Canadian State Trials: II, Rebellion and Invasion in the Canadas, 1837-1839

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F. Murray Greenwood and Barry Wright (eds), Canadian State Trials: II, Rebellion and Invasion in the Canadas, 1837-1839 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, for the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2002), xix + 499 pp. Cloth. £48. ISBN 0-8020-3748-8.

Was '1837' in Canada a single phenomenon, essentially the same rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada, with an integral after-shock breaking out a year later? To those who controlled colonial government, the successive disturbances seemed merely episodes in one continuous challenge to their authority. However, in their responses to the various manifestations of protest, they mixed law and power in different ways. This collection brings together an introduction, a useful overview of events and problems, with twelve essays by ten contributors, six on each province. Three appendices by archivists offer guidance on source materials: the good sense of Patricia Kennedy of the National Archives is to be recommended. The volume is dedicated to the memory of the senior co-editor, F. Murray Greenwood, who died during its completion. At one end of the spectrum, the authorities invoked martial law and glossed over the barbarity of a mad army officer, who shot five prisoners in cold blood. At the other, attempts were made to conduct trials by regular juries and according to something like law. In Upper Canada, the Pardoning Act tricked hapless prisoners into admitting treason without guaranteeing that confession would secure clemency. The Lawless Aggressions Act sought to deal with attacks from without, an extra-territorial measure wholly beyond the scope of the local legislature. …