In less than fifty years Canada experienced six major rebellions: in Lower and Upper Canada in late 1837 and 1838, the Fenian rebellions of 1866 and 1870 and the Pembina affair in 1871 and Louis Riel's resistance at Red River in 1869-1870 and his rebellion fifteen years later in Saskatchewan. Each failed to achieve its aims and, in one sense, the two books in the Canadian Rebellion series are studies of political disappointment. The rebellions revealed the draconian ways in which the state responded to threats to public order and legitimate authority. Yet it is the losers in 1837-1838 and 1885, though this is less the case for those in 1866 and 1870 who are now better and more positively remembered than the victors. These events each represented the beginnings of political change and especially the move towards 'responsive', 'responsible' and 'representative' government as British Government, at least in its imperial manifestation recognised the necessity of rule with the consent of colonists.
Autocracy, Rebellion and Liberty examines the way in which the Canadas developed from the 1760s through to Confederation a century later. The opening chapters consider the context for the rebellions in 1837 and 1838. Chapter 1 examines the development of the two Canadas between the end of French Canada in 1760 and the turn of the century. Chapter 2 considers the economic, social, political, ideological and cultural tensions that evolved from the 1790s and the largely unsuccessful attempts by the colonial state and politicians in London to find acceptable and sustainable solutions to populist demands for greater autonomy. Chapter 3 looks in detail at the rebellions in 1837 and 1838 and at their immediate aftermath. Chapter 4 examines the ways in which Canadian politics developed in the newly united Province of Canada in the years between 1841 and the creation of Confederation in 1867.
Prologue: Conflicting Liberties
1 Forming the Canadas
2 From discord to rebellion
3 Rebellions and Retribution, 1837-1839
4 From Union to Confederation
Comprehensive narrative of the context, causes, course and consequences of the rebellions combining analysis of the constitutional, political, social, economic and cultural features.
Examines the critical role played by Louis-Joseph Papineau, William Mackenzie, Louis LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin in the move from an autocratic to responsive and responsible system of government.
Considers the rebellions in their historiographical context.