The Rebellion At Moore’s Corner, Missisquoi, Quebec 1737-38

“To hell with the (militia’s) plan! We’ll take the prisoners’ now and they can surround the house in the morning” A. S. Walbridge

With the butt of his rifle Alexander Solomon Walbridge knocked the door down and captured the rebels, instead of waiting for the arrival of the Canadian militia. Missisquoi was where my relatives the Millers, Gibbs and Saxes lived. They would have known about the Rebellion of 1837 that occurred at Moore’s Corner, and the house of Hiram Moore, was where some of the wounded Patriotes took refuge. Wounded and exhausted the Patriote men were found inside and were captured.

For 15 years the Patriote movement led by the eloquent spokesperson Joseph Papineau, resisted the unification of the Canadas. Lower Canada was a distinct and important territory he wanted preserved as a French and Roman Catholic region. This was a crucial turning point in Quebec’s history. During an economic depression for French Canadian farmers, plus tensions with the largely urban Anglophone minority, protests occurred calling for an armed insurrection.

The Legislative Assembly, was controlled by the English-speaking merchants. In 1837, Britain rejected the demand for control of expenditures and 92 reforms. Public rallies were held. The Patriotes controlled parts of Montreal and British troops arrived to restore order. Patriotes were arrested, others fled across the American border. Here they were political refugees and were given weapons and money and moral support.

At daybreak on December 6, 1837, 80 Patriotes and 300 Missisquoi volunteer militiamen (many of them Loyalists) skirmished at Moore’s Corner (St. Armand). It was cold that winter, and at daybreak some Patriotes disturbed the village of Philipsburg by yelling insults and damaging property. They departed saying they’d be back. Equipped with two cannons and ammunition, high on excitement and commitment to their cause they came across the border of Vermont into Canada. But dedicated to protecting the border, were my Loyalist relatives ready for the attack. The Patriotes were severely outnumbered and out-maneuvered, the raid a failure.

This reassured the government of Lower Canada that after the “Missisquoi Affair” its armed supporters could be counted on even in the absence of troops.

In Toronto the next year, 1838, about 1000 mostly farmers of American heritage gathered, under the leadership of William Lyon Mackenzie., who was leader of the radical reform party. He was elected six times as a member of parliament and expelled six times by the Tory majority, accused of disloyalty. The plan was to seize the governor and set up a provisional government. Poorly armed and not organized they exchanged gunfire with a group of loyalist militia. Mackenzie and his followers fled to the states and launched raids against Upper Canada keeping the border in turmoil for another year. Many captured rebels were executed by the government.

Was this the result of an undemocratic, unworkable colonial system and a government in Britain that was out of touch and unsympathetic to reform? One outcome was the writing of the Durham report which brought democratic reform and self-government to the newly united Canada.

Mackenzie was pardoned and came back to Canada in 1849. He was elected in 1851, and maintained his extreme independence and incorruptibility. He opposed the development of large scale corporations and wanted an agrarian democracy. He’s the symbol for Canadian radicalism.

The reformers divided into a moderate group, the Conservative Party and the radical group, The Clear Grits, provided the nucleus of what became the Liberal Party. By 1867 with the creation of the Canadian federation, the Conservatives under Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, forged a coalition. For five years Alexander Mackenzie was the first Liberal prime minister being defeated by his unpopular free-trade policies. 1878-1896 Conservatives leadership, 1896-1911 Liberal leadership. 1911-1921 Conservative, and 1921-1957 Liberal, In 1957 the Progressive Conservative led until 1963 when the Liberals narrowly regained power until 1984. Conservatives from 1984-1993, 1993-2011Liberal. 2011-15 Conservative and 2015-present Liberal.

Here I am today living in one of the western provinces of Canada, where a sense of alienation from the federal government is widespread. Alberta is calling for an equalization referendum to be held October 18, 2021, to rally support for a constitutional amendment. There is a separatist movement also wanting our own police force and control of the pension plan. And the Liberal Trudeau government is legislating to formally recognize French as the official language of Quebec rather than promote bilingualism across the country.

Who knew that the relatives would be such part of the history in the formation of Canada? And how will I vote in the referendum? Here I am today living in one of the western provinces of Canada, where a sense of alienation from the federal government is widespread. Alberta is calling for an equalization referendum to be held October 18, 2021, to rally support for a constitutional amendment. There is a separatist movement also wanting our own police force and control of the pension plan. And the Liberal Trudeau government is legislating to formally recognize French as the official language of Quebec rather than promote bilingualism across the country. Will there be another Moore’s Corner?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: