A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
Episodes Search Site Map The Series Partners White Pine White Pine Home


Sidebar: 19th-CENTURY CONDITIONS OF THE WORKING CLASS as reported in the 1889 ROYAL COMMISSION ON LABOR AND CAPITAL

Family Compact

The first Lt. Governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, attempted to rebuild the institutions and structures of his native England. He wanted the Anglican Church and the rigid class structure of Britain, established in British North America. These men of wealth and influence, many United Empire Loyalists, were appointed to the Executive and Legislative assembly and granted large tracts of land. In 1812, the second generation of this ruling class, arrived from Britain. Men like John Beverly Robinson and John Strachan, were brought into the elite circle of the compact. The best jobs, land and opportunities were given to members of the ‘Family Compact' or their descendants.(15)

At the same time as the United Empire Loyalists were making their way north to Canada, another group were making their way along with them. Quakers, who had remained neutral during the American Revolution, were now feeling the repercussions of their neutrality. Unlike the Loyalists, Quakers did not receive land grants or rewards for their loyalty. Any land they received had strings attached with regards to the amount of land they had to clear each year, the amount of roadway they had to build, and the amount of taxes they had to pay.(16)

A small group of Loyalists and friends of Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe, were rewarded with large parcels of land that bordered the town of York. They received patronage appointments, both to the Legislative, and Executive level of Government. These positions of control was passed down through generations.(17)

As the feelings of resentment towards the ‘Family Compact' grew, fueled by William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the Upper Canada movement, Quakers joined in the fight although what they were advocating was constitutional agitation, not violence. Quakers were viewed with suspicion by many of those loyal to the Family Compact. Their loyalty was questioned and there was a strong suspicion that their views had been tainted by the republic of the United States.

The anti-Quaker feeling was particularly strong in Yarmouth Township, in the London District of Ontario. The Quakers unwillingness to serve in the militia caused their loyalty to be further questioned. Quakers paid the price when their young men refused to drill. They were fined and these fines were collected in raids on Quaker farms. Items taken by the military ranged from a hog to a blanket to a watch.

The military also harassed Quakers by bringing them before the magistrate for petty reasons. An extreme example of this was a Quaker brought thirty miles from his home to stand before a magistrate near London, Ontario. He had been charged with flying the American Flag from his bedroom window. When the offending flag was presented to the Judge, it turned out to be a striped shirt that the man had hung out to dry.(18)

There was growing resentment amongst Quakers towards the militia, the family compact and the rigidity of the class structure. This resentment was tapped into by George Lawton, an English immigrant, who started a group in Yarmouth Township, called "The Patriots". It was the words and voice of George Lawton which roused the fighting spirit amongst many young Quakers.

They would go on to ignore the principles of their fathers and grandfathers and become belligerents in the Rebellion. Joshua Doan, a Quaker from Yarmouth County area of London, Ontario, became one of the leaders of the failed 1837 rebellion. He was later tried and hung for the role he played.

Joseph Gould, a member of the Uxbridge Quakers, was an early supporter of William Lyon Mackenzie. Gould, however, maintained the need to make changes through peaceful means and political agitation. In one of the latter meetings held by Mackenzie, Gould argued that the time was not right for violent revolution, that they should hold off. The extreme element amongst the rebels called him a coward, and questioned his loyalty to the cause.

A few days later, Gould was escorted by a number of the rebels to the meeting at Montgomery Tavern. This meeting ended in the death of Col. Moody, who had come across the gathering of rebels in front of the tavern, and was attempting to make it to Toronto to warn the residents of the danger. That night the rebels marched down Yonge St., where they were met by a force of loyalists. After an exchange of gunfire, the rebels broke up and tried to escape. Joseph Gould was amongst those caught that night. Five weeks later, he was sentenced for transportation to Australia but was then pardoned, like many of the other rebels, by the British Lord Durham.(19)

John George Lampton, the first Earl of Durham, was appointed by the British Government as Governor General and High Commissioner to British North America. His responsibility was to write a report detailing the two rebellions of Upper and Lower Canada. The Durham Report was presented on February 4, 1839. It recommended many of the changes that the rebels had sought: responsible Government, election of representatives and the end to the hated "Family Compact".(20)

Despite the general sympathy amongst Quakers for the rebel cause, only two Quakers played a prominent role in the rebellion: Joseph Gould and Joshua Doan. For his role, Doan was hung. Joseph Gould was pardoned and seventeen years later was elected as the representative for Ontario North.