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Senior, Elinor Kyte.

Stittsville (Ont.), Canada's Wings, c1985. 218pp, cloth, $29.95, ISBN 0-920002-28-5. (Canadian War Museum Historical Publication #20).CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Cornelia Fuykschot

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

Canada's history, short though it is, boasts at least two rebellions, those of 1837-38 and the Kiel rebellion of 1885, enough to render it fascinating. While lately much has been heard about the latter, the former has enjoyed an unmerited siesta. This is strange, since its underlying cause, the anglophone hope for assimilation of the francophone population, was still strong enough to spawn the "Quiet Revolution" in the nineteen-sixties, even though by then its most ostensible goal, responsible government, had been achieved. As the author points out, a rebellion is a revolution that failed, and it is part of that failure, the military one, that is examined in this extensively researched and meticulously composed report of the hostilities in Lower Canada.

After a brief review of the reasons for dissatisfaction in Upper Canada, the author discusses in greater detail the rising unrest in the lower province. In this context a reference to the bill of Union of the two Canadas, proposed here in 1823, would have been appropriate. Aileen Dunham states in her book Political Unrest in Upper Canada (Longmans, Green, 1927) that it "bristled with clauses to decrease the power and ultimately to stifle the nationality of the French Canadians," and that it stirred considerable commotion in Lower Canada. An omission like this tends to make light of the causes for the rebellions.

The chief purpose of the book, however, is the detailed description of the military aspects of the uprising. Using personal correspondence, military records, public and church archives, and diaries, the author has stitched together a lively account of events. Skirmishes and battles are reconstructed in such detail that we have an almost blow-by-blow account.

Even though the storyline is encumbered by names, dates, and other details mostly relevant to the historian, the author has managed to provide the more casual reader with a vivid depiction of events and personalities. Among the latter, we find not only the leaders on both sides, men like the astute and effective commander of the British forces, John Colborne, and on the other side, Papineau and the brothers Nelson, but also many of the men in the ranks. We learn where the money, and the food, came from; what role the bishop, the parish priest, and the local blacksmith played; how the attitudes of the Indians affected the outcome; and more. The author's experience in journalism combined with her background as a historian, she now teaches history at McGill University in Montreal, turns the reader into a participant. The many drawings, sketches, maps, and especially portraits contribute greatly to our insight into the various situations. Among the many lists in the book perhaps one more, of illustrations, would have made it easier to refer back to earlier portraits. This reader would have liked to have seen a portrait of the coward Girod.

At the end, the author weighs the legacy of the rebellions and quotes various opinions. Her own impression seems to be that they retarded the arrival of responsible government. Considering that the rebellions led to Lord Durham's recommendation of the same after the rebellions, one wonders if this could be so. As for the bitterness it left behind, would that not have lasted far beyond "the decade of the forties"? The reasons for the failure of the rebellions are not examined. Perhaps this book was not the place for searching questions or perhaps we are just to assume ^hat the habitant was not ripe for the ideals of both the French and the American revolutions. A few words about the lack of participation among the general population would not have been remiss. However, one can always wish for more. This very handsome volume should be available to every student and teacher of Canadian history.

Cornelia Fuykschot, Gananoque S.S., Gananoque, Ont.
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