Records of the Provisional Government(s)

[under construction]

There is a considerable amount of historical research that remains to be done by scholars interested in the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. For the most part, Aboriginal history was not integrated into political historiography in Canada. Consequently, in many respects, the development of government in Manitoba is a field of study that remains to be organized.

There is no central collection of papers of the councils and conventions held at Red River Settlement during 1869-1870, nor of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia. Although some documents have survived, they are scattered throughout various archival collections, sometimes under filing systems that obscure their connection to the formation and operation of formal self-governance by the people of Assiniboia.

As of 2013, the exact location of the meetings of the Legislative Assembly remains a mystery. The minutes of the Convention of Forty and the Legislative Assembly only refer to a ‘grande salle’/ ‘council chamber’ at Upper Fort Garry, but whether this was inside or outside the walls is unknown.

It is not even possible to supply complete biographies for all of the members of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. The exact identities of some members are not known, because their names were shared with several other individuals at Red River. Even where a specific individual may be identifiable, details about their life might be unknown. Likewise, whether or not photographs exist of a member might not be known.

Members whose identities need to be clarified (due to nominal duplication):

• François Xavier Page/ Pagé/ Pagée/ Pagee

• Pierre Parenteau/ Parrenteau/ Parranteau

• John Sinclair

Member for whom most biographical details do not exist:

• Alfred Henry Scott

Members for whom photographs need to be found:

• Baptiste/ Jean-Baptiste Beauchemin

• William Garrioch Jr.

• George Gunn

• Auguste Harrison

• Louis Lacerte/ Lascerte/ La Serte

• John Lazarus Norquay ‘Sr.’

• Pierre Parenteau/ Parrenteau/ Parranteau

• Alfred Henry Scott

• John Sinclair

• William Auld Tait

The Legislative Library of Manitoba contains copies of the New Nation newspaper, which record the proclamations and notices by the Provisional Government of Assiniboia, debates of the Legislative Assembly, and the Law Code that it passed.

  •  Transcripts of the three sessions of debates of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia, reconstituted from the reports printed in the New Nation and recorded in Archives of Manitoba, MG3 A1-15 “Seasonal [sic: Sessional] Journal of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia”are available from the Legislative Library of Manitoba online as a pdf, and are available as pages on this site (see sidebar).

 New Nation (6 May 1870), pp. 3–4, http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/3/Ar00302.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/3/Ar00301.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/3/Ar00304.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/3/Ar00303.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/3/Ar00306.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/3/Ar00305.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/3/Ar00300.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/4/Ar00404.html/Olive. See also New Nation (6 May 1870), pp., 7–8, http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/7/Ar00705.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/7/Ar00700.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/7/Ar00702.html/Olivehttp://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/7/Ar00706.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/7/Ar00704.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/7/Ar00703.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/7/Ar00701.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/06/8/Ar00802.html/Olive. And, New Nation (20 May 1870): http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/3/Ar00300.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/4/Ar00403.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/4/Ar00401.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/4/Ar00404.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/4/Ar00402.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/4/Ar00400.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/4/Ar00405.html/Olive; http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/05/20/4/Ar00406.html/Olive.

The Archives of Manitoba contains records, filed in separate manuscript collections, which it identifies as having been penned by Thomas Bunn, or which (in my opinion) appear to have been penned in the same hand as that attributed to Thomas Bunn, including:

  • Manuscript Group 3, Manitoba Provincial Archives, Archives Provinciales, Reference Tools, MG3, “Archives of Manitoba, Red River Disturbance collection (MG3 A and B)”:

• MG3 A1: “Red River Disturbance fonds 1869-1870”

· MG3 A1-12 “Minutes of meeting held in Parish of St. Clements to elect a member to the Council of the Provisional Government. Notes used by Thomas Bunn for speech at above meeting. 1870.”

· MG3 A1-15 “Seasonal [sic: Sessional] Journal of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia.” Bound journal/scrapbook, handwritten with pasted-in columns from New Nation newspaper — blue pages, marbled edges, marbled front cover. Scans of the Journal pages, without the cover, have recently been made available online (see http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/leg_assembly/). Note, however, that there is no mention of Thomas Bunn in the extended comments on provenance that introduce the scans. Instead, the remarks imply that William Coldwell probably wrote the journal. However, there is no indication that the handwriting in the journal was compared with other archived documents before composing the introductory comments.

• MG3 B1-1 – MG3 B1-12: “James Taylor Collection.” Archival description: “The collection consists of correspondence relating to the election of the Provisional Government and Bunn’s office as Secretary of State: election returns: descriptive list.”

· MG 3 B1 “Thomas Bunn (1830-1875), 1869-1870. Originals. 32 pp.” Archival description:

“Farmer, Lawyer and Politician, Bunn was a member of the Provisional Government in 1869 from the Parish of St. Clements. He served for a time as Secretary of State and Vice Chairman of the Committee of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia to codify the laws. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in 1870 for St. Clements and sat until his death in 1875. He was Clerk of the General Quarterly Court from 1868-1872 and was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1871.

“The Collection consists of correspondence relating to the election of the Provisional Government and Bunn’s office as Secretary of State. A File List is available.”

· MG3 B1-2 “Election returns. Feb. 1870. Copy of Election returns for English Parishes (7 pp). Feb. 1870.” [Written on heavy blue paper, torn from a book, ruled in blue with margin in red, 8 1/2×17 brown ink].

Notations with document:

[Most recent:] “Authenticated copies made by Thomas Bunn of the returns of the Elections held in the month of February 1870 in the several English Parishes of the Red River Colony, of members to serve in the Parliament of Louis Riel.”

[Older:] “Copies, made and fyled by Thomas Bunn, of the Returns of the Elections held in the month of February 1870, in the parishes of the Red River Colony, of members to Serve in the Parliament of Louis Riel. Some of these returns are addressed to Louis Riel President of the Provisional Government and others to Thomas Bunn, Secretary of State.”

· MG3 B1-5 “List of rights, commission and instruction to Ottawa delegates. 1870. Author: Thomas Bunn, recipients J.N. Ritchot, John Black, Alfred Scott, Commission and letters of instructions from Provisional Government. List of conditions upon which people of the country will consent to join Confederation (10 pp) (negative number: N5406). 23-23 March 1870.” [The collection actually includes letters of instruction, commission, and list of rights.]

· MG3 B1-6 “Letters from J. Howe (copy made by Thomas Bunn) to J.N. Ritchot, J. Black, A. Scott. 1870. Appointment with Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George E. Cartier (1 page). 26 April 1870.” One letter, archival description: “Copy made by Thomas Bunn of the letter given by Hon Joseph Howe Scty of State” to the three delegates, “by which they were received in Ottawa, when presenting the Bill of Rights in the capacity of ‘delegates from the North-west to the Government of the Dominion of Canada’.”

· MG3 B1-8 “Telegrams to the Delegates in Ottawa. 1870. from J.N. Ritchot to Thomas Bunn and Maxime Lepine. Negotiations in Ottawa (1 page). 27 Apr.-20 May 1870.” Description: “Copies made by Thomas Bunn of all Telegraphic despatches from the delegates & letters from NW Kittson.” [4 messages  — the ‘letter’ is no more than a note].

· MG3 B1-12 “Letter from J.N. Ritchot (Thomas Bunn [copyist]) to Thomas Bunn, Joseph Howe. 1870. Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia and Manitoba Act and arrest of Red River delegate on arrival in Ottawa (3 pp – incomplete). 23-24 June 1870.”

On the basis of comparison of handwriting in the above documents that according to archival notation have been “authenticated” as belonging to Thomas Bunn, and by comparing the handwriting in the Sessional Journal of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia I have concluded that Bunn was the author of the Journal (in this I may have been mistaken — see the comments posted by Archives of Manitoba subsequent to my research having been conducted and communicated — but I am holding with my initial surmise until such time as I have sufficient reason to conclude otherwise). By 1874, Bunn was apparently unsure of the whereabouts of “the record of proceedings of the Provisional Government” — presumably referring to the Journal that recorded  the Legislative Assembly’s proceedings.[1] After Bunn’s death in 1875 papers pertaining to that government were found to have been in his possession, although which papers, and whether or not the Journal was among them is unknown. Some of the papers appear to have been passed to the Manitoba Historical Society and eventually to have been archived by the Archives of Manitoba.[2]

Glenbow Museum holds, M-6058, “James Ross’ Scrapbook,” dated as 1869-1871, and described as “a volume containing broadsides and newspaper clippings relating to the Red River Settlement and the first Riel Rebellion.” James Ross was the Chief Justice of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia.

It is probable that an extensive French-language record of proclamations, debates, and laws once existed. John Christian Schultz claimed to have found some records of the Provisional Government. What he did with those documents is unknown. William McDougall also referred to “private correspondence found among Riel’s papers” that allegedly disclosed “the ‘policy’ of the authorities at Ottawa” — the whereabouts of such correspondence and papers, likewise unknown.[3] It is possible that a number of documents, including photographs, were lost in the fire of 3 December 1873 that destroyed Manitoba’s first legislative building — the home of Anne ‘Annie’ McDermot Bannatyne and husband Hon. Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne.


[1] Report of the Select Committee on the Causes of the Difficulties in the North-West Territory in 1869-70, 122 ; A.-A. Tache, Separate Schools, Part of the Negotiations in Ottawa, 1870 (St. Boniface?: Canadian Publishing Company?, 1893?), 1.

[2] See George Bryce, “Two Provisional Governments in Manitoba, Containing and Interesting Discussion of the Riel Rebellion, With an Appendix Embodying the Four Bills of Rights Verbatim,” Manitoba Historical Society Transactions ser. 1, no. 38 (read 9 January 1890), who refers to having some of Bunn’s papers in his possession.

[3] William McDougall, ed., The Red River Rebellion. Eight Letters to Hon. Joseph Howe, Secretary of State for the Provinces, etc., In Reply to an Official Pamphlet (Toronto: Hunter, Rose and Company, 1870), 11.

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Published: 12 March 2013

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