Kingston, Ontario – A Political Crisis

Kingston, as has been shown, notwithstanding her exposed position on the frontier, came out of the war of 1812 absolutely unscathed. But a more dread and subtle peril was approaching, against which neither navy nor batteries could avail. This was the severe visitation of Asiatic cholera, which, in 1832, and again in 1834, ravaged Canada as well as Europe. In Kingston it made many victims, and left many bereaved families. In 1834, out of a population of 5,000, there were 300 deaths from this cause alone. The Rev. John Machar, already mentioned as having recently arrived, wrote at the time that he had remained at the graveyard for nearly the whole of one day, to receive the funerals as they arrived, three bodies being at one time laid in their last resting-place. “Many homes were desolate,” he says, “and happy and prosperous families were broken up.” Among those thus struck down with appalling suddenness was a young and promising lawyer named George Mackenzie—in whose office was a student named John A. Macdonald—and whose genial character and brilliant talents made him much esteemed and his death deeply regretted in Kingston. To add to the general gloom of the situation, emigration from Britain having greatly increased, there had arrived, during that summer, large numbers of immigrants, among whom both cholera and “ship fever” prevailed to such an extent that many orphaned families were left to the charitable care of the citizens.

“Emigrant sheds” had been hastily provided to meet the increasing need; but, on account of the ravages of disease, the humble building called the “Line Barracks” was turned into a temporary hospital, and doctors and clergymen bravely strove to relieve the stricken sufferers and mitigate the general distress. Among others, Dr. Campbell—father of Sir Alexander Campbell who became a Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario—so greatly overtaxed his strength that he died not long after the epidemic had at last been conquered.

But troubles still graver were gathering in the political horizon. There had been growing up, through a succession of years, a series of abuses of power and privilege which caused an ever-increasing discontent, destined to become more acute, until the smouldering sparks broke out into the flame of insurrection in 1837, the year of the accession of our late beloved Queen Victoria. Kingston naturally shared, in common with the rest of the country, many of the evil effects of these unhappy dissensions, including much perturbation on account of threatened attacks, and though she was, on the whole, fortunate in the unity and moderation of her citizens. noted champions on both sides of the conflict were, in early days, counted among her residents. It is not necessary, here, to go into these “old unhappy things” at much length, as full particulars can he found in any Canadian History, and in much detail in Mr. J. C. Dent’s “Story of the Up-

per Canadian Rebellion.” which should be read by every Canadian who desires to make himself acquainted with the long Constitutional struggle through which was gradually wrought out the political freedom we now enjoy—often with little appreciation of the cost at which it was secured.

As we have already seen, Upper Canada, being at first thinly settled, and to a large extent by disbanded soldiers, was for the first few years governed by a mixture of martial and civil law, under the Viceroy at Quebec, and justice was administered by Captains of Districts, there being no other legal machinery then possible. A few years later Justices of the Peace and of the Court of Common Pleas were appointed. When Upper Canada was constituted a separate Province, and divided, as we have seen, into electoral districts, from which representatives were to be sent to a House of Assembly, a few of the leading men were, as has been said, appointed members of a Legislative Council, while the Executive Council consisted of the Governor and five official advisers, appointed by him as representing the crown. Neither were in any way responsible to the people, and the Government was practically that of a Crown colony—the House of Assembly being powerless to carry out its own decisions. This anomaly did not greatly matter under the rule of a vigorous, self-reliant administrator like Governor Simcoe, or until certain grievances were felt to press heavily on the people ; these grievances being, in brief, mainly connected with the granting and tenure of land, the provisions of the “Clergy Reserves,” and the injurious influence of the “Family Compact.”

As to the first, the generous policy of General Simcoe, in opening up the Province to worthy settlers, became the source of much abuse, as carried out in practice. Many even of the Loyalists and half-pay officers, being unfit to clear and cultivate their lands, readily sold them for a mere trifle, and land-jobbing was extensively carried on. Much land was also acquired in less creditable ways, by persons who, in so doing, abused their official trust. The appropriations of a certain Hon. Peter Russell, who was for a time President of the Executive Council in the absence of a Governor, were proverbial, it being his custom—as tradition has it—to make grants to himself, beginning, “I Peter Russell, grant to you, Peter Russell, etc., etc.” In an early report of the Midland District, the Hon. Thomas Markland, of Kingston, thus refers to this abuse :

” The same cause which has surrounded Little York with a desert, created gloom and desolation about Kingston, otherwise most beautifully situated—I mean the seizure and monopoly of the land by people in office and favour. On the east side, particularly, you may travel miles without passing a human dwelling ; the roads are accordingly abominable to the gates of this, the largest town in the Province, and its market is often supplied with vegetables from the United States, where property is less hampered and the exertions of cultivators more free accordingly.”

Still more strongly wrote the Hon. Richard Cartwright, in 1793, in reference to both the ecclesiastical and the land question, and from the tone of his remarks it is not difficult to understand why he repeatedly declined appointment to the Executive Council :

“For my part, I begin to be disgusted with politics. On the division of the Province, as we had no previous establishments in our way, I fondly imagined that we were to sit down cordially together to form regulations solely for the public good ; but a little experience convinced me that these were the visions of a novice, and I found our Executive Government disposed to calculate their measures as much with a view to patronage and private endowment as the prosperity of the colony. In this I doubt not they will be sufficiently successful, from the interested complaisance of some of our legislators and the ignorance of more. But such policy is as short-sighted as it is illiberal ; and, however little it may be noticed at present, if persisted in and pushed very far, will unquestionably be sowing the seeds of civil discord, and perhaps laying the foundations of future revolutions.” The verification of this prediction will be seen, only too clearly, in the following pages, though Mr. Cartwright, who died in 1815, did not witness its full development.

In connection with this question of abuses in the Crown Lands Department arose the second grievance, that of the provision known as the “Clergy Reserves,” which had been planned by the King himself, in order to secure for the pioneer settlers the privilege of a regular ministry. But, as has been shown, the variety of religious denominations in the Province had not been taken into account, and the original disposition of the Reserves for the exclusive use of the Anglicans in Canada, constituting at that time a small proportion of the people, inevitably led to a long course of dissensions and heartburnings among those who should have laboured as brethren in unity for the common weal. A share of the provision was early claimed, and, after strong representations, secured, for the benefit of members of the Church of Scotland, as one of the two Established Churches of the realm; but this did not remove the dissatisfaction which prevailed among people of other religious bodies, whose ministry was excluded from all share in a provision expressly made for the use of “a Protestant clergy.” The manner, also, in which the huge tracts of Reserve land were interposed between the lands occupied by settlers—impeding transportation and communication, as well as necessary co-operation in labour—proved a serious hindrance to the material and moral progress of the country. This grievance, as most of us know, remained for many years a bone of contention in the body politic, and eventually even those most opposed on principle to the idea of “secularising” what had been consecrated to a religious purpose, were obliged to admit that Sir John Macdonald did a great service to the country in permanently settling a vexed question by securing the application of the property to the education of the people, after duly protecting the just rights of all actual incumbents.

But the most oppressive grievance under which the Province suffered was unquestionably the regime known as that of the “Family Compact.” Neither the name nor the thing originated in Upper Canada, for the designation was originally connected with the treaty contracted between the two branches of the House of Bourbon, known as the “Family Compact Treaty,” while the thing signified by it has at one time or other been a cause of complaint in nearly all colonies. The name, in British North America, denoted a “combination which enjoyed a monopoly of power and place,” making “common cause against any and all persons who might attempt to diminish or destroy their influence.” The early settlers were, of course, of very different social grades, not a few bringing high culture and social position to the primitive life of the pioneer. Some of these half-pay officers and English gentlemen were content with the modest competence that came by honest labour, and, like the Kingston citizens already described, were ready to seek the good of their less favoured fellows.

But unhappily, as in every period, too many thought only of pushing their own interests, and were not too scrupulous as to the manner in which this was accomplished. And favouritism had early found its way into the colonial management ; for we are told on good authority, that “the provisions, clothing and farming utensils, granted by the British Government for the benefit of the poor Loyalists, were in many cases handed over to favourites, in others allowed to become useless from negligence in the public stores.” Land-grabbing and land-jobbing were similarly exercised, often on a most extensive scale, and the wealth thus gained helped to strengthen the position of the clique that gained it. “Choice bits of land were granted to members of this strong ‘family,’ compacted together to help one another, and the land was left uncultivated, unimproved, until the energies of the pioneers had made it more valuable.”

We may here quote, as the most concise and comprehensive description of the course of the “Family Compact”— that given by Lord Durham’s celebrated Report, drawn up when, in 1830, he was sent to Canada as Governor-General and Lord High Commissioner, to investigate all matters of dispute and pacify the distracted Province. In the Report submitted by him to the British Parliament on the affairs of Canada, pronounced one of the most masterly state papers of the age, he says :

“For a long time this body of men, receiving at times accessions to its members, possessed almost all the highest public offices, by means of which, and of its influence in the Executive Council, it wielded all the power of Government. It maintained its influence in the Legislature by means of its predominance in the Legislative Council, and it disposed of the large number of petty posts which are in the patronage of the Government all over the Province. Successive Governors, as they came in their turn, are said to have submitted quietly to its influence, or, after a short and unavailing struggle, to have yielded to this well-organised party the conduct of affairs. The bench, the magistracy, the high offices of the Episcopal Church, and a great part of the legal profession, are filled by the adherents of this party. By grant or purchase they have acquired nearly the whole of the waste lands of the Province ; they are all powerful in the chartered banks, and, till lately, shared among themselves, almost exclusively, all offices of trust and profit.”

The possession of such unlimited powers by a self-constituted aristocracy might not have pressed severely as a grievance, had it been generally exercised for the good of the community whose rights were thus usurped. But this has not been the practice of oligarchies in general since history began, and the same grasping spirit which had secured the dominating power soon made that press as an incubus on the growing Province. Determined to maintain their ascendancy, the party sought relentlessly to crush every opponent, and silence every voice raised against prevalent abuses. Two cases of this kind—one of them slightly connected with Kingston—may be noticed by way of illustration.

The first was that of an able and upright Judge of the Court of King’s Bench, appointed in England in 1806, who came to his new sphere determined to do his duty in enforcing equal justice. In the course of his Judicial Circuit abuses and grievances were laid before him by Grand Juries, and for presuming to call the attention of the authorities at York to these, with a somewhat impolitic freedom of speech, he was soon marked out by the Councillors of Governor Gore as “a dangerous and revolutionary personage.” When, in order to carry out his aims more effectually, he became a representative to the House of Assembly (for which Judges were not then disqualified by their position), it was determined at headquarters to bring about his recall, which, through the subservient representations of Governor Gore at St. James’, it was not difficult to do. A promising care& was thus summarily checked, and a valuable official lost to the Province.

Still more flagrant was the persecution, by the oligarchy, of a Scottish gentleman named Robert Gourlay—highminded, patriotic and enthusiastic, though lacking in caution and judgment, and somewhat erratic as a reformer and philanthropist. A connection of the Hon. Robert Hamilton, he came to Canada in 1817, hoping to promote a large scheme of immigration from his native land; but, having settled in the County of Oxford, he soon discovered the existence of great hindrances to the progress of the country. He at once began to institute extensive enquiries into their causes. addressing thirty-one queries to the principal inhabitants of each township, a procedure which, of course, provoked the enmity of all interested in the continuance of the said causes. A vote of enquiry into the condition of affairs, carried in the Assembly, was made abortive by an abrupt prorogation, and Gourlay, with the courage of his convictions, suggested a convention of deputies to meet at Toronto and draft a petition to the Imperial Parliament for an investigation into the affairs of Upper Canada. It was, of course, judged necessary to silence him. The convention met, but its resolutions were opposed by the Government, and Gourlay, under a charge of libelling the Government in the published draft of a petition to the Crown, was arrested at Kingston, and, after some days’ confinement in gaol, was tried there in August, 1818, on prosecution of Mr. Attorney-General Robinson. But notwithstanding all the force of that gentleman’s eloquence, Mr. Gourlay, conducting his own defence, so fully exposed the baselessness of the indictment, that he was acquitted, to the great satisfaction of the community, whose feeling ran high in his favour. A second arrest, with similar result, followed at Brockville, the alleged “libel” in that case consisting, we are told, of a faithful picture of the abuses existing in the Crown Lands Department, contained in a draft of a petition to the Prince Regent, approved, printed and published by sixteen residents of Niagara District, six of whom were magistrates.

A third attempt to remove so troublesome a champion was more successful. Under an early “Alien Act,” repealed two years afterwards, permitting the summary banishment of an “alien” suspected of seditious practices, Mr. Gourlay, a most loyal British subject and a resident for some eighteen months in the Province, was again arrested at Niagara, and on testimony of a worthless tool, was, by his two strongly interested judges, ordered to leave the Province within three clays. This order Mr. Gourlay declined to obey ; because, as he afterwards wrote, it would have meant ruin to the business on which he had embarked, and “because it would have been a tacit acknowledgment of guilt whereof I was unconscious, a surrender of the noblest British rights and a holding light my natural allegiance.”

On the expiry of the three days he was again arrested, refused bail, and in defiance of his plainest rights as a British subject, was kept closely confined in Niagara Gaol for the following six months—a treatment which so broke down his high spirit and fine physique, that, when the time of trial arrived, his faculties had become so impaired as to render him unable to defend his own cause, or even to present the written defence and protest which he had previously prepared. In such circumstances, conviction was a foregone conclusion, and he was forthwith banished from Canada and forced to take refuge in the United States. There his true loyalty and patriotism were proved during the troublous times that followed the short-lived “Rebellion,” when he hastened to send the Government timely warning of a filibustering movement then being organised against Canada in Cleveland, where he was residing. At that time he was invited by the Governor to return, but refused to do so until his sentence of banishment should be formally reversed, which was ultimately done. The writer well remembers seeing him, in her childhood, in the Manse at Kingston, on his visits to his connections in that city ;—a venerable and even heroic figure, in his premature old age, and able to refer, without bitterness, to his chequered career and the wrongs he had suffered.

These two eases illustrate the manner in which justine was meted out in Canaan at that period by a class which seemed determined “That they should take who have the power, And they should keep who can !”

But the spirit of reform was in the air, and could not be permanently stifled, even though those who expressed it, whether judges, parliamentary representatives, or newspaper editors, did so at their peril, and frequently suffered in personal or financial interests. The large and intelligent class of Canadian yeomen that now peopled the country to the west of York were becoming more and more impatient of a regime under which the redress of abuses seemed an impossibility. For two successive Parliaments the Reform element largely predominated in the Legislature, and passed many useful measures, which were promptly vetoed by the combination of the Legislative Council and the Executive. Personal embassies to Britain were tried, and failed, being always checkmated by the Governor’s secret despatches. The Executive, though not responsible to the Canadian Parliament, was supposed to be so to that of Great Britain ; but this could amount to little when Downing Street, three thousand miles away, saw through the spectacles of its official representative alone. And that representative, unfortunately, did not rise to the needs of the time. The weak and nerveless administration of Sir Peregrine Maitland, the short, sharp, soldierly methods of Sir John Colborne, and, above all, the foolish and disastrous regime of Sir Francis Head, combined with the restless and persistent agitation of the then leader of Reform, William Lyon Mackenzie, to fan the long suppressed discontent into a violent explosion. Indeed, it seemed that, had a perverse fate devised means to bring about a catastrophe, it could not have provided more likely material than the juxtaposition, at such a crisis, of two such characters as these last-named. By no means dissimilar in surface faults and weaknesses, they were utterly opposed in tradition, purpose and aim ; and in viewing the history of the time in the perspective of distance, it seems that a sharp collision was an inevitable conclusion. Mackenzie was, as is now pretty generally recognised, a man of patriotic ideals and impulses, but, goaded by injustice, wounded vanity and the pressure of untoward fate, he gradually degenerated into a reckless and bitter agitator, exhibiting eventually, in manifest mental aberration, the lack of mental balance which had wrecked his best projects. He has been aptly styled a “bundle of contradictions,” and certainly few men have experienced such startling reverses of fortune. At one time an obscure printer suffering a lawless raid upon his printing office on account of strong opinions expressed in too “strong language,” he is, a few years later, returned as a representative to Parliament, and appointed authorised printer of the Debates ; one day forcibly expelled from the House by the opposite party, we find him shortly after elected the first Mayor of Toronto and the first Mayor in Upper Canada as well. He did not add to his credit by his official record, and during his Mayoralty he had the indiscretion to publish a private letter from Joseph Hume, the revolutionary tone of which brought out prompt disclaimers of such opinions from Reform leaders and Reform journals. notably the Kingston Whig. Three years later we find him a hunted and outlawed refugee, the discredited leader of an abortive insurrection ; and again, before fifteen years had passed, returned to the Parliament of United Canada, as member for Haldimand, after defeating a no less influential candidate than the late Hon. George Brown! Fortune’s wheel, in his case, made rapid revolutions; but the reverses were too much for him, and he died a broken and disappointed man, with a mind clouded by mental disorder,—a not surprising result of so stormy a carecr.

It is not necessary here to enter into details of the ill-starred and ill-organised “rising” into which his persistent agitation had drawn numbers of good citizens, respectable yeomen, and even some reputable leaders of reform, who had been persuaded by him that the obstructive regime might be easily and bloodlessly terminated by a bold and sudden stroke. The moment appeared propitious. Toronto had been left defenceless by the despatch of its garrison to assist in quelling a formidable insurrection then convulsing Lower Canada ; and Sir Francis Head, who, according to Lord Durham’s Report, had acted throughout as if British connection in Canada depended on his having his own views supported by a majority of the Legislature, now obstinately refused to believe in the danger of which he was warned, or to take any measures to provide against it. It was due to the untiring exertions of Colonel FitzGibbon, in the first place, as well as to the failure of the “rebels” to strike at the opportune moment, that the Capital was not, in December, 1837, quietly seized by a few hundred “embattled farmers,” fired with something of the same spirit as the men of Massachusetts of the previous century. But these, for the most part, were of differcnt fibre, lacking organisation, adequate arms, and competent leadership. while the rash impetuosity of Mackenzie was enough to wreck the best concerted enterprise. It doubtless seemed to the insurgents a perverse fate which prevented their success in a movement which they deemed for the best interests of the country; but the most ardent reformer may well rest satisfied that the result was ordered by the “divinity that shapes our ends,” and Canada was thus providentially saved from what might have become a sanguinary civil war. As it was, the skirmish at “Montgomery’s,” the rebel rendezvous near Toronto, between a thousand militia men, hastily collected, and about a third of that number of poorly-armed farmers, naturally ended in the defeat of the latter, happily with the loss of only one life, that of Louis Wideman, a farmer, who died bravely, though “a martyr by mistake” in what he believed a patriotic cause. There were a few wounded on both sides, and two valuable lives had been previously sacrificed in a casual brush, those of the gallant Colonel Moodie, and one, “Captain” Anderson, the only competent leader on the side of the malcontents, whose death was one of the principal causes of their defeat. The rising speedily collapsed, as did its echo farther west, and the leaders of the movement were soon either refugees in the neighbouring republic or lodged in Canadian gaols, which were soon filled to overflowing with open rebels or “suspects.” For, as often happens at a time of general excitement, judgment was meted out to innocent as well as guilty, on very slender grounds. Mackenzie, the Frankenstein of the movement, escaped across the frontier, notwithstanding the reward of a thousand pounds offered for his capture ; but two brave men—Lount and Mathews —patriots in intention. though technically “rebels.” suffered, as his scape-goats, the extreme penalty of the law. Mackenzie, goaded to madness by defeat, did not find it difficult to awaken, along the Niagara frontier, the smouldering embers of hostility left by the War of 1812, and a rabble horde of “sympathisers” long kept the border in a state of turmoil by their lawless raids. The notorious operations on Navy Island, together with the burning of the American steamer Caroline, at an American port, by a party of Canadian militia and Indians, very nearly threw Great Britain into another war with the United States. But this time wiser counsels prevailed, and the republican authorities soon interposed a strong hand to check the lawless demonstrations from American territory.

Kingston, however, in the interval, suffered no little perturbation in consequence of an alarming report that Mackenzie was on his way across the frozen lake, at the head of a large body of American “filibusters,” to take the town ! Many of the citizens mustered at the barracks, as some of them had done twenty-five years before, in readiness to bear arms in its defence, wearing handkerchiefs tied on one arm to distinguish friend from foe in the darkness. Silver plate and other valuables were sent to the fort for safe keeping, and throughout one cold winter night the people listened in anxious suspense for the firing of a signal gun from the fort. and the tolling of the town bell, as a signal of the expected approach of the enemy, and a summons to send their families to take refuge in the fort. Happily neither gun nor bell broke the frosty stillness. and the dreaded attack was never made. It had, indeed, been planned, but appears to have been given up by Mackenzie. because the chief command was given to his enemy. Van Rensselaer. Somewhat later this filibustering leader assembled large body of his men at French Creek, with the full intention of making an attack on Kingston. He took a round-about route, having his men conveyed to Hickory Island, within Canadian territory, about four miles below Ganonoque, taking, as his counsellor and guide, the notorious Canadian filibuster, “Bill Johnston.” This movement soon became known by the Canadian authorities, and a large body of militia from the Midland and Johnstown Districts speedily assembled at Kingston ; but before they could advance to attack the invaders, the latter had hurriedly dispersed, Van Rensselaer’s name and influence being. thereafter, at a discount. “Bill Johnston,” however, was by no means crushed, but, in the following May, carried out a most unprovoked outrage in the plundering and burning of the steamer Sir Robert Peel at Wells’ Island, eight miles below Gananoque, robbing the passengers and setting fire to the steamer, and shortly after made a raid on Amherst Island. The pirate took refuge in his hiding-place amid the mazes of the “Thousand Islands,” evaded the search of four bodies of Marines from Kingston, and, assisted by his fearless daughter, lived an outlaw’s life, until he eventually settled down peacefully in the United States.

The river passage was, during the remainder of the season, vigilantly policed by both Canadian and American authorities ; yet, notwithstanding this, there occurred in November the desperate attack on the historic windmill below Prescott, which still stands as the monument of one of the most sharply and gallantly contested actions in Canadian history. The insurgents, when the fortunes of the day were plainly against them, were, according to the statement of the leader, Von Schultz, left to their fate by the American authorities, and were, on the arrival of steamers from Kingston with heavier guns, compelled to make an unconditional surrender. A hundred and sixty prisoners were marched to Kingston, a few having escaped to the woods. Colonel Von Schultz, the captured leader of the futile attack, was a Polish exile, of liberal education, high aims, and abilities worthy of a better cause, and had been deluded into thinking that he was fighting in the sacred name of liberty. Along with a number of the other prisoners, he was tried for his life at Kingston, and although most ably defended by an eloquent young counsel, now known to the world as Sir John A. Macdonald, he, with nine others, underwent the extreme penalty of the law. In consideration of his military rank, the execution of Colonel Shultz alone took place at Fort Henry, that of the others occurring at the gaol, and naturally casting a shade of gloom over the place. As the young Polish officer was known to have been the victim of designing conspirators, his fate, in particular, excited much commiseration among the loyal people of Kingston.

The equally futile raid at Windsor, accompanied by much brutality and cold-blooded murder, was the last of these miserable filibustering incursions which harassed the people of Upper Canada, and elosed the weary succession of disturbances following the first outbreak. Like many other calamities, however, this “cloud” had “a silver lining,” for there can be no doubt that the Rebellion greatly accelerated the establishment of Canada’s position as a self-governing colony. It was a forcible object-lesson, convincing the British Government at last that there were real and pressing grievances to be redressed, and that the people of the North American colonies, who had previously proved themselves equal to keeping at bay, for two years, a formidable invasion from a much stronger neighbour, were, in the words of Lord Durham’s Report, “a people on whom we may safely rely, and to whom we must not grudge power “—a people, in short, who could no longer be held in leading-strings, guided by Downing Street, through Governors advised by a Crown-appointed Council.

Sir Francis Head’s administration closed shortly after the crushing of the Rebellion for which his inefficiency was largely responsible. Following his resignation, forced by his defiance of instructions from the Colonial Office, came Sir George Arthur, from the administration of the criminal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, to deal out summary punishment to the Upper Canada “rebels,” and, as a natural sequence of the affair, there was no little injustice done to innocent persons by way of clearing up the situation.

But more radical remedies were, happily, soon to be applied. As it was felt in Britain that the government of the North American colonies required very careful readjustment, and that a broad and liberal policy was absolutely necessary, the Earl of Durham, who had shown himself a man well fitted for such a mission, was appointed Governor-General of British North America, and Lord High Commissioner, with full and special powers of action. He, in conjunction with his able Secretary, Mr. Charles Buller, discharged his important mission in a manner that fully justified high expectations, and laid Canada under a debt of gratitude for its relief from a long-standing incubus. Of his “Report,” it has been observed that “in the course of the next twenty years it changed the colonial policy of the Empire ; and the principles laid down in it changed Canada from a revolted (or revolting) colony into one of the most loyal dependencies of the British Crown.” We may, indeed, go further, and add that these principles form the foundation-stone of the “Greater Britain” of today. Among other beneficent measures devised and carried out by Lord Durham was that of an amnesty for all political offenders, then crowded more especially into the Lower Canadian gaols, by his ordinance appropriately dated on the Coronation Day of Queen Victoria ; exception, however, being made of the principal ringleaders, who were exiled to Bermuda for life. This act—though disallowed by the Home authorities as ultra vires, and exposing him to much parliamentary criticism as being “high-handed” and “illegal”—seemed to the Canadian people in general a humane settlement of a perplexing problem. But the official disallowance of his policy brought his successful and pacific administration to an abrupt close, and he sailed for England without awaiting a formal recall, just when he had effectually restored tranquility, and when the question of the Confederation of British North America was actually under consideration ! This disastrous close of his able and successful mission was a bitter experience, and seems to have hastened the death of the noble Earl, which occurred within two years after his leaving Canada.

But his famous “Report” lived after him, a valuable legacy to the Canadian people, and its closing recommendation regarding the reunion of Upper and Lower Canada, was, with other suggestions, promptly carried out. We may well, then, accept the retrospective view of an unhappy rising which should never have been provoked, and which at the time brought suffering and loss to very many—as not, on the whole, an unmitigated calamity. To quote again an historian who has studied the period carefully: “It accelerated the just and moderate constitutional changes for which the Reform party had for years contended, and which, but for the Rebellion, would have been long delayed. It led to Lord Durham’s mission, which brought everything else in its train. From Lord Durham’s mission sprang the Union, from the Union sprang the concession of Responsible Government, the end of Family Compact domination, the establishment of municipal institutions, and reform in all the Departments of State.”

The Story Of Old Kingston:A Growing TimeA Political CrisisKingston As The Capital Of CanadaAn Educational CentreChurches And CharitiesSixty Years AgoDecree Of Louis Xiv. Granting To La Salle The Seigniory Of CataraquiRead More Articles About: The Story Of Old Kingston