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Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks
Chapter II - The Moderate Reformers ands the Canadian Rebellion


SUCH was the environment in which Robert Baldwin and his future colleagues in the Reform ministry of Canada, entered upon political life. The Baldwins were sprung from au Irish family resident on a little property called Summer Hill, near Carragoline, in the county of Cork. The father of Robert Baldwin had come out to Canada with his father (himself a Robert Baldwin; in 1798. The family settled on a tract of land on the north shore of Lake Ontario, in the present county of Durham, where Robert Baldwin (senior) set himself manfully to work to clear and cultivate a farm to which he gave the name of Annarva.1 His eldest son, "William Warren Baldwin, did not, however, remain upon the homestead. He had already received at the University of Edinburgh a degree m medicine and. anxious to turn his professional training to account, he went to the little village of York. Here he took up his abode with a Mr. Wilcocks of Duke Street, an Irish friend of his family, who had indeed been instrumental in inducing the Baldwins to come to Canada. In a pioneer colony like the Upper Canada of that day, the health of the community is notoriously sound, and Dr. Baldwin soon saw that the profession of inedii ine at York could offer but a precarious livelihood. He determined, therefore, to supplement it with school-teaching and inserted in the Gazette an announcement of his intention to open a classical school;— "Dr. Baldwin, understanding that some gentlemen of this town have expressed an anxiety for the establishment of a classical school, begs leave to inform them and the public that he intends on Monday, the first of January next [1803], to open a school in which he will instruct twelve boys in writing, reading, classics and arithmetic. The terms are, for each boy, eight guineas per annum, to be paid quarterly or half yearly; one guinea entrauce and one cord of wood to be supplied by each of the boys on opening the school." It is interesting to note that among the earliest of Dr. Baldwin's pupils was John Robinson, distinguished later as a leading spirit in the Family Compact and chief-justice of the province.

School-teaching with the ambitious Irishman was, however, only a means to an end. The legal profession, then in its infancy in the colony, offered a more lucrative and a more honourable field, and for lbs in his leisure hours Baldwin hastened to prepare himself. Indeed no very arduous preparation or profound knowledge was needed in those days for admission to the legal fraternity of "Muddy York." A summary examination, conducted in person by the chief-justice of the province, was all that was required of Baldwin as a candidate for the bar, and on April 6th, 1803, he was admitted as a duly qualified practitioner. Ilis entry upon his new profession was signalized by his marriage in the same year with Miss Phoebe Wilcocks, a daughter of the family friend with whom he had lived. The newly married couple took up their quarters in a new house on the corner of Frederick and Palace Streets, the latter a street running parallel with the shore of the bay and receiving its grandiloquent name from the expectation that it would presently become the site of a gubernatorial "palace." In this house Robert Baldwin, eldest son of William Warren Baldwin was born on May 12th, 1804.

Little need be said of Robert Baldwin's youth and school days. By no means a precocious child, he was distinguished at school rather for a painstaking diligence than for exceptional natural aptitude. lie received his education at the Home District Grammar School, at the head of which was Dr. John Strachan, then rector of York and subsequently distinguished as Bishop of Toronto and champion of the Anglican interest. Baldwin's conscientious industry presently made him "head boy" of the Grammar School, from whose walls he passed with credit to enter upon the study of the law (1819). After spend-ng some years in his father's office, he was called to the bar in Trinity Term, 1825, and became a partner in his father's business under the firm name of "W. W. Baldwin and Son." The fortunes of the elder Baldwin had in the meantime rapidly unproved. Not only had he met with success in his dual profession, but he had the good fortune to fall heir to the property of a Miss Elizabeth Russell, a distant connection of the Baldwins, and sister to a certain Peter Russell, a bygone magnate of the little colony whose extensive estates she had herself nherited and now bequeathed to William Baldwin. Desirous to use his new found wealth for the foundation of a family estate,1 Dr. Baldwin purchased a considerable tract of land to the north of the little town on the summit of the hill overlooking the present city of Toronto. To this property the name "Spadina" was given, and the wide road opened by Dr. Baldwin southward through a part of the Russell estate was christened Spadina Avenue.

Both father and son were keenly interested in the political affairs of the; province. The elder Baldwin was a I .liberal and prominent among the Reformers who, even before the advent of William Lyon Mackenzie, denounced the oligarchical control of the Family Compact. But he was at the same time profoundly attached to the British connection and averse by temperament to measures of violence. While making common cause with the Mackenzie faction in the furtherance of better government, Dr. Baldwin and his associates were nevertheless separated from the extreme wing of the Reformers by all the deference that lies between the Whig and the Radical. The polit ieal aims were limited to converting the constitution of the colony into a real, and not merely a nominal, transcript of the British constitution. To effect this, it seemed only necessary to render the executive officers of the government responsible to the popular House of the legislature in the same way as the British cabinet stands responsible to the House of Commons. This one reform accomplished, the other grievances of the colonists would find a natural and immediate redress. Robert Baldwin sympathized entirely with the political views of his father. Moderate by nature, he had no sympathy with the desire of the Radical section of the party to abolish the legislative council, or to assimilate the institutions of the. country to those of the United States. The Alpha and Omega of his programme of political reform lay n the demand for the introduction of responsible government. His opponents, even some of his fellow Reformers, taunted him with being a "man of one idea." Viewed n the clearer light of retrospect it is no reproach to his political insight that his "one idea" proved to be that which ultimately saved the situation and which has since become the corner stone of the British colonial system.

The year 1829 may be said to mark the commencement of Robert Baldwin's public life. He had already taken part in election committees and was known as one of the rising young men among the moderate Reformers. He had. moreover, in the election of 1828, unsuccessfully offered himself as a candidate for the county of York. But in 1829 we find him figuring as the draftsman of the petition addressed to George IV in connection with the Willis affair. Willis, an English barrister of some prominence, had been appointed in 1827 to be one of the judges of the court of king's bench in Upper Canada. While holding that office he had held aloof from the faction of the Family Compact and had thereby incurred the displeasure of the authorities, who had become accustomed to view the judges as among their necessary adherents. A technical pretext being found,1 Sir Peregrine Maitland dismissed Willis from office. The cause of the latter was at once espoused by the Reform party. A public meeting of protest was called at York under the chairmanship of Dr. Baldwin, and a petition drawn up addressed "to the king's most excellent Majesty, and to the several other branches of the imperial and provincial legislatures." The pet: ' ion is said to have been drafted, at least in part, by Robert Baldwin. The occasion was considered a proper one, not only for protesting against the injustice done to Judge Willis, but for drawing the attention of the Crown to the numerous evils from which the colony was suffering. The list of grievances, arranged under eleven heads, included the already familiar protests against the obstructive action of the legislative council, the precarious tenure of the judicial offices, and the financial extravagance and favouritism of the executive government. Of especial importance is the eighth item of the list, which called attention to "the want of carrying into effect that rational and constitutional control over public functionaries, especially the advisers of your Majesty's representative, which our fellow-subjects in England enjoy m that, happy country." Following the catalogue of grievances is a list of "humble suggestions" of adequate measures of reform. The essential contrast between the moderate Reformers of Upper Canada on the one hand, and the Radical wing of their party and the Papineau faction of the Lower Province on the other, is seen in the fact that no request is made for an elective legislative council. It is merely asked that only a "small proportion" of the council shall be allowed to hold other offices under the government, and that neither the legislative councillors nor the judges shall be permitted to hold places in the executive council. The sum and substance of the wishes of the petitioners appears in the sixth of their recommendations, in which they pray "that a legislative Act be made in the provincial parliament to facilitate the mode in which the present constitutional responsibility ">f the advisers of the local government may be carried practically into effect; not only by the removal of these advisers from office when they lose the confidence of the people, but also by impeachment for the heavier offenses chargeable against them." The petition was forwarded for presentation to Viscount Goderich and the Hon. E. G. Stanley, from each of whom Dr. Baldwin duly received replies. A quotation from the letter sent by Stanley, who became shortly afterwards colonial secretary, may serve to show to how great an extent the British statesmen of the period failed to grasp the position of affairs in Upper Canada. "On the last and one of the most important topics," wrote Stanley, "namely, the appointment of a local ministry subject to removal or impeachment when they lose the confidence of the people, I conceive there would be great difficulty in arranging such a plan, for in point of fact the remedy is not one of enactment, but of practice—and a constitutional mode is open to the people, of addressing for a removal of advisers of the Crown and refusing supplies, if necessary to enforce their wishes." From what has been said above it is clear that this was the very mode of redress which was not open to the people of the province.

In this same year (1820) Robert Baldwin first entered the legislature of the province. John Beverley Robinson, the member for York and attorney-general, had been promoted to the office of chief-justice of the court of king's bench, his seat in the assembly being thereby vacated. Baldwin contested the seat and was successful in his canvass, being strongly aided by the influence of William Lyon Mackenzie. A petition against his election, on the ground of an irregularity in the writ, caused him to be temporarily unseated, but in the second election Baldwin was again successful and entered the legislature on January 8th. 1830. In the ensuing session he appears to have played no very conspicuous part, his membership being brought to a premature termination by the death of George IV. The demise of the Crown necessitating a dissolution of the House. Baldwin again presented himself to the electors of York. In this election the adherents of the Family Compact contrived to carry the day, and Baldwin was among the number of Reformers who lost their seats in consequence. During the year that ensued he had no active share in the government of the country but continued to be prominent among the ranks of the moderate Reformers of York with whom his influence was constantly on the increase. To his professional career also he devoted an assiduous attention. He had, in 1827, married Augusta Elizabeth Sullivan, whose mother was a sister of Dr. William Baldwin. He now (1829) entered into partnership with his wife's brother, Robert Baldwin Sullivan, who had been his fellow-student n his father's law office, a young man whose showy Intellectual brilliance and lack of conviction contrasted with the conscientious application of his painstaking cousin. Of Baldwin's public life there is, however, during this period, nothing to record until the advent of Sir Praticis Bond Head brought him for the first time into public office.

Among the intimate associates of the Baldwins in the year preceding the rebellion, there was no one who sympathized more entirely with their political views than Francis Hincks. Hincks came to Canada in the year 1830. He was born at Cork on December 14th, 1807. and descended from an old Cheshire family which for two generations had been resident in Ireland, in which country he spent his youth. He received at the Royal Bedfast Institution a sound classical training. He had early conceived a wish to embark in commercial life, which his father, the Rev. T. D. Hincks, a minister of the Irish Presbyterian Church, did not see fit to combat. He entered as an articled clerk in the business house of John Martin & Co., Belfast, where he spent five years.1 On the termination of his period of apprenticeship Hincks resolved to see something of the world and sailed for the West Indies (1830), visiting Barbadoes, Denieraraand Trinidad. At Barbadoes, he accidentally fell in with a Mr. George Ross of Quebec, by whom he was persuaded to sail for Canada. After spending some time in Montreal he determined to visit Upper Canada and set out for the town of York, travelling after the arduous fashion of those days "by stage and schooner," a journey which occupied ten days. Hincks spent the winter of 1830-1 at York, conceived a most favourable idea of the commercial possibilities of the little capital, and interested himself at once in the threatening political crisis. He was a frequent visitor at the Parliament House, a brick structure at the foot of Berkeley Street, intended presently "to be adorned with a portico and an entablature,"1 whose gallery was open to the public. Here, and in the hall of the legislative council, which, in the words of an enthusiastic writer, "corresponded to the House of Lords" (being "richly carpeted, while the floor of the House is bare,") Hincks listened to the exciting debates of the session in which Mackenzie was denounced as a "reptile" and a "spaniel dog," and expelled by the indignant majority of the Tory faction. Early in 1831 he left Canada for Belfast to "fulfil a matrimonial engagement" which he had already a Buckingham, contracted. The matrimonial engagement being duly fulfilled (July, 1832), Hincks returned to Canada to settle in York. Here he became one of the promoters and a director of the Farmers' Joint Stock Banking Company; from this institution Hincks very shortly seceded, on account of its connection with the Family Compact. In company with two or three other seceding directors he joined the Bank of the People, which was established n the interests of the Reform party. Of this bank Hincks was manager during the troubled period of the rebellion. With Robert Baldwin and his father the young banker had already formed an intimate connection. Hincks's house at No. 21 Yonge Street was next door to the house occupied at this time by the Baldwins, to whom both houses belonged.1 The acquaintance thus formed between the families ripened into a close friendship from the time of his arrival at York. Hincks's practical good sense had led him to sympathize wTith the moderate party of Reform, and he now found in Robert Baldwin an associate whose political views harmonized entirely with his own. In addition to his management of the Bank of the People, Hincks was active in other commercial enterprises. He became the secretary of the Mutual Assurance Company, founded at Toronto shortly after his coming, and appears also to have carried on a general warehouse business at his premises on Yonge Street. That his eminent financial abilities met with ready recognition, is seen from the fact that he was appointed, in 18.13, one of the examiners to inspect the accounts of the Welland Canal, at that time the subject of a parliamentary investigation. The practical experience and insight into the commercial life of the colony which Hincks thus early acquired, enabled him presently to bring to the financial affairs of Canada the trained capacity of an expert.

At the time when Baldwin, Hincks, and their friends among the constitutional Reformers of Upper Canada were viewing with alarm the increasing bitterness which separated the rival parties, a new lieutenant-governor arrived in the province whose coming was destined to bring matters rapidly to a crisis. Francis Bond Head was one of those men whose misfortune it was to have greatness thrust upon them unsought. He was awakened one night at his country home in Kent by a king's messenger, who brought a letter from the colonial-secretary offering to him the lieutenant-governorship of Upper Canada. Head was a military man. a retired half-pay major who received his sudden elevation to the governorship with what he himself has described as "utter astonishment." On the field of Waterloo and during his experience as an engineer in the Argentine Republic, he had given proof that he was not wanting in personal courage. Of civil government, beyond the fact that he had been an assistant poor law commissioner, he had no experience. Of politics in general he knew practically nothing; of Canada even less. Nor had he a range of intellect such as to enable him to rise to the difficulties of his position. With a natural incapacity he combined a natural conceit, to be presently enhanced still further by his elevation to a haronetcy. Convinced of his own ability from the very oddness of his appointment, he betook himself to Canada puffed up with the pride of a professional pacificator. How Lord Glenelg, the colonial secretary, could have been induced to make such an appointment, remains one of the mysteries of Canadian history. Rumour indeed has not scrupled to say that the whole affair was an error, that the name of Francis Head had been confused with that of Sir Edmund Head, also a poor law commissioner and a young man of rising promise and attainments. Hincks in his Reminiscences asserts that he was informed of this fact in later years by Mr. Roebuck and that a "distinguished imperial statesman had also spoken of it."

In so far as he had had any political affiliations in England, Head had been a Whig. The news of this simple fact had gone before him, and the Reform party were prepared to find in him a champion of their interests; Sir Francis in consequence found the role of saviour of the country already prepared for his acceptance "It was with no little surprise," he writes in his Narrative, in speaking of his first entry into Toronto (January, 1830), "I observed the walls placarded with large letters which designated me as Sir Francis Head, a tried Reformer." The administration on which the new governor now entered was from first to last a series of blunders. It had been impressed upon him by the British cabinet that he must seek to conciliate the Reform party and to compose the factious differences by which the province was torn. The Seventh Report on Grievances had become, since his appointment, the object of his constant perusal, and the Reformers of the province crowded about him in the fond hope of political redress. It was impossible, therefore, that Sir Francis should fail to make some advances to the Reform party. This indeed he was most anxious to do, although the tone of his opening address to his parliament, in which he asked for a loyal support of himself, already began to alienate the sympathy of those whose support he was most anxious to secure. As a pledge, however, of his good intentions, he determined to add three members to his executive council and to fill their places from among the Reform party. The men upon whom his choice fell were Robert Baldwin, Dr, John Rolph, a leader of the Mackenzie faction, and John Henry Dunn who had filled the office of receiver-general but had not been identified with either of the rival parties. In a despatch addressed to the colonial secretary, the lieutenant-governor speaks thus of Baldwin:— "After making every enquiry in my power, I became of opinion that Mr. Robert Baldwin, advocate, a gentleman already recommended to your Lordship by Sir John Colborne for a seat in the legislative council, was the first individual I should select, being highly respected for his moral character, being moderate in his politics and possessing the esteem and confidence of all parties."


Parliament Buildings, Toronto, 1833

Now came a critical moment in the history of the time. With a majority in the assembly and with a proper control over the executive offices, the Reform party would find themselves arrived at that goal of responsible government which had been the object of their every effort. They conceived, nevertheless, that the acceptance of office wras of no import or significance unless it were conjoined with an actual control of the policy of the administration. Such, however, was by no means the idea of Sir Francis Head. The "smooth-faced insidious doctrine"2 of responsible government, as he afterwards called it, and the self-effacement of the governor which it implied, could commend itself but little to one who had confessedly come to Canada as a "political physician" proposing to rectify the troubled situation by his own administrative skill. Interviews followed between Baldwin and Sir Francis Head, at Which the former refused to hold office unless the remaining Tory members of the executive, who were also legislative councillors,1 should be dismissed. Baldwin indeed, suffering from Ihe domestic affliction he had just sustained in the loss of his wife, appears to have been reluctant to assume the cares of office. On reconsideration, however, the Reformers decided to accept the positions offered and were duly appointed (February 20th, 183G). It was, nevertheless, made quite clear to the governor that Baldwin and his friends accepted office only on the understanding that they must have his entire confidence. A letter, written at this time by Bald-win to Peter Ferry, his father's friend and fellow Reformer, accurately explains the situation and elucidates also the full force of the "one idea" by which the writer was animated. "His Excellency having done me the honour to send for me .... expressed himself most desirous that I should afford him my assistance by joining his executive council, assuring me that in the event of my acceding to his proposals I should enjoy his full and entire confidence .... I proceeded to state that .... I would not be performing my duty to my sovereign or the country, if I .lid not with His Excellency's permission, explain fully to His Excellency my views of the constitution of the province and the change necessary in the practical administration of it, particularly as I considered the delay in adopting this change as the great and all absorbing grievance before which all others n my mind sank into insignificance, and the remedy for which would most effectually lead, and that in a constitutional way, to the redress of every other grievance .... and that these desirable objects would be accomplished without the least entrenching upon the just and necessary pierogative of the Crown, which I consider, when administered by a lieutenant-governor through the medium of a provincial ministry responsible to the provincial parliament, to be an essential part of the constitution of the province." Baldwin adds that the "call for an elective legislative council which had been formally made from Lower Canada, and which had been taken up and appeared likely to be responded to in this province, was as distasteful to me as it could be to any one."

The new ministry were no sooner appointed than they found themselves in a quite impossible position. Head had no intention of governing according to their advice. On the contrary he proceeded at once to make official appointments from among the ranks of their opponents, calling down thereby the censure of the assembly. The new council now found themselves called to account by the country for executive acts in which they had had no share. The 40 formal remonstrances which they addressed to the lieutenant'-governor drew from him a direct denial of their cardinal principle of government. "The lieutenant-governor maintains," they were informed, "that responsibility to the people who are already represented in the House of Assembly, is unconstitutional; that it is the duty of the council to serve him, not them." To say this was, of course, to throw down the gauntlet. The new ministers resigned at once (March 4th, 1836), and henceforth there was war to the knife between the governor and the party of Reform. The majority of the assembly, espousing the cause of the outgoing ministers, refused to vote the appropriation of the moneys over which it had control. Sir Francis had recourse to a dissolution (May 28th, 1836). In the general election which followed, he exerted himself strenuously on the side of the Tories.1 To Lord Glenelg he denounced the "low-bred antagonist democracy" which he felt it his duty to combat. In an address issued to the electors of the Newcastle district, the voters were told, "if you choose to dispute with me and live on bad terms with the mother country, you will, to use a homely phrase, only quarrel with your bread and butter." The Tories made desperate efforts. Large sums of money were subscribed. The Anglican interest was enlisted on behalf of the clergy reserves, the special landed provision for the Anglican Church (under the Constitutional Act of 1791) out of which Sir John Colborne, the preceding governor, had endowed forty-four rectories, a policy to which the Reformers were bitterly opposed. The Methodists, fearing to be carried to extremes, veered away from the party of Reform.1 The latter, meanwhile, were not idle. Baldwin himself, indeed, bad no share in the campaign, having sailed for England shortly after his resignation, pursued by a letter from the irate governor to Lord Glenelg in which lie was denounced as an agent of the revolutionary party.

Meantime the Reform party had organized a Constitutional Reform Society of Upper Canada (.July I6th, 1830) of which Dr. William Baldwin was president and Francis Hincks secretary. The programme of the society called for "responsible advisers to the governor" and the "abolition of the rectories established by Sir John Colborne." In the tumultuous election which ensued, the governor and his party, with the aid of intimidation, violence and fraud, carried the day. Sir Francis found himself supported by a "bread and butter parliament," as the new assembly was christened in memory of the Newcastle address. Henceforth the extreme party of the Reformers lost hope of constitutional redress.

It is no part of the present narrative to relate the story of the armed rebellion which followed and which the subjects of the present biography had no share. Mackenzie and his adherents now gathered the farmers of the colony into revolutionary clubs. Messengers went back and forth to the malcontents of Lower Canada. Vigilance committees were formed, and in secret hollows of the upland and in the openings of the forest the yeomanry of the countryside gathered at their nightly drill. Mackenzie passed to and fro among the farmers as a harbinger of the coming storm. He composed and printed a new and purified constitution for Upper Canada, blameless save for its unconscionable length.1 An attack on Toronto, unprotected by royal troops and offering a fair mark for capture, was planned for December 7th, 1837. A veteran soldier, one Van Edmond who had been a colonel under Napoleon, was made generalissimo of the rebel forces. The whole affair ended in a fiasco. Rolpli, joint organizer of the revolt with Mackenzie, fearing detection, hurriedly changed the date of the rising to December 4th. The rebels gathering from the outlying country moved in irregular bands to Montgomery's tavern, some three miles north of the town, and waited in vain for the advent of sufficient members to hazard an attack. In Toronto, for some days intense apprehension reigned. The alarm bells rang, the citizens were hurriedly enrolled and the onslaught of t he rebels was hourly expected. With the arrival of support from the outside in the shape of a steamer from the town of Hamilton with sixty men led by Colonel Allan MacNab, confidence was renewed. More reinforcements arriving, the volunteer militia on a bright December afternoon (December 7th, 1837) marched northward with drums beating, colours flying, two small pieces of artillery following their advance guard, and scattered the rebel forces iu headlong flight. The armed insurrection, save for random attempts at invasion of the country from the American frontier in the year following, had collapsed.

In the insurrectionary movement, neither Baldwin nor Hincks, as already said, had any share. The former who had now returned from England, did, however, play a certain part in the exciting days of December, a part which m later days bis political opponents wilfully misconstrued. Sir Francis Bond Head in the disorder of the first alarm, whether from a sudden collapse of nerves or with a shrewd idea of gaining time, was anxious to hold parley with the rebels Robert Baldwin was hurriedly summoned to the governor and despatched, along with Dr. John Rolph, under a flag of truce, to ask of the rebels the reason of their appearance in arms. Baldwin and Rolph rode out on horseback to Montgomery's tavern, where Mackenzie informed them that the rebels wanted independence and that f Sir Francis Head wished to communicate with them it must be done in writing. Rolph meanwhile, who was himself one of the organizers of the revolt, entered into private conversation with Samuel Lount changed later in Toronto for his share in the rebellion), telling Lount. in an undertone to pay no attention to the message. Baldwin returned to Toronto, but, finding that the governor would put no message in writing, he again rode out to the rebel camp and apprised Mackenzie of this fact. The peculiar nature of this embassy and the known complicity of Rolph in the revolt, gave a false colour in the minds of the malicious to Baldwin's conduct. By the partisan press he was denounced as a rebel and a traitor. Even on the floor of the Canadian parliament (October 13th, 1842) Sir Allan MacNab did not scruple to taunt him with his share in the events of the revolt. But it is beyond a doubt that, Baldwin had no complicity in the rebellion, nor was his embassy anything more than a reluctant task undertaken from a sense of public duty. -

While these affairs were happening in Upper Canada, the insurrectionary movement in the Lower Province had run a like disastrous course. The home government, alarmed at the continued legislative deadlock, had ordered an investigation at the hands of a special commission with a new governor-general, Lord Gosford, (who arrived on August 23rd, 1835) at its head. Gosford tried in vain the paths of peace, spoke the malcontents fair and invited the leaders of the party to his t able. But the assembly would nothing of Lord Gosford's overtures. Papineau denied the powers of the imperial commissioners and boasted on the floor of the assembly that an "epoch is approaching when America will give republics to Europe."' The report of the commissioners (March, 1837) dissipated the last hopes of constitutional redress. It condemned the principle of an elective Upper House, declared that ministerial responsibility was inadmissible, suggested that means should be found to elect a British majority by altering the franchise, and recommended coercion in the last resort. Following on the report came a series of resolutions moved in the House of Commons by Lord John Russell, who declared in terms that "an elective council for legislation and a responsible executive council combined with a representative assembly would be quite incompatible with the rightful iuter-relalionship of any colony with the mother country." A bill was brought forward to dispose of the revenue of Lower Canada without the consent of the assembly. After this the leader of the movement saw no recourse but open rebellion. The peasanty of the Montreal district, obedient to the call, took up arms. There was a short, sharp struggle along the Richelieu, at the little villages of St. Denis and St. Charles, and southward on the American frontier. Sir John Colborne, hurriedly recalled to Canada to take command, crushed out the revolt. Papineau fled to the United States, leaving to his followers nothing but the memory of a lost cause.

Among those who had warmly espoused the side of Reform m Lower Canada, but who, like Baldwin and Hincks in the Upper Province, had had no sympathy with armed insurrection, was Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine. LaFontaine, the son of a farmer of Boucherville,1 in the county of Chambly, was born in October, 1807. His grandfather had been a member of the assembly of Lower Canada from 179G until 1801. LaFontaine was educated at the College of Montreal, where he distinguished himself as well by the natural alertness of his mind as by a stubborn self-assertion which rendered somewhat irksome to him the narrow, clerical discipline of the institution. After studying law in the office of a Mr. Roy, LaFontaine entered upon legal practice in the town of Montreal. Here in 18.31 he married Mile. Adele Bert helot, daughter of a Lower Canadian advocate, who died, however, a few years later leaving no children. Into the political struggle of the time Lafontaine threw himself with great activity. He was elected a member of the assembly for Terrebonne in 1830 and became a supporter, though not entirely a follower, of the turbulent Papineau. Between the two French-Canadian leaders, there were from the start marked differences both of opinion and of purpose. Papineau, aware of the great influence of the clergy,2 was anxious to conciliate their interests and enlist their support. LaFontaine, bold if not heterodox in his views, stood out as the champion against the traditional dominance of the priesthood. Although LaFontaine had no sympathy whatever with violent measures, he distinguished himself during the constitutional agitation as one of the boldest of the agitators. His first action in the legislature was to second a motion for the refusal of supplies, and throughout the years preceding the rebellion, both from his place in parliament and in the press, he exerted himself unceasingly in the cause of the popular party. When the storm broke in 1837, he endeavoured in vain to dissuade his fellow-countrymen from taking up arms. A few days after the skirmishes on the Richelieu (December, 1837) he went from Montreal to Quebec to beg Lord Gosford to call a meeting of the legislature with a view to prevent further violence. On the refusal of the governor to do so, LaFontaine took ship for England. Feaung, however, that his complicity in the agitation preceding the Canadian revolt might lead to his arrest, he fled from England and spent some little time in France. Thence he returned to Canada in May, 1838. This was the moment when Sir .John Colborne was busily employed in extinguishing the still smouldering ashes of revolt. Wholesale arrests of supposed sympathizers were made. An ordinance passed by Sir John Colborne and his special council, appointed under the Act suspending the constitution of Lower Canada,1 declared the Habeas Corpus Act to be without force in the province. The prisons were soon filled to overflowing. Among those arrested was Ilippolyte LaFontaine, an arrest for which legal grounds were altogether lacking. LaFontaine, since his return to Canada, had written a letter to Girouard, one of his associates m the constitutional agitation, in regard to the frontier disturbances of 1838, recommending, in what was clearly and evidently an ironical Vein, a continuance of the insurrection. On the strength of this and on the ground of his having been notorious as a leader of the French-Canadian faction, he was arrested on November 7th, 1838, and imprisoned at Montreal. The evident insufficiency of the charges against him, led shortly to his release without trial.1 The collapse of the rebellion, the flight of Papineau and O'Callaghan. and the arrest of Wolfred Nelson and many other leaders, naturally induced the despairing people of Lower Canada to look for guidance to the moderate members of the party who had realized from the first the folly of armed revolt. In the period of reconstruction which now followed under the rule of Lord Durham and Lord Sydenham, LaFontaine was recognized as the leader of the national Reform party of Lower Canada, energetic in its protest against the proposed system of union and British preponderance but determined by constitutional means, when the union was forced upon them, to turn it to account in the interest of French Canada.


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