." It seems probable enough that one main object of the publication of the pamphlet was to goad Mr. Mackenzie into a retort which would render him amenable to the law of libel. In one sense this plan—if such there were—succeeded. The Advocate came out with a long reply which contained an abundance of scandalous matter, a great part of which, as the writer must have been well aware, had no shadow of foundation in truth. The matter related not only to persons occupying public situations, but to individuals altogether unconnected with public life, including respectable married women and persons who had long been dead. But most of the statements and insinuations, even those which were unsupported by a tittle of evidence—nay, even those which were notoriously groundless—related to and were interwoven with circumstances which, as the persons involved well knew, would not bear discussion. It would never do to permit such matters to become the subject of judicial investigation. Anything in the shape of an enquiry would inevitably lead to disclosures seriously affecting the honour of more than one member of the Compact. An indictment, therefore, was out of the question.

It has often been asserted that the oligarchy are to be held accountable for the display of ruffianly violence which followed Mackenzie's retort to Macaulay's pamphlet. In one sense this is true, for it was in consequence of their long abuse of the supremacy which they enjoyed that feelings of hatred and enmity were begotten between one stratum of society and another; and it was this hatred which gave rise to violent measures. But if it is meant to be implied that the oligarchy, as a body, conceived the design, or that it was carried out under their auspices, the implication is too absurd to stand in need of serious rebuttal. To carry the argument no farther, the body was too numerous to admit of any general secret cooeperation between them for such a purpose. As simple matter of fact, all knowledge of the contemplated violence was confined to the breasts of those who took part in it. No one familiar with the circumstances, however, can doubt that it met with the fullest approval of the ruling faction after it had been effected, and that, so far as such a thing was possible, the wrong-doers were protected by them from the consequences of the outrage. To this charge they must perforce plead guilty; but there are degrees in guilt, and the endorsation, or even the approval of an act after it has been committed, is a different thing from the original conception and carrying out of it. The respective weight of culpability, in the case under consideration, is a matter which the reader may very well be left to estimate according to his own judgment.

And now for the outrage itself.

[Sidenote: 1826.]

The office of the Advocate was situated on the north-west corner of Frederick and Front[69] streets, in a building which had been the birthplace of Robert Baldwin, and in which the Cawthras subsequently carried on a large and very successful mercantile business.[70] Readers acquainted with the neighbourhood will not need to be informed that this site is in close proximity to the bay. Mr. Mackenzie, with his aged mother—who had long before followed him to Canada—and the rest of his family, resided in the building, which was therefore his home, as well as his place of business. At about half-past six o'clock in the afternoon of Thursday, the 8th of June, 1826, in broad daylight, and while the proprietor was absent in the United States,[71] a raid was made upon the printing establishment, which, in the course of a few minutes, was reduced to a state of confusion and chaos. The door was broken open, the press partly demolished, the imposing-stone overturned, and a quantity of type battered and thrown into the adjacent bay. The contents of some of the cases were "pied" and scattered around the floor. Frames, chases, galleys, composing-sticks and office furniture were thrown together in one confused heap. In a word, the entire office was turned topsy-turvy. Mr. Mackenzie's mother, who was then in her seventy-eighth year, stood and watched the proceedings in a state of great fear and agitation from a corner of the office.[72]

The most remarkable feature about the whole of this extraordinary transaction was that there appeared to be no attempt at concealment. It was carried out as though it had been the most legitimate and ordinary business enterprise, to which no one could reasonably offer any sort of objection. The raiders did not think it necessary to wait for darkness, nor did they resort to any disguises. If they did not court publicity, they at least took no care to avoid it. They chose a time of day when the journeymen and apprentices connected with the establishment were almost certain to be absent, and when there would be no one to oppose their entrance; though, according to the printed admission of the prime mover and instigator of the affair, they were prepared, if necessary, to oppose force to force in order to effect their purpose. As there was nobody in the office, any such display of force was happily uncalled for. Having made their way inside, the work of destruction was proceeded with coolly and calmly, as though there was no necessity for extraordinary haste. When they had fully worked their will, they departed as quietly as they had arrived.

The actual perpetrators of this unique act of ruffianism were nine in number. They were none of them ruffians by profession, and were not commonly rated as blackguards. They could not even plead the poor excuse that they were under the influence of strong drink. Most of them were young men, and nearly all of them were closely identified, either by interest or by close relationship, with prominent members of the oligarchy. They were, in short, with few exceptions, the flower of the aristocracy of the little capital. Chief among them was Samuel Peters Jarvis, barrister, the slayer of poor young John Ridout, mentioned on a former page.[73] He, at least, could not plead in extenuation of his share in the transaction that he had been carried away by the uncontrollable effervescence of youth, for he was at this time not far short of thirty-four years of age[74]. His acquittal on a more serious charge nearly nine years before might well have led him to believe that he could with impunity set the law at defiance. His identification with the ruling faction is easily traced, for he was a son of Mr. William Jarvis, who was for many years Secretary of the Province; and he was moreover son-in-law to ex-Chief Justice Powell.[75] He himself held a situation under Government at this time—being Clerk of the Crown in Chancery—and stood high in the favour of Sir Peregrine Maitland, towards whom he sometimes acted in the capacity of private secretary. He was the chief offender, for it was by him that the outrage was planned, and he was the directing spirit throughout, as well as the most noisy and impudent apologist for it afterwards. Another active participant in the raid was Captain John Lyons, a confidential clerk in the Lieutenant-Governor's office. A third was Henry Sherwood, student at law in the office of Attorney-General Robinson, and Clerk of Assize. He was a son of the Honourable Levius Petere Sherwood, one of the puisne judges, and was also connected with other leading members of the ruling faction. It is due to him to say that he eventually outgrew the follies of his youth, and became an able lawyer, a prominent politician, and a useful member of society. He alone, of all the participators in this shameful business, attained to anything like honourable distinction. A fourth member of the gang of kid-gloved housebreakers was Charles Heward, a son of Colonel Stephen Heward, who, in addition to being an active spirit among the Compact, was a magistrate, Clerk of the Peace in and for the Home District, and Auditor-General of Land Patents. The others were Charles Richardson, a student in the office of Attorney-General Robinson; James King, a student in Solicitor-General Boulton's office; Peter McDougall, a well-known shopkeeper in York in those times; and two sons of the Honourable James Baby, Inspector-General, and member of the Executive Council. These were all the active participants in the outrage. While it was in progress a number of other persons appeared upon the scene, but did not take any part therein otherwise than as spectators.

It is of course not to be supposed that this incursion was attributable, either directly or indirectly, to the Government as a body, or that it had formed a subject of deliberation at the Council Board. The charge that it was attributable to the entire oligarchy has already been disposed of.[76] But it is at least fairly to be inferred that, after the thing had been done, the Government considered themselves as being under obligations to the misguided persons concerned in it. Several of the latter received appointments to positions of public trust and emolument, such as are usually conferred by Governments upon deserving supporters. Jarvis was successively appointed to various posts, the most important of which was that of Indian Commissioner, in which capacity he became a defaulter to the Government, and was involved in serious pecuniary and other difficulties. The avenging ghost of John Ridout pursued him, and his subsequent career was not one to be contemplated with admiration. Richardson, again, was appointed Clerk of the Peace for the Niagara District. Sir Peregrine Maitland could not pretend to overlook the dereliction of his confidential clerk, Captain Lyons, who was accordingly dismissed from that position. But this was not the end of the story. Many readers are doubtless familiar with Halifax's remark when Lawrence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, was removed from the post of First Lord of the Treasury and installed in that of Lord President. "I have seen people kicked downstairs," remarked the great Trimmer, "but my Lord Rochester is the first person that I ever saw kicked up-stairs."[77] In like manner the Lieutenant-Governor's clerk was soon afterwards kicked up-stairs, by being appointed Registrar of the Niagara District.

It really seemed as though this wanton and most reprehensible invasion of private rights was regarded by those in authority as a high and meritorious action. It was certainly so regarded by "the best society" of York at the time. The young men, who ought to have been made to suffer social ostracism, were petted and caressed as heroes who had done some grand service to the State; and, as will presently be seen, they were not even permitted to suffer any considerable pecuniary loss by reason of their breach of the law. Finding that their conduct led to their being made the subjects of a sort of hero-worship, it is not surprising that they soon came to pique themselves upon what they had done, and, so far from feeling any consciousness of shame or regret, to openly court publicity for their proceedings. Jarvis was especially culpable in this respect, and was not ashamed to write letters to the papers on the subject, in one of which he avowed himself as the author and originator of the outrage. He admitted having led on his band of semi-official desperadoes, determined to "persevere, if resistance had been made." As to the morality or immorality of the act, he professed himself "easy on that head." Such language as this, coming, as it did, from one who had shed the blood of a fellow-creature upon very slight provocation; who had been tried for murder, and acquitted because the crime was sanctioned by the usages of society; and who, moreover, in the estimation of many people, richly deserved the hangman's noose—such language, under the circumstances, was not merely injudicious and unfeeling, but positively revolting. The only conceivable excuse that can be made for it arises from the fact that Jarvis was at the time irritated by a succession of attacks in the newspapers, in which his conduct, bad as it had been, was held up in even a more odious light than it deserved. The excuse may be taken for what it is worth. It is at least certain that had the transgressor been imbued with feelings of ordinary delicacy he would not have permitted himself to be goaded into using such expressions as are to be found in his "Statement of Facts," published at York nearly two years after the type riot.[78] His callousness stirred the hot blood of Francis Collins, of The Canadian Freeman, to speak his mind editorially on the subject:—"We view it," he wrote, "as the greatest misfortune that could happen to any man in this life to imbrue his hands in the blood of a fellow-man. But as this barbarous practice has, by long usage, become familiar to the mind of civilized society, we think it is a misfortune that might occur to an otherwise virtuous and well-disposed man, and therefore ought not (unless under aggravated circumstances) to be a reproach either to himself or to his children; provided that, during the remainder of his life he will show that caution which becomes his delicate situation, and prove by his subsequent benevolence that he regrets his misfortune. But if, after once having stained his hands with human blood, he will act the desperado, and become a leader in such outrages as may end in a repetition of his former act—then, we say, he is worthy of reproach, and ought to be viewed as the common enemy of mankind."[79]

News of the aggression soon found its way to Mr. Mackenzie at Lewiston.[80] He at once returned to York, and lost no time in instituting proceedings against eight of the aggressors who had constituted themselves a vigilance committee at his expense. He brought a civil action for damages, and erelong these incipient "Regulators of Upper Canada" began to realize that they had acted with some precipitation and foolhardiness. It seemed probable that they would be mulcted in heavy damages; and even these would be no bar to a criminal prosecution. The aforementioned James Buchanan Macaulay was appointed to conduct their defence. The plaintiff's attorney was James Edward Small, a rising young lawyer who afterwards made some figure in political life, and who belonged to a well-known family in York. Overtures in the direction of a compromise were made on behalf of the raiders, who offered first two hundred pounds and afterwards three hundred by way of full compensation. The smaller amount would have been an abundant recompense for the actual loss,[81] but Mackenzie felt that public sympathy was with him, and he was desirous that the facts should go to a jury. The offer of the defendants was rejected, and the case came on for trial before Chief Justice Campbell and a special jury in the following October. Associated with the Chief Justice were the Honourable William Allan and Mr. Alexander McDonnell, as Justices of the Peace. The plaintiff's counsel were Marshall Spring Bidwell, J. E. Small, and Alexander Stewart, of Niagara. The defendants were represented by J. B. Macaulay and Christopher Alexander Hagerman. These names afford sufficient evidence that full justice was done to the case on both sides. Hagerman was a counsel of remarkable ability, and he fought very hard. His argument was a masterpiece of clever, specious reasoning, well calculated to produce an effect upon uneducated or half-educated jurymen. He took an enlightened stand, admitting the advantage to a community of a free and unfettered press. He then proceeded to argue away all the consequences of the admission, alleging that the career of the Advocate had been one of license, and not of mere freedom. But the evidence of the outrage was clear and unassailable, and the defence did not venture to call any witnesses. It was proved on behalf of the plaintiff that three members of the ruling faction, two of whom were magistrates, had been in close proximity to the scene of the raid at the time when it took place; and there appears to be very little doubt that all three must have been eye-witnesses of the outrage. One of these was the Honourable William Allan, who, at the very moment when this evidence was given, sat on the bench to the right of the Chief Justice as an associate judge on the trial. Colonel Heward, whose son Charles was one of the delinquents, was the other magistrate compromised by the evidence. The third person alleged to have witnessed the transaction was Mr. Macaulay, leading counsel for the defence. The utter incongruity and unseemliness of the whole affair from first to last seems incomprehensible at the present day. All sense of the fitness of things seems to have been wanting.

The trespass had been flagrant and bold, and the only question which the jury had to consider was the amount of damages. There were conflicting elements among the jurors, who were long in coming to a decision. After much deliberation they returned a verdict of L625, which sum, together with costs of suit, was soon afterwards paid over to the plaintiff's attorney.[82] But the rioters themselves were not suffered to sustain this loss. Prominent adherents of the official party did not hesitate to say that by the attack upon Mr. Mackenzie's press and type, and by the consequent stoppage of publication of his paper,[83] the perpetrators of the outrage had rendered an essential service to society, by abating an intolerable nuisance. Under such circumstances it was only just that society should bear harmless those who had thrown themselves into the breach and vindicated her rights. It was resolved that a subscription should be set on foot with this laudable object.

Among the few high Tories resident at York in those days upon whose characters it is possible for one of modern ideas to look with sympathy, and even with a considerable degree of admiration, was Colonel James Fitz Gibbon. The Colonel was a gallant veteran who had fought the battles of his country on two continents, at Copenhagen and the Helder, at Fort Erie and the Beaver Dams. His military career was not yet quite at an end, for he was destined to play an important part in the putting-down of the Upper Canadian Rebellion; a circumstance which furnishes a sufficient justification for a somewhat more extended reference to him in this place than his mere connection with the press riot would have rendered necessary. He was an Irishman of humble origin, who had enlisted as a private soldier at the age of seventeen, and who, by sheer force of energy, bravery and aptitude for his profession, had fought his way to military rank and honour. After seeing much service on the continent, and passing through as many adventures as a knight-errant of old, he was transferred to British North America. His gallant services in this country are imperfectly recorded in various accounts of the War of 1812, and in Tupper's "Life of Brock." Every Canadian is, or ought to be, familiar with the circumstances attending the capture by him of a force of 450 infantry, fifty cavalry, and two guns, he himself being at the time in command of only forty-eight men. After the close of the war he was placed on half pay, and took up his abode at York. He attached himself to the Provincial militia, whence he derived his rank of Colonel. He likewise obtained a post in the Adjutant-General's office, and subsequently became Deputy Adjutant-General, which position he held at the period at which the narrative has arrived. He was also in the Commission of the Peace, and frequently sat in Quarter Sessions. His share in suppressing the revolt in 1837 will be narrated in its proper place. For the rest it may be added that he was always impecunious, for, apart from the fact that he was no financier, and never knew how to take care of money when he had any, the expenses of his outfit when promoted to the rank of Adjutant, in 1806, formed the nucleus of a debt which hampered him from youth to old age. His indigence often subjected him to straits which must have been hard to bear; but he was of a sanguine, joyous disposition, and poverty, though it might temporarily overcloud his happiness, had no power to break his indomitable spirit. During his long residence in Canada he was a persistent seeker after office, because he was almost always in pecuniary straits; but he fully earned all the emoluments he ever received from the Government, and if his income had been five times as large as it ever was he would probably have been neither more comfortable nor less impecunious. It seemed as though no experience could lead him to take thought for the morrow. His chief characteristics were such as are not uncommon among his fellow-countrymen. He was generous and open-hearted to a fault, ever ready to bestow his last shilling upon anybody who needed it, or who even made a plausible pretence of needing it. He was rash, impetuous and indiscreet, but the ranks of the British army held no braver or more loyal heart than his. In his simple and gentle soul there was no room for envy or guile. He seems, indeed, to have been in many respects a sort of Irish reflection of Colonel Newcome; and the parallel even extended to the outward circumstances attending the close of their respective lives. Colonel Newcome, when all his worldly possessions had gone from him, retired to Grey Friars—the Charterhouse—a retreat for "poor and decayed brethren," when the world seemed to afford no other asylum. There he passed the remainder of his days, and there he said "Adsum" when his name was called for the last time in this world. In like manner Colonel Fitz Gibbon, when all other resources failed him, was able, through the kindness of Lord Seaton, to obtain a place in an asylum of somewhat similar character. At Royal Windsor there is an institution which provides a retreat from the cares and storms of life for a limited number of depleted old military officers. The members are styled Military Knights of Windsor, and the abodes provided for them are situated "within the precincts." Hither, in 1850, when he had entered upon his seventieth year, the battered old hero of many fights retired to pass in quiet the evening of an active life. He survived for more than ten years, during which period he succeeded in obtaining for himself and his brother knights certain important privileges of which they had theretofore been deprived.

Though he was not, in the proper sense of the word, a politician, both his interests and his superabundant loyalty impelled him to the side of those in power. No one in the Province had less respect for radicals of the Mackenzie stamp. It was sufficient for him to reflect that the official party reflected the might and majesty of the Crown of Great Britain. His whole nature, fostered by his military training, revolted at the idea of opposition to those in authority. He was moreover dependent upon the Government for his place in the Adjutant-General's office, and would naturally espouse the side of his patrons. The Compact had no more faithful adherent, and by no one were "low radicals" held in more profound abhorrence. He was roused to a high pitch of fervour by the trial of the press rioters, who, in his opinion, had acted in the most patriotic and praiseworthy spirit. When the verdict had been rendered, and when it had become manifest that the defendants must pay the penalty of their acts, the Colonel regarded them as martyrs. He promptly volunteered to canvass the town for subscriptions to a fund for discharging the liability, and thus saving "the boys," as he called them, from loss. He was as good as his word, and the requisite sum was soon forthcoming. Who the contributors to this fund were has never been fully revealed, and the secret is likely to be well kept, for the list was burned by Colonel Fitz Gibbon immediately after it had served its purpose, and there is probably no man now living who can throw any light upon the subject. Mr. Lindsey observes[84] that "it is believed the officials of the day were not backward in assisting to indemnify the defendants in the type-riot trial, for the adverse verdict of an impartial jury"—a belief which, under the circumstances, is certainly not an extravagant one. It was commonly rumoured that several heads of departments had contributed twenty pounds each to the fund, and Francis Collins gave currency to the rumour through the columns of his paper. The controversy to which this gave rise was the indirect means of furnishing almost the only evidence now obtainable as to the signatures to the subscription list. Collins asserted that Sir Peregrine Maitland's own name was understood to be at the head of the list, opposite to a large contribution. Colonel Fitz Gibbon was so indiscreet as to write a reply, in which he distinctly declared that the latter's assertion was wholly untrue, so far as the Lieutenant-Governor was concerned. From this letter, which was duly given to the public in the Freeman, it was not unfairly to be inferred that the assertion, so far as it related to the heads of departments, could not be truthfully denied. That some, at least, of the members of the official body contributed to the fund was matter of notoriety in York at the time, and, so far as I am aware, has never been denied. The Honourable James Baby, indeed, who was then or shortly afterwards the senior member of the Executive Council, and who, as before mentioned, was the father of two of the young men concerned in the raid, contributed his share with great reluctance. He was at this time advanced in life—he was in his sixty-fifth year—and he had ceased to carry much weight in the Great Council of the Province, having been to a large extent superseded by younger and more energetic men. His opinions were no longer deferred to as they had once been, and on one or two occasions he had, as he conceived, been treated with inadequate respect by some of his junior colleagues. He felt his position keenly, and there is reason for believing that he would have resigned his office of Inspector-General and his seat at the Council Board, had it not been that there were many demands upon his purse, and that he was largely dependent upon his official salary for the support of his family. On a subsequent page a notable instance will be given of the degradation to which his poverty compelled him to submit at the hands of the Lieutenant-Governor. Under the circumstances, however, he could not refuse to contribute to Colonel Fitz Gibbon's list; and it is recorded that when one of his sons called upon him for the amount which he had subscribed, he handed over the sum with justifiable petulance, saying: "There, go and make one great fool of yourself again."[85] Such of the rioters as were possessed of means contributed to the fund according to their respective ability, but the others were not allowed to bear more than a very small share of the loss.

The only other documentary evidence to be had on the subject of the subscribers to the fund is to be found in the "Statement of Facts" of Samuel Peters Jarvis himself. "I have on my part to assure the public," he writes, "that so far from being indemnified by the contributions which from various motives were made for our relief, the burthen fell heavily upon such of us as had the means of paying anything; and I affirm that the share of the verdict which I myself had to defray, from no very abundant means, was such that if Mr. Mackenzie had made as much clear profit by his press during the whole time he has employed it in the work of detraction, he would not have found it necessary to leave the concern, and abandon it to his creditors." To which statement it may be added that a gentleman now living in Toronto distinctly remembers hearing Mr. Jarvis say that his own contribution to the fund was precisely L109; that that of Peter McDougall was about the same; and that none of the rest of the rioters paid anything, except through their parents or relatives.

The civil liability having been discharged, the public looked forward to a criminal prosecution, for it seemed outrageous that the perpetrators of such an offence against society should escape without any greater penalty than had thus far been exacted from them. Mr. Mackenzie himself seems to have been desirous of proceeding to extremities, although the amount which he had recovered was far more than compensation for any loss he had sustained, whether direct or incidental. But the brains of his professional advisers were cooler than his own, and saved him from the consequences of his want of judgment. Mr. Bidwell dissuaded him from taking any steps which might seem to be dictated by a feeling of revenge. It was represented to him that he was a decided gainer by the raid, not only in pocket but in popularity. The public sympathy had been with him from first to last. A policy of war to the knife on his part would certainly cool, and in some cases altogether alienate that sympathy. The jury's liberal verdict bad placed him "in funds," and he was thus in a position to resume the publication of the Advocate under favourable circumstances. The transaction had distinctly increased his prestige in the rural constituencies, and he might reasonably hope to be a successful candidate for Parliament when a suitable vacancy should occur. Such being the position of affairs, he was strongly advised to let well alone. Contrary to his habit, he proved amenable to advice, and refrained from a criminal prosecution.

The issue fully justified the advice of Mr. Mackenzie's counsellors. Several of the newspapers in the Province commended his forbearance, and contrasted his conduct with that of his enemies. But, it was asked, what was the Attorney-General about? How was it that he, who never failed to stretch his authority to the utmost when a Reformer rendered himself amenable to the law—how was it that he permitted such an outrage as this to pass without notice? Surely it was his duty to officially proceed against the wrong-doers. But the Attorney-General was deaf to all such remonstrances, and did not concern himself with the matter further than to maintain the most cordial relations with the persons implicated. How far his conduct in this respect was consistent will hereafter appear. Colonel Fitz Gibbon was rewarded for his zeal in a bad cause by receiving the appointment of Clerk to the Legislative Assembly, and the additional income thus afforded him left him neither better off nor worse than before.

The participators in perhaps the grossest outrage ever committed in the Provincial capital thus escaped, for the time, all due penalty for their misconduct. It may almost be said, indeed, that they escaped altogether, for though, as will hereafter be seen, seven of them were eventually brought to trial and convicted at the instance of another person, they received no adequate punishment, and were thus able to boast that gentlemen in their station of life in York were above the law.

Rash deeds often produce unlooked-for consequences. So it was in the case under review. The attempt to suppress the Advocate was the means of re-establishing it on a fairly satisfactory financial basis, and of extending its life for about seven years. The indignity to which the printing-office had been subjected, and the trial resulting therefrom, had furnished the best advertisements that could possibly have been desired. With a portion of the sum recovered from the hands of the spoilers Mr. Mackenzie was able to satisfy the most pressing of his creditors. With the balance he provided himself with new printing material, and the Advocate soon made its appearance under more favourable auspices than ever. It continued to be marked by the same characteristics as during the first epoch of its existence. It was not conducted with more discretion, and there were as many gross personalities in its columns. It however contributed much to the spread of Reform doctrines, and during much of its life it rendered undoubted service to the party to which it yielded its support. Had the editor's judgment been commensurate with his energies, his journal would undoubtedly have been a great power for good. Even as it was, it probably acted to some extent as a check upon Executive aggression, and thus served a beneficial purpose in spite of its many weaknesses and shortcomings.

As for Mr. Mackenzie, his persecutions were by no means at an end. They had, in fact, only begun. Of the many other shameful indignities to which he was subjected—indignities which finally drove him into rebellion, and involved him in overwhelming disaster—the narrative will hereafter take full account. It is at present desirable to advert to a number of other pregnant examples of abuse of power in which Mr. Mackenzie had no special concern.


[68] Vol. I., p. 89, et seq.

[69] This portion of Front Street was then and for many years afterward known as Palace Street. It had been so named, in the early years of York's history, from the circumstance that it led down to the Parliament Buildings in the east end of the town, and because it was believed that the official residence or "palace" of the Lieutenant-Governor would be built there.

[70] This historic landmark was burned down during the winter of 1854-5.

[71] He had, as previously mentioned in the text, withdrawn from the Province with a view to a settlement with his creditors. He was at Lewiston, in the State of New York. In the beginning of the second part of his pamphlet, published at York in 1826, giving an account of the affair, he represents himself as having been at Queenston when he received news of the raid.

[72] The statement to be found in various books—among others in Wells's Canadiana, p. 164, and Roger's Rise of Canada from Barbarism to Civilization, Vol. I., p. 405—that Mr. Mackenzie's mother was grossly maltreated by the rioters is wholly without foundation. The affair was disgraceful enough, in all conscience, and needs no fictitious embellishments.

[73] Ante, p. 13.

[74] According to a contemporary pamphlet giving an account of the duel, which took place in 1817, he was then twenty-five years of age. He would therefore be at least in his thirty-fourth year at the time of the press riot in 1826. By reference to the Barristers' Roll I find that he was called to the bar in Trinity Term, 55 Geo. III., 1815, at which time he must have been at least twenty-one years old, so that the statement in the text cannot be far from the fact. It is from him that Jarvis Street, Toronto, derives its name.

[75] The Hon. W. D. Powell ceased to be Chief Justice during the previous year (1825), when he was succeeded by Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Campbell.

[76] Ante, p. 129.

[77] Macaulay's History of England, Vol. I., Chapter 2.

[78] Statement of Facts relating to the Trespass on the Printing Press in the Possession of Mr. William Lyon Mackenzie, in June, 1826. Addressed to the Public generally, and particularly to the Subscribers and Supporters of the Colonial Advocate. York, 1828.

[79] See the Freeman for Thursday, Feb. 21st, 1828.

[80] See note to p. 130 ante.

[81] Mr. Mackenzie, when taken before the Grand Jury to give evidence in support of a criminal prosecution of the type rioters, admitted that his actual, as distinguished from his incidental loss by the riot, did not exceed L12 10s. sterling.

[82] It was the policy of the official party to suppress, as far as was practicable, all reference in the public newspapers to the misdoings of themselves and their adherents. This was but natural. No one likes to see his transgressions preserved to future ages in all the pitiless coldness of type, which may rise up against his descendants long after he himself is forgotten. The following is a complete transcript of the contemporary report of the trial of these rioters, as published in The U. E. Loyalist, a sheet issued as a sort of supplement or rider to the official Gazette. It appears in the Loyalist for October 21st, 1826:

"Court of King's Bench.—In the suit of MacKenzie vs Jarvis, McDougall, and others, for Trespass, the Jury, after a consultation of twenty-four hours, returned into Court—Verdict for the Plaintiff L625."

This is absolutely the only information obtainable from the contemporary number of the official organ on a subject which was par excellence the topic of the time. It may be added that the organ contained no reference whatever to the type riot until many weeks after its occurrence.

[83] Apparently they were not then aware that the publication had actually ceased before the riot took place.

[84] Life of Mackenzie, Vol. I., p. 99.

[85] See Dr. Scadding's Toronto of Old, p. 38. Mr. Baby's idiom was due to his French origin and training.



Captain Matthews, who, it will be remembered, had been returned to the Assembly for the County of Middlesex, gave great umbrage to the official party by allying himself with the Opposition. His birth and social standing, it was said, unfitted him for such companionship. The Captain himself was apparently conscious of no incongruity, and bent all his energies to the advancement of the Reform cause. Upon his first arrival in the country he could not be said to have had any political convictions at all. He had been bred a Tory, and his military career had been such as might naturally have led him to seek his allies in the ranks of those in authority. But his own experience of the abuses in the Land Office had impelled him to consider the political situation of affairs in Upper Canada generally, and the upshot of his deliberations had been his alliance with the new movement in the direction of Reform. Being a man of much local influence, his example had won to his side a number of the Middlesex farmers, more especially in the Township of Lobo, in which he resided. During his first session in Parliament he attracted considerable attention to himself, for he spoke frequently and well, and generally with a humorous eloquence which made him a favourite with those who were not bitter partisans on the other side.

It was to be expected that Captain Matthew's defection from the political faith of his ancestors would render him specially odious to the High Tories of Upper Canada. It was shameful, they thought, that an officer deriving an income from His Majesty's Government should entertain, much less give utterance to, such vile democratic opinions as were constantly heard from his lips. The Captain was indiscreet, and became more and more outspoken the oftener he was charged with radicalism; but on no occasion did he utter anything savouring of disloyalty, for the very sufficient reason that there was no disloyalty in his heart. It was apparent to the Compact that his influence was most pernicious to them; yet no feasible plan for getting rid of him presented itself. Would it not be possible, by a little extra exertion, to deprive him of his pension? Could this laudable object be accomplished, the obnoxious Captain, who was of an impetuous temperament, would probably be goaded into saying or doing something really culpable—something which would place weapons in the hands of his enemies whereby he might be effectually silenced. The plan was at any rate worth trying. A system of espionage was accordingly adopted towards him.[86] During the sitting of the Legislature, myrmidons of the Executive dogged his footsteps wherever he went, in order to obtain some grounds for a hostile accusation against him.

The spies did not have long to wait, for any shallow pretext was sufficient to serve as a peg upon which to hang an imputation of disloyalty, and the doomed man himself was unsuspicious of any design against him. The pretext actually resorted to was so utterly contemptible that one feels almost ashamed to record the attendant circumstances.

A company of theatrical performers from the United States visited York during the session which assembled in the autumn of 1825. The actors met with little encouragement, and became, in stage parlance, "stranded." Being reduced to extremity, they resolved upon giving a special performance for the delectation of the members of the Legislature, whose patronage was solicited for the occasion. Sixteen or eighteen of the members—among whom was Captain Matthews—complied with the solicitation, and the performance took place at the little York theatre on the night of December 31st. During the intervals between the acts the orchestra played the national airs, "God Save the King," "Rule Britannia," and "The British Grenadiers." Several persons in the audience—Captain Matthews among the number[87]—apparently out of compliment to the actors, all of whom were from across the lines, called out for "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia." The demand was complied with, at least in part. The orchestra were unable to play "Hail Columbia," but the audience were regaled with the lively strains of "Yankee Doodle." Captain Matthews joined in the applause which followed, and removed his hat, calling upon others to do the same. The weight of evidence would seem to favour the idea that he was not the first to raise his hat, or to request the removal of the hats of his fellow-members. At all events the request was generally complied with. And this was the gist of the story. Captain Matthews's share in the events of the evening was the having joined in the demand for the two objectionable airs, in the applause which ensued upon the rendering of one of them, and in the request for the uncovering of heads. These dire offences sealed the doom of a gallant officer who had served his king for more than a quarter of a century, and whose acquiescence in the call for the national airs of the republic was probably due, at least in part, to the effervescence of feeling begotten of a good dinner.

It is difficult to trace, step by step, the progress of the measures adopted against him. Distorted and exaggerated accounts appeared in The Kingston Chronicle and The Quebec Mercury. But it is hardly likely that any ex officio notice would have been taken of the affair if the newspaper reports had not been backed by a specific charge. Captain Matthews appears to have been secretly accused to the military authorities. He soon afterwards received a letter from the military secretary to the Earl of Dalhousie, Commander of the Forces in Lower Canada, stating that that dignitary's attention had been attracted by a report in the public prints of a representation that Captain Matthews had, in a riotous and outrageous manner, in the theatre at York, called for the national airs and tunes of the United States, "urging the audience there assembled to take off their hats, as is usual in the British Dominions in honour of 'God Save the King.'" The letter went on to say that "finding the statement corroborated, upon inquiry," the Commander of the Forces called upon Captain Matthews to explain conduct which was pronounced to be "utterly disloyal and disgraceful." Even this was not all. By a subsequent letter, received from the Board of Ordnance, the Captain was directed to repair forthwith to Quebec, and there remain until he could, by the first vessel in the spring, proceed to England, there to give an account of his conduct. This order was stated to have been made in consequence of a communication from the authorities in Canada to Lord Bathurst, the Colonial Secretary, and by him transmitted to the Master-General and Board of Ordnance.

Mr. Mackenzie asserts that the object of the authorities was to get the Captain out of the Province, and thus deprive the Opposition of his vote, "in order to give the local Government a preponderance in the Legislature against the people's rights."[88] This, however, can hardly be accepted as a full or true explanation, as the Captain's absence at the time would not have given such a preponderance to the Government on any test vote. The weakening of the Opposition may or may not have been one of the objects sought to be achieved by the Captain's accusers. If so, it signally failed. Captain Matthews, be it understood, was not in receipt of half-pay, but of a pension. He had served twenty-seven years, and, on his corps being totally disbanded, he had settled in Upper Canada with the approbation of the Government. Having since been elected a member of the Provincial Assembly, his first duty was to that body, and it was necessary that he should obtain its leave before proceeding to obey the order of the Master-General. Accordingly, on Thursday, the 28th of December, 1826, he rose in his place and made a motion involving an application for leave of absence. He explained the circumstances, and, in the course of the debate which ensued, expressly stated that he asked for leave, not with any desire of its being granted, but merely in order that the House might do its duty. The Opposition stood faithfully by him in this emergency. The House felt that the honour of one of its members was concerned. It refused the application for leave, and, on motion of Mr. Rolph, set on foot an inquiry into the circumstances on its own behalf.

The inquiry was searching and minute, and the witnesses were not examined in presence of each other. Much of the evidence was beyond measure ludicrous and absurd. The scene at the theatre was described by one witness after another in endless variety. The merits of "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia," philologically and aesthetically, were made the subjects of the gravest investigation. It appeared that with the exception of Mr. John Beikie, Clerk of the Executive Council, and a very few of the townspeople, the audience was entirely made up of members of the Legislature. There were no ladies present, and, as it was New Year's Eve, the audience generally felt a considerable freedom from restraint. Many of the members had partaken freely of the cup that cheers—assuredly not the cup indicated by Cowper—and were in the blissful condition of Tam O'Shanter upon a certain memorable occasion to which no more specific reference is necessary. In plain English, some of them were so drunk as to be unable to recall anything that occurred. All were full of mirth and jollity, and the scene enacted was of the most uproarious description. Three grave legislators "danced while 'Yankee Doodle' was played." Several others had reached the quarrelsome stage of inebriety, and, in the language of one of the witnesses, "showed fight." Mr. Philip Vankoughnet, one of the members for Stormont, was constrained to admit that he had stripped off his coat, and threatened to knock somebody down. Captain Matthews, among others, called for "Hail Columbia" and "Yankee Doodle," but the general opinion among the more sober of the party appeared to be that he had done so "in derision." It was a bibulous age, and sobriety was the exception rather than the rule. The whole affair was little better than a bar-room orgy, and could properly be regarded in no other light.

When the Assembly's report made its appearance, early in 1827, Captain Matthews was fully exonerated, so far as that body was concerned, from everything savouring of disloyalty. "The circumstances of the transaction"—thus ran the report—"as they are related without the contradiction of a single witness, irresistibly bespeak the absence of that disloyalty with which it has been basely attempted to sully the character of a most honourable man." The report moreover read a sharp lesson to the promoters of the accusation against him. It declared that "If every effervescence of feeling upon every jovial or innocent occasion is, in these Provinces, to be magnified into crime by the testimony of secret informers—if there can longer exist a political inquisition which shall scan the motives of every faithful servant of the public—if the authorities in Canada shall humble the independence of the Legislature by scandalizing its members and causing them to be ordered to Quebec, and thence to England, to sustain a fate which, under such corroboration as Lord Dalhousie received, might cover them with ignominy, or bring them, however innocent, to the block—or if the members of our community shall be awed into political subserviency by fear of oppression, or lured by the corrupt hope of participating guilty favours, then, indeed, will the prospect before us four, and this fine Province become a distant appendage of a mighty empire, ruled by a few aspiring men with the scourge of power."[89]

The Committee professed their inability to learn by whom the pernicious representations had been made to the newspapers, or to the authorities in Canada, or from what source Lord Dalhousie had obtained his "corroboration." They expressed their conviction that there was no ground for the charge preferred against Captain Matthews, the malignity and falsity of which they believed to have derived their origin and support from political hostility towards him.

The United States press was loud in its expressions of contempt. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth;" said The New York Enquirer—"truly, there is something very undignified in such vexatious stretches of authority"—referring, of course, to the attempt to drag Captain Matthews across the Atlantic on a charge depending on such ridiculous evidence. Attention was drawn to the fact that the national airs of Great Britain, "God Save the Queen," and "Rule Britannia," are often heard at theatres and elsewhere in the republic without any such momentous consequences, and without being received either with laughter, dancing or contempt. "The evidence," continued the Enquirer, "does not speak very strongly in favour of the amenity and decorum of the M. P.'s of Upper Canada. If calling for one of our national airs, in a time of profound peace, within a few miles of the frontiers, is regarded as an unpardonable crime by the British Government, who shall wonder or complain that the British people are full of prejudice against us." The Liberal press of the Maritime Provinces harped to the same tune. "Really," remarked The Halifax Recorder, "we think people must have their wits about them now-a-days, if such things as these are to be construed into disaffection."

But though Captain Matthews had been cleared by the Legislature, he had still to run the gauntlet of the military inquisition. They could not compel his attendance during the existence of the Parliament then in being, but they possessed an effectual means of reducing him to ultimate submission. This power they exercised. His pension was stopped—a very serious matter to a man with a large family and many responsibilities. He continued to fight the battles of Reform with dogged courage and pertinacity as long as his means admitted of his doing so, but he was soon reduced to a condition of great pecuniary distress, and was compelled to succumb. Broken-hearted and worn out, he resigned his seat in the Assembly, and returned to England, where, after grievous delays, he succeeded in getting his pension restored. He never returned to Canada, and survived the restoration of his pension but a short time. Thus, through the malignity of a selfish and secret cabal, was Upper Canada deprived of the services of a zealous and useful citizen and legislator, whose residence among us, had it been continued, could not have failed to advance the cause of freedom and justice.


[86] That spies were employed by Sir Peregrine Maitland and his Council, and that certain Government officials were encouraged to act in that capacity, are facts which will be denied by no one who familiarizes himself with the local legislative, official and newspaper literature of the time. An apparently well-informed contributor to Blackwood's Magazine for September, 1829, in an article headed "Colonial Discontent," comments on this retrograde system in the following terms:—"A system of espionage assumes that there is something which ought to be watched and to be prevented; and as the existence of such a system probably did exist in Upper Canada during the administration of Sir Peregrine Maitland, it may be said that so far his Government was led to act on false principles.... We do not suppose that there was anything like an organized system, but only that tales to the personal disadvantage of the Anti-Ministerial party were too readily listened to. No doubt the members of that party were as credulous in listening to tales to the prejudice of the adherents of Government, but then they had it not in their power, like them, to inflict punishment. It is unnecessary to explain in what manner a system of espionage begets heart-burnings. It is to the public what tattle and malicious gossip are to private society, with this essential difference, however, that the tale of the slanderer is in time forgotten or refuted, whereas the report of the spy is received in secret, placed in the confidential archives of office, and referred to as a testimonial of character, in which such set of testimonials can be applied with effect when the occasion arises."

[87] Mr. Mackenzie, in his Sketches of Canada and the United States, p. 419, denies that Captain Matthews called for these airs, as stated in the text. But anyone who carefully examines into the Provincial events of those times will not be long in arriving at the conclusion that Mr. Mackenzie's unsupported testimony, more especially as to matters in any way coming within the scope of politics, is of very little value. The evidence as to the Captain's having called for "Yankee Doodle" is conclusive. That his doing so constituted a serious offence is another matter, as to which there will, at the present day, be very little difference of opinion.

[88] Sketches of Canada, etc., p. 419.

[89] See Journal of Assembly for 1826-7, Appendix P. See also Journal for 1828, p. 122.



The case of William Forsyth—commonly known in the chronicles of the time as the Niagara Falls outrage—differed materially from that of Captain Matthews, not only in kind, but in degree. In the latter case there was no gross violation of the decencies of life, or of the outward forms of law. The mischief was effected by means of spies and secret information, and the damage inflicted was incidental rather than direct. The Forsyth case, on the contrary, was more in the manner of the type riot. It was a violent and utterly unjustifiable exercise of brute force. But in one important respect it was worse than the type riot. That display of ruffianism had been accomplished without the open approbation of the authorities. The Niagara Falls outrage was committed not only with the full assent, but by the express command, of the Lieutenant-Governor himself. Not even the poor excuse that it was done in a moment of anger or irritation could be made for it. It was done deliberately, in cold blood, and was as deliberately repeated. It was a simple case of Might versus Right.

A few words of explanation are necessary by way of prologue.

In the year 1786, before the setting apart of Upper Canada as a separate Province, and just after the commencement of the settlement of the Niagara Peninsula by Butler's Rangers, the territory contiguous to the west bank of the Niagara River was surveyed and laid out into lots by Augustus Jones, a surveyor whose name is familiar to all students of the early history of this Province. In pursuance of instructions received from the Government, Mr. Jones, in laying out these lots, made a reservation of a chain in width—sixty-six feet—along the top of the bank.

The reservation was made partly with a view to the military defence of the Province, and partly for the purpose of preserving a convenient communication.[90] It was expressly specified in the Crown Patents to the owners of adjoining lands, and embodied in all subsequent deeds upon successive transfers. It may therefore be conceded that the Crown's title to the reserved land was indisputable.

In the year 1827, and for some time previously, the principal inn on the Canadian side of the river at Niagara Falls was owned and kept by one William Forsyth. The man and his establishment were well known to travellers, and "Forsyth's" had a high reputation as one of the most comfortable houses of public entertainment in the country. During the heat of summer, many residents of York paid more or less frequent visits to the Falls, not more to enjoy the change of air and the majestic scenery, than to partake of "mine host" Forsyth's hospitality. The inn was in close proximity to the great cataract, and was known as the Niagara Falls Pavilion. It was built on ground that bordered upon and ran up to the Government's reservation, which alone intervened between it and the top of the bank.

[Sidenote: 1827.]

Mr. Forsyth drove a flourishing business, but, like some of his successors at the same spot, his greed grew with his increasing gains, and he was not content to grow rich by degrees. He determined to augment his income by the erection of a high post and rail fence, placed so as to shut out visitors from approaching near to the Falls, and rendering it necessary for them to pass through his house before the desired view could be obtained. It should be mentioned that Mr. Forsyth, in addition to the Pavilion and its immediate grounds, owned the adjoining lands for a considerable distance, including all the points from which the great spectacle was to be seen to advantage. By the erection of the fence, therefore, visitors would be debarred and shut off from all that was best worth seeing in the neighbourhood, until they had passed through his inn; and it was of course anticipated that most of those so passing through would spend more or less money on the premises. There was, however, one rather serious objection to the contemplated change. It would involve the enclosure of the Government reservation, a proceeding which was not likely to be permanently tolerated. Forsyth was probably ill advised by his attorney in the matter, for he seems to have been really of opinion that the Government's title to the land was at least open to question, and he had been permitted to occupy a portion of it without remonstrance for about six years. Sometime during the early spring of the above-mentioned year—in time to catch the expected influx of summer visitors—he carried out his design, and constructed the enclosure. His house was thus converted into a thoroughfare, which necessarily gave rise to a greatly increased number of visitors, and to much additional expenditure within its walls. But the public serenity soon began to show signs of disturbance. There was a rival innkeeper named Browne, who was not long in discovering that his own losses were in proportion to Forsyth's gains. He bestirred himself in the matter, and soon succeeded in arousing a good deal of indignation in the minds of visitors. No one was allowed to either enter or pass by his door without being importuned to sign a petition to the Government, praying for a removal of the objectionable fence. Other persons residing in the neighbourhood took umbrage at the innovation, and also made appeals to the Government on the subject. In this way several numerously-signed petitions were obtained and forwarded to headquarters.

Such proceedings as these were in themselves reasonable and proper enough. Forsyth had acted in a selfish and unwarrantable manner, and it would have been nothing more than he had a right to expect if the Government had instituted immediate action against him. It would have been an injustice to the public if he had been permitted to enjoy his monopoly undisturbed. But neither the trespasser himself nor any of those who protested against his conduct was prepared for such high-handed measures as were actually resorted to; measures which effectually proved the unfitness of Sir Peregrine Maitland for his high office; which led to his being cordially hated throughout the length and breadth of Upper Canada; and which doubtless had something to do with his removal to another sphere of action.

One day about the middle of May, when the enclosure had been erected about six weeks, and when the season's regular flow of tourists had fairly set in, the landlord of the Pavilion received a call from Captain George Phillpotts, of the Royal Engineers, who then held command in the District. The latter demanded why Forsyth had presumed to fence-in the Government reserve. Forsyth replied, denying that the reserve belonged to the Government, and asserting his own title thereto, whereupon he was informed that unless the enclosure was removed without delay, he, Captain Phillpotts, would himself undertake its removal. Forsyth professed to feel strong in his rights, and threatened to prosecute the Captain or any one else who might interfere with his property. Here the interview ended. Several days afterwards—on the 18th—the landlord was summoned to his door by a message that a gentleman there wished to see him. The gentleman proved to be Captain Phillpotts, who was accompanied by a sergeant and four other soldiers in fatigue jackets, without arms. Major Richard Leonard, Sheriff of the Niagara District, and Augustus Jones, who had made the original survey of the property forty-one years before, were also in attendance. The Sheriff, who had merely accompanied the party at the Captain's request, took no part in the subsequent proceedings, but contented himself with quietly looking on. Mr. Jones had been brought for a specific purpose, and, at the request of Captain Phillpotts, he then and there made a hasty re-survey of the reserve, the limits of which he indicated by pickets. Upon the completion of this task, the Captain demanded that Forsyth should immediately remove the enclosing fence, and upon his refusal to do so, the soldiers, under orders from their Captain, deliberately cut and threw down the fence, exposing the gardens, meadows and about sixty acres of growing crops to waste. A blacksmith's shop which had been erected on the reserve was demolished, and the building material thrown over the bank. The Captain avowed that he was acting under express orders from the Lieutenant-Governor, which proved to be the fact.

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