The Courthouse, Upper Fort Garry, Convention of Wednesday, November 17, 1869.
“Ten O’Clock was the hour appointed for the delegates to meet at the Court House — the English side were punctual but it was about noon before the French delegates made their appearance.”
The convention meets. The members appear to get on well together. [“a more friendly feeling seemed to exist between the two sides of the council”]
The English ask, what do you mean to do?
Mr. Ross speaks most often.
Mr. Riel replies that the wish of the French is to do what the people of the Settlement wish to do. That the present stand of the French shows pretty clearly what they wish. That the coming of the English to the convention seems to show that they are not unfavourable to the idea of joint action.
The French ask, to what extent are the English ready to go along with them?
The English reply that their way of seeing the thing is to let Mr. McDougall come in without opposition and once he is settled down, their intention is to ask of him what they wish, and if Mr. McDougall will not or cannot grant what they ask, then they too will send him back. There will be time to do it.
The French say that if McDougall is once settled in, nothing will get rid of him. That McDougall, as governor, will have all kinds of official papers to show them in the name of the Queen, and that, as a matter of fact, it would be really an act of rebellion to try to turn him out when he had established himself and that the British government not having yet ratified the conditions on which the transfer would be effected, McDougall has nothing official to offer us at the present time. Now is the time to raise our feeble voice[s], in order that across the barrier which would hinder them reaching our Queen, we can make ourselves heard soon enough.
Mr. Ross then recounts all that he had recommended to Mr. McDougall before leaving Ontario. He says that he has made him see, himself, that his government and the measures that he would no doubt take to open up the country and to bring about its settlement as quickly as possible might be somewhat harmful to the present colonists who were settled in the country and had lived and worked there for a long time without having taken the precautions of which they none the less had need to preserve unimpaired their rights and privileges, while coming under a change of government, a government composed of people more interested in advancing the interests of a large number of immigrants than the interests of the first settlers. That in face of it all that, he, Mr. Ross, a son of this country, devoted to his fellow-countrymen, prefers to silence these fears for the moment, and do all that he could to have such a one as Mr. McDougall enter; because, he says, I foresee that in preventing him from entering we shall draw down on the colony misfortunes such as it has never known. He makes a fine speech that I [Riel, as secretary] shall not write down, having to listen in order to reply to him. (I do not write quickly enough).
Mr. Riel underlines the nobility in the remonstrances that Mr. Ross has made to Mr. McDougall in Ontario, the justness of his fears on the subject of the interests of the first settlers who are his ancestors, his brothers, his kin, his friends. That this stand that Mr. Ross had taken before has indeed been inspired by love for his country, and now that he sees half of his country take the same stand, with the other half less resolved to maintain their rights for all they are worth and that its intention is to appeal to Mr. McDougall to treat them more as British subjects, when all the colony affirms that Mr. McDougall should not come in except with their free consent and a guarantee of their rights, how is it that Mr. Ross finds himself intimidated? Rather than hindering us from offering an energetic resistance to him (McDougall), why does he not allow himself to speak with his eloquent voice in the name of the love which he bears to the country of his birth, invoking as we do the union of all the settlers in the colony, invoking that union which can save us, in order that in these days of profound unrest the people should confront Mr. McDougall, beseeching him in the name of justice, in the name of the Queen, to respect a British colony, not seek ambitiously to govern our country before having put us in possession of those precious rights that the Crown of England grants so freely to all its subjects. Mr. Ross, speak up for your country, do not seek to silence it. With your learning, your gifts, say to our English fellow-countrymen that Mr. McDougall is not yet our governor; that a frightful snare is spread before us, in leaving us to say that our mode of action will be more loyal, if we should only consider dismissing Mr. McDougall were he to decline to recognize all our rights after having become our master.
Adjournment until November 22 to allow the General Court a place to sit.
Mr. Riel — Do we not by that act recognize the government of Assiniboia?
“[The] representatives still adhere to the determination not to allow Mr. MacDougall to enter the Settlement.”
“It was near midnight before the delegates separated and they parted to meet again on Monday morning next.”