Immigration, Crop Failures and Political Discontent
Henceforth, there must Be No Peace in the Province – no quarter for the
plunderers. Agitate! Agitate!! Agitate!!! Destroy the Revenue: denounce
the oppressors. Everything is lawful when the fundamental
In the fall of 1837 the political climate in Lower Canada was tense. Public meetings were being held in Montreal and the Richelieu Valley, calling for an end to an unjust andarchaic colonial government. Louis Joseph Papineau and other leading Patriotes attended these rallies, encouraging a boycott of all imported or British goods and for the support of the Lower Assembly in their stand against Governor Gosford and the Chateau Clique. Papineau did not support their threat of arms or extremist policies and yet he did nothing to stop the Patriotes2. At thefirst sign of rebellion, Gosford suspended the constitution and declared martial law. Troops were sent to the villages of St. Denis and St. Charles, two Patriote strongholds, to quell anypossibility of an uprising. It is ironic that thefirst instance of violence was initiated by government forces and not by the rebels themselves.
The 1830’s was a turbulent decade which witnessed all of the British North American colonies pushing for political change. In Lower Canada there was considerable disaffection amongst the colonists. A great many social, economic and political pressures contributed to the Rebellion. Over population, land shortages and waves of British immigrants created ethnic tension between the British and French settlers. The cholera epidemics merely fuelled the fire of these anxieties. Many resented that British merchants controlled the trade of the economy and the Patriotes’ boycott ofBritish goods created further animosity within the colony.Several years of crop failures had left many peasant farmers both destitute and hungry. The apathy of the Colonial Office, a series of ineffective Governors and c…