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The Story of Manitoba
Chapter XXV The Increasing Unrest


Dissatisfaction with the rule of the Hudson's Bay Company seems to have been stronger among people who had recently come to the Red River Settlement from Canada and the United States, where they had been accustomed to self-government, than among the old settlers, who had passed most of their lives in the colony. The growing discontent with the company's government was increased by a new power in the land, that of the press. In 1859 two gentlemen from Canada, Messrs. "William Buckingham and William Caldwell, brought a printing press to Port Garry, and on December 28th of that year the first number of their newspaper, the Nor'-Wester, appeared. It was published fortnightly, and the subscription price was twelve shillings per year. The price was soon reduced to ten shillings, and after a time the paper became a weekly. The year which brought the first newspaper to Fort Garry also brought Dr. John Schultz, who was to become Sir John Schultz and governor of Manitoba later; and for several years Dr. Schultz and the Nor'-Wester were closely connected. In 1860 Mr. Buckingham retired from the management of the paper, and his place was taken by Mr. James Ross, who edited it for some time; but in 1864 Ross sold his interest in the journal to Dr. Schultz, and in the next year the latter bought Mr. Caldwell's interest and so became sole proprietor of the paper. He retained control of it for several years.

Under the editorship of Mr. Ross the Nor'-Wester had opposed the government of the Hudson's Bay Company and had criticised the acts of the Council of Assiniboia, notwithstanding the fact that its editor held the positions of sheriff, governor of the jail, and postmaster from the counci1. When his censures became more severe, the council deprived him of all these posts, Mr. Henry McKenney being made sheriff and governor of the jail and Mr. A. G. B. Bannatyne being appointed postmaster. Thereupon Mr. Ross' opposition to the company's government became more vigorous than ever, and it was not confined to articles in his new spaper by any means. He called meetings of the people in various parts of the settlement, made addresses, and conducted a very active campaign against the methods of government adopted by the company. It was proposed to send him to England with a petition from the people, asking the imperial authorities to provide a new form of government for the Red River colony; but this plan was modified, and Mr. Sandford Fleming was selected to represent the discontented settlers before the British ministers.

When the Nor'-Wester passed into the hands of Dr. Schultz, its demands for self-government for the colony and its attacks on the Hudson's Bay Company became more vigorous and more persistent. In November, 1866, Mr. Clare, the chief factor of the company at Fort Garry, died while on his way to England This left a vacant seat in the Council of Assiniboia, and the Nor-Wester at once proposed that the vacancy should be tilled by a man selected by the people, suggesting Dr Schultz as the most suitable representative. A petition was drawn up signed by a number of the people, and presented to the council, asking that body to elect Dr. Schultz as one of its members. In reply, Mr. Smith, the secretary of the council, informed the petitioners, that the members of the Council of Assiniboia were appointed by the governor and committee of the Hudson's Bay Company and that the petition would be transmitted to that body in London. Mr. Smith added that a counter-petition had been presented by some of the citizens of the colony and that it, too, would be sent to the head office of the company for consideration.

The failure of this attempt to secure a seat for Dr. Schultz in the Council of Assiniboia gave the Nor'-Wester fresh occasion for attacks upon that body. It declared that the officials of the company, who were the dominating element in the council, cared little for the welfare of the people, being anxious only to promote the commercial success of the company; that many of the people were ''openly discussing the propriety of taking the government from its present hands into their own land that the time was close at hand when representatives of the people would have seats in the governing council of the land as a matter of right and justice not as a favor from a commercial corporation.

Incidents were not lacking to show that the Council of Assiniboia was no longer qualified to make or administer the laws of the colony, and the Nor'-Wester did not fail to use them in support of its contentions. Such an incident occurred in 1863. In December, 1862, a clergyman named Corbett was arrested,< charged with a serious crime. This man had given strong evidence against the Hudson's Bay Company in the parliamentary investigation into its affairs in the year 1857, and his friends claimed that his arrest seven years later was an act of retaliation, instigated by the company. The trial began on February 19, 1863, and after a long hearing, the jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Early in April a petition, signed by 420 people, was presented to the governor and Council of Assiniboia, asking for Corbett's release on the ground that he had borne a good character previous to his arrest, that he had done good work among his parishioners, that he had already been sufficiently punished, and that his health would be endangered by further confinement. The governor, the members of the council, and Judge Black could see no good reason for annulling the original sentence, and so the petition was not granted. On April 20th there was a session of the petty court in one of the rooms of the building in which Corbett was confined, and an unusual number of people seemed to have been drawn thither. After the business of the court was concluded, a number of determined men gathered about the door of Corbett's cell, overawed the old Frenchman who acted as turnkey, and broke open the prison door. Corbett, who seemed fully-prepared to leave the place, stepped out of his prison and was immediately escorted to his home in Headingly.

James Stewart, the master of the parochial school at St, James, was known to be one of the leaders of the party which released Corbett. Warrants for the arrest of this man and twelve of his associates were issued at once, and on the following day Stewart was lodged in the very cell front which he had liberated Corbett. On that afternoon two of his friends, William Hallett and John Bourke, both men of considerable influence among one section of the people, visited Governor Dallas to ask that Stewart be set free and that no further action be taken against his accomplices. When the governor explained that he had no power to grant their petition, they assured him that, if the authorities did not release Stewart, his friends would set him free by force. On the next day, April 22nd, a large force of constables was sworn in to guard the prison, and a special meeting of the council was called. Some of Stewart's friends appeared before it and repeated the request for his release, while some fifty others waited outside. When the deputation came out and reported to the waiting men that their request had been refused, the whole party moved over to the prison,. pulled down the pickets which inclosed the prison yard, broke open the jail, and liberated their friend. The authorities made no effort to prevent this lawless proceeding, and the freed prisoner and his rescuers went to their homes m triumph.

No attempt was made to recapture Corbett, and about a year later he left the country. A few days after Stewart's liberation the justices of the peace addressed a letter to the governor, recounting the circumstances of his arrest and rescue and advising that no further action against him or the other rioters be taken, inasmuch as the sentences of the courts could not be enforced. They also pointed out that, without a force acting under the direct authority of the queen, justice could not be administered except in suits which had no public interest. This was an explicit confession that the settlement had outgrown the form of government which had prevailed in it up to that time, and the Nor'-Wester made the most of the admission.

About five years later the weakness of the government of the colony was shown again, and this time I)r Schultz himself was a prominent figure in the incident. Soon after his arrival iu the Red River Settlement Br. Schultz became a partner of Mr. Henry McKenney, a near relative who was carrying on a business in the little village which was growing up outside the walls of Fort Garry. The partnership was dissolved in the autumn of 1864, the business being continued by Dr. Schultz, while Mr. McKenney became sheriff of the colony and governor of the jail. Before all the partnership accounts had been settled several suits were instituted in the courts of the colony, and these suits, in one form or another, reappeared for about four years. In 1866 one of the principal creditors of the firm secured judgments against both McKenney and Schultz. The former paid the claim against him, but the judgment against the latter was not met, and finally the creditor in whole favor the judgment had been given decided to enforce it.

On the morning of January 17, 1868, Mr. McKenney, in his capacity as sheriff and accompanied by two constables, went to the store of Dr. Schultz to obtain payment of the debt or to seize sufficient goods to satisfy the judgment. His efforts to secure a quiet settlement of the matter having failed, the sheriff directed the constable to seize certain goods in the store; but the proprietor tried to prevent them, and a scuffle followed which resulted in the arrest of the doctor. He was bound, conveyed to Fort Garry, brought before Mr. Roger Goulet, a justice of the peace, and charged with assaulting an officer of the law in the discharge of his duty. The magistrate, believing that the evidence justified the charge, committed the prisoner to jail to stand his trial at the next session of the court.

In the meantime incidents, not unlike the action of a comic opera, had occurred at the doctor's store. The sheriff had left a constable named Mulligan in charge there; but Mrs. Schultz ordered him to leave the premises. He felt that he had a public duty to perform and refused to desert his post; whereupon the lady had all the doors barred and the window shutters nailed fast, effectually preventing the exit of the constable and the re-entry of the sheriff. Without food, fire or light, the imprisoned constable kept watch over the goods until night came and, with it, a relieving party. Soon after midnight a party of excited men proceeded to the jail at Fort Garry in which Dr. Schultz had been incarcerated, overpowered the jailer and constables who were trying to barricade the door, broke into the cell, and took the prisoner to his home.

No further attempt to arrest Dr. Schultz was made, nor was any action taken against the men who had broken into the jail to liberate hiin. On January 23rd a meeting of the Council of Assiniboia was held at which the critical condition of affairs in the settlement was discussed, and a resolution was adopted,' providing for the enrollment of one hundred special constables, some of whom might be organized into a permanent force if necessary. At a later meeting of the council the special constables were summoned to meet at the court-house on February 10th, when it was expected that the Schultz case would come before the court again, and a large number of them assembled at that date; but the protracted suits over the affairs of McKenney and Schultz had been settled out of court a few days earlier, and so the constables were paid and dismissed. All these events furnished vantage grounds from which the Nor'-Wester could attack the inefficient government of the colony and advocate a change whereby members of the council would be elected by the people. All the people of the settlement, however, were not in sympathy with the action of the party which had released Dr. Schultz, and a statement that this unlawful proceeding was not approved by the majority of the citizens was drawn up, signed by 804 men, and forwarded to the council.

While these events were agitating the people in the settlements along the Red River, events were occurring in the district about Portage la Prairie, which, in spite of their comic aspects, served to show how sorely the country needed a new form of government. Quite a large settlement had grown up there; but as it was at some distance from Fort Garry, the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company was scarcely felt in the management of its public affairs. Early in 1863 a number of the residents of the district presented a petition to the Governor and Council of Assiniboia, asking that it should be included within the municipal limits of the District of Assiniboia; but in its reply the council stated that any attempt to extend its jurisdiction without adequate military support would not be likely to secure the good government 'which the petitioners desired. The council was anxious to help the people of Portage la Prairie and requested Governor Dallas, who was going to England in a short time, to present their case to the authorities of the Hudson's Bay Company in London. Thrown on their own resources, the people decided to organize among themselves the machinery for local self-government; and in December, 1863, acting on the advice and under the direction of Rev. Archdeacon Cochran, they elected councillors and magistrates and organized a council and courts, whose powers and duties were similar to those of the corresponding institutions in Assiniboia. Ail the functionaries were to be elected by the people, however. Owing to the mixed character of the population of the settlement sectional feeling sometimes ran nigh, but the strong personality of Archdeacon Cochran kept the governing machinery of the district running quite smoothly until a disturbing element appeared in the person of Mr. Thomas Spence. This gentleman had arrived in the Red River Settlement in the autumn of 18C6, and very soon afterwards he had made himself prominent in the political agitation which was going on at Fort Garry, taking sides Avith the party whose champion was Dr. Schultz. In the spring of 1867 he removed to Portage la Prairie and renewed his political activity there. In a short time he became the recognized leader of one of the factions of the district, was elected to the council, and soon became its dominant member. Through his influence some radical changes were made in the form of government and the boundaries of the district, and its name was changed from Portage la Prairie to Caledonia and subsequently to Manitoba. In January, 1868, a new council was elected, and Mr. Spence was chosen as chief magistrate or president of the new republic, which was to be quite independent of the district ruled by the Hudson's Bay Company from Fort Garry. All citizens were required to take an oath of allegiance to the new government, and the council took steps to erect public buildings, those most urgently needed being a court-house and a jail. To raise the money necessary for the construction of these buildings the council decided to levy a duty on all goods imported into the republic, and notices were served on all traders that such duties must be paid in future. But the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at Portage la Prairie replied that he would pay no duty on goods brought to his post unless ordered to do so by the governor at Fort Garry; and the council, seeing that it was powerless to compel him to pay, contented itself with intimating that the agent would be provided with a cell in the new jail as soon as it was completed.

The new form of government and the new officials did not receive the universal respect of the citizens. A shoemaker named Macpherson had been heard to say that the money obtained by taxation was more likely to be expended in supplying beer and whiskey for the officers of the government than in erecting public, buildings. "When friends of the government remonstrated with him for making such derogatory statements, he repeated them with various embellishments. The council decided that such a flagrant case of lesc-majeste could not be passed over, and a warrant for his arrest on the charge of treason was issued. Several laughable incidents occurred in connection with the serving of the warrant, but finally Macpherson was apprehended. During the evening a session of the court was held in the house of a man named Hudson to try the case, Spence acting as the judge. During the trial a party of men entered the court and interrupted the proceedings. A squabble ensued, and when it was over, the court was in darkness, the presiding judge and x>resident of the republic lay sprawling on the floor, and the prisoner and his friends had disappeared. An abortive attempt to re-arrest the prisoner was made the next day, and then Spence decided that he had nothing to gain by pushing the matter further. So Macpherson was given a new suit of clothes to replace that ruined during his arrest, and the matter was dropped.

The Macpherson affair destroyed the last shreds of respect which the people of the district had for Spence and his government, hut he still strove to impress people outside of it with his influence and dignity. In the month of February he paid a visit to the governor of Rupert's Land at Fort Garry to interview him in regard to the duties on the company's goods brought to Portage la Prairie for sale. But Spence was bluntly informed that »e duty would be paid unless the company ordered it, that he and his council could collect duties only from those who paid them voluntarily, that any attempts to collect them by force could be legally resisted, and that the administration of oaths of allegiance to the new republic was illegal and laid him open to prosecution.

The republic of Manitoba having received such scant recognition from its own citizens and the officials of the Hudson's Bay Company, its president determined to demand its recognition by the imperial government. So he addressed the following letter to the secretary of state for foreign affairs:

"La Prairie, Manitoba, Via Red River Settlement/, February 19, 1868.

"My Lord,—As president-elect, by the people of the newly organized government and council of Manitoba, in British territory, I have the dutiful honour of laying before your Lordship, for the consideration of Her Most Gracious Majesty, our beloved Queen, the circumstances attending the creation of this self-supporting petty government in this isolated portion of Her Majesty's dominions; and, as loyal British subjects, we humbly and sincerely trust that Her Most Gracious Majesty and her advisers will be pleased forthwith to give this government favorable recognition, it being simply our aim to develop our resources, improve the condition of the people, and generally advance and preserve British interests in this rising Far West.

"An humble address from the people of this settlement to Her Majesty the Queen was forwarded through the Governor-General of Canada, in June last, briefly setting forth the superior attractions of this portion of the British Dominions, the growing population, and the gradual influx of emigrants, and humbly praying for recognition, law, and protection, to which no reply or acknowledgment has as yet reached this people.

"Early in January last, at a public meeting of settlers, who numbered over four hundred, it was unanimously decided to at once proceed to the election and construction of a government, which has accordingly been carried out, a revenue imposed, public buildings commenced to carry out the laws, provision made for Indian treaties, the construction of roads, and other public works tending to promote the interests and welfare of the people, the boundaries of the jurisdiction being, for the time being, proclaimed as follows:

"North, from a point running due north from the boundary line of Assiniboia till it strikes Lake Manitoba; thence, from the point struck, a straight line across the said lake to Manitoba Port< thence by longitudinal line 51, till it intersects line of latitude 100.

"West, by line of latitude 100 to the boundary line of the United States and British America.

East, the boundary line of the jurisdiction of the Council of Assiniboia.

"South, the boundary line between British North America and the United States.

"I have the honor to remain, my Lord,

Your Lordship's obedient servant, Thos. Spence, President of the Council."

Mr Spence received the following reply to his letter:

"Downing Street,

May 30, 1868.

"Sir—1 am directed by the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos to inform you that your letter of the 19th of February last, addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has been forwarded to this department, and that His Grace has also received a copy of a letter addressed by you to Mr. Angus Morrison, a member of the Canadian Parliament, dated the 17th of February last. In these communications you explain the measures that have been taken for creating a so-called self-supporting government m Manitoba, within the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company.

"The people of Manitoba are probably not aware that the creation of a separate government, in the manner set forth in these papers, has no force in law, and that they have no authority to create or organize a government, or freven to set up municipal institutions (properly so-called) for themselves, without reference to the Hudson's Bay Company or to the Crown. Her Majesty's Government are advised that there is no objection to the people of Manitoba voluntarily submitting themselves to rules and regulations, which they may agree to observe for the greater protection and improvement of the territory in which they live, but which will have no force as regards others than those who may have submitted themselves.

"As it is inferred that the intention is to exercise jurisdiction over offenders in criminal cases, levy taxes compulsorily, and to attempt to put in force other powers, which can only be exercised by a properly constituted government, I am desired to warn you that you and your coadjutors are acting illegally in this matter, and that, by the course you are adopting, you are incur ring grave responsibilities.

"I am. Sir,

Your obedient servant."

The letter from the office of the colonial secretary completed the collapse of the government of Manitoba, and soon afterwards the president betook himself to a point of the shore of Lake Manitoba and engaged in the useful occupation of making salt. Accounts of the brief but eventful history of the republic of Manitoba and of the lawlessness attending the arrest of Dr. Schultz were soon sent to Canada and created the impression there that the people of Red River had risen in rebellion against the rule of the Hudson's Bay Company. Indeed the matter assumed sufficient importance there to become a subject of inquiry in the Canadian parliament.

The Nor'-Wester took advantage of the excitement caused by the occurrences at Fort Garry and Portage la Prairie to advocate the presentation of a petition to the Governor and Council of Assiniboia, praying for a change in the system of government, and urged every man m the colony to sign it. Such a document seems to have been drawn up, signed, and presented. It stated that one of the principal grievances of the people of Red River was the fact that they had no voice in the management of public affairs, declared that they were capable of choosing competent persons to make the laws, requested the council to adopt a regulation which would give them the right to elect their own councillors, and asked that the petition be given "the immediate and respectful consideration which the united and expressed wish of a large number of people deserves." The keynote of the petition was to be found in the expression, "All men possessing common sense have a right to a voice in the government under which they live."

Of course the Council of Assiniboia had no power to grant this petition, but whether it was transmitted to the office of the Hudson's Bay Company in London or not we are not told. The failure of the petition led the Nor'-Wester to renew its attacks on the company's government, and there can be no doubt that they helped to draw the attention of Canadian statesmen to the conditions prevailing in the Red River Settlement. Referring to the paper, Governor Dallas once wrote, "Its continued attacks upon the Company find a greedy ear with the public at large, both in the settlement and in Canada.''


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