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The Story of Manitoba
Chapter XXX The Bill of Rights


The delegates met in convention on the afternoon of December 1, and after a short session adjourned until six o'clock. When they met in the evening, the following "Bill of Rights" was introduced by some of the French members, and the majority of the delegates agreed to it as a basis on which the claims of the colony would be presented to the dominion government:

"1. That the people have the right to elect their own Legislature.

"2. That the Legislature have the power to pass all laws local to the Terri tory over a veto of the Executive by a two-thirds vote.

"3. That no Act of the Dominion Parliament (local to the Territory; he binding on the people until sanctioned by the Legislature of the Territory.

"4. That all Sheriffs, Magistrates, Constables, School Commissioners, etc., etc., be elected by the people.

"5. A free Homestead and pre-emption Land Law.

"6. That a portion of the public lands be appropriated to the benefit of Schools, the building of Bridges, Roads, and Public Buildings.

"7 That it be guaranteed to connect Winnipeg by Rail with the nearest line of Railroad within a term of five years, the Land Grant to be subject to the Local Legislature.

"8. That for the term of four years all military, civil, and municipal expenses be paid out of the Dominion Funds.

"9. That the military be composed of the inhabitants now existing in the Territory.

"10. That the English and French languages be common in the Legislature and Courts, and that all Public Documents and Acts of the Legislature be published m both languages.

"11. That the Judge of the Supreme Court speak both the English and French languages.

"12. That Treaties be concluded and ratified between the Dominion Government and the several Tribes of Indians in the Territory to ensure peace on the frontier.

''13. That we have a fair and full representation in the Canadian Parliament.

"14. That all privileges, customs, and usages existing at the time of the transfer be respected."

The French delegates then proposed that two English and two French members of the convention be sent to Pembina to ask Mr. McDougall if he could guarantee these rights by virtue of his commission, and if he could, to assure him that both sections of the convention would welcome him to the capital; otherwise they would request him to remain at Pembina until the bill of rights was guaranteed by the Dominion parliament. But the proposal was not adopted, as the English delegates claimed that they had not been appointed to take such a step, and so the convention was dissolved without further action.

The Dominion government appeared to realize at last that it had been too hasty in some of its steps and remiss in others. It is more than probable that it had received a strong hint from the imperial authorities that the just claims of the people of Red River should be settled before their country was annexed to Canada; but it was unwilling to assume responsibility for its own blunders, and showed a disposition to make Governor McDougall the scapegoat for its sins. It temporized, hoping that time would obviate its difficulties. It neither recalled Mr. McDougall nor did anything to enable him to enter the territory which it had sent him to govern. On November 10th the secretary of state wrote him a letter, approving of his decision to remain at Pembina, advising him that he could assert no authority in the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company until the annexation of that territory had been announced by royal proclamation, and warning him against any action which might be construed as a violation of the neutrality law of the United States. But the Queen's proclamation was delayed, thus leaving the colony under the government of the Hudson's Bay Company and throwing upon that corporation the task of quelling the insurrection.

Governor McDougall had been led to believe that a suggestion made by the governor-general would be carried out and that the postponed proclamation would be made on December 1st. Formal notice to that effect had not been received by him, but he assumed that it had been sent and delayed in the mails. Proceeding on this assumption, he had not. passed the month of November in entire inaction at Pembina. He seems to have been in constant communication with friends in the settlement who were anxious to secure his admission to Fort Garry, although they had not devised any effective means of attaining their object. He and they felt justified in taking decided action on December 1st. On that date he issued a proclamation on his own authority, citing the clauses of the British North America Act, the minute of Her Majesty's Privy Council, and the Rupert's Land Act, which made the territory a part of Canada, formally declared that the transfer was consummated on December 1st, and announced his own appointment as lieutenant-governor. "Watching for a favorable opportunity, the governor, Mr. Provencher, and Mr. Richards crossed the boundary into the territory and had the proclamation read in due form. Copies of it in English and French had been taken to Fort Garry- by Mr. Newcombe and posted up there and in other parts of the settlement by friends of the governor. At first people were inclined to believe that the Dominion government had really proclaimed the annexation of the territory; but after a time they learned +hat it had postponed the proclamation indefinitely, and so the hasty action of Governor McDougall did more harm than good to his cause. On December 2nd he issued another proclamation, announcing that all public officials in Rupert's Land, except Governor Mactavish, were to continue m office until otherwise ordered.

He also issued a commission to Colonel Dennis on December 1st, appointing him deputy-governor. The document states that bodies of armed men on the road between Pembina and Fort Garry have arrested and held as prisoners a

number of private persons and officials, that these armed men have refused to disperse in obedience to the proclamation of Governor Mactavish. that they have seized Fort Garry and have taken possession of records and public property, and that Mr. McDougall had been appointed to perform the duties of lieutenant-governor; and then this statement follows:

"I have nominated and appointed, and, by these presents, do nominate and appoint you, the said John Houghton Dennis, to be my Lieutenant, and a Conservator of the Peace in and for the North-West Territories, and do hereby authorize and empower you as such to raise, organize, arm, equip, and provision a sufficient force within the said Territories, and, with the said force, to attack, arrest, disarm, or disperse the said armed men, so unlawfully assembled and disturbing the public peace; and for that purpose, and with the force aforesaid, to assault, lire upon, pull down, or break into any fort, house, stronghold, or other place in which the said armed men may be found; and 1 hereby authorize you, as such Lieutenant and Conservator of the Peace, to hire, purchase, impress, and take all necessary clothing, arms, ammunition, and supplies, and all cattle, horses, wagons, sleighs, or other vehicles, which may be required for the use of the force to be raised as aforesaid; and I further authorize you to appoint as many officers and deputies under you, and to give them such orders and instructions, from time to time, as may be found necessary for the due performance of the service herein required of you, reporting to me the said appointments and orders, as you shall find opportunity, for confirmation or otherwise.

"And I hereby give you full power and authority to call upon all magistrates and peace officers to aid and assist you, and to order all or any of the inhabitants of the North-West Territories in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, to support and assist you in protecting the lives and i>roperties of Her I Majesty's loyal subjects, and in preserving the public peace, and, for that purpose, to seize, disperse, or overcome by force, the said armed men, and all others who may be found aiding or abetting them in their unlawful acts."

Colonel Dennis began at once to carry out the instructions embodied in his commission, He arrived at "Winnipeg on December 1st, had the governor's proclamation posted up in various parts of the settlement, and began to enroll

I the force which his commission authorized him to raise. He made Lower Fort Garry his headquarters, as it was the only fortified post in the vicinity. He requisitioned and purchased supplies, arms, and ammunition and entrusted Major Poult on with the task of enrolling volunteers in the neighboring parishes. The major reported a ready response to his call, and soon each parish had a company of fifty men, officered and ready for drill. A company was formed in Winnipeg, with Dr. Lynch as captain, Mr. Miller as first lieutenant, and Mr. Allen as second lieutenant. Major Webb was sent to Portage la Prairie to organize four companies in that district. A number of Indians, led by Chief Prince, came up from Lake Winnipeg to offer their services to Colonel Dennis.

The effect of Governor McDougall's proclamation on the loyal people of the settlement was very marked, and if the authority which he assumed had been real, it is probable that Colonel Dennis would have been able to organize a force large enough to overawe Kiel's band and lead to its quiet dispersion. But when Major Boulton called a public meeting in Kildonan about December 5th to enroll volunteers for Colonel Dennis' force some of those present questioned

the authority of the governor to make such a proclamation, and before long it became known that the Dominion government, still waiting for something to happen which would release it from the difficult position in which its own blunders had placed it, had not authorized the proclamation annexing the North-West Territories on December 1st. This information showed that Colonel Dennis, although acting in good faith, had in reality no legal warrant for raising and equipping a volunteer force in the colony, and the volunteers soon lost all enthusiasm in the movement.

On the Metis, however, the effect of Colonel Dennis' efforts was quite the contrary of that expected. A number of them had never approved of the extreme measures adopted by Kiel, and soon after the appearance of Governor McDougall's proclamation, Francois Nolin, Augustin Nolin, and Jean Baptiste Perreault met Mr. A. G. B. Bannatyne, who persuaded them that their leader's attitude was likely to involve the whole settlement in very serious trouble. They proposed to have fifty men of the Metis party and fifty of the English settlers meet to discuss the bill of rights, send delegates to Mr. McDougall, and. if he promised to do all in his power to obtain these rights, .bring him to Fort Garry. These men went to work in earnest, and there was some prospect that a majority of Kiel's council would adopt their views; but Colonel Dennis' preparations for putting down the Metis by force of arms thwarted the plans of Messrs. Nolin and Perreault, caused the Metis to rally around their leader more unitedly than before, and enabled him to increase his force in Fort Garry.

A quantity of government provisions intended for the road-building and surveying parties had been stored in Dr. Schultz' warehouse for the winter. These provisions would have been of great use to Colonel Dennis' force in its campaign against the Metis, and his supporters were anxious lest they should fall into the hands of the enemy. Riel had had an inventory of them made and offered to place a. guard over them lest they should be taken by persons who had no right to do so. But this sounded too much like his pretext for seizing the property of the Hudson's Bay Company, and his offer was declined. A number of Canadian sympathizers, who had gone from Winnipeg to Lower Fort Garry to enroll themselves in Colonel Dennis' force, were sent back with orders to keep together for mutual protection. To do this and at the same time to protect the government stores they occupied Dr. Schultz' buildings. On December 4th Colonel Dennis sent a note, asking them to withdraw from the place, but they decided to remain. On the 6th he wrote Major Boulton, telling him that he did not wish Dr. Schultz and those with him to occupy the warehouse longer. During the following evening the major rode over to Dr. Schultz' house and gave him Colonel Dennis' message. A number of leading men were present, and after some consultation, it was decided to evacuate the premises next day. There were several ladies in the. party occupying Dr. Schultz' house, and in order to find some place of shelter for them the departure was delayed.

On the morning of the 7th some of the citizens of Winnipeg decided to ask Dr. Schultz to abandon his position on the ground that the presence" of an armed body of men on his premises angered the Metis and endangered the whole community. About the same time Mr. Snow and others went to Riel, told him that the party in Dr Schultz' house had assembled there only to protect their lives and property, and that if he would guarantee these, they would retire quietly to their homes. Riel replied by the following curt order;

"Communication received this 7th day of December, 1869. Dr. Schultz and men are hereby ordered to give up their arms and surrender themselves. Their lives will be spared should they comply. In case of refusal, all the English half-breeds and other natives, women and children, are at liberty to depart unmolested.

Louis Riel.

"Port Garry, 7th December, 1869.

"The surrender will be accepted at or before fifteen minutes after the order."

To enforce compliance with this peremptory order Riel called out more than two hundred of his "soldiers," and taking a few cannon, marched down to Dr. Schultz' house. Unable to help themselves and believing the surrender to be a mere form, the following persons—forty-three in all -signed the capitulation: Joseph Lynch, M. I)., John Schultz, M. D., Arthur Hamilton, G. I). McYicar, R. P. Meade, Henry "Woodington, "VV. J. Allen, Thomas Langman. D. U. Campbell, John O'Donnell, M. D„ \V. F. Hyman, James Dawson, W. J. Davis, J. IS. Haines, George Fortney, WTm. Graham, Wm. Nimmons, "Win. Kit-son, John Ferguson, Wm. Spice, Thos. Lusted, James Stewart, H. Weightman, L. W. Archibald, C. E. Palmer, Geo. Bubar. Matthew Davis, A. Wright, P. McArthur, Robert Smith, James C. Kent, J. M. Coombs, A. R. Chisholm, John Eccles, John Ivy, F. C. Mugrudge, F. Franklin. Geo. Nicol, Geo. Millar, James II. Ashdown, A. W. Graham, D. Cameron, J. II. Stocks. Two men, not in the house at the time, were summoned by Riel and obliged to add their names to the list; these were James Mulligan and Charles Garret. Three ladies iii the party—Mrs. Schultz, Mrs. Mair, and Mrs. O'Donnell—accompanied the prisoners to Fort Garry, and Mr. J. ft. Mactavish of the Hudson's Bay Company placed his apartments at their disposal; but the men, instead of being released, were confined in very cramped and cold quarters. They had no fire, little bedding, and a scanty supply of food.

Conscious that his actions needed some justification, Riel issued on the next day one of his specious declarations, printed in French and English, It was as follows:

DECLARATION OF THE PEOPLE OF RUPERT'S LAND AND THE NORTH-WEST

"Whereas it is admitted by all men, as a fundamental principle, that the public authority commands the obedience and respect of its subjects. It is also admitted that a people, when it has no government, is free to adopt one form of government in preference to another, to give or refuse allegiance to that which is proposed. In accordance with the above first principle, the people of this country had obeyed and respected that authority to which the circumstances surrounding its infancy compelled it to be subject. A company of adventurers known as the Hudson's Bay Company, and invested with certain powers granted by His Majesty Charles II, established itself m Rupert's Land and in the North-West Territory for trading purposes only. This company, consisting of many persons, required a certain constitution; but as theirs was a question of commerce only, their constitution was framed in reference thereto; and yet, since there was at that time no government to see to the interests a people already existing in the country, it became necessary for judicial affairs to have recourse to the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company. This Inaugu rated that species of government which, slightly modified by subsequent circumstances, ruled the country up to a recent date. "Whereas that government thus accepted was far from answering to the wants of the people, and became more and more so as the population increased in numbers, and as the country was developed, and commerce extended until the present day when it commands a place among the colonies; and this people, ever actuated by the above mentioned principles, had generally supported the aforesaid government, and gave it i: faithful allegiance; when, contrary to the law of nations, in March, 1869, that said government surrendered and transferred to Canada all the rights which it had or pretended to have, in this territory, by transactions with which the people were considered unworthy to be made acquainted. And, whereas it is also generally admitted that a people is at liberty to establish any form of government it may consider suitable to its wants, as soon as the power to which it was subject abandons it or attempts to subjugate it without its consent to a foreign power, and maintained that no right can be transferred to such foreign power.

"Now, therefore, first, we, the representatives of the people in council, assembled at Upper Port Garry, on the 24th of November, 1869, after having invoked the God of Nations, relying on these fundamental moral principles, solemnly declare, in the names of our constituents, and in our own names, before God and man, that from the day on which the Government we had always respected abandoned us, by transferring to a strange power the authority confided to it, the people of Rupert's Land and the North-West became free and exempt from all allegiance to the said Government.

"Second: That we refuse to recognize the authority of Canada, which pretends to have a right to coerce us, and impose upon us a despotic form of government, still more contrary to our rights and interests as British subjects than was that Government to which we had subjected ourselves through necessity up to a recent date.

"Third: That by sending an expedition on the 1st of November ult., charged to drive back Mr. William McDougall and his companions, coming in the name of Canada to rule us with a rod of despotism, without a previous notification to that effect, we have acted conformably to that sacred right which commands every citizen to offer energetic opposition to prevent his country being enslaved.

"Fourth: That we continue, and shall continue, to oppose, with all our strength, the establishing of the Canadian authority in our country under the announced form, and in case of persistence on the part of the Canadian Government to enforce its obnoxious policy upon us by force of arms, we protest beforehand against such an unjust and unlawful course; and we declare the said Canadian Government responsible before God and man for the innumerable evils which may be caused by so unwarrantable a course.

"Be it known, therefore, to the world in general, and to the Canadian Government in particular, that as we have always heretofore successfully defended


Dr. J. H. O'donnell

our country in frequent wars with the neighboring tribes of Indians, who are now on friendly relations with us, we are firmly resolved in future, not less than in the past, to repel all invasions from whatsoever quarters they may come; and furthermore, we do declare and proclaim, in the name of the people of Rupert's Land and the North-West, that we have, on the said 24th of November, 1869, above mentioned, established a provisional government, and hold it to be the only lawful authority now in existence in Rupert's Land and the North-West which claims the obedience and respect of the people; that meanwhile we hold ourselves in readiness to enter into such negotiations with the Canadian Government as may be favorable for the good government and prosperity of this people. In support of this declaration, reiving on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge ourselves on oath, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to each other.

"Issued at Fort Garry, this 8th day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty nine.

John Bruce, President.

Louis Riel. Secretary.''

Thus Riel strove to persuade his followers, and perhaps himself, that their agitation was about to be crowned with success. Indeed they had some reason for thinking so. Colonel Dennis' scheme for bringing the insurrection to an end had utterly collapsed, and forty-five of his supporters were prisoners in Fort Garry. To prevent Governor McDougall from making another attempt to cross the border Riel sent a band of forty men to guard the roads about the Hudson's Bay Company's post at Pembina. Mr. J. Snow was ordered to arrange his affairs and leave the country. Dr. Bown, editor of the Nor'-Wester, did not wait for a similar order, but retired quietly to Eagle's Nest, a little post of the Hudson's Bay Company on the Winnipeg river. Colonel Dennis, recognizing the futility of further effort on behalf of the governor just then, decided to leave the colony. He wrote to Mr. A. G. B. Bannatyne, asking him to inform the people in arms that he would be glad to do anything in his power to bring about a settlement of the colony's difficulties, and inclosed a copy of a proclamation, which was printed and distributed during the day. It was as follows:

"PEACE PROCLAMATION

"Lower Fort Garry, Red River Settlement, "December 9, 1869.

"To all whom it may concern:

"By certain printed papers, of late put in circulation by the French party, communication with the lieutenant-governor is indicated with a view to laying before him alleged rights on the part of those now in arms. I think that course very desirable, and that it would lead to good results. Under the belief that the party in arms are sincere in their desire for peace, and feeling that to abandon for the present the call on the loyal to arms would, in view of such communication, relieve the situation of much embarrassment and so contribute to bring about, peace and save the country from what will otherwise end in rum and desolation, I now call on and order the loyal party in the North-West Territories to cease further action under the appeal to arms made by me; and

I call on the French party to satisfy the people of their sincerity in wishing for a peaceful ending of all these troubles by sending a deputation to the lieutenant-governor at Pembina without any unnecessary delay.

"Given under my hand at Lower Fort Garry-, this 9th day of December. 1869.

J. S. Dennis, Lieutenant and Conservator of the Peace in and for the North-West Territories."

There was some fear that the Sioux, who had come north and settled in the neighborhood of Portage la Prairie a few years earlier, would be drawn into the struggle between the Metis and Canadian parties, and Colonel Dennis sent Major Boulton to induce them to remain quiet. On his way west the major barely escaped capture at the hands of some of Riel's men; but he carried out his mission to the Sioux successfully and secured from their chief a promise to keep the peace. During the next few months he remained at Portage la Prairiebut Colonel Dennis rejoined Governor McDougali at Pembina and soon after returned to Canada.

In the meantime the Dominion government had left Mr. McDougall at Pembina, without support and almost without instructions. On November 29th he wrote to Honorable Joseph Howe, the secretary of state, "I have the honor to report that I am still at Pembina, in the territory of the United States, and unable, in consequence of the continued occupation of the road by armed men, to proceed to Fort Garry. I have further to report that I have not received any instructions for my guidance on and after the day of the transfer of the territory to Canada, nor any notice of the order in council, which has no doubt been passed to effect it. In these circumstances, I am compelled to act upon the general powers and directions of my commission, and of the Acts of Parliament, Canadian and Imperial, which seem to bear upon the case." He then explained what he intended to do on December 1st. When the proceedings of that day were over, he duly reported them to Hon. Mr. Howe. Mr. McDougall did not receive the reply of the secretary of state before he left Pembina; but when it did reach hiin, it must have given him a surprise. Mr. Howe condemned in pointed terms the issue of the governor's proclamation, the commission to Colonel Dennis, and the attempt of the latter to raise an armed force in the colony. He censured Colonel Dennis as well as the governor, misconstruing some of the facts of the case in doing so, for the colonel had acted in good faith and believed that his commission was valid. Inadvertently, too, Mr. Howe gave the governor a glimpse of the temporizing policy of the government and its desire to shift the responsibility of settling the Red River troubles to other shoulders than its own. He said, '.'Had the inhabitants of Rupert's Land, on the breaking out of the disturbances, risen and put an end to them, or had Governor Mactavish organized a force to occupy his forts, and maintain his authority, all would have been well, and Riel and his people would have been responsible for any bloodshed or property destroyed."

Hearing 1hat Riel would be at the Pembina post of the Hudson's Bay Company on December 13, Mr. McDougall wrote to him, proposing an interview in which they could discuss the difficulties which had arisen. Among other things, he said, "I have full powers from the Government, as well as the strongest desire personally, to meet all just claims of every class and section of the people.

Why should you not come to me and discuss the matter? I beg you to believe that what occurred will not affect my mind against you or those for whom you may be authorized to speak. The interview proposed must be without the knowledge or privity of certain American citizens here, who pretend to be en rapport with you. I trust to your honor on this point.'' But Riel did not reply, and so the interview never took place. As it seemed to Mr. McDougall that the Dominion government was ignoring him entirely, he decided to wait at Pembina no longer, and on December 18th he departed for Canada.


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