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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter XXIII. Revolt


DR WOLFREI) NELSON had for many years practised medicine in and around St. Denis. He spoke the language and thoroughly understood the character of his French neighbours. Considerable professional skill, freely exerted without pay or reward for all die poor among the habitants, had made him for years past exceedingly popular. He was elected to the Assembly, and there followed the leadership of Papineau, with whose republicanism he sympathized. Early intelligence was, of course, brought to him by the habitant* of Colonel Gore's approach. Nelson had seen service as military surgeon during the late war, and had sufficiently the courage of his opinions to re solve on active resistance. Not so Papineau. The Mirabeau of Montreal had not a particle of the pluck that gave backbone to the somewhat bizarre eloquence of the Mirabeau of the great Revolution. He left his followers to their fate and made an inglorious retreat to the States. Meanwhile Nelson rang the village tocsin, and the aroused habitants came flocking' to its summons. Nelson stationed his men at the windows and loop holes of a large stone building, and at those of two others wherever a flanking fire could be directed on an attacking force. When Colonel Gore arrived he attacked Nelson's position from ten m the morning till four in the afternoon. Put his one gun could make no impression on the thick stone walls. He could not take the building by storm, his own men were being shot down, and at last he was forced to spike and abandon his field piece and retreat as best he could. This victory, the only marked success of the revolt of 1837, was gained on November 23rd. But at St. Charles, though the insurgents were in far greater force, they were badly led, and fell an easy prey to Colonel Wetherell, who had been sent with a strong force to attack the place. With the exception of a raid by American sympathizers, across the border, this was the last of the revolt in 1837. It is pleasant to record that Dr. Nelson, who had shown the greatest kindness to Colonel Gore's wounded soldiers, left on his hands, succeeded m escaping to the States, whence, in calmer times, he returned to his home in St. Denis. But next year a second insurrection took place u Lower Canada, led by a brother of Dr. Nelson. It was soon suppressed. Both insurrections were severely avenged by gallows and torch. Numbers of men were hanged with scant form of trial, and the darkness of the December night, in the parishes of St. Denis and $t. Charles, were lit up by blazing homesteads and barns.

In Upper Canada, Colborne had been superseded at his own request, and was succeeded by Sir Francis Bond Head, a half-pay Major and an industrious writer of second-rate magazine articles. This vain and self-opinionated officer was sent out with instructions to pursue a policy of conciliation, which he at first attempted to carry out by appointing three Reformers, Rolph, Baldwin, and Dunn, to the Executive Council. But he never consulted these gentlemen, and they soon resigned in disgust. At the elections of June, 1836, the Family Compact put forth all their apparatus of corruption, and again secured a subservient majority in the Assembly. By this tune the easily-flattered Governor was completely won over by the blandishments of the Family Campact clique. It was evident to Mackenzie that there was no hope in constitutional agitation, to which he and his followers had adhered while the faintest hope of fair-play remained. All which will be told at more length in the following chapter.


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