Election, Winnipeg

Clipping from New Nation (21 January 1870), 3.

Alexander Begg, a writer and journalist and merchant from Canada who had become a business partner of Andrew G.B. Bannatyne, attended the meeting held on 22 January 1870 to elect a representative to the Convention of Forty for the Town of Winnipeg. Begg has been described as “detached” from the Canada Party in the Settlement, and “initially” supportive of the Métis.[1] During 1869-1870, his position primarily appears to have been one of support for maintaining the status quo — which was Hudson Bay Company rule (his loyalty to the HBC might have sprung from his wife’s family ties within the Company’s officer class) — until a transfer to Canada could be effected, without resort to any intermediary, provisional government.  Begg was therefore ‘detached’ from, and at times highly critical of, most of the Red River individuals who eventually participated in the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. His journal entries recording Alfred H. Scott‘s first  election as councillor for the Town of Winnipeg  are transcribed below:

Saturday, 22nd January, 1870 ,

Weather continues cold and stormy.
It became known that Mr. Alfred Scott a clerk with Henry McKenney was to be put forward by the American party in town.
A notice appeared in the New Nation in the shape of a paragraph that a meeting was to be held in the Engine House this evening – but no hour was given.
Mr. Hy. McDermot was spoken of as a candidate but as he did not wish to run, Mr. A.G.B. Bannatyne determined to put himself forward. It was found however that the time of meeting was too short to get all the friends of the latter gentleman to attend.

The meeting at the Engine House took place this evening – the room was crammed with Americans many of whom had little if any interest [property or families] in the country. Major Robinson was appointed Chairman. Mr. Coldwell, Secretary. At about seven O’Clock the meeting commenced. A serious [sic: series] of resolutions were presented by R.C. Burdick as follows –

Whereas the present state of affairs that now exists in our Colony is not one that is calculated to ensure public confidence and prosperity and for the purpose of devising some measure to restore the same a council of 40 delegates from different portions thereof is to assemble on Tuesday the 25th instant and Whereas
mmmWe learn that Mr. Smith is empowered upon the part of Canada to make to this people certain concessions, or guarantees [sic] to us certain rights which we ask and which we hope will be conceded And Whereas
mmmWe the individuals comprising the meeting fully believe that in these concessions being made upon the part of Canada lies our hope for a speedy relief from the present existing state of confusion and looking to a probability of the council deciding that Mr. Smith’s promise may not be such as will warrant the possession immediately of this country by the Canadian Government in which event it will be necessary for that council to decide upon some form of Government to administer the Executive during the time intervening between this and the ultimate adoption or rejection by Canada of our offers.
mmmAnd Whereas it being the opinion of the individuals comprising this meeting that the restoration by the Public of Governor MacTavish to the Executive to be aided by a Council elected by a popular vote – therefore be it resolved
mmmThe delegate who shall be chosen by the meeting to represent us in that council be instructed to use all honourable means that may lay in his power to bring about the result above mentioned.

Mr Burdick stated he did not wish to dictate to the meeting but only laid the resolutions before it for discussion.
Mr. McKenney desired the Secretary to read them over again.
When this was done a division of the house was taking place most of the Americans being against the resolutions.
Then Mr. McKenney arose and said he had an additional clause to add to the resolutions which would he thought be agreed to by the meeting generally. The following was the additional clause referred to and which with the resolutions of Mr. Burdick were not dissented from by the meeting.

Or in the event of that object being unattainable that our delegate be instructed to use his best judgement in obtaining such other form of Government as may be in the meantime effective in maintaining peace and good order in the Settlement and the restoration of its prosperity.

Mr. Alfred Scott was then proposed as delegate – when Dr. Bird in amendment put forward the name of A.G.B. Bannatyne as a candidate for such.
It was proposed and agreed that the names of those present should be taken by the Secretary which was done.
Mr. Alexander Begg then stated that a show of hands should be had for the candidates at this meeting and that another day say Monday should be appointed for their election.

The names of those present were then taken as follows – for Alfred Scott:
1st    George Emerling.                   15th   Henry Eck.
2nd   J.F. O’Lone.[sic: H.F. Olone]    16th   J. Johnston.
3rd    John Lennon.                         17th   A.R. Gerald.
4th    H. McKenney.                        18th   Wm. Chambers.
5th    Wm. Cosgrove.                      19th   A. Sargent.
6th    John Kennedy.                       20th   Capt. Robinson.
7th    J.C. Kennedy.                        21st    J. Walker.
8th    H.S. Donaldson.                     22nd  R.D. Campbell.
9th    H.M. Robinson.                       23rd   R.C. Burdick.
10th John McKenney.                       24th   J.Mager.
11th  B. Devlin.                               25th   P. Poitras.
12th J. Backy.                                 26th   J.W. Porter.
13th  J. Cromarty.                           27th   G.B. Winship.
14th  R.H. McLaughlin.                      27 Total.

For A.G.B. Bannatyne:
1st    Dr. Bird.                                  9th     F.C. Mercer.
2nd   Ellwood.                                  10th   Wm. Drever.
3rd    A. Klyne.                                11th   John Lane.
4th    O. Monchamp.                         12th   Hy McDermot.
5th    H. Moncreiff.                            13th   Wm. Coldwell.
6th    Alex. Begg.                             14th   F. Beaudreau.
7th    Crowson.                                15th   H. Parisien.
8th    J. McDermot.                           16th   A. Gringas.
mmmmmmmmmmmmTotal 16

Mr. Alexander Begg the seconder of Mr. Bannatyne now got up and demanded a poll on Monday for his candidate which was not heeded by the Chairman but drowned in cries for an adjournment.
The meeting therefore broke up.
Mr. Bannatyne’s friends are determined to contest it and will do so on Monday.

Sunday, 23rd January, 1870

Weather cold & blustering.

The Americans are jubilant over what they think their success last evening.

Monday, 24th January, 1870

Weather not quite so cold but blustering.

Mr. Bannatyne’s friends were at work to-day with good success in getting names in his favour as delegate to the convention on the 25th to-morrow – they are serving a protest against the proceedings of the meeting on the 22nd inst. The names of those residents and property holders in favor of Mr. Bannatyne will be handed in with the protest to the convention and it will be left to that body who is to be the delegate from the town. Many of Mr. B.’s friends were unable to attend the meeting of the 22nd. Mr. Alexander Begg at the last moment put in his name as candidate for St. John Parish but Mr. James Ross had been at work and got pledges from most of the people so that A. Begg was beaten & James Ross is once more in the council of delegates. It is to be hoped he will not give the trouble he did at the last council. The Americans are savage at the persistency of Mr. Bannatyne.[2]

[1] D.R. Owram, “Begg, Alexander,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography online, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=5959.

[2] See Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, M152 (MG3 B4), microfilm copy of Begg’s Red River Journals (16 November 1869 – 23 July 1870), Alexander Begg fonds, 1868-1970; the original/contemporary copy is held by Library and Archives Canada, see online record; a published version with editorial comment is Alexander Begg, and W.L. Morton, ed.,  Alexander Begg’s Red River Journal: And other Papers Relative to the Red River Resistance of 1869-70 (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1956), 278-282.


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