‘Before’ continues (1866 – 1869)

[under construction]

[Note: developments in governance that affected Red River Settlement — or rather might have inspired the political stance of the people in the settlement who undertook the Resistance during 1869 – 1870 — are highlighted in blue.]


In Assiniboia:

St. John’s College is re-established.

Thomas Spence arrives. [See Red River Newspaper Chronology and the men who ‘made’ the news.]


Agnes Campbell Farquharson marries John Christian Schultz.

In England:

The Imperial Parliament adopts “An Act for the Union of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and the Government Thereof; and for Purposes Connect Therewith,” (30 Victoriæ Cap 3), aka the British North America Act, 1867 [BNA. 29 March 1867].

[Note: various versions of the Act exist online — regrettably many posted by Canadian sites are incomplete, contain typographical errors, are revised versions of the original, or are cached behind a paywall. The above link is to a ‘primary document’ version that dates to 1867, placed online by the National Archives in England.]

Paragraph 4 of the preamble mentions, and Section XI: 146 of the BNA provides for, the eventual transfer of remaining British North American colonies and territories to the new Dominion of Canada.

Section XI. Admission of Other Colonies: 146. requires the acceptance of the respective legislatures of the Crown colonies of Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and British Columbia before the Imperial Crown could admit them [separately] to the Canadian federation. The section does not, however, provide for consultation with the population of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s [HBC’s] ‘plantations and colonys’ about terms of transferring Rupert’s Land and the North-western Territory to Canada.

In Canada:

November 6: Parliament of the new Dominion of Canada (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia), meets for the first time. [See “1st Parliament, 1st Session (1867.11.06 – 1868.05.22),” House of Commons, Reconstituted Debates, Parliament of Canada, http://www.parl.gc.ca/about/parliament/reconstituteddebates/Nav/Hoc/1/HOCSession1-e.asp.]

December 4: A Canadian Government expansionist policy is introduced to Parliament by William McDougall, stating:

“since the close of the American war the Union of the British people inhabiting the northern portion of North America has been ardently looked to by all British statesmen. The dream of the patriot and the speculation of the political philosopher had been of the destiny that should unite these British people in one nationality from one ocean to the other.”

December 6: Resolutions to acquire Canada’s first colony are passed. Joseph Howe, however, finds the idea to buy “a country, God knew where, and bounded by God knew what. (Laughter),” somewhat “ridiculous.” Canada’s colonial status gives it no power to do what McDougall wishes. [D.N. Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 1869 – 1885 (Waterloo ON: Wlifrid Laurier University Press, 1988), 2728.

December 17: Canada sends a formal address to the Imperial Government requesting that Rupert’s Land and the North-western Territory be united with Canadian territory. [See “Address to her majesty from the senate and house of commons of canada, 16-17 December, 1867.”


In Assiniboia:

January 7:  John Christian Schultz is incarcerated, having been convicted of owing unpaid debts and refusing to pay up.

January 18: John Christian Schultz breaks out of jail (with the help of his wife, Agnes Campbell Farquharson).

In England:

April 23: The Colonial Secretary, Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, advises Canada that compliance with their request to be united with Rupert’s Land and the North-West requires an Act of the Imperial Parliament, then places a Bill before the Imperial Parliament which becomes the Rupert’s Land Act, 1868 (U.K.) 31-32 Vict., c. 105, effective 31 July 1868.

Section 5 of the Act specifies that Rupert’s Land will “be admitted and become part of the Dominion of Canada” on a date given in an Order in Council and “thereupon it shall be lawful for the Parliament of Canada … to make, ordain, and establish within the Land and Territory … all such Laws, Institutions, and Ordinances, and to constitute such Courts and Officers as may be necessary for the Peace, Order and good Government of Her Majesty’s Subjects and others therein.” There is no stipulation that Canada must consult the local population. There is no mechanism by which they could participate in the legislation described.

Section 146 of the BNA (1867) is modified, because it “prevented the Crown from transferring Rupert’s Land to Canada without first accepting the surrender of the HBC’s rights ‘upon such terms and conditions as shall be agreed upon by and between Her Majesty and the Company’.” The change gives the HBC the power to veto terms and conditions (which power the legislatures of the Crown colonies have). The people of Red River, however, are not granted power in any negotiations whatsoever.

[Darren O’Toole, “The Red River Resistance of 1869-1870: The Machiavellian Moment of the Métis of Manitoba,” Ph.D. diss. (Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 2010).]

In Canada:

April: The ‘Canada First‘ movement is formed by a few “wealthy Ontarians” to promote annexing Rupert’s Land and Canadian nationalism. Charles Mair is a member. The group has a narrow conception of ‘Canadian’: “disregarding any need to appeal to French-Canadian identity, the Canada First movement was also resolutely elitist, disdaining both the working classes and Native populations.”  [“Canada First,” McCord Museum.]

Autumn: Two delegates of the Canadian government, William McDougall and George-Étienne Cartier, leave for London to negotiate with the Imperial government and to  bargain with HBC “for the acquisition of Rupert’s Land and the Northwest Territories. After long deliberations, the conditions of the transfer were agreed to.”

[A.A. Taché ed., Separate Schools, Part of the Negotiations at Ottawa in 1870 (St. Boniface: n.d. [c. 1900?]), 7.]

The Canadian government takes up the Dawson Trail project. William McDougall appoints Charles Mair as accountant and paymaster for the project.

The first federal statute dealing with Aboriginal peoples is passed — An Act providing for the organisation of the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, and for the management of Indian and Ordnance Lands, S.C. 1868, c. 42 [‘The Indian Act’]. Three separate sections of the statute prohibit the sale or barter of liquor to ‘Indians.’ Fines are aimed only at suppliers of liquor at this time.

[See Wendy Moss and Elaine Gardner O’Toole, “Liquor Offences,” Aboriginal People: History of Discriminatory Laws,http://publications.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/bp175-e.htm#A.%20Liquor%20Offences%28txt%29.]

In Assiniboia:

July 28: Louis Riel Jr. arrives, having resided in the U.S. since 1866.

October 27: A Canadian road-building crew, including Charles Mair, arrives at Red River Settlement to announce work on the Dawson Road from Lake of the Woods to Fort Garry. Mair has neglected to ask permission of the HBC (in London, in Canada, or in Rupert’s Land) to build the road in its territory.

In Canada:

December 27: Charles Mair’s letter is printed in Toronto’s The Daily Globe (27 December 1868), 4, [transcript], in which he describes Red River ox-cart trains as “strange rigs and strange drivers.” Despite the fact that the majority of farms in Red River were owned and worked by Métis settlers, Mair implies the Métis do not belong to the “farming classes,” which matters to Mair because he avers that Red River settlers with farms “are affected very little, if anything at all,” by what he judges to be looming “starvation.” Mair himself has not chosen the vocation of farming (nor were his parents farmers). He is engaged in travelling (as a correspondent and as paymaster for the survey crew), and reports that he intends to go on a buffalo hunt. Yet, he regards the “half-breeds” as “a strange class” because “They will do anything but farm; will drive ore [sic: ox?] trains 400 miles to St. Cloud and back, at the rate of twenty miles a day -– go out on the buffalo hunt -– fish -– do anything but farm.”


January 4: The  Toronto Globe prints a second letter from Charles Mair, in which he expands the circle of Red River people on whom to pass judgement:

“After putting up at the Dutchman’s [George Emmerling’s] hotel there [at the Town of Winnipeg], I went over and stayed at Dr. [John Christian] Schultz’s, after a few days. The change was comfortable, I assure you, from the racket of a motley crowd of half-breeds, playing billiards and drinking to the quiet and solid comfort of a home. * * I was invited to a dinner-party at Beſſs [sic: Begg’s?], where I found the Governor’s brother-in-law, a wealthy merchant here, Isabister [sic], and other Nor’Westers. Altogether, I received hospitalities to my heart’s content, and I left the place thoroughly pleased with most that I met. There are jealousies and heart burnings, however. Many wealthy people are married to half-breed women, who, having no coat of arms but a ‘totem’ to look back to, make up for the deficiency by biting the backs of their ‘white’ sisters. The white sisters fall back upon their whiteness, whilst the husbands treat each other with desperate courtesies and hospitalities, with a view to filthy lucre in the background.”

[See Toronto Daily Globe (4 January 1869), 1, [transcript. Mair’s hosts may have been Charles Begg (of Scotland) and wife Catherine Spence (Métis). Fellow guests he mentions were HBC Governor William Mactavish, married to Mary Sarah/Sally McDermot; merchant A.G.B. Bannatyne, married to Annie McDermot; and possibly William Isbister married to Mary Anne Begg, who was Charles Begg’s daughter. The most obvious candidates for ‘white sisters’ with falsely courteous husbands would be Agnes Campbell Farquharson, wife of John Christian Schultz, and Elizabeth Louise McKenney, who was Schultz’s step-neice and who would, by September 1870, be Mair’s wife.]

In Assiniboia:

February: The Nor’-Wester reports, “there is a movement on foot among the leading men of out French speaking population, having for its object the institution of an independent government for themselves.  They are tired of the Hon. Company’s management of affairs and intend to throw off allegiance toward her, and obey no laws but those of their own making. The movement is being carried on quietly, but in May next, they proposed to organise and elect some prominent man among them as President. The meeting is appointed to take place at Point a Coupee. [Nor’-Wester (19 February 1869), 1.]

In England:

March: The HBC agrees to sell Rupert’s Land to Canada.

April 10: “Earl Granville, then Secretary of State for the Colonies … felt a little uneasy about the future condition of the old inhabitants of the country [Rupert’s Land] and … addressed to Sir John Young, then Governor-General of Canada, a despatch”:

“I am sure that your government will not forget the care which is due to those who must soon be exposed to new dangers, and in the course of settlement be dispossessed of the lands which they are used to enjoy as their own or be confined within unwontedly narrow limits. … I am sure … that the old inhabitants of the country will be treated with such forethought and consideration as may preserve them from the danger of the approaching change and satisfy them of the friendly interest which their new governors feel in their welfare.”

[Granville quoted in A.A. Taché ed., Separate Schools, Part of the Negotiations at Ottawa in 1870 (St. Boniface: n.d. [c. 1900?]), 7.]

In Canada:

March: John Christian Schultz visits Toronto and becomes “the sixth member of the ‘Apostles’, thus formally cementing the relationship between Canada First and the Canadian Party of Red River.” [Bumsted (1996), 44.]

April: John Christian Schultz writes to McDougall’s brother: “The greatest danger from the Hudson Bay influence will be in giving the franchise to our people at once. Theoretically fair and even necessary it is fraught with very great dangers till our people feel the change and we get an immigration of Canadians on Canadian principles. Our people will be satisfied with simply the local town and country self-government and to have no elective choice whatever over the necessary officers for these positions.” [Stanley (), 55.]

May 31: Parliament adopts a proposal to annex the Rupert’s Land and the North-West.

June: Parliament ratifies terms of transfer of Rupert’s Land and the North-West, setting the initial date of transfer to 1 October 1869. It passes An Act for the Temporary Government of Rupert’s Land, 1869, despite having no legal right to legislate for Rupert’s Land. The Act creates a government that is reminiscent of the institutions of the notorious Family Compact of Upper Canada and Chateau Clique of Lower Canada that the Rebellions of 1837 – 1838 had sought to displace.

Section 2 of the Act looks to the creation of, and appointment to an office of Lieutenant-Governor in the territory. The Lieutenant-Governor will combine both legislative and executive power in one person, being “authorized and empowered … to make provision for the administration of Justice therein, and generally to make, ordain, and establish all such Laws, Institutions and Ordinances as may be Necessary for the Peace, Order and good Government of Her Majesty’s subjects and others herein.” Only after the making and enactment of “such Orders in Council, and all Laws and Ordinances,” would Canadian Parliament be apprised of them, at the Lieutenant-Governor’s convenience.

Section 3 provided that the “Lieutenant-Governor shall administer the Government under instructions from time to time given him by Order in Council.”

Section 4 provided that, at some future point, the Governor-General of Canada “may, with the advice of the Privy Council [the executive branch of the federal government], constitute and appoint … a Council of not exceeding fifteen nor less than seven persons, to aid the Lieutenant-Governor in the administration of affairs, with such powers as may be from time to time conferred upon them by Order in Council.” There is, however, no statement of obligation for the Lieutenant-Governor to have an advisory council.

Section 5 provides that all “Laws in force in Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory, at the time of their admission into the Union, shall … remain in force,” but only “until altered by the Parliament of Canada, or by the Lieutenant-Governor.”

Section 6 states that “Public Officers and Functionaries holding office in Rupert’s Land and the North Western Territory, at the time of their admission into the Union, … shall continue to be Public Officers and Functionaries of the North-West Territories with the same duties and powers as before,” but only “until otherwise ordered by the Lieutenant-Governor.”

Section 7 sets the temporal reach the Act: stating it will “continue in force until the end of the next Session of Parliament.” There is no restriction, however, against Parliament deciding to extend the life of the Act at that time. Nor is there any guarantee as to what kind of governmental institutions Parliament might decide to institute if it decided to replace the Act.

[See Darren O’Toole, “The Red River Resistance of 1869-1870: The Machiavellian Moment of the Métis of Manitoba,” Ph.D. diss. (Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 2010), who observes, “What lurks behind the Act is the status of the Métis as ‘quasi-citizens’, that is, the commonplace belief [or rather, imperially sanctioned and racist rhetoric] that, as ‘half savages’, they were incapable of governing themselves.” Further he argues, “This single Act created the very type of tyrant that English republicans had so feared in the Stuart kings in the seventeenth century. It granted to federal Parliament powers over the British subjects of the Northwest that the Usonians had so vigorously rejected when the British Parliament attempted to exert the doctrine of Parliamentary Supremacy in her North American colonies in the aftermath of the Seven Years War. It created a potential concentration of power unmatched by the ‘Family Compact’ and the ‘Chateau Clique’ or even the Governor and Council of Assiniboia. Not only was there a complete failure to recognize the political rights of the population, but there were also a failure to provide any checks and balances on the Lieutenant-Governor’s power to intervene in the civil rights and liberties.

The Métis risked losing every single hard-won concession that they had forced out of the Hudson’s Bay Company. To this institutional isomorphism, the appropriate reply could only be the reactivation of those republican conventions that had proved so effective in English opposition discourse and Usonian revolutionary discourse and in the Rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada.”]

June 26: John A. Macdonald writes to Charles Tupper that the Lieutenant-Governor “will be for the time Paternal despot, as in other small Crown Colonies, his council being one of advice, he and they, however, being governed by instructions from Head Quarters.” [A.S. Morton, 874).

In Assiniboia:

Alexander Begg notes, “Canadians coming into this country … are impressed with the idea that half-breeds are a sort of half-and-half specimens of humanity, hardly entitled to the privilege of being called rational beings.”

May: John Christian Schultz returns to Red River.

James Ross arrives at Red River.

June: Settlers near St. Norbert confront Canadians pacing out lots nearby as though to stake claims, warn them the land is already occupied, and oversee their departure.

June: The Nor’-Wester publishes an article from the 5 June edition of the Toronto Globe that contains Act for the Temporary Government of Rupert’s Land, 1869. The editor expresses optimism that the Territory would soon have an elected assembly. [Nor’-Wester (26 June 1869), 2, continued, continued.]

June: a rumour circulates claiming John C. Schultz and Charles Mair have been making treaties with First Nations for land at Portage la Prairie.

[Neil Edgar Allen Ronaghan, “The Archibald Administration in Manitoba — 1870 – 1872,” Ph.D. diss. (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1986), 108 n. 28, cites The Nor’-Wester (29 June 1869), which does not exist, and includes references (in nn. 29 – 30) to other newspapers that apparently referred to the story.]

In the U.S.:

July 1: Oscar Malmros is appointed American Consul in Winnipeg.

In Assiniboia:

July 5: Settlers at St. Norbert meet and agree to form patrols to prevent strangers from interloping on settlement land.

July 19: Pascal Breland and William Dease organize a meeting at the courthouse near Upper Fort Garry to discuss their fears about Canadian intentions. Dease argues the £300,000 Canada promised to pay the HBC ought to be paid to the people of the North-West as the real owners of the land, but he fails to win support.

July 24: The Nor’-Wester publishes a call for a public meeting in the Court House on 29 July, signed by William Dease, Pascal Breland, Joseph Genton, and William Hallet. [July 29?] The newspaper states “the object of their assembling there to-day was to consider the recent transfer of the country by the Hudson’s Bay Company to the Canadian Government, and to call in question the right of the Company to dispose of any territorial claims without the consent of the natives of the country.” Dease argues that it is “necessary for the [Hudson’s Bay] Company, before selling their rights, to have the consent of the half-breeds, as they were natives of the soil and were descended from the original possessors.” Hallet states that the goal of the meeting was “to consider whether the land belonged to the HBC or to the halfbreeds and Indians.” [See Begg (1871) 85-88, 99.]

HBC Governor William Mactavish is requested to attend the meeting to answer the question. He states “the Company had received from the English Government a charter of the country, and that the late sale embraced only the rights contained in the charter, whatever they were.”

John Bruce criticizes Dease “for advocating revolt.”

Aug. 13: Oscar Malmros arrives at Town of Winnipeg.

Aug. 20: Canadian surveyors under ‘Colonel’ John Stoughton Dennis arrive in the settlement to combine with the road-building crew:

– Métis workers complain of changes to pay policy;

– Canadian Surveyors ‘take treaty’ with ‘Indians’ and lay claim to land;

– HBC Governor William Mactavish at Red River warns the HBC London Committee that Red River Settlers will protest further survey;

– William Mactavish writes to Bishop A. A. Taché of Red River outlining settler complaints.

Sep. 11: Oscar Malmros, American consul in Winnipeg, informs U.S. govt. of mounting Red River Settler opposition to idea of Canadian annexation.

In Canada:

Sep. 17: William McDougall requests not fewer than 100 Spencer carbines and 250 Peabody rifles equipped with bayonets and between 8,000 and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.

Sep. 22: Cabinet approves McDougall’s request, and the rifles were subsequently shipped to St. Paul MN.

[Ronaghan, The Archibald administration in Manitoba, 1870-1872, 51]

Sep. 28: Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald appoints William McDougall lieutenant-governor of the soon-to-be ‘temporary Canadian colony.’


Jump to Chronology: The Resistance during 1869


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