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Rebellions of 1837: Wikis


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The Rebellions of 1837 were a pair of Canadian armed uprisings that occurred in 1837 and 1838 in response to frustrations in political reform. A key shared goal was the allowance of responsible government.



The rebellions started in Lower and Upper Canada. The Lower Canada Rebellion was a larger and more sustained conflict by French Canadian and English Canadian rebels against the British colonial government. The Upper Canada Rebellion was an abortive uprising in Upper Canada against Upper Canada oligarchy, the Family Compact, followed by a series of raids, skirmishes, and other small actions over the next year, many of them launched from the United States.

The Battle of Saint-Eustache, Lower Canada.

The rebellion in Lower Canada began first, in November 1837, and was led by many leaders such as Wolfred Nelson, Louis-Joseph Papineau, Edmund Bailey O'Callaghan.

The Lower-Canada rebellion probably inspired the much shorter rebellion in Upper Canada led by William Lyon Mackenzie in December, but there were other grievances in Upper Canada, particularly the gifts of land and official status to the Anglican Church to the exclusion of Roman Catholics, Methodists, and other religions, and tensions caused by mass immigration from the United States, particularly in the western areas.

While the initial rebellion in Upper Canada ended quickly with the Battle of Montgomery's Tavern, many of the rebels (including Mackenzie) fled to the United States, using it as a base for launching further raids into Canada in cooperation with American Hunter Lodges. The raids did not end until the rebels and Hunters were defeated at the decisive Battle of the Windmill, nearly a year after the first defeat near Montgomery's Tavern.


Those who were caught in Upper Canada following the 1837 revolts were put on trial, with most being found guilty of insurrection against the Crown. However, these persons were not so convicted because their views aligned with the liberalism of the United States, and thus caused some kind of offence to the Tory values of the Canadian colonies. Rather, as revealed in the ruling of Chief Justice John Beverly Robinson, a Lockean justification was given for the prisoners' condemnation, and not a Burkean one: the Crown, as protector of the lives, liberty, and prosperity of its subjects could "legitimately demand allegiance to its authority." Robinson went on to say that those who preferred republicanism over monarchism were free to emigrate, and thus the participants in the uprisings were guilty of treason.[1]

After the rebellions died down, more moderate reformers, like the political partners Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine gained credibility as an alternative voice to the radicals. They proved to be influential when the British government sent Lord Durham, a prominent British reformer, to investigate the cause of the troubles. Among the recommendations in his report was the establishment of responsible government for the colonies, one of the rebels' original demands. Durham also recommended the merging of Upper and Lower Canada into a single political unit, which became the nucleus for modern-day Canada, and, more controversially, the government-sponsored assimilation of French Canadians to the English language and culture.

The Mac-Paps in the Spanish Civil War

In 1937, exactly one century after the Rebellion, William Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau were to give their name to the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion or the Mac-Paps, a battalion of officially unrecognised Canadian volunteers who fought on the Republican side in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.


  1. ^ Fierlbeck, Katherine (1 July 2007). "Canada: more liberal than Tory? A new book puts the country's bedrock beliefs under a microscope. (The Canadian Founding: John Locke and Parliament) (Book review)". Literary Review of Canada (Toronto: Literary Review of Canada, Inc.) (July 2007). Retrieved 8 February 2009.  

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