1 December

Proclamation Forged

Colonization and the fur trade could not exist together.


William McDougall, prospective Governor of the Northwest Territories, was prevented from entering his "kingdom" by Riel and his Métis (see October 31). He had to wait until December 1, the official date for the transfer.

There was a howling blizzard on the night of December 1, but McDougall and four companions saddled horses and rode 2 miles into the Northwest Territories. McDougall dismounted, fumbled in his pocket for a piece of paper, and tried to read it in the teeth of the howling gale: "Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, to whom it may concern . . ." The proclamation said that the territory now belonged to Canada and that he, William McDougall, was its governor. Nobody could hear the words, and in any case the proclamation was forged. McDougall had written it himself!

Riel learned that the proclamation had been forged and declared that there was no legal government in the Northwest. His provisional government would negotiate with the Government of Canada. McDougall then attempted to raise a military force to quell the Métis. Colonel John Stoughton Dennis, an officer who had run away during the Fenian raid on Fort Erie three years before, was made commander (see June 1) .

Dennis went to the Fort Garry area and obtained help from Dr. John Schultz, leader of the "Canadian" party. As they were not able to recruit enough men, Dennis tried to persuade the Indians to join his force. Riel then sent his Métis to attack Dennis, many of whose men deserted immediately. The others barricaded themselves in Dr. Schultz’s home and surrendered a few days later without firing a shot. Dennis managed to escape across the border, disguised as a squaw.

Meanwhile the Americans were angry because McDougall and Dennis had been stirring up the Indians; they threatened to kill them if the Indians got out of hand. Sir John A. Macdonald had also written to McDougall and told him not to go to Fort Garry, and to make Riel an officer in the police. All this was too much for McDougall. He repacked his large train of wagons and headed back to St. Paul to board a train to Ottawa.


1 December

-1680    The "Great Comet" appeared during the month, close to earth, causing considerable alarm. It was visible until February, 1681.

-1775    General Montgomery joined General Arnold in an attack on Quebec.

-1798    There was a public whipping and burning at York (Toronto).

-1837    Louis Joseph Papineau was declared to be a rebel and £1,000 was offered for his capture. He escaped into the United States.

-1841    The first copyright in Canada was the Canadian Spelling Book.

-1855    The Post Office opened a money order branch.

-1868    Baron Lisgar succeeded Viscount Monck as governor-general.

-1899    Victoria Bridge, Montreal, was rebuilt for vehicles and pedestrians as well as trains.

-1903    The central building, University of Ottawa, was destroyed by fire.

-1919    Ambrose Small, Toronto millionaire, disappeared and was never seen again.

-1952    A federal-provincial agricultural conference opened at Ottawa.

-1960    Duty was increased on the importation of European automobiles.

             The provincial premiers met at Ottawa.