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General Brock
Chapter XII - 1811 in Canada and Europe


EARLY in 1811 there was some correspondence between Sir James Craig and General Brock as to the treatment of the Indians. The question was, whether in case of hostilities breaking out as threatened between the Americans and the Indians, the latter should be supplied, as usual, with arms and ammunition by the British. No doubt the Americans would expect a strict neutrality to be observed; but by stopping supplies, Brock thought the British might lose all their influence over the tribes. There had been a council held in which the chiefs had resolved to go to war with the Americans, and they seemed to have had a firm conviction that although they could not expect active cooperation, yet they might rely on receiving from the British the requisites of war.

They had suffered much of late. Napoleon's decrees and the English orders-in-council had put a stop to their trade in furs. They could obtain nothing for their peltries, for the warehouses of the great companies were filled with costly furs for which there was no market. The Americans, too, of late had encroached more and more on their hunting-grounds. It had been tacitly understood in the treaty of 1783 that the Indian country west of the Ohio was to be left to the tribes, but on one pretence and another, by strategy and persuasion, different Indian tribes had been induced to sell their lands for a nominal price, and were being pushed further and further back from the plains and forests and rivers which gave them their sustenance. One chief had foreseen the doom that awaited them, and planned to avert it. This was Tecumseh, a Shawanese warrior and statesman. He dreamed of a confederation of all the tribes of North America, in order to regain, if possible, their old boundaries, and to resist the further encroachments of the white race.

The Indians knew quite well the unsettled relations between the United States and England, and had not made up their minds in 1811 as to which country they would ally themselves to. They had been threatened with retaliation on their wives and children if they dared to serve the British.

Tecumseh was willing to be friendly to the United States if the latter would agree to give up some lands lately purchased, and would agree not to enter into treaties without the consent of all the tribes. Tecumseh pledged himself on these conditions to be a faithful ally to the United States and to assist them in war against the English, otherwise he would enter into an English alliance. At an interview with General Harrison, when he was told that the matter rested with the president.

Tecumseh replied: "If the great chief is to decide the matter I hope the Great Spirit will put sense enough in his head to induce him to direct you to give up the land. It is true he is so far off he will not be injured by the war. He may sit still in his town and drink his wine, while you and I will have to fight it out." The demands of Tecumseh as to lands and treaties were not complied with, therefore he summoned his people to go to war against the Americans.

Brock wrote in February as to the recent distribution of stores among the tribes. "Our cold attempt to dissuade that much injured people from engaging in such a rash enterprise could scarcely be expected to prevail, particularly after giving such manifest "indications of a contrary sentiment, by the liberal quantity of military stores with which they were dismissed." For information about them, General Brock said he had to rely on the reports of officers commanding at the outposts, as "the lieutenant-governor witholds all communication on the subject."

The management of the Indians was in the hands of the lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, and agents were employed by him to administer their affairs. Mr. Elliott was then in charge at Amherstburg. Brock speaks of him as an exceedingly good man, who having lived much among the Indians, sympathized with their wrongs, but he thought that he was rather biased and prejudiced in their favour.

The general was of the opinion, however, that if Mr. Elliott had delayed giving them presents until he reported their mission to Lieutenant-Governor Gore, they would have returned to their companions with different impressions as to the sentiments of government.

The instructions issued by Lord Dorchester in 1790 were continued in full force. The charge of the Indian department was vested in the civil administration, and Brock thought this led to confusion. Vast numbers of Indians assembled every year at Amherstburg from a great distance. Brock said he had seen eight hundred waiting for a month on rations for the presents to come, and he thought the storekeeper-general in Upper Canada ought to be allowed to buy them in case they did not reach the Upper Provinces before the close of navigation.

In March Brock writes to Major Taylor of the 100th Regiment, commanding at Amherstburg, and the first sentence is a reproof to that officer for not having reported to him the important resolution by which the Indians formally announced their intention of going to war with the Americans. He had learnt of it from another source and had reported it to the commander-in-chief. He then gave Major Taylor an extract from His Excellency's secret and confidential answer, which especially enjoined on all military officers to report at once to General Brock whatever transpired at any councils of the Indians at which they might be present.

Sir James Craig was of the opinion that every effort should be made to prevent a rupture between the Indians and the United States. General Brock therefore advised Major Taylor that if he perceived the smallest indication to depart from the line so strongly laid down by His Excellency, he should offer friendly advice to the officers of the government in charge of Indian affairs, and even have recourse to written protests to deter them from persevering in any act that might irritate and dispose the two nations to a conflict. Brock adds, "This you must do as coming from yourself, and report circumstantially every occurrence that may come to your knowledge."

It was not for some months after this that actual hostilities broke out, and the accusation was then formally made in congress, that by supplying some of the tribes with arms, ammunition and food, the British had aided the Indians in their warlike designs.

In April Colonel Vesey writes from England and thanks General Brock for the interesting details he had given him of local politics, both civil and military, in Canada, although the colonel expresses himself as not partial to that country, and he regrets that the 49th should be detained there so long. He condoles with the general on the lonely winter he must have passed at Fort George, in spite of the companionship of Colonel Murray and his nice little wife. He adds, "Pray remember me  to my old friend St. George. Mrs. Vesey has charged me to call her to your recollection. She and my six children are as well as possible, and a very nice little group they are, all as healthy as can be. I wish I had a daughter old enough for you, as I would give her to you with pleasure. You should be married, particularly as fate seems to detain you so long in Canada, but pray, do not marry there."

Although no colonial maid was considered worthy of his friend, yet there is a legend that General Brock was at this time engaged to a young lady living at York. No hint of this is found, however, in any contemporary records or in his own family correspondence.

In another letter Colonel Vesey thanks him for the interest he had taken in procuring for him his grant of land. He adds, " I quite feel for you, my good friend, when I think of the stupid and uninteresting time you must have passed in Upper Canada. With your ardour for professional employment in the field, it must have been very; painful. Had you returned to Europe there is little doubt but that you would have been immediately employed in Portugal; and as that service has turned out so very creditable, I regret very much that you had not deserted from Canada. I take it for granted that you will not stay there long, and should the fortune of war bring us again upon duty in the same country, I need not say how I shall hail the event with joy. If you come to England, I would wish you to call upon the Duke of Kent, who has a high respect for you and will be happy to see you. The Duke of York is to return to the army. Sir David Dundas will not be much regretted."

A letter from Colonel Baynes in March reports that Sir James Craig, owing to extreme ill-health, was to return to England early in the summer. He wished to be relieved from the anxiety of his office, which, now that a war with the United States seemed probable, was too onerous a position. For himself, his mind was made up, and he was resigned to a speedy termination of his sufferings.

Communication was so slow between Upper and Lower Canada that many of Colonel Baynes's letters were transmitted through the United States. At that time there was only a post once a fortnight between Montreal and Kingston, and from the latter place to York and Fort George the post was scarcely established at all, and letters came at uncertain intervals. Colonel Baynes's letter contained the last wishes of the commander-in-chief with regard to Brock. "I assure you," he writes, "Sir James is very far from being indifferent in regard to forwarding your wishes, but from the necessity of returning himself, and that without waiting for leave, he feels it the more necessary to leave the country in the best state of security he can. He desires me to say that he regrets extremely the disappointment you may experience, and he requests that you will do him the favour to accept as a legacy, and as a mark of his very sincere regard, his favourite horse 'Alfred,' and that he is induced to send him to you, not only from wishing to secure to his old favourite a kind and careful master, but from the conviction that the whole continent of America could not furnish you with so safe and excellent a horse. 'Alfred' is ten years old, but being high bred, and latterly but very little used, may be considered as still perfectly fresh. Sir James will give him up to Heriot whenever you fix the manner of his being forwarded to you. Kempt goes home with His Excellency."

Sir James Craig left Canada on June 19th, 1811, in the frigate Amelia. Although his administration was known afterwards among certain of the population of Lower Canada as the "reign of terror," he was yet beloved by many and respected by all. Even his enemies gave him credit for the purity of his motives, and no one doubted his courage, straightforwardness, and devotion to duty. He is described as being "of agreeable countenance and impressive presence. Stout and rather below the middle height, he was yet manly and dignified. He was positive in his opinions and decided in his measures. Although hasty in temper he was not implacable, and was easily reconciled to those who incurred his displeasure. Hospitable and princely in his style of living, he was yet a friend of the poor and destitute." He did not long survive his departure, but died in London the following March.

When he left Canada. Mr. Thomas Dunn, the senior member of the council, was again left in charge of the civil government, while Lieutenant-General Drummond, who was one step higher than General Brock in the service, was left in command of the forces in the Canadas.

On June 4th of this year Brigadier-General Brock was made a major-general on the staff of North America. His friend Vesey, who had also been made a major-general, writes his congratulations to him on June 10th, and says: "It may, perhaps, be your fate to go to the Mediterranean, but the Peninsula is the most direct road to the honour of the Bath, and as you are an ambitious man, that is the station you would prefer. As it is possible you may have left Canada, I will enclose this letter to our friend Bruyéres." Lieutenant-Colonel Bruyéres was an officer in the Royal Engineers, and was at that time engaged in reporting to General Brock on the condition of the different forts scattered throughout Upper Canada.

In September, 1811, Sir George Prevost arrived, and assumed the chief command of British North America. His military reputation then stood high, and he had been much liked in Nova Scotia, where his administration had been a success. Sir George was born at New York on May 19th, 1767. His father was a native of Geneva who became a major-general in the British army, served under Wolfe at Quebec, was wounded there, and afterwards distinguished himself in the defence of Savannah. His mother was a Swiss, the daughter of M. Grand of Lausanne. Sir George was lieutenant-colonel of the 60th Regiment, and had served in the West Indies. He greatly distinguished himself at St. Vincent, where he was dangerously wounded. In reward for his services he was made governor of Dominica, which he had successfully defended. He returned to England in 1805, when he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Portsmouth. He was then promoted to be lieutenant-general and lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia, and in the same year, 1808, was second in command at the capture of Martinique. He then returned to Nova Scotia, where he remained until called upon to take the place of Sir James Craig. His appointment gave great satisfaction to the French Canadians, and he began his administration by very conciliatory measures. The man whom his predecessor had imprisoned as a promoter of sedition (M. Bédard), was appointed to a judgeship at Three Rivers. M. Bourdages, another adversary of the late governor, was made a colonel of militia, and all the officers who had been dismissed from the militia were re-instated. Speaking French as his mother tongue, Sir George Prevost's knowledge of their language aided him in gaining the confidence of the people, arid he very judiciously began by professing perfect belief in the loyalty of the Canadians.

News came from England to Brock that his friend General Kempt had had a very flattering reception there, and that the Duke of York had told him he would give him a carte blanche as to his future destination. Colonel Thornton, another of Brock's friends, had been appointed to a regiment, one battalion of which was in Portugal, the other in the East Indies. Thornton hoped to persuade his senior to go to India, leaving him in Portugal. He sends a message by Colonel Baynes to his friends in Canada. "Pray give a hint in private to General Brock and Sheaffe that if the former were to ask for a brigade at home or on European service, and the latter to be put on the staff in Canada, I am almost certain they would succeed."

No wonder Brock pined at inaction while his more fortunate friends were leaving him far behind in the race for glory. It was not glory alone that his ardent soul desired, but a chance to use the powers that he knew were his. The chance was nearer than he thought, and he found it in the common path of duty. Soon after Sir George Prevost's arrival in Canada as governor-general and commander-in-chief, Major-General Brock was appointed president and administrator of the government of Upper Canada during Lieutenant-Governor Gore's absence in England. He entered on his new office in what to him was a fateful month, October 9th, 1811.


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