Political Confrontation and Secret Societies

Armed Gangs Formed

An old Patriote of 1837

Caption: An old Patriote of 1837

Opposing factions responded by founding semi-secret societies. The conservatives founded the Doric Club and the Patriotes created their own paramilitary association called Les Fils de la Liberté. Officially, the latter claimed to be a civilian political association, but in reality its whole structure was military. Its sections were organized into companies and battalions, and the heads of each level had a rank. Brawls became ever more frequent. In the summer of 1837 many large political meetings were organized by Patriote politicians. The Church encouraged people to be calm, condemning any idea of rebellion against the legitimate authority and the law. But passions had been inflamed.

In view of this agitation and the ever more persistent rumours of an armed uprising, General John Colborne, commander of the British forces in Canada, discreetly took action to place the troops in a state of readiness in the Montreal area. He also requested the establishment of a police force consisting of constables in Montreal and Quebec City, for in the fall of 1837 only the British troops were capable of keeping order. Upper Canada, striving to accede to greater autonomy, was also experiencing political tensions. This did not prevent Lieutenant-Governor Sir Francis Bond Head, in 1837, from believing that any danger had passed and sending the Toronto garrison to lend a hand to Colborne's troops in Montreal.