Bluebloods and Rednecks.
Charles D. Anderson.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
"As Buell ceded the floor of the hustings, the poll was declared open for voting and Gowan's Orangemen set to work in earnest. As suspected Reform supporters approached the hustings, the Tory scrutineers blocked the entrance and began to harass and intimidate them with exhaustive questioning as to their eligibility. When it became apparent that this harassment would not dissuade Reform voters, Gowan's men increased the pressure. Buell and Howard
supporters, intent on voting, were surrounded, crowded up against the hustings,
punched, poked and occasionally stabbed with penknives and hatpins. In a final, humiliating manoeuvre, Orangemen would encircle the suspected Reform voter, grab his underwear and hoist the poor man's pantaloons up to his shoulders, all the while laughing uproariously."
To the few Canadians familiar with their own history, the Rebellions of 1837
and 1838 are remembered mostly for William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph
Papineau. Some of us, when prompted, may even remember the term "Family
Compact", coined by Mackenzie to describe the ruling and cultural elite of
Upper Canada. To those of us lucky enough to read Bluebloods and Rednecks, there is more to this period than we were ever taught.
Charles Anderson has focussed his book on the Johnstown District, made up of the counties of Leeds and Grenville and containing the towns of Brockville, Prescott and Ganonoque. He begins by describing the protagonists, American Loyalists, post-revolution Americans, Irish immigrants, British Reformers, the various churches and representatives of the British Crown, and their inability to share political and economic power. This led to the election abuses of the 1830's, where Canadian politics resembled the worst of American politics, right down to stealing votes; and, ultimately, to rebellion.
Anderson gives us all of the local heros and villains, including Ogle Robert Gowan, founder of the Loyal Orange Lodge in North America, Member of Parliament for Leeds and self-proclaimed hero of the Battle of the Windmill. Gowan more than any other person benefitted from the Rebellion, yet we are rarely taught about him or his influence on the development of Canada. This deficiency in our education has led to serious underestimates of the mood and behaviour of the Johnstown District in current events.
Charles Anderson has written an excellent piece of work, almost worthy of a doctoral thesis. There is the right mix of primary and secondary references, the obligatory photos and illustrations and footnotes. There is one major fly in the ointment, however. This book could have used a good editor. There are a number of typographical errors, including a misspelling of Papineau's first name, in the Index of all places. While I could have forgiven these errors as minor, I cannot forgive the fact that James McGill, founder of McGill University, is identified as Andrew McGill. As an Old McGill Graduate, I am appalled.
This book is highly recommended for those people, including children, interested in learning more about their history and, especially for those living in Ontario and the Johnstown District.
Marsha Kaiserman is Head of Conferences Cataloguing at Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) in Ottawa.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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