Articles from 1870

Articles on the Red River Rebellion, 1870

The Red River Rebellion was one of Canada's first political crises following Confederation. It threatened Manitoba's entry into the Dominion and exacerbated the tensions between Anglophones and Francophones in Canadian society. The Canadian Illustrated News acted as a calming influence by encouraging an equitable settlement to the dispute.

Articles on the Franco-Prussian War, 1870

Although it occurred a continent away, the Franco-Prussian War was still covered in great detail by the Canadian Illustrated News. The magazine did not glorify either the War or the main combatants, but instead focused on the increasing cost of the War on the civilian population. The magazine challenged the international community to find alternative methods of resolving disputes rather than resorting to armed conflict.

Canadian Illustrated News, January 15, 1870

This article portrays Riel as a noble figure and commends him for his part in keeping the Rebellion free from bloodshed. Furthermore, the article encourages the Government of Canada to practice restraint when dealing with the insurgents.

Vol. I, No. 11, [ page ] 161, [ col. 1 ]

The Red River Difficulty
Louis Riel

The Red River difficulty continues to be a subject of engrossing interest. The Hon. Mr. McDougall and family, with the other gentlemen, who went out to take part in the government of the Territory have all, except Mr. Provencher, returned to Canada. Grand-Vicar Thibauld has reached the scene of trouble, and great hopes are entertained that he will succeed in quieting the half-breeds whose resistance to Canadian authority is said to have been dictated by one or two French priests in the Settlement. Governor Smith, of the Hudson's Bay Company, has also reached Red River to assist Governor McTavish, or rather to assume the duties of that gentleman, who is at present incapacitated by ill health. The insurgents, after trying their prisoners by court-martial, sentenced forty-five of them to banishment from the Territory. They were all Canadians who had but recently gone to the Territory, and had of course taken an active part with Dr. Schultz in his attempt to get up a counter revolution. They comprise the whole of the "Canadian" party so-called; that is, those who during the past season went into the Settlement either in expectation of official appointments, or for the purpose of taking up lands or entering into business. They were escorted to the frontier, where (at Pembina) the Hon. Mr. McDougall had thoughtfully made provision for them, in anticipation of their fate, by which they will be en-

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abled to reach Canada. Dr. Schultz himself is still held a prisoner, as are Mr. Charles Mair, late paymaster on the Government Road Works; Mr. Snow, the Road Superintendent; and Wm. Hallet, a half-breed, who is said to have acted as a spy for Mr. McDougall. Whether these parties are merely retained as hostages, or in reserve for severer punishment, is not yet known, but it is not likely that the insurgents will compromise themselves by inflicting a worse punishment than imprisonment. The Hon. Mr. McDougall, who, in the language of the day, bas been "interviewed" by news-writers, expresses the convictions that matters may be peaceably arranged by spring.

We present our readers with the portrait of one of the leading spirits of the movement, Louis Riel, who, though nominally secretary, is reputed to be virtually the head and director of the insurgent council. Whether Riel has been advised by others, or has acted upon his own judgment, his conduct has displayed no little tact and discretion. Violence has so far been avoided as much as possible. Though the gentle persuasive of loaded muskets was held out to Mr. McDougall and his party to compel them to recross the frontier; and though Dr. Schultz's house was just "very near" being fired upon, as yet the insurrection has been free from bloodshed, and it may be supposed that Riel has had no small share in preserving this moderate course. There has been a resort to tactics which, if neither honest nor honourable, were atleast shrewd. When the counter movement was being organized, the insurgents called a meeting of delegates, at which all parts of the Settlement were represented; and at this meeting it is said it was arranged that Riel should hold an interview with Mr. McDougall, to endeavour to come to an agreement with him. As certain demands concerning the lands, local government, schools, &c., were approved alike by all classes in the Settlement, it was expected that Riel's interview with the Governor would put an end to the difficulty, and so the counter movement, except by the few nearly arrived Canadians under the leadership of Shultz and the inspiration of Dennis, fell to the ground, while Riel neither went himself, nor sent a representative to treat with the Governor. This seems like "Punic faith" on the part of Riel and his associates. Undoubtedly the English and Scotch settlers were for a time thrown off their guard by this small stroke of finesse; and the "masterly inactivity" thus displayed, gained sufficient time to place matters in such a position that they cannot well be changed until next summer, unless with the consent of the insurgents.

Riel was the "Chief Organiser" of the Red River insurrection, and as such he is deservedly an historical character. He, as the acting leader of the insurgents, on the 22nd of November last, took formal possession of the Land Register of the colony, with all the papers and accounts belonging to the Council of Assiniboia. Governor McTavish refusing to hand over these documents to Mr. Riel, was confronted with six armed men, and being powerless to resist such a display of force, had no option but to yield. Riel had previously fitted up an office for himself in another part of the building; and as Governor McTavish and his accountant refused to hand over the papers to him, he brought a couple of armed men to his assistance, and forcibly removed the Register and a number of the Company's books containing their accounts with the local government and with the Settlers. The Register which is now in the hands of the insurgents is a bulky volume, and forms the basis of all titles to surveyed lands in the Settlement. The rising thus appears to have overthrown by violence the rule of the Hudson's Bay Company before the date fixed for the legal transfer of its authority to Canada. In so far as Canada is concerned, its operations within the Territory, from first to last, have been extra-legal. It has expended money in road-building, and to preserve the Settlers from starvation, without the acquisition of any rights within it. But this was a mistake which would readily have been pardoned. But the employment of surveying parties within the settlement, and other preparations for the assumption of authority, appear to have given general offence. A letter from Fort Garry says:

It is a matter for the most serious consideration, in the event of the Canadian government determining to put down the present rebellion with a strong hand, that the commencement of military operations at Red River will be but the beginning of disturbances throughout the entire Indian country. The settlement is connected by so many ties with the whole of Rupert's Land that the lighting up of the flame of civil war within it will be the breaking out of a conflagration which, like the Prairie fires, will devastate the territory, gathering strength with its onward progress, and growing more irresistible as the circuit of its ravages expands. The distinction between combatant and non-combatant will become unknown, as has occurred even in the present disturbance; unwilling recruits will be impressed, and compelled to shoulder a musket in the common cause. The result may be the extermination of human life on a large scale.

It is to be hoped no such dire calamity will befall the settlement.

Louis Riel, is a young man of considerable ability. He is a native of Rupert's Land and was educated in this City. It is said that at one time he designed to enter the Church; but if so, the idea was abandoned. He has served as a merchant's clerk at St. Paul, Minn., and for some time past has been farming near Winnipeg. He is a fluent speaker both in French and English, and as we have said gets general credit for being the leading spirit among the insurgents.

Canadian Illustrated News, April 9, 1870

This article demonstrates that the Canadian Illustrated News was now a firm supporter of a government-directed expedition to liberate Rupert's Land and capture Riel. The Canadian Illustrated News would remain an advocate of the rule of law over vigilante justice

Vol. I, No. 23, [ page ] 358, [ col. 1 ]

The Red River Difficulty
Louis Riel

The confirmation of the news of the execution of Scott at Fort Garry, on the 4th of last month, casts a dark shadow over the prospect of a peaceful settlement of the Red River troubles. Playing at Government when the Hudson's Bay Company was powerless, and when Canada had no authority to step into the Company's place, might have been pardoned, and the courts of law and equity might have been left to deal with the plunderings, confiscations, and false imprisonments perpetrated by Riel and his associates during the winter. When, however, the highest function of executive authority is exercised -- that of consigning a fellow-being to a sudden and ignominious death after a form of trial before a sham of the most arbitrary court known to modern Government -- then, indeed, there is an end to paltering with the perpetrators of the crime. The execution of Scott is a cowardly murder, and was performed in a most barbarous manner. The New Nation, whose account we quote, refrains --perhaps from a sense of shame -- from describing the closing scene; it merely says: "he fell," but does not add that he was laid alive in his coffin and remained there for an hour before death put an end to his sufferings. Other parties from Fort Garry give fuller particulars; but the incidents connected with the melancholy tragedy need not here be dwelt upon.

[ page ] 358 [ col. 2 ]

Scott's "crimes," as set forth in the New Nation, were such as would hardly send a prisoner for twenty-four hours to "the black hope" in any civilized country. He was made a prisoner in December last, and after some weeks, along with several other prisoners, made his escape. When the portage movement took place, Scott was among the Boulton party, forty-five strong, who were captured and committed to the Fort. From this time he was "violent and abusive in his language and actions," and had the unspeakable effrontery to "annoy and insult the guards." He is also said to have threatened Riel's life, and to have stated that he had formerly looked for him with the intention of killing him. Taking all these statements as true; and even were it to be admitted for the sake of argument that Riel had authority to set a court-martial in motion against Scott, his condemnation to death for such offences is an act of outrageous barbarism. The Queen of England, the Emperors of France and Russia, and other crowned heads of Europe, have not only had their lives threatened, but actually been fired at; yet they took not the blood of the criminals. If Scott were to use such threats towards Riel in Canada, though utterly without provocation, all the satisfaction the law would give would be to have the offender bound over for six or twelve months to keep the peace.

But the form of trial was little less extraordinary than its result. The "tribunal of Adjutant General Lepine" conducted the trial in the French language, of which the prisoner was ignorant, and it was only on the 3rd that he was "informed of the sad result," that he was to be shot next day at ten o'clock. Clerical and lay influence, including that of Commissioner Smith, was brought to bear upon Riel to obtain a pardon, or even a reprieve of a few days till the arrival of Bishop Taché; but Riel refused. He, however, granted a reprieve of two hours and "ordered that all the soldiers should be assembled before the execution and that prayers should be offered up for the condemned man." It may be charitable to offer or "order" prayers for the man whom one is about deliberately to murder ; but surely it would be no offence to religion or morality to spare the victim's life and let him work out his own station.

This affair will very much embarrass the carrying out of the conciliatory policy heretofore pursued by the Government and generally approved by the Canadian people. It has already proved that the Commissioners sent to Fort Garry from Ottawa have done little or nothing towards bringing about a settlement; and if it should turn out, as probably it will, that Riel has cunningly detained the deputation appointed at the Convention of the people's representatives, for the purpose of commissioning them as agents on behalf of his government, we do not see how Ministers at Ottawa can receive them. Any act on the part of the Dominion authorities that would bear the construction of a recognition of Riel's government would not only be derogatory to the honour of Canada, but might prove exceedingly embarrassing in carrying out the measures which must ultimately be resorted to for the restoration of the Queen's authority in the North West. The execution of Scott has complicated these matters to a degree that hardly appears on the surface. Many of the things done by the insurgents might have been passed over in spite of their illegality, because of their being comparatively trivial and easily condoned by submission to the Queen's authority when the proclamation annexing the territory to Canada shall come in force. The civil proceedings growing out of personal transactions in the territory during the winter need not have entailed political disabilities; and the peaceful solution for which all hoped would have been quite possible of accomplishment. But Riel will not quit the President's chair for the criminal's cell if he can help it, and the Queen's Government cannot tolerate the killing of her subjects without due form of law, so that there seems nothing for it now but a military expedition in the spring; and the formal union of the Territory with Canada by the Queen's proclamation, followed by such a display of force as will guarantee respect for authority. It is said by those acquainted with the population, that Riel's party is still a minority, but that the others having no means of organization or legally constituted executive officers to lead them, are unwilling to provoke a civil war; and in this they are surely right. The few counter-attempts that have already been made -- just as illegal as Riel's -- have only borne mischievous fruit; and we earnestly hope, in spite of the irritation caused by Scott's execution, that no more will be attempted until somebody with the Queen's commission in his pocket is there to direct it.

Canadian Illustrated News, July 23, 1870

This article deals with the divergence between the real objectives behind the War versus the alleged reasons. It also discusses the probable consequences of the War and predicts that unless governments take effective measures, either this or the next War will expand beyond its intended combatants to encompass all of Europe.

[ Vol. II, No. 4 ]

[ page ] 54 [col. 1 ]

Europe is now on the verge of a contest which promises, from present appearances, to be the most bloody and destructive the world has ever seen. France on the one side, and Prussia, backed by the German Confederation, on the other, are so nearly matched in population, resources and military skill, that it would be a miracle were either of them to triumph, except after a fierce struggle and at the cost of tremendous sacrifices. It is not improbable that a million of men on each side may be led into the field, for though Prussia has numerically the larger army, 1,200,000 against about 1,035,000 French, yet the facilities for increasing the armies are ample on both sides, and the spirit of the populations, if we can credit the telegrams, have risen to war heat. But the struggle can hardly be confined to the two principals. Denmark, still smarting from the recollection of the loss of the Duchies, is supposed to be in close alliance with France and ready to strike a blow at Prussia. The neutrality of Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland may be depended upon, though the violation of Belgian territory by either France or Prussia would undoubtedly draw Great Britain into the war; indeed it is said that Belgium will be garrisoned by British troops. The attitude of Italy is uncertain, though wise statesmanship would counsel strict neutrality on its part, not only because of the obligation it is under to both the contestants, but because it may have to deal with the revolution at home. It is reported that Austria will join France; and if so, Russia, unless intending to make a descent upon Turkey, will very probably side with Prussia. If, however, the other European powers stand aloof, both Russia and England are likely to remain neutral.

And for what is this terrible war, the preparation for which has filled the world with its din? The immediate occasion of the rupture was the offering of the vacant Spanish throne to Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern. The negotiation for placing this German Prince upon the throne of Spain was managed so secretly between Prim on the one hand and Bismarck on the other, that the world was unaware of it until the preliminaries had been arranged. France protested energetically against the contemplated step, and appealed to the King of Prussia, as head of the house of Hohenzollern, to prevent it. The King at first declined to interfere, refusing to assume any responsibility in the matter; but as affairs were rapidly assuming a grave aspect, Prince Leopold, on the advice of his father, formally withdrew from the candidature. So far all the great powers were with France and against Prussia, but unfortunately, the matter did not end here. France demanded of Prussia a formal renunciation of all pretension on the part of any German Prince to the Spanish Crown, and this Prussia somewhat indignantly refused; and when the French Ambassador desired an interview with his Prussian Majesty at Ems, the latter positively declined to see him. Further than this, Prussia courteously informed the different powers, except France, that the French Minister had been dismissed. This step, according to the French Premier, M. Ollivier, decided France to abandon negociation [sic] and appeal to the sword.

So much for the immediate occasion of the quarrel. Its real object on the part of France is the "rectification of the Rhenish frontier;" on the part of Prussia it is

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equally certain that it has a strong desire to humble France and extend its own territorial sway. The London Times says "the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine, containing the modern provinces of Moselle, Meurthe, Meuse, Vosges, the upper and lower Rhine, are the real object of the war on the part of Prussia, and in that she has the sympathies of mankind." But we can hardly see why the "sympathies of mankind" should be warmly enlisted for the "recovery" of Alsace which has been under French rule for more than two hundred years, or of Lorraine which fell to the French crown more than a century ago, and to neither of which Prussia can have any claim. But the English paper is undoubtedly right that Prussia had an object for going to war with France, independently of any question relating to the Spanish Crown. That question, was the "straw" deftly handled by Bismarck to tickle Napoleon; and the latter was apparently but too anxious to give the opportunity. Indeed they both sought the quarrel with very little disguise, and it is difficult to say which is the more guilty. Since the close of the war between Austria and Prussia, a struggle between the latter and France has been regarded as among the probabilities; but singularly enough, at the very beginning of the present month there was as little appearance of it as at any previous time. On the 30th of June the French Ministry proposed a considerable reduction in the army, which M. Thiers, who has since condemned the threatened war, then opposed on the ground that it would weaken the moral force of France in Europe. In a few days afterwards the candidature of Leopold for the Spanish Crown was announced, and though on the 14th or 15th he withdrew, yet on the 18th the declaration of war was on its way from Paris to Berlin!

Will the same celerity characterise the war? That will depend in great part upon whether it can be confined to the principals. If it could, and they both come out of it, as they undoubtedly would, thoroughly exhausted, no matter who got the victory, Europe would have some guarantee for a long term of future peace. The designs of Russia are solely directed towards the East, and Russia excepted, Prussia and France are the two powers whose ambitious designs and schemes for their own aggrandizement continually menace the peace of Europe, and impose upon the nations immense burthens of taxation for military purposes. It is desirable that they both should be strong powers, but it would be a misfortune were either of them to gain a very great preponderance over the other. In that case, other nations would undoubtedly be dragged in, and the strife begun between France and Prussia would widen out to the dimensions of a European war; and perhaps even involve this continent, for the people of the United States have wandered away from the simple non intervention policy of their fathers. The bitter feeling manifested in England against France, and the general opinion so freely expressed that there was no just ground of a proclamation of war point to certain unpleasant possibilities. The maintenance of neutrality by Great Britain will be difficult in any case; but should Prussia waver, is it likely that Britain will stand by and see her whipped, believing that the quarrel was unfairly thrust upon her? When Prussia and Austria plundered Denmark of the Duchies, France and England protested against the robbery and allowed it to proceed. They acted on the diplomatic reason that that it was better Denmark should suffer some injustice than that the whole of Europe should be plunged into war. They will both suffer now for that folly. Prussia carried off the whole of the spoil, and the consequence was the Austro-Prussian war. Now we have as a consequence of Prussia's extraordinary success in that war, another war springing from the Prussian ambition fired, and the French jealousy created, thereby. Austria became wise after her defeat. Prussia consolidated her strength and prepared for fresh conquests, and Napoleon, seeing the mistake of allowing Prussia to become so great, was impatient for a pretext to strike her. That having come, it will now be England's interest to see that his success, if any, shall not be too great; otherwise, instead of one murderous and exhausting general war, which would certainly be followed by a long peace, Europe will continue to suffer periodically from a series of great national duels, such as those which have been so frequent within the past twenty years. Had England and France stood manfully by Denmark, and given the two great German powers their deserts, France would not to-day have had occasion to measure swords with Prussia, nor England to look forward to the serious entanglements with which she is now threatened.

Canadian Illustrated News, November 19, 1870

​This article discusses the role of other nations in the conflict. It criticizes the international community for not taking steps to prevent the outbreak of war in the first place.

[ Vol. II, No. 21 ]


[ page] 325, [ col. 1 ]

As the struggle continues between France and Prussia, the danger of European entanglements seems to increase. London becomes excited because of the attitude of St. Petersburg; Vienna has still something to fear from Berlin; and Constantinople is already as good as rescued from the Turk, only to be given to the Muscovite. In the meantime, it must be confessed that Prussian

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triumphs no longer carry with them the world's sympathy. On the contrary, it appears that as France developes the mere negative faculty of simple endurance, she is gaining the good will of other countries; and that Prussia, at first hailed as conqueror, is already earning the character of tyrant. It is very probable that Russia will make this war the occasion of setting aside some of the clauses of the treaty of Paris, with the view to pre-

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paring the way for another movement against Turkey. The consequences of such a movement would be of the most serious character to England, and might involve a second Crimean war. Some persons, whose opinions are entitled to considerable weight, have denounced the Crimean war as a gross blunder on the part of England, and the holding up of the Crescent as a crime against christianity; but British traditional state-

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craft has handed down another doctrine. The Ottoman Empire is regarded as one of the barriers to Russian aggression in the East; and its maintenance as the very key to the balance of power in Europe. Many people remember, with something like dread, the words of the first Napoleon, that "in a hundred years Europe would be either Russian or Cossack;" and these will now see in the present war a powerful helping cause to either one of the alternatives. So far the Republic has won; it has been proclaimed, and has lasted for more than a couple of months, but it cannot be said yet that it has taken root in France. On the other hand, the weakening of France and Prussia -- and both are being depleted with fearful rapidity -- is a relative gain to Russia, and this gain has been rapidly improved by positive additions to the warlike strength of the Empire. It may be that Russia only fears the possibility of Prussia coming out of the war so strong as to invade her Western Provinces on the plea of completing the "unification" of the German races, but this is hardly a plausible explanation of the reasons which may be presumed to have led the Czar to put his army on a war footing. In England it appears to be generally believed that the "sick man" of Constantinople is again to be the object of his solicitude, and the question now anxiously discussed is whether England should or should not interpose her strength to protect the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. If that Empire should fall, it would undoubtedly be a point gained for the cause of Cossack supremacy, and, perhaps, assist in fulfilling the great Napoleon's prediction. The doctrine of the "balance of power" having become a mere fiction, there seems nothing left to regulate international relations but the law of force: "The good old rule / The ancient plan / That he may take who has the power / And he may keep who can."

We cannot say that we see much chance for human progress in the way of national development under such a system. There may be other ways for balancing power in Europe than that which was thought the best after the final downfall of the first Napoleon; and doubtless changes in the map of the world will continue to be in the future, as they have been in the past, a very common occurrence. Still it is lamentable that nations should not yet be able to decide ordinary disputes without a resort to arms; and the fault apparently lies less with those who, for considerations of interest or of national pride, become active participants in the quarrel, than with those neutral powers, who, being simply onlookers, could club their strength and effectively forbid a war. Had England, Russia, and Austria, not to mention Italy and other smaller powers, declared with emphasis that their whole strength would be thrown against the first party to the Hohenzollern dispute who made it a cause of war, there would have been peace in Europe to-day. But a cowardly feeling, under the title of "non-intervention," has poisoned the international politics of the world, until no wise man would dare to say where the nations may be led in the mad dance so thoughtlessly and so absurdly begun between France and Prussia in July last, and so likely to end in very serious, if not vital injury to both.

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