Rebellion in Upper Canada: Real and Fictional Characters
My first introduction to Bishop Strachan was many years ago as I was taking teacher training in preparation for becoming a high school teacher. Each day our group sat in a large lecture hall and listened to the person at the front extol the virtues of yet another early educator in Ontario. As the days went on my interest in these paragons waned. Strachan was one of those who seemingly did no wrong.
Fast forward many years. During the research for The Loyalist Legacy, the third book in my trilogy, I found the Bishop Strachan of Ontario legend, the man with countless buildings and colleges named after him and who did so much to form Upper Canada College, but I also found many negative references, the kind of nuggets a writer loves to discover.
This allowed me to use the illustrious bishop as a villain in Legacy, a type of character every writer needs to add punch to a story. Of course I may have stretched the truth just a little as that’s where the fiction in Historical Fiction comes in, but the fact remains Strachan’s privileged group caused a lot of problems for the settlers, Loyalists or not. The “Family Compact” got its derogatory name because those in power simply appointed their relatives and friends to important positions charged with the running of the fledgling country. That meant the common people had no say, a circumstance that became more and more dangerous as factions arose to thwart the “Family Compact”.
In the excerpt below from The Loyalist Legacy, William’s brother Robert is in a hotel when anger at the government comes to a head:
“Quiet, men! Cease and desist!” Someone near the bar struggled to be heard, with no success. The lean man jumped up onto the long bar, much to the barman’s consternation, and shouted again. This time he stomped his boot on the bar and the barman hollered; the room went silent as all eyes turned to watch. “Gentlemen.” The man’s glance included everyone packed into the room. “You’ve come here today for one reason. One reason only.” He paused, nodding his close-cropped head and gathering his thoughts. “You’re tired of our government’s power over us all. You’ve had enough. And you want to do something to break their hold on us.”
“Whose hold?” A voice came from off to Robert’s right, back in a corner, but he couldn’t see who it was.
“Ah, you want a name?”
Many voices answered back. The young man raised his rough hands for silence. “Well you know it…the Family Compact.” Again he raised his arms and waited. “That group in York and parts east who control everything we do. They only want us for the sweat and toil we give to shape this land.” Shouts of agreement broke his stride but soon he continued. “What do they give us, those powerful rich bastards?”
“No say in our lives.”
“And how do they make our lives miserable?”
“No help on the roads!”
“Our own preacher can’t even marry us!”
“And does this group of rich and powerful men, this Family Compact, listen to us?” He raised his arms to silence the crowd. “No. Our elected members might as well stay home and tend their crops, do their road work and raise their children. Nothing they decide is final. Their votes mean nothing. The Family Compact just do what they want, regardless of the Legislative Assembly.” He paused in the ensuing clamor. When the noise threatened to take over the meeting again, he stamped and roared for attention once more and gradually the heated voices subsided.
Robert and Logan looked at each other and at the man with them. His face was beaming as he studied the groups all over the room, even rising from his chair the better to see everyone. Robert didn’t know whether to be shocked or delighted that so many gathered here agreed with his own sentiments. He could hear their stories around him as each person shouted out his own troubles with the powerful reach of the government.
“Down with the King!” A voice louder than all the rest temporarily stopped the racket as men looked to identify the speaker.
Into the sudden quiet another voice, high and thin, squeaked out over the heads of the red-faced men. “Rebellion!”
Excerpt from The Loyalist Legacy.
When the War of 1812 is finally over William and Catherine Garner flee the desolation of Niagara and find in the wild heart of Upper Canada their two hundred acres straddling the Thames River. On this valuable land, dense forests, wild beasts, disgruntled Natives, and pesky neighbors daily challenge them. The political atmosphere laced with greed and corruption threatens to undermine all of the new settlers’ hopes and plans. William cannot take his family back to Niagara, but he longs to check on his parents from whom he has heard nothing for two years. Leaving Catherine and the children, he hurries along the Governor’s Road toward the turn-off to Fort Erie, hoping to return in time for spring planting.
With realistic insights into the challenging lives of Ontario’s early settlers, Elaine Cougler once again draws readers into the Loyalists’ struggles to build homes, roads, and relationships, and their growing dissension as they move ever closer to another war. The Loyalist Legacy shows us the trials faced by ordinary people who conquer unbelievable hardships and become extraordinary in the process.
Praise Elaine Cougler’s writing:
“….absolutely fascinating….Cougler doesn’t hold back on the gritty realities of what a couple might have gone through at this time, and gives a unique view of the Revolutionary War that many might never have considered.”
Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.
“….an intriguing story” A Bookish Affair
“I highly recommend this book for any student of history or anyone just looking for a wonderful story.”
Book Lovers Paradise
“Elaine’s storytelling is brave and bold.” Oh, for the Hook of a Book
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