THE scouts by whom Riel was captured unarmed gave him a safe conduct to General Middleton. He and his council had previously been offered protection, if they would surrender, until their disposition by the civil authority could be determined on. There was a vague idea that he might be tried by a court-martial, as many rebels were in Lower Canada in 1838; but then, it seems to be forgotten, the reason assigned for resorting to this form of trial was that the civil courts had virtually ceased to exist. Riel, there can be no doubt, must be tried by civil process, at the place nearest Batoche appointed for the trial of criminals. As he has once either been insane or feigned insanity, it is probable that this plea will be urged on his behalf on the trial. It is certain, whatever may be said to the contrary, that there is a very distinct method in his madness.

Riel is generally described as being of French Canadian extraction. This however is a mistake: that his paternal ancestor was Irish is proved by the conclusive evidence of the Register. The grandfather of Louis Riel was born in the parish of St. Peter, Limerick, and came to Canada in the latter part of the last century. Louis, who has in his veins French and Indian as well as Irish blood, was born on the banks of the Red River, forty-one years ago. His father set the example of defiance of authority which the son has so faithfully followed. In 1849 the Half-breeds showed a tendency to resist the authority of the Hudson's Bay Company, in whom the sole powers of Government in the territory were then vested; one Sayer had been placed under arrest, and while his trial was going on Jean Baptiste Riel rescued the prisoner and declared him free. Louis attracted the favourable notice of Archbishop Taché, under whose protection his studies began. He was afterwards fortunate enough to find a friend and helper in Madame Masson, of Quebec, a woman of strong religious instincts. While at College, in Montreal, his father died (1864), and Louis appears to have fallen into a fit of melancholy. As bearing on his mental temperament, the state of mind into which he fell, and which is best ascertained by the following lines, this trifle, otherwise of no importance, may now be recalled:

Au milieu de la foule

Qui s’agite et s’ecoule,

Lorsque l'on aperçoit un homme au front pensif.

Et que son air de tristesse

Et prime de la noblesse,

On lui jette un regard furtif.

Prev Page - Next Page

[ Home ] [ Search ]