The Red River Rebellion of 1869, in present day Manitoba is an important event in Canadian history, and especially in the lives of Canada’s Métis population. There have been many articles and books written on the topic of the Red River Rebellion in the years following its occurrence. This paper will look at the views of five different authours and their views on the Red River Rebellion. The sources that surround the Red River Rebellion come from people of many different scholarly backgrounds, walks of life and opinions. To really understand an event that happened so long ago it is important to see the way that a variety of different people have viewed the issue. Some differing approaches to this occurrence in 1869 showing many sides and views of what happened such as the idea that Riel could not have been behind the rebellion, the idea that it was in fact Riel who made the Red River Rebellion happen, the involvement of the British in the conflict, blame that may be placed on the Canadian government at the time and the perspective of the Métis peoples are all very important aspects that must be looked at as one searches for ideas about the Red River Rebellion.
The five sources that I have chosen to look at which show in very different lights where the blame should be placed for the Red River Rebellion of 1869 are as follows. Thomas Flanagan’s Political Theory of the Red River Resistance, written in 1978, G. Ens’ Prologue to the Red River Resistance: Preliminal Politics and the Triumph of Riel, written in 1994, J.P. Smith’s Riel Rebellion of 1869: New Light on British Liberals and the use of Force on the Canadian Frontier, from 1995, J.M. Bumsted’s Crisis at Red River: 125 Years Ago Louis Riel Defied Canada also written in 1995, and finally Donald Purich’s 1988 book The Métis.
In 1978 Thomas Flanagan wrote an article in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, entitled Political Theory of the Red River Resistance: The Declaration of December 8, 1869. This article makes the major point that critical texts such as this declaration must be examined critically from the perspectives of many types of scholars including the political scholar. The key conclusion that Flanagan draws from the political analysis of The Declaration of December 8, 1869- which is also known as the Declaration of the People of Rupert’s Land and the North West is that the rebellion was not actually Louis Riel’s work as so many believe it is. Flanagan speaks of Riel and the people of Red River as being immature and unreasonable; he says that they would have been unable to rebel in such a large way without some intense help and advice.
The main source that Flanagan uses is the actual Declaration of December 8, 1869, as this is what much of his article is based around. However it is not the only source that he has used to help him draw the conclusions about Riel and the Red River Rebellion which he has discussed. Flanagan also sites A.G. Morice’s A Critical Theory of the Red River Insurrection, G.F.G Stanley’s The Birth of Western Canada and John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government throughout his article. These sources all seem to do a good job in backing up the point that Flanagan makes regarding Riels inability to have been the mastermind behind the Red River Rebellion, however John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, although a good source for many ideas and writings, seems not to fit in regarding this specific topic, as it may have more to do with political actions in Europe rather than in the early days of Canada.
Flanagan’s article is written very clearly from a political perspective and from this comes a clear bias. This political theory paper discusses in detail the incapability of Riel and through this argument one may see that Flanagan gives very little credit to the Métis for the planning of the rebellion which they as a community carried out. This bias is obvious and the language used shows almost a disdain for the Métis population...
Cited: Bumstead, J.M. “Crisis at Red River: 125 Years Ago Louis Riel Defied Canada” The
Beaver 75 (1995): 23-34
Ens, G. “Prologue to the Red River Resistance: Preliminal Politics and the Triumph of
Riel” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 5 (1994): 111-123
Flanagan, T. “Political Theory of the Red River Resistance: The Declaration of
December 8. 1869.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 11 (1978): 153-157
Purich, D. The Métis. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, 1988
Smith, J.P. “Riel Rebellion of 1869: New Light on British Liberals and the use of Force
on the Canadian Frontier.” The Journal of Canadian Studies 30 (1995): 58-73
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