Academic journal article Manitoba History

Red River's Anglophone Community: The Conflicting Views of John Christian Schultz and Alexander Begg

Academic journal article Manitoba History

Red River's Anglophone Community: The Conflicting Views of John Christian Schultz and Alexander Begg

Article excerpt

When the Dominion of Canada was formed on 1 July 1867, the Fathers of Confederation were already casting an expansionist eye westward to Rupert's Land and the North-western territory. The Red River Colony at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers served as a convenient gateway to future development, wealth and adventure, as well as a potential source of raw materials. It was also militarily and strategically important to the fledgling country's security as the idea of expansion formed parts of sections 90, 91 and 146 of the British North America (BNA) Act. The annexation of the settlement may have seemed inevitable to Canadians in the East, but many people in the Red River settlement were sharply divided over the issue. It was not only the Metis who were worried; so also were the Anglophones in the community.

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This article examines events in the Red River settlement prior to the formation of Manitoba in 1870 as seen through the eyes of two members of the Red River Anglophone community, John Christian Schultz (1840-1896) and Alexander Begg (1825-1905). Both men resided in the Red River community and their contemporary publications will be used to present contrasting views of the future of the Red River settlement before its appropriation. Schultz's view represented the central-Canadian annexationist viewpoint as expressed in his newspaper The Nor'Wester. In contrast, Begg represented a moderate local viewpoint within the Red River Colony. The article will focus on the conflicting ideals of these two men; it will not examine the views of other ethnic, linguistic, religious or cultural groups.

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Red River was under the administration of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), a British trading company chartered in 1670 to trade furs with the native peoples of North America. The HBC had nominal control over this area. Only in the Red River was there an established community. As the diverse community grew in size, governing the settlement became increasingly difficult.

Through time the Red River settlement had evolved and was made up of five main communities French-and English-speaking Metis, Scottish, French, and First Nations. The Metis communities were partly composed of aboriginal peoples who had settled on river lots within the settlement. Each of these ethnic settlements was a distinct community of separate origin and individual character. This population was diverse divided by race, religion and rank. Despite these differences the settlements had a definite character united by common factors: the isolation of the area, the fur trade, plains hunt, riverfront agriculture and the frequency of Aboriginal family interactions. The entire Red River settlement represented a delicate community that was periodically divided by internal factionalism and the interference of outsiders. (1)

Since the 1840s individuals from central Canada had argued for Red River's annexation, and the possibility of Canada stretching from sea to sea was discussed amongst members of the British-Canadian administration. An essential first step was the annexation of the Red River settlement. These sentiments gained momentum and support through time only as Canadian imperialists inside the Red River argued in favour of this action. For others in the Red River settlement, being part of Canada could be detrimental to their future as terms and conditions would be dictated by eastern Canadians. (2) Although both Schultz and Begg came from central Canada, they agreed on few matters concerning the future of Red River.

Alexander Begg arrived in Red River from Ontario in 1867. He traded in manufactured goods in the settlement from 1867 until 1877, becoming a local businessman, teacher, civil servant, writer, historian and journalist. Begg's moderate view of events unfolding in Red River caused him to question the actions of the Canadian government; he was sympathetic to the local Hudson's Bay Company administration. …

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