Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

all others had been objected to in the challenge. The crime was scarcely denied, and was proved by the clearest evidence to every one but those with whom it lay to decide; they gave the verdict, not guilty, and were in consequence entertained at public dinners and applauded for their patriotism, by the disaffected party. The common trial by jury was thus found to be quite unsuited to the emergency, and the disposal of the prisoners became a source of great embarrassment to the government.

On the arrival of the high-minded, but injudicious Earl of Durham (who had been sent out as plenipotentiary at the time of these difficulties), the question was solved by a general jail delivery, with some very few exceptions of those whose crimes were pre-eminently heinous. A proclamation was also issued,

. allowing those who had fled out of the country to return unmolested to their homes.

Lord Durham's mission produced a statement of the condition of the country, and the sources of its difficulties. The spirit of the document is as follows:-" The root of the evil in Lower Canada is in the difference of races, arraying the people in enduring and bitter hostility against each other. The distinction in language, education, and religion, is not softened down by social intercourse, they seldom meet in society, each have their own banks and hotels. They inherit in an exaggerated degree the peculiarities of their origin, and the English take but little pains to conceal their contempt and intolerance for the customs and manners of their neighbors. Every political difference may be traced to the same source the contest of the races.

“A peculiarity in the formation of French Canadian society, is also a fruitful cause of mischief; from the means afforded by public foundations for attaining the higher branches of education, the professions are greatly overstocked. Two or three hundred young men, nearly all of humble birth, are annually turned out from the public schools; averse to sinking back to the lowly occupations of their parents, a few become priests, the remainder lawyers and surgeons. With these every village swarms. Thus the best-educated people are generally connected by ties of blood, and intimacy, with the most ignorant inhabitants. In social intercourse the abler mind gains an influence over the mass, and thus the demagogue here becomes more powerful than in any other country

“ The general inclination to jobbing, results in a perfect scramble in the House of Assembly for each to get as much as he can for his constituents and himself; this is carried to such an extent, that a great proportion of the schoolmasters appointed could neither read nor write. The judicial system appears to have been feeble and imperfect : except in the large towns, there was no public officer to whom any order could be directed.”'

In the middle of October the state of Canada again became gloomy; numbers of the French population bound themselves, by secret oaths and signs, into a dangerous organization ; the terrified loyalists crowded into the towns, or fled the country; the thirst of blood and rapine was awakened on the American frontier, and the militia of English origin, dissatisfied with the par. don of the rebels who had inflicted such injuries on them, and been arrested by their prowess, showed much disinclination again to come forward in so unpromising a cause.

A portion of the French inhabitants were again in arms on the 3d of November; their plan being to rise in Montreal, and destroy the troops while they were at church unarmed. By this time the government had devolved upon the gallant Sir John Colborne, whose wise precautions and admirable arrangements defeated their intentions.

At Beauharnois the rebels attacked the house of Mr. Ellice, lately secretary to the governor, and carried him off*; treating the ladies, however, with consideration and courtesy. On the same day a body of armed men concealed themselves near the Indian village of Caughrrawaga ; this news arrived while the warriors of the tribe were at church : they sallied out with the arms they could collect at the moment, and fell upon the rebels. These, surprised, scarcely resisted, and were tied with their own sashes and garters by the victors, who carried them in boats to Montreal jail. The Indian chief told the general, that, if necessary, he would bring him the scalp of every inhabitant in the neighborhood in twenty-four hours.

These Indians are the remnant of the once powerful and ferocious tribes of the Six Nations; they are now domesticated, and

cultivate the land. The chiefs are humane men, and enforce strict order; none of their prisoners were injured.

About four thousand insurgents collected at Napierville, under the command of Doctor Robert Nelson and two others, who had all been included in the late amnesty. Some troops were marched on this point, but they found that the greater number of the insurgents had disappeared, and were beyond pursuit. Some of them had been detached to open a communication with the United States; these were met by a party of loyal volunteers, who bravely defeated them, drove them across the frontier, took several prisoners, a field piece, and three hundred stand of arms. The victors then threw themselves into the church at Odell Town, awaited the approach of Dr. Nelson and the rebels who had fled from Napierville, and repulsed them with the loss of more than a hundred men.

Mr. Ellice, and several other loyalist prisoners, were carried by the rebels to Chateaugay, and well treated ; finally they were released, and the road pointed out to them by which to reach La Prairie. In this rising there was but little violence, or no cruel. ty, in the conduct of the Canadians. Dr. Robert Nelson's address to the people declared for independence, a republican government, the confiscation of the crown and church lands, and the possessions of the Canada Company, the abolition of seignorial rights, and of imprisonment for debt.

In Upper Canada, five hundred American sympathizers landed at Prescott, on the St. Lawrence, with several pieces of cannon, on the evening of the 12th. Soon after, a party of English troops and militia attacked them, driving them into two strong houses and a stone windmill, where they defended themselves with great tenacity. They finally surrendered, however, and were carried prisoners to Kingston, to be tried by court-martial.

Another body landed near Sandwich, in the western part of Upper Canada : they burned the Thanus steamboat, the barracks, and the militia-men within ; shot some inoffensive people, and murdered Dr. Hume, a military surgeon. He had mistaken them for some of the provincial militia, and fallen into their hands unarmed; his body was thrown aside, hacked and mangled by axes and knives. Colonel Prince, on hearing of these atrocities, slew many

assembled a few militia-men, when the dastard assassins fled with but little resistance; their exasperated pursuers overtook, and

of them. A public meeting was held at New York, for the purpose of promoting the invasion of Canada; Dr. Wolfred Nelson and many other refugees attending it. At the same time the inhabitants of Oswego, an American town nearly opposite to Prescott, assembled ; and, through the commanding officer of the United States' army in that district, begged that consideration might be shown for the misguided men who, under false representations, had been beguiled into the invasion of a friendly country.

Six of the Prescott brigands, and three of the assassins of Dr. Hume, were executed. The leader of the former was the first tried, and hanged ; his name was Von Schoultz, a Pole by birth, and merely a military adventurer. He had fought with skill and courage, and died bravely and without complaint, except of the false representations which had caused his ruin, by inducing him to join the godless cause. Doing all that lay in his power to repair his error, he left his little property, about eight. hundred pounds, half to the Roman Catholic College at Kingston, and the remainder to the widows and orphans of the English soldiers and militia who had fallen in the combat where he was taken.

Several people were also executed in consequence of the attack on Toronto. The most remarkable of these was a man named Lount, a native of the United States, but settled in Canada ; he had been a blacksmith, and had acquired considerable property, and influence among his neighbors. He became a member of the Provincial Parliament, where he formed intimacies with the most dangerous of the political agitators, and his more ardent nature soon led him to outstrip them all in the violence of sedition.

His trial excited very great interest : doubt there was none, and the solemn sentence was pronounced. His daughter, a girl of no common attractions, had forced her way through the crowd, close to the judges' bench. With fixed eyes, and bloodless cheeks, she heard the fatal words which blighted earthly hope ; for a time they were but an empty voice, no meaning reached her stunned senses. Slowly, and with an increasing distinctness, the

[ocr errors]

terrible reality stamped itself upon her soul. She was carried to her home, thence to her long home.

Her father prayed earnestly, and acknowledged the justice of his punishment, when on the scaffold. In the last moment, he wondered that his child had not come to bid him farewell; when he complained, he did not know that they were to meet so soon.

Very great leniency was shown by the English Government; fifty or sixty persons were transported; but nearly all the political offenders have since been pardoned. Occasionally there were

. instances of great apparent harshness. Where such numbers were implicated, over such an extent of country, at a great dis- • tance from the fountain head, with several changes of Governors, such cases could not be altogether avoided ; unfortunately, those really most guilty were not always the men made to expiate their offences.

The loyal Canadians, who had suffered much during the insurrection, were discontented and indignant at this tendency to clemency; particularly with regard to the sympathizers, whom they looked on as assassins and robbers.

Thus ended the Canadian rebellion; the handywork of a few political knaves and desperate adventurers, acting on the passions and ignorance of a portion of a virtuous and peaceful people. Whatever

may have been their wrongs, real or imaginary, such an attempt at redress was but a murderous folly. Without arms, money, or combination-with leaders only conspicuous by cowardice and incapacity-with only sufficient spirit to prosecute their first success by an atrocious assassination-unsupported, discountenanced by the mass of the intelligent and wealthy even of their own race-opposed by the more warlike and energetic inhabitants of the Upper Province—they threw themselves madly into the field against the greatest of earthly powers; their only allies, the robber refuse of a neighboring population.

As a political movement, it was an egregious error; as a military effort, it was below contempt : not that one would wish for a moment to depreciate the merits of the brave and judicious leaders, and the gallant troops, through whose instrumentality it was suppressed; nor to speak with less pride and pleasure of those loyal men, who, from the chief justice of a province to the

a

a

« ZurückWeiter »