Monday, 28 March 2011

Prison reform 1835-1850

In 1835, a series of reports was made by a House of Lords’ Committee on the State of Gaols containing appendices setting out much detailed information including gaols controlled by municipal corporations. These reports informed the drafting of the Prisons Act 1835 ‘for effecting greater uniformity of practice in the government of the several prisons in England and Wales’. The Act empowered Lord John Russell, the Home Secretary to establish a prison Inspectorate of five with only limited powers to inspect local prisons. [1] These were required to make an annual report for each of the establishments visited for the Home Secretary to present to parliament. The reports were initially divided between four districts (Home, Northern and Eastern, Southern and Western and Scotland with Northumberland and Durham), but this was reduced in 1853 to three (Northern, Midland and Southern), and to the Northern and Southern in 1863.

Colonial opposition to transportation built up in the 1830s and 1840s and this paralleled the emerging dominance of slightly different concepts of prison discipline from Westminster, the separate and silent systems.[2] Reformers discovered the prison as a place to teach order and discipline to the offenders, who were perceived as a fundamental threat to the stability of society. The basic idea was to hold prisoners in solitude to shield them from the supposed contaminating influence of other convicts. Being left in completely silence with only the company of one’s conscience and the Bible was to bring about the spiritual renewal of the offender. Also, a strict diet of work and military discipline would help to turn them into law-abiding citizens. Prison building aimed at transforming the prison from a physically and morally filthy place of confinement into a clean and rationally functioning reform-machine. Before 1830, attempts to enforce ‘solitude’ by separating prisoners in gaols had been largely unsuccessful. However, from the 1830s, separate confinement became an effective national policy largely because of the combination of new forms of state power through discipline, government and law with the notion of geographical uniformity. The connections between state power and effective centralised uniformity help to explain why the ‘separate system’ rather than alternative regimes was widely supported by prison reformers in the 1830s and 1840s and why it continued to be the lynchpin of penal policy even after its reformative claims had been rejected.[3]

The initial, practical application of the silent and separate systems occurred in the United States in the 1820s.[4] The Auburn system, also known as the New York System, evolved during the 1820s at Auburn Prison. Convicts worked during the day in groups and were kept in solitary confinement at night, with enforced silence at all times. This ‘silent’ system promised to rehabilitate criminals by teaching them personal discipline and respect for work, property and others. The ‘separate’ system, by contrast, was based on the principle of keeping prisoners in solitary confinement.[5] The first prison built according to the separate system was the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and its design was later copied by more than 300 prisons worldwide. Its revolutionary system of incarceration, dubbed the ‘Pennsylvania System’ encouraged separation of inmates from one another as a form of rehabilitation.[6] This was the basic idea behind the separate system favoured in the 1839 Prisons Act.[7] A group of experts, notably William Crawford a leading figure in the Prison Discipline Society and Reverend Whitworth Russell formerly chaplain at Millbank, advocated the separate system.[8] Lord John Russell, somewhat hesitantly, authorised the construction of a new national prison in London and Captain Joshua Jebb, subsequently appointed Surveyor-General of Prisons in 1846 and favourably disposed to the separate system, was entrusted with the design.[9] The result was the opening of Pentonville in 1842.[10]

The objective of such a prison or ‘penitentiary’ was that of penance by the prisoners through silent reflection in separate cells. At exercise time each prisoner held on to a knot on a rope; the knots were 4.5 metres apart so that prisoners were too far apart to talk. They wore a mask, the ‘beak’, when they were moved around the building so that anonymity was preserved. At the required church services each convict was confined to a separate box so that communication with fellow inmates was all but impossible. The plan was for the solitary confinement and anonymity of Pentonville to last for 18 months before a man was transported. It was believed that, thrown in upon themselves, in the quiet, contemplative state of the solitary cell, convicts, assisted by their Bibles and the ministrations of the chaplain would come to a realisation and repentance of their wrong doing.

It cannot be questioned, then, on grounds of reasoning, independent of experience, that the Separate system is better calculated to promote that great object of Prison Discipline — the reformation of the offender.[11]

The problem was that not every convict was quite so malleable; some assaulted warders, other developed serious psychological disorders or attempted suicide. Between 1842 and 1850, 55 prisoners in Pentonville went mad, 26 had nervous breakdowns and three committed suicide.[12] By the end of the 1840s, even the annual reports of the prison’s commissioners were compelled to admit that there were problems with the system.[13]

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In the ‘silent system’ prisoners were still confined to their cells for most of the first nine months and twere forbidden from communicating with other prisoners. Prisoners who committed an offence could be put on a diet of bread and water, or chained up or whipped. The main elements of the regime were ‘hard labour, hard fare and a hard board’. Gone was any idea about useful or saleable work. Hard labour was intended to be hard and deliberately pointless. There were various kinds of hard labour. The use of the treadmill on which prisoners did ten minutes on and five minutes off for several hours. Oakum-picking involved separating out the fibres of old ships’ ropes so they could be re-used. The crank was usually in the prisoner’s cell. The warder could see how many revolutions the prisoner had made. Finally shot-drill was where heavy cannon balls were passed from one to another down a long line of prisoners. The food or ‘hard fare’ was deliberately monotonous. Hard beds replaced hammocks.[14]

The initial, optimistic logic of the separate system, together with pressure form the Home Office for national uniformity led some local authorities to establish the system in existing or purpose-built prisons. However, the operation of the silent system did not need large-scale improvement or reconstruction of prison buildings and also allowed prisoners to labour in association. Bedfordshire justices, for example, originally ruled out reform of Bedford gaol on the grounds of cost and when they did decide to rebuild they faced vociferous protests from ratepayers. Crawford and Whitworth Russell both died in 1847 removing the two most ardent advocates of the separate system. It had never been implemented across the country with the uniformity and rigour that they had wished leading to a mixture of both systems. However, within ten years the debate on prisons had shifted significantly and the issue was not whether the system should be silent or separate but whether the whole penal system was sufficiently severe. [15]


[1] Stockdale, E. ‘Short History of Prison Inspection in England’, British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 23, (3), (1983), pp. 209-223.

[2] Molesworth, William, Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Transportation: together with a letter from the Archbishop of Dublin on the same subject, and notes, (H. Hooper), 1838, Ritchie, John, ‘Towards ending an unclean thing: The Molesworth committee and the abolition of transportation to New South Wales, 1837-40’, Australian Historical Studies, Vol. 17, (1976), pp. 144-164 and Townsend, N., ‘The Molesworth Enquiry: Does the report fit the evidence’, Journal of Australian Studies, Vol. 1, (1977), pp. 33-51.

[3] Ogborn, Miles, ‘Discipline, Government and Law: Separate Confinement in the Prisons of England and Wales, 1830-1877’, Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 20, (3), (1995), pp. 295-311.

[4] Gray, Francis C., Prison Discipline in America, (Charles C. Little and James Brown), 1847, Adshead, Joseph, Prisons and Prisoners, (Longman, Brown, Green and Longman), 1845 and Dix, Dorothea Lynde, Remarks on Prisons and Prison Discipline in the United States, (Kite), 1845 provide an interesting comparison of the American and British systems.

[5] Forsythe, W.J., ‘The beginnings of the separate system of imprisonment 1835-1840’, Social Policy & Administration, Vol. 13, (2), (1979), pp. 105-110 and ‘The Aims and Methods of the Separate System’, Social Policy & Administration, Vol. 14, (1980), pp. 249-256. See also Field, John, Prison discipline: and the advantages of the separate system of imprisonment, with a detailed account of the discipline now pursued in the new County Gaol, at Reading, 2 Vols. (Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans), 1848 and Jebb, Joshua, Observations on the Separate System of Discipline submitted to the Congress assembled at Brussels, on the subjects of Prison Reform, on the 20 September 1847, (W. Clowes and Sones), 1847.

[6] Teeters, N.K. and Shearer, J.D., The Prison at Philadelphia: the separate system of penal discipline, 1829-1913, (Temple University Press), 1957 and Sellin, T., ‘The Origin of the ‘Pensylvannia System of Prison Discipline’’, The Prison Journal, Vol. 50, (1970), pp. 13-21. See also, Packard, F.A., A Vindication of the Separate System of Prison Discipline from the Misrepresentations of the North American Review, July, 1839, (J. Dobson), 1839.

[7] This was strongly expressed in Third Report of the [Prison] Inspectors, 4 Vols. (W. Clowes and Sons), 1838, Vol. 1, pp. 13-32 while the ‘futility’ of the silent system was discussed, pp. 33-34.

[8] William Crawford’s influence was felt particularly in his Report of William Crawford on the Penitentiaries of the United States, addressed to His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, (Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be printed, 11 August 1834), 1834 and Extracts from the second report of [William Crawford and Whitworth Russell] the inspectors of prisons for the Home District, (William Clowes and Sons), 1838.

[9] Stockdale, E., ‘The Rise of Joshua Jebb, 1837-1850’, British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 16, (1976), pp. 164-170. See also, Jebb, Joshua, Report of the Surveyor-General of Prisons on the construction, ventilation and details of Pentonville Prison, (W. Clowes and Sons), 1844, Second Report of the Surveyor-General of Prisons, (W. Clowes and Sons), 1847 and Reports and Observations on the Discipline and Management of Convict Prisons, 1863.

[10] Tomlinson, Heather, ‘Design and reform: the ‘separate system’ in the nineteenth century English prison’, in King, Anthony D., (ed.) Buildings and Society: Essays on the Social Development of the Built Environment, (Routledge), 1984, pp. 94-119.

[11] The Christian Examiner, Vol. 40, (1846), p. 131.

[12] Thomson, J. Bruce, ‘The Effects of the Present System of Prison Disciline on the Body and Mind’, Journal of Mental Science, Vol. 12, (1866), pp. 340-348 argued that ‘the separate system of prison discipline is trying upon the mind and demands the most careful attention on the part of medical officers, inasmuch as mental diseases are most prominent among criminals in prisons...’

[13] See for example, Burt, J.T., Results of the system of separate confinement, as administered at the Pentonville prison, (Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans), 1852.

[14] Brown, Alyson, English Society and the Prison: Time, Culture and Politics in the Development of the Modern Prison, 1850-1920, (Boydell), 2003, pp. 13-31 considers prisoners’ perceptions of doing ‘time’. See also, Priestley, Philip, Victorian Prison Lives: English prison biography, 1830-1914, (Methuen), 1985.

[15] Henriques, U. R. Q., ‘The rise and decline of the separate system of prison discipline’, Past & Present, Vol. 54, (1972), pp. 61-93.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Developing a national prison system 1780-1835

The involvement of the Home Office in the administration of prisons evolved gradually during the nineteenth century until, by 1878, the Home Secretary became completely responsible for the administration of all prisons. The outbreak of the American War of Independence in 1775 ended transportation to the American colonies and created a major logistical problem for central government. The solution was the use of old sailing ships or ‘hulks’ as a ‘temporary expedient’ while government considered what to do with convicted prisoners. In 1779, legislation introduced a new concept of hard labour for prisoners in the hulks commencing with dredging the River Thames and made provision for the building of two penitentiaries. There was considerable delay in building these institutions and because transportation to Australia became possible in 1787 relieving the pressure on the hulks, it was not until 1813 that construction of convict prisons commenced under the direct responsibility of the Home Office with the penitentiary on Millbank.[1]

Millbank was designed according to principles laid down by Jeremy Bentham and he secured a contract to build it but was unable to obtaining funding. In 1813, the Home Office took over the contract and built a modified version of the prison that was completed in 1821. Initially, Millbank contained male and female convicts but legislation in 1823 limited its use to men. In the prison’s early years, sentences of five to ten years were offered as an alternative to transportation to those thought most likely to reform. Millbank was severely criticised by contemporaries especially for its dietary regime and the health of inmates.[2]

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Source: Shepherd, Thomas H., and Elmes, James, Metropolitan Improvements, (Jones and Co.), 1828

Reduction in prisoners’ diets in 1822 led to an outbreak of scurvy and cholera was a problem in the early 1850s.[3] In 1843, Millbank ceased to have a penitentiary function and, until it closed fifty years later, became an ordinary prison and holding centre for men and women awaiting transportation or in the case of sick prisoners, removal to one of the ‘hulks’. Every person sentenced to transportation was sent to Millbank first, where they were held for three months before it was decided where to send them.[4] Millbank was generally regarded as a failure as a penitentiary.[5]

Home Office involvement in the building of Millbank marked a shift in penal policy and resulted in a dual system of Home Office prisons and local prisons until the two were finally amalgamated in 1878. From Peel onwards, Home Secretaries were interventionist and every government had to develop some sort of policy on the punishment of criminal offenders.[6] A prison for juveniles opened in 1839 at Parkhurst followed by Pentonville prison in 1842 that was intended as a model on which local authorities could base their own schemes. Between 1842 and 1877, 90 new prisons were built in Britain. The District Courts and Prisons Act of 1842 laid down further regulations for building and running gaols. Plans for building a new gaol, by agreement between two or more authorities, were to be submitted to the Home Secretary. If he approved them an Order in Council would be issued constituting the prison a common gaol. The Act of 1844 authorised the appointment of a Surveyor General of Prisons to advise justices on the building or rebuilding of gaols and introduced controls over the building of new prisons. This was particularly significant for the future: in the six years after the building of Pentonville fifty-four new prisons were built providing 11,000 separate cells. Most of these new prisons were modelled on the Pentonville design. The Convict Prisons Act 1850 gave the Home Secretary authority to appoint a board called the Directors of Convict Prisons that was formed to replace various boards of commssioners that had previously managed the different convict prisons, to be responsible for the Convict Prison Service.

Parallel to the development of new prisons were attempts, largely unsuccessful, to impose some standards and uniformity in the running of local prisons. After 1815, there was an increase of parliamentary interest and activity in prisons. Legislation in 1815 required returns to be made of all persons committed and of their crimes. In 1819, the Report of the Select Committee on the State and Description of Gaols and an Account Respecting Gaols, Penitentiaries etc. as to the Number of Prisoners Confined and the Management of them were published. In 1820, the Commons received Returns from Gaols of Persons Committed and a Select Committee was set up to inquire into the laws relating to prisons and its Report appeared in 1822. Following a Select Committee report, Sir Robert Peel introduced the Gaol Act in 1823 and the Prison Discipline Act the following year that laid down rules for local prisons. Earlier legislation had been mainly permissive, but the 1823 Act made central control firmer. It dealt with only 130 prisons; county gaols and those in London, Westminster and in 17 other towns. It was hoped that the authorities in charge of other gaols would either improve them voluntarily or join with county authorities to build new ones. As a result of the Act, between 30 and 40 small towns either closed their gaols or let them fall into disuse. The legislation was informed by the idea of the penitentiary and spelled out health and religious regulations, required the categorisation of prisoners and directed magistrates to inspect prisons three times a year and demanded that annual reports be sent from each gaol to the Home Office. The reports appeared from 1826 listing gaols by counties, and for each entry contain information about the number and employment of prisoners and state of the buildings. They were declared to be no longer necessary in 1858 but had ceased to appear a decade earlier. Many local gaols ignored at least some of these regulations and Peel, reluctant to antagonise local sensibilities about independence, made no attempt to impose sanctions or a national system of inspection.


[1] Hulks continued to be used until 1859 and during the French Wars contained 70,000 prisoners, many prisoners of war. They were brought under the control of the Home Office in 1850.

[2] See, for example, the comments in Report on the discipline and management of the convict prisons, and disposal of convicts, 1852, (George R. Eyre and William Spottiswoode), 1853, pp. 58-97, ibid, Henry Mayhew and Binny, John, The criminal prisons of London, and scenes of prison life, pp. 232-273 and Reports of the Directors of Convict Prisons...For the Year 1862, (George R. Eyre and William Spottiswoode), 1863, pp. 43-94.

[3] ‘Cholera in its Relations to Sanitary Measures’, British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review, Vol. 7, (1851), pp. 9-11.

[4] Holford, G.P., An account of the general penitentiary at Millbank ; containing a statement of the circumstances which led to its erection, a description of the building, etc., to which is added an appendix, on the form and construction of prisons, (C. & J. Rivington), 1828, Griffith, Arthur, Memorials of Millbank, and Chapters in Prison History, 2 Vols. (H.S. King), 1875, Vol. 1, pp. 27-70 and Wilson, David, ‘Millbank, The Panopticon and Their Victorian Audiences’, Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 41, (2002), pp. 364-381.

[5] Ibid, Griffith, Arthur, Memorials of Millbank, and Chapters in Prison History, Vol. 1, pp. 289-310 puts the case against the penitentiary.

[6] Forsythe, B., ‘Centralisation and Local Autonomy: The Experience of British Prisons 1820-1877’, Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 4, (1991), pp. 317-345.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Three prison reformers: Sir George Paul, Elizabeth Fry and Jeremy Bentham

Sir George Onesiphorus Paul was made High Sheriff of Gloucester in 1780 and reacted to the local prisons with much the same disgust as John Howard.[1] Howard’s report on Gloucester prison was damning. Paul realised that he could not alter this and that the only option was to build a new prison. The Gloucestershire Act 1785 gave him the power to do this. He worked with an architect, William Blackburn, to turn his ideas into reality. The new prison had to be secure. The wall was 5.4 metres high with spikes on top. The buildings were arranged so the gaolers could easily see what was going on. It had to be healthy. People believed that disease was caused by bad air, so the gaol was built to suck in fresh air through large gateways, with open portcullises. The large, heated cells were reached by open balconies. Howard had admired the ‘lazarettos’ – isolation wards for health checks at the entrances of many Mediterranean ports. Paul put such a ward at the entrance to the gaol. The gaol had a house of correction for minor offenders, a gaol for prisoners on remand awaiting trial, and a penitentiary for those who had committed serious offences, with male and female sections for each. Paul paid attention to the rules, as well as the building.

There was a paid Governor, a chaplain and a surgeon who visited the sick each day and inspected every prisoner each week. Prisoners were to be reformed through work, education and religion. Of they could not read they were taught and given religious books. Staff had to keep detailed journals on what prisoners said and did. They had to wear a yellow and blue uniform and keep clean; they were not allowed pets or to play games. They were, however well fed and not kept in irons. They spent long periods on their own, thinking about their life of crime. This separation of prisoners from each other was later taken further but at Gloucester it was only for the first nine months of the sentence. Paul’s prison and rules became a model for other prisons.

Crime 18

Ground plan of Shrewsbury Prison 1831

Women’s prisons were probably worse than men’s. There was the same chaotic mixing of those awaiting trial and those convicted. Women prisoners were just as dependent on the gaoler for everything. Women’s prisons usually had male gaolers, who often exploited the women. Women convicts were the outcasts of society. The ideal woman at the time was an angel, a homebuilder, wife and mother, gentle and virtuous. Women in prison had obviously broken this code. Few people pitied them. However, there was no shortage of women prisoners. In general, fewer women than men committed crimes. However, for some offence, like drunkenness, numbers of men and women were roughly equal and they were not far behind for murder.

Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was a Quaker philanthropist and one of the major promoters of prison reform in Europe, who also helped to improve the British hospital system and the treatment of the insane.[2] The daughter of a wealthy Quaker banker and merchant, she married Joseph Fry, a London merchant in 1800 and combined her work with the care of a large family. Unstinting in her attendance of the poor, she was acknowledged as a ‘minister’ by the Quakers or Society of Friends (1811) and later travelled in Scotland, northern England, Ireland, and much of Europe. Quakers believe that there is something of God in everyone and that has drawn many into working with prisoners.

Crime 19

Just before Christmas 1813, Elizabeth Fry visited the women’s section of Newgate Prison. She was shocked with what she saw. There were 300 women crammed into three rooms. Some were ill but could not afford treatment. Some were freezing but could not afford to pay for bedding. Some were fighting’. There were many children among them. She never forgot the sight of two women fighting over a dead baby’s clothes. She returned the next day with baby clothes and clean straw bedding. After these had been handed out she began to pray and many of the convicts joined her. She did not return to the prison until 1816. The chaplain and the gaoler both warned against going in. This time she appealed to the women to do something for their children. Her lack of fear and her directness made a huge impression and they started a school for the prison children. Elizabeth Fry formed a group of mainly Quaker women to visit the prison daily and make changes in the way it was run. A matron was appointed to run the women’s section, the women were supplied with materials to work at sewing and knitting to be sold and Bible readings were held. In 1818, Elizabeth Fry gave evidence to a Parliamentary Committee. This reported that her efforts had made the women’s section in Newgate an orderly and sober place.

Her courage in working with women prisoners, her religious motives and her success made her famous. [3] She was often asked to address meetings and was summoned to meet Queen Victorian in 1840. The Gaols Act of 1823 took up some of her many ideas: gaolers had to be paid, prisoners were to be separated into categories and women had to have female gaolers and warders. However, the Act did not go as far as she wished in forcing prisons to try to reform their inmates. Her own reforms cost money and she knew that many prisons would not take them up unless they were forced to.

Even in her lifetime her suggestions were increasingly acted upon throughout most of Europe. Later in her life she travelled widely in Europe. Everywhere, especially in France and Ireland, she was welcomed and listened to with respect but this was not the case in England. [4] Fry spoke out against the Separate System arguing that her reforms gave women a sense of dignity and perhaps an honest skill but did not break people’s spirits. Edwin Chadwick was highly critical of this saying that the reforms of Howard and Fry encouraged people to get into prison

...the prisons have been so reformed…as to attract vagrants and others who preferred their comfort to labour.[5]

Elizabeth Fry died in 1845 and upper-class women could no longer wander casually into prisons and meddle in how they were run. However, three ideas still present in British prisons owe their origins to her: separate women’s prisons with a female staff; volunteer prison visitors and a belief that prison is a place from which people can emerge rehabilitated.[6]

The late-eighteenth century gave rise to a prison that was never actually built, at least not exactly as its creator intended: Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, designed by the British philosopher in 1791 to serve as a place of incarceration intended to control prisoners by making them feel that they were under constant surveillance. According to Michel Foucault, whose Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) used the idea of the Panopticon as a model for less tangible forms of social control, the Panopticon was the basis of all discussions of prison reform during the first half of the nineteenth century. [7]

Crime 20

Jeremy Bentham’s design for a ’panopticon’ style prison

The French Wars between 1793 and 1815 involved government departments in the organisation and administration of large numbers of prisoners on British soil. Even though central government became increasingly involved in penal administration and reform, Benthamism and Quakerism were two of the main pressures for penal reform during the early decades of the nineteenth century. However, there were important differences between Bentham’s and Fry’s ideas and those of their supposed supporters.[8] Both Bentham and Fry supported the classification of prisoners, productive labour in prisons and the maintenance of healthy prison conditions. Their supporters, however, were more pragmatic concerned with solitary confinement and hard labour as the focus of their desire to deter crime. In many respects, this was a generational difference. Bentham and Fry were reformers, like Howard, concerned with the salvation of prisoners while Benthamites and Quakers active in the 1830s were largely concerned with reducing levels of crime and by 1835 they had largely rejected Bentham’s and Fry’s prison reform ideas.[9]


[1] Whiting, J.R.S., Prison reform in Gloucestershire, 1776-1820: a study of the work of Sir George Onesiphorus Paul, Bart., (Phillimore), 1975 and Cooper, R.A., ‘Ideas and Their Execution: English Prison Reform’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 10, (1), (1976), pp. 73-93

[2] Fry, Elizabeth Gurney, Fry, Katharine and Cresswell, Rachel Elizabeth, Memoir of the Life of Elizabeth Fry: With Extracts from Her Journal and Letters, 2 Vols. (J. Hatchard and Son), 1848, Kent, J.H.S., Elizabeth Fry, (Batsford), 1962, Hatton, Jean, Betsy: the dramatic biography of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, (Monarch), 2005, Skidmore, Gil, (ed.), Elizabeth Fry: a Quaker life: selected letters and writings, (Altamira Press), 2005, Isba, Anne, Excellent Mrs Fry: The Unlikely Heroine, (Continuum), 2010 and Summers, Anne, ‘Elizabeth Fry and mid-nineteenth century reform’, in ibid, Creese, Richard, Bynum, William F., and Bearn, J., (eds.), The health of prisoners : historical essays, pp. 83-101.

[3] See Fry, Elizabeth, Observations on Visiting, Superintendence And Government of Female Prisoners, (J. and A. Arch), 1827.

[4] For example, Elizabeth Fry inspected the state of Irish gaols in 1826; see comments in Fry, Elizabeth and Gurney, Joseph John, Report addressed to the Marquess Wellesley, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, respecting their late visit to that country, (Cumming), 1827.

[5] Ibid, Finer, S.E., The Life and Times of Sir Edwin Chadwick, p. 165 citing an unpublished manuscript for the Constabulary Commission Report of 1839.

[6] Downing, Kevin and Forsythe, Bill, ‘The Reform of Offenders in England, 1830-1995: A Circular Debate’, Criminal Justice History, Vol. 18, (2003), pp. 145-162 and Forsythe, W.J., The Reform of Prisoners, 1830-1900, (Routledge), 1987.

[7] For Bentham’s vision see, Bentham, Jeremy, Panopticon or the inspection house: Containing The Idea of a New Principle of Construction applicable to any Sort of Establishment, in which Persons of any Description are to be kept under Inspection: And In Particular To Penitentiary-Houses, Prisons, Houses Of Industry, Work-Houses, Poor ..., (T. Payne), 1791 and Panopticon: Postscript: Containing Further Particulars And Alterations Relative To The Plan Of Construction Originally Proposed; Principally adapted to the Purpose of a Panopticon Penitentiary-House, 2 Vols. (T. Payne), 1791. Semple, Janet, Bentham’s prison: a study of the Panopticon penitentiary, (Oxford University Press), 1993 and Schofield, Philip, Utility and democracy: the political thought of Jeremy Bentham, (Oxford University Press), 2006, pp. 80-83, 109-111, 254-260 provide critique.

[8] Cooper, R.A., ‘Jeremy Bentham, Elizabeth Fry and English Prison Reform’, Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 42, (4), (1981), pp. 675-690.

[9] Moore, J.M., ‘Penal reform: a history of failure’, Criminal Justice Matters, Vol. 77, (1), (2009), pp. 12-13 has some interesting if brief comments on Howard and Fry

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Clash at Longueuil 17 November 1837

At dawn on 17th November 1837, constable Mâlo and a detachment of 18 volunteers of the Royal Montreal Cavalry arrived at the village of Saint-Jean.[1] Their orders were to arrest the notary Pierre Paul Demaray and doctor Joseph Davignon, both accused of having taken part several weeks earlier in the assembly at Saint-Charles. Caught in bed, the two men were bound hand and foot and carried on the floor of a wagon escorted by the cavalry along the road to Chambly en-route for Montreal. This was not the quickest route to Montreal and lengthened the journey by about fifteen miles.[2] Amédée Papineau commented that

Au lieu de se rendre tranquillement à Montréal par la route directe du chemin à lisse, afin de semer la terreur dans la campagne, ils résolurent de les conduire par Chambly & Longueuil, distance de 36 milles.[3]

Filteau supported this view suggesting that there was a clear intention ‘to sow terror’ by a military deployment in an area that was already disturbed. [4] This interpretation seems reasonable since on 7 November, shortly after the riots in Montreal and ten days before the arrests on 17 November, Colborne had written to Governor Gosford that he should send troops south of Montreal ‘to reassure the loyal subjects of this region and to dissuade the factions from taking part in new acts of violence.’[5] It appears that the detour by the cavalry was part of the strategy Colborne has planned ten days earlier and that the decision to make the arrests may have been a deliberately provocative act.

Despite the hour, the arrests did not pass unnoticed. As soon as Patriotes heard the news, they rushed to Verchères where Papineau was staying. Papineau told them to: ‘fire upon anyone found in the act of forcibly carrying off any of the radical party’, and they lost no time in following his advice. [6] The news spread through the areas close to the village and by around 6 am there were already about twenty men barring the road near Chambly.[7] However, when faced by the superior force of cavalry the men dispersed but had already sent a messenger to the Patriotes in Longueuil on the route of the convoy. A little later militia captain Joseph Vincent de Longueuil also learned of the arrests and decided to alert Bonaventure Viger de Boucherville[8], an influential militia captain who gathered together a force of 40 according to Filteau or 150 according to Greer to intercept the cavalry. [9] The armed Patriotes were not far from Longueuil on the Chambly road. Chambly itself had been reinforced by a detachment of the 32nd Regiment sent by Colborne and the Attorney-General Richard Ogden who were conscious of the dangers facing the convoy in the Richelieu valley. [10]

Around 9 am, the cavalry was about two miles from Longueuil when it was ambushed by Viger and his men.[11] There is some disagreement about who fired first: Filteau said it was the cavalry while Greer said it was the Patriotes.[12] During the ambush, Viger was wounded in the shoulder and hand.[13] Among the loyalists, Ermatinger was hit by buckshot in his cheek and shoulder and two soldiers, Joshua Woodhouse and John P. Ashton were seriously wounded by shot.[14] John Molson narrowly avoided death when a ball passed close to his head and took off his cap. The cavalry was routed and dispersed across the fields. Viger and his men were then able to free the two prisoners. Mâlo hid in a local farm until he was able to make his escape but Ermatinger quickly returned to Montreal to submit his report of the incident.[15]

The following day, Colborne ordered lieutenant-colonel George Wetherall, accompanied by four companies of the 1st Royal Scots and a troop of the Royal Montreal Cavalry to find and arrest the Patriotes involved in the action.[16] The Montreal Courier made the Loyalist position very clear: ‘Blood has been shed at last by rebels who now stand unmasked and fairly subject to the worst penalties of the laws they have insulted’. [17] The ambush at Longueuil marked the opening action in the armed confrontation between the Patriotes and the forces of the Crown in the autumn of 1837.


[1] Ibid, Senior, Elinor Kyte, Les habits rouges et les Patriotes, p. 84.

[2] Ibid, Filteau, Gérard, Histoire des Patriotes, p. 313.

[3] Ibid, Fortin, Réal, La guerre de Patriotes: Le Long du Richelieu, p. 30.

[4] Ibid, Filteau, Gérard, Histoire des Patriotes, p. 313.

[5] Ibid, Senior, Elinor Kyte, Les habits rouges et les Patriotes, p. 78.

[6] Cit, Senior, Elinor Kyte, Les habits rouges et les Patriotes, p. p. 54.

[7] Ibid, Filteau, Gérard, Histoire des Patriotes, p. 313.

[8] ‘Bonaventure Viger’, DCB, Vol. 10, p. 694.

[9] Ibid, Filteau, Gérard, Histoire des Patriotes, p. 314; ibid, Greer, Allan, The patriots and the people, p. 269.

[10] Ibid, Senior, Elinor Kyte, Les habits rouges et les Patriotes, p. 73.

[11] Ibid, Fauteux, Aegidius, Les patriotes de 1837-1838, p. 38.

[12] Ibid, Filteau, Gérard, Histoire des Patriotes, p. 314; ibid, Greer, Allan, The patriots and the people, p. 269.

[13] Ibid, Filteau, Gérard, Histoire des Patriotes, p. 314.

[14] Ibid, Senior, Elinor Kyte, Les habits rouges et les Patriotes, p. 84.

[15] Ibid, Filteau, Gérard, Histoire des Patriotes, p. 315.

[16] Ibid, Senior, Elinor Kyte, Les habits rouges et les Patriotes, p. 93.

[17] The Courier, 18 November 1837.

Prison reformers: John Howard

Individual reformers had criticised the system of criminal punishment based on capital punishment and transportation since the 1770s. They had two motives. Prisons were cruel and unfair. Many of the reformers were Evangelicals who pointed out that convicts were God’s creatures too. People’s lives were being wasted, languishing in gaols when they could change their ways and become decent citizens. Goals were inefficient. Over half of the prisoners were either debtors or had served their sentence but could not afford to pay the gaoler the release fee. At Newgate Prison in 1729, the release fee was 34p. Sir William Eden[1] published the influential Principles of Penal Law in 1771 and John Howard The State of the Prisons in England and Wales in 1777. In spite of the enthusiastic reception given to the work of Howard, much influenced by the writings of Cesare Beccaria[2] and the boost given to reformers, change remained slow and continued to depend on the zeal and initiative of private individuals rather than on any government direction. Howard, Sir George Paul, Elizabeth Fry and Jeremy Bentham were the most influential.

Crime 17

John Howard (1726-1790) was an English philanthropist and reformer in the fields of penology and public health. [3] On his father’s death in 1742, Howard inherited considerable wealth and travelled widely in Europe. He then became High Sheriff in Bedfordshire in 1773. As part of his duties, he inspected Bedford Gaol and was appalled by the unsanitary conditions there. He was also shocked to learn that the jailers were not salaried officers but depended on fees from prisoners. He also found that some prisoners had been acquitted by the courts but were kept in prison because they had not paid their release fees. In 1774, Howard persuaded the House of Commons to pass two acts that stipulated first that discharged persons should be set at liberty in open court and that discharge fees should be abolished and secondly, that justices should be required to see to the health of prisoners. Years afterward, however, Howard complained that the acts had not been ‘strictly obeyed.’ Howard continued to travel widely, touring Scotland, Ireland, France and the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, often-visiting local prisons. He was influential in legislation in 1779 that authorised the building of two penitentiary houses where, by means of solitary confinement, supervised labour and religious instruction, the reform of prisoners might be attempted. The Penitentiary Act was an ambitious piece of legislation, designed to impose a national scheme for the punishment of offenders that could serve as an acceptable substitute for the temporary suspension of transportation occasioned by the American revolutionary war .[4] This act, however, like those of 1774, was never effectively enforced. He spent the last years of his life studying means of preventing plague and limiting the spread of contagious diseases. Travelling in Russia in 1790 and visiting the principal military hospitals that lay en route, he reached Kherson in Ukraine. In attending a case of camp fever that was raging there, he contracted the disease and died.

The power of Howard’s representation of prisons and prison life in The State of the Prisons in England and Wales published in 1777 has led to a one-dimensional view of Hanoverian prisons grounded in their filth, petty corruption and insecurity and as places of contagious moral degeneration.[5] It neglected the attempts by early-eighteenth century legislators and some magistrates to introduce a measure of penal reform. Legislation in 1700 and 1720 allowed magistrates to levy county rates to meet the cost of building new gaols and, before Howard’s intervention there was a sporadic prison rebuilding programme. Howard’s influence consisted less in the novelty of his ideas as in the powerfully made case for reform that contributed to an existing debate on prison conditions. Elizabeth Fry, for example, was critical of his failure to address the issue of rehabilitation. Success was ultimately the result of the work of others especially Dr John Coakley Lettsom and James Neild, both of them Quakers.[6] It also galvanised widespread if embryonic local reform initiatives like those in Gloucestershire.

Howard commented favourably on local prison building in Hertfordshire where local magistrates used their power to raise county rates to build a new prison that was opened in 1779 and on the work of Lancashire magistrates in the 1770s that resulted in the reconstruction of Lancaster gaol.[7] The late-eighteenth century saw a vigorous local movement for reform led by local magistrates that resulted in improvements in both the management and fabric of local gaols funded by ratepayers.[8]


[1] Draper, Anthony J., ‘William Eden and leniency in punishment’, History of Political Thought, Vol. 22, (2001), pp. 106-130 and Bolton, G.C., ‘William Eden and the convicts, 1771-1787’, Australian Journal of Politics & History, Vol. 26, (1980), pp. 30-44.

[2] On Beccaria see Bellamy, Richard, (ed.), On Crimes and Punishments and Other Writings, (Cambridge University Press), 1995. Bellamy’s introduction provides a brief biographical study as well as examining the significance of Beccaria’s writings.

[3] Brown, James Baldwin, Memoirs of the public and private life of John Howard, the philanthropist, (T. and G. Underwood), 1818, 2nd ed., 1823 and Field, John, The life of John Howard: with comments on his character and philanthropic labours, (Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans), 1850 remain useful sources. See also, Howard, D.L., John Howard: prison reformer, (C. Johnson), 1958, Gibson, John, John Howard and Elizabeth Fry, (Methuen), 1971, Ireland, Richard W., ‘Howard and the paparazzi: painting penal reform in the eighteenth century’, Art, Antiquity and Law, Vol. 4, (1999), pp. 55-62, Porter, Roy, ‘Howard’s beginning: prisons, disease, hygiene’, in Creese, Richard, Bynum, William F., and Bearn, J., (eds.), The health of prisoners: historical essays, (Rodopi), 1995, pp. 5-26 and Morgan, Rod, ‘Divine philanthropy: John Howard reconsidered’, History, Vol. 62, (1977), pp. 388-410.

[4] Throness, Laurie, A Protestant Purgatory: Theological Origins of the Penitentiary Act, 1779, (Ashgate), 2008 and Devereaux, Simon, ‘The making of the Penitentiary Act, 1775-1779’, Historical Journal, Vol. 42, (2), (1999), pp. 405-433.

[5] England, R.W., ‘Who Wrote John Howard’s Text: The State of the Prisons as a Dissenting Enterprise’, British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 33, (1993), pp. 203-215 suggests that Howard played little role in writing his book but that the three (or possibly more) men who gave Howard extensive editorial help was not acknowledged since they were active Dissenters against the Church of England.

[6] See Neild, F.G., ‘James Neild (1744-1814) and prison reform’, Journal of the Society of Medicine, Vol. 74, (1981), pp. 834-840.

[7] DeLacey, Margaret, Prison Reform in Lancashire, 1700-1850: a study in local administration, (Stanford University Press), 1986, pp. 70-152

[8] This was not without opposition, see Brown, Susan E., ‘Policing and Privilege: The Resistance to Penal Reform in Eighteenth-Century London’, in Goldgar, Anne and Frost, Robert I., (eds.), Institutional Culture in Early Modern Society, (Brill), 2004, pp. 103-132.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Revising the Bloody Code

The debate between the Whigs and the Tories regarding law reform in the early-nineteenth century centered on the law’s broad application of capital punishment for both violent and property crimes.[1] The Whig reformers argued for graduated sentences tailored to the severity of offenses, so as to project the image of law that is applied fairly, impersonally, and impartially. The opponents of criminal law reform had a more coherent case than contemporaries or subsequent historians have given them credit. Anti-reformers insisted that justice was not a lottery and that judicial discretion was sensible and conscientiously practised. Reformers could point to injustices but anti-reformers could point to many examples that showed the system working with mercy and moderation. The strongest argument of traditionalists concerned whether there could ever be a significant measure of certainty on the way that a punishment was meted out to fit a particular crime. The Criminal Law Commissioners appointed in 1833 ran into major problems when they tried to establish a rational system of sentencing. In their Second Report in 1836, they specified four overall classes of crime each with two alternative penalties; by 1839, there were fifteen overall classes of crime each with a far greater range of penalties and by 1843, the scale of penalties had reached forty-five. The attempts of the Commission to establish precise offences and to codify the criminal law eventually foundered but its eight reports published by 1849 contain the most thorough and principled examination of English criminal law ever made by an official body.

Traditionalists were defending an aristocratic and paternalistic image of justice that focused on the practice of the courts and the use of mercy. Reformers focused on existing severity and proposed an image of Benthamite impersonal justice in which the law was administered equally to all and was above the suspicion of being dependent on the discretion of the judiciary. The problems for the opponents of reform were that moderate and influential Tories like Peel were sympathetic to the reformers’ image of justice. However, what has to be recognised is the logic of the traditionalists’ case and what has to be rejected is the notion that the reformers had a far-sighted vision of nineteenth century progress that would culminate in the modern legal system.

Crime 13

Sir Samuel Romilly, William Owen

Government Art Collection: 16044

Reform of the criminal law began in the first decade of the nineteenth century and was associated with individual MPs such as Romilly.[2] In 1808, Romilly persuaded Parliament that convicted pickpockets should no longer be sentenced to death. Between 1810 and 1818, the House of Commons passed four Bills abolishing the death penalty for stealing 5 shillings from a shop but all were rejected by the House of Lords. In 1818, a House of Commons committee was appointed to report on capital offences and as a result some obselete laws were repealed. In the ten years 1815-1824, an average of 89 people were hanged each year, 16 for murder. The death penalty began to lose its central role in the criminal justice system with Peel‘s rationalisation of the law even though numbers of capital convictions continued to rise roughly in line with the rise in criminal statistics until the early 1830s. Between 1823 and 1830, the death penalty was abolished for over a hundred offences and in the following decade was removed from other offences: in 1832, from house-breaking, horse-stealing, sheep-stealing and coining false money; and in 1837, from all offences except murder, attempted murder and treason. The number of capital offences continued to be reduced in the 1830s and early 1840s and after this it was rare for anyone to be executed for any offence other than murder. In 1845-1854, on average nine people were hanged each year, all for murder.In 1861, the death penalty was finally abolished for attempted murder.

Crime 14

At the same time there were reforms of both the criminal and civil court system. In 1813, Manchester appointed stipendiary magistrates, an example followed by Liverpool in 1836, Birmingham in 1856 and Leeds three years later. Court procedures were simplified in the early 1830s and in 1836, prisoners accused of felonies were allowed to have counsel to represent them in court. The problem of imprisonment for debt was addressed in 1844 when it was abolished for amounts less than £20 and was finally abolished for all debts in 1861. This development was aided by the establishment of a system of county courts in 1846 to allow people to sue cheaply for small debts. The mid-1870s saw a major reform of the court system and in 1879, the Director of Public Prosecutions was appointed to organise the prosecution of serious criminal cases.

The hardening attitude towards prison discipline coincided with further legal limitations on capital punishment and the final shift of physical punishment away from the public eye. In 1861, Parliament abolished the death penalty for all crimes other than murder and high treason. In 1856, a Select Committee recommended the ending of public executions and a Royal Commission made a similar suggestion ten years later. Why end public executions? The deterrent effect of public execution was recognised but contemporaries argued that this would still remain if executions were held in private and was far outweighed by the public order problems posed by the large crowds executions generated.

The mid-Victorians increasingly took the view that public executions were morally wrong. Even if people believed in the deterrent effect of hanging, they did not believe it was right for men and especially women and children to see a person hanging at the end of a rope. The last public execution took place outside Newgate on 26 May 1868.[3] The removal of the convict and of punishment from the public gaze robbed the felon of any moment of glory or martyrdom. It was also in keeping with notions of dignity and decorum so important to Victorian sensibilities.

Crime 15

With the decline in the use of the death penalty, prisons of different varieties had a more central role to place in the punishment of offenders, though until the middle of the century transportation also remained an option for dealing with those deemed serious offenders. The transportation of convicts to English colonies had its origins in the late-sixteenth century. [4] Parliament gave magistrates the power to exile rogues and vagabonds ‘beyond the seas’ in 1597 and James I authorised pardons for condemned felons on condition that they went to the New World. From 1654 onwards, some prisoners who received a reprieve from the death sentence were sent to work on the plantations in North America and the West Indies and in 1678, Parliament approved the idea of sending prisoners to serve their sentences in the American colonies of Virginia and Maryland and in the West Indies where they could be used in developing those lands. However, it was not until the Transportation Act 1718 that Britain systematically adopted foreign exile as a punishment for serious crime. Between 1719 and 1776 some 50,000 people were transported. Transportation to the American colonies effectively ended in 1775 with the American War of Independence. [5] Such was the desparation of the British government over what to do with convicted felons that in the mid-1780s it decided to establish a penal colony in Australia. [6]

From the foundation of New South Wales in January 1788 until 1867, transportation was an important, though increasingly contentious, feature of colonial life. [7] More than 187,000 convicts were sent to Australia, most after 1815.

Crime 16

The Old Chartist, Joseph Swain, 1862

‘The old man, returning home from transportation, leans on a great stone by the brook side and watches a brown water rat.’

There was growing opposition to transportation in Britain and Australia and in 1840, transportation to New South Wales was discontinued but continued to Tasmania until 1853 and Norfolk Island until 1856. In 1849, transportation started to Western Australia.[8]  Long-term transportation was retained in the 1853 Penal Servitude Act but finally abolished the 1857 Penal Servitude Act. Technically, transportation was replaced by penal servitude, a term of imprisonment that usually included hard labour and was served in British gaols. Ranging from 3 years to life, it was for those who would have been transported for less than 14 years and could also be used as an alternative sentence for those liable to transportation of 14 years or more. In practice, convicts were transported to Western Australia as late as 1867. With hangings greatly reduced and transportation slowed and ten ended, prison was now the main punishment for criminals in Britain.[9]


[1] See, McGowan, R., ‘Images of Justice and Reform of the Criminal Law in Early Nineteenth-Century England’, Buffalo Law Review, Vol. 32, (1), (1983), pp. 89-125.

[2] Hostettler, John, The politics of criminal law reform in the nineteenth century, (Rose), 1992, Ford, T.H., ‘English criminal law reform from Peterloo to Peel’, Durham University Journal, Vol. 76, (1984), pp. 205-216 and Follett, Richard R., Evangelicalism, penal theory and the politics of criminal law reform in England, 1800-30, (Palgrave), 2001.

[3] Cooper, D.D., The Lesson of the Scaffold, (Allen Lane), 1974 examines the debate about public executions. See also, McGowen, Randall, ‘Civilizing punishment: the end of the public execution in England’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 33, (1994), pp. 257-282.

[4] Innes, Joanna, ‘The role of transportation in seventeenth and eighteenth century English penal practice’, in Bridge, Carl, (ed.), New Perspectives in Australian History, (Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London), 1990, pp. 1-24.

[5] Ekirch, A. Roger, Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775, (Oxford University Press), 1987 and Morgan, Gwenda and Rushton, Peter, Eighteenth-Century Criminal Transportation: The Formation of the Criminal Atlantic, (Palgrave Macmillan), 2004 provide a detailed account of the operation of the transportation system.

[6] Martin, Ged, (ed.), The Founding of Australia: The Argument about Australia’s Origins, (Hale and Iremonger), 1978, provides a convenient collection of materials on why Australia was chosen.

[7] Rudé, G., Protest & Punishment: The Story of the Social and Political Protesters transported to Australia 1788-1868, (Oxford University Press), 1978 and Criminal and Victim: Crime and Society in Early Nineteenth-Century England, (Oxford University Press), 1985, Shaw, Alan, Convicts and the Colonies: a study of penal transportation from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia and other parts of the British Empire, (Faber), 1966 and Hughes, R., The fatal shore: a history of the transportation of convicts to Australia, 1787-1868, (Collins Harvill), 1987.

[8] Ibid, Shaw, Alan, Convicts and the Colonies and Robson, L.L., The Convict Settlers of Australia, (Melbourne University Press), 1976, and Nicholas, Stephen, (ed.), Convict workers: reinterpreting Australia’s past, (Cambridge University Press), 1988 examine the process and the participants. Smith, Babette, Australia’s birthstain: the startling legacy of the convict era, (Allen & Unwin), 2008 considers why Australians are still misled by myths about their convict heritage. See also Brown, Richard, Three Rebellions: Canada 1837-1838, South Wales 1839 and Victoria, Australia 1854, (Clio Publishing), 2010, Three Rebellions: Famine, Fenians and Freedom 1840-1882, (Clio Publishing), 2012 and Rebellion in the British Empire, (Clio Publishing), 2013.

[9] Smith, D., ‘The demise of transportation: mid-Victorian penal policy’, Criminal Justice History, Vol. 3, (1982), pp. 21-45. See also, Willis, James J., ‘Transportation versus Imprisonment in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain: Penal Power, Liberty, and the State’, Law & Society Review, Vol. 39, (1), (2005), pp. 171-210.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Reacting to rejection

Reacting to rejection

Papineau’s support remained strong, though it grew evident that he had little left to offer except noble messages. Like Mackenzie, Papineau was long on words but short on action. The Ninety-Two Resolutions had heightened divisions with many moderate French Canadians and Papineau’s anti-clerical position alienated reformers in the Catholic Church, and made Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue into a powerful opponent. [1] News of Russell’s Ten Resolutions took a month to reach Lower Canada and it was not until 10 or 11 April that the Assembly was informed of the rejection of its Resolutions. The reaction was immediate: La Minerve reported events on 13 April, the following day the Vindicator called for ‘Agitation! Agitation!’ while on 20 April La Minerve announced the calling of a popular Assembly in the comté de Richelieu to denounce Russell’s Resolutions. The dialogue between the Assembly and London had come to an abrupt end.

Between April and the beginning of the rebellion in mid-November, although Papineau still pursued a constitutional approach, preparations were made for what many saw as inevitable conflict with the colonial authorities. [2] During April and May 1837, the Patriotes put a dual strategy in place. Papineau thought that boycotting taxed goods would force the British Government to give way. Under his direction, the Comité central et permanent de Montréal, reorganised in May, coordinated Patriote activities throughout the province. Only if these methods proved ineffective, would he then agree to the use of force. The radical wing, dominated by people such as the brothers Wolfred and Robert Nelson, [3] Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté, [4] Édouard-Amury Girod[5] and Thomas Storrow Brown [6] took a more aggressive stance. This plan was widely known among Patriotes by June and was communicated to republicans in Upper Canada. The Patriote leadership recognised that the mass of the people needed to be carefully mobilised and this had to be accompanied by obtaining arms. Papineau was viewed as the leader of the movement but he struggled to maintain control over the impetus towards confrontation. He may have won the war of words in 1837 but, as events were to demonstrate, he could not win the war itself. [7]

Although he had not called for popular assemblies Papineau recognised their value for putting pressure on government by mobilising popular support. [8] The first phase of popular assemblies lasted from early May until the middle of June 1837 with the first assembly at St-Ours on 7 May, important because it provided a model for subsequent meetings. The Declaration of St-Ours consisted of twelve resolutions that denounced Russell’s Resolutions as a violation of the 1791 Constitution by an oppressive government, and maintained the principle of ‘No taxation without representation’. The Patriotes decided to boycott British imports and not to pay taxes to the Government on other imported goods, and to put further pressure on the government by smuggling goods. The Declaration proclaimed Papineau, who did not attend, as the only true leader of the Patriotes, thanked reformers in Britain and Upper Canada who supported their cause and criticised those Patriotes who had left the movement. [9] These resolutions were an extension of the Ninety-Two Resolutions but with two important differences. First, London was now an adversary not an ally, and secondly, they represented a direct appeal beyond the Assembly to the people. Surprisingly the reaction of the Patriote press was muted with only La Minerve providing detailed coverage while The Vindicator provided only a terse summary of the resolutions. [10]

On 15 May, Papineau spoke at a popular assembly at St-Laurent, north of Montreal against Russell’s Resolutions and repeated calls for a boycott of British imports. The assembly at St-Marc in Verchères called for a constitutional convention. Three days later the Lower Canada banks suspended specie payment until 23 June due to civil unrest. On 23 May, the Comité central et permanent de Montréal passed a resolution demanding free trade with the United States. Rebellious ideas were openly expressed and groups of disaffected French Canadians began organising and drilling in readiness for possible military action. Further assemblies were held during the first half of June at St-Hyacinthe, Longueuil, Quebec and Ste-Rose. Finally, on 15 June, Gosford banned public meetings and the movement toward rebellion intensified.

The second phase lasted between June and August. Ignoring Gosford’s ban, illegal assemblies were held on 18 June at Berthier and St-Francois-du-Lac, a further assembly at St-Hyacinthe on 23 and at Malbaie on 25 June. On 26 June, there was an assembly at St-Thomas in Bellechasse and L’Islet and two days later, the assembly at Montreal demands democratic rights. In July, there were assemblies on 4 July at Stanbridge in Missisquoi to celebrate American independence and demand democratic rights where many American sympathisers attended and on 12 July, Papineau chaired a protest meeting at Napierville with Côté. Four further assemblies were held in July at Deschambault, Yamachiche, in the comté of St-Maurice, l’Assomption, and Vaudreuil. On 6 August assemblies were held at St-Francois-du-Lac on seigneurial tenure and at St-Constant in LaPrairie in the presence of the French ambassador from the United States. Finally, on 22 August the Association des Dames patriotiques was founded and urged the wearing of local clothing to avoid imports. As public meetings continued to be held, radicals openly called for rebellion and social revolution with the ending of the seigneurial system. Papineau was doubtless worried by these radical views, but the acceleration of the revolutionary movement also served his ends.

The authorities were fully aware of the explosive situation and Gosford hoped that a modest reinforcement of British troops during the summer of 1837 would discourage French Canadians from violence. The major concern of James Stephen in London was whether if rebellion broke out in Lower Canada, the Government could count on the support of the other North American colonies. New Brunswick was expected to remain quiet while Upper Canada might be appeased by the recall of its Governor. [11] Whig ministers were more concerned about the situation in Nova Scotia where there had been widespread criticism of its executive since the election of Joseph Howe to the Assembly.[12] Its demands, set out in the Twelve Resolutions of 1837, saw a temporary alignment of the Nova Scotia Assembly with the Canadian legislatures in demands for the surrender of crown revenues, a division of councils, an elective council and a responsible executive. Unlike in the Canadas however, the Colonial Office was prepared to give up crown revenues in return for a civil list, separate the councils and modify the executive on lines that satisfied Nova Scotians. British officials, if not ministers, recognised that the real threat to British North America would come from Lower Canada.

The third phase began in mid-August with the recall of the Assembly to explore possible ways out of the constitutional impasse. It first met on 18 August but its demands for an elected Legislative Council and the creation of a responsible government remained unchanged, there was no vote of supply and on 26 August it was dissolved. [13] September proved quieter largely because of the need to harvest crops. Increasingly, however, there was growing impatience among younger Patriotes with the timidity of their older leaders. On 5 September young Patriotes in Montreal established the Fils de la Liberté, a radical paramilitary organisation based on the American Sons of Liberty. [14] It consisted of two sections: a civil wing led by Papineau, O’Callaghan and Ouimet, and a military wing led by Brown that practised military manoeuvres each week. Further assemblies were held at St-Denis, Napierville and St-Ignace on 10 September and six days later by Patriote women at St-Antoine.

From the middle of 1837, there were concerted efforts to coerce individuals and officials into supporting the Patriotes. In the Richelieu valley, [15] French Canadians were expanding southwards towards the British-American settlements while in the Deux-Montagnes British settlers were thrusting into French Canadian areas of settlement. [16] Papineau’s demands for the boycott of British goods and attacks on the British American Land Company, and the exaggerated languages of the Patriote press were soon translated by habitants into racial overtones exacerbating existing animosities. This often took the form of ‘charivaris’, a long-established, largely rural form of social coercion to intimidate those whose behaviour was unacceptable to the community. [17] Although charivaris were an expression of local grievances, they demonstrated the depth of feeling felt by many habitants about the actions of the colonial government. This enabled Patriotes to mobilised sympathetic opinion into community action and there are clear parallels between this and the ‘Scotch Cattle’ activities in South Wales. [18] Two examples illustrate this issue. First, throughout the summer and autumn of 1837 the Deux-Montagnes was the scene of a large number of charivari characterised largely by intimidation and verbal violence though in the case of Robert Hall they took a more serious form. On the night of 28 June, Robert Hall, a farmer from St-Scholastique, was visited by four men who attacked him for not signing the parish’s Patriote petition.[19] In his deposition, he stated that the door to his house had been forced, one window smashed by stones in a room where one of his young children was sleeping, and part of his fence was pulled down and destroyed leaving his field of wheat open to animals. Hall sought the support of the Attorney-General Charles Ogden and he ordered the arrest of the four men identified by Hall. Attempts to arrest those involved failed on 14 July when the authorities were confronted by angry crowds. Ogden’s further attempts to curb abuses in the Deux-Montagnes were fruitless and the area remained the most disturbed rural area in the province until more serious charivari broke out in the Richelieu valley in September.

Secondly, the area around St-Blaise-sur-Richelieu played a minor part in events in 1837. However, between 27 and 29 October, a charivari took place at the home of Dudley Flowers, a lieutenant in the militia orchestrated by Cyrille-Octave Côté that led to Flowers resigning his commission and leaving with his family. [20] Further charivaris by Patriotes took place at the Protestant mission of Henriette Odin-Feller and at the homes of converts. [21] The arrival of Protestantism in the region was considered by some habitants as further attack on their traditions and the small Protestant community she established became a legitimate Patriote target. Odin-Feller and the families who had converted left St-Blaise for Champlain in the United States. On her return two months later, she distributed food and medicine to local people, stopped further action against those who had burned the converts’ houses, and went to Napierville to speak on their behalf though her actions did not prevent nine properties being destroyed during Loyalist reprisals in November 1838.

Papineau’s conversion to republicanism and the emergence of the St Jean Baptiste Society [22] in 1834 as the social wing of the Parti Patriote led to the formation of four Loyalist societies that came together under the Constitutional Association of Montreal, an umbrella organisation, in early 1835. [23] Opposed to Patriote demands, the Constitutional Association sought to preserve the existing constitution and prevent French Canadian domination of the legislative process. Its manifesto, published in December 1835, attacked the ‘dishonest imputations of the French-Canadian leaders’ and later the seigneurial system, language unlikely to appeal to the silent majority of French Canadians or those disenchanted with Papineau. The result was a hardening of its position by early 1836, a situation helped by publicity from the Morning Courier, edited with determined and partisan vigour by Adam Thom. [24] The perceived need for ‘mutual defence and support’ led to the formation of the British Rifle Corps in December 1835. But Gosford’s response was immediate; it was banned on 15 January 1836. Its more militant members then formed a semi-secret society, the Doric Club that became the paramilitary wing of the Association.

By early September, Gosford had finally come to the belated conclusion that there would be no compromise with Papineau. He had issued a proclamation against sedition and ordered it to be read in all towns and villages by officers of the provincial militia. Most refused and many resigned and many who had not resign were dismissed. This posed a major problem for the authorities since militia officers were the guardians of law and order and there were few French Canadian sheriffs and magistrates whose loyalty could be relied on. An aggressive dialogue between the Tory and Patriote press threatened war in the streets. However, disturbances were still local and there was little sign of trouble in Quebec City and the areas around it where the Patriotes with their one newspaper, Le Libéral, never got beyond a war of words with the Loyalist Constitutional Association and its more militant Loyal Victoria.[25]

There were, nonetheless, three main areas of concern. First, the valley of the Richelieu centred on the towns of St-Denis, the home of the Patriote leader Wolfred Nelson, [26] St-Charles and St-Ours was worrying because of its proximity to the American border. [27] Secondly, to the north of Montreal beyond the Rivière des Prairies lay the substantial but isolated Patriote towns of St-Eustache, St-Benôit and Ste-Scholastique where there were reports of anarchy as early as June 1837 with loyalists living in fear and officials ‘elected by the people’ trying to maintain some semblance of order. An organised boycott of loyal British and French Canadian settlers in the Deux-Montagnes began shortly after a meeting of Patriotes in Ste-Scholastique in June at which Papineau set the tone of the rural agitation:

The British Parliament has stolen your lands and has given them to swindlers and traders…Now they threaten to steal your money…for a squalling pack of corrupt officials.

Finally, Montreal itself was far from secure. Papineau lived there and most of the trouble was centred on fractious and increasingly violent confrontations between the Fils de la Liberté and the Doric Club. Colborne wanted to arrest some of the excited parties but Gosford was still unwilling to act.

Beginning in October 1837, sporadic violence broke out in the countryside. [28] On 1 October, the Comité permanent de les Deux-Montagnes called on its inhabitants to elect magistrates. [29] Two weeks later, it also decided that each parish should establish its own militia. On 4 October, Fils de la Liberté published a manifesto calling for the election of a republican government and on 10 October, military units numbering 500 marched through the streets of Montreal singing revolutionary songs. Events increasing moved beyond Papineau much as Feargus O’Connor was bypassed by radical Chartists in September and October 1839. His progress through the Deux-Montagnes and down the Richelieu was a triumph. His presence inspired his supporters with the strength of his anger but the call to arms was getting louder. There were no arms as Papineau had forbidden attempts to buy them and arms required money and arrangements in the United States but no such plan existed. He returned to Montreal in early October where he found pressure for confrontation growing and the mood darker. The Comité central et permanent met daily hearing leaders and resolutions from the country districts but Papineau kept a discrete distance from plans he could not approve. William Lyon Mackenzie made contact arguing that it would be wise for them to coordinate their risings but though Papineau listened, no plans were made. Papineau condemned the nightly parades and threats of riot in the city but did nothing to stop them even if this was possible. While Papineau hesitated, the Fils de la Liberté marched in his name.

The calling of the Grande Assemblée des Six-Comtés (Richelieu, St-Hyacinthe, Rouville, Chambly, Verchères and L’Acadie) by the river at St-Charles that would call for a national convention, something Papineau had always favoured, marked the inexorable transition from agitation to rebellion. The gathering of chosen leaders speaking to massed Patriotes would lay down the ultimate challenge to the authorities. It would depose the Constitution and take the first tentative steps towards establishing a new state. Papineau would have to attend, even though he said the meeting was not his affair, and arrived at the small village of St-Marc, directly opposite St-Charles across the Richelieu, the evening before. His friends found him uncharacteristically uncommunicative, sombre and hesitant about his plans for the next day.

23 October was wet, cold with a covering of snow on the ground. There were banners everywhere including those symbolising the new republic with an American eagle carrying a maple leaf in its beak. The Pole of Liberty surmounted by a red cap, symbol of freedom and revolution and the inscription ‘To Papineau—his Grateful Compatriots—1837’ around its base stood before the platform. Aside from Papineau, the most important Patriote leaders were there: Wolfred Nelson and his brother Robert, both doctors, always strident in their attacks on the executive. Doctor Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté of L’Acadie and his aide Lucien Gagnon [30] were powerful advocates of fire and blood; Thomas Storrow Brown, the General of the Fils de la Liberté; Amury Girod, a Swiss radical, loud and confrontational, and Doctor Chenier of St-Eustache, a compulsive talker and local leader. Wolfred Nelson who chaired the Grande Assemblée spoke first calling for the people, arms in hand, to put an end to tyranny. Papineau then rose and delivered a speech that was uncharacteristically moderate and hesitant. He called for people ‘of whatever origin, language or religion’ to organise themselves, and elect their own judges and militia officers in opposition to the British but it was now time to pause and reflect. Much had already been achieved by constitutional means, he maintained, and more could yet be achieved by the same means. This was not the time for a call to arms. At this point Nelson interrupted openly calling for revolt: ‘The time has come to melt our spoons into bullets’. For the next two hours, Papineau sat while speaker after speaker followed Nelson’s lead. They spoke in Papineau’s name binding him into an armed response that he clearly did not want. The delegates had prepared Thirteen Resolutions based on the Rights of Man, and these were approved by acclamation by the increasing excited crowd. These included one to reduce tithes and another to abolish some of the fees of the seigneurial system, designed to persuade the naturally conservative habitants into the Patriote camp. In attacking traditional French Canadian institutions, the Patriotes created an ideological rift in their ranks. What had been a political battle between executive and Patriotes was broadened, as Papineau feared, into a social revolution of habitant against seigneur. Despite Papineau’s call for restraint, this meeting marked a declaration of independence by the six comtés and was certainly interpreted as such by both radicals and the Government. [31]

The Roman Catholic hierarchy threw its weight behind a policy of compromise. [32] Lartigue’s first injunction was dated 24 October 1837, two days after a demonstration by 1,200 Patriotes in front of the Cathedral of St-Jacques protesting against the sermon given by Lartigue on 25 July at the ceremony when Ignace Bourget was consecrated as Lartigue’s coadjutor with the right of succession. [33] Lartigue had reminded the congregation of the Catholic Church’s attitude to rebellion against lawful authorities.[34] The first pastoral letter restated the traditional doctrine of the Church to ‘the obedience due to authority’ casting serious doubt on the wisdom of the radicals’ policy, which he considered imprudent as well as harmful. However, he did not threaten ecclesiastical sanctions against those in his diocese who did not respect his instructions. This letter was not well received by Patriotes. La Minerve on 30 October was particularly critical, as was Étienne Chartier, priest of St-Benoît who challenged the argument on which the pastoral letter was based. [35] According to Gilles Chaussé:

…although the clergy disassociated itself from the views expressed by the curé of St-Benoît, nonetheless a significant section of the clergy entertained serious doubts about the action of their bishop and on his view of the doctrine of unconditional obedience to the Crown and its representatives. [36]

This pastoral letter reminded clergy and laity of their religious responsibilities. [37] In reality, for many Patriotes it meant making a choice between their religious and political conscience. [38]

Papineau returned to Montreal from St-Charles afraid of what he had unleashed but knowing that the Patriotes could not rely on the active support of most French Canadians and the best they could hope for was their neutrality. Despite criticism of colonial government, for most in the province, the existing system of government was not intolerable. Neither did most people believe that the Patriotes could succeed in an armed conflict with the regular army or the loyalist militia. They may have been sympathetic to what Papineau was trying to do, but little more. The British minority could not be neutral but feared armed conflict less than general elections: the first, they were sure to win; the second, they were sure of losing. [39] Papineau still hoped that the British Government would give in before things went too far and this helps explain his timid attitude to rebellion. Despite pushing the constitutional strategy to extremes, he understood, unlike his more radical supporters, that it still offered the best prospect for success in changing the political system. It was already too late.

The disintegration of civil society called for a firm response from the colonial authorities. Nevertheless, Gosford was unwilling to take decisive action and still hoped for compromise with Papineau. He had had some success in increasing the French Canadian membership on the Legislative and Executive Councils and by October 1837, the active members of both bodies were largely French Canadian. For Loyalist militants, Gosford was completely in the hands of the French party. Although most French Canadians on the councils had unimpeachable loyalist credentials, some had been associated with Papineau and may have been leaking information to him. It is not surprising that Colborne did not provide Gosford with information about troop movements and had none of Gosford’s qualms about taking decisive action.

Colborne had already reinforced the garrisons in Montreal and Quebec City bringing their respective strengths to over 1,000 and 1,700 officers and men. This represented a small military force to control 650,000 people of varying degrees of loyalty, as both Colborne and the Patriotes knew. Colborne, however, had an effective intelligence system of loyal French Canadians that kept him well informed of Patriote plans. He had completed his assessment of the situation in the Montreal area by 22 September and decided to deploy additional troops. His decision was, in part, the result of an intensification of charivaris against loyalists in the Richelieu valley, something he had personally experienced at St-Hyacinthe and intelligence that Wolfred Nelson had already called on Patriotes to prepare to take up arms. Colborne’s counter-revolutionary moves in late September involved having two regiments in Montreal ready to march in winter into the Richelieu valley, and troops in barracks at Sorel, Trois-Rivières and Chambly to garrison the area south of the St Lawrence and a company at Bytown to deal with any problems in the Deux-Montagnes. Sir Charles Gore, [40] his quartermaster-general arrived in Montreal to inspect and refit barracks and Lieutenant-Colonel George Wetherall reconnoitred the Richelieu valley from Chambly to St-Denis, where he was leading his troops six weeks later. [41] After the assembly at St-Charles, Colborne moved further troops into the province including the 24th Regiment from Upper Canada where Sir Francis Bond Head was prepared to rely on his militia for protection. John Molson offered his steamboats to bring troops from Quebec to Montreal and the Constitutional Association was secretly organising Loyalists. [42]

By the end of October, in Montreal and its surrounding area, the news was disturbing. Patriote bands roamed the countryside demanding the resignation of militia officers and magistrates: some 116 from the counties bordering the Richelieu River alone. Intelligence sources suggested growing tensions between the Fils de la Liberté and the Doric Club in Montreal but also maintained that in direct conflict the Dorics would win. By early November, there were definite plans in Lower Canada for an uprising in the countryside followed by a move on the garrison towns and Quebec. Finally, Gosford was galvanised into action and urging the magistracy to act against leading Patriotes. He held back from suppressing the Vindicator and La Minerve in Montreal and Le Libéral in Quebec City but it made little difference. Whatever the Government did in the lower province, the move to rebellion remorselessly continued. All that was needed was a single overt act.

That event, when it came, took place in Montreal where tension between Patriotes and Loyalists had smouldered for several months. The Fils de la Liberté announced it intended to hold a mass rally, but on 4 November magistrates banned all parades in Montreal. The following day, Papineau made it clear that he thought the meeting was unwise and that a clash in the streets of Montreal was premature but the Fils de la Liberté stubbornly refused to listen. On 6 November, magistrates tried unsuccessfully to persuade Brown and André Ouimet [43] to call off the meeting. The result was a running battle between the Fils de la Liberté and the members of the Doric Club that ended with the Fils being swept from the streets. Around 2.00 pm the Riot Act was read and troops deployed to restore order. This did not prevent Loyalists from ransacking the offices of The Vindicator or attacking Papineau’s house before order was finally restored. There were few serious injuries though Brown lost of sight of an eye after being hit on the forehead and no deaths. The Patriotes now knew that the British Party would fight if necessary without regular military support and that they were not prepared to concede Montreal to the Patriotes. Although the Fils kept an armed guard at Papineau’s house, the Patriotes had lost any chance of taking Montreal.

At this point, the Government’s reaction began to take shape. The rumour, then the certainty, that the principal leaders would soon be arrested quickened the tempo of events. Colborne’s reaction was immediate. The 24th Regiment was ordered from Kingston to Montreal, two companies of the 83rd Foot moved to the city from Trois-Rivières and two companies of the 66th Regiment arrived at Chambly from Quebec. By 8 November Colborne was recruiting and arming volunteers and the following day set up his headquarters in Montreal. Patriote leaders retreated to their strongholds: St-Benoît [44] and St-Eustache in the Deux-Montagnes or St-Denis and St-Charles in the Richelieu Valley. [45] Events were quickly slipping from Papineau’s grasp and when urged to control Patriote activities in the countryside on 12 November he made it clear that he could not restrain it. On the same day, Colborne wrote to Gosford that:

…revolutionists are running over a large section of the country armed and menacing every individual who hesitates to join them…If…we permit the declared revolutionists to arm quietly, we shall lose the Province. [46]

Colborne also knew from intelligence that St-Hyacinthe would be the headquarters for the rebellion and that Papineau had been invited to go there on November 12 to declare himself and that, should he refuse, Wolfred Nelson would take the lead.

Despite this Gosford still hesitated. Warrants to arrest leading Patriotes were already in the hands of the authorities. This allowed Papineau, accompanied by O’Callaghan, to slip out of Montreal on 13 November and by the evening of 17 November they were in St-Denis. [47] On 13 November, Gosford cancelled the commission of 71 magistrates in Montreal and two days later, five Patriote leaders in Quebec were arrested but released three days later. On 16 November, 26 arrest warrants were issued in the district of Montréal for treason or sedition and by that night, André Ouimet, president of the Fils de la Liberté and five of his lieutenants were imprisoned. Thomas Storrow Brown was warned of his impending arrest and managed to escape from the city.

 


[1] On this issue see Chaussé, Gilles, ‘L’Église et les Patriotes’, Histoire Québec, Vol. 5, (2), (1999); Chaussé, Gilles, Jean-Jacques Lartigue: Premier eveque De Montreal, (Fides), 1980, and Lemieux, Lucien, L’Etablissement De La Premiere Province Ecclesiastique au Canada 1783-1844, (Fides), 1968, provide contextual material.

[2] Simard, Marc, Papineau et les patriotes de 1837, (Société canadienne du livre), 1983, offers a succinct overview.

[3] Soderstrom, Mary, Robert Nelson, Le Medecin Rebelle, (L’Hexagone), 1999 is the most recent study.

[4] Chabot, Richard, ‘Cyrille-Hector-Octave Côté’, DCB, Vol. 7, 1836-1850, 1988, pp. 208-211.

[5] Bernard, Philippe, Amury Girod: un Suisse chez les Patriotes, (Septentrion), 2000; Bernard, Jean-Paul and Gauthier, Danielle, ‘Amury Girod’, DCB, Vol. 7, 1836-1850, 1988, pp. 344-347.

[6] Brown, T. S., ‘The Rebellion of 1837: my Connection with it’, New Dominion Monthly, Vol. 4, (1), (1869), reprinted, Quebec, 1898, gives his own viewpoint.

[7] Ouellet, Fernand, ‘Papineau dans la Révolution de 1837-1838’, Société historique du Canada: Rapport de l'assemblée annuelle, Vol. 39, (1958), pp. 13-34.

[8] Bernard, Jean-Paul, Assemblées publiques, résolutions et déclarations de 1837-1838, (VLB), 1987, is an extensive analysis of the assemblies held in 1837 and 1838.

[9] Ibid, Bernard, Jean-Paul, Assemblées publiques, pp. 23-28.

[10] The Vindicator, 12 May 1837.

[11] MacNutt, W. S., New Brunswick, a history: 1784-1867, (Macmillan), 1984, is an important study and is especially good on political developments though it does not entirely replace Hannay, James, History of New Brunswick, 2 vols. St John, N. B., 1909.

[12] Beck, Murray, (ed.), Joseph Howe: Voice of Nova Scotia, (McClelland & Stewart), 1964; his five letters to Lord Russell in 1839 are printed in Egerton, H. E. and Grant, W. L., Canadian Constitutional Development, pp. 191-252, passim.

[13] Gallichan, Gilles, ‘La session de 1837, Les Cahiers des Dix, Vol. 50, (1995), pp. 117-208. Kennedy, pp. 436-442, prints Gosford’s address to the legislature and its response.

[14] On the Fils de la Liberté, ibid, Laporte, Gilles, Patriotes et Loyaux, pp. 151-155.

[15] Ibid, .pp. 175-194.

[16] Ibid, pp. 257-290.

[17] Greer, Allan, The Patriots and the People: The Rebellion of 1837 in rural Lower Canada, (University of Toronto Press), 1993, pp. 69-86, 254-255, and Hardy, René, ‘Le charivari dans l’espace québécois’, in Courville, Serge and Séguin, Normand, (eds.), Espace et Culture/Space and Culture, (Presses de l’Université Laval), 1995, pp. 175-186, provide important discussion on this issue. Thompson, E. P., ‘Rough Music’ reprinted in his Customs in Common, (Merlin Press), 1991, pp. 467-538, an extended version of ‘Rough Music: Le Charivari anglais’, Annales: Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, Vol. 27, (1972), is also valuable.

[18] Jones, David, ‘The Scotch Cattle and their Black Domain’, in Before Rebecca, pp. 86-112.

[19] Archives Nationales du Québec à Montréal (ANQM): dossier Événements 1837-1838, No. 607, 15 July 1837.

[20] Archives Nationales du Québec, fonds P224, no. 146.

[21] Balmer, Randall, and Randall, Catharine, ‘“Her Duty to Canada”: Henriette Feller and French Protestantism in Quebec’, Church History, Vol. 70, (2001), pp. 49-72, examines her role as a Protestant missionary.

[22] Rumilly, Robert, Histoire de la Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, des Patriotes au fleurdelysé, 1834-1948, (Éditions de l’Aurore), 1975.

[23] Ibid, Patriotes et Loyaux, pp. 100-156, examines Patriote and Loyalist developments in Montreal in the 1830s.

[24] Bindon, Kathryn M., ‘Adam Thom’, DCB, Vol. 12, 1881-1890, 1990, pp. 874-877.

[25] Ibid, Patriotes et Loyaux, pp. 67-100, explores the situation in Quebec.

[26] Thompson, John, ‘Wolfred Nelson’, DCB, Vol. 9, 1861-1870, 1976, pp. 593-597.

[27] Wood, William C. H., The storied province of Quebec: past and present, 5 vols. Toronto, 1931, Vol. 2, pp. 831-853, and Moore, Arthur, H., The Valley of the Richelieu: an historical study, Quebec, 1929, provide context.

[28] Fortin, Réal, Les Patriotes du Haut-Richelieu et la bataille d`Odelltown, (SNQ Richelieu St-Laurent), 1987.

[29] Boileau, Gilles, 1837 et les patriotes de Deux-Montagnes: les voix de la mémoire, (Éditions du Méridien), 1998.

[30] Chabot, Richard, ‘Lucien Gagnon’, DCB, Vol. 7, 1836-1850, 1988, pp. 333-335.

[31] Ibid, Louis-Joseph Papineau, p. 15.

[32] Correspondance de Mgr Jean-Jacques Lartigue (1836-1840), in Rapport de l’archiviste de la province de Québec, Vol. 25, (1944-1945), pp.173-266; Vol. 26, (1945-1946), pp. 47-134.

[33] Ibid, Chaussé, Gilles, Jean-Jacques Lartigue, p. 199.

[34] Ouellet, Fernand, ‘Le mandements de Mgr Lartigue de 1837 et la réaction libérale’, Bulletin des recherches historiques, Vol. 58, (2), (1952), pp. 97-104.

[35] Chabot, Richard, ‘Etienne Chartier’, DCB, Vol. 8, 1851-1860, 1985, pp. 140-146, and more generally ‘Le rôle du bas clergé face au mouvement insurrectionnel de 1837’, Cahiers de Sainte-Marie, Vol. 5, (1967), pp. 89-98.

[36] Ibid, Jean-Jacques Lartigue, p. 211.

[37] Ibid, p. 200.

[38] Ippersiel, Fernand, Les cousins ennemis: Louis-Joseph Papineau et Jean-Jacques Lartigue, Montreal, 1990, provides a valuable juxtaposition.

[39] Ibid, Redcoats & Patriotes, p. 18.

[40] Spurr, John, ‘Sir Charles Gore’, DCB, Vol. 9, 1861-1870, 1976, pp. 327-329.

[41] Spurr, John, ‘Sir George Augustus Wetherall’, DCB, Vol. 9, 1861-1870, 1976, pp. 826-828.

[42] Dubuc, Alfred, and Tremblay, Robert, ‘John Molson’, DCB, Vol. 8, 1851-1860, 1985, pp. 630-634.

[43] Lorimier, Michel de, ‘André Ouimet’, DCB, Vol. 8, 1851-1860, 1985, pp. 667-668.

[44] Dumouchel, A., ‘Notes d’Alfred Dumouchel sur la rébellion, 1837-38 à St-Benoît ‘, Bulletin des recherches historiques, Vol. 35, (1929), pp. 31-51.

[45] Allaire, J.-B.-A., Histoire de la paroisse de St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, St-Hyacinthe, 1905, is the best general history of St-Denis.

[46] Colborne to Gosford, 12 November 1837, cit, Senior, Elinor Kyte, Redcoats & Patriotes, p. 51.

[47] Verney, Jack, O’Callaghan: The Making and Unmaking of a Rebel, (McGill-Queen’s University Press), 1994.