"Mr. Jarvis, do your duty..."

Early Morning of April 12, 1838: King Street, Toronto

Early Morning of April 12, 1838: King Street, Toronto, Upper Canada

The Leading Actors

Party of Power - "Family Compact"

"Family Compact: a popular name for a small clique of wealthy, powerful men who dominated Upper Canada from the late-18th to mid-19th cent. They controlled the government, monopolized political offices, and strongly influenced banking, land grant issues, education, the courts, and Anglican church affairs." (www.Encyclopedia.com)

In alphabetical order:

* Descriptions of Executive Councillors from the confidential memorandum of Sir Francis Bond Head, late Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, addressed to Sir George Arthur, new Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada

Lieutenant-Governors of Upper Canada

John Colborne Major-General Sir John Colborne (b at Lyndhurst, England Feb 16, 1778; d at Torquay, England Apr 17, 1863), Baron Seaton, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada from November 3, 1828 till 1836. From 1836 until 1839 he was placed in command of British Forces in the Canadas. He personally led his troops in suppressing the 1837 insurrection in Lower Canada. He acted as governor general from November 1838 until December 1839. Then he returned to Britain and was elevated to the House of Lords, where he spoke against the Act uniting the Canadas. He was Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands 1843-1849 and commander of the forces in Ireland 1855-1860.

Francis Head  Sir Francis Bond Head (b at Higham, England Jan 1 1793; d at Croydon, England Jul 20 1878), Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (in office from 26 Jan 1836 till 23 Mar 1838). He was recalled back to England and, in his remaining 40 years of life, never held any position again.
George Arthur  Major-General Sir George Arthur (b 21 June 1784; d 19 Sept. 1854), K.C.G., the last Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (in office from 23 Mar 1838 till 5 Feb 1841).

Leading Rebels

London Officials


LETTER from James Buchanan to Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (March 10, 1838; Marked "private Confidential")

    I question whether my Loyalty would lead me to take this liberty, yet did I regard British interests more than my private interests, I would run the risk, of speaking openly for where are [sic] your Excellency to look but to those deeply interested in the success of your Measures, - I have stated no man is more interested in the general prosperity - others have family interests to promote, other have office or power in View, all of these I disclaim but my firm Conviction is, that the Colony will be lost to the Empire, if the people are not led to believe that the Queen Governs, and not - the family - Independent Men will keep aloft from your Excellency - You have all the tools to work with, which have too long prevailed, and without appearing to oppose, they will thwart every act, which is not in accordance with the interests of those who pull the same rope - I feel in the duty I owe my Sovereign and my family, I have done my duty in this Very frank statement; had I done less I might have reproached myself - I ventured to name Mr. Neilson he is too independent and will not obtrude upon your Excellency, but perhaps no other Man in Upper Canada stands so free from all parties - his determination is to leave the Province unless he sees a change - I do not know who he is aquatinted with at Toronto. - his address is The Honl. Robert Neilson Lake View Stoney Creek near Hamilton, - he wants no office, favor or Appointments for any, and if he leaves the province the Consequence will be that many will also withdraw.
    Pardon Sir this letter - I shall never again presume to repeat these Sentiments- I feel I have done my duty, - and I pray your Excellency to pardon the Manner of doing it...
    [P.S.] The family Compact: Robinsons, Jones's, McCauleys [sic], Bo[u]ltons, Archdean Strachan - Majors; All men in office in the Province through the above influence Legislative Council Included - Minors.

LETTER from Anonymous to Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (Toronto, March 27, 1838)

    The errors of your predecessors, and more particularly Sir Francis Bond Head, have all originated in holding to a certain party in this Province which has been its ruin. I pray that you may be able to discern that Party, and all other Parties, and avoid them, do equal justice to all act upon the broad Principles of impartiality and you will make us a Contented People, and you will heal the sore wounds which have been inflicted upon this unfortunate Colony by Sir F. B. Head, Hagerman, Draper and Co - You will be surrounded by them, and their cunning devices to entrap you, Beware of them, they are unwise, and treacherous professors full of deceit. They are latent enemies of our enlightened ministry who have sent you here. The Chief Justice is at the head of what is called the Family Compact, which is as overbearing as it is wicked. You have unsafe Executive Councillors, Mr. Sullivan who is the first, is a man without character or influence, who has been amongst the Ranks of the worst of Radicals, elevated by Sir Francis Bond Head from the very dregs of Society, who should not have been any other than the trade of a Tallow Chandler, whose father was in a very small way not many years ago. The Comfort, the prosperity of us depends on you, and if you avoid The Shoals of the Family Compact, you will find your situation a happy one - Beware of the Smooth and Silvery tongue of the Chief Justice, Keep your eye on Hagerman, Draper, Robinson's and Boulton's. Pause, and look well before you act on their opinions, for on every case, rest assured they have their own purposes to serve. - The Chief Justice wrote the "address to Sir Francis Bond Head" for the Legislative Council, on hearing of your appointment to this Government, and also the state of the Province, and Hagerman wrote the state of the Province for the House of Assembly. Read these documents. In truth these People plunged the Province into Rebellion, and Sir Francis Bond Head has been a Tool in their hands. I warn you again to beware of them, and remember that you have Mr. Joseph about you Son in Law to this Mr. Hagerman. It is a misfortune which the Province hope and trust you will remove. He is an unfit person for such a situation, all that transpires will be communicated to the Party.
    I am in sincerity Your well wisher and Subject.

EXECUTIVE COUNCIL MINUTE (Toronto, March 31, 1838)

...The Honorable The Chief Justice being in attendance was called in, and His Excellency having communicated to him the Documents above enumerated, was pleased to request his Opinion as to the necessity of Capital punishments for High Treason, commited during the late revolt and to what extent the actual State of the Province required that such punishment should be inflicted, and also as to the time when it would be most calculated to be of public benefit to carry the Sentences of the Courts into effect in cases in which it would be considered that the Royal mercy ought not to be extended. The Chief Justice stated, that in his Opinion is was necessary for the ends of Justice, and due to the Loyal Inhabitants of the Province, that some examples should be made in the way of Capital punishments. He also said that he conceived the extent to which this was actually required to be done would be very limited. The Chief Justice was of Opinion that all the good to arise from carrying Sentences of death into effect, would be lost by the delay which must take place, if references were had to Her Majesty and that however his feelings might lead him to give the unfortunate Convicts every chance of Mercy, he felt himself bound by an imperative sense of public duty, not to advise such a reference in all cases.
His Excellency was pleased to ask the Opinion of The Chief Justice as to whether it would be legal or proper for the Government after selecting for prosecution and punishment those whose cases might be considered as most Aggravated and requiring exemplary punishment to direct a Stay of proceedings against others until the pleasure of Her Majesty should be known?
The Chief Justice answered, that an interference with the ordinary course of Justice, on the part of the Government and without Parliamentary Sanction was liable to many objections, but that before giving any decided recommendation he would take pains to inform himself more fully as to the course usually pursued on like occasions, and that he would if it was His Excellency's pleasure, wait upon His Excellency in Council at such time as His Excellency should desire his attendance.
Upon which The Lieutenant Governor informed the Chief Justice that it was his intention to meet his Council on Monday next at Noon and would feel obliged by Chief Justice's attendance.
His Excellency was pleased to require the attendance of the Attorney General, and on that Officer appearing, His Excellency proposed to him the same questions as had been before asked of the Chief Justice, and moreover directed his attention to the Cases of the two Convicts reported by the Chief Justice to be under Sentences of death.

Chief Justice's Address to Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews (Christian Guardian, Toronto, April 4, 1838)

On Thursday, the 29th March instant, SAMUEL LOUNT and PETER MATTHEWS, who on the preceding Monday had pleaded GUILTY to the Indictment preferred against them for HIGH TREASON, were again placed at the BAR, when the ATTORNEY GENERAL moved for Judgement against them. Silence having been proclaimed, HIS HONOR, the CHIEF JUSTICE, pronounced the awful sentence of the LAW, preceded by the following impressive Address:
You have been arraigned upon several indictments charging you with High Treason. In accordance with the humane provisions of our law, many days have necessaraly elapsed between the time of your being indicted and arraigned; and in that interval you were furnished with full and exact copies of charges preferred against you, together with lists of the witnesses by whom those charges were to be proved, and with the names of the jurors who were to pronounce upon the awful question of your guilt or innocence. Having had all these advantadges for disproving the charge, if that were possible, you have each of you upon your arraignment pleaded "guilty"; that is, you have confessed that upon the day named in the indictments, you were in arms against your SOVEREIGH, and did traitorously levy war in this Province, for the purpose of subverting the constitution and government.
We have no discretion to exercise. The awful sentence of death must follow your conviction. But although a power to pardon resides only in the SOVEREIGN whose authority you endeavoured to subvert, if I could conscientiously encourage in you a hope that pardon would be extended, I should gladly do so - .. I know no grounds, however, on which I can venture to hold out such a hope; and I do therefore most earnestly exhort you to prepare yourselves for the execution of the sentence which is about to be pronounced. In the short time which may remain to you, I pray that you may be brought to a deep sense of the guilt of the crime of which you are convicted; and that may be enabled to address yourselves in humble and rearnest sincerity to the infinite mercy of the SAVIOUR whose divine commands you have transgressed...

LETTER from Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada to Sir John Colborne (Toronto, April 5, 1838; marked "Private")

    ...With such a body of Prisoners in Jail, and such numbers out on bail; together with the embarrassment which arises from the terms of the Proclamation which have been issued; and the Act of the Provincial Parliament which has been passed- the strong desire of many that the severest punishment should be inflicted, and the wish of others that it should be mitigated - you may imagine that the commencement of my campaign here is at least troublesome and anxious.

    After a week's anxious consideration in the Executive Council, I hope a Majority of Members are brought over to the opinion that it is possible, consistently with a due regard to Public justice, to extend Pardons very largely, and not to proceed to trial with the Multitude of cases which have been presented by the Grand Jury. In some cases, however, in which the Prisoners were actually parties to Murder and arson, the Law must take its course, and two of the most guilty are now under sentence and will be executed on the 12th Inst.
    ...Sir Francis Head persuaded himself that there was a general loyal feeling here - Certainly there was a gratifying exhibition of Loyalty at the moment to put down that worthless creature McKenzie; and, no doubt there is a very considerable body of excellent persons well affected towards the Constitution - but, what has become of the Numbers who for years have been known as Reformers, and very disaffected ones too? Where are the persons who returned a Majority of Reformers to the House of Assembly, and elected McKenzie Mayor of Toronto?...

Charles Durand, in Caroline Almanac for 1840 (Rochester, 1839)

    Matthews always bore up in spirits well. He was until death, firm in his opinion of the justice of the cause he had espoused. He never recanted. He was ironed and kept in the darkest cell in the prison like a murderer. He slept sometimes in blankets that were wet and frozen. He had nothing to cheer him but the approbation of his companions and his conscience. Lount was ironed, though kept in a better room. He was in good spirits. He used to tell us often, in writing, not to be downcast; that he belived "Canada would yet be free"; that we were "contending in a good cause." He said he was not sorry for what he had done, and that "he would do so again." This was his mind until death. Lount was a social and excellent companion, and a well-informed man. He sometimes spoke to us under the sill of our door. He did so on the morning of his execution: he bid us "farewell! that he was on his way to another world." He was calm. He and Matthews came out to the gallows, that was just before our window grates. We could see all plainly. They ascended the platform with unfaltering steps, like men. Lount turned his head at his friends who were looking through the iron-girt windows, as if to say a "long farewell!" He and Matthews knelt and prayed, and were launched into eternity without almost a single struggle. Oh! the horror of our feelings! who can describe them?"

LETTER from John Ryerson to Egerton Ryerson (Toronto, April 12, 1838)

    Monday, I was down in town and met Lount's brother. The Brother told me that he had not been allowed to see his Brother since he was commited to prison, although he had made frequent applications and had used every means in his power to obtain the privillege, but it had been uniformly denied him. Mr. Lount was on this way to try again for permission. Your benevolent heart, I am sure, will sink with horror at such barbarism in the 19th century. Dr. Morrison sent for me and I went over to his place. He wishes me to appear at court as a witness for him, I have seen him frequently during the Monday and Tuesday of the insurrection. He was very low spirited. The grand jury finds pretty much all guilty, and the pettit has given a verdict against every one who has been tried yet (with one exception). He thinks there is slender ground to hope for himself. Tuesday, a man came to me with a petition which he wished me to sign for the mitigation of Lount's and Matthew's punishment. I signed it and so did Wm. who was here at the time; a little after two other persons came and wished me to go as one of the deputation to present the petitions to his excellency. I saw Mr. Richardson who had just been in to see Lount and Matthews. Matthews professed to have found peace. Lount is ernestly seeking. A good deal of feeling seems to be excited respecting the execution of these unfortunate men. The petition which came down from Newmarket was signed by five thousand persons; a number are now being circulated through the city. But Mr. Richardson thinks there is little doubt but what they will be executed, and I think so too. There seems to be a determination on the part of certain persons connected with the executive to carry things to extremes. On wednesday a petition signed by 4000 persons in behalf of L. and M. came from Dundas and was presented to his Excellency. At 11 oc. Mr. Harris, Prebyterian Minister, Mr. Richardson, Mr. Roaf, Mr. Beatty, Mr. Harvard, Wm. and Mr. Brouff (a minister of the Church of England) met at my place for the purpose of going as a deputation to convey the petition from the inhabitants of Toronto to the Governor. After a good deal of conversation, it was concluded that Mr. Brouff, who is minister of the Church of England from Newmarket, and I should go and present the petition to his Excellency and that we should seek a private interview with him and express our views to him fully. Well, we went and instead of having a private interview with his Excellency we were called into the executive council. This was rather embarassing to me for two reasons. 1. I wished to see His Excellency alone and 2ly I did not wish to say what I intended to say in the presence of Sir Francises old executive. But after presenting the Petition, Mr. Brouff introduced the conversation and refered his Excellency to me and I told him that I was extensively acquainted with country and had taken a lively interest in promoting its peace, etc. I then, among other things, said to his Excellency that I was very desirous that those unfortunate men should not be executed but that the punishment of death should be commuted for something less severe and awful, that I believe that the soul motive by which his Excellency was actuated was the promotion of the public well and that the great end to be attained in this painful business was that which would most effectually secure this object (with of course feeling of sympathy for those men and their distressed families) and that I was satisfied that the mitigation of their punishments would much more effectually secure this object then the rigerous infliction of the severe sentence of the law, that I had travelled lately through the Niagara, Gore, Home, Newcastle, Prince Edward and parts of the Midland districts, had conversed with a great many persons, many of whom were persons of high respectability, and all of whom were persons strongly attached to the interests of his majesties government, and with few exceptions there was but one opinion among them, and that was, that no blood be shed, and that the severe penalty of the law should not be executed on those victims of deception and sin, etc. etc. I also read an extract of your last letter to his Excellency, relating to the inexpediency of inflicting severe punishments in "opposition to public sentiments and feeling for political offences", etc. But all availed nothing. After having listened to me very attentively, his Excellency said that after the fullest consultation with his executive and the most serious and prayerful consideration of this painful matter, he had come to the conclusion that Lount and Matthews must be executed and that in their case there could be no mitigation of the penalty of the law. Sir George also stated at considerable length the reasons by which he had been lead to the conclusion to which he had come. I returned home much cast down and affected and am still of the opinion that the execution of these unfortunate men is exceedingly impolitic and will be attended with very injurious results...

    At eight o'clock today, Thursday, 12th April, Lount and Matthews were executed. The general feeling is in total opposition to the execution of those men. Sheriff Jarvis burst into tears when he entered the room to prepare them for execution. They said to him very calmly, "Mr. Jarvis, do your duty; we are prepared to meet death and our Judge." They then, both of them, put their arms around his neck and kissed him. they were then prepared for execution. They walked to the gallows with entire composure and firmness of step. Rev. J. Richardson walked alongside of Lount, and Dr. Beatty alongside of Matthews. They ascended the scaffold and knelt down on the drop. The ropes were adjusted while they were on their knees. Mr. Richardson engaged in prayer; and when he came to that part of the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us," the drop fell!...

W.L. Mackenzie, in Caroline Almanac for 1840 (Rochester, 1839)

    April 12. 1838, Messrs. LOUNT and MATTHEWS, two of the bravest of the Canada patriots, were executed this day, by order of Sir George Arthur, and at the urgent request of Chief Justice Robinson; Hagerman the Attorney General; and Sullivan, Baldwin, Elmsley, Allan and Draper, the Executive Council. Petitions to Arthur, signed by upwards of 30,000 persons were presented, asking him to spare their lives, but in vain. Capt. Matthews left a widow and fifteen children, and Colonel Lount a widow and seven children. He was upwards of six feet in height, very good looking, and in his 47th year. Arthur was earnest to know of Lount who the leaders were, but, except that he told him that Dr. Rolph was the Executive, he answered him not a word. They behaved with great resolution at the gallows; they would not have spoken to the people, had they desire it. The spectacle of Lount after the execution was the most shocking sight that can be imagined. He was covered over with his blood; the head being nearly severed from his body, owing to the depth of the fall. More horrible to relate, when he was cut down, two ruffians seized the end of the rope and dragged the mangled corpse along the ground into the jail yard, some one exclaiming "this is the way every d___d rebel deserves to be used". Their families impoverished... Mr. Lount's wife was, for two months prevented from even seeing her husband, by the monster Head. When she was allowed to enter his dungeon (his son writes, that) "his eyes were settled in their sockets, his face pale as paper, he was worn down to the form of a living skeleton, and bound in heavy chains..."

LETTER from John Ryerson to Egerton Ryerson (Toronto, April 13, 1838)

    This afternoon Lount's friends applied to the Governer for his body, but the Governer declined granting it. I am told his Excellency's reasons were the apprehensions he entertained relative to the effect it might produce in the country, were the body allowed to be taken out in the country and publicly intered. I suppose Matthews friends have applied also, but of course with the same result. Lount's daughter, a young woman, was present when her father was condemned; it had such an effect on her that she went home and died directly. O!! these are melancholy times.

LETTER from Anonymous to Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (Toronto, April 26, 1838)

Revenge Revenge I Say
Bee gon Bee gon I Say
Or I Will Putt you in that
Place Whare you Will never return
you shall die a villains deth you
are marker out for mark that Shall
Bee onerd by a Pill Whitch Shall make
Hole in your body

I am Sir Your Most Obedient Friend

LETTER from Sir F. B. Head to Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (London, May 7, 1838)

    ...I saw Lord Glenelg yesterday, and had some conversation with him respecting the execution of Lount & Matthews - I need not tell you what opinions I gave him, as I am sure you know what they must have been...

LETTER from Ofifnjbi Hijnofz to Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (Toronto, May 9, 1838)

    Information having been received that some Noble Patriot has made a glorious assault upon the Ignoble person of Sir George Arthur the Governor of Upper Canada with no other loss than that of the life of the latter, (It is to be feared that this report is not founded in truth,) - should it prove to be so a suitable Monument will be furnished gratuitous on condition of the privaledge [sic] of composing the Epataph [sic] - Please direct your order to Ofifnjbi Hijnofz, Marble Mason, Ogdensburgh, St. Lawrence County, New York State.

ARTICLE: "Depression and Emigration" (Mirror, Toronto, May 18, 1838)

    The people are, in truth, now flying from this Province as if it were "a land of pestilence and famine". The Transit (commt.- a steamship operating between Toronto and Lewiston, NY), which left here on Wednesday last for Lewiston, contained upwards of two hundred persons. Many of them were our most wealthy and enterprising farmers. We learn further, that the applications at the "Mississippi Emigration Society" in this city, are so numerous as to be almost beyond belief. We trust Sir George Arthur will disentangle himself from the baneful oligarchy that surrounds him. Almost all our merchants are suffering, owing to the impolitic conduct of the late Executive regarding the Banks; our substantial farmers are leaving for what they call more liberal institutions, where they will have a voice in the selection of the men that will govern them; In short, if something be not done soon by Sir George, we are likely to become nothing but Province of paupers.

LETTER from Egerton Ryerson to C. A. Hagerman, Attorney General of Upper Canada (Toronto, May 29, 1838)

    ...Sir Francis (Head) comes and degenerates the province, and at the end of two years our currency was derauged, or rather destroyed, commerce was paralized, the public debt increased beyond precedent, the value of property was greatly reduced, and emigration scarecely seen, and hundreds of inhabitants whom an obidience to royal conciliatory instructions would have made peaceable and happy, and won over to the government, are leaving the province for other climes...

DISPATCH from Lord Glenelg to Sir George Arthur (London, May 30, 1838)

    I have received your despatch of the 14th April last, reporting the execution, on the 12th of that month, of Lount and Matthews, who had been convicted, on their own confession, of "high treason," and explaining, at considerable length, the views adopted by yourself and the Executive Council with regard to these prisoners, and the considerations which appeared to you imperatively to demand that the law in this case should be allowed to take its course.
Her Majesty's Government regret extremely that a paramount necessity should have arisen for these examples of severity. They are, however, fully convinced that you did not consent to the execution of these individuals without having given the most ample consideration to all the circumstances of the case, and they have no reason to doubt the necessity of the course which, with the entire concurrence of the Executive Council, you felt it your duty to adopt.
With respect to the disposal of the other prisoners, Her Majesty's Government cannot give you any specific instructions, until they shall have received the report which you lead me to expect. But I cannot defer expressing our earnest hope that, with respect to these persons, your opinion that no further capital punishments will be necessary, may have been acted on. Nothing would cause, her Majesty's Goverment, more sincere regret than an unnecessary recourse to the punishment of death, and I am persuaded that the same feeling will influence not only yourself, but the Executive Council. The examples which have been made in the case of the most guilty will be sufficient to warn others of the consequences to which they render themselves liable by such crimes, and this object having been accomplished, no further advantage could be gained by inflicting the extreme penalty of the law on any of their associates.

The bodies of Lount and Matthews, denied their relatives, were interred in Potter's Fields at the northwest corner of Bloor and Yonge Streets, a usual burial place for Toronto's outcast. They remained there over 21 years. On November 28, 1859, their bodies were removed from the grave and re-buried in the Toronto Necropolis by William L. Mackenzie, George Lount, brother of Samuel, and Charles W. and William Lount, son and nephew of the Rebellion leader. The bodies lie in one grave located at the western end of the cemetery.
How did William Mackenzie feel on that day? Fortune gave him 20 more years to live. There is no doubt: if he were caught that winter, he would be the first to be executed! Less than two years later after the reburial of Lount and Matthews, in 1861, he died in his bed in his house on Bond Street in downtown Toronto. He was burried in the same cemetery. A small stone with three letters "W. L. M." denotes his final resting place. Everything ends...

Documents are mostly taken from "The Arthurs Papers. Being the Papers Mainly Confidential, Private, and Demi-Official of Sir George Arthur, K.C.H., Last Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada in the Manuscript Collection of the Toronto Public Libraries", Ed. by Charles R. Sanderson. Toronto Public Libraries and University of Toronto Press, 1943,1947.

Also the materials from Toronto Refererence Library, Libraries of York University and the University of Toronto were used in preparation of these pages.

Highly recommended reading: Muddy York Mud: Scandal and Scurrility in Upper Canada by Chris Raible, Toronto: Curiosity House, 1992.

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