Saturday, July 01, 2006

Happy Canada Day/Jour heureux du Canada

Let us always remember that our current 'parliamentry democracy' was the result of the Great Rebellion of 1837.

This rebellion was part of the mass movement of workers, mechanics, artisans and small farmers against the British Crown in the UK and in the colonies. The infamous Peterloo Massacre in Manchester led to the cry for freedom, and reform in England and in Canada.

The Blackheath Connection
In discussing the development of Britain's modern police force, Whitaker notes: "In England in 1742, Horace Walpole thought the greatest criminals in town [London] were in fact the officers of justice." It was a society where after being farmed out, few offices offered sensible salaries. There was "the nearness to crime of gaining private benefits from public service". ([15]) After the Peterborough massacre in 1819, many MPs began to agree with Robert Peel about the need for a police force, as preferable to fear of the mob or to using the militia (a reference to the 1780 Gordon Riots). In 1812, Britain had to keep a standing army of more than 12,000 to contain industrial unrest in the north of England, more troops than Wellington used in France against Napoleon! Whigs however always feared police forces as an extension of powers of the Crown. William Pitt attempted in 1785 to found a metropolitan police, but London (the City) resisted the idea; such plans were postponed for 44 years. In 1829 when police were formed, the City was exempted, and today it still has its own separate police force. (Patrick Colquhuon's marine police on the Thames were established in 1798).

The conservative ruling class in Canada then turned to Britain to ameliorate the situation, which they did to the benefit of the ruling merchant families. This amelioration would then become the con which is our federation today.

The rebellions occurred in two Canadian colonies:

Thus Canada was born in the class struggle for popular democracy that was the creation of the working class movement. The history of our country is the history of class struggle, not language rights, nor narrow nationalism, but the class struggle for liberty, fraternity and equality.

The Great Canadian/Canadien, reformer and one of the Rebellions leaders; Louis Joseph Papineau thus defended these rights and revealed the con job that is our current federation.

He also noted that Canada was becoming far more pluralist, due to the importation of Chinese labourers to work (and die) on the construction of the Great Canadian Railway. Just as the Irish Catholic navvies were brought in to work and die building the Great Lakes Canals.

1867 Speech of Louis-Joseph Papineau at the Institut canadien


There are men of genius and knowledge in great number in a body as numerous as that of the United Kingdom, whose special education is the science of government. May they give a proof that they are better qualified to govern men than those who gave admirably good constitutions to the general government of the Union and those of the thirty-six States of the American confederation! It is not the precipitated acceptance of the butched Quebec Act of confederation that can prove the wisdom of the statesmen of England. It is not their work; it was prepared in hiding, without the authorization of their constituents, by some colonists anxious to stud themselves to the power that had escaped them. The sinistre project is the works of badly famed and personally interested men, it is the achievement of evil at the British Parliament, surprised, misled, and inattentive to what it was doing.

At first sight, the act of confederation cannot have the approval of those who believe in the wisdom and the justice of the Parliament and the excellency of the English constitution, since it violates its fundamental principles, by taking control over the sums of money belonging to the colonists alone and not to the metropolis nor to any authority in the metropolis. It is guiltier than any of the preceding acts. It has the same defects, and it has new ones, which are unique to it, and which are more exorbitant against the colonists than were those of the parliamentary charters granted or imposed before. The others were given in times and conditions that were difficult and exceptional. The transfer of a new country, with a majority whose religious beliefs and political education differed deeply from those of the minority, could have let us fear that the latter be exposed to denials of justice. Full religious tolerance, the most important of the rights which belong to men in society, had not been understood nor allowed at the time. England was persecuting at home, insane and unjust; she was insane and unjust here, here more than elsewhere, because the public law was supposed to protect us from evil. She ignored it. If she had restricted herself to protective measures for the minorities, she would have been praised; but she exceeded the goal, she oppressed the majority, she did wrong. But it was then a common error which misled her and which excuses her. The odious laws of intolerance are repudiated by all of the civilized world today, except for Rome and St. Petersbourg. There too however, sooner or later it will be necessary to render justice at the sight of the benefits which it pours on the States which respect it.


When the right to freethinking, whether religious, political or scientific, is as generally proclaimed as it is it by the laws, the values and the practice of our days, it cannot be lost. Judicious people will not need to demand it later.

Other parliamentary acts against Canada were acts of rigour, following disorders which would have been prevented by a tiny portion of the concessions that were granted much too late. The merit of these concessions is small and has little value, because they were made only after executions which were murders.

The present act was inflicted to provinces which were peaceful, where there no longer existed animosities of race or religion to calm down. Where nobody was guilty, all were punished, since they received a law for which they were not consulted.

Here is the common objection.

But the exceptional objection, and the more outrageous among all the other miseries and degradations of the colonial state, in the past and the present, is the fate given, by the Canadian leaders initially, and the imperial Parliament later, to Nova Scotia.

The people of New Scotland, represented by the most skilful, and, in his province, the most irreproachable of public men, in possession of the full confidence and the justly acquired respect of his fellow-citizens, and the respect of the ministers and that of the most eminent men of the English Parliament in all parties, is before them. He requests that to listen to the wishes and the prayers of people they should love, for its peaceful practices inside, for its uninterrupted attachment to the metropolis, for the constant defense of its councils, and he ensures them that the expression of repulsion against the measures prepared by some intrigues in Canada, was but the true expression of the feeling of the majority of the voters of Nova Scotia. He could have said: of their unanimous feeling, considering how negligible is the portion who, yielding to personal interests, ended up sending to the Dominion Parliament, for the whole province, but one man, made a paid minister.

When the confederated Parliament was joined together, the fact had become obvious that our brothers of Acadia were unanimous to reject the confederation. We righfully left to illiberal officials the role to scorn their wishes and their rights. It is a repetition of their role in all times. They were saying to them as to us: "you believe yourselves to be oppressed, be it. You are mistaken, we decide for you and against you, like England decided. Good day or bad day, you are chained to us, we love you and we do not want to divorce. We are strong, you are weak, be submissive!"

In fact, their rights were even more outrageously violated than ours. All free men who deserve their freedom, owe themselves a mutual support. Therefore, we cannot remain indifferent to the oppression of our brothers of the maritime colonies, and all the truly liberal and independent men of Canada owe them support and sympathy.

This new governmental plan reveals, more than the others, the violent animosity of that the aristocracy feels towards elective institutions. It was only after long years of ceaseless efforts that the Legislative Councils were made elective. Did those who had been morally glorified by tearing off this important concession to the colonial and metropolitan authorities glorify themselves much today by ravishing it to their compatriots? On the contrary, they felt and they knew that they would not escape the contempt that these tergiversations deserved. They fought among themselves with eagerness to obtain nobility titles from overseas. They defrauded on the one hand their country and other the other they were even defrauding among themselves for the superiority of the rank; and they found ways to associate many accomplices to their shame, as if it was less dark because it was shared! They promised the elected counsellers to have them counsellers for life. They created themselves a fake aristocracy, that became such by their participation in an obvious violation of the law. All these intrigues were immoral enough to please the English cabinet and to push it to adopt an act even worse than almost all its past wrongs. These reactionaries were asking the institutions of the Middle Ages back at the very moment the noble English people was demolishing them.

By recapitulating some phases of our country's history to indicate you the policy that was systematically followed by the aristocratic government of England, in its old and its new colonies, I wanted to show you that this system was always imposed according to the natural prejudices of the caste who governs us in her own interest, interest which is in perpetual and irremediable conflict with those of the masses; that it was harmful to new establishments in America; that the interest of those is to ask for their emancipation as soon as possible, and to acquire all the advantages and all the privileges of new nationalities, completely independent from Europe.

It is to my fellow-citizens of all the origins that I call on today as I always did; that I say that we must not only be anxious to preserve the rights which are acquired, but that, by the free discussion, we must unceasingly endeavour to acquire new ones. The best means of obtaining this happy result is to call the young people and vigorous minds of the elite, of all the various nationalities, to see and themselves frequently, to meet in this enclosure, this library, and in other enclosures, other libraries of comparable nature. They will seem themselves as friends, equal, compatriots. They will share a known admiration for Shakespeare and Corneille, of Newton and Buffon, Coke and Domat, Fox and Lamartine, - for this legion of eminently great and useful men obligated to all of humanity, that both the English and French nationalities have produced in such a great a number. In the current state of our society, with the ease of learning the two languages as of childhood, it would be to condemn ourselves to a marked inferiority to neglect to learn them both correctly, to not to be able to taste the exquisite fruits that their literature produced, more abundant and tastier than those of the other peoples.

No, it is not true that the political discussions, which were as sharp in both Canadas, were a fight between races. They were as rough in Upper Canada, where there was only one nationality, than here, where there were two. The majorities of both of them were uninterested friends of rights freedoms, and privileges due to all the English subjects. They were voluntarily exposing themselves to liefull slanderings, to dangerous angers, to sanguinary revenges sometimes, from egoistic minorities, by themselves weak, but supported by the strenght of the bayonnettes paid with the gold of the people, but everywhere directed against the people.

The most enlightened men of England and America called noble and right the efforts that my English friends and my Canadien friends, me and my colleagues in the assembly, and our colleagues by identity of principles and the community of devotion in the Parliament of Upper Canada, had made to deliver our countries from outrage and oppression. It was in the prejudices and interests of the aristocracy to applaud the excesses of the colonial bureaucracy, small footed nobility, singeresse des grands airs, copyist of practices, follower of the Machiavellism of those who had installed it. The Parliament approved them, reason made them fade away. The Parliament approved them! But isn't it notorious that more of the nine-tenth of the imperial representation remains foreign to any interest, any knowledge of what is being done and of what should be done in the colonies? At that time especially, it was the colonial minister who had to know what was appropriate to them. He was paid to know it. With him, the honor of success, the shame of errors, the responsibility of the decisions, and the troop of sheeps following his steps behind him. But the men who all their lives were friends of public rights and freedoms without ever deserting those, princes of the science of the Just and the Right: - virtuous Sir James MacIntosh, in our first battles; Lord Brougham, the most universal and most surprisingly erudite man of our days; and O'Connell, the most eloquent of the defenders of the rights of Ireland, before him defended by giants in oratory power, Curran, Gratton, Plunket, and so many others; and Hume, who devotes his great fortune to the protection of the colonies; who, surrounded by four secretaries, worked day and night, and deprived himself of any recreation, because the crimes committed in the English possessions of the five continents and their archipelagoes, by delegates of the aristocracy, were brought to his attention, with prayers to protest against evil; and a crowd of other worthy and good Englishmen understood us, and praised us. What means the number of ignoramuses and interested ones who condemned us because they were bribed for it, were interested in it, interested in the destruction of all feelings of hostility towards the arbitrary and opposition?

By the number, we were ten against one in the two provinces. By morality, by le désintéressement, by our justly acquired influence, we were ten times more powerful than by the number. The English and Irish people, by those who were their true and worthy representatives approved us; the American governors and citizens approved us; the enlightened men of the European continent approved us; but especially our compatriots, for whom we suffered and who suffered with us, approved us; better than that even, our conscience approved us.

Those who today exile themselves in such great a number, because of the the disgust for the present men and measures push them to go breathe a purer air, tell abroad what the marks that the colonist bares on his forehead are; what the obstacles which stop him in his walk towards progress are; these shackles which connect his arms if not very productive on the native soil, governed by and for the aristocracy, become so sought for and so greatly productive on the free land! You can be ensured that they are preparing anguishe and vexation for the Minister of the war. They pulverized its bronze batteries by those of the free press, by those of free discussion. They will more and more give consolation and hope to the oppressed; they advanced the hour of the pay back, the hour of noble revenge, when good will be done even to those who practised evil.

The privileged people always think that the prayers and the complaints against the abuses which benefit them are an invitation to repress them by violence. Proud, just and enlightened men, whose convictions are intense because they are the result of strong studies and long meditations, have faith in the empire of reason, and it is for reason alone that they ask the correction of the abuses. Their efforts are addressed to all, to the powerful ones initially, to inspire them sympathy for the people that are suffering and that were impoverished by the abuses. They present them with glory and happiness to conquer, if they know how to render the society of their time more prosperous and more moral that it was it in the times which preceded. They address them initially and preferably, because their mind being more cultivated, they would be better prepared to be able to consider questions of general interest under all their various aspects, and to solve them quickly and correctly when selfishness does not blind them. They address the masses after, to say them that the sabre is not in their hands, but that reason is the richest and most invaluable of divine gifts and that it was separated almost equally amongst all, that the culture of the mind can centuplicate its fruitfulness and strength; that to clear the land one needs physical strenght enlightened by experience, but that in order to make good constitutions and good laws, and to apply them wisely, it is necessary to have before all a strong reason, enlightened not only by serious studies, but above all by a real devotion to the country, and the absence of any personal covetousness of ambition or interest. Here is what could seen before, here is what has since become so rare, now that fortunes acquired at the expense of the public and personal honor, have become so numerous! How badly do these reproaches of propensity to violence come from those who constantly have recourse to violence to prevent the free discussion of political or social questions, physical violence by means of the law, moral violence by the anathema!

All I can do next is to compliment you on the high intelligence and the enlightenend liberality with which you proclaimed and applied the principle of solidarity, and of the gathering in your enclosure -- as in all the political and social organization of our fatherland -- of all races, all religious beliefs, of all freely expressed and freely discussed opinions.

Very blind are those who speak of the creation of a new nationality, strong and harmonious, on the northern bank of St Laurent and the Great Lakes, and who are unaware of or denounce the major and providential fact that this nationality is already very well formed, great, and growing unceasingly; that it cannot be confined to its current limits; that it has an irresistible force of expansion; that in the future it will be more and more made up of immigrants coming from all the countries of the world, no longer only from Europe, but soon of Asia, of which the overpopulation is five times more numerous and no longer has any other outfall than America (1); composed, says I, of all races of men, who, with their thousand religious beliefs, large mix of errors and truth, are pushed all by the Providence towards this common rendez-vous that will melt in unity and fraternity all of the human family.


(1) - Ten thousand Chinese are currently at the the summit of Snow Mountains, 8, 000 feet above ground, constructing the great railroad that will connect the two oceans and make our America the commercial centre of the whole word.

Original Publication: Printed in the newspaper Le Pays, 9, Ste-Thérèse Street, 1868, 20 pages





La belle Madonna?
Today, the house in which Masse lived — located in the Richelieu River valley southeast of Montreal — is a historical site and museum known as La Maison nationale des Patriotes. .Masse was active in the patriot movement, which rebelled against British rule in Lower Canada, and played a leading role in the celebrated battle of Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu on Nov. 23, 1837.That engagement resulted in roughly 200 patriot militiamen — though the movement is most often associated with French-Canadians, there were also Irish and aboriginal fighters — successfully beating back a contingent of 300 British troops.

A player in nation's birth

In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada were united into the province of Canada, each having 43 seats in the new legislature. Macdonald had a successful law practice and decided to run for office. He was elected as a moderate conservative, but grew uncomfortable with conservative politics and in 1843 crossed the floor, taking the same seat under the Reform banner.

It's Montreal, it's summer, it's time to dig

An archeological dig under way as summer begins in Old Montreal has opened a fresh and fascinating portal into this city's - and this nation's - history.

It's a remarkably preserved underground tunnel.

Unheralded and virtually unknown, what's called the William collector has quietly run since the early 1830s beneath much of the city's old quarter from McGill St., under Youville Square and on to the harbour. It was one of the more ambitious public-works projects of that era: Montreal's first collector sewer.


She plans to use the tunnel for access to a special underground exhibition area to feature the long-covered foundations and cellars of what from 1844 to 1849 served as the Parliament of the United Province of Canada.

In the five years since the city had become the capital of the United Canadas [in 1844], political tensions between its French- and English-speaking residents had grown sharper.

Hostilities between Canadien rebels and British loyalists, or Reformers and Tories ... had been smouldering for more than a decade.

Britain exacerbated the problem in 1846 when it repealed the so-called Corn Laws, bringing an end to a preferential trade system that favoured Canadian agricultural and timber markets. The removal of the trade restrictions plunged Montreal into an economic depression.

Then, on Jan. 18, 1849, the government leader, Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, introduced a bill to compensate the 2,276 victims who had sustained damages when the British militia looted, burned and expropriated their property during the 1837 uprising.

What stuck in the craw of the English-speaking Tories was the fact that one of the leaders of the rebellion, Louis-Joseph Papineau, who had been granted amnesty and now sat as a member in the legislative assembly, was eligible for compensation.

The Gazette, the mouthpiece for Montreal's English-speaking merchant class, was especially incensed.

"We have said yes, and we will not hereafter cease to say it: One race or the other must assert its supremacy. Which shall it be?" the paper thundered in one of its editorials.

"The Anglo-Saxon which, like the roll of a mighty ocean, is sweeping over the continent? Is it that energetic, powerful and sleepless race that is to pale before the rushlight of an insignificant French nationality in a corner of Canada?"

The contentious bill passed, and on April 25, 1849, the governor-general, Lord Elgin, gave it royal assent.

The Gazette continued to inflame public opinion and goaded those who opposed concessions for the French to take the law into their own hands.

"Anglo-Saxons, live for the future. Your blood and your race will be supreme," began another incendiary editorial suggesting the time was ripe for anarchy. "Anglo-Saxons to the struggle. Now is your time."

Filled with anger and seething with frustration at British indifference to their colonial grievances, thousands of English-speaking protesters heeded the call. ... The house was sitting when demonstrators reached the building and swarmed up the main staircase inside to the House of Assembly.

A hotel bookkeeper by the name of William Courtney seized the speaker's chair and, "in the name of the people of Montreal," declared the session dissolved.

The building was set on fire and the square was soon engulfed in a hell of flames.

The firefighters, led by one Alfred Perry, refused to extinguish the blaze and in fact joined in the pillage.

Parliament House burned to the ground and with it the government archives containing all of the records of British North America.

The next day, The Gazette described the blaze as "an awfully and magnificently beautiful sight."

PM predicts tough times ahead for separatists
One Bloc Quebecois member, who was waving a green, white and red flag from the anti-British Patriote rebellion of 1837-38, said Harper was trying to prove Quebec remains a conquered territory.


Also See:

A History of Canadian Wealth, 1914.


Origins of the Captialist State In Canada


The Neo Liberal Canadian State


State Capitalism By Any Other Name


Historical Memory on the Eve of the Election

Rebel Yell


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3 comments:

Larry Gambone said...

Good work, Eugene. The history of 1837 has been well suppressed by the rulers. Turned into a purely ethnic thing by the right-wing Quebec nationalists. Derided by Ango-rightists or turned into an anti-French thing. You know there is a wonderful painting of Papineau done when he was younger. By his hand is a copy of Charles James Foxes speeches, Fox being of course the great English Radical, whom P. admired so much. Also the Chartists supported the Canadian struggle in England, something also forgotten. Like you say, class before nationalist BS...

eugene plawiuk said...

Yes and the irony is that the Communist Party in both Canada and the U.S. recognized these indigenous movements of worker/artisan/farmers as extensions of the bourgoise revolutions which lead to the formation of the working class and then to the rebellions by the proletariat world wide between the 1830's and 1848.
The communist movement, which was not concious of itself as such, which Marx and Engels declared in their manifesto.
Often criticized for being narrowly nationalist, or an attempt to reinterpet Canadian and American history the old CP in both countries deserve credit for having kept alive our revolutionary history.

Ironically more so than the anarchist movement which continued to look to Europe for its history even in its hatered of all things Bolshevik.

Larry Gambone said...

Very true about the CP. It was from reading Stanley Ryerson back in the 60's that I first understood the revolutionary and liberatory nature of '37 and how it had been manipulated by subsequent right-wing propagandists. Reading the actual documents and manifestoes of that era makes you aware of how close to direct democracy and socialism they were. This was particlarly true with Mackenzie. An anarchist history of Canada would have to include '37 as a precursor. What is also forgotten is how much the Upper Canadians were persecuted after the failure of the revolution. I read somewhere that I forget that about 10% of the population fled to the US.