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Canadian Transport Sourcebook > All works> Lord Strathcona > Chapter 8

Chapter VIII

The Red River Rebellion

The future hung by a worm-eaten thread when on June 1st, 1869, the long-expected bargain was arranged between Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company, the latter giving up their chartered rights in consideration of a cash payment of £300,000, with blocks of land around their forts not to exceed in all 50,000 acres, and 1-20 of all the land in the fertile belt as it came within fifty years to be opened up for cultivation, paying their share of the surveying expenses up to a specified minimum. A very good bargain indeed for the Company, seeing that they were giving up a somewhat shadowy title to lands which they had never been able to turn to any account, and governing powers, which had brought them only annoyance and humiliation. No abdicating sovereign ever retired into private life upon a handsomer allowance than the great Company took with them into the security of the dry-goods business. Within three years of this time they had sold thirteen acres of their reserved block around Fort Garry for the very respectable sum of $91,000. One begins to have some faint idea of the wealth represented by those 50,000 acres of land, every block of which included an important trading centre likely to be the nucleus of a city. Yet, as we have seen, but for Donald Smith they would never have thought of sharing their gains with the wintering partners who really did stand to lose something by the change.

On November 19th, 1869, the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered their territory to Her Majesty. The formal transfer of the country to Canada was expected to take place on December 1st, 1869. If there had been one living man in eastern Canada who had made any attempt to find out and publish the plain facts it might have occurred to some moderately acute mind at Ottawa to put to itself the question; "Given an existing Government feeble to the point of decomposition, whose agents, moreover, are discontented at the approaching change and in no mood to sacrifice one stiver to consummate it; a population habituated for many years to the joys of mutiny and impatient of the slightest restraint; an entire absence of police and military force; a half-savage people who dread all change, instinctively feeling that it must disturb the only life they can lead, and who have special reason for fearing the approach of the compatriots of Dr. Schultz and his land-grabbing friends; and a Canadian government which has not made the slightest effort to allay their fears by treating them as reasonable beings, what will happen?" Apparently nobody did ask himself that question, and everybody was surprised when something happened.

The government was not altogether without warning. Mr. Mair, the contractor and poet, took the trouble to predict the catastrophe he had unwittingly done something to bring about. In July, 1869, Mr. William McDougall, minister of public works for Canada, sent out a surveyor named Dennis to lay out townships throughout the country. This man, who later on was to play a sufficiently ill-judged part, seems yet to have had discretion enough to know it was raining when he was wet to the skin and wrote more than once to his chief advising that the enterprise should be given up for the present. His remonstrances produced no effect upon Mr. McDougall, who apparently did not even communicate them to his colleagues. The work was checked all the same. In October a party of half-breeds headed by one Louis Riel visited the surveyor, threatening personal violence with such evident intention of making good their threats that he very prudently desisted from his obnoxious enterprise.

The dénouement followed quickly. In the same month of October, 1869, Mr. McDougall, who had been named as lieutenant-governor of the new province when it should come into existence, travelled out towards the seat of his future dignities. He was stopped on the very threshold by the double obstacle of a curt note, signed with the name of Louis Riel, which forbade him to enter the country on peril of his life, and of a barricade erected across the road at La Rivière Sale, and defended by armed men, who paid no attention to the order of one of his staff to "take away that blawsted fence." Moved by the cogency of these arguments, Mr. McDougall retired to Pembina on the American side of the line and sat down to await events.

His instructions from the Canadian Government were really most fair and liberal ones. It was understood that he was to remain in the settlement as a private individual until officially notified of the transfer, but he was to report upon the general feeling of the people, suggest men who would be suitable for office, assure the people that all their old customs and privileges, land-tenures, etc. should be respected. He was in fact to do all the things that should have been done months before when first the half-breeds began to hear rumours of the coming change. It was too late now. They would not let him speak. Their fears, their hatreds, their childish ignorance of the great world, all combined to bid them strike a resolute blow for their rights, a blow which long experience in triumphant insubordination encouraged them to hope might be successful. They needed a leader and found one in the famous Louis Riel. This man, whose name has already been mentioned, was a half-breed like themselves. He had all the courage and loyalty to friends characteristic of his race, all the prejudices and predilections too, the love of the prairies and the old free life, while he was raised above them by a superior education—he had been partly trained for the church—and by a mind singularly bold, resolute and resourceful. An ideal link and synthesis he was of the only two leaderships at Red River—the captain of the Plain Hunters and the priests. Unfortunately he also shared the characteristic Métis vice of vanity, which swelled to enormous proportions as he gained power, and led him into almost insane excesses. In the meantime the die had been cast, the Red River crossed, Canada had been defied.

McDougall had no intention of remaining in his humiliating position a moment longer than could be helped. He wrote a report of his misadventures to Ottawa and then, while the prime minister was despatching letter after letter (none of which ever reached him)—recommending self-restraint and circumspection, and above all no haste, reminding him that he was as yet only a private individual and that Red River still was and would be until the transfer a foreign country no more to be entered violently than (for instance) the United States, he gave himself up to a series of what the same prime minister afterwards called "inglorious intrigues," with the view to forcing his way in. Colonel Dennis was his right-hand man in all these attempts. Neither he nor his chief was to blame that the explosive stuff accumulated by decades of negligence did not take fire when they supplied the match, and a red flame of bloody Indian war leap across the prairies. If blood had been spilled it is impossible to say what might have followed. Dennis made his first effort at Portage la Prairie among the bold Imperialists of the abortive "Republic of Manitoba" who had earlier proposed to throw off the yoke of the Hudson's Bay Company. He tried to raise a body of armed men who should escort the "Governor" to Fort Garry by main force. Failing in this, he busied himself among the English and Scotch settlers who, however, showed him quite plainly that they were not disposed to venture much for the sake of Canada; they would not join Riel, but they felt that they had been unfairly treated by Canada and that she might get herself out of the scrape into which she had stumbled. Filled with indignation at what he called their "cowardice," Colonel Dennis even turned to the Indian tribes, whom by some blessed miracle he failed to ignite. During the whole seven weeks of Mr. McDougall's stay his too active follower hovered about the settlement attempting to stir up trouble now in this quarter and now in that, and rousing a perpetually fresh resentment in the breasts of the French half-breeds which drove them to plunge into more and more desperate measures.

It need scarcely be said that Dr. Schultz and his friends were restlessly abetting Col. Dennis at every turn and doing their full share in strengthening the cause of the half-breeds. Mr. McDougall was flooded with letters from them urging boldness, decision, action on his part and always holding up the Hudson's Bay Company to execration as playing the part of the masked villains in the background. He was only too ready to look at the colony through their eyes and his share of the correspondence which passed between him and Governor McTavish was decidedly acrimonious in tone.

Meanwhile Riel was boldly taking one step after another. He occupied Fort Garry, seizing all the arms and provisions; later on he took possession of the Company's books and a considerable sum of money. He had formed a council, and this council called upon the parishes to send delegates to form a convention. When this body met on November 16th it proved to be composed of French and English in almost equal numbers, the English doubtful and hesitating, the French excited and fanatical and above all united under a leader whose appetite for power had grown by feeding on some of its sweets. It is not hard to see which party must be in the ascendant. In all revolutions the ayes have it, particularly against the "yes and no party," however numerous these may be. There was wrangling enough. There were proposals to admit McDougall under a guard and treat with him, to send delegates to him, to acknowledge the Hudson's Bay Company government until they had got terms from Canada, but in the end Riel negatived them all, and on December 1st, he got his way and formed a "Provisional Government," practically all French, owning no authority but his own and his friends; thus saying to Canada, "You thought you had bought us of our old masters, like a herd of sheep or oxen, but you see you have caught lions. We are independent. But if you treat us with respect we may possibly veil our claws and come to terms with you." As for their former masters, Governor McTavish, on his deathbed, the ruling passion strong even there, bent what energy remained to him to the familiar task of varnishing rotten wood, beseeching both parties to be patient and keep the peace and put a smooth glaze on the outside of things. He was the painful incarnation, poor gentleman, as he lay there the prisoner of those wild children towards whom he had never been guilty of any worse crime than over-indulgence, of the moribund sovereignty ingloriously guttering out, and like Charles the Second taking such "an unconscionably long time to die." No more wretched fiasco on all sides could be imagined. It is edifying to hear McDougall calling loudly upon McTavish to do his duty and suppress this revolt in the company's territory which McDougall himself had left nothing undone to inflame and exasperate, while the unfortunate McTavish, reaping the bitter fruits of his Company's time-honoured policy of drift, and smarting as he was under the sense of personal wrong common to all the wintering partners and particularly keen in himself, who felt himself snubbed and slighted by the authorities both in London and Ottawa, endeavoured to sweep back the raging waters with the broom of mild depreciation.

Drift was not the policy of the Canadian government of that day. No sooner had Sir John MacDonald heard of Mr. McDougall's first check at La Rivière Sale than he at once notified the Imperial authorities that Canada refused to pay over the specified £300,000 or allow the formal transfer to be made until the settlement should be restored to tranquility. This was touching the London shareholders at the one point where they lived and they lost no time in writing to their official head in Montreal instructing him to offer all their moral aid to the Canadian ministry.

It will not be supposed that this was the first that that official head, Donald Smith, had heard or thought about the Red River difficulty, or that he lacked a definite opinion of his own about it. Far back in his Labrador days he had divined what the future must be. As long ago as 1857 he had written; "I myself am becoming convinced that before many decades are passed the world will see a great change in the country north of Lake Superior and in the Red River country when the Company's license expires or its charter is modified,—You will understand that I, as a Labrador man, cannot be expected to sympathise altogether with the prejudices against immigrants and railways entertained by many of the western commissioned officers. At all events, it is probable that settlement of the country from Fort William westward to the Red River, even a considerable distance beyond, will eventually take place and with damaging effect on the fur trade generally." Two or three years later he wrote; "Whatever the committee in London does or does not do, I for one see that matters at Red River are slowly but surely coming to a head.—As it is, they (the malcontents) will go on until there is a repetition of the old scenes of bloodshed and turbulence, until either Canada or the Imperial government will be forced to interfere and abrogate the charter."

Seeing clearly the inevitable development to come, and only too conscious of the faults in the Company's rule at Red River, he had a firm and shaping conviction, based on a thorough knowledge of the history of the fur-trade, as to the way in which that future would work itself out. Governor McTavish, writing to his brother in very natural soreness at the way in which he, the head of the existing government in the colony, had been ignored, made use of the expression "what are the Canadians to us that we should fall into their arms the moment they approach us?" Smith saw that letter and in writing to the governor thus referred to it; "With regard to what you say about the Canadians, I not but venture to remind you that the officers of the company, in so far as they possess a share in the fur-trade, owe their status to the independent traders and merchants of Montreal who effected the coalition in 1821, and that consequently our whole body has a historic connection with Canada!" (Observe how clearly he recognizes the achievements of the North-Westers whose work—and Selkirk's—he is about to enter into and complete). "Altogether apart therefore from the unfortunate matter in which your status and authority has been disregarded, I for one hold that our interests should properly lie with Canada rather than with any alternative form of government."

In a general way the thought of the coming change was in the air and had been ever since the inquiry of 1857. But few men grasped what it would mean. The Hudson's Bay officers, like the wild denizens of the plains, watched its approach with fear and dislike as a catastrophe by which they were to lose everything. Schultz and Co. were preparing for an equally catastrophic transformation which was to offer them a heaven-sent opportunity of plunder in the general confusion. But Donald Smith was alone among the fur-traders, and had only a few of the greatest Canadian statesmen to share his faith when he looked forward with sober eye and saw the prairies filled with homes and the barren rocks yielding up their treasures to the miner, the industries of civilization labouring to supply this great population with far more benefit to the world at large and also more profit to their owners than had ever lain to the credit of the fur-trade, and the whole country united under the Canadian flag, true to its beginning under those great Montrealers who had blazed the way for all future settlers. He was to do much towards the realizing of his own faith. He was to wait upon the inevitable birth of the new west with a steady hope which stamped its own impression upon the giant child. And this larger work of his really began on November 24th, 1869, when in obedience to his instructions from London he wrote a letter to the Secretary of State in which he begged "on behalf of the Company to offer assurance that their governors, factors, and officers generally would use their influence and best efforts to restore and maintain order throughout the territory." The official form covered a depth of sincere personal meaning.

He was immediately summoned by telegram to Ottawa to discuss the situation with the premier and in the interview which followed "took high ground," according to the latter, and "declared himself a staunch Canadian," avowing his opinion that the Company had the largest interest in seeing the troubles composed and the transfer made. "It would be a great advantage to us," said Sir John, "if you would preach this view to your fellow-officers at Fort Garry. Why don't you go?" No hesitation about that. Within forty-eight hours Donald A. Smith was appointed Canadian Commissioner to Red River, and on December 13th he set out on his long journey. With thirty years training in holding his tongue he let no one suspect his errand. He was supposed merely to be going out to protect the interests of the Company. With him travelled Dr. Charles Tupper, ostensibly bent on seeing that no harm came to his daughter, whose husband, Captain Cameron, was on McDougall's staff, but really intending if possible to put a spoke in the political wheel. No one guessed that the real power lay with this modest pair; not with the two duly accredited commissioners, Colonel de Salaberry and Vicar-General Thibault, who had set out with some flourish of trumpets a few days before, and whose influence on the direction of events throughout was to be precisely nothing at all.

It was on December 27th that Donald Smith presented himself at the gate of Fort Garry and asked for admittance. In the bitter cold of a Manitoba December he had made the journey from St. Paul by stage and canvas-covered sled, by dog-cariole and even partly on foot, camping at night in the snow, a journey which must have been luxurious in comparison with some he had made in Labrador. Now he accosted the armed men who lounged about the open gate of the Fort and asked to be shown to Governor McTavish. By way of reply he was taken by Mr. Louis Riel's good leave across a courtyard, once trim and cheerful under Hudson's Bay auspices but now dingy and untidy and squalid, led through one room after another occupied by armed and odoriferous half-breeds, and at last ushered into a chamber where sat ten or a dozen men whom Riel mentioned as members of his Provisional Government. They asked him his business. He replied that he was connected with the Hudson's Bay Company, but also held a commission from the Canadian Government to the people of Red River and would be prepared to produce his credentials as soon as the people were ready to receive him. They demanded that he should take an oath not to upset their government, legally established. This he refused to do, but promised to take no immediate steps towards that end, whether the government were legal or illegal, without first giving them warning. Apparently satisfied with this, they gave him rooms in the Fort. For more than two months he remained a prisoner there.

He was not the only prisoner. Things had advanced a stage since we left Mr. McDougall sitting on his addled eggs at Pembina waiting for something to turn up. Growing tired of this somewhat disheartening pursuit, forgetting that he was to do nothing until officially notified of the transfer, and yielding to the constant pressure of Schultz and his party, he took the "action" they were demanding. He issued a proclamation on December 1st announcing that the territory had been transferred to Canada and proclaiming himself lieutenant-governor. It was a fatal move, for the transfer had not taken place, and though the proclamation had the momentary effect of checking the warlike ardour of the half-breeds, and leading them hastily to draw up a List of Rights for peaceable presentation to the Canadian Government, the revulsion of feeling was very great when they discovered that they had been deceived. For the time even the English and Scots leaned towards the insurgent party and Riel was immensely strengthened. A week later he seized an opportunity offered him by Dr. Schultz and his friends, who had shut themselves up in a single house with the valiant and characteristic intention of defending some government pork, and thus at a single stroke forced a large section of the Canadian party to unconditional surrender. They were imprisoned in the Fort. Another day or two and he in turn issued a proclamation, in which with much talk about despotism and slavery and the ambitious aggression of a foreign power (Canada) he announced his unalterable determination to resist any attempt on the part of those insolent aliens to take possession. Ten days after this Mr. McDougall quitted the post he had made untenable, departing for Canada just in time to miss a letter of rebuke from the Secretary of State.

Thus the situation that confronted Donald Smith was a very delicate and difficult one, small as was the stage on which the piece was set. This little colony of 13,000 souls faithfully reproduced in parro all the passions and factions that rend dying states, and it may well be believed that that eminently prudent and sagacious though silent man had not approached it without carefully reviewing in his own mind what was to meet him there and deciding what his own course would be. That course would be like himself, slow, inarticulate, not brilliant—but with a rock-like steadfastness which in the end would accomplish results. The object of course was to ensure the peaceful transfer, and this for two reasons beside the obvious humanitarian one. In the first place, if appeal had to be made to the sword, Canada would be fighting at a great disadvantage. Transport for men and supplies would be difficult, and a campaign against such a scattered force of nimble sharpshooters would be the most unsatisfactory thing in the world, to say nothing of the great likelihood of attacks in the rear from Fenian sympathizers in the United States. In conversation with Pére Richot, Dr. Tupper learned that the insurgents considered their position impregnable because they could always retreat to the prairie and defy pursuit, and if the worst came to the worst the United States would always take them in as a state of the Union. And although Tupper succeeded in shaking the confidence of the rebel ecclesiastic in the latter article of faith, there was enough truth in the former to make every Canadian statesman uncomfortable. In the second place, bloodshed, even if successful, would implant in the breasts of these rude children of the prairie the hatred of Canada which generations might fail to eradicate. Peace, however, as Donald Smith saw could only be attained by winning over some at least of the French part of the population. The breach that had so long existed between French and English was opening again as the latter were estranged by the prolonged confinement of the prisoners and by the many despotic acts committed by Riel, who had grown intoxicated by his own success and held the life of every man in the community in his hand. It would have been easy to win over the English, but to appeal to them alone would have been to lessen the chances of peace by blowing the smouldering fire of racial strife. He must get the French on his side and to do this he must in some way get a direct hold of the people themselves instead of trough their leaders.

Seeing this, he prepared for it in two ways. He had left all the papers pertaining to his commission at Pembina, determined that Riel should not have the opportunity to secrete them and discredit him before the people, and he had brought with him his brother-in-law Mr. Hardisty, himself a westerner with Indian blood in his veins, who would be perfect medium of communication with his half-breed brothers and whom even the "little Napoleon" would scarcely dare to molest. For nearly three weeks Smith lived quietly in the Fort, ostensibly busied about the dislocated business of the Company, while Hardisty went in and out among the Métis flattering, cajoling, explaining, and even bribing. Such tactics had their effect. Some of the more intelligent came to visit Smith in the Fort, where the impression made on them was deepened, until Riel began to realize that the allegiance of some of his followers was wavering. It was time to put an end to this. On January 15th Riel demanded to see Smith's commission. He would have liked to send a messenger of his own with a written order for the documents, but as Smith positively refused to give this it was agreed that Hardisty should go for them. On his way back Hardisty was stopped by Riel and some of his followers with the intention of relieving him of his trust. He owed his safe escape to a party of his converts, "well affected French," who came to his help and escorted messenger and papers to the Fort in spite of Riel's fury.

This was a long step taken. Once the commission had been produced in this public way Smith's business could not be smothered. Every man in the colony would know that night that they had among them a duly accredited representative of the Canadian government and of the Queen of England, with a message for them. It was impossible for Riel to refuse Smith's demand, made in the presence of his friends, that all the people should be brought together to hear these papers read. The following day was fixed for the gathering and there in the open courtyard of the Fort, for no building was large enough to contain them, more than a thousand men stood in the bitter cold of twenty below zero while icicles hung on their beards listening to things they should have heard long before. Riel and his confidential counsellors interrupted and blustered, even threatening personal violence, but with that immovable pertinacity which was especially his own Smith stuck to his task and in the end succeeded in reading bit by bit a letter from the governor-general desiring all who had grievances to address themselves to him, and promising the utmost justice and protection to all claims, religious, proprietary and political, a telegram from the Queen in the same tenor, the papers of Vicar-General Thibault and Colonel de Salaberry, which Riel had suppressed, and various other documents of a conciliatory nature, including McDougall's original instructions, which proved that nothing less than justice had ever been intended. The English as a body and some of the French professed themselves willing to accept these messages at once and act upon them, but others objected and it was at last settled, not without some excitement, that twenty delegates of each nationality should be chosen and should meet together to decide what was to be done about Mr. Smith's commission.

There ensued a pause while these deputies were being selected with all the underground manipulation inevitable under the circumstances. Smith was kept a close prisoner in the Fort lest he should influence the elections, and Riel, putting forth all his strength, succeeded in excluding most but not all of the French who had recently revolted from him. This new convention began its sittings on January 25th. The first part at least of Donald Smith's programme had been accomplished. English and French had been brought to sit together. It still remained to be seen whether they could work in harmony.

Smith was called to their convention on the third day, when Riel asked for his opinion on the List of Rights which had been prepared in December. He refused to consider that document, which had been drawn up by one party alone, but assured them that anything emanating from the present united gathering would command his consideration. Acting upon this suggestion, the Convention drew up a new List of Rights not at all unreasonable in tone, which was laid before him about a week afterwards. Some months later they sent a third paper to Ottawa by which it appeared that their estimate of their own claims had gone up considerably, and particularly that they had been seized by the happy thought of asking the Dominion Government to reimburse them for the expenses of the rebellion, but the present one was sufficiently moderate. An attempt of Riel's to add the crucial clause,—"That all bargains with the Hudson's Bay Company for the transfer of this territory be considered null and void; and that any arrangements with reference to the transfer of this country shall be carried on only with the people of this country"—had been defeated, in spite of his rage. Smith was given two hours, during which his meditations were constantly distracted by rudeness and insult, to formulate his answers to their demands, and was then called to the convention to read them. They were just what might have been expected, prudent, cautious, conciliatory, careful not to compromise the Canadian Government by making too definite undertakings, but reiterating its good faith and benevolent intentions. He ended by inviting them to choose delegates who would go to Ottawa and discuss the whole matter of terms with the ministers themselves. Soothed and flattered by the grave courtliness and sweet reasonableness of his manner they accepted a proposal, and forthwith chose their representatives. A further step in the programme had been worked out.

Smarting under his defeat of a few days before Riel now seized the opportunity to press for a real provisional executive. The existing one was simply his own party. He had an ambition now to be at the head of the whole people, and urged that a joint English and French administration should be formed, pointing out adroitly that it was simply a device for taking up the reins which had fallen from the Hudson's Bay Company's nerveless hands and maintaining order in the country until the transfer should take place. Placated by this view, which unfortunately Riel only held when it was to his advantage to do so, and attracted by the prospect of any sort of stable government to replace the dictatorship of "the little Napoleon," the English, though with some hesitation acceded to his suggestion, all the more that he promised to release the prisoners when the government should be formed. It was settled that there was to be a council of twenty-four, twelve of each race. The convention broke up with great rejoicings, to the accompaniment of fireworks which Dr. Schultz had prematurely imported to signalize a entrance of Mr. McDougall and which were thus set blazing in honour of the apparent downfall of all the hopes of their crestfallen owner, who had escaped from his prison only a few days before and was skulking in hiding about the country, and gnashing his teeth in outer darkness, probably within sight of the spectacle.

It began to look as if the tangled skein would be straightened out by this careful hand without cutting any of the thread. But it was not to come so easily. The most obstinate snarl of all was just on the point of gathering.

Unfortunately Riel did not keep his promise of releasing the prisoners at once. He did let them go a few at a time and probably would soon have emptied the rooms where they had been confined. But suspicion and resentment rose again among the English as day after day went by and still some were detained, until at last by one rash act they raised a storm which enormously complicated the difficulties and dangers of the already precarious situation. On the nights of February 14th and 15th a band of Portage la Prairie men came down near Fort Garry with some mad notion of taking Riel prisoner or doing some equally doughty deed to help their incarcerated friends. Ill-armed and worse supplied, their attempt was hopeless. The shoe was soon on the other foot. Riel captured forty-seven of them, immuring them within the fort. The belt had snapped. Once again the strained wheel whirled back. French and English stood at daggers drawn.

Smith did all that a man could do to mend matters in this disastrous ruin of his hopes. He laboured successfully to avert Riel's intention of shooting the Portage la Prairie leader, buying his life by a promise to persuade the now reluctant English parishes to elect their members of the council. But he was powerless to prevent the next ruinous plunge of the half-breed's sullen fury. In the afternoon of March 4th Thomas Scott, one of the prisoners, was shot dead like a dog, kneeling in the snow of the courtyard at Fort Garry with a handkerchief tied round his eyes, by a volley from the muskets of Riel's assassins. To the last half hour of his life&dmash;he was but a boy—the victim could not believe himself in serious danger and could scarcely be prevailed upon by Mr. Young, the Methodist minister, to gather his thoughts in the solemn last surrender of his spirit. He died in Schultz's place and suffered for his sins. He had not been suffered to say one word in his own defence. Père Lestanc, the bosom friend of the President, could have saved his life by raising his hand. So could Père Richot, or Father O'Donoghue the Fenian priest, the secretary of the council, one of his judges. No effort of Smith's, who agonized to save him, or of many others could move the madman who craved his blood. It was the heaviest blow which their infatuate leader had ever struck against his unhappy countrymen. No deed so foul or irremediable had been done in the north-west since the massacre at Seven Oaks. And unlike that it had been done in cold blood. That red stain in the snow exhaled a black cloud that hung like a pall between them and the rest of Canada, obscuring their grievances, obliterating their claims and darkening the path of those who wished to do them justice.

The immediate effect was to bring Donald's Smith's mission to a sudden end. He could no longer treat with a man whose hands were stained with blood of a Canadian citizen, and, waiting only for a safe conduct, on March 18th he turned his back on Fort Garry.

But after all his work had been done. However the fact might be forgotten in the disappointment and indignation and apprehension of the moment, it remained true that a foundation had been laid for a firm and lasting settlement. The seeds of the truth which he had sowed in those ignorant minds went on germinating in his absence. The representatives whom he had induced them to choose did come to Ottawa, and, in spite of all the outcry against them and the vexatious stupidity which had them arrested in Ottawa as personally responsible for the murder of Scott, reached a basis of understanding with the government of Canada and travelled back to Red River to prepare their compatriots for the Manitoba Act, which early in May Sir John Macdonald carried through the House in the teeth of bitter Orange opposition. And though when at length in June the government thought it safe to allow the transfer to take place they obeyed the dictates of ordinary prudence by despatching an armed force to see that there should be no slip this time, yet no blood was shed. Smith was with Colonel Wolseley and his men when after struggling with wild rivers and unspeakable roads, through bottomless mud and muskeg, they reached Fort Garry on August 23rd, where to his great joy, though to the natural disappointment of the soldiers, they found there was to be no fight after all. The gates were open. They entered unopposed. Riel had fled and Red River had become part of Canada. One life and something like a million dollars had been the cost, unless we reckon in such impalpable quantities as the unedifying deathbed scene of the Hudson's Bay Company's kingship, the poor appearance made by the Canadian government in its first entrance upon that scene, and the serious compromising of the misguided half-breeds. It was a small price to pay considering what a long score had been run up. The sad thing was that scarcely a penny of it came out of the skins or pockets of those who were really responsible. Schultz added another to his many triumphs, and actually ended by representing the Majesty of England as Lieutenant-Governor of the Province which he had done more than any single man to disturb and detach from the Empire.

[Public Domain] Copyright/Licence: The author or authors of this work died in 1964 or earlier, and this work was first published no later than 1964. Therefore, this work is in the public domain in Canada per sections 6 and 7 of the Copyright Act. See disclaimers.