Rebellions of 1837 | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Rebellions of 1837

Upper and Lower Canada were thrown into turmoil from 1837–38, when insurgents mounted rebellions in each colony against the Crown and the political status quo. The revolt in Lower Canada was the more serious and violent of the two.

Battle of St. Eustache
  1. October 07, 1786

    Papineau: A Divided Soul


    Birth of Louis-Joseph Papineau

    Politician Louis-Joseph Papineau was born in Montréal. As a key member of the French Canadian reformers, Papineau’s political celebrity grew in the late 1840s. He clashed with fellow reformer Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, opposed the Act of Union and championed American annexation.

  2. March 12, 1795

    William Lyon Mackenzie


    Birth of William Lyon Mackenzie

    William Lyon Mackenzie, a central and controversial figure in pre-Confederation political life, was born at Dundee, Scot.

  3. February 19, 1798

    Sir Allan MacNab, politician


    Birth of Sir Allan Napier MacNab

    Politician Sir Allan Napier MacNab was born in Newark, Upper Canada. MacNab’s politics shifted from moderate conservatism to extreme by the 1837–38 rebellions. His knighthood was based on his suppression of the rebellions.

  4. October 13, 1803


    Birth of Augustin-Norbert Morin

    Politician and lawyer Augustin-Norbert Morin was born in Saint-Michel, Lower Canada. Morin drafted the 92 Resolutions in 1834, a series of demands for political reform the Patriotes addressed to the British colonial administration. Though he was active in the 1837–38 rebellions and charged for his involvement, he did not stand trial. Morin stepped back from politics for a time to recuperate and to practise law.

  5. May 12, 1804


    Birth of Robert Baldwin

    Lawyer, politician and office-holder, Robert Baldwin was born in York (Toronto), Upper Canada. With Sir Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, Baldwin led the first responsible government in Canada.

  6. November 22, 1806


    Le Canadien Published

    The Parti canadien newspaper, Le Canadien, was first published in Québec City

  7. January 21, 1815

    Louis-Joseph Papineau, politician


    Papineau Elected

    Louis-Joseph Papineau was elected speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

  8. June 08, 1826

    William Lyon Mackenzie


    Mackenzie's Office Raided

    Members of the Family Compact raided the offices of William Lyon Mackenzie's newspaper, the Colonial Advocate, at York.

  9. January 01, 1832


    Cholera Epidemic Spreads

    Grosse Île, near Québec, was opened as a quarantine station during the cholera epidemics and all ships stopped there for inspection. This station was a futile attempt by the government to control the disease that killed up to 10% of the population.

  10. January 01, 1832

    William Lyon Mackenzie


    W.L. Mackenzie Re-elected

    William Lyon Mackenzie was re-elected 119 votes to 1 after having been expelled from the Upper Canada Assembly for the fifth time.

  11. January 01, 1834

    Louis-Joseph Papineau (Daguerrotype), politician


    Ninety-Two Resolutions

    The Ninety-Two Resolutions were adopted by the Assembly of Lower Canada, 56 to 32, expressing grievances against the colonial administration.

  12. June 24, 1834


    St-Jean-Baptiste Society

    The St-Jean-Baptiste Society was founded by journalist Ludger Duvernay, who wanted to stimulate a nationalist spirit among his compatriots and encourage them to defend their linguistic and cultural heritage.

  13. September 05, 1837


    Fils de la Liberté (Sons of Liberty)

    The Fils de la Liberté, a party formed by 700-800 Patriotes, held their first public assembly. Inspired by the ideals of the American Revolution, the Fils believed in the right of the people to choose their own government and of a colony to become independent.

  14. October 23, 1837

    Louis-Joseph Papineau (Daguerrotype), politician


    Papineau Addresses Rally

    Louis-Joseph Papineau spoke to some 4000 at Saint-Charles at which the Patriotes more or less declared the independence of the Six Counties and their willingness to resort to arms if necessary.

  15. November 06, 1837


    Street Fight in Montreal

    Thomas Brown led the Fils de la Liberté in a street fight with members of the English-Canadian Doric Club in Montréal, a prelude to the Rebellions.

  16. November 16, 1837


    Patriotes Start Rebellion

    A Patriote force attacked the newly formed Montreal Volunteer Cavalry near Longueuil and started the rebellion in Lower Canada.

  17. November 16, 1837


    Insurrection in Lower Canada

    Governor Gosford issued warrants for the arrest of 26 Patriote leaders on charges of high treason, initiating the events of the Lower Canada Rebellion. Troops and Patriotes were in battle a few days later.

  18. Rebellions of 1837, Lower Canada

    Battles  People 

    Cartier Fights in Rebellions of 1837

    In 1837 at Saint-Denis, George-Étienne Cartier fought bravely alongside Wolfred Nelson and the rebels as they successfully routed Colonel Charles Gore's force of British regulars in the Rebellions of 1837.

  19. November 23, 1837

    Rebellions of 1837, Lower Canada


    Battle of Saint-Denis

    General Charles Gore and government forces suffered a minor defeat by Patriote forces at Saint-Denis.

  20. November 25, 1837


    Patriotes Crushed

    The Patriotes were crushed by government forces at St-Charles with 56 dead; Papineau fled to the US.

  21. December 05, 1837

    William Lyon Mackenzie


    Rebellion in Upper Canada

    William Lyon Mackenzie led a rag-tag contingent of 800 men down Yonge Street toward Toronto. Government loyalists dispersed the rebels with a few shots, ending Mackenzie's erratic attempt to overthrow the colonial government.

  22. December 07, 1837

    William Lyon Mackenzie


    Montgomery's Tavern

    About 1000 government loyalists marched from Toronto to Montgomery's Tavern, where they easily routed Mackenzie's rebels.

  23. December 07, 1837


    John A. Macdonald and the Rebellion of 1837

    John A. Macdonald's early professional career coincided with the rebellion in Upper Canada and subsequent border raids from the US. He was in Toronto in December 1837 where, as a militia private, he took part in the attack on the rebels at Montgomery's Tavern. In 1838, he attracted public notice by defending accused rebels, including Nils von Schoultz, leader of an attack on Prescott.

  24. December 11, 1837


    Corps of Negroes

    In the early 19th century, few Upper Canada militia units included Blacks. When the Mackenzie Rebellion broke out, the government welcomed Black men into the provincial forces. On 11 December 1837, a militia order authorized Captains Thomas Runchey and James Sears to raise a "corps of Negroes." Four days later, approximately 50 Blacks had joined the corps.

  25. December 14, 1837


    Chenier Killed

    Patriote leader Jean-Olivier Chénier was killed in combat at St-Eustache.

  26. December 29, 1837

    Caroline Descending Niagara Falls


    Caroline Destroyed

    A force of Upper Canadian militia found the Caroline moored at Schlosser and set it ablaze and then adrift over Niagara Falls.

  27. January 05, 1838


    Hunter's Lodges

    A US proclamation forbade Americans from joining in the fighting in the Upper and Lower Canada Rebellions. Some American sympathizers organized in secret societies, called Hunters' Lodges, to take part in cross-border attacks in support of the rebellions.

  28. January 08, 1838


    Attack at Amherstburg

    A Patriote attack against Amherstburg, Upper Canada (Ontario), was defeated by Canadian militiamen.

  29. February 10, 1838

    Battle of Saint-Eustache


    Constitution Suspended

    The Constitution of 1791 was suspended in Lower Canada following the 1837 Rebellion. An "authoritarian" political body, the Special Council, was appointed in its stead. The second Rebellion in Lower Canada soon followed.

  30. February 26, 1838


    Frères Chasseurs Attempt Invasion of Lower Canada

    Rebel and Papineau supporter Robert Nelson gathered between 600 and 700 volunteers, the Société des frères Chasseurs (Hunters' Lodges), in an attempt to invade Lower Canada. Hunters' Lodges were the largest of the Secret Societies pledged to liberate the Canadian provinces from “British thralldom.”

  31. March 06, 1838


    Blacks in Upper Canada Publicly Praised

    In the spring of 1838, Lieutenant-Governor Sir Francis Bond Head addressed the legislature to publicly praise Black Upper Canadians for their loyalty and service during the recent rebellions.

  32. March 30, 1838

    Lord Durham

    People  Politics 

    Durham Appointed

    The Earl of Durham was appointed governor-in-chief of British North America and commissioner to investigate the causes of the rebellions. He served from May 29 to November 1.

  33. April 12, 1838


    Lount and Matthews Hanged

    Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hanged for treason, at Toronto, for their roles in the Rebellion of 1837.

  34. July 04, 1838

    Nelson, Wolfred


    Nelson Deported

    Former House of Assembly member Wolfred Nelson was deported to Bermuda, along with 8 other Patriotes, following the Lower Canada Rebellion.

  35. November 04, 1838


    Second Rebellion in Lower Canada

    Robert Nelson and Cyrille Côté led a 2nd rebellion in Lower Canada. Côté's men fled after a skirmish at Lacolle; Nelson retreated to Odelltown, north of the Vermont border, where he was defeated by Charles Taylor on November 9.

  36. November 09, 1838


    Battle of Odelltown

    The Patriotes were defeated at the Battle of Odelltown. It was one of the last skirmishes of the Lower Canada Rebellion.

  37. November 12, 1838


    Battle of the Windmill

    Colonel Nils Von Schoultz ran the schooner Charlotte aground some miles below Prescott, and took up a position in a windmill and several stone houses nearby. Canadian militia pounded the windmill and resistance collapsed on November 16.

  38. January 18, 1839

    Battle of Saint-Eustache


    Rebels Hanged

    Rebels were hanged at Montréal for their part in the Rebellions of 1837.

  39. February 15, 1839

    People  Politics 

    Patriote Rebels Hanged

    Five Patriotes, followers of Louis-Joseph Papineau, were hung at the Pied-du-Courant Prison following a trial for treason and murder.

  40. September 27, 1839


    Patriotes Banished to Australia

    The transport ship Buffalo left Lower Canada carrying 58 Patriotes bound for Australia. The Patriotes were exiled for their involvement in the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837–38. The rebels were imprisoned at Longbottom Stockade in Sydney, spending their time breaking rocks and collecting oyster shells to make lime. By 1844, all had received pardons. Most returned to Canada.

  41. July 23, 1840

    Act of Union


    Act of Union Assent

    The Act of Union joining Upper and Lower Canada received royal assent in England. It came into effect on 10 February 1841.

  42. February 10, 1841

    Act of Union


    Act of Union in Effect

    The Act of Union came into effect, uniting Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada, a legislative union with 84 members divided equally between Canada East and Canada West.

  43. April 25, 1849

    James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, politician


    Rebellion Losses Bill

    Lord Elgin gave assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill, in effect the first acceptance of the principle of responsible government, over violent Tory opposition. A Tory-inspired mob burned the Parliament buildings that day.

  44. December 09, 1858


    Death of Robert Baldwin

    Lawyer, politician and office-holder Robert Baldwin died in Yorkville (Toronto), Canada West. With Sir Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, Baldwin led the first responsible government in Canada.

  45. August 08, 1862

    Sir Allan MacNab, politician


    Death of Sir Allan Napier MacNab

    Politician and soldier Sir Allan Napier MacNab died in Hamilton, Canada West. As a teenager, MacNab fought in the War of 1812. Before becoming an esteemed politician, MacNab tried his hand at acting, carpentry and land speculation.

  46. July 27, 1865


    Death of Augustin-Norbert Morin

    Politician and judge Augustin-Norbert Morin died in Sainte-Adèle, Canada East. Morin championed responsible government alongside fellow French reformer Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine. He joined forces with English counterparts Robert Baldwin and Francis Hincks to see it achieved.

  47. September 25, 1871

    Louis-Joseph Papineau, politician


    Death of Louis-Joseph Papineau

    Politician and defender of French Canada’s national heritage Louis-Joseph Papineau died in Montebello, Québec. Initially a supporter of British government systems, Papineau’s perspective changed, believing that the English merchant class directly opposed French Canadian interests. His increasingly radical approach greatly influenced the actions of the Patriotes in the Rebellion of 1837.