The Firebrand: William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion in Upper Canada

The Firebrand: William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion in Upper Canada

The Firebrand: William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion in Upper Canada

The Firebrand: William Lyon Mackenzie and the Rebellion in Upper Canada

Excerpt

There was a time when Canadians found politics the most exciting thing in the world, and, next to religion and clearing land, the most important. The reader's father or grandfather, if he was born in Canada, will remember neighbouring Grits and Tories who crossed the street to avoid speaking to each other. He will perhaps recall a day in the schoolyard when his family's support of a particular party cost him a face-wash in the snow. Indeed, it is not wholly impossible that his grandfather was one of the gentlemen called from his bed by the churchbells one winter morning to defend Toronto from rebellion, or one of the farm lads who shouldered musket or pitchfork to march against the city from the villages and farms of York and Simcoe and the counties to the west. For there was a rebellion once, and even something of a battle, on a country slope near what is now the northern terminal of the Toronto subway. Politics came to that, even in Canada.

The affair ended, of course, in comic ignominy. The battle itself was something that even the most ardent Canadian nationalist had best try to forget. As for the permanent effect of the rebels' downfall, it appears to have left the country without a strong radical tradition. It seems possible, a century later, that the lack of a successful revolution has some connection with the unimaginative and sober caution in which Canadian politics have become becalmed. The political issues of 1837--real ones despite their dénouement--have been exchanged for a permanent gloat over the gross national product. The old passions have given way to a compulsive self-congratulation on the achievement of . . .

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