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The romance of western Canada MacBeth, R. G. (Roderick George), 1858-1934 1918

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Array  The University of British Columbia Library
COLLECTION Romance of Western Canada, il-
lus., ryal 8vo., R. G. Macbeth,
1918     3.50
B\> R. G. MacBETH
Author of
" The Selkirk Settlers in Real Life."
"The Making'of the Canadian West."
1918 Copyright. Canada. 1918.
By His Grace the Most Reverend S. P. Matheson,, D.D.,
ArchSbishop of Rupert's Land.
As President of the Lord Selkirk Association/ I represent a Society, the principal object
of which is to keep green and vivid the memory
of the intrepid band of pioneers from Scotland
who came out at the beginning of the last century and settled upon the banks of the Red
River of the North, near where the City of
Winnipeg now stands. No nobler or more
indomitable contingent of colonists ever crossed
the seas to carve out for themselves homes in a
new and fair-distant land than were the men,
and the women, too, who comprised the various
groups brought out by Lord Selkirk at that
time. It is only necessary to read the history
of the first few years of the Settlement to
realize the unspeakably severe trials and difficulties whioh they were called upon ta
encounter—difficulties from fire and flood, and
grasshoppers and conflicts between rival Trading Companies. The wonder is that they did
not pull up stakes, abandon the place and seek
better conditions elsewhere. But no, they had
the unflinching and invincible spirit of Scottish Introduction
Highlanders, who look upon difficulties as the
opportunities of the strong, with the result that
they carried on against all hindrances until they
had caused " the land that was desolate " in
this new Kildonan to become " like the Garden
of Eden." It is natural that, as a lineal descendant of those early colonists and as an officer
of the Society which exists to perpetuate the
memory of their deeds, I should cordially welcome the publication of a book which deals
with their history. I have great pleasure,
therefore, in writing this Introduction to the
" Romance of Western Canada," and in commending the book to a wide circle of readers.
My chief reason for doing this is, of course,
my warm loyalty to forbears of whose deeds,
character and traditions I am justly proud.
But I have another reason, which is this: The
author, as the son of one of the original settlers, born and bred, educated and trained in
the old Red River Colony, possesses rare qualifications for writing, not only with first-hand
knowledge, but with sympathy and personal
touch, of the events which he describes. I
heartily commend the book.
S. P. Rupert's Land,
Lord Selkirk Association.
Bishop's Court, Winnipeg,
April 12, 1918.
By Sib John Willison.
For this story of Western Canada posterity
will be grateful, and we of this generation will
^read and praise, and perhaps realize more fully
that there is heroic romance in the far past of
our history. It is written with vigor and
decision, and carries the authority of research
and knowledge. For such a task Rev. R. G.
MacBeth has peculiar qualifications. As he
tells us, his father came out with Lord Selkirk's third group of settlers in 1815, and he
was born in the Selkirk Colony before Confederation. Nowhere else have we such an
intimate story of the long conflict between the
rival fur companies or such a clear revelation
of the characteristics of those brave and enduring adventurers who held the West for the
British Crown and laid the foundations of a
Commonwealth in loneliness and sacrifice, in
sweat and blood.
As we read the story of the Selkirk Colony
and the Hudson's Bay Company and think of
Prince Rupert and his Adventurers, we realize
how much of Scottish spirit and Scottish
energy were inwoven in the beginnings of Foreword
Western Canada. So, indeed, it was in Ontario,
and even in Quebec, where so many Scottish
names are borne by those who speak the French
tongue. Lord Rosebery once said that " if
Scotland were not great the Empire of all the
Britons would not stand where it does," and
a writer in one of the leading English journals,
dealing with Lord Rosebery's statement, said:
" The peculiar point about Wallace, and all
the Scotch heroes is that the most English of
us are all on the Scotch side when their names
are mentioned. For them we are as aggressively patriotic as though we belonged to the
smaller nationality. In reading their history
we become traitors to the English cause. We
are caught by the glamor of the romance. It
is a reversion of sentiment probably unique in
history. Our sympathies all go astray directly
we touch the Scottish story. From childhood
pur romance is Scotch, and it is all the doing
of the great Scotch writers that our patriotism
is perverted." The writer goes on to speak
of the Scotch as " a separate and distinct
people, so small, yet so full of character, so
valuable in the history of the whole Empire
and the world."
This is very true of Scotland. In a wider
sense this is true also of Britain. Britain's
dead heroes become the objects of the world's
veneration. Britain's living heroes are too
often the objects of the world's suspicion. As
vi Foreword
England fought Scotland and Scotland did not
yield, so the world has fought Britain and
Britain has not faltered. Hence, as the English take the great ones of Scotland to the
heart, so the great ones of Britain lie close to
the heart of mankind. In the history of the
West Prince Rupert has no significance. In so
far as he has any relation to Canada he is only
an Adventurer. The fact that he and his
associates once had a potential sovereignty over
all that wide land we take as legend rather than
as fact. One feels, too, that, sober of spirit
and stern of heart as were the Scottish Puritans
of the Selkirk Colony, like all the race, deny
it as they may, they had a vagrant love for the
Mr. MacBeth devotes luminous chapters to
the rebellion in the Red River Territory,
the unhappy adventure of Hon. William
Macdougall, the high conduct of Louis Riel and
his Provisional Government. He does not find
any explanation for Joseph Howe's visit to
Red River just before the Western Country
was to come under Canadian sovereignty.
Howe explained nothing; accomplished nothing. Mr. MacBeth does not reject the notion
that he was in actual sympathy with the restless half-breeds. In the House of Commons
on May 9th, 1870, Howe made an extended
defence of his mission and conduct. He declared that when he became Secretary of State Foreword
he thought it necessary to acquire a more exact
knowledge of feeling in the Red River country.
For that purpose he had gone west, and to
that object he had devoted himself. He said
that he had discovered a strong reluctance
among the people to accept Macdougall as Governor, but insisted that he had defended Macdougall and sought to dispel suspicion and
hostility. He had not been favorably impressed
by those who were described as the " loyal
people of the Territory." They had, in his
opinion, the same characteristics as the " loyal
people" who had caused rebellions in Upper
and Lower Canada. He had held that the
Imperial Government should have opened the
Northwest Territories to settlement, assumed
the responsibility of government and ultimately
organized the country as a British Province.
He thought the burden thrown upon Canada
was too heavy, but when he joined the Canadian Government he had accepted its policy.
He had been loyal to his colleague, had not
sought to embarrass Macdougall and had had
no doubtful relations with the rebellious element in the Red River territory. It is doubtful
if the explanation greatly improves Howe's
position, although any suspicion that he was
in actual sympathy with Riel cannot be fairly
entertained. The Red River settlers were not
well handled. There was no sympathetic,
intelligent preparation for the transfer of the Foreword
territory to Canada. But for that Macdougall
was not mainly responsible, and one feels that
while not very wise himself in the course which
he pursued he suffered chiefly for the neglect
and ineptness of other people. Sir Charles
Tupper also went West at the time in concern
for his daughter, who was the wife of one of
Macdougall's staff. But no mystery surrounds
bis movements. He boldly faced Riel's Council, and we may be certain that in the interview
which he had with Father Richot, unquestionably in league with Riel and the Provisional
Government, he spoke as bluntly as he talked
to Howe when Nova Scotia had to be reconciled to Confederation.
In the words " the wanton murder of
Thomas Scott," Mr. MacBeth reveals his attitude towards an event which did much to
destroy a Government in Ontario and struck
Sir John Macdonald in many constituencies in
the general election of 1872. The Hudson's
Bay Company is acquitted of any complicity
in the Red River rising. Mr. MacBeth emphasizes " the remarkable sagacity of Sir John
Macdonald " in choosing Donald A. Smith as
Commissioner from Canada to overcome disorder and adjust grievances. He will not
admit that Archbishop Tache had any authority
to proclaim a general amnesty, and he produces
strong evidence to support his position. In the
book there  are some striking portraits and
j Foreword
much of interesting and picturesque incident.
Of John Schultz and John Norquay he writes
with sympathy and understanding. Schultz,
who had heroic quality, has receded too far
into the background of Canadian history.
Mr. MacBeth also has chapters on the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 and the struggle, if the
word be not too strong, for responsible government in the Territories. There was delay as
the exigencies of Governments demanded, but
there never was danger of any denial of legislative autonomy to the Middle Western Provinces. He touches with discretion, but with
decision, on that provision of the Autonomy
Acts of 1895, which imposed Separate Schools
upon Saskatchewan and Albeuta, emphasizes
the influences which inspired the legislation and
at least suggests the long results of the controversy. One is glad to find that Mr. MacBeth pays tribute to Sir Frederick Haultain
and Hon. James H. Ross. Although Haultain
was a Conservative and Ross a Liberal they
co-operated to give the Western Territories
singularly economical and efficient government,
and no other men did so much to establish
sound political traditions in Western Canada.
At least as interesting and romantic as those
chapters which trace the growth of settlement
and development in the Prairie Provinces is
that which goes back to the early explorers
of the Pacific and the romantic beginnings of Foreword
British Columbia. Here, again, the story is
Scottish. Over all is the glory of Scottish
adventure and Scottish endurance. Mackenzie,
Fraser, Thompson and Campbell all savor of
Scotland, and we think again of Lord Rose-
bery's fancy and Scotland's genius. A portrait
of singular interest is that of Sir Matthew
Begbie, who in unsettled and sometimes turbulent conditions gave to British law on the Pacific
an authority which no one dared defy and a
practical equity which no one could dispute.
Valuable chapters describe the religious and
educational institutions of the West and the
processes by which they have developed. Here,
too, are names which had the respect of their
own generation and will command the reverence of posterity. All through the book Mr.
MacBeth is tolerant and judicial. He seeks
no ground of quarrel, and rarely imputes doubtful motives. The book is by no means colorless, but the writer thinks of what has been
achieved and is grateful. He refuses to stir
the ashes of old controversies or to obscure
the achievements of great men by too much
grieving about faults which are common to us
But it is not my purpose, to follow Mr. Mac-
Beth's vivid story of the birth and growth of
Western Canada. It is as vital that we of the
East should know Western Canada as that our
history   and   our   spirit   should   be   rightly Foreword
understood in the West and truly interpreted to
its people. That East Is East and West is West
would be unwise teaching for the Commonwealth. As no one can fully comprehend the
dignity and the responsibility of British citizenship until he has visited the Mother Islands,
stood in the Abbey and in St. Paul's, touched
hands with Britain's mighty past, and felt the
very presence of the infinite forces which beat
and throb in the marvellous life of old London
or in such great industrial communities as
Manchester and Birmingham and Glasgow, so
one cannot know the significance of Canada and
Canadian citizenship until he has crossed the
wide plains of the West and has seen the
pioneers of many tongues and races setting
ever outward the landmarks of British civilization.
A vast new land half wakened to the wonder
Of mighty strength; great level plains that hold
Unmeasured wealth and the prophetic thunder
Of triumphs yet untold.
A land of eager hearts and kindly faces
Lit by the glory of a newborn day,
Where every eye seeks the far distant places
Of an untravelled way.
Oh, generous land;  oh, mighty inspiration
That floods the morning of the world to be.
Thy people are the builders of a nation
Lofty, benignant, free. PREFACE
After fifty years of Confederation it seems
specially desirable that we should examine the
foundations of Canada, trace the lines of her
development and preserve some authentic
record of the real life of the Canadian people.
This task can only be accomplished by those
who have personal and first-hand knowledge of
the various sections of our broad Dominion
and who are in sympathy with their past
struggles as well as their future aspirations.
With that portion of Canada which lies westward from the Red River country, the scene of
the old Selkirk Colony, I have been intimate
ever since childhood. In that colony I was
born before Confederation. It has been my
privilege to witness all the movements that have
taken place since that period, including the
transition from the old conditions to the new,
when the wide West became part of the
Dominion. It is of Western Canada, then,
that I purpose to write. Tr^e book that follows,
while giving a succinct account of the rise and
progress of the country, may not be regarded
as a complete compendium of details, because
my aim is not a dry encyclopaedia but a living,
reminiscent history of the people. In arranging
1 Preface
this book I have simply gone back and lived
again through the moving past. I have felt
the touch of vanished hands and have listened again to the sound of voices that are
gone, and what I have seen and heard out of
the circling years, I have sought to knit to the
present hour and write in this volume. It is
a humble contribution to the history of the
western country, in which my parents were
amongst the very earliest settlers. It is the
land I have humbly tried to serve, both as a
civilian and a soldier: a land whose achievements will grow ever greater with the progress
of time. For it should be remembered that
the Canadian West has little more than begun
a great history. We who have lived here
always have but heard
.   .   .   The tread of pioneers,
Of empires yet to be;
The first low wash of waves where yet
Shall roll a human sea.
And it is hoped that for the thousands who
have come into the West, and for the myriads
more who shall yet come, the following record
of the formative periods of its history, by one
who has lived through them, may be of some
interest and value.
R. G. MacBeth.
Vancouver, B.C., January, 1918. CONTENTS
I. The Dawn of the West  7
II. Fur Traders Lock Horns  16
III. A Noble Colonizer  26
IV. The Climax of Strife  39
V. The Western Arcadia  53
VI.  Red River Folk  68
VII. The Changing Order  85
VIII.  Rebellion Aeoot  105
IX.  Counter-movements  123
X.  Efforts for Common Ground .... 139
XI. Reel's Desperation  150
XII. Critical Readjustment  160
XIII. Manitoba in the Making     .... 180
XIV. The Vast Prairie Section    .... 200
XV.  Prairies Become Provinces   .... 222
XVI. Alberta's New North  235
XVII. The Pacific Province  244
XVIII. Religious Development   >..... 270
XIX. Educational History  283  ILLUSTRATIONS
The Author. Frontispiece
Louis " David * Riel  108
Hon. T. C. Norris  180
Officers of the Special Canadian Force in 1885. 214
A Riel Letter  219
Hon. W. M. Martin  222
Hon. A. L. Sifton  230
Hon. Charles Stewart  235
J. D. McArthur  241
Hon. John Oliver  244
Hon. W. J. Bowser, K.C.  265
Hon. H. C. Brewster  267
Archbishop Matheson, D.D  275  THE ROMANCE OF WESTERN
Mounds and graves and totem-poles and
weird legends reveal something concerning
conditions in the illimitable west-land before
the advent of the white man with his higher
civilization. But by reason of there being no
written language in those days they must be
classed amongst prehistoric times in so far as
records are concerned. Those of us who were
born in this country when as yet things were
in a very primitive condition, and who grew
up in a little white oasis surrounded on all sides
by aboriginal tribes, gathered many a strange
story at Indian camp-fires; and so we can help
the imagination of others to play backwards
into the past and see what existed when everyone was - £fV:~ ■!   *■ j
Free as when Nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran.
We are not amongst those who say that
the former times are better than ours, because
7 The Romance of Western Canada
we realize that in the minds of full-blooded
men " fifty years of Europe " are more to be
desired than " a cycle of Cathay." But those
old days on the great plains and amid the eternal hills towards the setting sun were wonderful enough. By the mistake of early discoverers,
who imagined that they had reached India
when they had touched the American coast,
the aboriginal inhabitants of this continent
were called Indians, and, despite all efforts to
change the appellation, it remains unto this day.
Hence in speaking of them we say that Indians
of countless tribes and with a veritable babel
of dialects and tongues were once the undisputed lords of this vast western heritage. They
had rivalries and wars amongst themselves, but,
on the whole, these Indians never sank so low
in the moral scale as did many of the natives
of other lands. Cruelties were practised, no
doubt, but there was a certain chivalry amongst
these primitive tribes which was remarkable.
They were, in large measure, care-free. Buffaloes and other large game were within easy
reach; the lakes and the rivers teemed with
fish; skins and furs furnished abundant clothing; while a glorious country, in which they
were monarchs of all they surveyed, gave them
abundant scope for the development of skill,
courage and endurance. We have to admit that,
until sad experiences with the unworthy caused
them to hold themselves aloof or unfriendly in
8 The Dawn of the West
relation to white men, the Indians received the
newcomers with joy and something akin to
worship. But in any event there looks out
upon us from those prehistoric days a genuine
hospitality and kindness which we are compelled to acknowledge as the gift of the Gitchie-
Manitou, or Great Spirit, of whom, as well
as of the hereafter, these poor children of the
wild seemed to have had a sort of intuitive
It is a somewhat curious fact that, just as
the early navigators fell into a mistake which
led them to call the North American aborigines
Indians, so the impression that America was
the short road from Europe to India and China
lured these same navigators into a long search
for a way by water through this continent to
the Western Sea. " The North-West Passage "
became a slogan with the men who went down
to the sea in ships. Hence it was that Henry
Hudson, the. intrepid sailor, after many
attempts, entered the straits and the bay which
still bear his name, and thus became the first
to tap the vast country now known as Northwestern Canada. Like the gallant Franklin in
the Arctic regions at a later date and the heroic
Scott party at the Antarctic Pole in our own
day, Hudson, marooned on an ice-floe, paid for
his daring voyage with his life. But he had
"opened the Bay," and the names of these
fearless men, with countless others of their
9 The Romance of Western Canada
type, have a secure place in the traditions of a
people who have policed the Seven Seas and
made them a safe highway for the nations of
the world.
The news of Henry Hudson's exploit travelled by " grape-vine telegraph," as the Indians
say, to the eastern seaboard. Here Jacques
Cartier, Champlain and the rest, who do not
enter into this western story, had made Quebec
the starting-point for explorers and traders
who were seeking to penetrate westward
towards the Great Lakes and the country
beyond in the unknown vast. To reach the
interior of the continent and then to swing
north-westward towards the Bay became the
supreme ambition of many an adventurous
hunter and trapper. Two young Frenchmen,
Radisson and Groseillier, living at Three
Rivers in Quebec, became eager to essay the
trackless wild. Starting out in 1649, these
intrepid and enterprising pathfinders, with
varying fortunes, kept steadily at work for
nearly two decades. Originally subjects of
France, they were so intent on opening up the
north-west country that they changed their
allegiance several times between France and
England, according as these countries encouraged them or otherwise. And so we have the
strange spectacle of these indomitable explorers
plunging again and again into the wilderness,
dragging two unappreciative nations behind
10 The Dawn of the West
them. They went away beyond Lake Superior
and explored towards the Mississippi. Then,
hearing more definitely from the Indians about
the great inland expanse of sea to the north,
they set out from Montreal in 1662 and succeeded in reaching Hudson Bay under the
guidance of the " wild Assiniboines." In each
succeeding expedition they gathered enormous
treasure in furs, and, when they came back to
Quebec, they tried to arouse their fellow-countrymen to the wonderful possibilities of the
northern trade. Failing in this they went, in
disgust, to France, where even their flaming
enthusiasm could not awaken any response; but
the Duke of Montague, seeing that these men
had a great, if somewhat romantic, project in
hand, gave them letters of introduction to
Prince Rupert in England. That dashing soldier of fortune and buccaneer on the high seas
received them with an alacrity that argued kinship of spirit. He himself had not been too
strait-laced as to matters of citizenship, but
had, with delightful indifference as to the
cause, given his sword and his service here and
there for a consideration. He posed as the
patron of daring enterprises, and, as he practised a wild extravagance that needed revenue,
he was glad to have an opportunity of sharing
in a project which promised large returns in
that regard. At that time he was in high favor
with the easy-going Charles II, and, after some
11 f
The Romance of Western Canada
preliminary expeditions had been undertaken,
this erratic monarch, in 1670, granted Prince
Rupert and a few associates a monopolistic
charter which turned over to these adventurers
practically half a continent. It was on that
account that the vast territory became known
as Rupert's Land, a name which survives to
this day in the title of the Anglican Archbishop
at Winnipeg, and also in the name of the western terminus of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. There was nothing in Prince Rupert's
general life and character to deserve special
. commemoration, but he at least had the enterprise and the dash of romance which made him
the man for an undertaking which unlocked
the hidden door to a new empire for men.
The charter granted by Charles to Prince
Rupert and about a score of associates, who put
very little capital into the concern at the outset,
was a singularly good piece of literary and legal
workmanship, and closed with the words,
"Witness ourself at Westminster the second
day of May, in the two-and-twentieth year of
our reign." The full name of the organization
then authorized by King Charles, "of our
ample and abundant grace, certain knowledge
and mere motion," was "The Governor and
Company of Adventurers of England trading
into Hudson's Bay," but it has always been
known as the Hudson's Bay Company. The
charter granted practically sovereign powers
12 The Dawn of the West
over the vast portion of the American continent drained by streams entering Hudson Bay.
Countless efforts were made from time to time
to upset this highly monopolistic charter, but It
held unshaken throughout two centuries, at the
close of which, though the monopoly in trade
had become a mere figment, the Canadian Government had to buy out the rights of the Company before entering on possession of the
western provinces.
A charter so framed, conferring on the
Company directors such extraordinary powers
as exclusive trade, the making and enforcing
of laws, the building of forts and even the
organization of military force—the latter the
most astonishing of all—might have easily
become a despotic and injuriously tyrannical
concern; but, in spite of its dangerous charter,
it became a sort of paternal and benevolent system of government. That it did so become is
evidenced by the fact that, in two hundred
years, with the exception of a few minor disputes over the freedom of trade, there was
never a revolt against its authority. But this
desirable condition of affairs existed, not
because people liked a monopolistic organization, but by reason of the high character of the
Company's employees in the North-West. In
the hands of men of another type the
administration of the Company might have
been marred by tyranny and disfigured by
13 The Romance of Western Canada
spoliation. But the men of the Company were
so uniformly honorable, intelligent, prudent and
courteous that they controlled with the tacit
consent of the governed. As a specific witness
to the high and honorable character of the
Company's servants, as they were generally
called, it may be stated in our day, when corruption is rife enough, that in the two centuries,
although these men were handling in remote
posts, without check, tens of thousands in fur
values, no case of what is now called graft or
embezzlement was ever known. The Union
Jack, with the Company's ensign, on fort, canoe,
sled or cart became a synonym for fair play.
From my childhood I have known these men,
factors, traders, explorers and the rest. They
were men who read widely in their long winter
nights, who made earnest investigation into the
resources of the country, who sent specimens
from the animal, vegetable and mineral world
to enrich scientific institutions and to widen
the scope of information for others; and my
knowledge of them confirms me in the view
that the deciding element in society's welfare
is the individual unit. Theoretically, I believe
in democracy as against autocracy, but in specific cases the outcome for good or evil to the
world will depend on the character of those
who administer the system in either case.
The Hudson's Bay Company, then, was fully
established in 1670, and followed up the lines
14 The Dawn of the West
of trade opening up from the Bay to the
interior. There being no organized company
then opposed to them, the Hudson's Bay men
did not find it necessary to go far inland.
Everything in the shape of fur came their way,
except what could be secured transiently by
individual traders from the St. Lawrence, who,
from an early date, were pushing westward
beyond Lake Superior. While the French king
held possession of Quebec, "Coureurs des
Bois" and other traders secured licenses from
the French Government and went out regardless of the English Company at the Bay.
Explorers like Verandrye, who built forts at
many western points, went onward into the
Saskatchewan country; but up to the year 1742
the Hudson's Bay Company confined their
operations to the shores of the inland sea. In
that year they moved inwards and established
a post up the Albany River. This move was
met by more activity on the part of the Montreal traders and so precipitated the era of conflict between the fur companies which waged
with considerable fierceness for over half a
century. One unexpected result of the conflict
was the opening up of the West to colonization,
for, though the adventurer and trader may
lead the way, it is the colonist that really builds
up a country.
From the earliest times the magnets that
drew adventurous men to the great North-
West were two in number. The first was the
gallant, if somewhat quixotic, idea of discovering a north-west passage through the American
continent to the Western sea. From the days
of Henry Hudson for over two centuries to
the period of Sir John Franklin and those who
searched in vain for that brave explorer, the
effort to cut through, by water, was continued
from time to time. Neither treasure nor life
was spared, but the net result was not commercial profit. There was a long record of
daring devotion to a project which it was
thought would be of great benefit to mankind,
and there was an accumulation of traditions
which had the good effect of inspiring others
to duty without regard to financial gain. In
my boyhood I knew several old men in the
Red River country who had been on these great
Arctic exploration voyages. They were living
in comparative poverty, but there was an
aureole around their grey heads which became
inspirational to the younger generation growing up on the frontier. In the eyes of certain
16 Fur Traders Lock Horns
types of utilitarians all these movements were
sheer waste, but in reality they have done much
to keep heroic ideals before the world.
The other magnet that drew men into the
wilds of the North-West was the unprecedented commercial gain in connection with the
fur trade. In the language of phrenology the
fur trade appealed to the sense of acquisitiveness in mankind. Acquisitiveness is not
inherently a bad thing. It may be based
fundamentally on the need for making a livelihood, and the need for making a livelihood
incites men to work with brain or brawn.
Work has been proven, ever since that labor
sentence in Eden, to be a means of getting
ourselves rid of the temptations which conquer
the idler but fall back harmless from the toiler.
Perhaps we get nearer to a solution of the
industrial problems of the world when we
affirm our belief in acquisitiveness tempered by
a proper sense of stewardship than when we
try to make a world full of spoon-fed people
who have lost both incentive and initiative.
I am not prepared to say that the old fur-
traders were possessed of a proper sense of
stewardship. They were not miserly as a rule;
in fact, their fault was a spendthrift prodigality, which is not a desirable trait. But they
did have acquisitiveness mingled with love of
adventure, and it sent them out on expeditions
where risk and endurance were the orders of
17 The Romance of Western Canada
the day. Hence, Prince Rupert and his associates organized the Hudson's Bay Company.
Hence, the early traders, moving out from the
St. Lawrence into the West, became a menace
to the old Company by cutting off the Indians
from their treks to the Bay with their precious
bales of fur. Those Montreal merchants, the
Frobishers, Simon McTavish, William McGil-
livray, and the rest, were tremendously persistent, and by sending out men through the
interior, became a strong competitor of the
English Company which operated from the Bay.
The Hudson's Bay Company, called by many
the English Company because its headquarters
were in London, felt that something must be
done to meet this menace, and so, in 1770, they
sent into the interior the famous Hearne, who
discovered the Coppermine River. Then when
Frobisher, a Montreal trader, built a fort at
Sturgeon Lake in the North Saskatchewan, at
a point where he could cut the very sinews of
the trade to Hudson Bay, the English Company was stabbed broad awake, and answered
the challenge by building Fort Cumberland, a
few miles away, in 1774. From that date
onwards for half a century the conflict between
these two sections of the fur-traders was sharp
and relentless. The Montreal traders, realizing
that organization was necessary, formed themselves into the North-West Fur Company in
1784, and this intensely active concern became
18 Fur Traders Lock Horns.
the leading rival of the Hudson's Bay, or English, Company. In fact, the North-West Fur
Company waxed so strong that it planted forts
all the way through the West to the Pacific,
absorbed the X. Y. and other smaller concerns,
put John Jacob Astor and his Pacific Fur Company out of business on the Columbia River,
and well nigh monopolized the trade of the
whole country, apart from the districts near to
Hudson Bay. Several things contributed to
this extraordinary success of the Montreal
Company. Its head office was in Montreal, not
in London; hence the directors were more
closely in touch with the country and could
adjust matters of administration better than
a directorate across the sea. Then, too, the
North-West Company made its employees
shareholders on the profit-sharing plan, while
the old Company kept its men on salaries, and
not very princely ones at that. Every North-
West Company man was working for a business in which he had a direct financial interest.
Again, the North-West Company employed
Canadians, French - Canadians principally,
whose rollicking boat-songs and wild jollifications caught the fancy of the Indians. The
Hudson's Bay Company employed chiefly men
from the Orkneys and the Highlands, who took
some time to get into the ways of the new
country. They were hardy and courageous, but
somewhat stern and serious, and although they
19 The Romance of Western Canada
had the reliable qualities that won out in the
long run, they were outclassed for the spurt
distance \ by the semi-wild French-Canadians,
who fraternized more with the Indians in the
amenities of camp life.
For instance, the annual gathering of the
North-West Company at Fort William (so
called after William McGillivray, of Montreal)
was highly spectacular and convivial. It was
the assembling of the leading men of the Company from Montreal who managed the finances,
to meet the wintering partners who did the
actual trading in furs at the distant posts. From
Montreal, in gaudily ornamental canoes,
manned by skilful voyageurs, would come the
city partners, with a retinue of cooks and butlers and general servant-men, bringing along
abundant food and a still more abundant supply of wines and liquors. From the northern
posts would come the wintering partners with
their Indians, half-breeds and followers, bearing the great bales of furs which were the
results of the season's work. There was an
immense banqueting-hall near the council
chamber at Fort William, and when each day's
business was done " there was a sound of revelry by night" which made the welkin ring.
Many years ago I witnessed somewhat similar
scenes when the Hudson's Bay Company men
would return from the boat trip to York Factory. It was a pandemonium revel let loose;
20 Fur Traders Lock Horns
but the descriptions of the annual gathering at
Fort William make all others look tame by
comparison. Yet in the morning business would
be resumed on an absolutely business basis, and
the man who came in for highest commendation and promotion was the man who had done
most trading. They were a hard-living and
hard-drinking lot, but they could be cool as ice
in business, for their hard, outdoor, healthful
life made them largely immune from the deadly
results that would follow such gatherings in
the flabby life of our modern day. Once the
meeting was over the leading men from Montreal, having received and distributed the profits
of the year, betook themselves to their luxurious homes in the city, while the wintering partners, with their semi-savage retainers, repaired
again to their distant posts all over the West.
Though both the great Companies erred seriously enough in the use of liquor amongst the
Indians, the general verdict is that the Montreal
Company was much more given to the practice
than the older concern.
The North-West Fur Company, in the period
under consideration, not only became famous
for business energy, but it produced in Alexander Mackenzie one of the most remarkable
of explorers. His discovery of the great river
in the north which still bears his name, and his
wonderful journey across the barrier of the
Rockies to the Pacific, stand out amongst the
3 21 The Romance of Western Canada
highest achievements our country has known in
that regard. A short time ago, while on a trip
through the Peace River country, I examined
with great interest the site of the old fort near
the famous Peace River Crossing, from which
Mackenzie had started by canoe and trail to
cross the great mountains and reach the Pacific
Ocean; and a few weeks later, coming down
the British Columbia coast from Prince Rupert,
I felt like saluting as we passed Bella Coola
Inlet, with the rock on which Mackenzie had
painted, in vermilion and grease, the astonishing inscription, "Alexander Mackenzie, from
Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July,
One thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.
Lat. 520 20' 48" N." All this I felt in sheer
admiration for the vision and daring of the
great explorer, although he afterwards strenuously opposed the planting of the Selkirk
Colony on the Red River, where I was born.
Mackenzie, by his tremendous journey, had
opened the " North-West Passage " by land.
An explorer so great demands more than
passing notice. Mackenzie, though stated by
some to have been born in Inverness, first saw
the light in Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis,
and was allied to many of the famous in Highland history. When a mere boy he came out
to Montreal and soon attracted the attention of
the shrewd Scottish merchant-traders who were
the founders of tne North-West Fur Company.
22 Fur Traders Lock Horns
After a clerk apprenticeship for a few years, he
went to the post of Detroit, where his abilities
were so conspicuous that he was sent to one of
the most difficult and important points in the
'far Athabasca district. With great enterprise,
energy and prudence he carried on and extended
the work of the Company throughout the
North. He sent out an employee to found a
fort on the Peace River, made a swift exploratory trip towards the Arctic, discovering the
great river which bears his name', and then
went back to the Old Land to fit himself by
special study for further explorations. Returning, he started from the fort near the Peace
River Crossing, as above stated, and went up
towards the sources of that great stream in the
fall of 1792. Wintering there, he continued his
adventurous and difficult way to the Pacific,
with many narrow escapes from death, now at
the hands of hostile Indians, now by privation,
and from the untold dangers of rapids on rivers
and slides in the mountains, and reached the
Pacific, as above recorded, within a few weeks
of the time when the noted Captain George
Vancouver had come to the mainland by water.
Mackenzie was only thirty years of age at the
After his explorations Mackenzie went east
to the annual meeting of   the Company at
Grande Portage, and though he did not break
away openly then, he was in sympathy with
23 The Romance of Western Canada
those who dissented from the old regime
under the somewhat tyrannous rule of Simon
McTavish. Later on Mackenzie became head
of the X. Y. Company (so called because the
old Company labelled its bales " N. W." and
the other letters followed in a sort of mockery) ;
but not long afterwards he retired to Scotland,
where he married the heiress to the Avoch
estates and settled down to the life of a country gentleman. His book on his great exploring
tours attracted wide attention, and he was
knighted in recognition of his service to the
Empire. Somewhat unexpectedly he died at
the comparatively early age of fifty-seven years.
During all this period the fight between the
rival fur companies waxed fiercer as their field
of action grew. The struggle between the
North-West Fur Company and the X. Y. Company, which was a sort of offshoot, was very
bitter, and at times the traders of the one concern violently took furs from the other. Finally
the older company absorbed the X. Y., and then
the conflict narrowed down again to the two
original organizations. The Hudson's Bay
Company only reached the Red River country
in 1793, the date when Mackenzie, representing the North-Westers, reached the Pacific
coast; but once the old Company left the Bay,
where for a hundred years it had made trading
headquarters, its spread over the West was
aggressive and rapid. In fact, the era was fast
24 Fur Traders Lock Horns
approaching when the conflict between these
rival fur-trading concerns became so flagrant,
open and murderous that the Imperial Government had to exert sharp pressure to prevent a
scandalous violation of law and order. In the
meantime the Hudson's Bay Company was to
begin making real history in the new land
through the rise, within the Company, of the
Earl of Selkirk as the Apostle of Western
W£ have been studying the rush of the fur
trade, and have seen many with the gold-lust,
tinctured with love of adventure, undertaking
projects for the extension of their enterprises;
and it helps us to retain our faith in the disinterestedness of men, to come suddenly across
one who stands out with singular unselfishness,
striving to ameliorate wrong conditions and
staunch the wounds of the world. Such a man
I believe the Earl of Selkirk to have been,
despite the fact that he was much maligned
during his lifetime and received very scant justice in Canadian courts of law; and I base this
estimate of this real nobleman, not only on a
somewhat careful study of his life and times,
but on the personal testimony of some who
knew him in the midst of those troublous times,
when he was bringing the first settlers into
what is now the Canadian West.
My father came out from Sutherlandshire
with Lord Selkirk's third group of colonists in
the year 1815. He was then twelve years of
age, and I, as the youngest of his fourteen children—the child of his old age, as the Scripture
expresses it—heard much from him, and others
26 A Noble Colonizer
of his day, concerning the relentless clearance
of the Kildonan strath, and the coming of
Lord Selkirk to offer the evicted people homes
in a new land where tyrannous landlordism
would have no place. They remembered distinctly the Earl's visit to his colony on the Red
River in 1817. They spoke of his distinguished
appearance, the gentleness of his manner, the
softness of his voice, and the whole fascinating
personality of the man, which drew around him
the Indians, who called him " the Silver Chief."
It is highly interesting to remember that, amid
all the strife which ensued later, the Indians
who met Lord Selkirk remained the steadfast
friends of his colonists. It is of this man, who
came upon the stage of the West as a colonizer,
in the midst of the fur-trade conflict, that the
present chapter will speak.
In St. Mary's Isle, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, the Earl of Selkirk was born in the year
1771 of the famous Douglas race. One of his
forebears, in reply to a question on a certain
occasion, said, " Few of my ancestors have died
in chambers," and it may be added that they
generally had given their lives in defence of
weak and needy causes, which they championed
against tyranny. One of them gave his life in
support of Sir William Wallace. Another was
the friend of Robert Bruce who undertook to
carry the heart of Bruce to be buried in the
Holy Land, and who fell in battle, after
27 The Romance of Western Canada
throwing the casket into the ranks of the enemy
and crying, "Forward, gallant heart, as thou
wert wont; Douglas will follow thee or die."
Still another was the famous Archibald "Bell
the Cat," whose name was a whole chapter on
heroic daring. So the Earl came of a lordly
stock, and lived up to its highest record. The
democratic Burns had little use for a "birkie
ca'd a lord," but he admired the manly Douglases, for, after meeting in Ayr Lord Daer,
who was a brother of our Earl, he wrote:
Nae honest, worthy man need care
To meet with noble, youthful Daer,
iW he but meets a brother.
A certificate from Burns is good title to real
nobility; and it is suggestive of Burns' admiration for the family that he visited atr St. Mary's
Isle, and, by request at table, wrote the famous
" Selkirk Grace."
Our hero, whose name was Thomas Douglas,
went, at seventeen, to Edinburgh University,
where he formed a close friendship with Sir
Walter Scott, whose noble and pathetic-written
statement in sympathy with his friend's later
anxieties for the Red River colony is one of the
classics in consolation literature. Young Douglas, from an early age, was a dreamer of
dreams for the amelioration of human ills, and
when he succeeded to the Earldom of Selkirk,
at the opening of the nineteenth century, set
28 A Noble Coloniser
himself earnestly to the tasks in that direction
that opened up in divers ways. Our interest,
for the purpose of this history, lies in his self-
forgetful devotion to the people of the Highlands, amongst whom he had spent many of his
college vacations. The Highlanders attracted
him by their picturesqueness, and the Highland
traditions appealed to the chivalry and gallantry of his nature. He learned their Gaelic
tongue and admired the swing of the kilted
men, who were going out in that troublous
time to measure swords with the little giant
of Corsica; and that recalls the pathos of the
situation, for it was while many of the men
folk were away fighting under the Iron Duke
for the liberties of Europe that their families
were driven off their native straths by the
relentless landlordism, which considered that
sheep would be more profitable on the land than
human beings. The landlord could generally
find a heartless agent, and my father, though
but a child at the time of the "clearances,"
often spoke of how their few belongings were
put out of doors on the Kildonan strath, and
how the little shieling was burned lest they
would return thither; and yet I recall that the
basket-hilt of the sword niy grandfather had
carried abroad in the service of the Empire was
given by him, years afterwards, to be broken
up and made into pegs for the spinning-wheels
of the settlers on the Red River. The Empire
J The Romance of Western Canada
had not helped his Highland home, but he had
never soured.
It was inevitable that the woes of his evicted
fellow-countrymen in the Highlands should lie
heavy on the heart of the gentle Earl, and it
was not long before he came to offer them
homes in the Red River country of North
America. Thus these humble people, cast out
by the landlords, were given the immortal
honor of becoming the first settlers in what is
now the illimitable Canadian West.
It is a very curious fact that Lord Selkirk's
interest in the North-West as a field for immigration had been awakened by the book of
explorative travel published in 1801 by Alexander Mackenzie, who, personally and by the
Fur Company in which he had served, bitterly
opposed the Earl's colonization project. Mackenzie's book was entitled, "Voyages from
Montreal, on the River St. Lawrence, Through
the Continent of North America, to the Frozen
and Pacific Oceans: in the Years 1789 and
1793," and, from the time Lord Selkirk read
it, he felt that, in that land, a new Empire
might be built for the good of the world. So
it came to pass that this philanthropic nobleman had been furnished with ammunition by
one who, later on, became an enemy to his
colonization plans.
His enthusiasm being tempered by Scotch
caution, Lord Selkirk, knowing that the
30 A Noble Colonizer
Hudson's Bay Company controlled the western
country, in terms of their charter, sought the
advice of able lawyers as to the power of the
Company to give titles to land and exercise
other important functions in the government of
the country. Once satisfied on these points, he
proceeded with some friends to buy up a controlling interest in the stock of the Company.
At the first meeting of the stockholders thereafter it transpired that Alexander Mackenzie
and some of his friends, who were opposed to
the colonization plans which Lord Selkirk
seemed to be contemplating, had made a rush
movement within two days of the meeting to
get stock, but they had not secured enough to
baulk the Selkirk project. In the hot duel, that
was to last a decade between these men and the
interests they represented, Selkirk had drawn
first blood. He then laid before the meeting
his cherished plan, a plan that was to have
enormous consequences for the Empire and the
world; for the Selkirk Colony, planted on the
Red River as the outcome of that meeting,
brought about the following distinct results: It
held the great West-land for the British Crown
by being a bulwark against the aggression of
the nation to the south, which was not then in
a very friendly mood, and which gained ground
elsewhere because there was no real body of
British opinion to protest against the extraordinary elasticity of the boundary line.
31 The Romance of Western Canada
Besides that, the Selkirk Colony, once it got a
footing on the Red River, attracted the attention of the world to the fact that a region once
considered fit only for hunters and traders and
fur-bearing animals, was in reality the basis of
a granary for the Empire. In consequence of
this the tide of immigration later on discovered
a channel in a westward direction. Then Eastern Canada, confederated in 1867, bought out
the charter of the controlling fur company, and
a great Canadian railway was projected to knit
together the new Dominion with the province
founded by the Selkirk Colony at the very centre of the line. More than that, and better than
that, the Selkirk settlers, being strongly devoted
to religion and education, stamped the new
land with the indelible seal of character, and by
the founding of school and church and college
became a remarkable influence for good upon
their own and succeeding generations.
The proposal made by Lord Selkirk, which
led to these results, was placed before the meeting in London, to which reference was made
above. Briefly, he offered to purchase a tract
of land larger than the old Province of Manitoba, to plant thereon a colony as a nucleus for
larger settlement, and to assume all expenses in
regard to transport, government, treaties with
the Indians, and such like. It was a large order,
a tremendous undertaking, an enterprise that
put burdens, eventually crushing, upon the
32 A Noble Colonizer
shoulders of the founder, but which marked
him as one of the few men who have, at all
costs to themselves, led movements for the
good of their fellows.
Once the Earl had settled these arrangements
with the Hudson's Bay Company, as aSove outlined, he set about the task of securing his colonists, mainly from the north of Scotland, and
procuring means of transporting them to their
new home. Here, again, Alexander Mackenzie
and the agents of the North-West Fur Company withstood the plans of the colonizer, and
did all they could to dissuade the people from
going on what they described as a hazardous
journey to a frozen land; but, after many difficulties, the first band of settlers got away on
rather shaky sailing vessels for the long voyage
to Hudson Bay. They arrived in the fall of
1811, and, in such huts as could be erected at
York Factory, they wintered in the intense and
unaccustomed cold. In the spring they continued the journey of seven hundred miles
more to the Red River, by river and lake and
trail, amidst hardships which tried the hardiest
voyageurs, much more these Scottish crofters
and fishermen, to whom it was all so new ;
but they went on, with the indomitable perseverance which ultimately planted an unshakable
colony in the midst of a new continent. They
reached their destination, where the city of
Winnipeg now stands, in August, 1812. The
J The Romance of Western Canada
date marks the beginning of a new era in this
country. It was a landing of Pilgrim Fathers
in Western Canada.
The importance of the event can hardly be
over-estimated. The exodus of these obscure,
but highly desirable settlers, intelligent, industrious and honest, from the Old Land and their
entry into the new, had a wide-reaching social
significance. At the point of departure it was
a living protest against the iniquity of the
private monopoly of vast estates in land, where
such land was either let out to tenants on more
or less impossible terms, or else was allowed to
lie non-productive to please the caprice or sport-
loving proclivities of the owner; and at the
point of arrival a wedge was being driven that
would ultimately sever the connection between
a monopolistic fur-trading company and the
huge territory they held by Royal Letters Patent. And the strange thing was that all this
was being done by a man who had the controlling interest in that company's stock, and who
owned an immense area of land which he
intended to give in fee simple to his colonists
as they required it. The explanation of this
apparent anomaly lies in the fact that Lord
Selkirk felt from the first that Rupert's Land,
as the great territory of the Hudson's Bay
Company was called, would eventually be the
home of millions of prosperous people, and that
it must hence pass, sooner or later, out of the
34 A Noble Colonizer
control of the Company into the hands of settlers. If he was a dreamer of dreams, as we
have said, he was also a seer of visions;*and a
vision of a happy, contented population, supported by the soil, was clearly before his eyes
from the beginning; and his vision has become
a constantly-growing reality. So far as his
granting lands to the colonists is concerned,
that is but another evidence of his sincere desire
to help the poor and unfortunate amongst his
evicted fellow-countrymen.
It is not necessary that we should go into
minute details as to the fortunes of the several
early bands of colonists sent out by Lord Selkirk. They continued to come at various dates
until 1815 When the first group of colonists
came in 1812 they found the season wearing on
towards autumn, and they were worn out with
their two-months' journey from York Factory.
They were without means, and for food and
shelter had to rely partly on the agents of their
benefactor. They had to camp in the open and
engage in fishing for their food. As the winter
drew on they went some sixty miles farther up
the Red River to Pembina, where they were
able to secure buffalo meat. Up to this point
the North-West Fur Company, which had built
a fort, with the defiant name of "Gibraltar,"
near where the settlers were to locate permanently, did not show any hostility. In May the
settlers, who had been joined by another party,
35 The Romance of Western Canada
returned to their first location; but they had
nothing with which to cultivate the rich soil.
Fish were scarce and, after subsisting all summer on such wild roots and plants as were eatable, they had to go back to the buffalo grounds
for the winter. This time the North-West Fur
Company people were less friendly," and the
winter months were anxiously spent. Once
more, in the spring, these wandering colonists
came back and tried to grow some crops. A
third party of colonists had now arrived, and
the North-West Fur Company began to show
its teeth. The year before, Governor Miles
Macdonnell, who had been placed by the Hudson's Bay Company in charge on the Red
River, in order to conserve food for the settlers, had issued a proclamation putting an
embargo on the export of any kind of provisions. This was resented by the North-Westers,
the half-breed traders and the Indians as a
restraint on their freedom. They made up their
minds to root out the colony, which was evidently under the wing of their rivals. Accordingly, we find the whole matter discussed at the
annual meeting of the North-Westers at Grande
Portage in July, 1814, where it was decided to
take steps in that direction. They began to feel
that a colony would not be helpful to their fur-
trade. So they sent Alexander Macdonnell and
Duncan Cameron to see that the Hudson's Bay
Company was held in check and their settlers
36 A Noble Colonizer
scattered to the four winds of heaven. These
men were well fitted for their task, and that
they were not going to be too nice about the
means employed is indicated in a letter from
Macdonnell to William McGillivray (after
whom Fort William was called) in which he
said: "Nothing but the complete downfall of
the colony, by fair means or foul, will satisfy
some—a most desirable object if it can be
effected. So here is at them with all my heart
and energy." Duncan Cameron was an artist
in his line. He wore a military uniform, spoke
Gaelic, practised lavish hospitality, misrepresented the Hudson's Bay Company, promised
free lands elsewhere, and induced more than
half of the colonists to go east and settle in
Upper Canada. The settlers who did not go
east were left to the tender mercies of Alexander Macdonnell; and he, gathering a band of
mounted half-breed plainsmen, under their
prairie leader, Cuthbert Grant, gave the remaining settlers notice to quit at once or be exterminated. There was nothing for these unarmed
colonists to do but retire to Lake Winnipeg,
after seeing the little cabins they had begun to
build burned to the ground by the emissaries of
the North-Westers. Nothing remained but
the little Hudson's Bay Company post called
I Fidler's Fort" after its builder. In this little
fort the Hudson's Bay trader, John McLeod,
with all his Highland blood aflame, cut up a
4 37 The Romance of Western Canada
logging chain into shrapnel splinters, rammed
them into a cannon he had, and gave battle.
The mounted men could not face McLeod's
wicked little battery, and so they soon betook
themselves back to their hunting-grounds.
Upon which McLeod hastened to build a new
post, called Fort Douglas, named after the
noble founder of the colony. This was the
grim Highlander's way of saying that Lord
Selkirk had still to be heard from before the
matter was closed. That McLeod was right
speedily appeared, for Colin Robertson, coming
from the East with a score of Canadians in the
service of the Earl, found the remnant of the
settlers at Lake Winnipeg and brought them
back to the Red River, where they started to
put up some dwellings under the general protection of John McLeod's chain-shot artillery.
And Lord Selkirk, undiscouraged, determined
to bring one more strong band of colonists
from Scotland to hold the ground. It was not
for nothing that he had been brought up in the
country where people believe in " a stout heart
to a stey brae," and the next time there was
trouble on the Red River the valiant scion of
Douglas and Angus would be on hand himself,
as the sequel will record.
Th£ Selkirk Colony, as we have seen, had
been put under the ban by the North-West Fur
Company, which invoked the support of the
French half-breed hunters under the leadership
of the turbulent Cuthbert Grant, who was of
Scottish extraction on the father's side. The
Company regarded colonization as a distinct
enemy to their trading business, and as the
organization that had first pushed its way into
the prairie country, they professed right of
occupation by precedence. They conveniently
overlooked the somewhat important fact that
in point of law they were intruding on the territory which the Hudson's Bay Company held
by royal charter; and these North-Westers
Wrought skilfully upon the credulity of the
plainsmen by telling them that colonization^
would drive away the buffalo and destroy all
their old methods of living. Hence the old
Roman cry as to Carthage was revived under
the modern form, "The Colony must be
In 1815, as we have seen, two-thirds of the
settlers were enticed by the North-Westers to
go to Eastern Canada, and the other third were
39 The Romance of Western Canada
expelled by Cuthbert Grant and his rough-
riders, who, to make sure that there would be
no return, burned the houses these poor colonists had just erected. We have seen, however, that these expelled colonists returned
under Lord Selkirk's man, Colin Robertson,
when McLeod at Fidler's Fort had stood to
his gun. This time the settlers did not rebuild,
but, erecting huts and tents, they devoted their
time to efforts at getting the land into shape
for cultivation; and the North-Westers and
their semi-savage men out in the Qu'Appelle
country were taking note and making ready for
a final coup which they intended should wind
up the colony and the colonists for all time.
Meanwhile, over in Scotland, Lord Selkirk,
whose courage was unbroken, and whose interest in the colony was unabated, was arranging
in 1815 to send out from Kildonan the largest
and ablest band of colonists he had yet gathered
together; and in order to ensure some stable
form of oversight in the Red River country, he
had a new Governor, a military man, Robert
Semple, sent out to take charge. It was with
this band that my father came out as a lad; but,
young though he was, the scenes through which
they passed on arrival at the Red River were
never effaced from the tablets of his memory.
These new settlers had expected to find their
relatives and friends in free and happy homes
in the colony on a new continent. With these
40 The Climax of Strife
friends they might well hope to find shelter,
renewing old memories, until they, too, could
have homes of their own in the free land of the
West, but instead of all that they found only
a few huts and tents amid the ashes of the
homes that had been built, and, without houses
or food, and with very inadequate clothing,
these people were facing the icy breath of an
approaching winter in an environment to which
they were wholly unaccustomed. But, with an
indomitable courage born of invincible faith,
these way-worn colonists went on to Pembina
and built huts, and finally had to eke out a
living by doing such work as they could for
the plainsmen. In the early spring they
returned hopefully to the scene of their future
settlement on the Red River, and began to cultivate the soil with such primitive implements
as they possessed. But around the heads of
these innocent and unsuspecting settlers a new
storm of hate and persecution was gathering,
for, away out in the Qu'Appelle country, Cuth-
bert Grant, practically engaged by the North-
West Fur Company for the purpose, was
assembling his plain-hunters and frontiersmen
in order to swoop down on the little group of
honest peasants who were trying to begin the
foundation industry of agriculture on the eastern edge of the prairie.
From  the  first, as  already  indicated, the
North-West Fur Company had resented the
41 The Romance of Western Canada
invasion of the interior of the country by the
Hudson's Bay Company, albeit the latter had
charter rights to the whole country; and the
North-Westers especially resented the coming
of the colonists, because the colonist and the
wild game hunter or trader cannot dwell permanently together in the same land. So the
fiat had gone forth that these intruders, who
were beginning to farm, should be extirpated,
root and branch, and who could carry out this
fiat better than the so-called "Warden of the
Plains," Cuthbert Grant? Hence, on the 19th
of June, 1816, this redoubtable leader and his
mounted semi-savages were seen from Fort
Douglas to be making their way across the
prairie to where the settlers were at work.
Whereupon Governor Semple, with a score or
so of the men of that Hudson's Bay fort, went
out on foot to meet the attacking party and discover their intentions. Semple's hardihood has
been denounced by some who called his conduct
by that name, but he saw the settlers menaced,
and felt bound to protect them as far as possible. That the dismantling of their Fort Gibraltar by Semple had rankled in the breasts of
the North-Westers was evident by their crying
out to the Governor, "We want our fort!"
There was some parley, but when a shot was
fired by one of Grant's party the fusilade
opened, and Governor Semple and some score
of his men were wounded or killed outright.
42 The Climax of Strife
Semple's wound was, he said himself, not
serious, and he asked the enemy to take him
to Fort Douglas; but an Indian who was with
Grant came up and shot him dead as he lay on
the ground. The Grant command then went on
to Frog Plain, where the Selkirk colonists had
their holdings. One of my uncles narrowly
escaped death at the hands of Grant's men for
making some protest, and to John Pritchard,
who had escaped the Semple massacre, Grant
said that he had intended to hunt the settlers
like buffaloes. He added that if Fort Douglas
was not given up without resistance, every man,
woman and child would be put to death. However, there was no one to defend the fort, and
Grant and his band took possession, while the
unfortunate settlers, who were only a few
months in the country, were allowed to depart
down the Red River in a few boats, which carried all that was left to them. But these much
mal-treated colonists—the Honor Roll of the
Selkirk Settlement—refused to abandon the
country and defeat the efforts of their noble
benefactor. Accordingly, they went only a few
miles to Lake Winnipeg, and there encamped
to await developments. Meanwhile, the North-
Westers held Fort Douglas for several months,
and held high revel after their manner.
But the Douglas was not the man to allow
his colony to be permanently scattered.  Knowing that the North-West Company was busy in
J The Romance of Western Canada
the process of exterminating it, Selkirk came
to Montreal in 1816, and then, having gathered
a number of Swiss mercenaries under Colonel
De Meuron, he started westward with the full
purpose of helping his settlers to hold the
ground. When he reached the head of Lake
Superior, he got word of the massacre of
Semple and his men at Seven Oaks, and, turning aside, he took Fort William as an act of
reprisal, though this act and the arrest of some
of the North-Westers led the Earl into harassing litigation in the succeeding months; and the
courts in Canada, as we have said, seemed to
rather delight in getting a chance to make
things uncomfortable for the Colonizer. However, having taken Fort William, Selkirk
pushed on to the Red River, where, without
any bloodshed, he recaptured Fort Douglas and
restored his persecuted colonists to their holdings. This visit of Lord Selkirk to the Red
River in 1817 was, in many respects, the most
outstanding event in the early history of the
Selkirk Colony in the minds of the settlers
themselves. In my boyhood days I often heard
the old men, who had seen and conversed with
the Earl, and had heard his addresses, talk the
matter over and seek to impress upon us
younger folk the greatness of their benefactor
and friend. They spoke of his tall, slight, aristocratic figure, his gentleness of speech, his
beauty of manner; of the way in which he
44 The Climax of Strife
expressed appreciation of their endurance, of
the pains he took to assure them that they had
a right to their Red River home, and that they
would never again be disturbed in their possession of it. He assembled the settlers and told
them that the Red River community would be
known as Kildonan, after the strath they had
left in sorrow in Scotland, and he made special
grants of land for church and school purposes.
Their after history showed that the colonists
appreciated the Earl's provision for religious
services and for education. He also secured
for the settlers title to the river lots on which
they settled, on either side of the river, north of
where Winnipeg now stands. This plan of
settlement on narrow lots fronting on the river
bank and running back on the prairie several
miles is not conducive to farming on a big
scale, as the acreage is necessarily limited, and
too much time is lost travelling backwards and
forwards to work from one end of this long
farm to the other. But it enahled the colonists
to live close together as in one long village
street by the river bank, and it had, on that
account, many strong points in its favor. It
was good for mutual helpfulness and defence
in the frontier days. There 'were no isolated
settlers, and so all could be mobilized quickly
in case of need. In a new country the isolated
settler is a sort of temptation to marauders, and
hence he often involves the country in trouble
45 The Romance of Western Canada
on his account. Besides that, the settlement by
the river gave the colonists an unfailing supply
of water for themselves as well as their stock,
and afforded sustenance in fish. But more than
all, the Selkirk manner of land settlement was
good for social life, and opened the way for the
work of church and school, and upon these
advantages those early colonists placed great
stress. The peril of the rectangular survey in
the land system of a new country menaces specially the women and the children. It deprives
the women of social life and subjects them to
the mental strain of solitude to a dangerous
degree, and it practically makes school advantages for the children impossible until settlement becomes dense. All these dangers, which,
as we shall see, became factors in the later life
of the West, were wisely avoided in the Selkirk
Colony; and, in consequence of this wisdom as
to the system of land tenure, the high level of
the social, religious and educational life of the
Kildonan settlement on the Red River was a
constant and delightful surprise to the early
explorers and travellers who came upon this
oasis of education and refinement in the midst
of a vast semi-civilized wilderness.
To secure the extinction of the Indian title
to these lands, as well as to secure the permanent goodwill of the aborigines, the "Silver
Chief," as Lord Selkirk was called by the
Indians, in allusion to his distinguished
46 The Climax of Strife
appearance as well as his generosity, made
treaties with the Indians, who were the native
owners of these vast plains. The settlers were
to receive lots of a certain width on the river,
extending back as far as a white horse could
be seen on the prairie on a clear day. This
meant a farm about two miles long and from
five to ten chains wide, so that I remember how
the early immigrants from Ontario used to
rather poke fun at our people for farming on
" lanes." But the " lane " farm had its advantages, as already described. In connection with
the treaty negotiations of Lord Selkirk, it is
worth noting again that the Salteaux, Assiniboine and Chippewa Indians, whose chiefs
entered into treaty engagements, kept their
obligations sacredly through the generations
from father to son. In that respect these children of the wild show a good, but not always
an imitated, example to the civilized world.
This famous visit of Lord Selkirk to his Red
River Colony in 1817 was his last and only call
upon his settlers in their new home. He
returned to Scotland by way of Montreal,
where everything in the world in the shape of
a possible lawsuit was brought against him
through the agency of the North-West Fur
Company. Some were too absurd to make
much headway, even in courts which were by
no means favorable to the philanthropic Colonizer ; and hence it is no wonder that the gallant
J The Romance of Western Canada
Earl, never very robust, and worn out by many
journeys and countless anxieties, went back to
Scotland, weakened in health, but with a strong
desire to get the whole case of his settlers
before the British public through the Houses
of Parliament. It was in this connection that
his sister wrote to the Earl's college friend, Sir
Walter Scott, asking the help of that famous
master of the pen in presenting Lord Selkirk's
case in the open. But the chivalrous writer,
who had enriched the literature of all time by
his descriptive, imaginative power, had been so
crushed by the burdens that fell upon him
through the failure of a great publishing house
that his sun was going down in the early afternoon of life. The generous soul of the genius
of Abbotsford could not any longer compel the
waning body to a large task, but the line he
wrote in reply is a noble tribute to the Earl, for
Sir Walter said: "I never knew in my life a
man of a more generous and disinterested disposition, or one whose talents and perseverance
were better fitted to bring great and national
schemes to successful conclusion."
But the leading facts concerning affairs in
the Red River became known, and before his
death, which took place on April 8th in 1820,
the noble benefactor of his persecuted Highland fellow-countrymen knew that his colony
would no longer be disturbed by human foes.
When the news of Lord Selkirk's death reached
48 The Climax of Strife
the Red River, men and women there wept
over his demise far away under the shadows of
the Pyrenees; but they knew that they had many
a fight still to wage against circumstances
before they would reach even reasonable competency for themselves and their families. They
had no desire to be rich; they were free from
the debasing passion for sudden wealth which
has cursed many a frontier; but they were
anxious to build homes and a church and school
in .the parish which their noble friend had
granted and named. There were struggles
ahead, as they well knew, but for these they
braced themselves that they might still justify
the hopes and ambitions of the Earl and show
to the world that his dream would become a
great reality in the eyes of men.
In the winter of the year i8i7i the year of
the Earl's visit the settlers went to Pembina for
the winter and maintained themselves by hunting, until, in the spring of 1818, they returned
to their land and sowed what they could. There
was good prospect of a crop, but in July the
sun was darkened by clouds of grasshoppers,
which fell upon the fields and gardens and
devoured everything in sight. So it had to be
"back to Pembina" for the winter and the
hunting again. In 1819 the colonists returned
and sowed the fields, but the young grasshoppers
began to appear in swarms, eating every living
thing that grew out of the ground. Later on in
49 The Romance of Western Canada
the years I saw grasshoppers twice on the Red
River, moving like organized armies, and leaving behind them such a desolation as existed
after the ravages in the valley of the Shenandoah in the Civil War, when it was said " that
if a crow intended to fly down the valley he
would have to carry his rations." I have seen
a cohort of grasshoppers go through even a
thicket of Canadian thistle and leave nothing
but the white bare willows standing like pipe-
stems where the thicket had been. No wonder
the colonists saw that they must give up and go
back to Pembina for another winter; and so
they struggled backwards and forwards until
1822, when, ten years after the first band of
settlers had come, they grew enough to provide
the bare necessaries of life. For the next three
years they continued to make such headway as
their primitive agricultural implements would
allow. Then, in 1825, there came a year of
unusual severity, when deep snow added its
quota to the intense cold. The plainsmen, who
depended on the buffalo for supply of food,
were the chief sufferers, for the storms drove
the buffalo beyond reach and killed the horses
of the hunters. The Selkirk settlers, with their
usual open-heartedness, did all they could to
relieve their nomadic brethren on the plains;
but in the spring they themselves suffered the
severest loss in their remarkably trying history.
The sudden thaw of the deep snow, along with
50 The Climax of Strife
an ice blockade, caused the Red River to overflow its low banks and become a raging torrent
of great extent on both sides. The settlers
barely escaped with their lives and some of
their stock to the high ground miles back from
the river, but their houses and stables and barns
were swept away like straws in total wreckage
into Lake Winnipeg. Yet, when in a month
the flood went down, these undaunted men
came back and began all over again. Since
that time we have had floods and grasshoppers
and rebellions, but the colony was never
uprooted. It remained to stamp its character
on the West. But we feel that even the most
sympathetic imagination will fall short of
understanding what those colonists endured.
We do know that those who passed through
the experience found no language adequate to
the task of describing it. My father, who
entered the colony in 1815, and never abandoned it or ceased being active in its life till
that day when, at the age of ninety years, he
passed away, was often visited in his closing
days by tourists from the British Isles, who
desired some account of the early times. I
recall his attempts to depict the scenes, concerning which he could say, with the hero of
Virgil, "Quorum magna pars fui" I can see
him yet, a powerfully-built figure, in the old
wooden armchair which is now one of my
prized possessions. He would bring down his
51 The Romance of Western Canada
strong hand on the arm of the chair, as he told
his story with Highland passion. I can hear
the story flow on till he felt the inadequacy of
language as recollections rushed upon him, and
then he would stop short, saying, " It's no use
talking, gentlemen, I can't tell you half of it;
but I will say one thing, and that is that no
people in the world but the Scotch could have
done it," and the last party of Englishmen that
came to the old farmhouse, seeing his earnestness,, applauded him with unselfish enthusiasm.
Whether my father was unduly partial to his
own race or not may be a matter of opinion;
but there can be no two opinions as to the
difficulties these colonists triumphantly battled
with, and if you seek their monument, look
around you on the religious and educational, as
well as the material, greatness of the North-
WE have seen the Selkirk colonists passing
through their desperate struggle and coming to
stable and growingly prosperous settlement.
They were still to have their ups and downs,
as, for instance, in 1852, when another disastrous flooding of the Red River drove them
once again from the devastated farms back to
the hill elevations on either side of the swollen
stream; and they never became independent of
the splendid necessity for continuous toil; but
neither were they ever again reduced to the
starvation conditions which they had experienced during their first ten years in the new
land. Few who were not in actual contact with
them can ever understand the sternness of the
battle they fought in laying the foundations of
Western civilization; but every one who does
understand is willing to come to the salute
when the name of this old colony is mentioned.
Few men knew more of the real history of
these pathfinders than the late Lord Strath-
cona, and, in a preface to a few short articles
I wrote some years ago on the subject, his
Lordship said: " Many of the original Selkirk
5 53
J settlers and their descendants have been personally and intimately known to me, including
one of the most respected of the pioneers, the
father of Mr. MacBeth; and I have always
respected and admired their sterling qualities
of head and heart. I know how they worked
and how they lived, and in my judgment the
West owes more to their efforts and their
example than is generally admitted or can well
be conceived by the present generation of
Canadians. One illustration of their simple
character and honesty occurs to me at the time
of writing. Nothing more was required of
them in connection with the transfer of land,
than a personal appearance before the Registrar and an oral intimation of the transaction
to be effected. No deeds or documents were
completed in such cases, and no conveyance of
the kind was ever questioned." In fact, all
business transactions were considered as matters of honor, and such things as promissory
notes or such like would have been looked on
as not only unnecessary but practically as an
insult to a man's reliability.
At the time of the flood of 1826, referred to
already, the population of the Red River Valley
would be about fifteen hundred or so, composed
of the Hudson's Bay officials, the Selkirk settlers along the Red River, and the French half-
breeds (generally called "the French"), who
were somewhat nomadic, but who began to
54 The Western Arcadia
settle in homes along the Red River south of
the junction with the Assiniboine. In 1821,
the two great fur-trading rivals, the Hudson's
Bay Company and the North-West Fur Company united their forces under the name of the
former, and a young Scotsman, George Simpson (knighted in 1839), was appointed Governor, to get the merger into a going concern,
and later on to effect some sort of governmental organization according to the needs of
the country. With the possible exception of
Semple, whose name always came up in connection with the Seven Oaks massacre, no
Governor of the early times was so much
spoken of in my boyhood days as Sir George
Simpson. If it was true that he had to overcome and "break his birth's invidious bar," it
is quite certain also that he "made, by force,
his merit known." For nearly four decades he
controlled largely, and, in some degree, autocratically, the destinies of the great Company,
and he impressed a remarkably strong personality upon the history of the country. He was
physically well endowed, was capable of an
endless amount of work, had immense energy,
possessed an affable, even jovial, disposition,
and exercised his office with a strange mixture
of benevolence and despotism, which suited
the period and the land in which he lived. He
had much fondness for the spectacular, and in
his constant travelling over his wide domain,
55 dressed elaborately, had decorated canoes, gaily
caparisoned horses, was accompanied by the
skirl of the bagpipes, and entered the important
trading-posts with great ceremony and eclat.
Bonfires blazed and guns saluted when the
Governor came. No doubt he had some personal fondness for this sort of thing, but there
was much method in his madness. He had to
deal with a primitive people, especially with
thousands of Indians of many tribes across the
continent, and these impressionable people are
particularly susceptible to the influence of pomp
and circumstance; and, in any case, there is
such a thing as being too democratic. There
is some value in the Windsor uniform, the
gown of the judge, the uniform of the policeman, and the presence of the mace, as elements
in the preservation of law and order; and, out
here on Western frontiers, it has been long
understood that criminality is far more rampant in countries where elected judges sit coat-
less to try cases than where the administrator
of law, in robe and ermine, conducts, with
dignity, a British court. When we look back
upon Sir George Simpson from our date, we
may think his moods were peculiar and his
customs almost ridiculous, but to his contemporaries they approved themselves as being tremendously effective, aided, as they were, by his
great ability and powers of diplomacy. Perhaps nothing is more suggestive of Simpson's
56 The Western Arcadia
thoroughness and stupendous energy than the
fact that, in 1822, just following his appointment, he made the overland trip from the Hudson Bay clear across the continent to the Pacific,
by lake, river and trail, in the almost incredible
space of ninety days. Out of these he spent
sixteen at the important posts, in each of which
he held a sort of court after his imposing entry.
Later on, in order to enlarge his store of knowledge of men and trade, he made his famous
trip around the world at a time when few
attempted such an undertaking.
It was to this man, then, that the task of
arranging some form of government for the
country was assigned. Up to this time there
was no government except such as local communities arranged among themselves. The
buffalo-hunters, for instance, had their own
code. Each camp was in the hands of a headman, who had a primitive cabinet to assist him
in the preservation and protection of life and
property. My older brothers went periodically
with the buffalo-hunters, and they claimed that
amongst the camps and cavalcades there was a
wonderfully well-worked out series of regulations. We find such " laws " as these: " No
buffalo to be run on the Sabbath day." They
were strict on this point as a matter of conscience, but they also discovered in those early
days what has been proven in munition factories in war-time, namely, that a day of rest
57 SP
The Romance of Western Canada
is an absolute necessity if physical, mental and
moral collapse is to be prevented. " No party
to fork off, lag behind, or go before without
permission." " No person or party to run buffalo before the general order." There was no
privileged class amongst these people. Everyone had an even chance. For breaches of these
and other such laws there were stern enough
penalties. For a first offence, the person guilty
was to have his saddle and bridle cut up, and
this was a calamity. For the second his coat
was to be cut up, and for the third he was to
be flogged. Where everything was left open
around the camps it was necessary to have
definite ideas about ownership, and the law
against theft was tremendously effective. Any
person convicted of theft, after fair trial, even
though the theft might only be of a piece of
buffalo sinew used in sewing moccasins or harness, was brought to the centre of the camp, in
full view and hearing of all, and the "court
crier" called out his or her name three times,
adding the word " Thief," with a shout on each
occasion. However, honesty was practically
universal amongst the people, and this dire
punishment was hardly ever called for, unless
some outside camp follower, with loose con- -
ception as to property ownership, had transgressed. Then, again, amongst the settlers who
had to cut hay for their stock on the plains,
which were common to all, there was a date
58 The Western Arcadia
before which no one could begin on pain of
general displeasure; and when a settler had
selected his hay-ground and had, with his
scythe, cut a swath around it, that cutting was
as real a protection as a stone wall, for it was
a matter of honor that no one should cross
into another's " circle." In this way the early
communities governed themselves; but as population grew and became more heterogeneous,
something more settled was required. Accordingly, as we have stated, Sir George Simpson
essayed the task.
The outcome of his effort was a number of
local regulations administered by himself, several magistrates, and a few irregular constables,
all of whom followed regular occupations, subject to call at any time for duty. This general
condition of things continued up to 1835, when
the Hudson's Bay Company, having repurchased from Lord Selkirk's heirs, for about
£85,000 sterling, the land sold to the Earl for
the Red River Colony, seemed to realize added
responsibility for law and order in the country;
and so Sir George Simpson took farther steps
to organize government, to establish courts of
justice, and enact such local legislation as might
be necessary, in addition»to British law, which
had, of course, full jurisdiction all through the
North-West. Accordingly we find Sir George
securing, through the Hudson's Bay Executive
in London, the appointment of a "Council of
59 The Romance of Western Canada
Assiniboia," consisting of himself as president
and fifteen influential members of the Red
River Colony as councillors.
As this was the first governing, or rather
legislating, body in the West, the names should
be of interest. They are as follows: Sir George
Simpson, president; Alexander Christie, the
Right Reverend the Roman Catholic Bishop;
the Rev. D. T. Jones (Church of England) and
his assistant, Rev. William Cochrane (these
being the only two Churches then with clergy
in the West); James Bird, James Sutherland,
W. H. Cook, John Pritchard, Robert Logan,
Alexander Ross, John McCullum (Coroner),
John Burns (Medical Adviser), Andrew
McDermott, Cuthbert Grant. Perhaps the best
known amongst the laymen were John Pritchard, who escaped the Seven Oaks massacre,
wrote an account of it, became secretary to
Lord Selkirk, and established the first residential school in the Red River country. Alexander Ross was then sheriff in the colony, but
had been in the fur trade in what is now
British Columbia, where he had married the
daughter of an Okanagan chief. On coming
to Fort Garry he was given a grant of land,
now worth ten millions, in the City of Winnipeg. He wrote an excellent history of the
colony and was highly respected by all parties.
James Bird was a retired Hudson's Bay man,
whose son was afterwards Speaker of the
60 The Western Arcadia
Manitoba Legislature. Andrew McDermott,
the pioneer independent merchant of the Fort
Garry district, whose presence on the Council
indicated a recognition of the free-trader in
some measure. Then there was Cuthbert
Grant, the redoubtable leader of the rough-
riders in the Seven Oaks massacre, who had
settled down to peaceful avocations. Of course,
this Council was nominated by the Hudson's
Bay Company in terms of their charter powers,
and being so, was not as representative of the
people as an elective body would have been;
but they did wonderfully good service in the
primitive days. At the opening meeting, which
was held on February 12th, 1835, a notable
date, Sir George Simpson, in the course of his
" Speech from the Throne," said: " The population of this colony is become so great,
amounting to about five thousand souls, that
the personal influence of the Governor, and the
little more than nominal support afforded by
the constables, which, together with the good
feeling of the people, have hitherto been its
principal safeguard, are no longer able to maintain the tranquility and good government of
the settlement; so that, although rights of property have of late been frequently invaded, and
other serious offences been committed, I am
concerned to say, we are under the necessity
of allowing them to pass unnoticed, because we
have not the means at command of enforcing
61 The Romance of Western Canada
obedience and true respect, according to the
existing order of things. Under such circumstances, it must be evident to one and all of
you that it is quite impossible society should
hold together; that the time has at length
arrived when it becomes necessary to put the
administration of justice on a more firm and
regular footing than heretofore, and that immediate steps ought to be taken to guard against
dangers from abroad or difficulties at home, for
the maintenance of good order and tranquility,
and for the security and protection of lives and
property." Wm£
The allusion to troubles in the community
arose out of efforts, more or less lawless
according to the individuals engaged, in the
direction of free-trading throughout the country ; and the reference to dangers abroad came
from proximity to the boundary line, which
for various reasons at that time was causing
some uneasiness.
At that opening session some very useful
legislation was passed—organizing a volunteer force; dividing the country into judicial
districts, with a justice of the peace in charge
of each; establishing certain rules for legal procedure; making provision for a court-house
and jail, and arranging for some export and
import duties to meet expenses of administration.
At the conclusion of this first session Sir
62 The Western Arcadia
George Simpson, who was a considerable
diplomat as well as a far-seeing statesman,
announced that the Hudson's Bay Company
would give three hundred pounds sterling to
aid in road-building and other public works in
the colony. This seemed a large sum in those
days, and the Council passed a resolution of
very grateful appreciation. We can be assured,
from what we know of the men of that time,
that none of the money was wrongfully used.
At a later day my father was a member of
the Council of Assiniboia and a justice of the
peace, and I can recall from earliest childhood
some scenes connected with his administration
of justice which were generally characteristic
of the practice by other magistrates. There
was more regard paid to the precepts and
example of Solomon than to the technicalities
of law, of which in the ordinary sense they
knew very little. I can remember, for instance,
a case in which there was some misunderstanding as to the right to a certain hay meadow,
and the result was what in law would be considered an assault in at attempt at ejection.
The ejected individual came to my father and
gave his story. Then the other party was summoned, and court was held right there and
then in our sitting-room. After hearing the
evidence my father adjudged that both parties
were to blame in equal proportion; each would
pay his own costs, and they were to become
63 —
The Romance of Western Canada
reconciled by shaking hands in presence of the
magistrate. In order that neither party would
be humiliated by having to give way to the
other, it was adjudged that from their positions
on either side of the room they were to advance,
to meet at a point in the centre and there clasp
hands in token of the dispute being at end.
These arrangements proved wonderfully effective in most cases, and the parties hardly ever
returned. Any breach of such arrangement
would, I suppose, be treated as contempt of
court, which was looked on by most people as
a dire offence that brought specific punishment
as well as social ostracism. I recall also the
case of Maurice Lowman, who was business
manager for a well-known merchant, and who
had charge of the hiring of men for freighting
expeditions. A young half-breed, who had
been hired by Lowman, died of fever in St.
Cloud, while on a trip there for goods. The
young man's father, whose name was Fidler,
blamed Lowman, who was hundreds of miles
away, for his son's death. So Fidler, imbibing
freely of rum, armed himself with a hayfork
and went to the store to wreak vengeance.
Lowman, who was a lame and somewhat delicate man, did not like being hunted by a
drunken man with murderous intent and a
fork, so he went out the back way, mounted a
horse, and came down to my father's house to
lay an information. While he was there Fidler
64 The Western Arcadia
arrived with his weapon, and as it was a time
of storm they were kept over-night, each one
being ignorant of the other's whereabouts; but
in the morning my father, who had gathered
some evidence in the meantime, summoned
court in the house, and after showing Fidler,
who was now sober, the unreasonableness of
charging Lowman with the death of a man
who, hundreds of miles away, had taken ill and
died despite good treatment, pointed out to him
the seriousness of his offence in threatening
Lowman and going after him with a murderous weapon. The upshot was that Fidler was
"bound over to keep the peace," and both
parties in the end recognized that they had
gotten well out of the whole situation.
Of course the administration of law was not
left in the hands of these untrained though
fair-minded men, because in 1839 Judge Adam
Thorn was installed as the head of the country's judiciary. Being the appointee of the
Hudson's Bay Company, who also paid his
salary, it was only natural that the settlers and
traders would have some doubts as to his
impartiality. It was jocularly said years ago
that a certain railway magnate in another country used to take around his own judge to try
cases in which his interests were involved; and
Judge Thorn's position at the outset would be
somewhat open to this criticism. He had, as
a journalist, violently assailed Papineau in
65 The Romance of Western Canada
Quebec, and this did not add to his acceptability
with the French on the Red River. There is
no evidence that Judge Thorn was partial, but
several cases came up soon after his arrival
where it would have been impossible, under the
circumstances, to convince all parties that he
was holding the scales evenly; and after the
notable case of Sayre, who was convicted of
trading furs, but who was allowed to go on
account of a demonstration of force by his
friends, Judge Thorn vacated the bench and
became the clerk of the court, taking an office
in which he did good service to the country.
It was inevitable, however, that with a growing and very heterogeneous population there
should be difficulties in connection with any
system of government in which the consent and
active co-operation of the governed were not
vital factors. Alexander Ross, though he was
a member of the Council of Assiniboia and the
sheriff of the colony, is on record as saying
that "to guard against foolish and oppressive
acts the sooner the people have a share in their
own affairs the better. It is only fair that those
who have to obey the laws should have a voice
in making them." The objection was not generally to the personnel of the Council, but to
the manner of appointing its members, who, it
was generally admitted, had the welfare of the
country at heart. Men like Mr. Alexander K.
Isbister, a native son of the Red River country,
66 The Western ^Arcadia
who had gone to England and had made a
place for himself as an educationalist, espoused
the case of the people and led the way to their
having eventually a degree of self-government.
Later on they would enter into full-fledged
Canadian citizenship; but there were many
rivers to cross before they would arrive at that
point, and so in the next chapter we shall look
at some of the characteristics of life in what
may well be termed our Western Arcadia.
Many years ago, on the same trip during
which we passed on the North Saskatchewan
the famous Fort Cumberland, which was the
answer of the Hudson's Bay Company to the
aggressive North-Westers, who were trying to
intercept the trade to the Bay, I saw The Pas,
farther down towards Lake Winnipeg. It was
principally the abode of Indians and unmannerly wolf-dogs, valuable for winter-sleds, but
a perambulating terror in the hot summer as
they prowled around for their own living.
When you met one of them on the path
through the marsh, he would not attack you,
but his style of approach indicated that he
expected the right of way, which was generally
conceded without debate. And that day at The
Pas, which is now a divisional point on the
railway to Hudson Bay, I remembered that it
was to this neighborhood certain scientists and
astronomers had travelled all the way from
Boston in i860 to observe an eclipse. They
came, but they neither saw nor conquered, for
the weather was so dark and rainy that they
sat in the marsh all through the fateful period
without being able to take any observations.
68 Red River Folk
A long, hard journey of some four thousand
miles, occupying three months, amply vouches
for their scientific zeal; but it must have been
exceedingly disappointing astronomically. It
would have been wholly disappointing—a sort
of nightmare memory—but for the fact that
during their journey they saw with delighted
surprise what they called the "extraordinary
settlement" of the Red River colonists. It
took such hold on their imaginations that they
wrote a book on the subject, a delightful little
book, long since out of print, but filled with
admiration for the hospitality, peacefulness,
contentment, intelligence and general culture of
this colony, whose isolation would have meant
the opposite of all this but for the fact that the
people had resources within themselves.
This book, written by the visiting scientists,
is not now accessible, except where enterprising public libraries have secured a copy from
some connoisseur; and the scenes the visitors
beheld have practically all undergone change
since their day; but out of my boyhood's early
recollections I think I know what they saw and
experienced. At either end of the settlement
on the Red River, and some twenty miles apart,
they would see Upper and Lower Fort Garry,
the former being originally*built in 1821, and
the latter, which still stands, and which was a
favorite residence of Sir George Simpson,
being erected some ten years later. It is now
6 69 The Romance of Western Canada
a country club for the gentlemen of Winnipeg,
a city which was born since the old fort was
built. Across from Upper Fort Garry lay the
settlement of the French people by the Red
River and the Seine, the leading feature there
being the old Roman Mission of St. Boniface,
with the " turrets twain " which Whittier made
immortal in his surpassingly beautiful poem,
" The Red River Voyageur." Between the two
forts, near the river banks, was the long line
of the whitewashed houses of the Selkirk colonists, unpretentious, but neat and cosy in
appearance, with their log walls, thatched roofs
and wide chimneys of clay. Not far from
Upper Fort Garry was the cathedral and
schools of the Church of England, whose early
enterprise in this new land is beyond praise.
Further down the river, at Kildonan, was the
Presbyterian church and the school of the Scottish settlers; and it may not be amiss here to
remind some present-day critics of the CEurch,
that it was the Church in her different branches
that saved the West from putrefaction by keeping religion and education to the fore in those
early days.
In the order of their coming into the Red
River country with organized religious service,
it was natural that as the first colonists were
of that persuasion, the Presbyterians should
come first. Before leaving Scotland the Selkirk settlers made a proviso that they should
70 Red River Polk
have a minister of their own Church, and if
possible one who could speak Gaelic. While
waiting for a suitable minister of that type, the
Scottish Church sent James Sutherland, an
elder, out to the Red River, duly commissioned
and authorized to baptize, marry, and hold services. This he did until 1815, when he was
practically deported to Eastern Canada in one
of the movements by the North-West Fur
Company for the extermination of the colony.
The death of Lord Selkirk, in 1820, doubtless
led to neglect of the promise he had made to
his settlers, and so onward until 1851, when
the Rev. John Black came, the Kildonan people
worshipped with and supported the Church of
England, whose clergy generously modified
their ritual to meet the somewhat austere view
of the Presbyterians. The latter, however,
kept up their prayer-meetings and their home
instruction during all the years, and never
ceased their efforts to get a minister of their
own. They sent many petitions home to Scotland, asking that a minister be sent out, but
postal facilities via the Hudson Bay were not
very good, as may be readily imagined. One
petition, carefully prepared and signed, from
which good results were hoped, came back as
a cover to a crock of butter from York Factory
a year after it had been sent away. Butter was
being repacked at the Bay for shipment to Fort
Garry, and paper being scarce, the fine large
71 The Romance of Western Canada
parchment petition caught the eye of some one,
who perhaps did not know what it was, but
who did know that it would make an excellent
covering for the butter-keg. A little disappointment like that could not check these persistent
Scots, and finally they won out by sending
requests to Scotland and Eastern Canada as
well. They were fortunate in getting the Rev.
John Black, a man mighty in the Scriptures, a
great theologian, an evangelical and passionately eloquent preacher. The year after he
came was the year of the second great flood,
when the settlers were all away to the hills; and
the old people used to speak to the end of their
days of the services out on the hillside in '52.
A few years after this he was joined by the
Rev. James Nisbet, a native of Glasgow, skilled
as an architect and builder, as well as theologian. While assisting 'Mr. Black in the Red
River country he planned and built the famous
old stone schoolhouse in Kildonan, and then in
1866 became missionary to the Cree Indians on
the Saskatchewan, where he began work at a
place he named Prince Albert, now a well-
known city.
Though a Roman Catholic priest is said to
have come West as a chaplain to Verandrye's
expedition, the first settled missionaries of that
Church came to the Red River in 1818 in the
persons of the Reverends J. N. Provencher and
Severe Dumoulin. They began their work
72 Red River Folk
amongst the French and the French-Canadians
at St. Boniface, opposite the forks of the Red
and Assiniboine. Both were able men. Provencher was the first Bishop in the West, and
his name survives in the Dominion constituency
in which the descendants of his parishioners
live. It was in Bishop Provencher's time that
the cathedral, immortalized by Whittier's poem,
"The Red River Voyageur," was erected.
Though it was burned down, the bells from the
"turrets twain" were erected in the second
cathedral, and years afterwards were rung, at
the suggestion of American Consul Taylor and
Lieutenant-Governor Schultz, on Whittier's
birthday, a courtesy which brought a beautiful
acknowledgment from the aged poet. It is a
curious fact that Whittier, who, of course,
never saw the Red River, wrote his poem from
a description given by a friend who accompanied Rev. John Black to Fort Garry in 1851.
Rev. John West came to the Red River as
the Church of England chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1820, but he was also
under instruction from the Church Missionary
Society to do all he could to promote Christian
teaching amongst the Indians; and right nobly
did he do his part during his three years of service. He travelled much amongst the Indians,
going to Brandon House and Qu'Appelle, and
later on to Norway House and York Factory,
on the Hudson Bay.    He founded a branch of
73 The Romance of Western Canada
the Bible Society, with headquarters at Hudson
Bay, and got copies of the Scriptures in English, Gaelic, German, Danish, Italian, and
French for circulation throughout Rupert's
Land. On Mr. West's visit to York Factory
in 1822 he held the first anniversary of the
Bible Society, and amongst those present and
actively interested was Captain (afterward Sir
John) Franklin, the famous explorer. Mr.
West was succeeded in 1823 by the Rev. D. T.
Jones, who, by his sweet reasonableness in
doing what he could to meet the views of the
Scotch settlers in forms of worship, won the
love and respect of all. He built a second and
then a third church farther down the Red
River, as settlement was extending or as the
Indians required shepherding; and in this he
was greatly assisted by the devoted Rev. William Cochrane, who came in 1825. His labors,
too, were abundant, and he was joined by the
Rev. Abraham Cowley and the Rev. John
McAllum, the latter of whom founded the
famous Boys' School, known afterwards by
his name. In 1849 tne ^ev- David Anderson
was consecrated at Canterbury Cathedral as the
first Bishop of Rupert's Land, and on his
arrival in the Red River established his headquarters at the Upper Church (the others being
lower down the river), and called it the Cathedral of St. John.
These three denominations were the pioneers
74 Red River Folk
of organized religious service and of educational work in the West, and the old cemeteries
of Kildonan, St. John and St. Boniface are
places of great historic interest, because on
their grave-stones are found the names of the
pioneers of Western Empire. The Wesleyan
Church began work in the far North amongst
the Indians by the Reverends James Evansr
Mason, Rundle, and a few other devoted men,
but their work does not enter into this chapter
on the Red River, where their first minister
was the noted Rev. George Young, who came
in 1869, and whose work we shall meet in later
chapters. It will thus be seen that the elements
that make for the purification of life were by
no means neglected in the old colony.
On the commercial side of existence there
was nothing startling, but there was something
that might be surprising to our day in the fact
that no one seemed anxious to make money.
The old settlers were satisfied if they could
secure homes and have the advantage of church
and school for their children. Once they had
secured land and reduced it to a state of cultivation, they contented themselves with raising
crops and attending to their stock. Between
seasons many of the men went on freighting
expeditions, with oxen and carts, to the nearest
trade depot in the United States, or by boat to
the other inlet to the country at York Factory
on the Hudson Bay. The summers were filled
75 The Romance of Western Canada
with their haymaking and harvesting; but the
winters, except for the feeding of stock under
- cover, afforded more time for education and
social life. It was a common custom for young
men, who were needed for work in the summer, to go to school in the winter. Literary
and debating clubs were in vogue, and it was
surprising to many from older places to find
evidences of wide reading and much speaking
ability, in such an isolated community. There
were fewer books, but they were more thoroughly read than the vast libraries of to-day;
and there was an absence of self-consciousness,
which made the young men effective on the
platform. The staginess and the mannerisms
of the imitative elocutionist were all absent, but
a rugged and forceful eloquence was often
developed in the primitive lyceums on the Red
River. A few years ago there appeared before
the Presbytery of Winnipeg six members of
the old Kildonan congregation in the matter
of a call to their minister. All these had been
educated in the old-fashioned schools, with
whatever additional they could learn by further
observation and experience. As they presented
their views in a simple, manly and straightforward way, there was noticed the great distinction of Scriptural phrases, which always lend
such grace and power to spoken thoughts.
There was a fine ideal of duty and a vivid sense
of an over-ruling Will—and all presented with
76 Red River Folk
a natural eloquence most pleasing to hear. Veterans in the court said afterwards that they
had never heard such power and ability in men
of their class—truly a fine tribute to their
native talent, to their indomitable perseverance,
as well as to those who had been their teachers
in the churches and schools of the early days.
There were many social customs in the old
colony that would seem strange to people of
to-day. Marriages were celebrated after publication of banns for two or three consecutive
Sundays in church, and so there were no clandestine weddings. They were generally celebrated in winter, and the parties were escorted
to and from the place of the ceremony by scores
of well-driven fast horses, whose merry sleigh-
bells played a continuous wedding march. A
good deal of speeding was customary, witE one
definite limit, namely, that no one was to pass
the principal parties on pain of social displeasure. There was much rejoicing at these
wedding gatherings, and on the Sunday succeeding the marriage the newly-married couple,
with their attendants, were present at church
services in a special pew. This practice of
" kirking " showed what a, prominent place the
church had in the life of the people. As a
matter of fact, a man who did not go to church
with reasonable regularity was shunned in
ordinary business as a man not to be trusted.
Funerals were attended by all who received
77 The Romance of Western Canada
personal invitations. Services were held, where
the solemnity of singing the majestic psalms
was a leading feature. All references to the
departed were made with Highland reticence.
In fact, there was always a somewhat studied
effort throughout the life of that day to repress
demonstrativeness. A travelling evangelist, for
instance, was rebuked by an old elder in the Kildonan Church because the evangelist insisted
that religion should be evidenced by standing
up or some such open testimony. I recall once,
in a neighbor's house, assisting a son to place
the body of his father in a coffin, which this
same elder, John Sutherland, had made with
his own hands and brought to the place of
mourning. I recall the matter-of-fact way in
which the elder spoke in giving us directions;
but the members of that family knew well what
a tender heart he was hiding under his brusque-
ness, and how, ere he left their desolate home,
he would lead them in prayer, so that the
heavens would seem to open above them with
comfort and hope in the midst of their sorrow.
For the funeral services no conveyances
were ever used. Every one walked, in respect
for the dead and sympathy for the living; and
they carried the coffin by turns to the place of
burial, also as a mark of respect. I have heard
my father relate how, on the death of Donald
Ross, a retired Hudson's Bay factor, who was
highly regarded, the settlers refused to allow
78 Red River Folk
the question of distance to interfere with their
desire to be respectful, and so they carried his
body some eighteen miles, from near the Stone
Fort to the burial place at St. John's Cathedral.
This took a whole day, and at noon they halted
where a cart with provisions for a meal met
them. Here they had dinner, and again took
up the line of march. This may be looked upon
as extreme, but as a solemn and affectionate
tribute to the memory of the departed, it stands
out well in comparison with the confused hurry
of people who seem to have no time to perform
the last offices with respectful decency.
The views entertained in regard to Sabbath
observance were very pronounced, and these
prevailed not only amongst the Scotch settlers
but on the plains as well, where it will be
remembered that no buffalo-running was
allowed on Sunday except in cases of dire
necessity. This regulation was due to the early
discovery of the fact that a day's rest in seven
was a highly beneficial and necessary regulation, a discovery sometimes forgotten in our
modern asylum-filling craze for perpetual work
or dissipation; but, amongst the settlers, the
sanctions of the commandment, modified only
by the interpretation of the Nazarene, were
looked on as binding. I knew of a case where
a small party of settlers, leaving their families
with scanty food supply, had gone on a winter
buffalo hunt, and were camped one Saturday
79 The Romance of Western Canada
night along the Pembina mountains. They
shared their scanty meal of frozen fish with
their faithful sled-dogs, then, before retiring
to rest under the lee of their upturned toboggans, with the dogs crouched in the snow*
they made their case a matter of prayer. When
they awoke three buffaloes were in the valley
below; but not till another meeting was held to
thank the Provider of all good did an elder
take his gun in hand. He approached the buffaloes without difficulty, shot one; and though
the others circled around within range, he
went up and dsove them away, holding that he
was only justified in taking provision for the
day. That kind of faith would seem quixotic
to some people, but others hold that it was by
reason of such faith that those early settlers
triumphed over incredible obstacles.
But the years were passing, and the outside
world began to learn by degrees of this Utopian
kind of settlement, and, some to investigate the
possibilities of the country, and others to hunt
big game, began to find their way into the West.
It is interesting to know how these newcomers
were impressed by the quality of the Red River
Back nearly sixty years ago, the Earl of
Southesk, one day in old London, asked a
friend if he could suggest some new land in
which he could travel in search of health and
for real recreation. The friend advised him
80 Red River Folk
to try Rupert's Land, and to apply to the Hudson's Bay Company to make arrangements, by
securing men and supplies, for a trip of a year
or two through the Great Lone West. So, in
due time, the Earl was in St. Paul, Minnesota,
where he was to go overland by trail to Fort
Garry on the expedition contemplated. In a
rare book published by him, but now out of
print, the Earl gives account of his long trip
from St. Paul, through the Fort Garry country into the Saskatchewan, and as far as the
Kootenay Valley, in the Rocky Mountains. He
writes finely of the Red River men who looked
after his welfare on the two-year trip in the
open that restored his health. Concerning the
man who arranged the tour and engaged those
who were to go with the Earl, not only as hired
help but as companions who would be intelligent sharers in the life and conversation by the
way, Southesk says: " James McKay met me
in St. Paul. His appearance greatly interested
me, both from his own personal advantages,
and because he was the first Red River man
that I had yet beheld. A Scotsman, though
with Indian blood in his veins on the mother's
side, he was born and bred in the Saskatchewan country, but afterwards became resident
near Fort Garry, and entered the Company's
employ. Whether as guide or hunter, he was
universally recognized as one of their best men.
Immensely broad-chested and muscular, though
81 The Romance of Western Canada
not tall, he weighed eighteen stone; yet in spite
of his stoutness he was exceedingly hardy and
active, and a wonderful horseman. His face is
very handsome—short, aquiline, delicate nose;
piercing dark grey eyes; long, dark brown hair,
beard and mustaches; white, small, regular
teeth; skin tanned to red bronze by exposure to
the weather. He was dressed in Red River style
—a blue cloth capot (hooded frock-coat) with
brass buttons; red and black flannel shirt, which
served for waistcoat; black belt around the
waist; trousers of brown and white striped
home-made woolen stuff; buff leather moccasins on his feet. I had never come across a
wearer of moccasins before, and it amused me
to see this grand and massive man pacing the
hotel corridors with noiseless footfall, while
excitable little Yankees in shiny boots creaked
and stamped about like so many busy steam
I remember well the man who is so well
described by Lord Southesk. His father was
a Highland Scot, who had been on the Franklin relief expeditions, and had married a tall,
handsome native of the North, who made a
devoted, model wife and mother. Their son
James, above mentioned by the Earl, was the
oldest of several children, all of whom were
strikingly handsome. James McKay became
the leading intermediary in the negotiations of
treaties with the Indians in later years, and was
82 Red River Folk
also President of the Executive Council in
Manitoba, as well as Speaker of the Legislature. The last time I saw him was during Lord
Dufferin's visit to the West as Governor-General, about 1877. McKay arranged for the
visitor a sort of Western hunt and series of
races; and as the splendid, massive man drove
about with his famous cream horse, the great
Irish diplomat no doubt realized the peculiar
value of having such a man to stand between
the old and the new—a fact to which he made
special reference afterwards in public address.
When Lord Southesk reached Fort Garry,
under the guidance of James McKay, he met
the men who had been selected for the Western trip—all Kildonan men—John McKay, a
brother of James; Morrison MacBeth (also
written in Highland form, McBeath); and
Donald Matheson. After being out on the
plains for some days the Earl writes in his
diary: " My men go on well. I like them all.
John McKay is my head man; a steady, good
man, clever with horses, carts, or anything; he
manages everything admirably, and suits me
exceedingly well. Matheson is a jolly, handsome young Scotchman, singing snatches of
bright songs all day. MacBeth, a Scotsman
too, grave, tall, gentlemanlike." When the long
trip was over the Earl writes his farewell thus:
I On Monday I took leave of all my Red River
men. It went to my heart to say farewell to
83 The Romance of Western Canada
these excellent fellows, so long partakers of my
good and evil fortunes, so cheery in prosperity,
so gallant in adversity. I shall ever feel under
a debt of gratitude to these true and faithful companions." Surely the problem of
employer and employed depends for solution
on character.
But we are now nearing the era of Confederation, for the provinces in the East were
getting together, and great statesmen in those
regions were looking westward beyond the old
horizon limits to the wide land stretching
towards the setting sun. The Red River folk
had kept that land British, had demonstrated
the immense possibilities of the country, and
had stamped upon the immense territory the
seal of upright, law-abiding, intelligent character. They were now to witness new developments in the land.
The vast possibilities and immense resources
of the North-West could not remain permanently concealed under the blanket of the Indian
or the pelt of the fur-trader; but it should be
remembered that the existence of the Indian
and the explorations and reports of the fur-
trader did a large, if involuntary, service by
leading to investigations which resulted in the
opening up of the country. We remember, of
course, that Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the
noted North-West Fur Company leader, quite
violently opposed the introduction of the first
colonists under Lord Selkirk; and the evidence
of Sir George Simpson, of the Hudson's Bay
Company, given before the famous "Roebuck
Committee " of the British House of Commons
in 1857, indicated that he did not consider the
country suitable for colonization, and therefore
he would discourage it; but the mention of the
Roebuck Committee (it was so called, though
Labouchere was chairman and Gladstone was
an active member) recalls the fact that it was
the pressure to secure information about the
country which led to the appointment of this
committee "to consider the state of those
7 85 I
The Romance of Western Canada
British possessions in North America which are
under the administration of the Hudson's Bay
Company, or over which they possess a license
to trade." The reference to this license also
reminds us that the Arctic districts and the
Pacific coast country were not covered by the
charter to Prince Rupert and his associates in
1670, as that charter only gave the right to the
area drained into Hudson Bay. The rest of the
country was covered by license to trade, and
this license was renewed from time to time.
The House of Commons committee brought
the country into the limelight. The Palliser-
Hector expedition of exploration, sent out by
the British Government, and the Dawson-Hind
expedition, sent out by the Government of Canada/added to the store of information and
attracted wide attention to the land which has
now begun to be the granary of the Empire,
the land whose illimitable resources in timber,
mines and fisheries now astonish the world.
One of the most interesting and ingenious
answers to the charge that the Hudson's Bay
Company opposed the opening up of the country was written by the late Lord Strathcona in
the preface to a few short papers I wrote some
years ago on the Selkirk settlers.
"It has been the custom," said his lordship,
" to describe the Hudson's Bay Company as an
opponent of individual settlement and of colonization.   To enter into a controversy upon this
86 The Changing Order
point is not my purpose, but it may be proper to
state that the condition of affairs at the time in
question, in the country between Lake Superior
and the Rocky Mountains, does not appear to
have been sufficiently appreciated. Owing to
the difficulty of access and egress, colonization
in what is now Manitoba and the North-West
Territories could not have taken place to any
extent. Of necessity, also, the importation of
the commodities required in connection with
its agricultural development would have been
exceptionally expensive; while, on the other
hand, the cost of transportation of its possible
exports must have been so great as to render
competition with countries more favorably
situated at the moment difficult, if not impossible. The justice of these contentions will be
at once realized when it is remembered that the
Red River valley was situated in the centre of
the continent, one thousand miles away in any
direction from settled districts. . . . Personally, it is my opinion that the acquisition
and development of the Hudson Bay Territory
was impossible prior to the confederation of
the Dominion. No less a body than united
Canada could have acquired and administered
so large a domain, or have undertaken the
construction of railways, without which its
development could only have been slow and
uncertain. It was not until 1878, eight years
after the transfer, that Winnipeg first received
87 The Romance of Western Canada
railway communication through the United
States. Three or four more years elapsed
before the completion of the line to Lake
Superior, and it was only late in 1885—sixteen
years after the Hudson's Bay Company relinquished their charter—that the Canadian Pacific
Railway was completed from ocean to ocean,
and Manitoba and the North-West Territories
were placed in direct and regular communication with the different parts of the Dominion."
This is well put from the Company's standpoint, and has some highly reasonable arguments in a small compass. To this statement
I can add that, so far as my own knowledge
and recollection go, the old settlers, colonists
and hunters, though becoming conscious of the
fact, that the Hudson's Bay government was
unable to cope with some lawless elements that
were developing, made no special effort to
change for an uncertain quantity. Apostolic
words are authority for saying that the law is
made for the lawless and the disobedient; but
the peace-loving Western Arcadians felt little
need of law-enforcement, as they lived quietly
and minded their own business. Why should
it be reasonably thought that the people of that
time, along the banks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, and out on the great plains, would
make any special effort to bring in the flood of
that larger life which, from the older settled
portions of the continent, was beginning to beat The Changing Order
up against their borders ? The conditions under
which those people lived were, for the most
part, the best they knew, and, speaking generally, they were contented and happy under the
regime of the Hudson's Bay Company, especially as that company did not latterly insist on
monopoly in trade. The community, before
the transfer to Canada, might be roughly
divided into two classes, if we except those
who, during the sixties, had come from without
into their midst.
The Selkirk settlers and those of their class
(who composed the one part) would not, so
far at least as the older generation was concerned, be eager for more struggles and wrench-
ings. For years after coming to the country,
as already described, their life had been one of
grim and incessant conflict with all manner of
difficulties. Not only Were they met again and
again by the deadly hostility and persecution
of the North-West Fur Company, who were
determined to destroy the colony brought out
under the care of their rivals in trade; not only
had locust plagues and epidemics assailed them
with ruinous force, but the very elements
seemed so unfriendly to people unaccustomed
to the climatic conditions, that more than ten
long years from their first coming had passed
before they had any means of livelihood other
than the fish or fowl or products of the chase
they might ofttimes, with great hardship and
89 The Romance of Western Canada
suffering, secure. Even following those ten
years they had scarcely got their homes built
and their little plots sowed, when, after the
"long and cruel winter" of 1826, the raging
Red swept everything they owned before its
frothing current into Lake Winnipeg. Is it
any wonder that when they got fairly settled,
the old men who had come through this magnificent struggle felt that now, when their sinews
had been tamed by age and trouble and their
heads frosted with the unmelting snows, they
were entitled to that decade of rest that rounds
out the threescore years and ten?
And so it was that the older of them, while
loyal to every British institution that might be
set up in their midst, and while anxious to do
what was best for their children, waited in the
lengthening shadows for the sunset, and neither
clamored for changed conditions nor took much
active part in them when those conditions began
to obtain. The younger people amongst them,
it is true—many of whom had gone to eastern
institutions of learning, and had come back
with some knowledge of life's possibilities
under different conditions; and others of whom
had, in freighting expeditions, tapped the
arteries of business and got the taste of commercial blood—were not averse to the incoming
of the new life when circumstances would be
ripe for its advent.
The other part of the community was
90 The Changing Order
composed largely of the French and half-breed
bois-bruleS—the adventurous hunters and traders of the time—and these could have no special
interest in pressing for the opening of the country to the newer civilization. From their childhood these men had roamed over this great
area with a lordly sense of ownership. Without any let or hindrance they had followed the
buffalo over the trackless prairie; they had
trapped the fur-bearing animals in the forest
and on the plains; they had fished in the great
lakes and rivers, and in the midst of it all had
lived in the enjoyment of a satisfying, if rude,
abundance. No one who ever saw one of these
plain hunters come in to Fort Garry, after the
season's work on the Saskatchewan, could fail
to see that he was a person in exceedingly comfortable material circumstances. In his train
he had any number of carts (with ponies for
each and to spare), and these were laden with
the choicest viands in the shape of buffalo meat,
marrow-fat, beaver-tail, etc., while he also had
a goodly supply of furs that would bring handsome prices. Besides his ponies, he had several
choice horses of the larger breed for buffalo
runners; and, camping with his family and following in their cosy tents on the prairie, he was
as independent as a feudal baron in the brave
days of old. Under such circumstances these
men were not likely to be active in securing the
advent of conditions that would circumscribe
91 I
The Romance of Western Canada
their domain; but neither they nor any other
class of the population in the Red River country were predisposed to put obstacles in the
way of any incoming system that would pay
due regard to the rights of those who were in
the country before its advent.
It is true, as mentioned above, that some of
the younger men of the old settlers' families,
who had gone east for higher education, came
back with the idea that the Red River country
should get into closer touch with Canada; but
they were not numerous enough to secure a
general movement in that direction. Amongst
these young men, for instance, was James Ross,
son of the famous old sheriff and historian of
the colony, Alexander Ross. James Ross had
taken a brilliant course in Toronto, and was
afterwards on the staff of The Globe, where he
had come into contact with the masterful personality of Mr. George Brown, who was one
of the first eastern men to have a vision of the
coming greatness of the West. Then two Englishmen, Coldwell and Buckingham, came to
the Red River in 1859 and started a newspaper
called The Nor'-wester, which was edited at
times by James Ross and at times by that zealous Canadian, Dr. John Schultz, or his fidus
Achates, Dr. W. R. Bown. Doctor Schultz was
easily one of the most outstanding men in the
country in those early days, and, despite failing health in his later years, resultant from
92 The Changing Order
hardships in the first Riel rebellion, he held a
prominent place to the end. He was born in
Amherstburg, Ontario, took a brilliant course
in medicine; but his tremendous virility
demanded more than the practice in a quiet
eastern town, and so he came to the Red River
country in 1865. I remember him when he
was in the heyday of his physical strength, a
tall giant, beside whose great stride I had to
run when, one day in my early boyhood, I went
to direct him to a house across the river where
he was going on medical consultation. The
river was high and rough that day, but the
Doctor, with a strength that threatened to snap
the heavy oars, propelled the clumsy boat
against wind and current. Once when, in the
tumultuous transition days, there was the usual
riot, the crowd at a meeting made a rush for the
platform where Schultz and others were sitting. The doctor rose, and, putting his foot
on the bar of the big home-made oaken chair
on which he had been sitting, wrenched it
asunder as if it had been made of pipe-stems;
on seeing which the crowd concluded they
would give up the rioting for that evening.
Yet this giant had much gentleness about him.
He possessed a soft and finely-modulated voice,
was a self-controlled speaker of great eloquence, and always retained his gentlemanly
and courteous manner in debate. Dr. W. R.
Bown was not a man of very special ability, but
93 The Romance of Western Canada
could write well and was greatly devoted ta
Schultz. With men of this type of enthusiastic
young Canadianism on its staff from time to
time, The Nor*-Wester was aggressively on the
side of those who desired to oust the Hudson's
Bay Company and bring in the tide of new life
from the East. However, the postal facilities
were very limited, and western pioneers'were
not only slow to get the newspaper habit, but
were disposed to scrutinize the views of newcomers. This attitude, natural enough in a
people so long self-contained, was intensified
by the fact that certain of these new-comers
from the States, and even from Eastern Canada, had not acted so as to commend themselves to the old settlements.
Some of the new arrivals, for instance, who
had been hospitably entertained by the settlers
with their best, wrote to eastern papers ridiculing the manner of life and the accommodation
they found amongst them, and made reference
to the dark-skinned people under the somewhat
contemptuous name of " breeds." The number,
of course, who did any of these things was
small, but their conduct offended and estranged
many who, ignorant of the fact that such people
were only the excrescences on the better life
of the older provinces, somewhat guardedly
awaited further developments.
In any case there is always a strong element
of pathos present when people who have been
94 The Changing Order
in undisputed and absolute possession of a big
country realize that limitations are being put
upon them by the incoming of new population
and new conditions. Even though the narrowing of their domain was for their own ultimate
good, we can understand how the white settlers
by the banks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers
would feel that a great change was coming over
the spirit of their dream. Those who knew
what the old order had been realized how completely in many ways it was to be reversed, and
hence how carefully and judiciously the Government of Canada, and those who professed
to be its agents, should have acted in bringing
to pass the changes that would ensue on the
West's entering into Confederation. For those
settlers, once they had conquered their earlier
difficulties, life had been singularly peaceable
and uneventful. Its central points outside the
home, with all its guileless hospitality and simplicity, were the church and school, both of
which bulked far more largely with them than
some people in these days of complex society
seem able to understand.
They were without the vexation and the
heart-burning of active politics, they were
ignorant of taxation in any form, while the
rivalries that existed were in keeping with
their simple life, and had nothing of that fierce
element of competition into which the newer
civilization was to hurl them. The contests
95 If
The Romance of Western Canada
that had been most in evidence were over such
matters as the speed of horses, in regard to
which the settlement would often be deeply
stirred, especially if the horses were owned in
different parts of the colony. There was sometimes a great deal of strength put into efforts to
be first with the seeding, harvest, hay-cutting,
hay-hauling, or freighting expeditions. It was
the ambition of many households always to
have breakfast by candle-light, that they might
have a good deal done before their more tardy
neighbors arose. In the matter of hay-hauling
we used to get up in the night, and going out to
the yard, where the oxen had been tied to the
carts, grope around in the darkness to get them
hitched up, now and then pausing to listen
whether we could hear the creaking music that
betokened the departure of our neighbor's cart-
train to the hay swamps. Friendly contests in
feats of physical strength were very common.
The number of bags of wheat a man could
carry on his back, the quantity of shot-bags he
could lift over his head, the weight he could
hang to his little finger and then write his name
on the wall with a coal, the number of loads of
hay he could cut with a scythe in a day, or the
number of " stooks " of wheat he could handle
with a sickle—these were some of the rivalries
that gave zest to the simple life of the early
days. The school was another field for
competition, and on the great days of oral
96 The Changing Order
examination the parents and friends were
present as eager and interested spectators of
the contest which decided who was the best
reader, writer, etc., in the district.
In the business life of the people there was
nothing tumultuous. There were no banks and
no promissory notes—on the latter of which
they would have looked with contempt as on
something implying distrust in a man's word
of honor. The general stores, either of fhe
Hudson's Bay Company or of individual dealers, were not clamorous for business, as there
was no compelling force of competition. Frequently, on going to one of these stores, you
had to look up the proprietor, who, leaving the
store to take care of itself, was out attending to
his horse, or something of that sort. When
you went into a store there was no modern
'clerk to advance with an alluring smile; indeed,
the proprietor or clerk might even say that he
had not the article asked for, until the customer
would wander around and find it for himself.
No wrapping-paper was used, and you had
either to bring a bag with you, buy some cotton, or leave your tea and sugar on the counter.
Think of a community like that being suddenly confronted with the necessity for political
strife, with the prospect of municipal government and taxation, with all the keen and sometimes bitter rivalries of present-day business
methods, and with, alas, some adventurers all
97 The Romance of Western Canada
too ready to take advantage of their simple-
heartedness, and no one will wonder if it took
the people some little time to gather themselves
up and accommodate their lives to such new
But more important in its bearing upon the
feeling of the people was the sudden realization
of the fact that, after long years of undisputed
possession of large privileges on the great areas
around them, limitations were being put upon
their operations by the incoming of strangers,
who, driving stakes here and there, barred the
old ways and the old fields—sometimes unjustly
—against a people who could only be expected
to learn slowly that their domain must some
time be curtailed.
Meanwhile, in the East, matters had been
ripening for Confederation. Upper and Lower
Canada, united in 1841, had come, in 1864, to
a place where legislation was deadlocked and
clamped. The two ways out of the impasse
were annexation or Confederation; but men
like George Brown and John A. Macdonald
intended to die British subjects. Perhaps there
are few more thrilling incidents on record in
British history than the meeting between
Brown and Macdonald on June 15th, 1864,
which came as a result of an offer from the
former, the strong, dour, passionate Scot, who
suppressed his personal and political feelings in
order to open the way out of the deadlock into
98 The Changing Order
Confederation. Conferences in Charlottetown,
Quebec and old London were held, piloted
around the snags by the wonderful tact of
Macdonald, and on July ist, 1867, Queen
Victoria, of immortal memory, "proclaimed"
the Dominion of Canada, consisting of Nova
Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec
(Prince Edward Island stayed out until 1873).
There is more than legend for the assertion
that Canada was called "Dominion" rather
than " Kingdom " because a Canadian member
of the London Conference, with the vision of
a continent-wide Canada, quoted the seventy-
second Psalm, "His dominion shall be from
sea to sea." In any case, George Brown, in his
prophetic way, had kept Rupert's Land before
the people of the East through The Globe,
though it finally fell to the lot of his political
opponents to link the oceans by driving the iron
horses through the mountains to the western
The task of accomplishing the federal union
of the old provinces once finished, in 1867, no
time was lost by eastern statesmen in reaching
out for the great lone land towards the setting
sun. Two Liberals, Howland and Macdougall,
had accepted office in Macdonald's Government
on the plea that they should see the whole plan
through, and one of these, Hon. William
Macdougall, was sent to the Imperial Government with Sir George E. Cartier, who had
99 The Romance of Western Canada
brought Quebec into line, to arrange for the
acquisition of the West. Despite opinions
expressed to the contrary, this was not hard to
arrange. The Hudson's Bay Company, which
had held the charter for two hundred years,
recognized the difficulty of continuing their
control of the changing situation. My father
was at that time a member of the Council of
Assiniboiar a magistrate, and a close friend of
Governor McTavish, and he said the Hudson's
Bay Company were glad to be rid of responsibility, so that they could adapt their business
to new conditions, which they have done in a
wonderful way. So the Company relinquished
their charter rights to the Imperial Government for £300,000 sterling, certain reservations around their trading posts, along with
one-twentieth of the land in the fertile belt;
and then the Imperial Government were to
transfer the vast territory to Canada, which,
in turn, undertook to respect and conserve the
rights of the people in the area thus added to
the Dominion. This arrangement was concluded in the spring of 1869, and it was then
expected that the purchase money would be
paid on the 1st of October following, and that
probably on the 1st of December the Queen's
Proclamation would issue, setting forth these
facts and fixing the date of the actual transfer
to Canada.
So far all was well.   The ideas leading to the
100 The Changing Order
acquisition of this great territory were in every
sense statesmanlike, and, if carefully carried
out, were calculated to be of the greatest benefit
to the people in the new territory and to the
Dominion as well. We cannot too thankfully
pay tribute unstinted to the men whose ideals
were for an ever-widening horizon, and who
felt that " no pent-up Utica should confine the
powers " of the young nation just beginning to
stretch out and exercise its giant limbs. Once
the older provinces were brought into a Confederation it was wise to look forward to a
Canada extending from ocean to ocean, and to
take the necessary legal steps to secure the
West as part of the Dominion. But just there,
after the negotiations with the Hudson's Bay
Company through the Imperial Government
were well in hand and were being wisely concluded, the Canadian authorities seem to have
blundered by overlooking the fact that the new
territory had a population of some ten thousand people, who ought at least to have been
informed in some official way of the bargain
that was being made, and of the steps being
taken to secure and guard their rights and
Rumors of the transacti6n certainly reached
the Red River through unauthoritative sources,
only to produce uneasiness there. Before the
transfer was completed men were sent out to
open roads from the Lake of the Woods into
8 101 The Romance of Western Canada
the settlement. Surveying parties entered the
new territory and went hither and thither, driving their stakes and erecting their mounds, to
the bewilderment of the people, and, to cap all,
a governor, the Hon. Wm. Macdougall, was
despatched to the Red River before the old
Government was in any sense superseded and
before a Queen's Proclamation, which would
have been instantly recognized by all classes of
the community, was issued. The Selkirk settlers and other people of that class, however
perplexed at the procedure, had the utmost confidence that the Canadian authorities would
ultimately do substantial justice in the recognition of all just and lawful claims and privileges
enjoyed by the inhabitants of the new territory,
and hence awaited patiently, though somewhat
anxiously, the developments of time. But the
French half-breeds (commonly called "the
French " in the Red River colony)—more fiery
and easily excited, more turbulent of spirit and
warlike in disposition, accustomed to passages
at arms with any who would cross their path,
and withal, as a class, less well-informed on
current events than their white brethren—were
not satisfied with a course that seemed to them
to place their rights in jeopardy, and so they
rose up in a revolt that, alas, while possibly
accomplishing some of the objects that could
have been reached by constitutional means, left
102 The Changing Order
its red stream across that early page of our
The one unfathomed mystery of this period
was the visit of the Hon. Joseph Howe, Secretary of State, to Fort Garry and the settlements on the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Mr.
Howe occupied the office which is now the
Department of the Interior, and hence the
affairs of the West came under his purview.
He came to the Red River before the actual
outbreak. He stayed at the hotel in the village
most of the time and received callers. He also
visited somewhat amongst the people with Mr.
W. E. Sanford, of Hamilton, who was out on
mercantile business. Mr. Howe would have
no authority to issue a proclamation, but the
marvel is that, as a member of the Government
of Canada, he did not make some effort to
assure the settlers that the rights of the people
would be protected. This would have gone far
to allay the trouble and undermine Riel, who
was beginning to foment trouble; but he
departed without making any statement; and
when he met Macdougall on the Dakota plains
it was too cold a day for conference, and all
he told Macdougall was that there was uneasiness amongst the people' in the West. Howe
did not undertake the trip for his health; he
was near seventy, and the journey back to St.
Paul over the frozen plain, camping out at
times, shortened his days. Some say that
103 The Romance of Western Canada
Howe's sympathy had always been with the
"under dog," and that he found on his visit
west that there was much justification for the
discontent, and that he preferred to say nothing
until he could get back to Ottawa; but by the
time he got back to Ottawa it was too late to
arrest the impending revolt. Macdougall, who
seems to have taken a worthy part and a leading part in all the earlier negotiations for the
acquisition of the West, became the victim of
circumstances in the closing chapters; and when
he got into the mesh of these circumstances his
judgment was not sound enough to help him out.
He naturally felt much aggrieved at the turn
affairs were taking on the Red River, and in his
disappointment is said to have blamed Howe for
adding to the uneasiness of the western people.
If this means active fomenting of the trouble,
it seems to be practically beyond the remotest
possibility; and so the mystery, like many
another, will remain for all time; but it is clear
to us who recall the situation, that for some
reason or other, which doubtless was good in
his own eyes, Mr. Howe, who had a very
strenuous trip, seems to the onlooker to have
lost a great opportunity for conserving the
public peace. In any case, he had scarcely
turned his back when Louis Riel cried havoc,
and let loose the flame of revolt against the
incoming of Canadian authority.
"The. French are off to drive back the
Governor!" These words, somewhat excitedly
uttered by one of my brothers, and addressed
to my father, made up the first intimation I
remember having that something serious was
on foot; yet I recall the exact words as distinctly as if they had been spoken yesterday,
and most of the acts in the drama of the rebellion, whose actual outbreak they announced,
are indelibly stamped upon my memory. It
was in October, 1869, and my brother had just
come home from the morning service in Kildonan Church, over which, upon that day, the
shadow of the situation had been cast, The
fact that the news first came to us in this way
throws a curious sidelight on the primitive life
of the time. The churchyard was the modern
representative of the Athenian market-place, so
far as the giving and receiving of news was
concerned. The settlement had no telegraphic
communication with the outside world; the
solitary post-office was miles away, and mails,
in any case, were few and far apart. A few of
the people subscribed for an eastern paper,
105 The Romance of Western Canada
which was comparatively old before it reaehed
its destination, and the local paper was doubtless often greatly at a loss for " copy." Moreover, it must be remembered that in certain
seasons of the year the settlers were away from
home haying, wood-cutting, etc., during the
whole week. Saturday evening, however, they
were all back, and on Sabbath morning, except
in cases of sickness or some similar cause, they
were all wending their way in good time to the
The men often gathered in knots in the
churchyard before the service, that they might
get abreast of the times. Some stay-at-home
man, perhaps the school-teacher, who was
always looked upon as a species of encyclopaedia, or someone who was in touch with the
inhabitants of Fort Garry, gave what information he could as to current events. The Sabbatarian ideas of these people were, for the
most part, strict enough; but I suppose they
looked on this parliament as a sort of family
gathering to talk over family affairs, and as
a general thing the news imparted was not
startling enough to disturb that air of devout-
ness which they sought to cultivate when they
entered the portals of the place of worship;
but on the day just mentioned the intelligence
was of unusual moment, and, perchance, may
have deepened the earnestness with which they
106 Rebellion Afoot
joined in the prayer for the preservation of
peace to Him " who breaketh the bow in sunder
and burneth the chariot in. the fire."
"The French are off to drive back the
Governor!" repeated my brother, fresh from
the churchyard conclave, and though it was the
first I recall hearing of active trouble, doubtless
the announcement was not wholly unexpected
by my father. It seemed that for some weeks
previous to this, Louis Riel, who was to have
the " bad eminence " of leading two rebellions,
had been holding meetings amongst the French
half-breeds, and, doubtless, moved by others far
and near, had been delivering fiery orations in
regard to the rumored changes, which he
claimed were to put in jeopardy all the rights
they held dear. It may as well be admitted that
the situation, as they saw it, gave him some
plausible ground on which to work. Perhaps
\ it was due to the extreme difficulty of getting
into communication with the far West, without
telegraphs or railways and with only occasional
mails, that official word, with explanations, had
not been sent out from Ottawa. It took many
weeks to get a letter through in the best of
times, and just at that time things were worse
than usual in that regard. All that the settlers
really knew was that Governor Macdougall had
been sent out, and that quite a number of not
very prudent persons, who claimed to be agents
107 The Romance of Western Canada
of the Dominion, had been let loose in the territory. And so, in the absence of ordinary
precautions on the part of the Canadian authorities, Louis Riel found his opportunity. The
signal fires of rebellion were lit on the banks
of the Red River and called sympathisers from
out on the great plains.
This Louis Riel was a stormy character in
his lifetime, and his ghost is not yet laid. Every
now and then it stalks abroad in the speeches
of men who think that people of French extraction are a long-suffering race in Canada. Riel,
as I remember him, was not a fighting man
himself, but he had a power to stir up others to
fight which amounted to positive genius. He
came properly by it, because he was a born agitator. His father of the same name had a little
mill on the Seine in St. Boniface, and was
widely known as "the Miller of the Seine."
His hand was against all constituted authority
in a degree that would have endeared him to
the heart of a modern anarchist. He could
make fiery, inflammatory speeches, and had an
extraordinary influence over the French element. All these qualities he bequeathed to his
son, who had the additional advantage of some
education received at Laval University. He
came back to the Red River country from his
course there with all the prestige it gave in
those days, when very few had visited eastern
108 LOUIS      DAVID      RlE)Iv
Who had the " Bad Eminence " of Leading Two Rebellions.  Rebellion Afoot
institutions; and he found the occasion ripe for
the kind of leadership he desired. He revelled
in the plaudits of his fellow-countrymen, for
his inordinate vanity always craved adulation.
Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Riel's
fiery speeches fell on very inflammable material.
These French half-breeds were naturally of a
wild spirit—daring rough-riders of the plains,
who brooked no interference from anyone, and
who had passed through many a conflict with
their darker brethren on the wild wastes of the
West. Once get men of that sort to feel that
they are fighting for their homes and the rights
of their families, put modern weapons into
their hands, and in their own kind of warfare
they are dangerous men to attack. Being of
that stamp, and being made to feel that they
were to 'be trodden upon, they rose in armed
insurrection and, as a first step, went on the
errand noted in the opening words of this
chapter. No one can defend an act such as
theirs, even had it not led to some of the deplorable events which followed. Though many can
see extenuating circumstances, armed rebellion
is a serious business; and if there is a place
for it in the present state of the world, it is
when all constitutional means have been
exhausted, and people accomplish a revolution
in the face of some iniquitous and tyrannous
government.  Tubal Cain's offensive weapon is
109 The Romance of Western Canada
an instrument of last resort, only to be taken
up when every other arbitrament has failed;
and this we say, though we agree
That while Oppression lifts its head,
Or a tyrant would be lord,
While we may thank him for the plough,
We Won't forget the sword.
But the case before us was far short of that.
At best Riel and his men were starting to fight
the shadows of events which might never come,
even though those shadows seemed to their
kindled imaginations to be portents of dire
disasters heading in their direction. No threat
had been made against these people, and they
should have known that no act of robbery or of
deprivation of rights had ever been permitted
ultimately by the flag under whose folds they
were to be governed. Besides, they had no
right to assume to speak for the whole country
before consulting with others who lived in it.
Why did they not take counsel with the Selkirk
settlers and men of that class who, being of less
nomadic habits, had larger settled interests in
the territory, and who, moreover, had always
been better informed as to events that were
transpiring? Why did they not see whether
some concerted and peaceful action on the part
of the whole population could not be planned
to attain the ends in view and conserve the
rights of the inhabitants which seemed to be
threatened ?
110 Rebellion Afoot
But I have never felt like cherishing bitter
feelings against the rank and file of Riel's men.
They were ignorant men, easily imposed on by
superior minds, and there is good reason to
believe that there were many influences brought
to bear on them besides that of Louis Riel. He,
of course, was the chief agent; and, after
knowing a good deal about him in various
ways, and after hearing the legal giants and
alienists battling for his life as he was nearing
the gallows, it is difficult to say whether he was
knave or lunatic, or partly both. Let the reader
follow the story and arrive at a verdict.
Of course, the rebels had been organizing
and arming for some time, though, as a matter
of fact, men of that class always had their
guns at hand. They began to gather in St.
Norbert, up the Red River, and their first overt
act was to erect a fence across the trail by
which the new Governor would come to Fort
Garry; and around this locality Riel, who had
been addressing meetings in the French parishes, soon had some three or four hundred
men. They made headquarters at the house of
the Rev. Father Richot, the parish priest of St.
Norbert, who was without doubt actively a
partaker in Riel's sins of revolt. In this house
the rebels established a council chamber, electing John Bruce a figure-head president, but
Riel, the real moving spirit, as secretary. One
of their first acts was to indite the following to
111 The Romance of Western Canada
the Hon. Wm. Macdougall and send it to him
by special courier.
"Monsieur,—Le Comite National des Metis
de la Riviere Rouge, intime a Monsieur W.
Macdougall l'ordre de ne pas entrer sur le Ter-
ritoire du Nord-Ouest sans une permission
speciale de ce comite.
" Par ordre du President,
"John Bruce.
" Louis RiEl, Secretaire.
" Date a St. Norbert, Riviere Rouge,
" Ce 2ie Jour d'Octobre, 1869."
Two of Macdougall's staff pluckily rode up
to the barricade, and Captain Cameron, Sir
Charles Tupper's son-in-law, ordered the rebels
to " take away that blasted fence "; but the men
on duty simply caught the horses of the aides
by the bridles and turned them back on the
road to Pembina, where Macdougall was quartered. Governor McTavish, at Fort Garry, was
informed of these proceedings, but he was a
dying man and could not be expected to take
much active share in anything. Later on, when
somewhat better for ~a time, he issued a proclamation roundly denouncing all Riel's highhandedness.
From that  date  onward   Riel  established
blockade on the road by which all traffic and'
mails came to the Red River by way of St.
Paul, Minnesota.   No one could go either way
112 Rebellion Afoot
without Riel's pass, and some rather amusing
incidents took place. Mr. W. E. Sanford
(afterwards Senator), who> for himself and
the City of Hamilton had the honor of first
opening regular trade between Eastern Canada
and the Red River, had come up to the country
with Joseph Howe. Howe left before the barricade was put up; but Sanford, who was
merely on a business trip, found his way
blocked when he started home. He appealed
to Mr. Bannatyne, the most prominent of the
Fort Garry merchants, and Bannatyne sent for
Riel to come to his place. He introduced Sanford, who, though not generally disposed that
way, ordered in two bottles of champagne, a
new luxury in that country; and by the time
Riel had well sampled the delusive drink he
granted the Hamilton wholesaler a pass beyond
the barricade. After passing the barricade,
Sanford gave Macdougall the not very cheering news of the situation. The Governor, of
course, was the special object of search at the
fence on the side coming into the country, and
every equipage about which a Governor could
be concealed, was scrutinized as keenly as the
cars are searched by lynx-eyed trainmen in the,
season when tramps are stealing free rides
across the country. A well-known Kildonan
"settler, Donald Gunn, was bringing in from
the St. Paul direction a Presbyterian missionary, a magisterial-looking man; and, as Gunn
113 The Romance of Western Canada
liked a joke, he said, in answer to enquiry as to
who he had, " Our governor." In a moment
there was trouble, and Gunn, thinking the joke
had gone far enough, added, " I mean one of
the governors of our church," upon hearing
which the bars were let down for the man of
peace, who was thankful that he held a commission from an authority higher than earthly
Every effort short of force, which' was not
available, was being used by the local authorities, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and his Council, to secure a peaceable
solution of the difficulties impending; but to all
these the rebels turned a deaf ear, and a few
days after the erection of the barricade a
mounted troop of them, under, command of
Ambroise Lepine, rode to the place where Governor Macdougall had come upon British territory, and warned him to leave before nine;
o'clock next morning. They returned the following day at eight to see this programme
carried out, and the Governor, having no other
recourse in the presence of arms than to obey,
recrossed the boundary line to Pembina, in the
State of Dakota.
A striking figure was this Ambrpise Lepine,
as I remember seeing him in Fort Garry in the
heyday of his power—a man of magnificent
physique, standing fully six feet three and
built in splendid proportion, straight as an
114 Rebellion Afoot
arrow, with hair of raven blackness, large aquiline nose and eyes of piercing brilliance; a man
of prodigious strength, a skilled rough-rider
and, withal, a dangerous subject to meet in
conflict. He had great influence amongst his
compatriots, and by reason, doubtless, of his
physical prowess and striking military appearance, soon obtained control of the armed
But winter was coming on apace, and the
rebels began to look around for more comfortable quarters, and so, on the 3rd of November,
they rode down to Fort Garry and, in spite of
the protest of Doctor Cowan, the officer in
charge under Governor McTavish, took possession of it, with all its stores and abundant
supplies. Riel, who had seized the furniture
which Governor Macdougall was bringing for
Government House, proceeded to utilize it for
his own apartments; and as the provision of
the fort was ample in meat and drink and
raiment, the rebel chief and his followers wore
fine linen, the best of cloth capotes, silk-worked
moccasins, and they fared sumptuously every
It has been fashionable, in some quarters,
to accuse the Hudson's Bay Company of conniving at this seizure and at the rebellion generally, but the utter absurdity of assertions like
these is apparent to anyone who thinks upon
the subject. The Company had parted with
115 The Romance of Western Canada
their control of the country, which indeed was,
in the nature of things, getting beyond their
domination. They had nothing to gain and
everything to lose by having the whole territory in a state of unrest, to the serious detriment of their trade, and were certainly to suffer
a loss, that could not well be appraised, by
having Riel and his following quartered upon
them for nearly a year. Besides this, Governor
McTavish, the head of the Company in the
country, on the 16th of November, in view of
the fact that Riel had called a convention from
all parts of the settlement, issued a proclamation denouncing in the strongest terms the
insurrectionary movement, calling upon those
engaged in it to disperse to their homes, and
with all the weight of his authority asking the
convention to employ, in any movement in
which they might engage to secure their rights,
only such means as were "lawful, constitutional, rational and safe." I remember, too,
hearing my father, who visited Governor
McTavish in his sick-room about this time,
say that he never witnessed anything more
pathetic than the way in which the Governor
referred to the fact that the insurgents had
hauled down the Union Jack and hoisted an
ensign of their own device with fleur-de-lis
and shamrock, and how he said, "As I saw,
through my window, the hoisting of their rag
on our old flagstaff, I almost choked with
116 Rebellion Afoot
mortification and shame." Add to these things,
also, the fact that Riel, in the general convention held in February, after his entry into Fort
Garry, made, according to the report in his
own paper, the New Nation, a most bitter
attack upon the Hudson's Bay Company, saying, amongst other things, that instead of
having the prefix "honorable," they should
have the title "shameful"—consider all this
and the theory as to collusion between them
becomes exceedingly chimerical.
As a matter of fact, Riel had inherited from
his father, " the Miller of the Seine," a strong
antipathy towards the Hudson's Bay Company,
and fifteen years later, when he went into revolt
on the Saskatchewan, this old animosity against
the Company flashed out again and again.
Once the rebel leader had settled himself
comfortably in the fort, he went to The
Nor'-wester printing office and ordered Doctor
Bown to print a circular calling upon the people
to come together to consider the situation.
Bown refused and was put under arrest, while
two men who could set type were hired to get
out this convention call. Riel summoned a
good many conventions, to give the outside
world the impression that the people were being
consulted; but he generally made up his mind
beforehand that he would have his own way,
no matter what the people wanted.
It is sometimes asked how it was that the
'9 117 The Romance of Western Canada
other inhabitants of the country did not rise up
and put down the rebellion; and perhaps the
question is a reasonable one, though the abortive attempts made by some well-meaning persons in that direction suggest, in some degree,
the answer. It is well known that the white
settlers, at first, never dreamed that the movement would be carried as far as it was eventually. It is equally well known that a great many
of the rebels themselves never contemplated the
possibility of a movement fraught with so much
danger and loss to others. Many with whom
I have spoken in later years said they thought
that all that would be necessary to secure the
promise of the rights they imagined to be in
jeopardy, was to make the open protest against
the entry of the new Governor. But the wine
of success went to Riel's head; he became
intoxicated with power, and the sequel is matter
of history. It must be borne in mind, also, that
the settlers were justified in saying that the
quarrel was not theirs, especially in view of
the muddling that helped to bring it about.
Their advice had not been asked at the outset,
and though they had; faith that in the end justice would be done by Canada, they were very
much in the dark over the whole affair. In the
report of Colonel Dennis, chief of the staff of
surveyors, and Governor Macdougall's deputy
in the new territory, the matter is put in concise
and very intelligible shape. The Colonel had
118 Rebellion Afoot
gone amongst the white settlers, who, it must
be remembered, had neither arms nor ammunition in store, and enquired as to the possibility
of raising a force to escort the new Governor
in, and he gives the following as a fair presentation of their views:
"We (the English-speaking settlers) feel
confidence in the future administration of the
government of this country under Canadian
rule; at the same time we have not been consulted in any way as a people on entering into
the Dominion. The character of the new government has been settled in Canada without
our being consulted. We are prepared to accept
it respectfully, obey the laws and become good
subjects; but when you present to us the issue
of a conflict with the French party, with whom
we have hitherto lived in friendship, backed up
as they would be by the Roman Catholic
Church (which seems probable by the course
taken by the priests), in which conflict it is
almost certain the aid of the Indians would be
invoked, and perhaps obtained by that party,
we feel disinclined to enter upon it, and think
that the Dominion should assume the responsibility of establishing amongst us what it and it
alone has decided upon."
To any one who knows the situation this
looks like an extremely reasonable stand to
take.   The references to the priests had ground
in the fact that the rebels at the barrier had
119 The Romance of Western Canada
their council meetings in the house of Pere
Richot, that gatherings for discussion were
held on Sundays after the church services, and
that O'Donaghue, the deepest and the most
dangerous of all the rebel leaders, a Fenian at
heart, was studying for the priesthood at St.
Boniface when the outbreak began. The reference to the Indians is amply justified by the
kinship between them and the rebels, and by
the fact that such aid was invoked and obtained
with terrible effect under much less reasonable
circumstances and against heavier odds by the
same parties in the second rebellion. In fact,
it is well known to some that only the strong
influence of Hudson's Bay men like Archibald
McDonald, of Qu'Appelle, and Robert Campbell, of Swan Lake, and others, prevented an
Indian uprising in 1869. In short, the white
settlers felt strongly that efforts at resistance
to Riel would only feed the flames, which at
the beginning did not seem likely to amount to
Later on, when the growing folly of Riel
had completely estranged the white settlers, the
latter would have been utterly unable to make
any successful move against the rebels, who
held a stone-walled and bastioned fort, with all
the military stores in rifle and cannon; and, as
the New Nation (Riel's paper) said, they had
" all the powder in the territory except a small
damaged lot at Lower Fort Garry." As an
120 Rebellion Afoot
example of the kind of arms some of the loyalists were provided with, I recall seeing more
than one man at the rendezvous afterwards in
Kildonan, armed with a bludgeon, weighted
with lead; but to suggest an attack on an artillery-defended and walled fort with weapons of
that sort was not very wise, to say the least.
There had been a time when a large portion
of the French population did not follow Riel
in his resort to arms, though they, in common
with nearly all the people of the country, felt
somewhat keenly anxious as to their rights
under the incoming Government. On looking
up records I find that my father, then a
magistrate and a member of the Council of
Assiniboia (the governing body in Hudson's
Bay Company days), seconded, with the Hon.
A. G. B. Bannatyne as mover, the following
resolution: "That Messrs. Dease and Goulet
be appointed to collect as many of the more
respectable of the French community as possible, and with them proceed to the camp of
the party who intend to intercept Hon. Mr.
Macdougall, and endeavor to procure their
peaceable dispersion." That the men sent failed
in their mission does not disprove the fact that
they had large loyal support' amongst their own
people. Moreover, we find that after Riel had
seized Fort Garry he was at one time on the
point of consenting to the Hudson's Bay Company continuing in authority until a committee
121 i 1
The Romance of Western Canada
of French and English could treat with Mr.
Macdougall or with the Dominion direct, when
a rumor that the Canadians around were about
to move on Fort Garry put an end to the
Moreover, there was a time, even after the
rebellion had gone some length, when, through
the influence of Mr. Bannatyne, three well-
known French half-breeds, Francois Nolin,
Augustin Nolin and Pierre Perreault, agreed
to secure a meeting of English and French to
discuss their claims and send a statement of
these to Mr. Macdougall, whom, if he promised
their fair consideration, they would bring into
the country in spite of Riel. It is said that
these men were actually gathering their compatriots together, when a report reached them
that the Canadian party and the settlers were
combining to attack the French. This seemed
to the loyalist half-breeds, of whom there were
many at the beginning, to mean that the French
element was going to be coerced without regard
to their claims; and it had the natural, though
lamentable, effect of practically solidifying that
element behind Riel.
Despite the opinion given by the white
settlers in the Red River country to the effect
that armed efforts to suppress the rebellion
would only make matters worse, in view of the
fact that the rebels held all the guns and the
ammunition in a walled fort, some of these
efforts unfortunately continued to be made.
This was due in great measure to the presence
of Mr. Macdougall at the border, naturally
impatient with everybody and everything which
prevented his entry into the promised land, and
to the further fact that newcomers into the
country, under the general pen-name of
"Friends of Canada," kept urging him "on
no account to leave Pembina." The Governor
on the frontier, sending communications of
various kinds, was a constant irritant to the
rebels, as proven by the fact that when Macdougall and Dennis finally left Pembina, about
the middle of December, 1869, the rebels in
large numbers left Fort Garry for their homes,
subject to call if any further efforts should be
made (as they unhappily were) against the
French. Both Macdougall and Dennis appear
to have acted throughout in an honorable and
123 The Romance of Western Canada
perfectly sincere way, and we should not forget
that Macdougall had rendered great service to
the West in the years past; but the long distance and slow communication with Ottawa,
coupled with the irresponsible advice of the
"Friends of Canada" in the settlement, rendered their task too difficult to be accomplished.
Slow and imperfect communication with
Ottawa, there being no telegraphs and very
uncertain mails, probably accounts for the
unfortunate issue of a proclamation, purporting to have Royal sanction, by Mr. Macdougall
on the ist of December, 1869. As mentioned
in a preceding chapter, it had been expected
that on the ist day of December the new territory would have been formally transferred
to Canada by the Imperial Government; and
so on that day, Mr. Macdougall, thinking it
was high time to act with a show of authority,
issued a proclamation in the Queen's name,
appointing himself as Governor, and another,
signed by himself as Governor, appointing
Colonel Dennis his deputy within the territory,
with power to raise and equip a force wherewith to suppress the rebellious element. Macdougall acted on the line of what was projected
when he and Cartier arranged the terms in
England for the transfer of the territory, and
he was not wholly without reason in acting on
that general understanding, even though he had
not been notified by the Ottawa authorities.
124 Counter-Movements
However, the transfer had not been made, and
for the unwarrantable use he had made of Her
Majesty's name Macdougall received what can
only be described as a hot letter from the Hon.
Joseph Howe. Between these two gentlemen
there was apparently no love lost.
Riel was evidently kept better posted by
someone than Macdougall, for the rebel chief
knew that the Governor had no authority for
issuing a Royal proclamation, and so he simply
laughed at it. Governor McTavish, of the
Hudson's Bay Company, had received no
notice of a transfer having taken place, and
told Macdougall so in a letter afterwards; but
Colonel Dennis thought that Macdougall's proclamation was properly authorized, and so he,
enlisting the help of others, proceeded to raise
a force. He found difficulty in getting the
white settlers interested, and expressed himself
rather strongly in consequence; but later on he
came to know the situation more fully, and in
a letter expressed " heartfelt thankfulness that
his proceedings had not been the cause (even
to the extent of a drop) of bloodshed amongst
the people"; and on December 9th Colonel
Dennis issued what he called a peace proclamation, in which he said: *'I now call on and
order the loyal party m the North-West Territories to cease further action under the appeal
to arms made by me." He believed then that
a peaceful solution ought to be reached; and it
125 The Romance of Western Canada,
is very interesting to know that Colonel Dennis
came to the conclusion outlined in his proclamation after having received a strong letter
from Archbishop Machray, of the Anglican
Church. The Archbishop was a member of
the Council of Assiniboia, and during the whole
trouble was a tower of strength to the country.
There was much of the soldier in Archbishop
Machray, not only in his commanding appearance, but in the intensity and ability of a great
nature. In the letter to Colonel Dennis, he says
frankly that he had gone to the first meeting
of the Council " prepared to recommend a forcible putting down of the insurrection"; but
when he saw that counter-movements against
Riel, who had all the military stores, etc., only
made the situation worse, he advised further
effort by negotiation to secure peace and to
avoid unnecessary and fruitless bloodshed.
But both before and after this date there were
some restless " Friends of Canada " who every
now and then started something. There were
some Canadian Government supplies stored in
a building belonging to Doctor Schultz, and
when Riel took possession of Fort Garry a
number of Canadians, a mere handful of forty-
five men, gathered there to protect these provisions. This was a sort of defiance flung in the
face of Riel, who claimed that they were
assembling to attack him, and in a day or two
some three hundred or so of the rebels, with
126 Counter-Movements
rifles and a nine-pounder gun, marched over
from the fort near-by and demanded surrender
within fifteen minutes. There was nothing else
to do but to give up the wooden building and
go as prisoners to Fort Garry, as required.
Amongst these loyalists were many who afterwards became very prominent in western public
and mercantile life, and one of them, Dr. J. H.
O'Donnell, looking back in later years, considered that the gathering at Schultz's house was,
to say the least, imprudent, and that it was
contrary to the advice of Colonel Dennis, who
had said to Schultz: " Shut up your premises
and let the government property take its
Other men who were in that company, and
who later on took leading places in Winnipeg,
were Doctor Lynch, George D. McVicar, Thos.
Lusted, and the well-known millionaire hardware merchant, ex-Mayor James H. Ashdown;
but the probability is that Riel wanted an
excuse to get Schultz, the leader of the Canadian element, whose irrepressible energy and
daring made him a dangerous man for the
rebels to leave at large. So they put him in
solitary confinement in one of the cheerless
stone bastions, and the general understanding
was they would find some pretext for bringing
his career to a close; but they were baulked of
their prey. Though I knew Schultz well in
later years, and received from him shortly
127 f
The Romance of Western Cdnada
before his death a special engraving of Fort
Garry inscribed by him " in memory of the
stirring events in early days," I never asked
him how he got the pocket-knife that enabled
him to escape. The common story (but I have
some doubts as to its truth) was that in some
food sent in by a friend there was a knife concealed. With it Schultz cut the buffalo-robe,
which was his bed, into strips. These he fastened together in order to let himself down
from the window. He was a heavy man, and
the line broke, letting him down with a force
that injured a leg. He was scantily clad for
the blizzard of a January night and, in the
darkness, after his fall, he had some difficulty
in getting his bearings; but, finding his direction, he eluded a guard and ran as best he could
down to my father's house, five or six miles
away, in Kildonan. He and my father had not
always seen eye to eye on public matters, for
my father was a member of the Hudson's Bay
Council of Assiniboia, and Schultz had always
taken strong ground on some matters against
that body. However, if any such coldness did
exist between them previous to that night, the
coming of Schultz for refuge to my father's,
house was but another instance of that shrewd,
far-sighted knowledge of human nature for
which he was always noted. Apart altogether
from my father's well-known contempt for the
alleged government of Riel, he was too much
128 Counter-Movements
of a Highlander to close his door against even
an enemy when he was wearied and hard-
hunted, or else he would have been unworthy
of the name that has become synonymous with
hospitality, and has been immortalized by Scott
in the famous meeting of Fitz-James and
Roderick Dhu.
I remember well the arrival of Schultz at
our house. It was in the grey dawn, and a
cold morning at that, when a knocking came
at the door, which my father rose and opened.
I can recall his surprised exclamation, "Bless
me, doctor, is this really you?" Then I can
see the fugitive enter, thinly clad, tall, haggard and gaunt, and as soon as He had assured
himself that there were no servants in the house
who might betray him, he told the story of his
escape as we have just related it. My father
escorted his guest upstairs, watched over him
while he slept, and all that afternoon the two
remained there, conversing only in whispers,
so that their voices would not be heard by any
who might come into the house. Again and
again that day Riel's scouts, on their red-blanketed horses, passed by the door, looking for
their escaped prisoner, concerning whom Riel
said to the Rev. George Young, " The guards
are out looking for him, and they have orders
to shoot him on sight."
Meanwhile my brother Alexander had gone
into town and secured from his friends a pair
129 The Romance of Western Canada
or two of pistols, which were duly brought and
handed upstairs, where a new programme was
made out. Schultz was determined that he
would never be taken alive, hence he decided
that if the scouts entered the house he would
sell his life as dearly as possible and neither
give nor take quarter. For two days he
remained there, and on the second night my
father's favorite horse, " Barney/' was hitched
up, and the brother above mentioned drove the
hunted man, by an unfrequented road, to the
Indian settlement near Selkirk, whence, accompanied by the faithful Scotch half-breed guide,
Joseph Monkman, he made that terrible midwinter journey on foot to eastern Canada.
Afterwards we heard that some of the scouts,
who had searched other houses, strongly suspected his real whereabouts, but that either out
of respect to my father, who was well known
to most of them, or from dread of the desperate
man they were hunting, they concluded not to
In after years, when I heard Sir John Schultz
(for he was knighted later for his services to
the Empire) say that he "had still the shattered remnants of a good constitution," I used
to account for the " shattering " by thinking of
the desperate leap from the prison, the running
with maimed limb and scanty clothing six miles
in an arctic atmosphere, and then the fearful
journey on foot across the rocky shores and
130 Counter-Movements
wind-swept bays of Lake Superior to the cities
of the East. Whether he and my father were
warm friends before or not, they certainly were
after that experience in the " City of Refuge ";
and born orator as Sir John was, he never
made a more graceful allusion in spoken words
than he did when, as Lieutenant-Governor of
Manitoba, at the unveiling of the Seven Oaks
monument, he spoke of the man who, at great
personal risk, opened the door of welcome to
him in his extremity.
Meanwhile the other prisoners captured in
the Schultz house were detained in Fort Garry,
Riel was then arranging a slate for his proposed Provisional Government, and Mr. Donald A. Smith (afterwards Lord Strathcona)
about this time arrived from Montreal as a
Special Commissioner from the Dominion Government to endeavor to settle the Red River
difficulties. As to Riel's Provisional Govern-'
ment, it may suffice here to say that it was to
be in general control of the country. The
Hudson's Bay Company Government, though
not officially superseded in the West, was practically helpless in the Red River country for
the time being, and the Dominion Government
had not as yet been officially " proclaimed " in
the new territory.
The coming of Mr. Smith was warmly welcomed, by the loyalist settlers especially, to
whom he was well known as a high official in
131 The Romance of Western Canada
the Hudson's Bay Company, and his appointment as a Commissioner to represent Canada
in the Red River is another evidence of John A.
Macdonald's remarkable sagacity in choosing
men for strategic posts. Macdonald and Smith
had some hot passages in later years in Ottawa
over Pacific Scandal matters, but still later on
they became good friends again. The particular points to be emphasized here about Mr.
Smith in connection with his visit to the Red
River at this time were his extraordinary tact
and power of self-control under insults from
Riel, along with his persistent Scottish determination, which could be patient, but which
would reach its objective some time. He
entered the fort as a Hudson's Bay official, but
when Riel demanded his business he indicated
that he had an errand also from the Canadian
Government. Riel asked for his papers, possibly intending to destroy them and then discredit Mr. Smith before the people as one who
had come to interfere without authority. Mr.
Smith said he had left his papers with his secretary, Mr. Hardisty, at Pembina. Riel offered
to send for them, but Smith replied that the
papers would remain on the other side of the
line till he had a guarantee of their safety if
brought into the Red River country. Finally
a loyalist party of half-breeds from the Dau-
phinais settlement agreed to fetch them, and
when Riel sent a guard to intercept them they
132 Counter-Movements
imprisoned the guard. Then Riel came to
Laboncan Dauphinais' house and found his
guard a prisoner; but when he attempted to
interfere a well-known half-breed hunter,
Pierre Laveiller, put a revolver to Riel's head
and told him to get into line with the rest, who
were taking Mr. Hardisty to the fort with the
papers, or he would put an end to him. I heard
the whole story told some time afterwards by one
of the loyalist party, Angus McKay (a brother
of James, mentioned in a former chapter), and
it was ample evidence for the fact that a great
many of the leading half-breeds of the country
were not with Riel in his extreme attitudes.
When Mr. Smith got the papers, he told Riel
that they contained a commission from the
Dominion Government, which he would read
to a gathering of settlers to be called by Riel
on January 19th.
About a thousand people assembled in the
open air inside Fort Garry on January 19th to
hear Mr. Smith. As the thermometer stood at
twenty-five below zero, one could hardly think
of this as a deliberative gathering; but they
were a hardy lot, and the proceedings were
lively enough to keep everyone warm. At the
outset Mr. Thomas Bunn was elected chairman ; Riel, interpreter, and Judge Black, secretary. Then Mr. Smith refused to read his
commission standing under the hybrid French-
Fenian ensign of the rebel government, and the
10 133 The Romance of Western Canada
Union Jack was displayed. Then Riel, who
took most unaccountable turns occasionally,
made some objection to Mr. Smith's reading
at all, whereupon a well-known settler, Colin
Inkster (now sheriff at Winnipeg), tall, spare
and athletic, caught the doubtable rebel by the
collar of the capote and pulled him down the
steps. Riel, in a rage, threw off his coat, which
fell on my father, but that big Highlander
could look after himself, and Riel, saying
" Pardon, monsieur," called out the guard. In
a little while, however, Riel got over his outburst and the meeting went on. Mr. Smith
read the letter from the Governor-General, Sir
John Young, appointing him Commissioner,
and also an impressive cablegram sent on
behalf of Queen Victoria by Earl Granville to
the Governor-General, and one can see the
hand of the Queen herself in it. It is well
worth reading now, so here it is:
" The Queen has heard with surprise and
regret that certain misguided persons have
banded together to oppose by force the entry
of our future Lieutenant-Governor into our
Territory in Red River. Her Majesty does not
distrust the loyalty of her subjects in that
settlement, and can only ascribe to misunderstanding and misrepresentation their opposition
to a change planned for their advantage.
" She relies on your Government to use every
effort to explain whatever misunderstanding
134 Counter-Movements
may have arisen—to ascertain their wants and
conciliate the good will of the people of Red
River Settlement; but in the meantime she
authorizes you to signify to them the sorrow
and displeasure with which she views the
unreasonable and lawless proceedings which
have taken place, and her expectation that if
any parties have desires to express or complaints to make respecting their condition and
prospects, they will address themselves to the
Governor-General of Canada.
" The Queen expects from her representative
that as he will be always ready to receive well-
founded grievances, so will he exercise all the
power and authority she entrusted to him in
support of order and the suppression of unlawful disturbances."
This message from the Queen seemed to
come with great opportuneness, for at the conclusion of the reading of it a motion to adjourn
until the following day to think matters over
was proposed. Before the crowd dispersed
John Burke, a somewhat eccentric member
of a noted family living on the Assiniboine,
demanded the release of the prisoners, a number of settlers joining in the demand; but Riel
declined, and there was some more trouble
before the crowd dispersed.
Next day Mr. Smith finished his reading of
documents in which the Dominion Government
declared its willingness to consider fully all the
135 The Romance of Western Canada
matters which the people of the Red River
country desired to bring before the Governor-
General in Council. On motion of Riel himself, seconded by Mr. A. G. B.'Bannatyne, it
was agreed that a convention be called for the
25th of January, consisting of twenty each from
the English and French population to consider
the matters brought forward by Mr. Smith's
commission and to decide what would be best
for the country. Brief addresses were made by
Archbishop Machray and Father Richot, and
Riel, in closing, spoke as follows:
"Before this Assembly breaks up I cannot
but express my feelings, however briefly. I
came here with fear. We are not yet enemies,
but we came very near being so. As soon as
we understood each other we joined in demanding what our English fellow subjects, in common with us, believe to be our just rights. I
am not afraid to say our just rights, for we all
have rights. We claim no half rights, mind
you, but all the rights we are entitled to. Those
rights will be set forth by our representatives;
and what is more, gentlemen, we will get them."
If the military counter-movements against Riel
had only ceased, as Colonel Dennis had suggested before he left the country with Macdougall on December 18th, there might have
been peace through conference, for, as Lord
Salisbury used to say, "Four honest men
around a table can settle any question in the
136 Counter-Movements
world," unless behind one or more of them is
the shadow of the drawn sword.
Shortly before the above meeting a highly
interesting visitor to the Red River was Doctor
(afterward Sir Charles) Tupper, who came
most of the way with Mr. Smith, though he
was not on public business. Doctor Tupper
came to look after the welfare of his only
daughter, wife of Captain Cameron, aide to
Governor Macdougall. Tupper was not then
a member of the Dominion Government, having generously withdrawn his admitted claims
to a portfolio in order that Joseph Howe, once
fiercely opposed to the Confederation idea,
might be taken into camp and into office by
John A. Macdonald; but Tupper was not the
man to come and go without seeing what was
afoot and giving such counsel as he thought
advisable. He found his daughter at Pembina
and then, at considerable risk, pushed on to
Fort Garry to recover her personal luggage and
furniture. He was ushered in to see Riel in
council, with armed men all around. He introduced himself, told Riel what he wanted, and
the rebel chief told him he would have the stuff
sent back to Pembina; and so it was; but when
Tupper was returning to Pembina he spent a
night with Father Richot at St. Norbert. They
talked over the whole situation, and Tupper
did all he could to get the priest, who was one
of Riel's most confidential men, to see that it
137 The Romance of Western Canada
was madness to think of opposing the incoming
of the Canadian Government, backed by the
Imperial authorities; but the priest said the
half-breeds were invincible. They could, he
said, conduct an irregular warfare, moving
hither and thither, so that the forces of Canada
could never subdue them. Nothing that Tupper could say in the way of proof for his statements shook Richot's inflated faith in the
invincibility of the half-breeds. Riel called at
the house in the morning, but Tupper did not
waste any more breath, since Riel was par
excellence vain and confident. So the Nova
Scotia doctor returned with his daughter, and
left Riel and Richot to find out their mistake
for themselves.
The Convention of the Forty, twenty English and twenty French, which was the outcome
of the open-air meeting where Commissioner
Smith's papers were read, met in Fort Garry
on January 25th, 1870, and remained in session
about three weeks. From the standpoint of
intelligence and education the preponderance on
the side of the English delegates was very
marked, as one can say out of personal knowledge of the men; but from the standpoint of
subserviency to Riel, and general pliability in
the hands of this dictator, the French had it,
although in spite of Riel there were some
French members who were not putty in his
hands. As this was the first representative
gathering in the history of the West elected by
the people themselves—though in some cases
under pressure from the dictator—it is worth
while to give their names and a few personal
notes of the more prominent amongst them.
Here is the list:
French Representatives.
57. Charles. Point Coupee.
Baptiste Beauchemin. Louis Lacerte.
Pierre Delorme.
139 The Romance of Western Canada
St. Francois Xavier.
Xavier Page.
Pierre Poitras.
St. Paul's.
Pierre Thibert.
Alex. Page.
Magnus  Birston.
St. Norbert.
Pierre Paranteau.
Norbert Laronce.
B. Touton.
St. Boniface.
W. B. O'Donaghue.
Ambroise Lepine.   .
Joseph Genton.
Louis Schmidt.
Oak Point.
Thomas Harrison.
Charles Nolin.
Point a Grouette.
George Klyne.
English Representatives.
St. Peter's.
Rev. Henry Cochrane.
Thomas Spence.
St. Clemenfs.
Thomas Bunn.
Alex. McKenzie.
St. Andrew's.,
Judge Black.
Donald Gunn, sen.
Alfred Boyd.
St. Paul's.
Dr. C. J. Bird.
St. John's.
James Ross.
St. Mary's.
Kenneth McKenzie.
John Fraser.
John Sutherland.
St. James'.
George Flett.
Robert Tait.
John Taylor.
Wm. Londsdale.
St. Margaret's.
Wm. Cummings.
St. Anne's.
George Gunn.
D. Spence.
Alfred H. Scott.
The chairman of the convention was Judge
Black, head of the law courts in the territory,
a man of commanding intellect, of great forensic ability, and such noble bent of character
that he had the utmost confidence of the whole
140 Efforts for Common Ground
community. During the course of the convention we find speeches made by Judge Black on
several occasions, in which occur passages of
lofty and impassioned appeal.
Amongst the delegates were many men who
even then were men of note. Henry Cochrane
was the Church of England clergyman, much
beloved by his people. Along with him was
Thomas Spence, a man somewhat of the adventurer type, and erratic to the point of rattle-
headedness. He appears in the picture group
of Riel's first council, but was indignant later
on, and said he was snapped by the camera
while he was talking to some one of the group.
He used to visit at our home and tell my father
tales about some great estate that was coming
to us from another branch of the clan in Scotland. After the rebellion he organized a republic of his own, with headquarters at Portage la
Prairie, and reported it to the Home Government, who snuffed it out. Later he went in for
the manufacture of salt on a large scale, but
not much safe resulted. A man of considerable
ability as a writer, he edited the New Nation
for a time and did good service in suppressing
its annexation sentiments. Donald Gunn was
a remarkable scholar for the frontier and
enjoyed a high reputation as a scientist. Doctor
Bird was the beloved physician of the colony,
and later on was Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature. Robert Taitwas one of the best
141 The Romance of Western Canada
known of the early freighters and business
men, a man of marked ability, who organized
the first system of ferries for Winnipeg. Alfred
Boyd was a wealthy merchant, who later on
was a member of the Manitoba Government.
John Fraser was the first postmaster at Kildonan, and an able man. Several other delegates appear in other places in this story. The
best existing detailed account of the convention
is found in the New Nation, Riel's organ, with
a very significant name. The only complete
file of this paper to be found is in the possession of the discriminating and indefatigable
Provincial Librarian of Manitoba, Mr. J. P.
Robertson. This file, which was secured by
purchase from Mr. William Coldwell, the
ablest newspaperman of his time, tells an eloquent story, even in its appearance. The first
page of it is entitled " The Red River Pioneer,
Volume i, No. i "; the next page is blank, and
on the following one we read "The New
Nation, Volume i, No. i." The explanation
is that Mr. Coldwell, whom I remember well
as a gentlemanly, cultured Englishman, was
just beginning the publication of his new venture, The Red River Pioneer, when Riel
swooped down on the office, nipping the
Pioneer in the bud, and establishing with its
plant the New Nation, under control of his
own following. Whoever reported the business of the Convention of the Forty did it well,
142 Efforts for Common Ground
setting down the proceedings impartially and
refraining from the running comments in
which reporters sometimes indulge, to the
mystification of the reader.
On the French side, the St. Boniface members, with Riel himself, were the controlling
forces, and they succeeded in dominating the
situation amongst their own people, except in
the cases of Harrison, Nolin and Klyne. These
three figured specially in connection with a
motion which Riel introduced in the convention
"off his own bat" on his favorite subject of
hostility towards the Hudson's Bay Company. .
It read, " That all bargains with the Hudson's
Bay Company be null and void; and that any
arrangements with reference to the transfer of
this country be carried on only with the people
of this country." The suggestion to ignore the
Company, which had been granted a charter by
Royal Letters Patent two centuries before, and
with whom both the Imperial and Canadian
Governments had already dealt, was one of
Riel's characteristically wild ideas. Harrison,
Nolin and Klyne, who came from points outside the sphere of Riel's influence, voted with
the English delegates and defeated the motion.
Riel got very angry, cursed, and said, "The
vote may go as it likes, but the measure must
be carried." He then started in to abuse the
three French delegates, but Nolin replied defiantly, and told Riel to mind his own business.
143 The Romance of Western Canada
This angered Riel, who could not bear to be
crossed, and as the convention adjourned for
the day he went into Governor McTavish's
sick-room and threatened him with death. He
then had Doctor Cowan, the Hudson's Bay
officer in charge, arrested; then he took Mr.
A. G. B. Bannatyne prisoner, and wound up
his madness by starting out after Nolin; but
Nolin had a very wide circle of relatives and
friends, who got together and would have put
a sudden end to the rebel chief if he had not
At another point in the proceedings Riel
undertook to lecture Mr. John (afterwards
Senator) Sutherland, a very prominent Kildonan man who, by himself and family, did
notable service for the country; but Mr. Sutherland replied hotly that he had been giving his
time all winter, without fee or reward, for the
good of the country; that he was there to speak
for the people who sent him, and did not propose to be taught his duty by Louis Riel. Mr.
Sutherland, whose father had been a soldier
under Wellington, and two of whose sons,
Alexander and Hector, became members of the
Manitoba Legislature, the former being Attorney-General, gave specially valuable service to
the Dominion in the Senate for many years.
He was a man of singularly honorable and
courageous character.
When Riel's outbreaks over the defeat of his
144 Efforts for Common Ground
motion to ignore the Hudson's Bay Company
had subsided the convention again got down to
business. It discussed almost every possible
phase of the country's future, and canvassed
questions all the way from railroad construction to a standing army. An elaborate Bill
of Rights was framed, embracing the chief
demands of the people as to the rights to which
they deemed themselves entitled, and these
were presented to Commissioner Smith, whose
replies were favorable in their tenor and as far
as he could go within the limit of his commission. Then he asked the convention to send
delegates to confer on the whole matter with
the Government at Ottawa. This was accepted
at once by the whole convention, and delegates
were soon afterwards appointed in the persons
of Judge Black, Father Richot, and Alfred H.
Scott. The last named was not very popular
on account of his annexation sentiments, which,
however, found no scope on the mission to
The main business of the convention being
over, Riel played his trump card by asking the
delegates to authorize him to form a provisional government to carry on the affairs of the
country, or rather to continue the government
which he had already formed and to which he
was willing to make some additions from the
English side. Most of the English delegates
at once took the position that they had no
145 The Romance of Western Canada
instructions from their constituents on that
point and that therefore they could take no
action upon it which would bind the people
who sent them to the convention. Riel, however, pressed the point, so that he would seem
to the Canadian authorities to have the support
of the whole country. The representatives
from Kildonan, John Fraser and John Sutherland, declined to be parties to the idea unless
it seemed the only way to prevent chaos in the
country. The Hudson's Bay Company Government was moribund and their Governor too
ill to act, and the Canadian Government, of
course, had not entered into possession. So
these two delegates went to Governor McTavish
in his sick-room and asked his opinion as to the
right course. His reply was a solemn one: " I
am a dying man, and refuse to delegate my
authority to any one; but for God's sake form
a government of some kind, and restore peace
and order in the country." Then the members
of the convention, to prevent anarchy, agreed
to the provisional government proposal. The
majority of the members of the government
were English, who joined in order to control
matters as far as possible until Canada would
get hold; but Riel remained as President and
virtual dictator.
As there are some people even to this day
who claim that Riel was loyal to British interests, though anxious about the privileges and
146 Efforts for Common Ground
rights of his countrymen, it may be worth while
to give a few extracts from the report of the
convention, given in his own paper: " For my
part I would like to see the power of Canada
limited in this country; that's what I want."
"England chose to neglect us for one or two
centuries back, and I do not suppose we are
under any very great obligations to" keep her
laws." "For my part, I do not want to be
more British than I can help." There is no
uncertain sound about these utterances.
One of the insidious influences running all
through this period and complicating matters
was that which made for annexation to the
United States. It was not fostered or directed
in any way by authority of the Republic, but
by little groups of irresponsible individuals on
both sides of the line, who would fain have
used the Riel movement to further their plans.
There is nothing in Riel's own attitude to show
that he was pro-American, although it is quite
patent that he was not pro-British. Riel, as his
lawyers said years afterwards, was a good deal
of a megalomaniac, and his deliberate aim,
practically throughout life, was to found a
kind of dictatorship in the West, subject to no
one in particular except to himself. But American influences were at work trying to use his
movement. A legless man at Pembina, named
" Colonel" Stutsman, who had abundant brains
and self-confidence, was a constant adviser of
147 The Romance of Western Canada
the rebels, and found a particularly congenial
co-operator in the Fenian O'Donaghue, who, as
one of the Riel-O'Donaghue-Lepine triumvirate, had a large share in directing everything.
In fact, O'Donaghue was perhaps the mainspring of the rebel machinery, since Riel was
very apt to show his hand too soon, and thus
invite defeat, while Lepine was simply the
strong-armed man who, without the power or
desire to reason much, carried out trie orders
of the other two. Then there was the New
Nation, Riel's organ, edited by an American
who was fond of such scare headlines as
"British Columbia Defying the Dominion,"
"Annexation Our Manifest Destiny," etc.,
albeit Riel said he did not agree with those
sentiments. There was also one Alfred H.
Scott in Winnipeg, who succeeded, as we have
seen, in getting into some prominent places by
the voices of those who favored annexation,
as well as Oscar Malmoras, the American
consul there, who found sentiment against his
annexation schemes becoming so strong that he
left Winnipeg and returned south of the line in
the midst of the troubles.
Yet annexation never got any foothold in
the Red River country. The people were on
friendly terms with the Americans and traded
with them, but they had no intention of deserting the British flag. A great many of the
French half-breeds did not favor annexation,
148 the Selkirk Settlers and the white people generally were adamant against it, while the English and Scotch half-breeds were equally firm.
So it is not surprising that some of the most
ardent annexationists began to find their propaganda having a boomerang effect to such an
extent that they gradually eliminated themselves and vanished to the South. CHAPTER XI.
When the Convention of the Forty adjourned
on the nth February, 1870, it looked as if comparative peace was at hand, and there was a
good deal of rejoicing on all sides. Most of
the prisoners were released, and the prospects
for a general gaol delivery were good when,
in a few days, another warlike demonstration
against Riel took place most inopportunely.
This movement started up the Assiniboine
River at Portage la Prairie, High Bluff, Poplar
Point, White Horse Plains and Headingly, and
a body of less than a hundred men, poorly
enough armed, started on the march, to rendezvous at Kildonan, with the intention of enlisting the settlers along the Red River in the
movement. At the head of this movement was
Captain Boulton, an officer of the 100th Regiment, who is said to have advised strongly
against it, but who took command when hotheaded men insisted on going. The occasion
of this rising was the delay in releasing the rest
of the prisoners, and a certain amount of resentment against the idea of being under Riel's
provisional government. On the way down to
the rendezvous several houses of Riel's friends
150 Riel's Desperation
were searched for the rebel leader, and though
some said they intended to secure him as a
hostage, others openly declared that they would
make short work of him. When this was
reported to Riel by his friends he got into a
violent rage. Many of his men had left the
fort for their homes, but runners were quickly
sent out, and until the counter-movements
ceased Fort Garry was garrisoned by six or
seven hundred well-armed men—a force so
great as to render attack by their poorly-armed
opponents on the stone-walled and artilleried
redoubt utterly futile. Nevertheless, the body
of men above referred to came on to Kildonan,
where the most of them bivouacked in the historic church and school. I remember well when
they arrived at the school, the morning of, I
think, the 14th of February. The younger fry
amongst us thought the whole thing a splendid
idea, on the same principle that actuated the
boy who fiercely rejoiced at the burning of his
school because he did not know the geography
To the older people, doubtless, the situation
was much more serious, and large numbers of
men, not only from Kildonan, but also from
St. Paul's, St. Andrew's and* St. Peter's, gathered together to discuss it. The consensus of
opinion amongst them seems to have been that
any movement of the kind contemplated would
not only be futile, for the reasons above given,
151 The Romance of Western Canada
and likely to end in a useless shedding of blood,
but that it was also inopportune, inasmuch as
the species of union effected between the
opposing parties by the convention just held
would be the most certain means of preserving
peace until the Dominion Government, with
whom the delegates from that convention were
treating, would take the whole matter in hand.
In the meantime, those assembled at the rendezvous received every hospitality from the
people of Kildonan, who entertained as many
as they could in their homes, and provided food
for those quartered in the church and school.
On the second day after their arrival a
fatality, which had a sobering effect, occurred.
A French half-breed, Parisien, a rather wild,
half-witted fellow, had been arrested at the
rendezvous on suspicion of being a spy of Riel;
but on the day following his arrest he eluded
his guard, snatched a gun from a sleigh, and
rushed down the river bank. Here he met, on
horseback, a young Kildonan man, son of Mr.
John Sutherland, above-named; and, probably
with the desire to get the horse, Parisien shot
young Sutherland, who was carried into the
home of our old minister, and died there in
a few hours. The horse, with blood-stained
saddle, carried the tale of the tragedy to the
parents of the murdered man; while the spy,
narrowly escaping lynching, lingered on, to die
from natural causes a few months later. This
152 RieVs Desperation
deplorable event revealed what sorrow might
be brought upon many homes by continued
strife without any adequate cause or commensurate results.
Some messages then passed between Riel and
the assembled force. There was much haziness, but it seemed to be understood that the
latter had liberty to return to their homes without any let or hindrance, and that the prisoners
still held would be released. Accordingly, those
gathered at Kildonan dispersed quietly to different parts of the parishes northward, but
those from up the Assiniboine, who had begun
the movement, did not fare so well. I have
heard it said that Riel was angered at their
exhibiting distrust of his word by making a
detour to avoid passing Fort Garry, instead of
going home by the usual travelled highway, but
I think the story extremely improbable. It is
more likely that he was enraged because some
of those in the party were for the second time
engaged in effort against him, and because, as
referred to above, he had a lively idea of what
might have befallen him had he been found by
them on the way to the rendezvous. Whatever
the reason may have been, the upshot was that
as this handful of men were making their way
to their homes across the deep snow of the
prairie, they were intercepted by a large force
of Riel's men, mounted and well armed. No
resistance was made, as it was represented to
153 The Romance of Western Canada
them that Riel wished to see them at the fort,
and they never dreamed of imprisonment. In
any case, neither in numbers nor equipment,
would they have been any match for the rebels;
but, from personal acquaintance with many of
those men, I feel sure that if they had known
the indignities they were all to suffer, and if
they could have seen the causeless and cruel
murder of one of their number, they would
have made then and there a last desperate stand
against the enemy. As it was they went quietly
to the fort, where, to their surprise, they were
"thrust into the inner prison," and several of
them—Boulton, Scott, Powers, McLeod, Alexander and George Parker—were specially
singled out and the sentence of death by shooting suspended over their heads.
About this time Riel was especially desirous
of securing the endorsement of his provisional
government by the English-speaking settlers,
and he promised to spare the lives of these prisoners if all the settlement would fall into line
and send representatives to the "parliament"
which he was calling in order to pass some
legislation. At the request of Commissioner
Smith and the ministers of the various churches,
the settlers agreed to do this; and this action
on their part probably prevented a series of
murders by the dictator. In regard to Boulton,
who was especially obnoxious to Riel as the
leader of the movement against him, the dictator
154 Riel's Desperation
said he would not yield, and it was decided
that the Captain should be shot on the 19th of
February; and so he no doubt would have been
but for the intercession of Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland, whose son had been recently shot, and
who had gone up to plead for the condemned
man. Riel had his tender moments, and he
finally said to the mother, "Boulton deserves
to die; but I will give you his life for the life
of the son you have lost through these
Still the clouds had not all lifted. Riel's
"parliament" met on the 26th of February,
and to this, in the interests of peace, the English-speaking settlers, true to the promises they
had made Commissioner Smith, sent representatives, who began forthwith to enact such
legislation as the requirements of the time
demanded; but there was withal a sullen feeling of unrest in the country, and a growing,
even though unexpressed, discontent with the
continued dominance and arbitrary methods of
the so-called President, who played fast and
loose with pledges and had such utterly un-Brit-
ish views as to the liberty of the subject.
Doubtless Riel felt this atmosphere and tried
a desperate remedy to change it, when, on the
4th of March, he caused the wanton murder of
Thomas Scott, one of the prisoners.
Scott was a young Ontario lad, who had
come up to work on the Dawson Route from
155 The Romance of Western Canada
the Lake of the Woods to the Red River. He
was sinewy, strong, and somewhat indisposed,
as most men of Irish extraction are, to be
trodden upon, but not given to unprovoked
offending. In fact, a friend of mine, who was
with him at Kildonan, says Scott could stand
a lot of practical joking at the hands of his
friends; but in their cold quarters in Fort
Garry the prisoners used to keep themselves
warm by wrestling and sparring. Scott is said
to have taken a few rounds out of the guards,
and Riel treated this as contempt of his high
authority; and so a kind of trial was held,
although no charges were specified, and Scott
—who was not given any chance for defence,
either in person or by counsel—was sentenced
to be shot. Commissioner Smith, the Rev.
George Young, and others did their utmost to
save him; but Riel was violent, and so the sentence was carried out by a half-drunken firing-
party before people generally knew that such
a crime was contemplated. The Rev. George
Young stayed with the young man to the last;
and, as they walked together across the snow
on that fateful 4th of March, Scott said to his
spiritual adviser, "This is cold-blooded murder "; and so it was. After the execution Mr.
Young asked for the body for burial, but Riel
refused, and said it would be buried within the
fort as a warning to others. The coffin was
buried there, but in reality the body, weighted
156 Riel's Desperation
with chains, was put through a hole in the ice
into the river, as I learned in later years from
one who was there when it was done.
This horrible execution of one who was only
an offender by reason of his loyalty to British
principles had an effect directly opposite to that
which Riel had expected it to produce. No
means of putting an end to his lease of power
were available, and as the best method, in their
judgment, of keeping a madman quiet, people
remained passive; but the sympathy of the English-speaking element was completely estranged,
and some there were who told the dictator to
his face that his position was that of a usurper,
and would not long be maintained. Of this
latter number was my father, as I recall from
an incident that took place on the Queen's
birthday, 1870. On the 20th of May, as
appears from the files of the New Nation, he,
with one or two others, was appointed by the
provisional government a magistrate for the
Fort Garry District. On May 24th the Queen's
birthday was celebrated near Fort Garry with
the usual sports, though it had been extensively
reported that Riel was to seize the horses
brought there for the races that he might have
the best mounts for his cavalry. In the afternoon of that day I remember standing with my
father on the roadside (now Main Street, Winnipeg) opposite the post-office, then kept by
Mr. Bannatyne. It was quite customary in
157 The Romance of Western Canada
those days of limited correspondence and primitive postal facilities for the postmaster or his
assistant to go out with a letter after anyone
to whom it was addressed, as otherwise it
might remain there uncalled for during many
days. On this occasion Mr. Dan. Devlin, the
assistant, seeing my father across the road,
came over and handed him a large official
envelope, which had been recently dropped in
the office. My father opened it, read the contents, and said to me, "We will go up to the
fort." The envelope contained his commission
from the provisional government as magistrate. He said little to me about it, as I was
of but few years at the time; but I remember
that, as we drove in through the gateway of
Fort Garry, the guards were very polite to him,
and one was detailed to hold his horse. My
father went straight to the council-room, where
Riel was found, and laid the commission down
before the President.
"What is wrong with that?" asked Riel.
"Isn't it properly signed and sealed? It is
intended for you."
"I suppose it is properly signed," said my
father, " but I do not wish to keep it. The fact
is, Mr. Riel, I do not recognize your government as having any right or authority to make
appointments like this. I am already a justice
of the peace by the Queen's appointment
through the Hudson's Bay Company, and so
158 Riel's Desperation
do not desire to keep this document, which has
to me no value."
Riel seemed rather nettled, but brushed the
paper aside with a "Very well, please yourself!" and then began to talk on other matters.
Amongst other things, he said: "We had a
council meeting last night, and were talking
about the soldiers who are coming from Canada. Poor fellows; they will have a hard time
of it. We are thinking of sending snowshoes
to meet them." To this my father replied that
he did not think the soldiers would need the
snowshoes, as they would be into the Red River
country before some people expected. This
did not make matters any better, and the leave-
taking was rather ceremonious than cordial;
but I remember that the guards were very civil,
and in a kindly way turned the horse and led
him through the gates that we might drive
However, the prisoners were now all released,
and the summer wore away without any special
incident, the settlers going on with their usual
farm work, while all the time looking for the
arrival of the troops which were being sent
overland on foot, and by canoe, all the way
from Eastern Canada, under that gallant soldier Colonel (later Field-Marshal Sir Garnet)
Wolseley. A rather dark chapter of our western history was drawing to a close. The winter
was overpast and the summer had come, in
more senses than one.
The Canadian Government up to this time
had not covered itself with glory by its dealing
with the Western question. As we have already
mentioned, a good deal of allowance has to be
made on account of distance and the absence of
swift communication; but even after we have
done this we are compelled to admit that public
men of both parties sinned grievously through
avoidable ignorance; but the murder of Thomas
Scott at Fort Garry was a tangible fact that
everyone could understand. It rang through
Eastern Canada like an alarum bell, and it
accelerated the movement for the despatch of
troops to the Red River. By May, Colonel
Wolseley had the expeditionary force well in
hand for the long trip by the Lake Superior
route. The force consisted of the 6bth Rifles,
Artillery and Engineers (regular army), and a
battalion each from Ontario and Quebec,
although, as a matter of fact, the Quebec battalion had to be made up considerably from
the overplus of men who volunteered from
Ontario. It was a long, long way from Col-
lingwood, the eastern point of departure, to
Fort Garry, and the privilege of going through
160 Critical Readjustment
the American canal at Sault Ste. Marie was
denied to our men. Portages had to be travelled over under heavy loads, rivers had to be
spanned, roads had to be made passable, and
in the hot summer, through the wilderness, the
plague of mosquitoes and other insects had to
be encountered. The men, no doubt, availed
themselves of the privilege of growling a little,
but they turned their growls into songs and let
them pass in music out of sight, as in the famous campfire composition with the rousing
chorus, " Jolly Boys " :
Twas only as a volunteer
That I left my abode;
I never thought of coming here
To work upon the road.
But Canadian lads then, as now, fight their
way through anything that besets their path;
and so, by the month of August, the boys had
crossed the six hundred miles of wilderness,
and appeared strong and lean and brown on the
historic banks of the Red River.
When Wolseley once struck the country,-
experienced soldier as he was, he was in the
enemies' land and took no chances. He camped
near Kildonan, on the way to Fort Garry, and I
remember that a lot of the settlers went down
to see the camp; but once they got within the
picket lines they stayed there, to their surprise,
all night. Knowing nothing of military rules,
they were rather incensed that they seemed to
11 I
The Romance of Western Canada
be doubted, and old Sandy Sutherland, whom I
remember as a passionate loyalist, asked to be
taken to Wolseley, and assured him, with tremendous emphasis, that he was as loyal a man
as the Colonel himself.   I recollect the day as
one of drenching rain when, partly by boats on
the river and partly by land, as mounted scouts,
the regulars proceeded to the rebel stronghold.
A good many settlers went along to see the
clash-at-arms,   but  they  were   disappointed.
Riel's   men   had   melted   away   before   the
approach of the soldiery.    They had simply
scattered to their homes along the rivers, or
had folded their tents and gone out towards
the Saskatchewan, where dwelt many of their
kin.    Rid,  who was never a fighting man
himself,    along  with   his   Adjutant-General,
Ambroise Lepine, and Mr. M. B. O'Donaghue,
who was in some respects the real villain of the'
whole play, rode out on horseback from the
scenes of their departed glory, in good time to
cross the river,   from whose  opposite  bank,
among  the   trees, they witnessed Wolseley's
triumphal entry.   Then they took their way, by
trails they knew well, over the boundary line,
to await developments.
■Colonel Wolseley very wisely concluded that,
in the unsettled state of the country, an interregnum would be very inadvisable and even
dangerous to law and order; but he, with
equal wisdom, declined to establish a military
162 Critical Readjustment
dictatorship. The new Lieutenant-Governor, the
Honorable Adams George Archibald, had not
yet arrived in the country; the Riel provisional
government had vanished; and Wolseley, deeming that the Hudson's Bay regime had not yet
been legally superseded, called on Mr. Donald
A. Smith, as an official of that Company, to
assume authority in the meantime. This Mr.
Smith did, and summoned the old Council of
Assiniboia to meet again and administer law
until the arrival of Mr. Archibald, which took
place on the 2nd of September, 1870. Colonel
Wolseley, with the regulars, then returned
East, leaving the Governor in charge, supported by the battalions from Ontario and
Quebec, under command of Colonel Jarvis.
It was well for the rebel leaders that they
had vanished from the scene. Possibly ninety
per cent, of the volunteers from the East had
enlisted to avenge the death of Thomas Scott,
and had Riel, Lepine and O'Donaghue been
within reach, it is highly probable that in the
heat of the hour a lynching would have taken
place, than which there are few things more
abhorrent to British tradition.
But the time was one of great unsettlement.
The soldiers, released frorn the struggle of
the half-military, half-voyageur life they had
led for the past few months, were more or less
disposed to take advantage of any opportunities that offered themselves for the somewhat
163 The Romance of Western Canada
fast and furious pace allowed by the modeless
life of a frontier; and as they looked with some
bitterness upon the half-breed population, as
on those whose compatriots had imprisoned
many and murdered one of their countrymen,
conflicts more or less sharp were not infrequent
on the streets of the straggling village. For
instance, on September 13th, a half-breed,
Elzear Goulet, generally reputed to be the man
who shot Scott with his revolver after he had
fallen before the firing-party, ventured into
Winnipeg, was recognized by one who had
been a prisoner in Fort Garry, and pointed out
to some soldiers, who gave chase along with
him. Goulet made for the river to swim over
to St. Boniface, but was drowned about the
spot where he had put Scott's body through the
ice into the swirling stream. As there was no
coroner, Governor Archibald ordered an investigation before two magistrates, my father,
Robert MacBeth, and Solomon Hamelin. They
heard the evidence, and had no difficulty in
fixing the responsibility. They made their
report accordingly to Governor Archibald, but
he judged that feeling was running so high
between the English and the French that an
arrest just then would precipitate a sort of civil
war. So the arrest was postponed, and never
took place. Many looked on the death of
Goulet in that place as a kind of just retribution. In another case, a famous pitched battle
164 Critical Readjustment
took place between the big drummer of the
Ontario regiment and a colossal half-breed,
noted for his great strength, but whose lack of
skill in the "manly art" left him vanquished
before the newcomer.
For the maintenance of law and order, a
police force of mounted men was organized,
under the chief ship of Captain Villiers, a handsome but somewhat dissipated officer, who did
good service for the time. As this book aims
at giving a history of foundations, and as many
of the members of this force became prominent
. later on, we give the list in full: W. F. Allo-
way, James Cross, William Montgomery,
Timothy Carroll, Edwin Doidge, Elijah Ketts,
George Kerr, John Melanson, John Stevenson,
Leon Hivet, George Nicol, H. Montgomery,
Robert Power, Maxime Villebrun, W. Miller,
John Paterson, Andrew Persy, Neil McCarthy,
Michael Fox. These policemen had no sinecure, as may easily be imagined when the
condition of things is considered.
It may be as well to say here that the question of what to do in regard to the rebel leaders
was one which both political parties at the time
felt was the hot end of a poker, which it was
discreet not to grasp. Like the boy in Abraham
Lincoln's story, they were quite willing to
look the other way while the raccoon gnawed
the rope and got clear away, because he was
an awkward customer to take into camp. No
12 165 The Romance of Western Canada
particular effort was made to get hold of these
rebel chiefs, who went across the line for a
while and then travelled backwards and forwards, without being molested by the authorities, for some time. Governor Archibald seems
to have been under apprehension that any
attempt to get these men would lead to a repetition of the rebellion, a matter in which he was
very much mistaken.
The whole question of amnesty for the rebel
triumvirate was up from the outset. Bishop
Tache, of St. Boniface, who had been in Rome
all winter, his absence being one of the regrettable facts of the rebellion time, had returned
to the Red River, claiming to have authority
from the Canadian Government to proclaim a
general amnesty for all who had been implicated in the rebellion. There is no reason to
doubt the sincerity of this well-known and
highly-esteemed prelate; but it is interesting
to recall that so eminent and so experienced a
statesman and diplomat as Lord Dufferin,
when he went fully into the case later, reported
that Bishop Tache had no valid ground to infer
that the Canadian Government had promised a
general amnesty, which they denied having ever
done. It seems that the Bishop, who, no doubt,
had earnest desires to secure an amnesty, in the
expectation that it would quiet everything
down, had received a letter from Sir John A.
Macdonald, dated February 16th, 1870, in
166 Critical Readjustment
which this section occurs: "Should the question arise as to the consumption of stores or
goods belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company by the insurgents, you are authorized to
inform the leaders that if the Company's Government is restored, not only will there be a
general amnesty granted, but in case the Company should claim the payment for such stores,
that the Canadian Government will stand
between the insurgents and all harm." Several
points are to be noted here. First, this letter
was written before the murder of Scott, which
was the real gravamen of the rebel offence,
took place. Second, it was conditional on the
restoration of the Hudson's Bay Government
and the consequent dispersion of the rebels
when that restoration was effected; and third,
as Lord Dufferin points out, "it would seem
impossible to expand the permission thus conveyed to the Bishop by Sir John, to promise the
rebels protection from the monetary demands
of the Hudson's Bay Company, into an authority to condone such a savage murder as that of
Scott's." And so, as no amnesty was forthcoming, and feeling ran high, it was well for
the rebel leaders themselves that they were out
of the way; and for the authorities it was no
doubt true, as Governor Archibald said, in a
letter to Sir George E. Cartier the day after
Archibald's arrival at Fort Garry, " It is perhaps the best solution of the question that these
167 The Romance of Western Canada
men have taken to flight." Warrants were
issued for their arrest, but no one was showing
any special enthusiasm to effect their apprehension, and so they kept under cover; but we
shall meet them and the amnesty question later
on in the story.
In the meantime, Governor Archibald set
about getting Canadian machinery into operation as rapidly as possible, for things were in
considerable confusion. As authorized by the
Secretary of State, he chose two men, one English and one French, as an Executive Council,
to help him in his duties. Alfred Boyd, a highly
respected merchant, represented the English,
and Marc Amable Girard (afterward Senator),
the French. Both were comparative newcomers, but perhaps safer on that account,
because they had no previous entanglements.
It was desired to secure a Legislature, and so
an enumeration was hastily taken. The new
province was named Manitoba, after the lake
bearing that name, the root being two Indian
words meaning " the narrows or straits of the
Great Spirit." Usage has placed the accent on
the third syllable, but it should properly be
placed on the last.
As "first things" are always of interest in
later days, it might be well to say that the
census in 1870 showed a population of 11,963
in the new province—of whom 1,565 were
whites, 578 Indians, 5,757 French half-breeds,
168 Critical Readjustment
and 4,083 English half-breeds. There were
6,247 Catholics, 5,716 Protestants, and the
nationalities of the whites were as follows: 747
born in the North-West, 294 in eastern Canada,
69 in the United States, 125 in England, 240 in
Scotland, 47 in Ireland, 15 in France, and 28 in
other countries. The first local election was
held on the 30th December, 1870, and the
following is a list of the members elected to
the first Legislative Assembly of the Province
of Manitoba, with the constituencies they
Baie St. Paul... Joseph Dubuc.
Headingly  John Taylor.
High Bluff  John Norquay.
Kildonan   John Sutherland.
Lake Manitoba  Angus McKay.
Poplar Point  David Spence.
Portage la Prairie. F. Bird.
St.Agathe   George Klyne.
St. Andrew's North Alfred Boyd.
St. Andrew's South E. H. G. G. Hay.
St. Anne J. H. McTavish.
St. Boniface Bast M. A. Girard.
St. Boniface West Louis Schmidt.
St. Charles Henry J. Clarke.
St. Clement's  Thomas Bunn.
St. Francois Xavier Bast... Pascal Breland.
St. Francois Xavier West... Joseph Royal.
St.  James'   E. Burke.
St. Norbert North Joseph Lemay.
St. Norbert South Pierre Delorme.
St.Paul's  Dr. C. J. Bird.
S. Peter's  Thomas Howard.
St. Vital  A. Beauchemin.
Winnipeg  Donald A. Smith.
169 The Romance of Western Canada
The first regularly constituted Government
consisted of the following members:
Hon. Henry J. Clarke, Q.C, Attorney-
Hon. Marc Amable Girard, Treasurer.
Hon. Thomas Howard, Secretary.
Hon. Alfred Boyd, Public Works and Agriculture.
Hon. James McKay, without portfolio.
The political meetings of the period were
stormy enough. Party politics did not develop
much for some years, and the questions discussed, being largely of a local character, were
all the more bitter because, as Mr. Goldwin
Smith used to say, cynically, " the smaller the
pit the fiercer the rats." Rebellion echoes were
heard at all the meetings, like the Civil War
issues in United States politics, and riots and
free fights were by no means rare. In fact, the
organizers generally got ready beforehand for
such an emergency. Almost every aspirant for
political leadership was accompanied on his
stumping tours by a "bully," with such help as
he could gather, and I remember once seeing a
meeting pass off peaceably, owing to the presence of the before-mentioned big drummer on
the one side and an equally redoubtable champion on the other, each fearing to provoke
active hostilities.
These meetings were not without their humorous side, and ofttimes somewhat peculiar
170 &mm
Critical Readjustment
situations arose out of the unfamiliarity of the
settlers with the methods and expressions of
parliamentary debate. I recollect once when a
school-teacher had framed a motion and made
a speech as to the leniency with which we
should view those who, as mere dupes, had been
drawn into the rebellion, that the reporter gave
out that he had made a motion as to the brutes
who had gone into the rebellion. The chagrin
of the school-teacher may be imagined. I also
recall seeing a man who had occupied the chair
during a meeting leaving it in high dudgeon on
a motion to vacate, which he was not aware
was made preparatory to moving him a vote of
thanks. On another occasion one embryo
statesman, who was holding before his audience the hope of some change in governmental
methods, and who sought to clinch his speech
by the use of a proverb, got the two sayings,
" Every dog has his day " and " It's a long lane
that has no turning" slightly mixed, and vehemently assured the people that " It was a long
dog that had no turning."
The voting was all done openly, and hence it
was not surprising that in the older settled districts an election threw apples of discord into
regions where formerly the inhabitants had
lived in peace and quietness, while the ties
which frequently occurred during the polling-
day sent the pulse of the community up to fever
pitch. Canvassing was of the most personal
171 The Romance of Westerii Canada
kind, and as we then had no legislation in
regard to corrupt practices to reveal the sin, it
was considered a sign of meanness on the part
of a candidate not to provide a somewhat elaborate meal at every committee meeting, and
ample refreshments in some house near the
polling-place on election day. Riots were not
altogether unknown, and at the first election in
Winnipeg wagon-spokes were freely used, the
chief of police was rendered hors de combat, a
printing office was wrecked, and finally the
military had to be called out to overawe the
noisy multitude.
When the first Legislature met, it could not
reasonably be expected that the same dignity
and decorum, the same acquaintance with parliamentary methods or the same breadth of
statesmanship would be manifested as in older
lands. The appearance of the early House was
peculiar and characteristic of a transition stage.
I recall seeing, in the old legislative chamber,
men clothed in the faultless Prince Albert black
beside men in a curious compound of the old
and the new, having the long curled hair of
raven hue, wearing the moccasins to which they
had always been accustomed and which certainly had the advantage of silence over creaky
boots; coats open, displaying the colored flannel
shirt without a collar, and across the waist,
picturesquely slashed, the French belt or sash
commonly worn on the prairies. The literary
172 Critical Readjustment
education of some of these men had been of the
scantiest, and when one day a member sent a
note across the floor, asking a member of the
Government to move the House into a "com-
mitty of the hole," it was taken jocularly as a
deep-laid plot to entrap the Executive unawares.
In a case under my own observation a newly-
elected member, whose sudden elevation had
induced the too free use of stimulants, was
making himself so obnoxious that he had to
be sharply called to order by the Speaker with
threats of expulsion from the precincts. The
member, unabashed, told the Speaker, in effect,
that he ought to remember the primitive condition of things in the country; and, desiring
to impress the Speaker with the fact that
though he (the member) was not a finished
statesman, he was fairly representative of, if
not superior to, his constituents in attainments,
said: "You may think I am a fool, Mr.
Speaker, but I am not such a fool as the people
who sent me here "; in which saying the member builded better than he knew, and aptly
described what has been witnessed frequently
enough in political life.
I remember nearly all these men in a personal way, and would fain write a paragraph
on each but for limitations of space; but even
a few lines may be of interest. Of the members of that first Manitoba Legislature, Mr.
Donald A. Smith (Strathcona), who had to
173 L
The Romance of Western Canada
dodge wagon-spokes and other missiles on
the day of the election, became the most widely
known; Joseph Dubuc, an upright, lovable
man, became a highly respected judge; Angus
McKay, the handsomest member, retired into
an Indian agency. John Sutherland, " the old
Kildonan warhorse," one of the most honest
and sincere men to be found anywhere, and
E. H. G. G. Hay (called "Alphabetical Hay" on
account of his numerous initials), were champions of the people. These two fought strenuously for one public school system in the first
session, and thought they had succeeded, until
they discovered they had been working in surroundings like the fence-rails of Kentucky,
which are so crooked that a pig crawls^through
and comes out on the same side. McTavish
was a Hudson's Bay man, who became Land
Commissioner of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but who undermined his strength by too
genial a life; Louis Schmidt, more or less a
nonentity, had been Riel's secretary; Pascal
Breland, one of the noble type of old plainsmen ; Joseph Royal, an able lawyer, afterwards
Governor of the North-West Territories;
Joseph Lemay, of great avoirdupois, whose
skill as a caricaturist kept his fellow-members
humble; Thomas Howard, the Beau Brummell
of the House, whose graceful manners were
more distinctive than his ability; and then there
was that quite remarkable man, John Norquay,
174 Critical Readjustment
who made his influence felt far beyond provincial bounds.   He was what was called a Scotch
half-breed, uniting in himself the strain of the
Orkneys with a mixture of Indian blood, which
he was always proud to own. He was educated
wholly at the Anglican school and college at St.
John's, through the benevolence of the Church,
became a school-teacher in early life, and at the
first local election became a member of the local
Legislature, and so remained till his death in
1891.    For some seventeen years he was a
member of the Government, and during a good
part of that time he was First Minister of his
native province.   Physically, he was a man of
tremendous size and strength, standing some
six feet three in height, and broad and strong
in proportion. As an indication of his physique,
I recall seeing him at a' political meeting, when
a fight was imminent, thrust himself between
the combatants, who found themselves as much
apart as if a rock had dropped between them.
He must have been a diligent student to secure
the complete mastery of English he manifested
in his public addresses, as well as the thorough
acquaintance with public questions that gave
his speeches authority.   As a speaker he was at
his best.   He had a voice of clear and resonant
force, and a fluency which carried everything
before it without degenerating into wordiness,
while his vocabulary was that of one who had
gained it by wide reading and keen study.    I
175 The Romance of Western Canada
heard him speak on almost every kind of
theme, on a great variety of platforms, and
never knew him to disappoint the expectations
of his listeners. Wherever he spoke in the
native parishes he would naturally have a specially sympathetic audience; but, as an example
of his influence on other audiences, I remember
hearing him speak with great effect in an
immense hall in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the
occasion of a concert given there during an ice
carnival by the St. George's Snowshoe Club,
of Winnipeg. He was on his way home from
Ottawa to Winnipeg when we secured him at
St. Paul, knowing that his presence would
redeem our concert from possible failure. The
gathering of several thousands was representative of many parts of the United States, that
nation of public speakers, and they looked with
somewhat critical gaze upon our burly Premier
when he was introduced as an extra on the
programme. He had no special text given him,
but dwelt chiefly on the friendly relations and
close connection which had always subsisted
between the Red River colonists and the Western States, whence he passed to wider questions
of international fellowship, evoking rounds of
applause by the rolling periods of his eloquence.
The first session of the Legislature was held
in the house purchased from Mr. A. G. B. Bannatyne, near the Main Street centre of present-
day Winnipeg. Joseph Royal was the Speaker
176 Critical Readjustment
of the House, and Henry J. Clarke was
Premier. Clarke was a man of marked ability,
a good lawyer and a brilliant orator, who did
Manitoba good service in the beginning, but
who, by invading the sanctity of another man's
home, eliminated himself from public life when
he was only on the threshold of what might
have been a distinguished career..
Proceedings were conducted in the Legislature, the courts, etc., in both English and
French for many years, and one of the most
impassioned and eloquent speeches of the time
was made by a Frenchman on behalf of retaining his mother tongue in public and official use;
albeit that same speech was made in English,
and the absurdity of wasting time and money
in using two languages in a British country,
where all who took an intelligent interest in
affairs spoke English, soon became apparent.
Moreover, it was found that while the appropriation was duly made, there were cases in
which the French printing of the proceedings
was not done for years after the sessions of
the House. There was, too, a somewhat ridiculous side to the matter. Speeches from the
throne were always read in both languages.
Some of the governors could read in both;
others, who only read English, had the good
sense to hand the speech for reading to the
French clerk; but when English-speaking governors, for fear of shattering the Constitution,
177 The Romance of Western Canada
persisted in reading the French speech with
English pronunciation, the effect was so distressing that the French themselves were doubtless glad when their beautiful language could
no longer be mangled so heartlessly before the
Changes other than the abolition of the dual
language system were also made at an early
date. " Dualities " have had a hard time in the
West, for, shortly after the beginning of our
history, dual representation in local and Dominion Houses had to succumb. Next in order the
" Upper House " was forced to go.
The Legislative Council (as our "Upper
House" was called) had come into existence
on the ioth March, 1871, and was composed
of the following gentlemen appointed .by the
Lieutenant-Governor in Council: Hons. Donald
Gunn, Francois Dauphinais, Solomon Hamelin,
Colin Inkster, Dr. J. H. O'Donnell, Francis
Ogletree and James McKay, the latter being
Speaker of the House. This institution,
intended, I suppose, as "a check on hasty legislation," was not easily annihilated, for the
members, in full enjoyment of its titles and
emoluments, were not likely to approve any
bill for their own decapitation; but after some_
new appointments this "fifth wheel" to the
provincial coach lapsed out of existence.
On the 16th of May, 1871, the first General Quarterly Court, since the Hudson's Bay
178 Critical Readjustment
Company days, was held, Judge (afterwards Sir
Francis) Johnson presiding, Mr. John (afterwards Senator) Sutherland being Sheriff and
Mr. Thomas Bunn, Clerk of the Court.
On the ist day of July, 1871, Dominion Day
was celebrated in royal style, and so the great
North-West was off to a good start in Confederation; and the North-West in those days
meant not only the little " postage stamp " Province of Manitoba, but the whole vast prairie
area to the mountains, although Manitoba was
the only part then organized, mainly because,
west of Fort Garry to the Rockies at that time,
there was practically no settled population.
British Columbia comes later in the story. It
will be remembered that it was not included in
the original charter to Prince Rupert and his
associates, seeing that its rivers did not drain
into Hudson Bay.
The Province of Manitoba, with its immense
hinterland towards the Rockies, had now fairly
entered into the Dominion, beginning to make
its contribution to the general welfare as the
youngest sister in Confederation; but there was
considerable distance to be travelled, and a
good many things to be done before the West
would get into the heart of things. Distances
were great and means of coming into contact
with the East were primitive enough.
From the earliest times the question of communication with the outside world had been a
burning problem. The first settlers, who had
begun their isolation by failing to hear of
Waterloo for long months after that famous
battle took place, had become more or less
reconciled to living " far from the madding
crowd's ignoble strife." These pioneers grew
content with the bi-annual trip to York Factory for merchandise and mail, and with the
commerce and communication that percolated
through the western States. They were not
quite so solitary as the Hudson's Bay Company's officer at a remote point, who received
his copies of the London Times once a year
Premier of Manitoba.  Manitoba in the Making
with the annual packet, and who began always
at the farthest back number and read right
through to get abreast of events, though even
then he left off about a year behind. But while
the condition of the first settlers was, soon
after their arrival, a little better than his, it
was not wholly satisfactory to the growing
colony on the Red River, and especially was
it unsatisfactory to those who in the sixties
began to come more rapidly into the settlement.
Hence, as soon as the rebellion had quieted
down, people began to look around for inlets
for population and merchandise and outlets for
produce. The old steamboat, flat-bottomed and
stern-wheeled, was one of the prized institutions of the time. Introduced by the irrepres-
sibly energetic and shrewd J. J. Hill, it ran
from near the "head waters" in the western
States down the Red River to Fort Garry, and
on rare occasions down past the lower settlement to Lower Fort Garry. These latter occasions were red-letter days for the community:
schools were dismissed while the boat was
passing, and grown-up people gathered on the
banks, greeting her with shotgun salutes, and
eliciting responses from the boat whistle, to the
half-terror, half-delight of the children. When
merchants began to open stores in some numbers on the present site of Winnipeg, the advent
of "the first boat" after the long winter was
the goal to which the hopes and the longings
13 181 The Romance of Western Canada
of people most turned. The merchant of to-day
who has "just sold out," but assures the customer that he has some of the desired goods
" on the way," is distinctly of the same genus as
the ancient and veracious merchants of Winnipeg, who invariably asserted concerning everything that they did not have on hand, that " it
would be in on the first boat." Some mathematical genius, who perhaps desired to keep his
mind engaged in arithmetical gymnastics during the long winter, made much inquiry for
goods, keeping note of the stereotyped reply,
and towards spring gave in miles what he considered the dimensions of "the first boat"
would be if the promises of the merchants had
any tangible foundation.
One of the first indications we had of swifter
communication with the outside world was the
erection of telegraph poles and lines across our
farms in the early seventies. The proceedings
were more or less shrouded with that mystery
and occultness which provokes the inquiry of
boys; and, like the man who, seeing the electric
light for the first time, wondered "how they
could get such light from a hairpin in a bottle,"
we used to wonder how men sent messages on
those wires twisted around a " bottle " at intervals. We tried to examine as far as possible,
and although warned as to the danger of
meddling with the strange machinery, some
boy of sure eye and hand would knock one of
182 Manitoba in the Making
the "bottles" off occasionally; but it refused
to yield up the secret of telegraphy, and, replacing it, we would take our seats upon the fence
and watch whether any of the daring birds
that took their places on the wires would be
" shot" by the passing telegrams.
But things were moving apace, and on the
20th, November, 1871, the telegraph line was
linked up at the Pembina boundary line with
the American system, and so we were at last
within touch of eastern Canada by wire. On
that red-letter day the following despatch was
sent by Governor Archibald to Ottawa:
" Fort Garry,
" November 20th, 1871.
" To Right Honorable Lord Lisgar,
j Governor-General of Canada.
"The first telegraphic message from the
heart of the continent may appropriately convey, on the part of our people, an expression
of devout thankfulness to Almighty God for
the close of our isolation from the rest of the
world. This message announces that close, as
its receipt by your Excellency will attest it. The
voice of Manitoba, collected this morning on
the banks of the Assiniboine, will be heard in a
few hours on the banks of the Ottawa; and we
may hope, before the day closes, that the words
of your Excellency's reply, spoken at the capital of the Dominion, will be listened to at Fort
Garry. We may now count in hours the work
that used to occupy weeks. I congratulate your
183 The Romance of Western Canada
Excellency on the facility so afforded in discharge of your high duties, so far as they concern this province. I know I can better discharge my own when, at any moment, I
may appeal to your Lordship for advice and
" (Signed) Adams G. Archibald."
And the answer duly came back as follows:
" To Lieutenant-Governor Archibald,
" Winnipeg, Manitoba.
" I received your message with great satisfaction. The completion of the line to Fort
Garry is an auspicious event. It forms a fresh
and most important link between the eastern
Provinces and the North-West, and is a happy
augury for the future, inasmuch as it gives
proof of the energy with which the Union,
wisely effected, of Her Majesty's North American possessions enables progress and civilization to be advanced in different and far distant
portions of the Dominion. I congratulate the
inhabitants of Manitoba on the event, and join
heartily in your thanksgiving.
" (Signed) Lisgar."
And so the West was getting ahead, but
there were some jolts. In the early fall of
1871, rumors of a Fenian invasion were abroad
—an invasion worked up, it was believed, by
O'Donaghue, who was living in the States, and
was soured over the turn affairs had taken. In
any case, he had no love for things British,
184 Manitoba in the Making
"General" O'Neill, the hardy perennial, was
also to the fore. Word came to Governor
Archibald, who issued his famous "Rally-
Round-the-Flag" proclamation, and there was
mustering in hot haste. All districts contributed their quota under the stirring appeals of
men who were determined that the hostile
movement, however extensive it was, should
be checked at the border. It was in this connection that John Norquay made one of his first
public addresses on a national subject, closing
with the words, " We will be unworthy representatives of our forefathers if we allow the
invaders to defile our soil with their traitorous
feet." But the Fenian raid was halted, through
the friendly offices of the American Consul at
Winnipeg, Mr. J. W. Taylor. He had learned
of the affair some time before, and had asked
the Canadian Government if they would make
any objection to American soldiers coming
across the line, if need be, to arrest the
invaders. Receiving a favorable reply, he took
the matter up with Washington, with the result
that when a body .of Fenians crossed over at
Pembina, on October 5th, Captain Wheaton,
of the U. S. 20th Infantry, followed. After
dispersing them, he placed the leaders under
arrest and took them back over the border.
This American Consul Taylor, affectionately
called  "the  Consul"   by  everybody  in  and
around  Winnipeg,   was  a  very  well-known
185 The Romance of Western Canada
figure there for many years; in fact, was not
changed, despite changes at Washington, from
his appointment till his death. He had been
through the western country as early as 1856,
and was, on that account, sometimes called
"Saskatchewan Taylor." He was amongst
the first men to hold that the country west of
the 49th parallel would become one of the
greatest wheat areas in the world. In that
faith he did much to encourage agriculture in
that region by importing, in small parcels, seed
wheat of many varieties for experiment. My
father and he were warm friends, and many a
plot of wheat did they lay out together on our
old Kildonan homestead, with its practically
inexhaustible soil; and the product of some of
these plots did much to put the West on its feet
as one of the most wonderful wheat countries
on this planet. A charming personality, a perfectly-mannered gentleman of the old school,
a friend to all children, a lover of flowers, a
delightful conversationalist, a vividly-eloquent
and impassioned orator, "one that loved his
fellow-men," a human-hearted diplomat of the
kind that would make war impossible—such
was Consul Taylor, loyal to his own land, generous to all. There are thousands all over the
West who recall the old days well enough to
join in this tribute to the kindly genius, without
whose presence no social or literary gathering
in the old Red River country was complete.
186 Manitoba in the Making
In connection with this abortive Fenian raid,
a curious thing happened which caused a great
deal of excitement and considerable ill-feeling
against Governor Archibald on the part of the
loyalist people. On October 8th, Mr. M. A.
Girard and some others came to the Governor
and told him that two hundred loyal French
half-breeds under Riel and Lepine were in St.
Boniface as a mounted corps to offer their services to repel the Fenians. The Governor went
over and was received with musketry salute.
Then he shook hands with the leaders and
thanked them, while Mr. Girard also made a
speech in praise of British institutions. The
Fenian raid was over three days before this
took place, but the Governor presumed they
had not heard of that, although these mounted
scouts would certainly know what had taken
place a few miles away. From his hiding-place
in the States, O'Donaghue wrote that these
men would have joined the Fenians had they
succeeded. Personally, I do not think this to
be the case, but the gist of Governor Archibald's offending lay in his shaking hands, while
Her Majesty's representative, with men who
had committed a crime in the murder of Scott;
but for the Governor it ought to be said that
he did not know the country, that he seemed to
be always in fear that there would be another
uprising, and that he ought to make special
efforts to placate men who might otherwise do
187 The Romance of Western Canada
much harm. Shortly after this, in view of the
feeling stirred up, and the fact that a reward
had been offered in Ontario for the murderers
of Scott, Riel and "Lepine left the country for
a time. The matter would not rest, however.
Men bided their time, and in September, 1873,
a warrant was sworn out by Mr. W. A. Farmer
before Doctor O'Donnell, in Winnipeg, for the
arrest of Riel and Lepine. Riel could not be
found; but the two constables went to Lepine's
house, and after he had taken a look at them,
and said he could crack their heads together,
he went along with them. He was tried before
Chief Justice E. B. Wood, and was defended
by Chapleau, of Quebec, in an exceptionally
brilliant effort; but Lepine was found guilty
and condemned to death. On many grounds,
and especially on the ground that Governor
Archibald, representing the Crown, had
accepted Lepine's proffered service at the
Fenian raid, Lord Dufferin, on his own responsibility, commuted the sentence to two years'
imprisonment and permanent forfeiture of political rights. This brought up the whole amnesty
question again, and in 1875 ^ne Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, in the House of Commons,
moved that an amnesty be granted Riel, conditional on five years' banishment from the country. This is how Riel could come back for the
second rebellion in 1885 without being liable
to arrest; he had been some twelve years away.
188 Manitoba in the Making
Albeit he had also been elected for a Dominion
constituency, had signed the roll, but had, of
course, never taken the seat.
Meanwhile, Manitoba was experiencing the
changes incident on political struggle, although
what we generally call party had not yet got a
foothold. In 1874 the Clarke Government was
defeated, and the Girard Government took
office, one of the questions continually to the
fore being the obtaining of "better terms"
from the Dominion in the way of means to
develop the Province, it being strongly felt
that, on account of its only having four members in the House of Commons, Manitoba was
getting scant provision. Then the Girard Government went down, and was succeeded by the
Davis Government, in 1875. Davis was a
hotel-keeper, proprietor of the noted "Davis
House," the successor of the first hotel in Winnipeg, which was kept by "Dutch George";
but Davis, though a man of shrewdness, left no
special mark on the country's life. His main
accomplishment was securing as a member of
his cabinet John Norquay, who in 1878 succeeded to the premiership.
By degrees railways pushed their way westward, through the States to the boundary line,
and the Pembina branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway was built thence to St. Boniface
in 1878. The first two spikes in this road
were driven in 1877 by the Governor-General
189 The Romance of Western Canada
and Lady Dufferin, whose visit to the West in
that year marks a new era in the history of the
country. They came by way of Toronto,
Chicago and St. Paul, taking the last stage of
the journey from Fisher's Landing to Fort
Garry on the steamer Minnesota. They were
received with unbounded enthusiasm in the
new West, and there, as elsewhere, the tactful
Governor-General did much to oil the machinery
of Confederation and remove particles likely to
cause friction. They had many unique experiences during their tour and their camping out,
amongst them being shooting the Grand Rapids
above Lake Winnipeg in a York boat, and
riding in a Red River cart drawn by thirty
garlanded oxen at Stony Mountain. The speech
given by Lord Dufferin at a dinner in Winnipeg, before returning east, has always been
regarded as one of the best immigration
agencies the West has had, and I give the
following famous extract:
"From its geographical position and its
peculiar characteristics, Manitoba may be
regarded as the keystone of that mighty arch
of sister provinces which spans the continent
from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was here
that Canada, emerging from her woods and
forests, first gazed upon her rolling prairies
and unexplored North-West, and learned, as
by an unexpected revelation, that her historical
territories of the Canadas, her eastern seaboards of New Brunswick, Labrador and Nova
190 Manitoba in the Making
Scotia, her Laurentian lakes and valleys, lowlands and pastures, though themselves more
extensive than half a dozen European kingdoms, were but the vestibules and ante-chambers to that till then undreamed-of Dominion,
whose illimitable dimensions confound the
arithmetic of the surveyors and the verification of the explorer. It was hence that, counting her past achievements as but the preface
and prelude to her future exertions and expanding destinies, she took a new departure, received
the afflatus of a more important inspiration,
and felt herself no longer a mere settler along
the banks of a single river, but the owner of
half a continent, and in the magnitude of her
possession, in the wealth of her resources, in
the sinews of her material might, the peer of
any power on earth."
Sir John A. Macdonald had gone out of
power in Ottawa, in 1872, in connection with
the " Pacific Scandal," and during this decade
Premier Alexander Mackenzie was trying to
. construct a transcontinental line through Canadian territory by utilizing "the magnificent
water stretches" along the way. Hence, eastward from Winnipeg, beginnings were made,
somewhat to the bewilderment of the old
settlers, through whose growing crops the
roadway of the iron horse was being pushed.
However, Mackenzie, one of the most upright
of men, fell upon lean years in a time of worldwide depression, and Macdonald came back to
191 The Romance of Western Canada
power, in 1878, on the wings of the " National
Policy." The Canadian Pacific Railway was
now thrust forward with new energy under a
new company. This company received an enormous grant in money and lands; but they faced
an undertaking so stupendous that it used to
be said that the road would never pay for the
axle grease. Several times the whole undertaking was on the verge of failure. It was,
perhaps, fortunate that most of the Canadian
directorate hailed from the land of the saying,
"a stout heart to a stey brae," and few who
know the way in which these men pledged their
private fortunes and hazarded their business
reputations will grudge the joy that .must have
been theirs when one of the most distinguished
of their number, Donald A. Smith, at Craig
Ellachie, in 1885, drove the last spike in the
band uniting oceans which lave the opposite
shores of Canada. In fact, one cannot read the
name of the place amidst the great mountain
ranges where that notable act was done without thinking of the legends of Highland seers
concerning the " grey frontlet of rock" which
stood in the glen of Strathspey, and from
whose summit the scattered firs and windswept heather in war-time whispered to the
clansmen, " Stand fast," for only by the most
determined steadfastness could men have completed the task of which we have just spoken.
It was for some time quite fashionable to
192 Manitoba in the Making
denounce the rapid construction of the C.P.R.
as conducing to the scattering of population
westward, and to say that the road should have
been built by easy stages, and settlement consolidated in lateral directions. Apart from the
fact that such a process would have been oblivious of the conditions upon which British Columbia entered Confederation, there was only a
modicum of truth in the assertion that slower
construction of the railway would have consolidated settlement, as early settlers who witnessed the movement of population can testify.
There seems always to have been a westward
moving instinct in humanity, and under its
influence men have, from the beginning, been
crowding towards the setting sun. In the
West, long before a railway was dreamed of,
I saw my own kith and kin leave the Red River
colony to travel, amidst great difficulty, with
cart-trains, five hundred miles north-westward
and form a settlement there. Those who were
in the country at the time know that during the
construction of the C.P.R. emigrants left its
trains at the various termini, and, loading their
effects on " prairie schooners," pushed on, leaving good land unoccupied to the right hand and
to the left.
Following more particularly the history of
Manitoba, it is highly interesting to know that
three years after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway across the continent, the
193 The Romance of Western Canada
Hon. John Norquay, who had held office for
some fourteen years, went down to defeat in
1888. Then ensued the brief premiership of
Doctor Harrison, after which the Hon. Thomas
Greenway took office, with the redoubtable
Joseph Martin as Attorney-General; and this is
interesting, because Norquay met his defeat
mainly through his fight for the rights of his
native province to have other railway advantages besides those that came by the grace of
the Canadian Pacific, which had a cast-iron
monopoly clause in its charter. For fear of
strangling the infant transcontinental by premature competition, the Ottawa Government
said they would disallow, and they did disalloWj
any Railway Act passed in Manitoba. Norquay
went on and, with the support of the Opposition, enacted the Red River Valley Railway
Bill, and there was a great celebration when
the first sod was turned with a spade by the
big Premier on the 2nd July. Of course it was
disallowed in Ottawa. Trouble arose, also,
over the transfer of certain bonds of the Province to Mann and Holt, in connection with
the Hudson Bay Railway, on the strength of
a telegram from Hon. A. A. C. Lariviere, a
member of the Norquay Government, that the
Ottawa Government would transfer the collateral land grant. This, the Ottawa Government repudiated, saying there was a misunderstanding. Norquay and Lariviere resigned,
194 Manitoba in the Making
Doctor Harrison, a member of the same Government, taking the premiership; but Doctor
Harrison's new minister, Mr. Burk, who represented the French element, was beaten hands
down at the bye-election by Mr. F. H. Francis,
a popular merchant of Headihgly. I have
talked with many people who took part in that
pivotal election, the result of which led to the
Manitoba School Question, that changed the
political face of all Canada in 1896, and they
differ widely as to what occurred. The constituency of St. Francois Xavier, in which
Burk was defeated, was really a French constituency. The Harrison party are said to have
warned the people that if Greenway and Martin
took office they would abolish Separate Schools,
and some say that the Greenway party denied
this; but Mr. Francis, a quiet, popular man,
who spoke French as well as his native English, developed great personal strength during
the campaign on his own account. Greenway
was as strong against railway disallowance as
Norquay, and, taken altogether, Mr. Francis
won, and brought the Greenway-Martin party
into power. Following the general election,
Norquay returned to the House as leader of a
mere "corporal's guard" in opposition; but
his speech in defence remains as perhaps the
loftiest and most impassioned address that the
Legislature has ever heard. In that speech he
reviewed his long tenure of office, without
195 The Romance of Western Canada
claiming infallibility, but showing how, with
abundant opportunity for enriching himself, he
had surrendered, in comparative poverty, the
seals of office, and declaring how he was satisfied in being able to hand down an unsullied
name to his children.
Norquay died next year, somewhat suddenly,
and the Greenway Government accorded him a
state funeral. It is good to remember, now that
they have both gone, that the two leaders, who
fought so hard in the House and before the
country, were warm personal friends, who
enjoyed many a quiet hour together. Amid
the multitude of floral tributes on Norquay's
coffin, there was one which few knew about
or understood. It bore the simple inscriptionr
"John, in loving memory, from Tom," and
told a silent story of personal friendship
between political foes.
Shortly before this, another greatly beloved
citizen passed away in the person of Mr.
A. G. B. Bannatyne, whose name was prominent in the rebellion records as one who strove
incessantly for peace. Connected with every
type of benevolent work, Mr. Bannatyne left
a goodly record in the city, where his name is
commemorated in the street that runs from the
old location of his historic homestead.
Greenway and Martin made a strong combination in government—Greenway, reserved,
almost stolid, strong, silent and able; Martin,
196 Manitoba in the Making
active, energetic, fiery, but clear-headed, and
with a general makeup that earned him the
sobriquet "Fighting Joe." Within a few
weeks the Greenway-Martin Government
secured from Ottawa the cessation of the disallowance policy—something for which Norquay had fought for years in vain. Of course
it could be said that the Canadian Pacific Railway had now become strong enough to stand
competition; but friends of Norquay never
quite forgave the Ottawa authorities for giving
' to their political opponents what they had withheld from a political, though independent,
friend. The result of the cessation of the " disallowance" policy in Ottawa was increased
railway facilities in Manitoba and a consequent
growth in prosperity. The outstanding thing,
of course, in the Greenway-Martin period was
the abolition of Separate Schools, and of that
we will give some history later. This administration held office a little over ten years, when
the Conservatives rallied their forces under the
leadership of the popular Hugh John Macdonald. Mr. Macdonald came into power upon a
prohibition pledge, and redeemed it by passing
the noted Liquor Act through the Legislature,
and submitting it for the opinion of the
Imperial Privy Council. It was held to be
intra vires of the Provincial Legislature, and
it is known that Mr. Macdonald, had he
remained in office, would have brought it into
14 197 The Romance of Western Canada
force by Order-in-Council; but he had in the
meantime dropped out of provincial politics to
accept the office of Minister of the Interior.
Macdonald (now Sir Hugh John, the able
magistrate of the Winnipeg Police Court) is
the son of "John A.," the first Premier of confederated Canada. "Hugh John," as he is
affectionately called, served the country as a
soldier under Wolseley and Middleton, but,
though immensely popular, has no love for the
hurly-burly of political life, and, beyond his
premiership in Manitoba and a short term at
Ottawa, to both of which he had felt personally
pledged, he has resisted all efforts to make him
a political leader. His successor in the premiership of Manitoba, Hon. R. P. Roblin, and colleagues took the course of asking the people to
vote on the enforcement of the Prohibition
Act. This course incensed the temperance
people, who largely refrained from voting, and
the Act was killed. The Roblin Government
defended their action by saying that the former
votes favoring prohibition had been on the
abstract question, and that they were not prepared to put a concrete Act in force without a
vpopular mandate. But the prohibitionists never
forgot what they considered an unfair deal;
and so, when a few years ago the Roblin Government came under charges of serious maladministration of provincial funds in connection with the erection of public buildings, the
198 Manitoba in the Making
combination against them was so overwhelming that they were swept utterly from power.
They had had their day of opportunity, but
their sun went down in storm and cloud.
Premier Norris, a progressive farmer, is now
in power, with Mr. Edward Brown, an able
financier, in charge of that difficult department.
So far the Government has done well. It has
abolished the drink traffic, enfranchised women,
and carried out some other useful legislation.
No Province has greater traditions than the
one whose early history was made by the Red
River settlers, who consecrated the land by
incomparable endeavor to found godly homes
and build up the institutions which alone can
make a nation great. May the rulers and
people always strive to be worthy of the
ancient sacrifices.
It real history begins with colonization, then
the history of the vast prairie section of
Canada, embracing the immense Provinces of
Saskatchewan and Alberta, is of comparatively
recent date. Over the ground that preceded
settlement we have already travelled, when we
have been recounting the story of the great
fur companies, with their conflicts, their
explorations, and their contributions to the
sum total of human knowledge. Across these
mighty plains they had all passed—hunters,
traders, trappers, explorers and the rest—
mingling with the majestic Indian tribes and
making their wealth out of the countless herds
of buffalo that once were chief amongst the
wild animals on the prairie; but prior to the
date of Confederation, and for a good many
years thereafter, there were very few settlements except those that clustered around the
early missionary outposts or the frontier forts
of the traders. In fact, these wide prairie
reaches began to be settled by the overflow
from what is now the Province of Manitoba.
As far back as 1866 some of my own relatives went far north-westward and founded a
200 The Vast Prairie Section
mission, calling the place Prince Albert, on the
North Saskatchewan. Around that mission a settlement gradually gathered, and in some degree
that same process went on at other points;
but there was no general inrush of people until
the Canadian Pacific, crossing the Red River
in 1881, began to push its way towards the
setting sun; and it was only some nine or ten
years before that time that even a rudimentary
form of government for the huge domain then
called the North-West Territories was considered necessary. Before that date the Hudson's
Bay Company had been in general control, and
the code of the camp and the hunt and the trail
was sufficient to meet the situation.
In 1871 the Hon. Donald A. Smith (Strath-
cona), the member for Selkirk, Manitoba,
asked in the House of Commons at Ottawa
what provision they intended to make for the
government of the North-West Territories,
how they were going to regulate trade, and
what steps they were likely to take to control
the traffic in liquor, which was being carried
on by American and other traders to the
demoralization of the Indians. Sir George E.
Cartier, replying, indicated that practically
nothing was done as yet, but that the Canadian
Government had power to deal with all these
matters. At the session of 1872 an Act was
passed by the House to provide for the government of the North-West Territories on the line
201 The Romance of Western Canada
of the suggestions made by Captain Butler
(later Sir William), who had travelled through
the country at the request of the Government.
In January, 1873,tne ^rst North-West Council
was gazetted, to act with the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba in the government of the
Territories. The members of this first North-
West Council were Hon. M. A. Girard, Hon.
Donald A. Smith, Hon. Henry J. Clarke, Hon.
Patrice Breland, Hon. Alfred Boyd, Doctor
Schultz, Joseph Dubuc, A. G. B. Bannatyne,
William Fraser, Robert Hamilton, and William J. Christie. They held their first meeting
on the 8th of March. An interesting fact was
that Mr. Christie, who was a well-known Hudson's Bay Factor, came two thousand miles
from Fort Simpson to Fort Garry to attend
that meeting, taking nearly two months to
make the journey. In 1873, Hon. James
McKay, Hon. Joseph Royal, Pierre Delorme,
W. R. Bown, and W. N. Kennedy were added
to the Council, which held its first important
session in Winnipeg in 1874. On April 27th,
1874, a proclamation was published prohibiting
the manufacture, importation and sale of strong
drink in the Territories. Next year John H.
McTavish and William Tait were added to the
Council. In 1875, the Act for the organization
of the North-West Territories was introduced
in Ottawa by the Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, giving extensive powers. This Act was
202 The Vast Prairie Section
proclaimed in force on the 7th October, 1876,
when the Hon. David Laird was appointed the
first Lieutenant-Governor and Superintendent
of Indians, with a Council consisting of Stipendiary Magistrates McLeod, Ryan, Richardson,
and Major Irvine. Mr. A. E. Forget was Secretary of the Council, and Mr. Molyneux St.
John, Sheriff. They were sworn in at Livingstone, Swan River, awaiting the completion of
the Government Buildings at Battleford, the
then capital, and held their first session at
Swan River in March, 1877, passing laws for
the administration of justice, the preservation
of the buffalo, prevention of fires, and the
guarding of the public health, the last being
important on account of many epidemics, like
smallpox, amongst the Indians. The Act to_
prevent the extermination of the buffalo gave
rise to trouble, and the half-breeds and the
Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, did all they could to
stir up the Blackfeet, the great tribe mainly
affected. Two elements prevented outbreak.
The one was the presence of the Mounted
Police, the famous force that for the last forty
years has exhibited a courage, judgment, and
endurance unequalled, perhaps, by any similar
body of men in history. The other influence was
that of the new Governor, David Laird, " the
man who talked straight," and whose commanding appearance and outstanding spirit of
fairness did immense service in making treaties
203 The Romance of Western Canada
with the Indians and keeping them contented
under rapidly changing conditions of life. The
presence of men like Governors Morris and
Laird, with intermediaries like James McKay,
along with the Hudson's Bay men and the missionaries, did work for the welfare of Canada
whose greatness can only be understood by
those who know the conditions of the time.
At this particular time in October, 1877,
Laird made a treaty with the Blackf eet Indians,
the most warlike of all the tribes. On that
occasion Crowfoot, the noted chief, whom I
saw often in later years, made a remarkable
speech. Sometimes presents were made of
food before conference was held, but Crowfoot
said, " No; let us talk first; then if we agree,
we can eat." In his speech he paid a great
tribute to the Mounted Police, who " have protected us as the feathers of the bird protect it
from the frosts of winter." He also said, " I
speak for all my people, and I trust the Great
Spirit will put it into their hearts to be good
people." When, in later years, some of us
stood in Crowfoot's presence, at the time that |
Riel was trying to inflame the Indians everywhere, we had cause to be grateful to Laird
and the men who had brought Crowfoot and
his people into the treaty they observed so well.
In 1879, Mr. Edgar Dewdney was appointed
Superintendent of Indians, as Governor Laird
began to feel the double duties too onerous;
204 The Vast Prairie Section
and in 1881 Mr. Dewdney succeededXaird as
Governor. The Territories were now divided
into electoral districts, with a Legislative
Assembly meeting at Regina, and into Dominion constituencies, with the privilege of sending
four members to the House of Commons. This
was the beginning of responsible government
in the Territories, but some years were to
elapse before the people would have a full
measure of participation.
On March 27th, 1883, an Order-in-Council
was passed, removing the capital from Battle-
ford to Regina. This place was formerly Pile
of Bones Creek, but had been named Regina
by the Marquis of Lome in 1881. The rival
claimants for the honor of being the capital
were several, and the fight was hot; but finally
the contest seemed to narrow down to Fort
Qu'Appelle and Regina. The selection was left
to Mr. Dewdney, and he made choice of Regina.
For beauty of situation and general fitness as
the abiding-place of a large oity, nine out of
ten men, one would suppose, would have
selected Fort Qu'Appelle; but there is no
accounting for what may lie behind the decision of the tenth on almost any subject in the
world. There may have been a hundred
reasons for choosing Regina that we know
nothing about. There was much talk about a
ring of speculators who pulled the capital to
Regina and then scattering the public buildings
205 The Romance of Western Canada
around to boom various subdivisions; but none
of these rumors may have had any foundation.
Regina has made the best of it, and has built
up a city of much beauty on about as unlikely
a site as we ever saw in the old days on the
plains; and for the rest of it, we must charitably
assume that the location was settled for worthy
When the North-West Council met at
Regina, in August, 1883, Governor Dewdney
in the chair, the appointed members were:
Colonel Irvine, Messrs. Breland, Pascal and
Hayter Reed; Colonels McLeod and Richardson, Stipendiary Magistrates, members ex-
ofUcio; and Messrs. Frank Oliver, D. H.
McDowall, J. C. Hamilton, Jas. H. Ross,
T. W. Jackson, and William White. New
electoral divisions were added from time to
time until the year 1888, when the whole system of governing the territories was changed,
the North-West Council being abolished and
the Legislative Assembly of the North-West
Territories being established. In the same year,
in July, Governor Dewdney's term expired,
when he retired, to be elected to the House of
Commons; and the Hon. Joseph Royal reigned
as Governor in his stead.
Before this date, however, and during Mr.
Dewdney's term of office, the startling and
lamentable event known as the second Riel
Rebellion had taken place, in 1885.
206 The Vast Prairie Section
Just what gave rise to the North-West rebellion is perhaps more than anyone can definitely
say. Political gladiators have fought the question over and over again to no definite end,
and probably the great parties have their own
opinion in the matter to this day, though they
may be chary about telling all they know. It
appears certain that the French half-breeds who
were settled on the south branch, of the Saskatchewan River (many of them being the same,
or of the same, families as those concerned in
the Riel rebellion of '69) were determined to
hold to the old system of long, narrow farms
fronting on the river, as against the rectangular,
or " square," survey proposed by the Government, which threatened to break up the homes
they had built and overturn the old social life
fostered by contiguous residence; and it seems
also tolerably clear that many of the settlers
had been waiting an extraordinarily long time
for their land patents and scrip. These things
were sufficient to unsettle the easily-ruffled and
somewhat turbulent half-breed element, and
once anything like rebellion was contemplated,
the aid of their duskier brethren all over the
great plains was confidently expected.
The local authorities seem to have been singularly oblivious of the excitement that was
afoot, and of the meetings that were being held
for the redress of the wrongs alleged. They
do not seem to have kept those at the seat of
207 The Romance of Western Canada
federal government properly informed as to
the true state of matters at the scene of the
discontent, nor of the important fact that many
of the white settlers in the region sympathized
with the malcontents at the outset, though
deprecating the use of any but constitutional
means for redress; but it is doubtful whether
the discontent that seethed under the surface
would ever have burst into active rebellion had
not the agitators sent for Louis Riel, who, since
his first escapade, had been living in the United
States, and who, at the time he was sent for, was
engaged in the quiet work of school-teaching in
St. Peter's Mission in Montana. The malcontents felt that, with his energetic personality at
their head, they could secure all the rights they
claimed, and so despatched a deputation asking
him to come and lead them in their struggle.
The deputation consisted of Gabriel Dumont,
James Isbister, Moise Ouellette, and Michel
Dumas, and there was also the following extraordinary letter from a well-known priest,
Father Andre:
"My dear Mr. Riel,—
"The opinion here is so prominent in your
favor, and longs for you so ardently, that it
would be a great disappointment to the people
of Prince Albert if you did not come. So you
see, you absolutely must come. You are the
most popular man in the country, and, with the
exception of four or five persons, all the world
208 The Vast Prairie Section
impatiently expects you. I have only this to
say—Come; come quickly. With kind remembrance^ I am,
"A. Andric."
Riel's reply indicates that he was susceptible
to all this flattery, and that at the same time he
hoped to better his own position. So he came
back with the deputation, reaching Batoche on
July ist, 1884. The very presence of the man
on the ground should have put the local authorities on the alert; but either the local powers
were making light of the situation, or else the
pigeon-holes at Ottawa were receiving unread
petitions, and so far as we can gather, we
incline to the former as the more correct
A revolution! is often a delayed reformation,
and, as anyone who knew Riel should have
expected, the inevitable sequel came. He was
a man easily excited and inordinately vain;
hence, as he felt the wine of a new movement
in his system, and became intoxicated with the
success of his fiery appeals to the meetings that
assembled, he broke out into amazing and
extravagant pretensions. He openly separated
from the Church of Rome, and such was his
influence over the French half-breeds that he
drew them from allegiance to their priests. He
added David to his name, and called himself
"Louis David Riel exovede," in allusion to
209 The Romance of Western Canada
both his kingly and his priestly claims; he
established a government, with headquarters at
Batoche, arrested whom he pleased, plundered
the stores around, and sent word to Major
Crozier, who commanded the Mounted Police
at Fort Carlton, the nearest post, to surrender
at once. This was rushing matters with a vengeance, and it is not surprising that, on the
19th of March, Major Crozier, hearing of
these things, sent word to Prince Albert for
help, and shortly afterwards despatched
Thomas McKay, one of the Prince Albert
volunteers, to remonstrate with Riel.
When Thomas McKay reached Riel's Council at Batoche, he found things at white heat,
and was told by Riel that there "was to be a
war of extermination, during which " the two
curses, the Government and the Hudson's Bay
Company," and all who sympathized with them,
were to be driven out of the country. "You
don't know what we are after," said Riel to
McKay. "We want blood, blood—it's blood
we want." McKay, barely escaping with his life
from such a gory atmosphere, returned to Carlton, and the next day, in company with Mitchell, of Duck Lake, met Nolin and Maxime
Lepine (brother of Ambroise Lepine, Riel's
adjutant in '69-'70), from Riel, demanding the
surrender of Fort Carlton. This, of course,
was refused, and in a few days rebellion was
rampant, with a madman at its head.
210 The Vast Prairie Section
For many weeks previous Riel had been
sending his runners amongst the Indians, and
counted on a general uprising of the tribes,
assuring them that the Government could easily
be overthrown, and that the whole country
would be theirs again. We can forgive Riel for
a good many things, but to justify his incitement of the Indians to murder and rapine is
more than any reasonable person cares to
undertake. As a rule the Indians were perfectly satisfied on the splendid reserves the
Government had provided for them, were well
cared for and taught; but the savage instinct
was still strong in them, and to let them loose
on defenceless homes, with all the horrors of
the scalping-knife and the torture, is more than
can be justified.
The first actual clash came on March 26th,
1885, when Major Crozier, with a small force
of police and Prince Albert volunteers, went
out from Carlton to Duck Lake to support the
teams that had gone forward to bring in some
Government stores. They were met by a much
larger force of half-breeds and Indians, under
Gabriel Dumont and Chief Beardy, who wanted
to parley under a white flag; but two men got
into an altercation, and a rifle was discharged.
By this time Dumont's force had secured the
advantage of position, so that when firing
became general our men suffered heavily.
Crozier ordered his six-pounder to open fire,
211 The Romance of Western Canada
but he was in the line of the gun at the time,
and it could not be used, though he said afterwards that his orders should have been carried
out regardless of his safety. After an hour of
hard fighting, Crozier ordered his men to retire
to Fort Carlton, which they left in a day or two
in order to garrison Prince Albert, where a
large settlement needed protection.
This Gabriel Dumont was certainly the most
striking figure amongst the rebels in all the
fighting which followed the battle at Duck
Lake. He was living quietly enough upon his
farm on the South Saskatchewan when the
agitation began, but from his noted prowess
and activity in the conflicts and hunts on the
great plains in former years, became at once
the acknowledged military leader of the rebel
force. He was a man of magnificent physique
and vast strength, a daring rider, a deadly shot,
and, withal, possessed of undoubted dash and
courage. He was wounded at Duck Lake, but
not incapacitated. From what I knew of
Dumont I have no doubt he felt compelled to
make a stand for the rights of his people; and
the fact that many of the white settlers sympathized with the general attitude of these men
prior to armed rebellion indicates that their
position, though not justifying resort to arms,
was not by any means unreasonable. This
temporary success at Duck Lake intoxicated
Riel, and, in his usual wild way, he continued
212 The Vast Prairie Section
to stir up the Indians to revolt, and, only for
the restraint exercised by missionaries, who
amply demonstrated the value of missions that
year, and the presence of the Mounted Police
here and there, the results might have been
There were many who strongly criticized
Crozier's precipitate action, as they called it, in
starting out from Carlton with a small body
of men; but, in answer to that, it should be
said that the police tradition has always been
not to temporize with lawlessness, and the
question of odds against them was never considered in all their history on Western plains.
Crozier's idea was, no doubt, to nip the insurrection in the bud.
Duck Lake, in any case, put a sudden end to
procrastinating officialdom, and troops, in
larger numbers than could be used, were volunteering from all parts of Canada. General
Middleton, a gallant veteran of many wars,
who was then at the head of the militia, hurried
from Ottawa to Winnipeg, where he arrived
on March 27th, leaving the same night for the
scene of the trouble, with all the Winnipeg
troops that were available. Two more regiments were specially raised in Winnipeg and
the country round about without delay.
The situation was, briefly; this: Riel and
Dumont were on the South Saskatchewan, near
Batoche, which was the rebel headquarters.
15 213 nil
The Romance of Western Canada
Chief Poundmaker and his Indians were
menacing Battleford. Chief Big Bear and his
band massacred nine people at the Frog Lake
Reserve, and were on a pillaging and murdering expedition that threatened Fort Pitt,
Edmonton, and all the region round about;
and the plan of Middleton was to strike at all
three points, and prevent disaffection spreading
amongst the Indians.
Our account of these three movements
against the rebels need not be extended, as an
outline, with some record of results, will meet
the requirements of the present publication.
General Middleton, whose movements were
hampered somewhat by difficulty of prairie
transportation in the spring of the year, first
came in contact with the rebels, on April 24th,
under Dumont at Fish Creek, near Batoche,
where the enemy knew the ground and took
every advantage of ravines and other familiar
configurations of the locality; and it is somewhat curious to find that the scouts under Boulton, who himself had been imprisoned and sentenced to death by Riel during the first rebellion, were the first to come into collision with
Riel's forces in the second. The fighting at
Fish Creek was quite heavy for that kind of
warfare, and Middleton lost a considerable
number of men before dislodging the enemy
from the ravine as night fell. Then for some
days our men remained in camp, reinforcements
REBELLION OF   1885  The Vast Prairie Section
coming up in the meantime; and from the
9th to the 12th of May the attack on Batoche
was carried on, ending in complete victory
for our men on the latter date. On inspecting the rebel position after the battle, General
Middleton said, "I was astonished at the
strength of the position and at the ingenuity
and skill displayed in the construction of the
rifle pits, which effectually protected the rebels
from our fire."
It is now common knowledge that General
Middleton, whose personal courage and skill
were beyond all doubt, was sceptical about the
qualities of the " raw troops " of Canada, and
that on that account he had hesitated a good
deal about throwing them into action; but it is
said, on the other hand, in his defence that he
considered his men were differently situated
from regular soldiers, who always counted on
the risks of battle. The Canadian soldiers were
citizens volunteering for service, and their
homes and their communities must be spared
the loss of these men as far as possible. However it was, it soon became known to many
that Batoche was taken by an advance made
without the General's orders. The men had
become impatient of restraint, and so had their
regimental commanders, till, on the third day,
they started the rush, led by Colonels Williams,
Grassett,   Straubenzie,   Buchan,   and   others,
215 The Romance of Western Canada
Middleton was in his tent, and, on hearing
cheers, rushed out to inquire, when a scout said,
" They are charging, sir "; and Middleton, leaping on his horse, was in at the death with the
rest. It is needless to say that by this year of
grace British officers have found out that they
can depend on Canadian lads to the utmost
After Batoche, Dumont escaped to the other
side of the line, but returned later and died on
his homestead. Riel was found in a clump of
bushes by Tom Hourie, one of Middleton's
half-breed scouts. That giant lifted the rebel
leader up behind him on his horse, and took
him to Middleton's tent. From thence Riel
was sent to Regina; and it is another curious
thing that the officer put in charge of the rebel
chief was Captain George Young, of Winnipeg, whose father, the Rev. George Young,
had pleaded with Riel in vain for the life of
Scott in the first rebellion. Tom Hourie, whom
I knew well, was much lionized in Winnipeg
and elsewhere for his capture of Riel; but lionizing in the city is death to a prairie man. Even
Tom's superb physique could not stand the
process; his health gave way, and he died in
poverty in the Yukon.
Meanwhile, as Middleton was driving at
the centre, the other divisions were not idle.
Colonel Otter, of Toronto, with his brigade,
216 The Vast Prairie Section
made a swift march to Battleford from the
nearest point on the Canadian Pacific. He
raised the siege there, where the whole community was inside the stockade, and then, after
a few days, he went out to attack Poundmaker
at Cut Knife. The enemy outnumbered Otter's
men, and had all the advantage of situation on
the sides of the ravine, so that Otter did not
succeed in dislodging the enemy, but extricated
his men in good order, and waited for Middle-
ton to arrive. Otter has been criticized for his
move on Cut Knife, but he thought there was
danger of Poundmaker effecting a junction
with Big Bear and blotting out the settlers at
many points. Cut Knife held Poundmaker
until he came in and surrendered to Middleton
at Battleford.
Our third brigade assembled at Calgary,
under General Strange, a noted artillery officer,
who had done distinguished service in India
and elsewhere. In this brigade I had the honor
to serve as a lieutenant of infantry. We left
Calgary, and marched northward 210 miles
to Edmonton, where the inhabitants, who
were surrounded by many Indian reserves
that might follow Big Bear on the war-path,
welcomed us heartily. Going northward,
we passed Frog Lake, where we buried the
bodies of the massacred; reached Fort Pitt,
which  we  found  burning;   pushed   on  and
217 The Romance of Western Canada
engaged Big Bear in a two days' skirmish,
which ended in the scattering of his band and
the release of the prisoners. Incidentally it
might be said that the Indians were not Huns,
and that women and children had been quite
safe in their camps until released.
In our brigade we were fortunate in having
with us, in command of the scouts, Major
Sam. B. Steele (recently knighted), whose
dash and courage, then exemplified in a smaller
sphere, have been demonstrated since in wars
that have made him world-famous. We had
also with us Major A. Bowen Perry, from Fort
McLeod, whose masterly handling of the Royal
North-West Mounted Police Force, as Commissioner, made that remarkable body of men
widely known as the most effective force of its
kind to be found anywhere. In Middleton's
column perhaps one of the most picturesque
figures was Captain Howard, of the United
States Militia, who did gallant work with his
Gatling, and who fell in the Boer War, in the
service of our Empire; and one of the brilliant
men in the Battleford district was Scout Ross,
who did unique service, and who went out as
a free-lance to the Boer War also.
As to the fate of the rebels, several Indians,
who had committed murder, were hanged,
while Big Bear and Poundmaker were imprisoned for a term, but released when their health
218   The Vast Prairie Section
had broken through confinement.    Riel was
tried in Regina and condemned to death, after
a great battle of legal talent and an immense
amount of evidence as to his sanity or otherwise; the conclusion being that he knew right
from wrong and was shrewd enough to wish
to sell out for a certain sum of money and
return to Montana.   Appeal was taken to the
Full Court in Winnipeg on the question of the
jurisdiction of the trial court at Regina.   As a
law student I attended and heard the argument
at Winnipeg, and have a vivid recollection of
the battle of giants there.   Messrs. Christopher
Robinson and B. B. Osier acted with local men
for the Crown, and Messrs. F. X. Lemieux
and Charles Fitzpatrick for Riel.   The whole
situation was extremely tense, and these mighty
men of   law gave a dramatic exhibition of
brilliant  dialectic sword-play.    The sentence
of the Regina court was confirmed at Winnipeg, and later on by the Judicial Committee of
the Privy Council in England.   Riel was executed at Regina, going bravely to the scaffold,
and saying he forgave all his enemies.    His
body was given to the family for burial in St.
Boniface, where he was born and where he
attended school.    On the day of his funeral
some miscreant threw dodgers around Winnipeg, calling on men to capture the body and
prevent Christian burial.  A number of us, who
219 The Romance of Western Canada
had fought against Riel, but who had no sympathy with such a ghoulish proposal, crossed
over the Red River on the ice to see that nothing of the kind would be done. However, no
attempt was made to carry out the proposal for
the capture of the body, which was just as well.
There was a strong feeling amongst his compatriots that Riel had tried to champion their
cause; and even those who held that he had
gone too far were not prepared to stand by and
see his body dishonored; and so these stalwart
plainsmen, with flashing eyes, came marching
up the walk and the wide cathedral aisle, eight
deep around the coffin. One whom I knew said
that every one of their women present had a
weapon to hand to the men if required. The
service was very impressive. If he had only
kept his hands free of blood, many there are
who would honor the memory of the ill-fated
man, whose body rests in historic St. Boniface,
with the one word "Riel" on his monument
Over in the cemetery of St. John's Cathedral,
on the other side of the Red River, there is a
large plot, in which lie buried the bodies of
many of our men who died in that rebellion
time, upholding British principles and defending the menaced settlements on western plains.
They were of the same heroic Canadian stuff
that has astonished the world in larger conflicts, and deserve to be gratefully remembered.
220 The Vast Prairie Section
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
Our soldier's last tattoo,
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave;
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave!
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While Fame her record keeps,
Or Honor points the hallowed spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.
In following the civil development of the
North-West Territories we noted, in the last
chapter, that the year 1888 witnessed the establishment of a new system of government, in
which the people were to have a larger share
than ever before. The old North-West Council
was set aside, and the Legislative Assembly of
the Territories was brought into existence.
The people were to have twenty-two representatives, Assiniboia eleven, Alberta six and Saskatchewan five. The Assembly was to elect
its Speaker and have power to legislate on practically all matters of a local or domestic character. The members were to be elected by open
voting. There were to be three appointed members, men of special legal knowledge, who
would have the privilege of taking part in discussion in the Assembly, but who could not
A provision of the Act, over the working of
which there was considerable strain in the next
few years, was that which empowered the
Lieutenant-Governor to choose four members
out of the Assembly, to act with him, and form
a sort of Executive " in all matters of finance."
222   Territories Become Provinces
When this Act was about becoming law, Mr.
Dewdney was closing his term of office as Governor, and the Hon. Joseph Royal, an able, but
somewhat autocratic, man succeeded, as we
have already mentioned. The first elections
under the new order were held in June, 1888,
and, following our plan to record foundation
history, we give the list of members of the
first Legislative Assembly in the Territories:
James R. Neff, Joel Reaman, A. G. Thorburn,
John G. Turriff, B. P. Richardson, G. S.
Davidson, W. Sutherland, David F. Jelly, John
Secord, James H. Ross, Thomas Tweed,
F. W. G. Haultain, John Linchern, Hugh S.
Cayley, Dr. R. G. Brett, Dr. H. C. Wilson,
Frank Oliver, James Clinkskill, William Plax-
ton, John F. Brett, Hillyard Mitchell, and
James Hoey.
The first session of this first Legislative
Assembly convened in Regina on October 31st,
1888. Governor Royal announced that Justices
McLeod, Rouleau and Richardson were selected
as special legal advisers, and that he had
appointed Messrs. Fred. W. G. Haultain, D. F.
Jelly, William Sutherland, and Hillyard Mitchell as his Advisory Council. Dr. Herbert
Wilson was elected first Speaker of the House.
At the Dominion Parliament, in 1889, an
Act was passed giving wider powers to the
Legislative Assembly;  but the Assembly was
not yet satisfied with the scope of its authority.
223 The Romance of Western Canada
When the Assembly met in October of 1889,
there was trouble in the matter of the powers
of the Advisory Council, the members thereof
considering their powers too limited; so they
resigned. The Governor appointed another
Advisory Council; but after a while they also
sent in their resignation. The Assembly
claimed that the Advisory Council should have
power in connection with "all matters of finance," both Territorial and Dominion funds;
but Governor Royal held that their powers
were confined to Territorial funds. After the
second Council had resigned, the Governor
tried for a third; but Mr. Tweed, who was
approached, declined to take office unless the
Council controlled the expenditure of all funds.
So there was friction, and practically a deadlock. At the next session, the Governor selected
an Advisory Council " who would act whether
they possessed the confidence of the Assembly
or not." This did not please the Assembly, and
the fight kept up with interest. The Assembly
wanted responsible government. After the next
election, Mr. James H. Ross, of Moosejaw, one
of the ablest and most useful men in the West,
who was afterwards Governor of the Yukon
and Senator, was elected Speaker; and early in
the session the Governor sent word to the
Assembly that the power they had desired as
to control of expenditure was granted. Later,
a new Government was announced: Mr. Fred.
224 Territories Become Provinces
W. G. Haultain, Premier, with Messrs. Tweed,
Neff and Clinkskill. It is perhaps not too much
to say that from that time forward until the
Territories entered Confederation as provinces,
Mr. Haultain and Mr. Ross were in large measure the directing minds in the course of the
country's progress. They were of opposite
political parties in the Dominion arena; but
party politics were kept in the background, with
good results, in the Territorial days. These
two men, with others, of course—practically
the whole Assembly in Governor Royal's time
—fought strenuously for responsible govern-'
ment. The reply of the Governor and the
Ottawa Government of that period always was
that the Assembly was in advance of the people
in this regard. This seems to have been the
case in some considerable measure, because,
when autonomy was finally granted, in 1905,
and the Territories became the Provinces of
Alberta and Saskatchewan, the people, amid
the general jubilation of the occasion, and the
cracking of party whips, submitted astonishingly to the loss of such rights as the right to
deal, under the Constitution, with their own
school problem and some other matters.
What we ordinarily call party seems to be
practically involved in the idea and the working of responsible government; but it is doubtful whether much good comes from bringing
Dominion party names into provincial and
225 The Romance of Western Canada
municipal politics. The provinces do not deal
with the wide fiscal and trade issues on which
largely the cleavage comes at Ottawa, and
hence we do not see what good obtains through
projecting names that arose out of different
issues into spheres where these issues hardly
obtain at all. In any case, the introduction of
Dominion party appellations into municipal
affairs seems highly absurd, unless we think
we ought to build Liberal roads and Conservative sidewalks. Party, in some form, may be
of the essence of responsible government, but
one can be a party man without being so narrowly partisan that he believes no good thing
can come out of Nazareth. After fifty years
of Confederation, we feel that the violent partisan is a menace to good government, and that
the party man who is so independent within the
party that he will dare to be true to his high
convictions in the face of the party caucus or
the party convention, will save that party from
moral collapse. Defeat is nothing, but moral
collapse is always a calamity for the party and
for the country.
After the suppression of the Riel rebellion
and the completion of the Canadian Pacific
Railway, the development of the North-West
Territories was rapid. Thousands of men who
had campaigned as soldiers became, when they
returned home, the best possible immigration
agents for the vast and wonderful prairies over
226 Territories Become Provinces
which they had marched. Along the line of
railway cities sprang up where hamlets had
been struggling, and towns grew where solitude
had reigned supreme. Calgary, for instance,
which we had seen as a frontier village of
shacks on the plain, grew speedily into a city
on the beautiful upland between the Bow and
the Elbow, backed by the majestic view of the
Rockies; and many buildings of the famous
Calgary grey stone began to make their appear- ■
ance. Over the trail by which we had arduously marched from Calgary northward, a railway went to Edmonton, which sprang up into
wealth and beauty by the banks of the wide-
flowing North Saskatchewan. Regina expanded
beyond the recognition of those who had known
the village by the Wascana. Moosejaw, where
we found scarcely enough people to give us
breakfast in the rebellion day, became a city in
the midst of a wonderful vista of wheatfields.
Saskatoon, where we had pitched our hospital
tents to care for the wounded from Fish Creek
and Batoche, suddenly arose into a fine city in
the centre of great agricultural production; and
out to the north, Prince Albert, where, in Riel's
time, we had seen the old mission and the scattered houses by the river bank, became a thriving centre of business, with prospects, not only
from the east, but northward, by being linked
to the Hudson Bay; and so with many other
places we could mention, in varying scale. The
227 The Romance of Western Canada
prairies, which some of us had seen in the undisputed possession of the Indian, the trader, and
the wild animals they hunted, began to swarm
with human life; and not only from British
and American countries, but from many alien
lands in-Europe, immigrants commenced to
build homes and to turn with the ploughshare
the virgin sod of the plains.
It became inevitable that these Territories,
thus expanding, must be accorded the full
status of provinces in Confederation; and so,
in 1905, as we have noted, the North-West
Territories became the Provinces of Alberta
and Saskatchewan, with capitals at Edmonton
and Regina,j respectively. For Alberta, Mr.
George H. V. Bulyea was appointed Governor,
and he called on Mr. A. C. Rutherford to form
a Government. Mr. Rutherford called to his
Cabinet 'Messrs. Charles W. Cross, W. H.
Cushing, W. T. Findlay, and L. De Veber, the
last-named without portfolio. In Saskatchewan, Mr. A. E. Forget was appointed Governor, and he called on Mr. Walter Scott to form
a Government. To his Cabinet Mr. Scott
invited Messrs. John H. Lamont, W. R. Motherwell, and Jas. A. Calder. The surprise of
the occasion was the setting aside of Mr. Fred.
W. G. Haultain, who at the time was Premier
of the Government of the Territories. The
country witnessed, with a sense of shock, the
side-tracking of the man who, for many years,
228 Territories Become Provinces
with great wisdom and ability, had guided the
destinies of the Territories; and this side-tracking of Mr. Haultain was aggravated by the
fact that the Laurier-pitzpatrick Government
at Ottawa had, at the same time, contrary to
the spirit of the Constitution and the record of
their own party, invaded the domain of the
provinces by imposing on them some school
legislation. It seems that, on account of his
strong stand for provincial rights, Mr. Haultain was not acceptable to the Government at
Ottawa, albeit that Government was of the
political party which, under the Hon. Oliver
Mowat and others, had been the consistent and
aggressive champions of provincial rights ever
since Confederation; but it is now well understood that the gist of Mr. Haultain's offending
was not his political color, but the fact that his
attitude on the school question was not pleasing to the Papal Ablegate at Ottawa, who was
reported. to be specially influential with Mr.
Fitzpatrick, to whom, as Minister of Justice at
Ottawa, had been entrusted the framing of the
Bills which granted autonomy to the new provinces. One of the most intimate friends of
Sir Wilfrid Laurier told me at the time in the
East, that these two influences had sprung the
whole business of the famous educational
clauses of the Autonomy Bills on Sir Wilfrid
Laurier in such a way that he had no course
open, short of deliberately revealing the whole
16 229 The Romance of Western Canada
situation, but to go through with the matter.
Echoes of this were heard in elections in
Ontario and elsewhere all over Canada at the
time, and the educational clauses were modified somewhat, as we shall see in the chapter
on educational history later. A few years after
the event Mr. Haultain retired from active political life to the Bench, for which his eminently
judicial qualities of mind give him special
There have been political ups and downs in
both provinces during these recent years, but
they are not necessarily to be considered as of
special historical value. Elections have just
been held in both provinces, in this year of
grace 1917, and both have sustained the governments which belong to the Liberal party,
though the personal element stands for mqre
in these western provinces than the party tag.
In Alberta, the Hon. Arthur Sifton was sustained as Premier. He was formerly Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court of the Territories, and later of Alberta, and is everywhere
recognized as an able jurist and administrator.
He is a member of the well-known Sifton
family, being a son of the late Hon. J. W.
Sifton and a brother of the Hon. Clifford
Sifton, formerly Minister of the Interior.
Since the provincial election Premier Sifton
responded to the invitation of Premier Borden
to join the Union Government at Ottawa, and
230 Former  Premier  of Alberta,  but  Recently Called  to
the Cabinet of the Union Government.  Territories Become Provinces
now the Hon. Charles Stewart is Premier of
Alberta. He is a farmer by profession, and
has had wide experience in both municipal and
provincial public affairs, having held several
portfolios in the Government. As a farmer
he is in touch with the foundation industry of
Alberta, and as Minister of Railways, as well
as Premier, he will have good scope for his
varied gifts.
In Saskatchewan the Liberal party fell on
evil times through the scandalous manipulation
of road and other contracts by unscrupulous
hangers-on; but Mr. William M, Martin, a
brilliant young lawyer of Regina, pulled it out
of the mire, arid is confirmed in his premiership
by the overwhelming voice of the electorate.
He is a son of the Rev. W. M. Martin, formerly of Exeter, Ontario, and the way in
which he brought his party and his province
through an ugly situation is a strong tribute to
the commanding influence of character. One
of the Saskatchewan Executive, Hon. J. A.
Calder, went to Ottawa recently as a member
of the Union Win-the-War Government. Mr.
Calder has had a large place in Saskatchewan
history, and will yet do much important work
for his province.
Saskatchewan is the heart of the Empire's
western granary.   For successive years, largely
through the extraordinary industry and skill
of Mr. Seager Wheeler, a farmer at Rosthern,
231 The Romance of Western Canada
Saskatchewan has been winning the world's
prize for the highest grade of milling wheat
known. Mr. Wheeler, by the perfecting of
such wheat as the Marquis and the Red Bobs,
has not only brought harvests earlier, but has
made acres more productive. If pensions and
decorations are in order in thTs troublous day
of ours, this " soldier of the soil" should not
be overlooked. In addition to her agricultural
industries, Saskatchewan has lumbering in full
swing in the Prince Albert and other northern
Alberta is still more extensive in the range
of her products. There is farming of all types,
but coal areas, as well as oil, gas, asphalt,
gypsum, and other products, are only on the
threshold of development. Great belts of land
in Southern Alberta, once considered too dry
for farming, are, by the immense irrigation
enterprises of the Canadian Pacific Railway
and other processes, coming under successful
cultivation. The ranch is giving way to the
These Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, like the rest of the western country, have
their problem of the foreigner. He has come
from almost every quarter of the globe, and, to
complicate matters, he has very often settled
in colonies. This means that very often we
come across a piece of Southern Europe, for
instance, on the wide, free plains of the West.
232 Territories Become Provinces
It is easy to say that foreigners should not be
allowed to settle in colonies; but when one
attacks the problem at close quarters, he
realizes the difficulty of carrying out the suggestions of the arm-chair man, who advises at
long range. Some of these foreign colonies,
during the present war, have been offensive
enough, with the singing of their national
anthems, and such like. They must be taught
that people who come to enjoy the freedom of
a British country have to be loyal to the British flag and all that for which it stands. The
hope for the future lies in the younger generation, through the work of the Church and the
school, as well as through social contact with
young Canadians; and we venture to predict
that the people of the Middle West will some
day regret that they did not, on entering Confederation as provinces, consider more seriously the advisability of deciding that they
should be at liberty to adopt one great public
school system, if they so desired. In that day
they will appeal to the Constitution for relief
from a bifurcated system. When the young
are put through the one educational hopper,
they will all come out Canadians.
Since the Rebellion time, when the Canadian
Pacific Railway was, amidst difficulties, dragging its slow length through the mountains,
two other railways, the Grand Trunk and the
Canadian Northern, have traversed the great
233 The Romance of Western Canada
plains and added "Pacific" to their former
titles; and all these roads are sending out
branch lines, so that the ancient honie of the
buffalo is being gridironed and the products of
the one-time wilderness are being distributed
to all points of the compass over the earth. By
the coming of a higher civilization the wilderness and the waste places have been made glad.
234  II
Premier of Alberta. CHAPTER XVI.
Although it is part of the Province of
Alberta, the vast new area designated as the
Peace River country demands special notice,
since it is much less known than the rest of
the Province, and its history, outlook and general possibilities are, in many ways, unique.
Out there a new land is being opened up, big
enough to cover several European kingdoms,
and then have something to spare.
A year after Manitoba entered Confederation, one of my former teachers left Toronto,
to come westward and make his home in the
City of Winnipeg; and he used to relate how
his friends in the former city condoled with
him on his deciding to go to the Winnipeg
country, which, they said, was " hyper-borean,"
and where no one could live very well except
Indians and wolves, who were at home amid
snow and ice. In that day some people evidently thought Winnipeg to be somewhat
beyond the pale of civilized comfort and productiveness; and when, later on, men began
to go into the Edmonton country, some six
hundred miles farther to the north-westward,
there were some who stood aghast at their
235 The Romance of Western Canada
temerity, and bade them a sorrowful good-bye;
but, a few months ago, I had the pleasure of
going out some two hundred miles north from
Edmonton, and standing amidst wonderful
harvest fields near the old Peace River Crossing; while some two hundred and twenty-five
miles north of that point we find Fort Vermilion, where the big Lawrence farm has been
in operation for years, producing wheat of the
finest milling quality in the world; and last
year, when, on account of an unusually wet and
cold summer, the frost in August caught some
of the crops farther east unripe, the Fort Vermilion country remained untouched. Thus we
see how the map of Canada has been rolling
backward until, by degrees, we have come to
understand that this Dominion is possessed of
a country so vast in extent and so rich in
resources that we have hardly begun to understand the illimitable material possibilities that
lie within our borders.
If we still keep in mind our postulate, that
a country's real history only begins with its
colonization, then the Peace River country has
no real history earlier than a generation ago;
but, leaving out the prehistoric times, when
"wild in woods the noble savage ran," we
recall the fact that for a century and a half
the old fur-traders and explorers passed and
repassed through the vast north land. When
Sir Alexander Mackenzie had explored the
236 Alberta's New North
great river which bears his name, he resolved,
in 1792, to go by way of the Peace River on
his wonderful journey overland to the Western
Sea; and, when I visited the Peace River country, one could not but feel a thrill as he stood
on the foundation of the old fort on that river,
from which Mackenzie started out, as mentioned in an earlier chapter. But our main
interest now is not -with the days of the
explorer, who was not looking specially
towards the possibility of colonization. Rather
we are concerned with the work of those who
labored and left on record their expectation
that here, some day, many thousands of people
would have happy and prosperous homes.
The Peace River, which gives its name to the
whole country it drains, has its source far up
in the mountains, where the Finlay and the
Parsnip Rivers come together to form one
mighty stream, which, in turn, after a wondrous pilgrimage of nearly nine hundred miles,
falls into the great Mackenzie, and so on to the
Arctic Sea. It is with the country drained by
the Peace for three hundred miles from its
source, to its junction with the Big Smoky
River, thence northward some two hundred
and fifty miles to Fort Vermilion, that we are
mainly concerned now. This is, in fact, the
Peace River country, as we commonly use the
term. It is said that the designation of the river
is due to its wide-sweeping, even flow. How-
237 The Romance of Western Canada
ever that be, we can all appreciate the thought
in the mind of the soldier, who had been in the
edge of hell at the front, and who wrote that
when he came back he was going up into the
Peace River country. He said he did not know
much about it, but he liked the name.
The famous fur-trader, Harmon, who kept
so exact a journal in the North more than a
century ago, spent some time at Fort Dun-
vegan, which, recently, I had the pleasure of
visiting—the old fort built by Trader McLeod,
and called by him after the home of his ancestors in the Isle of Skye. Harmon writes about
going into winter quarters there in 1808, and
says, " Our principal food will be the flesh of
the buffalo, moose, red deer, and bear. We
have a tolerably good kitchen garden, and we
are in no fear that we shall want the means of
a comfortable subsistence." In an entry in his
diary, dated May 6th, the following spring,
Harmon states, "We have planted our potatoes, and sowed most of our garden seeds."
Under date June 2nd, the same year, we find
the entry, " The seeds, which we sowed in the
garden, have sprung up, and grow remarkably
well. The present prospect is, that strawberries, red raspberries, shad-berries, cherries,
etc., will be abundant this season." On July
2ist, Harmon writes, "We have cut down our
barley, and I think it is the finest that I have
238 Alberta's New North
ever seen in any country. The soil on the points
of land along this river is excellent."
I have met a good many men who were connected with the early surveys for railways
through the mountains, and some of them still
think the first line should have gone out
through the Peace country, and by way of
the Pine Pass to the coast. One of the arguments used by those who favored that idea was
that a line built in that direction would open
up, as one expressed it, speaking of the land
south of the river, " a region probably comprising an area equal in extent to Manitoba, well
wooded, with abundance of fresh water, of
excellent soil, and in all probability possessing
unlimited quantities of good coal. The climate
is most salubrious, and, by all accounts, as mild
as, if not milder than, that of Red River. On
the extensive plains bordering upon Peace
River, both north and south of it, snow rarely
exceeds two feet in depth, and never packs."
The pioneer missionaries of the Church of
England and the Roman Catholic Church, who
were early on the ground, did much to make
the country known. As early as 1878 the
Church of England secured Mr. Lawrence to
go to Fort Vermilion to look after their farm,
and it was from that farm that the Lawrence
family began the extensive agricultural operations which attracted so much attention.
One of the first men to realize that the Peace
239 The Romance of Western Canada
River country should be investigated, with a
view to being opened, was our old friend, that
enthusiastic Canadian, Dr. John Schultz, who
figured so prominently in the first Riel rebellion. When a Senator at Ottawa, in the year
1886, he began to importune that venerable
body to appoint a special committee to look
into the matter. He kept at it until he got it
done, though many thought it was useless to
spend time on studying a country so far north.
The result of the investigation, during which
missionaries, surveyors, travellers, settlers,
mounted policemen, and others were examined,
showed that there was indeed a wonderful
country up in the North; but, in its conclusion,
the committee could scarcely advise settlers to
push their way thither, since there was no railway communication to make living there, with
profit, possible. And so matters stood, but, notwithstanding the absence of railways, settlers
began to go in by twos and threes, and scatter
along the banks of the Peace, as in the Shaftesbury settlement near the Crossing, begun thirty
years ago by the Rev. J. Gough Brick, of the
Church of England. Others went info the
Spirit River district, south of Fort Dunvegan,
on the Peace, and still others went into the
Grande Prajrie country, where, as one of the
writers above quoted says, the region looks
much like Manitoba.
And then, one day, three or four years ago,
240 J J. D.  M ARTHUR
Who Opened the Peace River Country by Rail Alberta's New North
Mr. J. D. McArthur, of Winnipeg, who, leaving Glengarry to work in the bush when a lad,
had become one of the biggest railway builders
on the continent, came on the scene. He had
just finished a huge contract on the Grand
Trunk Pacific, east of Winnipeg, and had set
his hand to the building of the Hudson Bay
Railway for the Dominion Government; but
when he found that he could get hold of a
charter for the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia Railway through the Peace River
country towards the coast he lost no time in
beginning work; and so the steel track now displaces the trail of the trader of days gone by.
McArthur has built from Edmonton to the old
Peace River Crossing, and, continuing his main
line, has crossed the Big Smoky River to the
Spirit River country, and from that point south
to the Grande Prairie. All this was not built
when I was there. We travelled much by trail
and river, and had specially good opportunities for seeing the country in its beauty and
We went down the Big Smoky to its junction with the Peace, near the present goodly
City of Peace River. This city is growing up
where McArthur's road reaches the old Crossing, made famous by the fur-traders more than
a century ago. This will xbe a great scenic route
some day, as the beauty of the country at the
junction of the two big rivers, along with the
241 The Romance of Western Canada
canyon of the Little Heart River from the
south, is wonderful. In this connection I venture to give the following extract from a letter
I wrote from this point at the time:
"The view up and down the wonderful
Peace River, navigable for hundreds of miles,
is surpassingly grand. There is evidence for
this, not only in the vision of the living, but
as testimony from the desire of the dead—for,
away up the lofty hill looking over the present
Peace River Crossing town, there is a fenced
grave, where lies the dust of a noted miner
named 'Twelve-foot Davis,' who, after having
travelled much over the world, left directions
that he should be buried here in the then wilderness, where he could look down on the
incomparable scenery of the Peace* He died
miles away, but, as in the case of Robert Louis
Stevenson and Pauline Johnson, his last wishes
as to a resting-place were fulfilled by friends;
and so his dust reposes here on the hill, and
over him there is this striking epitaph: 'H. F.
'Davis, born in Vermont, 1820; died at Slave
Lake, 1893; Pathfinder, Pioneer, Miner, and
Trader. He was every man's friend, and never
locked his cabin door.'"
The city which is growing up at this point
will be to the North country what Winnipeg is
to the Middle West, and what Edmonton is to
the nearer North.
We were all through the country in the harvest time, and were delighted with the fields of
242 Alberta's New North
ripened grain, with the luxuriant pasture lands,
as well as with the splendid climate. The prolonged daylight produces rapid growth and
early ripening.
Before closing this chapter, it is well to state
that, in addition to the agricultural and stock-
raising industry, which will be the mainstay
of the North, we found Lord Rhondda's (formerly Mr. D. A. Thomas) men, building boats
for their trade out towards Fort Vermilion,
where the Welsh coal baron thinks there are
enormous oil-fields to be opened. This, with
the heavy timber limits by the Big Smoky and
the Wapiti Rivers, will add much to the general
business of the new North.
We, who were travelling through the country, were on missionary errands, and had no
business axes to grind; but as Canadians we
rejoiced in seeing the bounds of Empire being
made broader by the addition of the Peace
River region to the already immense resources
of the Province of Alberta.
Later on in this chapter we may see how
some of British Columbia's people entered Confederation with reluctant feet, and how some of
them, after Confederation, were willing to
come out again; but they never became so
unreasonable as to have an armed rebellion
over the matter; and British Columbia has,
from the first, politely, but firmly and wisely,
declined to have that troublesome entity known
in Canadian politics as a "school question."
Hence, this province has been less in the limelight before the Canadian public than some
others. On that account some unthinking
people, hearing less noise in this direction,
might conclude that British Columbia does not
possess the population or the resources necessary to make a large place for herself in the
history of the Dominion; but, in reality, British Columbia is steadily forging ahead. Possessed of a climate unrivalled in Canada, and
of boundless resources which have scarcely
begun to be developed, and having a people
whose superlatively optimistic energy has been
tamed into its proper quality by experience,
British Columbia bids fair to be one of the
Premier of British Columbia.  most populous, prosperous and influential of all
the provinces. Of the climate it is unnecessary
to speak at length. It is, on the whole, superb.
It is not given to extremes. On the coast the
grass is green practically all the year round,
while in the crisp, dry valleys of the interior
pulmonary troubles are practically unknown.
The scenery is the finest on the continent,
whether one considers the majestic splendor
of the mountains, or the entrancing beauty of
the coast cities fringed by the Pacific tide. The
resources of the province are wonderful in their
extent and variety. The salmon are famed the
world over, and immense canneries are found
all along the coasts and inlets. The lumber and
shingle industries are unequalled. The tremendous squared timbers, requiring three flat cars
for carriage, are known far and wide as " British Columbia toothpicks." The mineral wealth
of the country encompasses almost every known
product in its extent, and is practically awaiting development. The province has been mistakenly supposed to be non-agricultural, but
the river bottoms, the deltas, and amazingly
fertile valleys like the Okanagan, the Bulkley,
the Nechako, and others, are rich in grain and
almost every variety of fruit. Valleys hitherto
unknown are being explored, and new areas
suitable for ranching and mixed farming are
being discovered. Vast industries, like shipbuilding and iron-working, are growing up into
17 245 The Romance of Western Canada
great strength. The seaports face the myriads
of the Orient, with whom trade is only as yet
in its infancy. Three great transcontinental
railway lines ply across from the older parts of
Canada to the coast, and these are throwing
out branches in many directions. The ports
on the Pacific are open all the year round, and
the great harbors are filled with shipping from
all parts of the world. With her splendid
climate and her astonishing resources, British
Columbia is a province with a great future.
Her past is brilliant with romance and luminous with the shining achievements of her
early explorers and pioneers; and that the
people of this and succeeding generations may
be worthy of the efforts and the sacrifices of
the pathfinders, some study of history is to be
The record stands that Captain Cook, who
landed in 1778 at a point on Vancouver Island
which he called Nootka, was the first actual
discoverer of our western coast. Captains
Hanna, Meares and Vancouver, all coming
around Cape Horn, visited the island at different intervals from that date till 1792, the latter
being the year when Captain Vancouver was
an important factor in having the title to the
coast, from California to Alaska, settled by
arbitration between Spain and Great Britain,
and turned over to the latter power. In 1793,
Captain Vancouver came to the mainland, to the
246 The Pacific Province
site of the city now called by his name. He
entered the narrows through which the great
ships now pass into the harbor, and went seven
miles up along the remarkable inlet. He found,
before entering the inlet, a point of land, which,
in honor of his friend, Captain Grey, he named
Point Grey. Then he passed through to the
harbor, which, in honor of Sir Harry Burrard,
of the British Navy, he called Burrard Inlet or
Canal. Then he went his way, and for threescore years the solitude was left undisturbed
by the presence of the white man. The Indian
rocked his canoe on the inlet, where on any
day now one can see ships from every quarter
of the globe, and no one disputed his lordship
of the isles and the sea. The giant firs and the
whispering cedars, through their sounding
aisles, echoed the cry of the wild animals or
the song of the birds, with only the accompaniment of the Indian shout; but the names given
by Captain George Vancouver in that early day
still abide.
And in that same year, as already related,
there came across the continent the first white
man to pierce the apparently impassable mountains to the Pacific, Alexander Mackenzie, the
gallant explorer of the old North-West Fur
Company, who blazed the way overland for a
higher civilization.
Following these daring movements by sea
and land, the Hudson's Bay and North-West
247 The Romance of Western Canada
Fur Companies pressed on their explorations
and established their posts here and there in
New Caledonia, as the new territory was called
by the indomitable Scots who did the work.
Simon Fraser explored the great river which
bears his name in the years 1807-08, coming all
the way from Fort George to the sea amid
great hardships, and establishing many forts
and posts in the interior. He, too, belonged to
the North-West Fur Company, and his work
in founding such establishments as Fort
McLeod did much to hold this whole territory
for the British Crown and show how absurd
was the slogan of American adventurers,
" Fifty-four-forty or fight," which was intended
to " bluff " us off the Pacific coast by pushing
the boundary line back to the Russian possessions. It was characteristic of most of these
early explorers, like Mackenzie, Fraser, Thompson, Harmon, and Robert Campbell, that they
were men of pronounced religious convictions,
as appears often by entries in their journals.
In one place we find how strongly Fraser had
impressed his sense of solemnity upon his
party when an oath, taken by each one in the
words, "I solemnly swear before Almighty
God that I shall sooner perish than forsake in
distress any of our crew during the present
voyage," was the real secret of their final success. Many a deed was done in the silence and
solitudes of the great mountains, which, if
248 The Pacific Province
wrought on other fields, would have won the
Victoria Cross. Fraser, it is said, was offered
knighthood for his services, but declined, and
died in comparative poverty. It is to the credit
of British Columbia that, with the cordial
approval of all parties, the McBride Government, a few years ago, gave a pension to two
of Fraser's female relatives, who were living
in destitute circumstances in the East.
Following Fraser's work in the interior, John
Stuart and Daniel Williams Harmon, whose
names we met first of all at Fort Dunvegan,
on the Peace River, did splendid work in
exploring the interior of New Caledonia,
founding posts, and, especially in Harmon's
case, beginning the farming industry in what
is now British Columbia. He had, as we recall,
followed the same good practice at Fort
To David Thompson, astronomer and general scientist, more than he was a fur-trader,
must go the honor of finding and exploring
several of the passes by which travellers now
reach the coast by rail. He founded Fort Kamloops, explored the Kootenays, and investigated the course of the rivers. We find an
entry in his diary, in 1807, when he is in the
Kicking-Horse Pass, " May God in His mercy
give me to see where the waters of this river
flow into the western ocean."   He lived to see.
David Douglas, the botanist, spent several
249 The Romance of Western Canada
years in exploring the country drained by the
Columbia and the Fraser Rivers, and discovered the tree which is most distinctive of this
province, and which, after him, is called the
" Douglas fir."
Robert Campbell, whom I knew well in his
closing years, tall, serious, reserved and of
leonine face, was the last of the explorers of
the old type, mainly because after him there
was not much left to be explored. He was a
Hudson's Bay Company man, who, sent out
by Sir George Simpson, travelled over the
mountains into the Cassiar country, discovered
the Pelly-Yukon River, and added immensely to
the store of information concerning the northern interior of what is now British Columbia.
Time and again he was in danger of his life
at the hands of the Indians. Once he was
saved by a chieftainess, and on another occasion he tells us that he picked up his Bible in
the presence of what seemed imminent death,
and the Indians, seeing the glow on his -face
through the comfort of the message, said he
was in communion with the Great Spirit in the
Book, and so they fell back in awe, and left
him unharmed.
The most remarkable, probably, of all the
fur-trading men, not as an explorer but as an
administrator, was James (afterwards Sir
James) Douglas, who, after some years' service at Fort St. James, where he narrowly
250 The Pacific Province
escaped death at the hands of the Indians, being
saved by the interpreter's wife, went down to
Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River, where,
with the noted John McLoughlin, he did much
to enlarge the trade and the influence of the
Hudson's Bay Company. In 1842, foreseeing
the fact that Fort Vancouver and much else
was likely to be swept into the United States
by the extraordinary Oregon Treaty, this
Douglas of the Angus stock looked up a site
for another fort, and fixed upon the south end
of Vancouver Island, where, in 1843, ne DUU^
Fort Camosun (now Victoria). He wrote then
of the excellence of the site of Victoria and
the greatness of the harbor at Esquimalt. That
his judgment was sound is evidenced by the
fact that Victoria is the capital of the province
and Esquimalt the headquarters of the British
fleet on the Pacific. -Victoria became the Hudson's Bay centre on the coast, and, settlers
beginning to come, Vancouver Island became
a Crown Colony in 1849, tinder the governorship of Mr. Richard Blanshard, who continued,
amid somewhat difficult conditions, until 1851,
when he left for England. He was succeeded
by James Douglas. In the year 1856 a beginning of representative government was made
on Vancouver Island. The settlers, though
not very numerous, were asking for a share in
the task of governing themselves, and in
February, 1856, Governor Douglas received
251 L
The Romance of Western Canada
instructions from the Home Government to call
his Council and arrange for a popular election.
Accordingly the governor, assisted by the
Council, composed of John Tod, James Cooper,
Roderick Finlayson, and John Grant, divided
the island into four electoral districts—Victoria, Esquimalt, Nanaimo, and Sooke. There
were very few electors in some of the districts,
but the formalities were all complied with and
a legislature elected. The names of these
pioneer legislators were as follows:—
Victoria.—J. D. Pemberton, Joseph Yates,
and E. E. Langford. Mr. Langford had not
the necessary property qualification, and Mr.
J. W. Mackay was elected in his stead. The
others were elected by acclamation.
Sooke.—John Muir.
Nanaimo.—John F. Kennedy.
Esquimalt.—Dr. J. S. Helmcken and Thomas
The first Assembly convened in August,
1856, and Dr. J. S. Helmcken was elected
During this period the discovery of gold on
the Fraser River, and the general attractiveness
of the country, had drawn many settlers to the
mainland, which was constituted a separate
colony, though added to the jurisdiction of
Governor Douglas. Settlement grew apace in
this mainland colony of British Columbia, as it
was called; great dragon roads were constructed
252 The Pacific Province
into the Cariboo mines and other parts; centres
like New Westminster, Langley, Yale and
Hope, on the Fraser River, became important,
and discussion looking to a union of the two
colonies became general. This was finally consummated by order of the Imperial Government
in 1866. New Westminster was the capital of
the mainland colony, and remained the chief
seat of authority until 1868, when Victoria was
proclaimed the capital of the whole country, as
it remains to this day.
In i860, Governor Douglas inaugurated a
policy of road-building throughout the interior
of the country, which culminated in the remarkable achievement of the famous Yale-Cariboo
wagon trail. It began at Yale and went nearly
four hundred miles into the mines of Cariboo.
It was completed in 1865, a really wonderful
road, winding like a great shelf through the
mountains, and so solidly constructed with piling, cribbing, rock-cutting, and such like, that
much of it could be used even to this day. This
was the era of the noted miner, "Cariboo"
Cameron, of Glengarry, and hosts of others
equally well-known locally. The old Cariboo
trail was the scene of much unspeakable
romance, as well as tragedy and pathos. It
required strong men to govern and to administer law in those days. Fortunately they were
on hand; and before leaving this colonial period
and passing into the Confederation era, a tribute
253 The Romance of Western Canada
is in place to two of the most outstanding of
these men, viz., Sir James Douglas and Sir
Matthew Baillie Begbie, the famous frontier
Douglas was Governor of Vancouver Island
from 1851, then of both colonies, and, on to the
end of his term in 1864, of the mainland colony
of British Columbia. He was at the same time
a chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company,
and connected with one or two other commercial organizations; but, notwithstanding his connection with these varied interests, he exercised
the office of governor with splendid ability,
great dignity, and singular tact. His position
conduced to autocracy, and certain sections of
the community at times resented the strength
of his iron hand; but it is difficult to conceive
how any man could have done the country
better service. Boundary disputes, rushes into
the gold diggings, mixed population problems,
and the unrest always characteristic of new
countries, all threw their quota into making his
tenure of office difficult and delicate; but his
unstained personal character made him proof
against calumny. On his leaving Victoria, at
the close of his term of office, the British Colonist editorially said: "If we have at times
opposed the measures of the government, we
have never, in our discussion of the public acts
of the executive head of that government, failed
in our esteem for the sterling honesty of
254 The Pacific Province
purpose which guided those acts, nor for the
manly and noble qualities and virtues which
adorn ithe man." At a brilliant farewell banquet
in the same city the chairman said: " The Governor during these formative years had to do
everything; he had to organize, reorganize and
create. His administration had been one alive
to the interests of all and deaf to the clamor
and vilification of interested parties." When
he closed his term of office on the mainland a
banquet was given in his honor in New Westminster. Addresses were presented by the
Legislative Council, government officials, and
by nine hundred residents from different points
in the colony, all speaking in the most glowing
manner of the way in which he had done his
duty. A sentence in his reply is characteristic
of his loftiness of sentiment: " A pyramid of
gold and gems would have been less acceptable
to me than this simple record. I ask for no
prouder monument and for no other memorial
when I die and-go hence than the testimony
here offered that I have done my duty."
Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, appointed in
1858 by Bulwer Lytton, became Chief Justice
of the United Colonies, and later of the Province of British Columbia. Begbie was born
in Edinburgh and educated at Cambridge. He
practised sixteen years in the Old Land and
then was appointed Judge of the Court in the
Vancouver Island colony. From that date he
255 The Romance of Western Canada
was the head and front of the judicial administration of the country until his death in 1894.
The services he rendered to the new country
during those critical years of indiscriminate
immigration, frontier restlessness and gold mine
excitement consisted in the profound impression he created as to the fearlessness, impartiality and dignity of a British Court of Justice.
Adventurers who rushed into the country from
excessively democratic surroundings and had
the habit of being familiar and jocular with
men on the Bench, were awed by the courtly
bearing and dignified manner of the British
judge, who had, withal, a keen intellect and an
iron will. His name became a synonym for
swift, unerring, fearless and even-handed justice to such an extent that British Columbia,
contrary to every experience of countries similarly situated, has always been singularly free
from crime. Great mining camps in the
interior, in which were hundreds of sometimes
rough and lawless men from many lands, got
such a wholesome sense of British law, as
administered by this upright judge, that one
constable was often sufficient to preserve order.
There is a splendid lesson here. There is such
a thing as becoming too democratic. There
is a value in the ermined robe and the uniform
that should not be overlooked, because the free-
and-easy judicial methods of some countries
256 The Pacific Province
have been conspicuously and historically injurious wherever they prevailed.
I happened to be in Victoria on the day of
Sir Matthew's public funeral, in June, 1894,
and was struck by the universal evidences of
the esteem in which he was held in the community. Members of the Victoria Bar met in
the court-house and passed a resolution, which
closed with these words: "He has departed
from us, full of years and honors; but his
memory will remain as that of one whose judicial career has been without stain, and whose
personal worth has won our deepest respect
and affection." These two men left an indelible
stamp upon the life of the Coast Province.
We are now coming to the Confederation
period. The Fathers of Confederation had
cherished the vision of a Dominion from sea
to sea. British statesmen and papers began
early to discuss the project, but many emphasized the difficulty of getting the extreme points
of the proposed Confederation united by the
link of railway communication.
Taking time by the forelock, a somewhat
eccentric but very able man, Mr. Amor De
Cosmos, in the first Legislative Council of the
United Colony, introduced a resolution on
March 10th, 1867 (when the Imperial Parliament was passing the British North America
Act), asking that the colonies on the west coast
be admitted to the proposed Confederation on
257 The Romance of Western Canada
fair and equitable terms. This was somewhat
premature, but it started the ball rolling. The
United Colony realized that it needed help.
Times were bad, gold mining was dying out,
population was not growing, and the public '
debt was heavy; but opinion was actually
divided as to whether annexation to the States
or Confederation would be the better plan.
Annexation sentiment was strong on the Island,
and Governor Frederick Seymour was certainly not in favor of Confederation at the
early stages of discussion, though he changed
somewhat later on. In this connection, Sir
John A. Macdonald, then Prime Minister of
Canada, wrote to the Governor-General of Canada, suggesting that Lord Granville "should
put the screws on at Vancouver Island," and
further that Governor Seymour might be
recalled and Governor Musgrave, of Newfoundland, be transferred to British Columbia.
However, Governor Seymour died during a
trip undertaken to settle some Indian quarrels,
and Musgrave, who was favorable to Confederation, was appointed in 1869.
In 1868 the Dominion Government had
asked the Home Government to get the British
Columbia authorities to move in the matter.
The said authorities were slow and somewhat
hostile, and the people acted with characteristic
Western vigor. On July ist, 1868, a big open-
air meeting was held at Barkerville, in the
258 The Pacific Province
Cariboo, where some "hot" speeches were
made and motions were passed in favor of
Confederation. In September of the same year
a huge convention was held at Yale, where the
people avowed their discontent with existing
conditions and advocated Confederation on
certain terms. The document, drawn up by
Messrs. De Cosmos, Robson, Barnard, Babbit,
McMillan, Thompson and Havelock, was a
very able presentation of the case, yet the Legislative Council refused to take action; but in
1869 the Governor-General instructed Governor Musgrave, at Victoria, to do all he could
to press the matter. Accordingly the Governor
and his advisers prepared terms of union and
submitted them to the Legislature in 1870.
Then came a great debate on the subject. It
was a struggle of giants, and every clause was
discussed with immense energy and ability.
When they were finally passed Messrs.
Helmcken, Trutch and Carroll were chosen
to negotiate with the Dominion Government.
Mr. John Robson (afterwards Premier), who
was a strong champion of Confederation, and
one of the ablest men of his day, could not go,
and it seemed strange that Doctor Helmcken,
who was an opponent of the idea throughout,
should have been selected. However, the result
was satisfactory, and the delegates were royally
entertained at the capital, Sir George E. Cartier
being in charge of negotiations owing to the
259 The Romance of Western Canada
illness of Sir John. The Daily Colonist, of
Victoria, had sent Mr. H. E. Seelye as special
correspondent, and on July 7th, 1870, Mr.
Seelye sent the famous telegram to his paper,
" Terms agreed upon. The delegates are satisfied. Canada is favorable to immediate union
and guarantees the railway. Trutch has gone
to England; Carroll remains one month;
Helmcken and your correspondent on the way
home." Mr. Trutch went on to England to
arrange for the necessary Imperial legislation,
and the Imperial Government endorsed the
Dominion Government's guarantee as to the
railway within ten years. British Columbia
entered Confederation on July 20th, 1871.
The first Legislative Assembly of British
Columbia under Confederation met in February, 1872, and consisted of the following
twenty-five members:—
John F. McCreight (who was the first
Premier), Simeon Duck, Robert Beaven,
and James Trimble, for Victoria City; A.
De Cosmos and Arthur Bunster, for Victoria
District; Alexander R. Robertson and Henry
Cogan, for Esquimalt; William Smith and
John Paton Booth, for Cowichan; John Robson, for Nanaimo; John Ash, for Comox;
Henry Holbrook, for New Westminster City;
J. C. Hughes and W. J. Armstrong, for New
Westminster District; Robert Smith, James
Robinson, and Charles A. Semlin, for Yale;
260 The Pacific Province
A. T. Jamieson and T. B. Humphreys, for
Lillooet; G. A. Walkem, Joseph Hunter, and
Cornelius Booth, for Cariboo; John A. Mara
and Charles Todd, for Kootenay.
The Governor, in his opening speech, congratulated the province upon relief from the
burden of debt as arranged by the terms of
Confederation, and on the prospect of the
transcontinental line.
Then came the lean years, the years of
depression practically everywhere, during which
the Mackenzie Government in Ottawa found it
very difficult to carry on a large enterprise like
the Canadian Pacific Railway; and dissatisfaction arose in British Columbia. Things political were in a rather chaotic state in the province. Party lines were not drawn, and the
issues often discussed were parochial cries of
" Mainland vs. Island," with echoes of Canada
and anti-Canada occasionally mingling in the
contest. A narrow partisan spirit is to be
avoided, and some division on broad issues
affords more scope to public men. As it was,
governments changed and shuffled more rapidly
for a number of years than we can outline in
an ordinary history, and some of them, in any
case, did not influence very much the general
trend of things.
Attorney-General Walkem, a member of a
widely-known British Columbia family, went
to England to petition the Home Government,
18 261 The Romance of Western Canada
in view of what was called " the breach of the
terms" of Confederation by the Dominion.
Walkem met Lord Carnarvon, Secretary of
State for the Colonies, and as a result the latter
wired Lord Dufferin, then Governor-General,
the famous "Carnarvon terms," which promised a transcontinental railway by 1890 and
certain local public works. This action was
satisfactory in the meantime ±0 British Columbia. Then came more delay in beginning
the mountain section of the railway, and the
people of British Columbia became bitter,
and some threatened secession. Lord Dufferin
visited the province about this time and, being
the representative of Her Majesty, refused to
go under an arch in Victoria inscribed with the
words " Carnarvon terms or separation." This
angered some, but, on the whole, the visit of
the great diplomat did much to alleviate the
agitated situation.
But better days were at hand. A new company took hold of the railway, and the Dominion having swung into a cycle of prosperity in
1878, the House of Commons, in May, 1879,
resolved, on motion of Mr. (later Sir) Charles
Tupper, " that it is necessary to keep good faith
with British Columbia, and commence the construction of the (transcontinental) railway in
that Province as early as is practicable." The
Onderdonk section of the Canadian Pacific was
soon begun, Chinese being imported to do much
262 The Pacific Province
of the work; and such was the energy of the
directors of the railway that the road linking
British Columbia with the East was completed
five years before the promised period, the last
spike being driven by Mr. Donald A. Smith
(Strathcona) on November 7th, 1885. The
completion of the railway removed from politics the task of "fighting Canada," which had
been a sort of popular undertaking with some
British Columbia public men, though it is only
fair to these men to say that they had considerable ground for their attitude, and that, as a
matter of record, Canada has taken out of this
province a great deal more than she has ever
put into it to this day.
To attempt a detailed account of the local
governments which came and went with kaleidoscopic swiftness in British Columbia for many
years till stability was reached, would not only
take us beyond possibilities of ordinary book
space, but it would add little to our understanding of the present day. Able, sincere and
enthusiastic men were plentiful enough, but, as
there were no political party lines until 1903,
the only bond that held men together was the
personality or the standing of the Prime Minister for the time being, and in consequence
there was incessant change. In the period from
1898 to 1903, for instance, there were five
governments, headed respectively by the Hons.
J. H. Turner, C. A. Semlin, Joseph Martin,
263 The Romance of Western Canada
James Dunsmuir, and Colonel Prior. Before
that period the Hons. John McCreight (1871-
1872), Amor De Cosmos (1872-4), G. A.
Walkem (1874-6 and 1878-82), A. C. Elliott
(1876-8), R. Beaven (1882-3), William
Smithe (1883-7), A. E. B. Davie (1887-9),
John Robson (1889-92), and those above mentioned, were amongst the leaders. In 1903 the
Prior Ministry was dismissed by the Lieutenant-Governor following an investigation as to
the letting of certain contracts, and the Hon.
Richard McBride was called on to form a government. McBride was a native son of the
province, a man of fine appearance and genial
manner, and affectionately called "Dick" by
almost everybody. As he had grown up in
British Columbia, he, with keen understanding
of the situation, felt that a division of the Legislature on party lines would lead to greater
continuity in the work of administration. He
accordingly took that stand, and formed a Conservative Government as follows:
Hon Richard McBride, Premier; Hon. A. E.
McPhillips, Attorney-General; Hon. R. G.
Tatlow, Minister of Finance; Hon. Charles
Wilson, President of the Council; Hon. R. F.
Green, Minister of Mines; Hon. A. S. Goodeve,
Provincial Secretary.
With changes in the personnel of his Cabinet,
McBride remained in power until 1915, when
he resigned to take the office of Agent-General
264 J HON.  W.  J.  BOWSER, K.C
former Premier of British Columbia. The Pacific Province
for the Province in England, where, after a lingering illness, he died in 1917, much regretted
by a large circle of personal friends.
McBride did important service for his native
province, especially in the direction of securing
"better terms" from the Dominion and the
extensive building of good roads throughout
the province; but the closing years of his administration indicated that the "boom" spirit
which prevailed for years had led' to too heavy
He was succeeded in the premiership by his
chief lieutenant, Mr. W. J. Bowser, a leading
lawyer, whose great ability is generally recognized by all parties; but the McBride-Bowser
Government was unfortunate in being in power
in times of inflated prosperity, when the gambling spirit was abroad in the land; and under
the charge that they had fallen into the general
habit of unreasonable extravagance in matters
of administration, the Bowser regime came to
end, for the time being, at least, in 1916. The
special distinction of Mr. Bowser's short reign
was his sending to the people, with the support
of all parties, referenda on prohibition of the
liquor traffic and the franchise for women.
Both these carried, although there was a shameful effort made by the liquor men to steal
a majority by manipulating the soldiers' vote
abroad. Mr. H. C. Brewster, who displaced
Mr. Bowser as Premier, being personally and,
265 The Romance of Western Canada
from the standpoint of his Government, friendly
to prohibition, sent a special commission overseas to investigate. This commission reported
back to the Legislature in no uncertain terms,
the chairman, Mr. Whiteside, member for New
Westminster, making a strong address in condemnation of the practices of the liquor agents;
and forthwith Mr. Brewster put prohibition on
the statute book, with the concurrence of Mr.
Bowser and every member of the House, save
one. So this western frontier province, with
its seaports, mining camps, logging enterprises,
and a good deal of the flotsam and jetsam of
human life, took its stand with the other provinces in helping to make the Dominion bone-
dry. With the women's franchise in force, it
is practically certain that in Canada the liquor
system has had its day and ceased to be for
all time.
Mr. Brewster, on taking office, faced a task
of unusual complexity, and his determination
to abolish party patronage made that task more
difficult through a certain amount of disaffection in the house of his friends. But he was
giving such ample evidence of ability, straightforwardness and clean, impartial administration of affairs, that there was profound and
widespread grief when, on returning from a
strenuous trip to Ottawa on national affairs, he
succumbed to sudden illness and passed away
266  THE  LATE   HON.   H.   C   BREWSTER
Premier of British Columbia Until His Recent Sudden
Death. The Pacific Province
in March, 1918. His state funeral in Victoria
was a great demonstration of public esteem.
Mr. Brewster was succeeded in the premiership by the Hon. John Oliver, who was his
Minister of Agriculture. Mr. Oliver is English
by birth, but came early to British Columbia,
where he became a successful farmer on the
Fraser River. He is a man of immense energy
and industry, as well as a skilled parliamentarian. Of strong moral convictions and fearlessness, he is generally considered to be properly entitled to the soubriquet " Honest John,"
and his handling of public questions suggests
a strong resemblance to the late Premier Whitney of Ontario, who was "bold enough to be
honest and honest enough to be bold." At the
present hour he is engaged in a strong effort
to make the revenue meet ordinary expenditure, and is paying special attention to opening
up the country to Fort George and the Peace
River country by the completion of the Pacific
Great Eastern Railway, which was a somewhat
embarrassing but important legacy from his
predecessors in office. The Dominion Government should help in this railway enterprise, and
Premier Oliver may be relied on to tell them so
in plain terms.
North of this province is the Yukon Territory, where Chief Factor Robert Campbell
made his explorations in 1837, and where Chief
Factor Hunter Murray built Fort Yukon a few
267 The Romance of Western Canada
years afterwards. Neither of them were
anxious about gold; but in 1898 the "strike"
was made, and there was a rush to the place
to an extent which was perhaps unprecedented
in history. Dawson City was the centre, and
the sudden wealth that poured in upon men
sent thousands into a general orgy of extravagance and worse. Then the boom died out, and
the mines have largely passed into the hands of
large concerns which use hydraulic machinery.
Thousands of men have come out, but there is
still a considerable population in the country.
The Yukon is unorganized territory, but it is
part of Confederation and has its Governor
and elective Legislative Council, as well as a
member in the House of Commons.
And so the dream of the Fathers of Confederation has been realized, and the Dominion
has been rounded out to embrace all the western
British possessions; and we venture to say,
after witnessing the changes that have taken
place since Manitoba entered in 1871, that
Confederation has been a good thing for the
West. The more settled, staid and orderly
East, with its long history, has had an edifying,
as well as a steadying, influence on the West.
The East has given us generously of her best
to found our institutions, in civil as well as in
religious and educational life. Through many
decades of experience the East gathered a
268 The Pacific Province
wealth of ideas from which we in the West
have richly profited in thought and action. No
public man could get five minutes' hearing
from an audience west of Lake Superior if he
began to advocate the shattering of Confederation into its original fragments. We are united
indissolubly, because we have found the action
and reaction of East and West upon each other
a good thing; and in these recent years of the
Great War we have been more closely drawn
together by the tense struggle for human freedom, as men from both East and West have
fought and died together for one flag and one
Empire consecrated to the great task of making
the world safe for democracy. And it will
always be remembered to our credit that when
the Coalition Government of Canada called for
united action, and deadlock ensued between the
older provinces, it was the loyal West which
decided for Canada that other questions on
which we have strong convictions could wait
until we determined to support to the end the
gallant lads who had gone to the front and
performed prodigies of valor that had moved
the world to admiration. When the war is
over we shall take up the questions of tendencies and of evils that must not be allowed to
take root in this new Dominion. From this
fiftieth year of Confederation, let our common country have a new birth of freedom and
progress and hope.
History registers approval of the old Hebrew
prophet who said that the nation or kingdom
which will not serve God shall perish. The
world is a great burying-ground of the peoples
who have, through their disobedience of Divine
law, been compelled to bite the dust. Their high
places are desolate; their towers of pride are
levelled prone to the earth. Some of them
reached an extraordinary height of literary and
scientific culture; some of them swept the seas
with conquering galleys, and others sent their
trampling legions forth to subdue the world.
Some attained to wonderful commercial greatness and others to unprecedented wealth; but
nothing ever availed to keep alive the nation or
people that despised the fiat of the Almighty.
How is it with regard to our new empire in the
West ? Concerning the past we may speak with
considerable confidence. The land has borne
the distinct stamp of religion, partly because of
the character of the early colonists and partly
because the Churches have been wisely led in
their efforts to keep abreast of the tide of
immigration. The continuance of an aggressive Home Mission policy is one of the first
270 Religious Development
duties of all the Canadian Churches; and as we
have finished our study of the civil and political
history of the West, we propose to consider the
religious and educational life of the country.
It is not the purpose of this chapter to give a
detailed account of what each Church has done
up to date. That task falls to the historian of
each Church. In connection with the chapter
on "Red River Folk" we have touched upon
some points which we venture to recall, in some
degree, in this general chapter covering the
whole of the West and linking the early days
with the main developments from the Red
River to the Yukon throughout the years.
The first colonists in the Red River country
were the Selkirk settlers, and these, being Presbyterians, maintained services amongst themselves as early as 1813; but notwithstanding
the promises made to them on leaving Scotland,
these people had to wait many years for a
minister of their own denomination. In the
meantime an elder amongst them, James Sutherland, was authorized' by the Church to baptize and marry, but he was taken east in 1818,
during the fur company troubles, and no settled
congregational work could be undertaken. The
Scotch settlers, while maintaining their own
meetings, attended on Sundays the services of
the Anglican Church, which, in the person of
Rev. John West, began work on the Red
River in 1820. This whole history of mutual
271 The Romance of Western Canada
concession and co-operation on the part of the
Anglican Church and the Presbyterian settlers
is highly creditable to both. It was well understood between them that the arrangement
would not be permanent, because the Selkirk
settlers never ceased to expect that the minister
promised might walk in upon them any day;
but they recognized the importance of keeping
alive the ordinances of public worship. Church-
going is not religion, but religion does not live
long without it in the case of those who are
able to attend and are within reach of services.
Experience, both east and west, justifies that
assertion; and the whole matter of carelessness in this regard reacts with deadly precision
on the young who are growing up around us.
The Church keeps vivid the idea of God, and
that is the idea which stands between this
world and anarchy. Hence the Church should
be maintained.
Following the early French explorers, the
Roman Catholic Church sent two priests,
Fathers Provencher and Dumoulin, to the Red
River in 1818. These shortly afterwards began
settled work on the east side of the Red River,
opposite the mouth of the Assiniboine, and
their parish was called later by the name St.
Boniface. This has remained ever since that
time the centre and seat of the work of that
Church in the West. A young priest, Alex.
Tache, of the Oblates Order, who came in
272 Religious Development
1845 t0 tne West, succeeded Provencher, who
died in 1853. Bishop Tache ultimately became
archbishop over the whole Church in the country. He was a man of gentle, lovable disposition, and had unbounded influence over his
own people. Essentially and by disposition a
man of peace, he had great force of will and
energy in following plans he considered in the
interests of the work over which he presided.
One might not agree with him, but one who
knew him was sure to respect him for his
unblemished character and the simplicity of his
life. The Roman Catholic Church has pushed
its work with great vigor amongst the aboriginal tribes all over the West, and men like the
late Father Lacombe did excellent service in
exerting their power for peace when the spirit
of rebellion was abroad.
Reference has already been made to the
Church of England beginning work on the
Red River in 1820, under the Rev. John West,
who built a school and church at St. John's. In
1824 he was joined by the Rev. William Cochrane, who opened parishes farther down the
river, at St. Paul's and St. Andrew's, and still
later at St. Peter's, near Lake Winnipeg. His
labors were unceasing, and he deserves special
place in the enumeration of forces for good in
the early days. The Church began speedily to
extend its work to other points, men like
McCallum and Cowley being amongst the early
273 The Romance of Western Canada
workers in the school and mission field. In
1844 the Bishop of Montreal visited the Red
River country and saw that the work should
be carried on with an increased force. Henry
Budd, catechist, afterwards ordained, and
Archdeacon John Hunter, a noted preacher
sent out by the C.M.S., were added to the
staff, and in 1849 tne diocese of Rupert's Land
was established, David Anderson being consecrated its bishop in Canterbury Cathedral.
When he arrived in the Red River he established headquarters at St. John's, where the
cathedral, opened in 1862, remains to this day.
Mr. McGallum died in October, 1849, tne day
on which Bishop Anderson arrived in the
country. The bishop took charge of the
"McGallum" school, in addition to his other
duties, and from this school came men like
John Norquay and others, who did distinguished service in the West. After doing most
important work Bishop Anderson returned to
England and resigned in 1864, when he was
succeeded by Dr. Robert Machray, a very distinguished Fellow of Sydney College, Cambridge. From that time till his death, in 1903,
the labors of Bishop Machray were unceasing,
abundant and far-reaching in their results on
the history and life of the country. His vast
diocese was afterwards subdivided, and those
of Saskatchewan, Qu'Appelle, Moosonee, Athabaska, Mackenzie River and Calgary formed
274  L
Archbishop of Rupert's Land.
	 Religious Development
out of it. In 1866 the bishop was joined by
the Rev. John McLean, who was a very able
preacher, and who afterwards became the first
Bishop of Saskatchewan. The bishop, with
Archdeacon McLean and the Rev. S. Pritchard,
re-organized the "McGallum-Anderson" school,
and made it a great success. Bishop Machray
took an active part in the affairs of the country,
and was one of the factors in the peaceful solution of the Riel troubles in 1870. He afterwards became Archbishop of Rupert's Land,
and later Primate of all Canada. He took a
leading part in the formation of the University
of Manitoba, of which he was chanceller from
its beginning till his death. In the course of
his years of service the country opened up in
all directions, and the Church of England nobly
did her part in sending missionaries to all parts
of the " New West 'r and as far north as man
could live. During the year preceding his death
the Rev. S. P. Matheson, who had been, practically from his childhood, connected with
St. John's, was elected coadjutor bishop,
and in 1905 was elected Metropolitan of
Rupert's Land with the title of Archbishop. Archbishop Matheson is an Anglican
through being adopted at an early age into
a family of that Church. He comes of
the old Scotch Presbyterian colony on the
Red River, where he was born, and two of
his brothers are elders in the Church of his
275 The Romance of Wesfyrn Canada
ancestors. He is one of the very ablest men in
the West, a sound administrator, an inspiring
preacher, and a loveable, genial man. He is
now Primate of all Canada, and highly
respected. The Church of England in Canada
created the office of General Field Secretary
for Missions in 1902, and since that time has
depended less on contributions from the Mother
Country for its mission funds. The whole
Church of England in Canada has had a
General Synod since 1893.
The Presbyterians, who, as colonists, were
first on the ground in the West, had to wait
until 1851 for a minister of their own; then the
Rev. John Black arrived, and found that the
people had for thirty-seven years been so careful to maintain their religious training that
three hundred of them were ready to unite in
full membership. Mr. (later Doctor) Black
was an ideal pioneer, strong physically, morally,
mentally, a mighty man in the pulpit, a faithful
friend in private life. He was everything to
the Scottish colony of Kildonan, and has left
his name indelibly stamped on the history of the
West. Under has ministry was built the famous
stone church, still in service, with its now noted
cemetery, where rest the Presbyterian makers
of the country. From Kildonan missionary
enterprises were undertaken, the most notable
being the sending of the Rev. James Nisbet out
amongst the Indians of the Saskatchewan. This
276 Religious Development
devoted man founded a mission named Prince
Albert, now a thriving city, and became the first
of the band now doing great service amongst
the native tribes. Rev. John McKay, a native
of the plains, and in the early days a noted
buffalo hunter, mentioned in a former chapter
as guide for Lord Southesk, became a most
successful missionary, assisting Mr. Nisbet,
and a great power for peace amongst the
Indians on the Saskatchewan.
The Presbyterian Church has made up for its
early dilatoriness in sending a minister to the
Selkirk settlers by becoming in these later years
one of the most aggressive and powerful church
organizations west of Lake Superior. This has
been due, in part, to the fact that the earlier
settlers belonged to that body, that Kildonan
became a missionary centre, and that the
pioneer ministers were intensely active in the
work; but in large measure it is due to the fact
that a man of unusual qualifications as a church
statesman and organizer, an enthusiast and
seer all in one, became the leader of the missionary movement in the West. This man was
the Rev. James Robertson, who was called
from the pastorate of Knox Church, Winnipeg, to be Superintendent of Missions. He had
such immense energy and zeal that he roused
others to action, moved church courts and congregations by his Celtic fire until the general
forward movements began. The untiring force
19 277 The Romance of Western Canada
he threw into the work told at length upon his
iron frame, and he died in 1902, his body being
laid to rest in the old Kildonan churchyard, on
the edge of the great home field to which he
had given his life. Succeeding Doctor Robertson, Dr. E. D. McLaren, of Vancouver, took
charge of the office, doing good service, while
Doctor Carmichael, of Regina, and Doctor
Herdman, of Calgary, two of the most devoted
men the Church has ever known, gave their
lives in a consecrated effort to cope with the
increasing work. Then Rev. Dr. A. S. Grant,
our pioneer missionary to the Yukon, took hold
of the work, called on the Church for ten missionary superintendents to meet the growing
needs, and, in a masterly and statesmanlike
way, put things on a new footing. The effect
of his efforts will long abide.
The Methodist Church, from about the year
1840, had noted missionaries, such as Rundle
and Evans, to the " farther West" and North.
The great distinctiveness of this period was the
invention, by Mr. Evans, of an Indian syllabic
which brought the Scripture and the hymns
into a written language, which the Indians
could easily learn. Rev. George McDougall
went out to the foothill country not long afterwards, and after devoted and successful work,
met death in a blizzard on the plains. His son,
Rev. John McDougall, followed in the good
work, wrote many helpful books, and did fine
278 Religious Development
service as chaplain and scout with our Calgary
column in Riel's day. It was not until 1869
that the Methodist Church began work on the
Red River, by sending thither the Rev. George
Young, who is noted as being the founder of
the work of his Church in Manitoba, and as
being the spiritual adviser of Thomas Scott
when he was shot in 1870 by order of Riel.
The Church has been exceedingly active during
these years, and has gone everywhere with its
missions over the whole West.
The Baptist Church, though coming late into
the field has proved a vigorous force in the life
of the West, while the Congregational body has
maintained in the larger centres influential individual congregations. The Salvation Army
deserves mention for its devoted and far-reaching work amongst the homeless and the helpless
of western cities and towns.
The church life of Alberta and Saskatchewan
is practically the overflow from the older province of Manitoba, and does not need separate
treatment. All the Churches are doing excellent work, and there is cordial co-operation in
efforts for the good of the country.
The work of the Churches in British Columbia grew up separately, and the early missionaries reached their fields either around Cape
Horn or by way of the Western Pacific States,
hence some special mention of the religious
development of that province is required.
279 The Romance of Western Canada
The Anglican Church, whose ministers were
chaplains to the Hudson's Bay Company, were
first on the ground, as we hear of the Rev. H.
Beaver at Fort Vancouver in 1836. The Rev.
R. J. Staines came to Fort Victoria in 1849,
and the Rev. E. Cridge (afterwards Bishop)
reached there in 185 5. Ever since that time the
Church has held a very prominent place in the
Pacific Province, and has done her full share'
of work.
The first Roman Catholic priest to begin
regular work was Father Demers, in 1847,
although Father Bolduc had come to Fort Vancouver in 1843 ^or a while. This Church has
given special attention to work among the
native tribes, but has very large churches and
schools in the principal cities of the province.
The Methodist Church was at work in 1858,
the pioneer being Dr. E. Evans, followed immediately by Revs. E. White, Ebenezer Robson,
and Arthur Browning. The first Conference
was formed in 1887, with Rev. E. Robson as
first president. The Rev. Thomas Crosby,
coming to Nanaimo in 1863, organized an
Indian school, and afterwards became the most
successful missionary to the Indians on the
Fraser River, and later at Fort Simpson in the
north. At Fort Simpson and other coast points
he effected a complete transformation in the
lives of the natives and introduced into their
communities all the improved conditions of
280 Religious Development
civilization. Several revival waves swept the
different districts, and proved of lasting value.
The Methodist Church has remained active in
all parts of the province, and has specially fine
churches in the leading centres.
The first Presbyterian missionary, Rev. John
Hall, came to Victoria in 1861, followed in
1862 by Rev. Robert Jamieson. The First
Presbyterian Church of Victoria was the
pioneer building of that denomination west of
the Red River. Later on a number of ministers came from Scotland, the only survivor of
whom is the Rev. Alexander Dunn, who has
done faithful service over large districts on the
Fraser River. The work of this Church is now
extended over the whole province, and in 1903
the General Assembly of the Dominion held an
eminently successful meeting in Vancouver
City. This was the first nation-wide church
gathering that ever assembled on the coast, and
the effect was immediately felt in the increased
vitality of western work.
Other Churches have come to British Columbia in later years, and on the whole there is
much religious activity manifest. Several of
the Churches have effective work amongst the
Chinese, Japanese, and East Indians in the coast
and inland cities.
In the Yukon the Roman Catholics and the
Church of England had work amongst the
aborigines from an early date; but when the
281 The Romance of Western Canada
great gold rush of 1898 was on, all the larger
churches and the Salvation Army were on the
The Canadian West is to-day the greatest
Home Mission field on the globe. Up to date
the work has been kept abreast of settlement,
but with thousands coming into the country the
resources and energy of all the Churches will
be fully taxed. On their faithfulness and zeal
must depend in large measure the future welfare of the West and, therefore, of the Dominion. They must not shrink from their responsibility. They must hold the ground they have,
and win more.   That is the only true progress.
Lack of education is a serious handicap.
Men find that if, either through their own
neglect or otherwise, they have failed to obtain
an education in their earlier years, all the rest
of life is affected prejudicially. It is not otherwise with a nation. No people can make the
most of the resources of the country or cultivate the higher aims of life unless the educational idea has stood in the forefront of their
activities. Here, as in the last chapter, we
have reason to be thankful for the history of
the West. From the earliest times education
received careful consideration, and since the
Church as such does not receive large credit
for good from some directions, it may be well
to remind readers that the Churches of the
West built and maintained the schools and colleges from the outset. This splendid service
by the Churches made possible the work of
later educationists.
Soon after coming to the Red River, in 1820,
the Rev. John West, of the Church of England,
founded a mission school   at St. John's for
the Selkirk settlers, and for the children of
283 The Romance of Western Canada
Hudson's Bay Company employees. This school
was greatly improved by the Rev. John McCal-
lum, who was a graduate of Aberdeen. Bishop
Anderson further increased the prestige of the
institution and practically made it into St.
John's College. After Bishop Anderson's time
it fell away for a time, but was re-organized
by Bishop Machray, with Rev. Archdeacon
McLean as warden. From that time forward
the progress of St. John's College has been
The Selkirk settlers made use of the McCal-
lum school for some years, and then started
one for themselves in the house of one of the
colonists. When their minister, Rev. John
Black, came in 1851, he gave the school a great
impetus, and sent more than one "lad o'
pairts " to study abroad. Then the number of
those desiring higher education grew to such
an extent that the Presbyterian Church founded
Manitoba College, in 1870, at Kildonan, though
the institution was moved to the new centre, at
Winnipeg, a few years later. Its early teachers,
Doctors Bryce and Hart, took an important part
in the making of the country. With a view to
strengthening the department of theology, the
General Assembly appointed Rev. John M.
King, D.D., of Toronto, to be principal. Doctor
King, who died in 1900, left a distinct impression on the life of the West. He was a born
teacher, and had great executive ability. Under
^^^^ Educational History
his administration the college prospered greatly,
the buildings were enlarged, and the debt
cleared. Professor Baird, who had founded the
Presbyterian Church in Edmonton, became
Doctor King's principal helper as a professor *
in the college. Doctor King was succeeded by
Doctor Patrick, a brilliant scholar from
Dundee, who died a few years ago, since which
time Professor Baird has been in charge.
The Roman Catholic Church, beginning its
mission at St. Boniface about 1819, shortly
afterwards began a school, which has grown
into the important college at that point.
Amongst its teachers have been many distinguished men, the most prominent in the public
eye being Father Drummond, S. J., who is
widely known as a learned scholar and accomplished orator. In this college most of the
men of that Church who are going forward to
the priesthood or the professions in the West
get their training.
The Methodist Church established a college
in Winnipeg, under the leadership of the late
Rev. Dr. J. W. Sparling, whose executive
ability and general popularity became embodied
in a handsome Calgary grey stone Wesley College in a short time. Professor Stewart, a
pioneer missionary on the plains, became
Doctor Sparling's principal assistant, and is
still one of the mainstays. Rev. Dr. Riddell is
now principal.
285 The Romance of Western Canada
The Baptist Church has a college at Brandon, under Principal McDiarmid, which trains
their young men in the West for any of the
The colleges of the several Churches, with
the Manitoba Medical College, the Agricultural
College being also in touch, form the University of Manitoba, which is so unique an
institution on this continent that it deserves
some special notice. Putting it in brief form,
the University is constituted by an affiliation in
one body of all the denominational colleges,
together with the Medical College. It has been
managed with such wonderful success and tact
that all have worked in harmony, provision
being made for different papers in certain subjects and for examinations in French as well
as English.
The University was founded in 1877, when
the Province of Manitoba was still very young
and sparsely settled. The denominational colleges then in existence were St. John's, St.
Boniface, and Manitoba College—Anglican,
Roman Catholic and Presbyterian, respectively.
The founder of the university was Hon. Alexander Morris, Lieutenant-Governor, who, after
consultation with the heads of these colleges,
urged the Government to bring a Bill before
the Legislature. The endowment was only
$250 a year, and the college professors, with
graduates of other universities in British
286 Educational History
countries, formed the body of the University,
who examined the students sent up from the
colleges. A bequest from Mr. A. K. Isbister,
of London, England, a retired Hudson's Bay
officer, an endowment tract of 150,000 acres of
swamp land secured by Hon. John Norquay,
together with Provincial Government support,
have placed the University in a prosperous condition. Being the first university established
in the West, it has done immense service in
keeping up the standard of education in the
new land. President MacLean is at the head
of the institution.
Each of the three provinces, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, now has its
state university. The Alberta University,
under the presidency of Dr. Walter C. Murray,
is at Saskatoon; the Saskatchewan University,
under Dr. Henry M. Torey, is at Edmonton; and the British Columbia University,
under Dr. F. F. Wesbrook, is at Vancouver.
All the western provinces have their high
schools and Normals for teacher-training. To
those who remember this country when it was
a vast, almost uninhabited wilderness, the
presence of all these institutions seems almost
miraculous. It should be noted, too, that the
Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches
have theological colleges at all the points that
are university centres, and most of them have
287 The Romance of Western Canada
training schools for the Indians in the several
western provinces.
We have thus been led to the study of higher
education by following the development of the
church schools of the early days into colleges
and on to the university. We followed this line
so as to keep things in this direction distinct
and clear. Now we come back to study the
elementary or public school system in the different parts of the West. Here, as we travel,
we shall find the route more intricate, and at
times we shall pass through storm-belts on the
way; but the subject in the western country
affects the history radically, and will continue
to do so in a way unknown elsewhere. Hence
the necessity and importance of following the
matter in detail.
Beginning with Manitoba, we find that previous to Confederation schools existed largely
under the care of Anglican, Roman Catholic
and Presbyterian Churches. These schools were
supported by the voluntary subscriptions of the
people, supplemented by grants from the Hudson's Bay Company, which recognized the value
and necessity of education in the country. In
1871 the first Provincial Legislature passed an
Act constituting a Board of Education in two
sections, Protestant and Roman Catholic, and
making all necessary provision for the maintenance of separate schools. This was done, it
was said, in pursuance of the fact that the Bill
288 Educational History
of Rights presented by the people of the Red
River to the Dominion Government had asked
for the rights as to schools the Churches had
by law or by practice at the time Manitoba
entered Confederation. There were no rights
by law, and in the long process of later litigation it was discovered that the original authentic .and genuine Bill of Rights had not asked
for rights that had been established by practice
—the words "by practice" had found their
way somehow into the document as the result
of an afterthought on the part of some who
were interested. In any case the Roman Catholic Church had no rights as to schools "by
practice" which were not possessed by the
Anglicans and Presbyterians.
It is well known that Mr. John Sutherland,
member for Kildonan in the first Manitoba
Legislature, made, along with Mr. E. H. G.
Hay, of St. Andrew's, and others, an effort to
prevent the separate school idea being made
law, but the country was primitive and unused
to these questions, hence the people made no
general movement and the law was passed. It
was not long before agitation against the system
arose, and in 1876 the Protestant section of the
School Board passed a resolution asking for
the abolition of the separate system. But
beyond some slight amendments the law remained the same until 1890, when Hon. Joseph
Martin, Attorney-Ceneral in the Greenway
289 The Romance of Western Canada
Administration, introduced and passed an
Act abolishing separate schools and establishing a non-sectarian system of national public
schools. This aroused the Roman Catholic
leaders, and for six years the question was in
the courts, from the first trial judge through all
the stages to the Judicial Committee of the
Imperial Privy Council. Bitter feeling was
aroused all over the Dominion, and the Manitoba School Question became a species of
public nuisance in that it dwarfed all other
matters into forgetfulness. The Privy Council
held that the province had a constitutional right
to pass the Act of 1890. Then the Roman
Catholics appealed for remedial action to the
Governor^General in Council. Their right to
make the appeal was fought out in the courts,
and decided in the affirmative. Then Sir
Charles Tupper and his Administration issued,
on March 19th, 1895, the famous Remedial
Order, practically requiring the Government of
Manitoba to restore the school system as it was
before the Act of 1890. The Legislature of
Manitoba met in June, 1897, and, chiefly under
the direction of the Hon. Clifford Sifton, who
had succeeded Mr. Martin as Attorney-General, refused to obey the Remedial Order. Sir
Charles Tupper stood by his programme to
remedy the alleged wrongs of the Roman Catholics. He went to the country on the issue, and
was overwhelmingly defeated by Sir Wilfrid
290 Educational History
Laurier and the Liberal party, who stood for
provincial rights throughout the contest.
Shortly after this an arrangement was arrived
at between the Laurier and Greenway-Sifton
Government, by which the Act of 1890 was
maintained in force, with some very slight
amendments, the understanding being that the
Act was to be administered in a conciliatory
spirit. Ever since that time the school system
of Manitoba has been national and unsectarian.
It is quite well known that many Roman Catholic parents, realizing the superior advantages
of the public school, have cordially accepted
the situation; but the leaders of the Church
have always declared their opposition to accepting the settlement as a finality, and have
encouraged large numbers of their people to
maintain their own schools, even at the cost of
paying double taxes. The encyclical of the late
Pope Leo was somewhat irenic in its tone,
since it spoke of the justice of the claims of
Roman Catholics, and advised continued effort,
but practically told them to take what they
could get and make the best of it. It is safe
to predict that Manitoba, having tried both
systems, will adhere to the unsectarian public
school as best calculated to serve the highest
educational interests of the people and promote
homogeneity of life in the country.
The history of the  educational  system in
Alberta and Saskatchewan is more involved,
291 The Romance of Western Canada
 : r
because of the fact that they existed as Territories for some time before they became provinces ; but the end of the school question there
is evidently not yet reached, as is seen by recent
discussions at Regina and elsewhere. Hence
it is well to give a somewhat detailed statement
in regard to the subject.
Prior to 1875 ^ne Territories were but very
sparsely populated, and, outside of the Hudson's Bay Company posts and the mission stations of various Churches, the inhabitants were
largely of nomadic and unsettled habits. Up
to 1872 there was practically no government,
but in that year the Dominion Parliament, as
already stated, passed an Act under which a
Council was appointed to assist Lieutenant-
Governor Morris, of Manitoba, in governing
the country. This Council, which was increased
in numbers the next year, did some useful work
in quieting the unrest of the Indians, policing
the plains, keeping Montana whiskey-sellers in
check, and protecting the buffalo for some time
from extermination; but they did not take up
any such question as education. There was no
population to demand it, except as above stated,
and the Churches met the need. In 1866 the
Presbyterian Church organized a school at
Prince Albert, under Mr. Adam MacBeth, a
teacher from the Red River country. When
Chief Factor Christie came from the Mackenzie River District, a journey of some two thou-   ^
292 xV Educational History
sand miles and fifty-five days' duration, to Fort
Garry, to attend a Council meeting in 1873, he
made special mention of the flourishing Church
of England mission and school at Fort Simpson, under Rev. (afterwards Bishop) Reeves.
Mr. Christie also visited Providence and Isle
a la Crosse, where he found Roman Catholic
missions, and good work being done in schools
for Indians and half-breeds by Sisters of
Charity. The Methodist Church did practically the same kind of missionary and school
work at different points as early as 1850. And
thus the matter of education rested until 1880,
when the Territorial Government, which had
been established by Dominion Act in 1875, and
given certain powers and duties in regard to
education, took measures for the maintenance
of schools. It will be well for us to follow the
matter step by step from the date of this
organization of government.
In 1875, by "The North-West Territories
Act" (enacted by the Parliament of Canada),
Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory, except such portions thereof as formed the
Province of Manitoba and the District of Kee-
watin, were united in one district, to be called
and known as " The North-West Territories."
The Lieutenant-Governor in Council was given
such powers to make ordinances for the government of the North-West Territories as the
Governor in Council from time to time con-
20 293 The Romance of Western Canada
f erred upon him; but such powers must not at
any time be in excess of those conferred by the
ninety-second and ninety-third sections of the
B.N.A. Act, 1867, upon the legislatures of the
several provinces of Canada. The creation of
separate schools within these territories was
provided for by section 14 of this Act. It reads
as follows: " The Lieutenant-Governor in Council shall pass all necessary ordinances in respect
to education, but it shall therein always be provided that a majority of the ratepayers of any
district or portion of the Territories, or of any
less portion or sub-division thereof, by whatever name the same is known, may establish
such school therein as they think fit, and make
the necessary assessment and collection of rates
therefor; and also that the minority of the ratepayers therein, whether Protestant or Roman
Catholic, may establish separate schools therein,
—and in such case the ratepayers establishing
such Protestant or Roman Catholic separate
schools shall be liable only to assessments of
such rates as they impose upon themselves in
respect thereof."
The first steps taken by the civil authorities
for the support of schools is set forth in a circular by Lieutenant-Governor Laird, December,
1880, in which it is announced that financial
aid will be given to schools complying with
certain conditions as to attendance of pupils.
294 Educational History
No reference was made to any class of school,
separate or otherwise.
The formal establishment of the educational
system of the Territories was accomplished by
the Ordinance of 1885, passed by the North-
West Council. As required by section 14 of
the N.W.T. Act, this Ordinance made provision for separate schools. Thus were established two classes of schools—public and separate—each being either Protestant or Roman
Catholic. In no case was a Roman Catholic
compelled to pay taxes to a Protestant school,
or a Protestant to a Roman Catholic school.
The Ordinance of 1886 contained an amendment making it unnecessary to designate public
schools as Protestant or Roman Catholic.
This system was placed under the control of
a Board of Education appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. It consisted of
five persons, two Roman Catholics and three
Protestants, with the Lieutenant-Governor as
chairman. It controlled appointment of inspectors, granting of certificates to teachers, and
the general organization of schools. It was
required to resolve itself into two sections—a
Protestant and a Roman Catholic section—
each having under its control and management
the schools of its section, and the selection of
a uniform series of text-books for its schools.
In 1888 the number of members of the Board
was increased to eight—five Protestants and
20a 295 The Romance of Western Canada
three Roman Catholics. The Ordinance of
1891 amended and consolidated existing Ordinances. Of necessity it retained the original
provisions for the establishment of separate
By the Ordinance of 1892 the Board of
Education was abolished, and a Council of
Public Instruction constituted in its stead. It
consisted of the members of the Executive
Committee (Cabinet) and four persons—two
Protestants and two Roman Catholics —
appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. A member of the Executive Committee
was the chairman. All the powers and authority vested in the Board of Education, and in
each section thereof, were vested in the new
Council, that is, practically in the members of
the Executive Committee, since the appointed
members had no vote. The Regulations of the
Council, August, 18913, provided, with slight
exceptions, for uniformity in texts, courses of
study, training of teachers, and inspection.
The Roman Catholics, being dissatisfied with
the powers conferred upon the Council of
Public Instruction, and with the Regulations
framed by it, petitioned the Governor-General
in Council, December, 1893, to disallow, repeal,
or annul the Ordinance of 1892. A Committee
of the Privy Council of Canada, after careful
consideration of the petitions, documents and
296 Educational History
information supplied, found itself unable to
grant the prayer of the petitioners.
In September, 1894, the North-West Assembly, after full consideration of the complaints
preferred by the Roman Catholics, declined to
change the system of inspection, to further
extend the use of the French language in
instruction, to abolish uniformity in text-books,
or to change the mode of establishing separate
The Ordinance of 1901, Chapters 29, 30 and
31, amended and consolidated existing Ordinances. Of necessity it retained the original
provisions for the establishment of separate
" The minority of the ratepayers in any district, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic,
may establish a separate school therein; arid in
such case the ratepayers establishing such Protestant or Roman Catholic school shall be liable
only to assessments of such rates as they impose
upon themselves in respectJthereof." (Sec. 41.)
I After the establishment of a separate school
district under the provisions of this Ordinance
such separate school district and the Board
thereof shall possess and exercise all rights,
powers, privileges, and be subject to the same
liabilities and method of government as is
herein provided in respect of public school
districts."   (Sec. 45.)
297 The Romance of Western Canada
By this Ordinance there was established a
Department of Education, presided over by a
member of the Government, with the title of
Commissioner of Education. The Council of
Public Instruction was abolished and an Educational Council created. The Department of
Education has the control and management of
all classes of schools. The Commissioner had
the administration, control and management of
the Department and the direction of its officials.
With the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor
in Council he made regulations for the organization and inspection of schools, the construction of school buildings, the examination and
training of teachers, the management of libraries and teachers' institutes, and the authorization of text and reference books.
The Educational Council consisted of five
persons, at least two of whom must be Roman
Catholics, appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. The subjects for consideration
by the Council included all general regulations
respecting the inspection of schools, the examination, training, licensing, and grading of
teachers, courses of study, teachers' institutes,
text and reference books, and such other matters as may be referred to it by the Commissioner. It might also consider any question
concerning the educational system of the Territories, and report thereon. Under the Ordinance it was the duty of the Council to advise,
298 Educational History
but the power to act was vested in the Commissioner; that is, in the Government.
All schools must be taught in the English
language, but it was also permissible for a
School Board to arrange for instruction in any
language other than English,; subject to the
regulations of the Department.
It was permissible to open school by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, but no religious
instruction was permitted from the opening of
school until one-half hour previous to its closing in the afternoon, after which time any such
instruction permitted or desired by the local
School Board might be given. Attendance is
not compulsory during religious exercises.
In 1886, when the first official returns were
made to the Board of Education, there were 76
schools in operation, with 2,553 pupils enrolled,
and 84 teachers employed. At the close of 1903
there were 743 schools in operation, with 33,191
pupils enrolled, and 916 teachers employed.
The gain recently has been very great. In 1903
there were erected 166 new districts, and 324
new districts in 1904. The growth of separate
schools has been slow.
From 1893 to 1902, inclusive, Dr. D. J.
Goggin, formerly principal of the Manitoba
Normal School, now in the Ontario Department of Education, and one of the most widely-
known educationists in Canada, was Superintendent of Education for the Territories. He,
299 The Romance of Western Canada
along with Premier Haultain, was the guiding
spirit in the development of education in the
West during its formative period. To his energy,
tact, technical skill and administrative powers
are largely due the present advanced position
in education, and the comparative smoothness
with which the educational machinery was
working. It is quite well known that the satisfactory way in which things ran up to the close
of the Territorial regime was a matter of wise
regulations in the Department rather than a
question of the ordinances in force.
And now we come to the most recent, but, as
many think, not the final phase of the question.
The question of the Territories entering into
Confederation had often been discussed, and in
March, 1905, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who had
just been overwhelmingly sustained at a general election, introduced the famous Autonomy
Bill into the House of Commons. Though the
autonomy question had been discussed, the
character of the measure by which it would be
inaugurated had not been before the public.
Hence the appearance of the Bill, with somewhat drastic clauses establishing a separate
school system in the new Provinces of Alberta
and Saskatchewan, caused considerable surprise in all directions. The Premier's speech
in bringing forward the Bill indicated a desire
for a thorough-going system of separate
schools, with dogmatic religious instruction.
300 Educational History
This was generally resented by all parties
except the Roman Catholics. Hon. Clifford
Sifton, who had been the champion of public
schools in Manitoba, was Minister of the
Interior at the time, but was absent from the
country when the Bill was framed and introduced. It appears that he was not consulted
in the matter of the final framing of the school
clauses, and as he could not agree with the
proposed legislation, he resigned office. The
commotion became widespread, and the Government bowed so far to the rising storm as
to modify the proposed legislation into a shape
which they and their supporters claim to mean
simply the perpetuation in the new provinces
of the educational system in vogue in the Territories under the Dominion Act of 1875, and
accepted generally by the ordinances passed by
the Local Assembly. Hon. Mr. Sifton said he
would support the modified clauses, "though
without much enthusiasm and with considerable reluctance." He claimed that under the
amended clauses the schools would be public
schools in every sense except that the principle
of separate buildings was adopted. Rather than
defeat the Government and precipitate an
unhealthy agitation in the country, he would
support the amended BiH, though he asserted
his belief that the matter should have been left
to the new provinces.
Hon. F. W. G. Haultain, Premier  of  the
301 The Romance of Western Canada
Territories, took a strong stand against both
the original and the modified clauses. He
claimed that the people of the Territories
should have an opportunity of pronouncing on
the matter for themselves, and said they had
not been consulted. He said further that he,
although the official representative head of the
people, had been kept in ignorance of the intentions of the Dominion Government. He urged
that the action of the Dominion was a direct
violation of the principles of provincial rights as
guaranteed in the matter of education by the
British North America Act. He claimed that the
authority of the Dominion over the Territories,
as exercised under the Act of 1875, was merely
provisional, and that in matters reserved to the
provinces by the constitution such authority
should cease as soon as the Territories became
provinces. He submitted that the new provinces should not be bound beforehand perpetually to a system without their own consent.
If their own Assembly had passed ordinances
practically recognizing separate schools, they
had done so of necessity under the provisional
Dominion Act of 1875, which became law at
a time when the Territories were unorganized,
when people were few and had no representatives in Parliament at Ottawa, It was generally admitted that the system of education in
the Territories had been made to work well,
but many felt that the autonomy clauses would
302 Educational History
open the door to sectarian aggression and at
the same time would leave the people helpless
for all time under a system which they had
never inaugurated in the first place. On the
other hand, Sir Wilfrid Laurier contended that
the Roman Catholics should be protected in the
rights they had enjoyed under the Act of 1875,
and asserted that many had gone to the West
under the impression that they were to have
their own schools. The debate in the House of
Commons was long and spirited.
Mr. (Now Sir Robert) R. L. Borden, leader
of the Opposition, moved that the matter be
left to the new provinces, and based his position
on the constitutional argument. Outside the
House the discussion was equally active. The
Toronto Globe, the leading Liberal paper of
Canada, at first strongly opposed the Government on the ground of provincial rights, and
the Toronto News, ably edited by Mr. J. S.
(now Sir John) Willison, the biographer of
Laurier, took a strenuous position in favor of
popular rights, and urged that the Liberal
leaders were deserting the most fundamental
principle of their party. In answer to a question, Mr. Christopher Robinson, one of the
highest legal authorities in Canada, held that
the Dominion Government were under no
necessity to pass the educational clauses in the
Autonomy Bill. Professor Goldwin Smith,
eminent as a constitutional authority, wrote
303 The Romance of Western Canada
that the control of the Dominion over the
Territories in the matter of education was provisional and should cease when they became
provinces. Petitions came by shoals into the
House of Commons, the large majority of
which were against the Bill. On the other
hand, it was pointed out that the Territories
had prospered educationally under the old system, and were not making any violent demonstration against the proposed legislation, which
was too true. They were busy with other
matters. Mr. Frank Oliver, the popular pioneer
member for Edmonton, was appointed Minister of the Interior, and was returned by
acclamation, although he admitted, with others,
that, owing to the nature of the population in
his constituency, the election was no criterion
of the general opinion of the Territories on the
question. Sir Wilfrid Laurier stood to his
guns, and, as he commanded a large majority
in the House, including all the members for
Quebec except one, the Bill was put upon the
statute book. For the last few years there
have been rumblings of discontent in the Middle
West, and some have taken a very strong stand
in favor of a public school system, in order to
meet the problem of unifying the different
peoples that are coming into the country. Since
the outbreak of the great European war this
problem has become acute, and the school trustees of Saskatchewan, who met this year at
304 Educational History
Regina, voiced their sense of. danger in no
uncertain way; and the end is not yet.
British Columbia has exercised great wisdom
in connection with educational matters. The
people of this" province were left free to deal
with the subject in the terms of the constitution, and they took hold of it with decisive
ability. Accordingly this province has never
been disturbed by any prolonged controversy
on school matters, and any element that wished
to introduce discord was promptly suppressed.
The province, as mentioned in a preceding
chapter, has hence missed the advertisement
that came to some of her sisters in Confederation through "school questions," but she has
reaped a good reward in being able to build up
a splendid educational system, while at the
same time keeping clear of dangerous sectarian
strife. As a result her citizens live in the
utmost harmony together, and the question of
a man's religious denomination is not considered in connection with his aspirations after
public office, provided he is otherwise fitted for
it. The province, having thus settled satisfactorily this domestic problem, has been free to
attend to other matters undisturbed by religious
The Hudson's Bay Company were the first
sponsors of education in the old colony on
Vancouver Island, although the schools first
organized   were   under   the   care   of  their
305 The Romance of Western Canada
chaplains, who were clergymen of the Church
of England. The first of these chaplains and
teachers was the Rev. R. J. Staines, who,
with his wife, arrived at Victoria in 1849,
and, with the assistance of the Company,
organized a boarding-school. He was succeeded by the Rev. Edward (afterward
Bishop) Cridge, who came to Victoria in 1855,
and, with Mrs. Cridge, continued the work.
Soon after this the Hudson's Bay Company
established free public schools on Vancouver
Island, with Mr. Cridge as Superintendent of
Education. From a report he gave in 1861
to Governor Douglas there were three schools:
Victoria (Mr. Barr, teacher), Craigflower
(Mr. Claypole, teacher), and Nanaimo (with
Mr. Bryant, afterwards the well-known Methodist minister, as teacher).
In 1865 Mr. Alfred Waddington became
superintendent, but matters were not flourishing. After the union of the island and mainland colonies in 1868, Governor Seymour, who
succeeded Douglas, refused to grant financial
aid to the schools, and several of them closed.
In 1869 there were only eleven schools in the
whole colony, seven on the island and one each
at New Westminster, Langley, Yale, and Sap-
perton. It is said that in that year not more
than one-tenth of the children in the country
had school opportunities.
But when the province finally came  into
306 Educational History
Confederation her legislature took hold of the
subject. In 1872 an Act was passed organizing
a non-sectarian public school system, and this
has remained undisturbed ever since. A public
school fund was set apart and a Board of Education appointed, with Mr. John Jessop as superintendent. In 1879 this Board was abolished
and its duties transferred to the Lieutenant-
Governor in Council. The Act of 1891 went
still further in constituting the Executive
Council a Council of Public Instruction, with
general powers over the schools of the province. Since 1905 the municipalities have been
called upon to bear a larger share of the support of their own schools, which, before that,
were borne principally by the Government,
except in cities, where only a certain per capita
grant was allowed by the province after the
year 1888. The different governments have
been disposed to help education as liberally as
the somewhat limited finances of the province
would allow, and the excellence of the school
buildings throughout the province is often
remarked by visitors. This is true practically
of the whole western country, which had the
advantage of having no old buildings on its
hands as a legacy from former generations.
Even the very newest parts of the West, such
as the Yukon and the Peace River country,
have shown an enthusiastic interest in the cause
of education.   Schools are established as soon
J The Romance of Western Canada
as there are enough settlers to form a school
district, and high schools grow up when a
centre of population comes into being. There
was a time when the utilitarian side of education was emphasized more than what we might
call the aesthetic. This was necessarily the
case, even with the settlers' homes, where the
problem of getting started in a new country
was such that little time or means could be
devoted to adorning houses or cultivating
flower gardens and trees; but that era is now
well over with, and the homes and the grounds
of the people are showing every evidence of
comfort and taste. And so, in the sphere of
education, more attention is now given to music
and the fine arts. When a western city school
board, not long ago, decided that one item in a
programme of retrenchment would be the dispensing with the services of the instructor in
music, there was a storm of protest which led
that board to change its mind swiftly; and this
is well, because there is much wisdom in the
saying, "Let me make the songs of a nation,
and I care not who makes its laws." A famous
materialistic philosopher of the Victorian age
confessed that his attention to dry-as-dust
things was so absorbing that he had lost all
desire for music and poetry and the fine arts
generally. " Where there is no vision the people
perish," and materialism is the enemy of vision.
Hence it is a good thing that the West, with
308 Educational History
all its prospects and possession of material
prosperity, is not neglecting the gentler side
of life.
The Great War will throw new educational
problems upon us. Many a gallant lad will
eome back unfitted for his former occupation;
and in nine cases out of ten, where he is able
to do anything, he will infinitely prefer to be
independent and self-supporting, despite the
fact that he will properly be given an adequate
pension. For him the best expert brains of the
country must devise suitable technical and vocational training. The returned soldier is often
the very flower of the community's manhood,
and he is coming back into church and state
to take a large share in moulding the destiny of
the country.
It is a far cry from the little log schoolhouse
of the frontier, with its rude benches, to the
splendid buildings and the polished desks of
the modern day; but if, remembering that of
those to whom much is given much will be
required, we shall strive to do our part as well
as the teachers and pupils of the log school-
house and the people of the log church did
theirs, we shall do nobly indeed. From earliest
days in human history the star of empire has
come steadily westward. Than this land of
ours there is no farther West, and beneath the
halted star, if we are true to the highest things,
deeds of mighty Messianic significance will be
born for the good of the world.
309      m,
fa^ls     A.$|"*-    If/i    C ^
!. 8. FORSYTH & GO. 6   •     S^   2-f   £  0


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