Unable to reform the Family Compact through the press, Mackenzie became the leader of one of the most important events in Canadian history, the Rebellion of Lower Canada had a similar rebellion led by L.
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Fearful of losing another colony the 13 colonies had revolted a short time before , the British government sent Lord Durham John George Lambton to Canada to find out what was wrong and to propose a solution. Known as Radical Jack for his liberal ideas, Durham presented his report, the Durham Report, to the British government in Highly critical of the way the colonies were run, Durham recommended, among other things, the establishment of responsible government.
Once introduced, this meant an end to oligarchic government and instead, governments responsible to the people, the system in place in Canada today. The Family Compact treated the rebellion seriously.
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While, as rebellions go, it was a pretty tame affair, Mackenzie had to flee to the United States for safety. When he returned, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail. Two of his colleagues, Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, were not so fortunate. When caught, they were tried as traitors and hanged.
Others were exiled to Tasmania, or Van Dieman's Land as it was known as at the time, a punishment considered very severe. William Kilbourn was a first rate historian and a gifted storyteller.
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Using a combination of primary and secondary sources, he takes the reader back to Upper Canada in the 's and 30's. In his hands, Mackenzie and the Family Compact members come to life. We sense, as a result, Mackenzie's frustration at the slow pace of political reform and sympathize with him as he, a veritable David, takes on the Family Compact Goliath. That the reader becomes a strong Mackenzie fan is proof of Kilbourn's skill as a writer. Those who start rebellions are often portrayed in another light.
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Originally published in , it has a new introduction written by historian Ronald Stagg who helped co-edit a book of documents on the rebellion. Thomas F.
Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON. There is also an excellent bibliography.
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