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Dale Gibson.

Winnipeg, University of Manitoba Press, c1983.
180pp, cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 0-88755-131-9.

Reviewed by Agnes L. Florence.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

Most Canadians are aware of pressure exerted by a small number of vocal Americans on Louis Riel and his company to opt for annexation to the United States. This biography of a Dakota frontier lawyer provides a picture of one man who was one of them.

Enos Stutsman was an Illinois man of limitless energy, charm, and ambition who moved west with the frontier during the 1850s and 1860s, practising some law, speculating widely in the newly-opened lands, and exploiting opportunities for political intrigue. Born without legs, he used short crutches for locomotion, generally travelling by carriage or sleigh. What he lacked in physical abilities he compensated for through his sharp wit, constant drive, and an egregious spirit.

Once established in the Dakotas, where he was appointed a special customs agent for the Territory, he had Pembina as his base of operation on the main route between Fort Carry and St. Paul. He came into close contact with the people of the Red River Settlement, which developed into the City of Winnipeg. The only practising lawyer in the area, he won a celebrated court case in 1868 at Fort Carry, a success that led to his being consulted when Riel and his friends were preparing their case in 1869-1870. Stutsman was involved in plans to prevent the appointed Governor McDougall from entering the settlement. He was also involved in indefatigable efforts through American newspapers and through reports to Washington geared toward achieving American annexation of what are now the Canadian Prairie Provinces.

At the time of Stutsman's death in 1874, a sometimes political opponent wrote of him:

         It is claimed that nature is fond of compensations,
         and what the good dame had denied to Mr. Stutsman's
         physically she had made up in other favors. No doubt
         his physical inability to pursue the great majority
         of avocations, taken in connection with his genial
         and obliging disposition, won him the good will of
         the people; but had he been less competent, less a
         leader, less able, he could not have attained the
         position among his fellows which he occupied and

         Mr. Stutsman was fond of the sunshine, and his
         disposition and temperament were in fellowship
         with this fondness. He was a most companionable
         gentleman, genial, generous, never giving offence,
         and the life of the social circle. Among the pioneers
         of the Missouri slope, it was said that Stutsman could,
         in cases of political emergency, muster the most
         numerous personal clan of any leader in the territory.

A specialized study, this biography is a well-documented and well-illustrated account of the influence of one hyperactive frontiersman in the Dakotas and in Manitoba.

Agnes L. Florence, Winnipeg, MB.
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