The Riel Rebellion of 1869: New Light on British Liberals and the Use of Force on the Canadian Frontier

By Smith, James Patterson | Journal of Canadian Studies, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview

The Riel Rebellion of 1869: New Light on British Liberals and the Use of Force on the Canadian Frontier


Smith, James Patterson, Journal of Canadian Studies


Within the context of the colonial policy of the first Gladstone government in Great Britain, the Riel Rebellion in the Red River Colony on the Manitoba frontier in 1869 offers a case study in the nature of late nineteenth-century British imperialism. The incident has usually been treated within Canadian history as part of the story of western expansion, or as an example of the continuous thread of Anglo-French tension within the Canadian union. However, this confrontation raised strategic imperial considerations and issues of race and social control to which London authorities felt compelled to respond. This paper offers a reinterpretation of the motives and forces behind the British decision to deploy imperial troops to end the Red River disorders at a time when official policy was set to withdraw British garrisons from Canada and other self-governing colonies. This re-examination offers evidence that London authorities needed little Canadian prodding. Rather, the pattern that emerges shows a consistent Liberal commitment to empire and a continuing belief in the empire's strategic and prestige value to Britain in world politics.

Dans le contexte de la politique coloniale du premier gouvernement de Gladstone en Grande Bretagne, la rebellion de Riel en 1869 dans la colonie de Red River au Manitoba est une etude de cas sur la nature de l'imperialisme britannique de la fin du 19[Symbol Not Transcribed] siecle. Ce fait historique a d'ordinaire ete traite a l'interieur du contexte historique canadien comme faisant partie de l'histoire de l'expension vers l'ouest, ou comme un exemple de la tension constante entre les anglais et les francais a l'interieur de l'union canadienne. Cependant, cette confrontation a souleve des considerations strategiques imperiales et des problemes de race et de controle social auxquels les autorites de Londres se sont senties contraintes de repondre. Dans cet article nous tentons de reinterpreter les motifs et les causes derriere la decision britannique de deployer les troupes imperiales pour mettre fin au desordre de Red River a l'epoque ou la politique officielle etait de retirer les garnisons anglaises du Canada et des autres colonies autonomes. Cette remise en question montre a l'evidence que les autorites de Londres n'avaient aucunement besoin de pressions canadiennes. Il semble plutot qu'il y ait toujours eu un engagement liberal a toute idee d'empire et une croyance continuelle dans la valeur strategique et de prestige de l'empire britannique dans le monde politique.

Within the larger context of the colonial policy of the first Gladstone government in Great Britain, the Riel Rebellion on the Manitoba frontier in 1869 offers an interesting case study in the historiographic debate over the nature of mid-Victorian British imperialism. The first Riel Rebellion has usually been treated within the context of Canadian history as a part of the story of Canada's expansion and the general western resistance to Ottawa's and Ontario's impositions, or as an example of the continuous thread of Anglo-French, Protestant-Catholic tension within the Canadian union. Louis Riel and most of his followers saw themselves as loyal subjects of the British Crown(f.1) who were merely rejecting unsatisfactory terms for union with Canada.(f.2) Moreover, a wide range of English as well as French-speaking residents at Red River shared Riel's objectives. However, in London the Red River resistance movement of 1869 was seen as a French Metis "half-breed" revolt. This "revolt" raised strategic imperial considerations and issues of race and social control to which London authorities felt compelled to respond.

Late in 1868 William Ewart Gladstone and the Liberal Party took office in Great Britain after winning a sizeable mandate in the first elections following the enfranchisement of Britain's urban working class. The slogan "peace, retrenchment, and reform" summarized the intended Liberal program for the country.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Riel Rebellion of 1869: New Light on British Liberals and the Use of Force on the Canadian Frontier
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.