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The Story of Manitoba
Chapter XXXVII The Republic of Rupert's Land


Perfect harmony had not always marked the relations of Riel and 0'Donoghue during the Metis insurrection. 0'Donoghue was a Fenian and evidently hoped to make the brotherhood and the Metis organization mutually helpful. He desired to prevent the union of Rupert's Land with Canada, preferring to see it annexed to the United States. But while the utterances of the New Nation seem to show that Riel may have been somewhat favorable to annexation during the earlier stages of the rebellion, it seems quite certain that he soon abandoned the idea and wished to maintain the country's connection with Great Britain. Indeed in the later developments of the Metis movement Riel favored confederation with Canada, provided terms acceptable to him and his followers could be secured. While most of the demands of the Metis had been met in the Manitoba Act, their leaders were not recognized in the formation of a government for the new province. Indeed these leaders were evidently regarded as rebels. They were fugitives and little better than outlaws. To that extent the plan of their chief, Riel, had failed; so his lieutenant, 0'Donoghue, decided to put his own scheme to the test.

The Metis of Manitoba were in no pleasant humor. Their insurrection had collapsed, and their "provisional government" had disappeared. As no amnesty had been proclaimed, those who had taken an active part in the rebellion were liable to arrest and punishment. The allotment of their grants of land had been delayed, and the country was being tilled with Canadians. There was less opportunity than formerly to follow their old occupations of hunting and freighting. To crown all there was the enmity of the settlers who had recently come to the province. Thoughtful observers considered the situation very critical and feared that some spark might kindle the discontent of the Metis into an open flame once more. O'Donoghue and his few associates considered the time had come to establish "The Republic of Rupert's Land."

The abortive attempt of 0'Donoghue and his Fenian accomplices to bring an armed force into Canada and secure the co-operation of the Metis is usually spoken of as a Fenian raid; but O'Donoghue tried to make it appear that the movement was a continuation of the insurrection of the previous year. In a letter, which he wrote to the speaker of the Dominion house of commons from St. Paul on February 26, 1875, he said: "The so-called Fenian raid is a misnomer Fenianism had nothing to do with it. It was simply a continuation of the insurrection of 1869, with the same intention and by the same parties, a fact which the government of Manitoba was cognizant of for months previous. My part in it was simply that of an agent of the people, holding a commission signed by the officers, civil and military, of the late provisional government of the French party, and authorized by a resolution of the council held at River La Salle in September, 1870, over which Louis Riel presided."

While 0'Donoghue's plans may have been discussed at the La Salle meeting on September 17, 1870, and while Riel may have approved of them, it seems more than probable that he had no part in making them or directing the attempt to carry them out. An interesting document, entitled '' The Constitution of the Republic of Rupert's Land," has been preserved. It is dated at St. Boniface J on September 15, 1871, and appears to be in the handwriting of W. B. 0'Donoghue. Six signatures are appended to it—those of W. B. 0'Donoghue, John O'Neill, Thomas Curley, F. 0'Byrne, Jno. J. Donnelly, and J. C. Kennedy. It provides for the government of an independent state in the Red River country, to be called The Republic of Rupert's Land. This republic was to be governed by a president and a council of ten members. Five members of the council were to represent the inhabitants of the country (i. e. the Metis J, and the other five were to be chosen by "the immigrants who shall come". The representatives of "the inhabitants" were to be the first five of the six men who signed the constitution—Messrs. 0'Donoghue, O'Neill, Curley, 0'Byrne, and Donnelly. Mr. W. B. 0'Donoghue was to be president of the republic and, officio, president of the council. Courts were to be established, and Mr. W. B. 0 'Donoghue was to be chief justice. The means of defence were to be provided, and Mr. W. B. 0'Donoghue was to be "commander-in-chief of the army and navy of Rupert's Land."

Plans for the government of the new republic having been settled, its president, who was also the president of its council, its chief justice, and the commander of its land and sea forces, hied him south to arrange for the co-operation of the "immigrants," whose leader was "General" John O'Neill. O'Donoghue seems to have gone as far east as Chicago in search of assistance, for the six men, who were conspiring to found a new republic, had no funds. Indeed 0'Donoghue did not have the means to pay his railway fare back to St Paul. The treasury of the Fenian brotherhood seems to have been depleted at that time; but 0 'Neil! managed to secure 250 breech-loading rifles, which had been originally provided for the attack on Canada in 1869. These were sent from their repository near Port Huron to Pembina, which was to be the rendezvous of the Fenian invaders. It remained for "Commander in-chief" O'Donoghue, "General" O'Neill, "Colonel" Curley, and the other officers to enlist an army. This was to be done in the towns along the route from St. Paul to Pembina, and it was not anticipated that the task would be difficult. The approach of winter had thrown many men out of employment, and they knew that Riel "soldiers" had spent pleasant months of leisure in Fort Garry two winters earlier.

The government of Manitoba was not in ignorance of the movement planned by 0'Donoghue, for early in September Mr. J. W. Taylor, the United States consul at Winnipeg, had informed Governor Archibald and his ministers that the Fenians would probably invade Manitoba before the year had passed. Similar information was received by the Dominion government, and its secret service men were watching the movements of the Fenian leaders. Consul Taylor was assured that neither Dominion nor provincial authorities would object if American troops crossed the international boundary in order to prevent such a breach of the neutrality laws of the United States as the threatened Fenian invasion. On September 11 a full statement of the situation was forwarded to Washington, and on the 10th orders were sent to Captain Wheaton, commanding the. United States troops at Pembina, to make the proposed armed intervention, if he considered it necessary. Strange to say, neither the Dominion government nor the government of Manitoba seems to have taken any other effective steps to prevent the raid and the coincident uprising. It is true that the Canadian government made Mr. Gilbert McMicken, whom it was sending to Winnipeg as its agent of Dominion lands, a commissioner of Dominion police and instructed him to gather any information possible about the movements of the Fenians. This action did little to check the raid, for the raiders reached the boundary very soon after Mr. McMicken crossed it. It is also true that Governor Archibald had requested Fathers Ritchot and Dugas to do all in their power to dissuade the Metis from joining 0'Donoghue's force; but this could hardly be considered an effective measure for preventing an uprising.

As Mr. McMicken travelled through the United States he learned that a few recruits had followed 0'Donoghue from Chicago, and that a few more had enlisted at Macaulayville, Abercrombie, and Grand Forks. He passed 0'Donoghue and his meagre army on the road, and did not believe the "commander-in chief" would be able to muster more than 70 men at Pembina. They had a wagon on which their arms, ammunition, etc., were conveyed. In due time they reached Pembina. Across the river, in what is now West Lynn, stood the Pembina post of the Hudson's Bay Company. 0'Donoghue's soldiers were looking for plunder, and the opportunity was not to be missed; so the post was looted.

At the trial of one of the raiders, Mr. W. II. Watt, who was in charge of the Pembina post, gave the following account of what occurred: | "About half-past seven on Ihe morning of the 5th of October a party of armed men took possession of the place in the name of the Provisional Government of Red River. I was taken prisoner while in bed and held until our release by the American troops between two and three o'clock P. M. The men who toon the place were armed with rifles and bayonets, and some with side arms. The prisoner was one of them. I saw O'Donoghue, O'Neill, Curley and Donnelly there. They were called generals, colonels and commanders-in-chief. While I was a prisoner acts of robbery were committed. A great quantity of pro-visions was taken out of the store and loaded into wagons in the square of the fort. They plundered the place and made prisoners of the people of the fort. They placed sentries on the gates and made themselves perfect masters of the place. When Curley and 0 'NeilI heard of the arrival of the United States troops, the former said that the wagons with the plunder must be got out. That was Cur-ley's last order before he fled with the rest. The rank and tile were nearly all gone—some on horseback and some on foot. They scattered in all directions. While the Fenians were in the fort the commands were given in English, by all four officers. I counted thirty-seven armed men inside the square at one time. While the armed men held possession of the fort, their officers told me they had taken it in the name of the Provisional Government of Red River, and that they were going to take Fort Garry also. The Fenians crossed the river after they fled from the troops. When the Fenians were apprised by the horsemen that the United States troops were upon them, I looked into the square of the fort and saw a great commotion among the Fenians. Each one ran hither and thither —some escaping by one gate and some by another. I soon found myself without a guard. All* the generals and colonels had skedaddled except one man.

That one man was 0'Donoghue.

Owing to the friendly services of Consul Taylor, Captain Wheaton had acted promptly. He had taken his men across the boundary and surprised the Fenians in the act of looting the Pembina post. Several of their leaders were made prisoners. O 'Donoghue was captured by two French half-breeds about five miles from Pembina on the Manitoba side of the boundary. They took him to Mr Bradley, the Canadian customs officer at the boundary, and he handed the prisoner over to the United States officials. Before the day was over Consul Taylor received the following dispatch:

"Headquarters, Fort Pembina,

October 5, 1871.

"J. W. Taylor, United States Consul, Winnipeg:

Sir—I have captured, and now hold 'General' J. O'Neill, 'General' Thomas Curley, and 'Colonel' J. -T. Donnelly. 1 think further anxiety regarding a Fenian invasion of Manitoba unnecessary.

"1 have, etc.;

Lloyd Wiii: a ton, Captain Twentieth Infantry.u

For their services in this affair both Consid Taylor and Captain Wheaton received, the thanks of the British government,

The report of the presence of a body of armed men at Pembina, brought to Winnipeg by scouts on October 2, was confirmed by Mr. McMicken when he arrived in the evening. After some consultation among the authorities it was decided to issue a call to loyal citizens to enroll themselves for the defence of the country. On the morning of the 3rd the following proclamation was distributed through the settlement:

PROCLAMATION

"Province of Manitoba Victoria, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Sgd. Adams George Archibald. To our loving subjects, the inhabitants of the Province of Manitoba, Greeting:

"Whereas, intelligence has just been received from trustworthy sources that a band of lawless men calling themselves

fenians

have assembled on the frontier of the United States at or near Pembina and that they intend to make a raid into this province, from a country with which we are at peace, and to commit acts of depredation, pillage and robbery, and other outrages upon the persons and property of our loving subjects, the inhabitants of this province. While not unprepared to meet the emergency with our regular forces, we do hereby warn all our said loving subjects to put themselves in readiness at once to assist in repelling this outrage upon their hearths arid homes. We enjoin them immediately to assemble in their respective parishes and

enroll themselves.

''For this purpose we call upon all our said loving subjects, irrespective of race or religion, or of past local differences, to

rally round the flag

of our common country. "We enjoin them to select the best men of each locality to be officers, whom we shall duly authorize and commission, and we enjoin the officers so selected to put themselves in immediate communication with the lieutenant-governor of our said province. "We shall take care that persons possessing military skill and experience shall be detailed to teach the necessary drill and discipline. All officers and men when called into service shall receive the pay and allowances given to the regular militia The country need feel no alarm We are quite able to repel these outlaws if they were numerous. The handful of them who threaten us can give no serious difficulty to brave men who have their homes and families to defend.

rally then at once!

"We rely upon the prompt reply of all our people of every origin, to this our call.

"In testimony whereof, we have caused these our letters to be made patent, and the great seal of Manitoba be hereunto affixed.

""Witness our trusty and well-beloved the Honorable George Archibald, lieutenant-governor of our Province of Manitoba, member of our Privy Council for Canada, etc., etc., at our Government House at Fort Garry, this 3rd day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, and in the thirty-fifth year of our reign.

"By Command,

THos. Howard,

Provincial Secretary."

The response to this call to arms was prompt and general. On the evening of the 4th a mass meeting was held at the police station in Fort Garry, and loyal addresses were made by Rev. John Black, Rev. Archdeacon McLean, and Rev. George Young; and before another day had passed 1000 men had volunteered for the defence of the province. Mr. Stewart Mulvey, who had come to Winnipeg as an ensign in the Ontario Rifles, had enrolled a company of about 100 men, mostly members of the battalion to which he had belonged; the officials and employees of the Hudson's Bay Company had enrolled themselves in a company under command of Mr. Donald A. Smith; and a company of home guards had been formed with Mr Cunningham as its captain and Mr. John F. Bain (afterwards a judged as lieutenant. Companies were promptly formed among the men of Kildonan and St. Andrew's; and when the proclamation reached the western districts of the province, companies were quickly enrolled at High Bluff and Portage la Prairie. All the companies clamored for arms; but as there were only 650 rifles in Fort Garry, in addition to those belonging to the 79 men of the force still kept there, it was impossible to furnish all the ardent volunteers with weapons.

On Friday, October 5-, at 1:30 P. M. an order was issued to the Winnipeg men to parade; at 3 o'clock they were ordered to equip themselves and be ready to march in an hour; and shortly before dusk the little force, composed of about 80 men of the garrison and 120 volunteers and officered by Major Irvine and Captains Walker. Mulvey, Plainval and others, crossed the Assiniboine and marched south in a heavy rain. They had a small cannon, which gave much trouble, and twenty wagons loaded with supplies; but tents were few, and there were not enough blankets to give one to each man. After a march of five miles in the darkness and rain the force halted for the night. The next day it advanced to La Salle River, and there the men learned that the Fenians had been dispersed by Captain Wheaton "s soldiers. Nevertheless, the advance was continued on the 7th until Ste. Agathe was reached. Then it was decided to turn back, and on Monday, the 9th, the weary and mud-stained men reached Winnipeg and were Allowed to return to their homes.

In the meantime interesting events had taken place near Winnipeg. Riel was in the neighborhood, but Father Ritchot had declined to urge him to use his influence with the Metis against an uprising, unless Governor Archibald would promise the long-sought amnesty for their former leader. This the governor could not do, and so there was much anxiety as to the attitude of the French half-breeds. However on Saturday, October 7, Riel, Lepine, and Pierre Parenteau wrote to Governor Archibald from St. Vital to say that the Metis meant to be loyal, that several companies of volunteers were being formed among them, and that these companies would respond to a call for their services. In reply his honor thanked the three men for their loyalty and asked to be furnished with lists of the volunteers who had been enrolled. During the forenoon of the next day (Sunday) Riel addressed a number of the Metis from the steps of the church at St. Norbert, urging them to offer their services to the government; and in the afternoon many of them rode down to St. Boniface. Upon their arrival Hon. Mr. Girard went to Governor Archibald and informed him that about a hundred of the Metis had assembled at St. Boniface and wished to offer themselves for the defence of the province. Although the danger of a Fenian invasion had passed three days before, the governor went to St. Boniface, met the men who had gathered there, and thanked them somewhat effusively for their offer of service. It appears that there was talk of using some of the Metis volunteers to reinforce the garrison placed in Port Garry, when Major Irvine's men marched away towards Pembina. This temporary garrison consisted of the St. Andrew's company under Lieutenant Hay, the High Bluff company under Captain Newcomhe, and the men of the Hudson's Bay Company. But when it was suggested that they should make room for a Metis company, Lieutenant Hay and Captain Newcombe declared that their companies would lay down their arms rather than admit men of whose loyalty they were doubtful, and the project was abandoned. On Tuesday morning Mr. Royal brought over a band of about twenty-five mounted Metis scouts, captained by Pascal Breland, who offered their services to the government. Their offer was accepted, and they were sent to patrol a part of the road to Pembina; but they soon returned, as all danger of an uprising had passed.

When reports of the Fenian invasion and the uncertain attitude of the Metis reached Ottawa, the government decided to increase the small military force maintained in Manitoba. A call for volunteers to serve in a second Red River expedition was sent through Ontario, and men enlisted readily. On October 21, 1871, 200 men, led by Captain Thomas Scott, left Collingwood by steamer. They reached Port Arthur on the 21tli, and immediately commenced their toilsome journey over the route taken by Wolseley's force in 1870. By November 12 they had reached the Northwest Angle of the, Lake of the Woods, where they were met by the officer appointed to command them, Lieutenant-Colonel Osborne Smith. Ice was forming on the lakes and rivers; so the men abandoned their boats and followed the Dawson Road to Fort Garry, which was reached on November 18, just four weeks after the force left Collingwood.

Three half-breeds were arrested for complicity in the attack on the post of the Hudson's Bay Company at Pembina and were charged with treason. Their trial took place at the session of the Quarterly Court which opened at Fort Garry on November 17, 1871, Judge Johnson presiding. The jury found that one of the men was not guilty; it disagreed in the case of the second, and he was discharged, but it returned a verdict of guilty against the third. He was sentenced to be hung, but was soon pardoned.

There was much dissatisfaction among some classes of the people over Mr. Bradley's action in handing 0'Donoghue to the officers of the United States instead of the Canadian authorities. 0'Donoghue and the other captured leaders of the Fenians were examined rather cursorily by Mr. Spencer, United States commissioner at Pembina, and were discharged on the ground that there was not sufficient evidence to warrant their detention. Probably the Ottawa government was not averse to having the matter dropped in this way, for it was relieved of further trouble with 0'Donoghue, who found it advisable to reside permanently in the United States thereafter.

It was different with Riel, however, who showed no willingness to exile himself from his native land. Some have thought that one of the purposes of the concerted movement of the Fenians and the Metis was to force the government to grant amnesty to the latter; but if that were the case, the movement had failed. Nevertheless, it was of some advantage to Riel The government suspected him of duplicity in the affair, and it recognized the great influence for or against law and order which he could still exert over the Metis: so it was more anxious than ever to induce him to leave the country. Finally it adopted the weakest and most indefensible plan taken in the whole of its vacillating policy towards the Metis insurgents, and offered to pay Riel, if he would retire from Canada. There was some negotiation, and in January, 1872, Riel agreed that he would quit the country, if he received $1,000 and his family were supported for a year. The money was sent to Bishop Tache to be paid to Riel; but then it was objected that the amount was not adequate, and Mr. I). A. Smith was asked by Governor Archibald to advance $3,000 more on behalf of the government. Riel then removed to the United States for a time. The sum advanced by the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company was repaid by the Dominion government after some delay.

But Riel could not refrain long from taking part in the affairs of Manitoba The general elections for the Dominion house of commons took place in 1872, and Riel was one of the three candidates nominated for the constituency of

Provencher. The others were Hon. II. J. Clarke and Sir George E. Cartier, -Before the day of the election, however, Riel and Clarke retired and gave tee seat to Carrier. Sir George died soon after and left Provencher without a representative. Riel was the only candidate nominated, and so the seat went to him by acclamation in October, 1873. In the general election of January, 1874. he was elected by acclamation again. When parliament opened on March 30, he travelled to Ottawa, took the oath of office, and signed the roll as a member of the house of commons; but he was not allowed to take his seat, owing to events which had taken place in Manitoba.

It has already been stated that warrants for the arrest of Riel and the other leaders of the insurrection had been issued m Winnipeg soon after the arrival of Wolseley's troops, that these warrants were not served, and that Riel, Lepine, and O'Donoghue left the province. Lepine seems to have gone to St. Paul and to have remained there some time; but finally he returned and settled down to work on his farm. Riel and O'Donoghue appear to have flitted back and forth across the boundary until the collapse of the Fenian raid. About that time the Ontario government offered a reward of $5,000 for the arrest of the murderers of Thomas Scott, and this was supplemented by a reward offered by the county of Middlesex.

After these rewards were offered, efforts to secure the arrest of the guilty parties were renewed; and on September 15, 1873, a warrant for the arrest of Riel, Lepine, and others was issued. Riel fled, but Lepine quietly submitted and was taken to prison. On the 23rd, the day fixed for the preliminary hearing of Lepine's case, a deputation of Metis and their friends waited on Governor Morris and protested against the trial on the ground that amnesty had been granted to the rebels; but the, governor explained that it was a matter with which he had nothing to do. At the assizes in November the grand jury found a true bill against Lepine, but the case did not really come to trial for a year. The number of cases before the court, arguments on the question of jurisdiction, and the unwillingness of Justice McKeagney to try the case caused several postponements, and the actual trial did not begin until the autumn of 1874. It took place before Chief Justice Wood and lasted twenty-one days, several of the most eminent, lawyers of Canada being engaged on the case. Lepine was found guilty and was sentenced to be hanged, but before the day set for his execution arrived, the sentence was commuted.

In February, 1874, four of Riel's followers were arrested for the murder of Scott, and two of them were tried. Of these one was acquitted, but the jury disagreed about the other. Before he could be tried again, the general amnesty had been proclaimed, and so the proceedings against him were dropped .

The charges against Riel and Lepine and the finding of a true bill against tlie latter were some of the reasons which led the house of commons to prohibit the former from sitting as the member for Provencher. On April 15, 1874, Hon. Mackenzie Bowell and Dr. Schultz moved the following resolution: "That Louis Riel, the member for the electoral division of Provencher, having been charged with murder, and an indictment having been found against the said Riel, and warrants issued by the Courts of -Manitoba for his apprehension and that the said Riel having fled from justice, and having refused to attend in his place in this House on Thursday, 9th April, be expelled from this House."

After considerable discussion the motion was carried by a vote of 123 to 68. Riel was again elected in September, 1874; but a sentence of outlawry was pronounced against him in October, and he fled to the United States.

Through all this time the agitation for a full amnesty to those who had taken part in the rebellion of 1869-70 continued. A resolution of the provincial legislature asking the imperial government to deal with the matter had been forwarded to the governor general at Ottawa in 1872. In June, 1873, the Dominion government referred the question of an amnesty to the imperial authorities, and in July the Earl of Kimberley sent a dispatch to Lord Dufferin in which he stated that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's government, an amnesty should be granted for all offences committed during the disturbances at Red River in 1869-70, except the murder of Scott, and asked the opinion of the Canadian government upon an amnesty limited in the way suggested. The matter seems to have been a difficult one for the Dominion government, and nothing was done for more than a year. Finally on December 10, 1874, Lord Dufferin transmitted an exhaustive report upon the matter to the imperial authorities, in which he suggested that he should relieve his ministers from responsibility in the case of Lepine and deal with it himself in virtue of the power given him by the crown. The Earl of Carnarvon replied on January 7, 1875, approving of the governor-general's suggestion; and on the 10th of the month his excellency commuted the sentence of Lepine to two years' imprisonment and the forfeiture of his political rights.

In February, 1875, on motion of Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, the following resolutions were adopted by the house of commons:

"That in the opinion of this House it would be proper, considering the said facts, that a full amnesty should be granted to all persons concerned in the North-West troubles, for all acts committed by them during the said troubles, saving only L. Riel, A. D. Lepine, and -W. B. O'Donoghue.

"That in the opinion of this House it would be proper, considering all facts, that a like amnesty should be granted to L. Riel and A. D. Lepine, conditioned on five years' banishment from Her Majesty's dominions.

"That an humble address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, embodying this resolution, and praying that he will be pleased to take such steps as may be best calculated to carry it into effect."

In this way the amnesty question was settled.


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