William Lyon Mackenzie

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William Lyon Mackenzie
William Lyon Mackenzie, depicted ca. 1851-1861
1st Mayor of Toronto
In office
March 27, 1834 January 14, 1835
Preceded by Alexander Macdonell (Chairman of York)
Succeeded by Robert Sullivan
Member of the
Upper Canada Legislative Assembly
for York
In office
January 8, 1829 March 6, 1834
Servingwith Jesse Ketchum (1829-1832)
Succeeded by Edward William Thomson
Member of the
Province of Canada Legislative Assembly
for Haldimand County
In office
Preceded by David Thompson
Personal details
BornMarch 13, 1795
Dundee, Scotland
DiedAugust 28, 1861(1861-08-28) (aged 66)
Toronto, Canada West (now Ontario, Canada)
Resting place Toronto Necropolis
Political party Reform
Other political
Clear Grits
Spouse(s)Isabel Baxter
ChildrenJames, unnamed daughter, Isabel, Barbara, Janet, Joseph Hume, Margaret, William Lyon, George, Helen, Elizabeth, Isabel Grace
OccupationJournalist, Politician
Signature William Lyon MacKenzie Signature.svg

William Lyon Mackenzie (March 12, 1795 – August 28, 1861) also spelt McKenzie and MacKenzie, [1] was a Scottish-born Canadian-American journalist and politician. After growing up in Scotland he emigrated to Upper Canada and became a publisher in York. He was elected to the 10th Parliament of Upper Canada as one of the legislators from York. Although declaring himself an independent legislator he allied with Reform politicians and worked to undermine and investigate Tory politicians and members of the Family Compact. This caused him to be expelled numerous times from the Legislator as Tory politicians did not support his work. He brought grievances from Upper Canada citizens to the Colonial Office in London, England which caused the colonial secretary to advocate limited reforms in the colony.


Mackenzie was chosen as the first mayor of York in 1834 but was defeated in subsequent elections for city council and the Upper Canada legislature. He lost faith in the government structure of Upper Canada and led the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. Upon its defeat, he moved to the United States and tried to overthrow the Upper Canada government with invasions from the US. He was imprisoned for violating the Neutrality Act and decided to end the invasions. He became an American citizen and moved back to Upper Canada after participants in the rebellion received amnesty. He represented the riding of Haldimand County in the Province of Canada legislature from 1851-1858. He died on August 28, 1861.

Mackenzie's politics often aligned with the Reform movement. He opposed legislation that granted special status or benefits to religious institutions, particularly clergy reserves given to the Anglican church. He believed citizens should elect people in most government positions such as justices of the peace and executive members of the government and opposed appointments motivated by corruption or nepotism. He opposed the creation of monopolies and proposed policies that would make it easier for citizens to own parcels of land.

Mackenzie's influence on Canadian politics is debated among his contemporaries and historians. Some believe he delayed the establishment of responsible government by making it unpopular among government officials and causing the exile of Reform politicians from Canada after his failed rebellion. Others believed he exposed corruption among the executive branch and government officials which caused citizens to demand reform to the government's structure. William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute and a fireboat were named for him and a journalist used his identity to satire Toronto mayoral candidates in the 2010 election. He has been depicted in written work by Dennis Lee and Rick Salutin.

Early life and immigration

Background, early years in Scotland, and education, 1795–1820

William Lyon Mackenzie was born on March 12, 1795, in Scotland in the Dundee suburb of Springfield. [2] Both of his grandfathers were part of Clan Mackenzie. [3] His mother Elizabeth (née Chambers) of Kirkmichael was seventeen years older than his father, weaver Daniel Mackenzie; [4] the couple married on May 8, 1794. Daniel died three weeks after William's birth, [5] and his 45-year-old mother raised him alone [2] as Daniel had left her no significant property. [6] Mackenzie's mother was a deeply religious Calvinist and Mackenzie learned psalms and the teachings of the Presbyterian church. [7]

At five years old Mackenzie received a bursary to enter a parish grammar school in Dundee and later transferred to a Mr Adie's school. [1] In 1810 he was using the reading room of the Dundee Advertiser and possibly writing articles for them under various pseudonyms. [8] He was also a founding member of a club for scientific discussion called the Dundee Rational Institution. [9]

Mackenzie's mother arranged for him to apprentice with several tradesmen in Dundee. In 1814 he secured financial backing from Edward Lesslie to open a general store and circulating library in Alyth with his mother. Mackenzie entered into a relationship with Isabel Reid and she gave birth to Mackenzie's son James on July 17, 1814. [1]

A recession followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and Mackenzie's general store went bankrupt. [1] He worked for the Kennet and Avon Canal Company and travelled to France to deliver a letter to Duc de La Rochefoucault-Liancourt. [10] He also worked for a newspaper in London and became a gambler, almost losing his wealth. He abstained from this practice for the rest of his life when he emigrated to British North America in 1820. [11]

Early years in Canada, 1820–1824

A portrait of Isabel, Mackenzie's wife, created in 1850. MrsMackenzie.jpg
A portrait of Isabel, Mackenzie's wife, created in 1850.

Mackenzie worked in Montreal for the Lachine Canal as a bookeeper and a journalist with the Montreal Herald . [12] He moved to York, Upper Canada and employed at a bookselling and drugstore business where Mackenzie would receive the profits for selling drugs. [13] In 1820 Mackenzie wrote for the York Observer under the pseudonym "Mercator". [1] The owners of the drugstore opened a second location in Dundas and Mackenzie moved there to become its branch manager. [14] During this time Mackenzie's first daughter, Isabel, was born. [15]

In 1822, his mother and son immigrated to Upper Canada and his mother brought Isabel Baxter, who she had chosen to marry Mackenzie. Although they were schoolmates, Mackenzie and Baxter did not know each other well before meeting in Upper Canada. [13] The couple were wed July 1, 1822, in Montreal. [14]

The partnership between the drugstore owners and Mackenzie ended in 1823 and Mackenzie moved to Queenston in 1824 to open a new general store. [14] He met Robert Randal and established a strong friendship with him. Upon Randal's death, Mackenzie waged a twenty-year legal battle for his estate as its executor and heir. [1] His first daughter, who was unnamed, died on September 1, 1824, and his second daughter was born while they were living in Queenston. [16]

The Colonial Advocate & the "Types Riot", 1824–26

Mackenzie WLMackenzie2.jpg

Mackenzie sold his store and he bought a printing press to create Colonial Advocate in May 1824. He refused to accept government subsidies and relied on subscriptions, although he sent free copies to people he considered influential. [17] In November 1824, Mackenzie relocated the paper and his family to York [18] and near the end of the year his second daughter died of smallpox. [19] In April 1825 he published Rural Rides, an account of his travels in Upper Canada. [20] The newspaper faced financial pressures due to a low number of subscribers and competition from the Canadian Freeman, another Reform-aligned paper. Mackenzie suspended publishing the Colonial Advocate in July and purchased a new printing press and typeface in the fall of 1825. [1] The newspaper continued to amass debts and in May 1826 fled to Lewiston, New York to avoid arrest and evade creditors. [1]

On June 8, 1826, fifteen young Tories broke into the offices of the Colonial Advocate, destroyed the printing press and threw Mackenzie's typeface into the bay. [21] Mackenzie returned to York and sued eight of the perpetrators. [1] Mackenzie was awarded £625 in damages [22] and used the settlement to pay off his creditors and restart production of the Advocate. [23] His daughter Barbara was born in May 1827. [24]

Reform member of the Legislative Assembly, 1827–1834

Election to the Legislative Assembly

The third Parliament Building in York was built between 1829 and 1832 at Front Street. Third Parliament Buildings 1834.jpg
The third Parliament Building in York was built between 1829 and 1832 at Front Street.

Mackenzie declared his intention to run in for the 10th Parliament of Upper Canada in December 1827 for one of the seats for York County. [25] He ran as an independent and refused to spend money on buying alcohol and treats for his supporters or paying money to attract citizens to vote for him. [26] Mackenzie published weekly articles in his newspaper called The Parliament Black Book for Upper Canada, or Official Corruption and Hypocrisy Unmasked where he listed accusations of wrongdoing by his opponents. [27] Mackenzie came in second in the election count, winning one of the two seats for York in the Legislature. [27]

Mackenzie chaired a committee that evaluated the effectiveness of the post office and recommended that local officials obtain control of postal rates. He also chaired a committee that evaluated the appointment process of election returning officers. He was also a member of committees that looked at the banking and currency process of Upper Canada, one on the condition of roads and one investigating the power of the Church of England. [28] He opposed infrastructure projects unless the debt incurred by the province had been paid off. Later in the session, he also spoke out against the Welland Canal Company, denouncing its close links with the Executive Council and the financing methods of William Hamilton Merritt. [1]

In April 1829 Mackenzie's daughter Janet was born. Between the legislative sessions of 1829 and 1830, Mackenzie travelled through the United States and met Andrew Jackson in Washington D.C. He returned to Upper Canada with a greater desire to reform its political structure. [24]

In the 1830 election, Mackenzie campaigned on having the legislature control the budget, independent judges, reforming the legislative council, creating an executive government responsible to the legislature and equal rights for religious denominations. [29] Mackenzie won a York County seat in the 11th Parliament but the Reform group was reduced to 20 out of 51 seats, reducing Mackenzie's influence in upcoming sessions. He focused on reforming other institutions such as an agricultural society and St. Andrew's Presbyterian, a congregation organized by Tories who supported the church-state connection. [1] In the legislator he chaired a special committee which recommended increased representation for Upper Canadian towns, voting on a single day and voting by ballot instead of voice. [30]

During a legislative break, Mackenzie travelled to Quebec City to speak with Reform leaders in Lower Canada. He wanted to develop closer ties between each province's reform leaders and learn how to effectively oppose Family Compact policies. [31] He also visited various communities in Upper Canada to gather their grievances. Mackenzie planned to present these petitions to the government in England and convince them that the government's leaders were corrupt. [32]

Expulsions, re-elections, and appeal to the Colonial Office

Mackenzie denounced the Legislative Assembly in the Colonial Advocate as a "sycophantic office" [33] and the assembly expelled Mackenzie for libel of the character of the Assembly of Upper Canada, triggering a by-election for his seat. [34] Mackenzie ran and won the by-election on January 2, 1832, by a vote of 119-1. [35] Upon his victory his supporters gifted him a gold medal and chain worth £250 and organised a parade through the streets of York. [36] He printed an article critical of the legislators who voted to his expulsion and was again expelled from the legislature. [37]

A second by-election was called for January 30 and Mackenzie won with 628 votes against a Tory opponent who received 23 votes and a moderate Reformer (who assumed Mackenzie was barred from becoming a legislator) who received 96 votes. [38] The legislature was not in session so Mackenzie toured Upper Canada to promote his cause. Tory supporters, unhappy with his agitation in the legislature, tried to harm Mackenzie. In Hamilton William Johnson Kerr organised an assault of Mackenzie by three men. [39] In York, twenty to thirty men stole a wagon Mackenzie was using as a stage while another mob smashed the windows of the Colonial Advocate office. [40] Mackenzie feared for his life and stopped appearing in public until he left for England. [38]

In April 1832, Mackenzie travelled to London to petition the British government for redress. He met with reformers Joseph Hume and John Arthur Roebuck and wrote in the Morning Chronicle to influence British public opinion in his favour. He wrote Sketches of Canada and the United States, designed to acquaint the British public with his grievances. [1]

He visited F. J. Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, the Whig party's colonial secretary, to give his concerns about the functioning of Upper Canada. [41] The Tories were upset that Mackenzie met and was receiving a positive reception from Goderich and reacted by expelling Mackenzie from the Assembly of Upper Canada again. [42] In November 1832 Robinson sent a dispatch to Lieutenant Governor John Colborne which included reports Mackenzie had sent to Robinson [43] and instructions for the Lieutenant Governor to lessen the Assembly's negative attitude against Mackenzie. [1] Mackenzie was reelected in a subsequent by-election by acclamation on November 26. [44] His son, Joseph Hume Mackenzie, was born while the family was living in London [45] but died in the fall of 1833. [46]

Mackenzie's progress towards reform was reversed by Lord Stanley when he replaced Goderich as the colonial secretary. Mackenzie was upset with this reversal and, upon his return to Upper Canada in December 1833, renamed the Colonial Advocate to The Advocate as a sign of his displeasure over Upper Canada's colonial status. [47] In November 1833 he was again expelled from the Legislative Assembly and a by-election was called for December 17. [47] Mackenzie's campaign focused on criticising the colonial government structure of Upper Canada and its Tory officials [48] Mackenzie won the election by acclamation but the Legislature refused to allow Mackenzie to take his seat and expelled him again. Colborne ordered the clerk of the Executive Council to administer the oath of allegiance to Mackenzie. [47] When Mackenzie tried again to take his seat on February 19, 1834, the serjeant-at-arms arrested him and a six-hour debate commenced discussing his status. Mackenzie was not allowed to take his seat for the remainder of that legislative session. [49]

Mayor of Toronto, 1834

The second market in York. During Mackenzie's mayoralty, the city council held their meetings here. Second market in York (Toronto).jpg
The second market in York. During Mackenzie's mayoralty, the city council held their meetings here.

Mackenzie ran to be an alderman for St. David's Ward in the first election for the City of Toronto on March 27, 1834. He won 148 votes, the highest amount among all candidates for alderman in the city and was elected. [50] He was chosen by his fellow alderman to be Toronto's first mayor by a vote of 10-8. [51] When Mackenzie took office the city had a massive debt because of low tax revenues and the recent construction of a jail, courthouse and market. [52] The city council approved a tax increase to build a boardwalk along King Street which Mackenzie supported against the citizen backlash. He also presided as a judge in municipal court and designed the coat of arms for the city. [53]

In July 1834 Toronto had a second cholera outbreak. Mackenzie worked to bring people to the hospital until he was also infected with the disease. [54] Once infected he stayed in his home until he recovered later that year. [55]

Mackenzie printed a letter from Hume in The Advocate on May 22, 1834, that suggested a forthcoming rebellion and independence for Upper Canada. [54] Over 1200 Torontonians informed city council and the lieutenant-governor that they would protect their connection to the British Empire if such a rebellion were to occur. [56] Mackenzie also printed A New Almanack for the Canadian True Blues under his "Patrick Swift" pseudonym to influence voters before the 1834 provincial election. [57] In the 1835 municipal elections, Reform candidates were defeated by Tory opponents and Mackenzie received the fewest votes in his ward in his reelection for alderman. [1]

Upper Canada politics 1835–1836

Emanuel Hahn's "Mackenzie Panels" (1938) in the garden of Mackenzie House in Toronto. The panel is dedicated to reformers who argued for responsible government in Upper Canada. The Seventh Report on Grievances.jpg
Emanuel Hahn's "Mackenzie Panels" (1938) in the garden of Mackenzie House in Toronto. The panel is dedicated to reformers who argued for responsible government in Upper Canada.

Mackenzie ran in the October 1834 provincial election for the 12th Parliament of Upper Canada for one of the ridings in the County of York, which had been split into four individual ridings. He was elected 334-178. [58] In November he gave the Advocate to William John O'Grady because he wanted to devote more time to the legislature and felt the reform movement should be continued by others. [59] On December 8 Mackenzie participated in the first meeting of the Canadian Alliance Society to unite Reformers and establish branches throughout Upper Canada. [60] His proposals were incorporated into the society's platform and Mackenzie became its corresponding secretary. [59]

The 12th Parliament of Upper Canada voted to reverse Mackenzie's previous expulsions from the Legislative Assembly and he was assigned chairman of the Committee on Grievances. [61] He called several members of the Family Compact to answer questions to the committee about their work and government efficiency. [62] The committee documented their findings in The Seventh Report from the Select Committee of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada on Grievances [61] which expressed Mackenzie's concern on the power of the executive branch in Upper Canada and their use of government officials to campaign for Tory politicians. It also criticised companies that mismanaged money given to them by the government [63] and salary of officials who received patronage appointments by the Colonial Office or the executive branch. [64]

Mackenzie used the Committee on Grievances to investigate the Welland Canal company and was appointed one of its directors in 1835. [65] He discovered that parcels of land owned by the company were given to Family Compact members and the Anglican church for charitable prices or swapped with land that was of lesser value. Mackenzie printed his investigation in a newspaper he created that summer in the Niagara peninsula. [66]

When the new lieutenant-governor Francis Bond Head arrived in Upper Canada Mackenzie believed he was an ally of the reform movement [67] but upon meeting the reformers Bond Head concluded that they were disloyal subjects of the British Empire. [68] He wrote that "Mackenzie's mind seemed to nauseate its subjects" and "with the eccentricity, the volubility, and indeed the appearance of a madman, the tiny creature raved." [69] Bond Head called an election in July 1836 and asked citizens to defend their British connection by voting for Tory politicians. [70] Mackenzie was defeated by Edward William Thomson. [71] He prepared a petition to the legislature for a recount and was granted an extension for his appeal by the legislature because he became ill. When he submitted his petition the legislature reversed their extension and rejected it because he failed to meet the original deadline. [72]

Upper Canada Rebellion, 1837–1838


Mackenzie founded a new newspaper called the Constitution on July 4, 1836. [73] Upper Canada entered a depression in 1837 and Mackenzie urged his readers to withdraw their funds from their banks. He printed articles of his outrage when the Bank of Upper Canada tried to slow the efforts of patrons to withdraw funds. [74]

In July 1837 Mackenzie organised a meeting with fellow reformers dubbed the Committee of Vigilance. They created a document that outlined their grievances with the government, sympathy with the Patriote movement and calls for communities to hold political meetings that would send representatives to a congress of delegates. Mackenzie was selected as the committee's corresponding secretary. [75]

Mackenzie printed the declaration in the Constitution and spent the summer of 1837 organizing political unions and vigilance committees throughout Upper Canada. [75] His speech to disgruntled farmers in Newmarket on August 3, 1837, was the first time a violent rebellion was openly discussed. He attracted large crowds at his meetings but also faced physical attacks from members of the Orange Order. [1] During the fall of 1837 he visited Lower Canada several times to meet with rebel leaders of Lower Canada, where he learned they were planning an open rebellion. [76]

On October 9, 1837, Mackenzie received a message from the Patriotes requesting that Mackenzie organise a strike on the Upper Canada government. [77] Mackenzie gathered Reformers and proposed seizing control of the Upper Canadian government by force [78] but the meeting could not reach a consensus. [79] Mackenzie tried to convince John Rolph and Thomas David Morrison to lead a rebellion, but the two reformers asked Mackenzie to determine the level of support in the countryside for the revolt. [80] Mackenzie travelled north under the Toronto rebels' assumption that he was surveying support but instead spent the time convincing rural Reform leaders that they could forcefully take control of the government. He returned to Toronto and informed Rolph and Morrison that the revolt would begin on December 7. [81]

Mackenzie asked Colonel Anthony Van Egmond to be the military leader of the rebellion. In the November 15, 1837 issue of The Constitution, Mackenzie published a draft constitution modelled on the Equal Rights Party constitution that incorporated English radical Reform ideas and some aspects of utilitarianism. [82] On November 27 he issued a broadsheet that called for rebels to take up arms and distributed it in communities outside of Toronto. [83]

On December 1 Mackenzie wrote a declaration of independence and printed it at Hoggs Hollow. A Tory supporter reported the declaration to authorities [84] and a warrant was issued for Mackenzie's arrest. Mackenzie returned to Toronto and learned that Rolph had tried to warn Mackenzie but this message was forwarded to Samuel Lount. [85] Upon receiving the warning Lount gathered a group of men and started marching towards Toronto to begin the rebellion. Mackenzie attempted to stop him but he could not reach Lount in time. [86]

Leader of the rebellion troops

Lount's troops arrived at Montgomery's Tavern on the night of Monday, December 4. [1] Mackenzie and Rolph met in David Gibson's home and decided to continue the rebellion. [87] Mackenzie led a scouting expedition and encountered John Powell (Canadian politician) and Archibald Macdonald (Canadian politician), whom he took as his prisoner. [88] He instructed Anthony Anderson to escort the prisoners to Montgomery's Tavern. After shooting Anderson, Powell raced back to Mackenzie's location and tried shooting him in the face, but the bullet did not leave the gun's chamber. [89] The rebel leaders decided that night for Mackenzie to become the leader of the rebellion. [90]

Mackenzie gathered the rebels at noon on December 5 and marched them towards Toronto. [91] At Gallows Hill Rolph and Robert Baldwin delivered the government's message of full amnesty for the rebels if they immediately dispersed. Mackenzie and Lount asked that a convention be organised to discuss the province's policies and for the truce to be presented as a written document. [92] Rolph and Baldwin returned later stating the government had withdrawn their offer and Rolph encouraged Mackenzie to attack the city as soon as possible. [93]

Mackenzie grew increasingly erratic and spent the day attempting to punish families of leading Tories. [1] He burned down the house of Robert Horne and tried to force the wife of the Upper Canada Postmaster to cook meals for his troops. [94] Rolph sent a messenger to Mackenzie to inform him that rebels in Toronto were ready for their arrival and Mackenzie marched the troops towards the city. [95] During the march a group of men fired at the rebels, causing the rebels to flee. Mackenzie chased after them, trying to convince them to continue their march towards Toronto. Instead, the rebels told Mackenzie that they would continue their march in the morning. [96]

On December 6, Mackenzie's seized a mail coach running west of Toronto. He took the money in the possession of the passengers and searched the mail coach for more funds and information about the status of the rebellion in the western part of the province. He also kidnapped travellers, robbed them and questioned them about the revolt. [97] Mackenzie returned to Montgomery's Tavern and read out loud a letter he allegedly received from a gentleman named "Mr. Cotton" from Buffalo which stated that 200 men were going to arrive to help with their rebellion. Mackenzie also sent a letter to a newspaper called Buffalo Whig and Journal asking for more troops and reinforcements from the United States. [98]

The Battle of Montgomery's Tavern and retreat to the United States

A print showing fighting during the Battle of Montgomery's Tavern, December 7, 1837. Montgomery's Tavern.jpg
A print showing fighting during the Battle of Montgomery's Tavern, December 7, 1837.

On December 7, Van Egmond encouraged Mackenzie to entrench at their position but Mackenzie wanted to attack the government's troops. They agreed to send sixty men to the Don Bridge in the hopes of diverting the troops. [99] When the government troops fired upon Montgomery's Tavern Mackenzie fled north with the other rebels. [100]

A proclamation posted on December 7, 1837, offering a reward of one thousand pounds for the capture of William Lyon Mackenzie. 1837 Proclamation.png
A proclamation posted on December 7, 1837, offering a reward of one thousand pounds for the capture of William Lyon Mackenzie.

Mackenzie fled west with a group of rebels and they decided to go to the United States in groups of two. Mackenzie discovered that there was a one thousand pound reward for his apprehension but the people they met in the countryside did not report his whereabouts. [101]

Attempted invasion from the United States

A 1841 sketch by Mackenzie showing the body of Durfee lying on the ground (foreground) while the burning wreck of the "Caroline" drifts toward the falls (background) 1841 sketch of Caroline Affair by Mackenzie-employed artist.png
A 1841 sketch by Mackenzie showing the body of Durfee lying on the ground (foreground) while the burning wreck of the "Caroline" drifts toward the falls (background)

Mackenzie arrived in Buffalo, New York on December 11, 1837. [102] On that day he gave a speech outlining his desire for Upper Canada to be independent of Britain. [103] He blamed the failed rebellion in Upper Canada on a lack of weapons and supplies for the men assembled in Montgomery's Tavern. Josiah Trowbridge wrote a letter to Martin Van Buren interpreting the speech as a rallying cry for assistance in the rebellion, and a newspaper called Commercial Advertiser reported a similar interpretation in their article on the event. [104]

Mackenzie visited Rensselaer Van Rensselaer on December 12 to ask him to lead an invasion of Upper Canada from Navy Island. [105] Mackenzie, Van Rensselaer and 24 supporters occupied Navy Island on December 14 [98] and Mackenzie prepared a proclamation that created the State of Upper Canada and an executive committee of thirteen men to run the new state, with himself appointed as chairman. [106] Mackenzie snuck into Canada to distribute his constitutional ideas and encourage Canadians to join him. He wrote a second proclamation on December 19 promising $100 in silver to volunteers and a third proclamation on December 21. [107]

Although Mackenzie was anxious to invade Canada, he supported the occupation of Navy Island because it disrupted trade to Upper Canada, increased the hostilities between Canada and the United States and changed opinions in Britain on the value of keeping colonies. [108] On January 4 Mackenzie travelled to Buffalo to seek medical attention for his wife. [109] While travelling he was arrested for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794 and went on an angry tirade against Americans and their political leaders. He was released on $5000 bail, paid by three men in Buffalo, [110] and returned to Navy Island in January. [103] Mackenzie urged the executive council on Navy Island to send the troops to Buffalo, obtain boats, and invade Canada. He believed that the men gathered in Montgomery's Tavern a month earlier would join them if a large army arrived and others were pretending to be loyalists until they saw an opportunity for a successful rebellion. [111] The council disagreed with Mackenzie, British forces invaded the island on January 14, 1838, and the rebels dispersed to the American mainland. [98]

Mackenzie wanted the next invasion to be led by Canadians with American assistance. In Buffalo, Mackenzie told Van Rensselaer to go to the dispersed troops in Detroit and lead them to Canada at a better opportunity. He also contacted Reformers in Lennox County and Addington County, Upper Canada to coordinate a resistance with the Patriots who were invading Lower Canada. [112] When Van Rensselaer attempted an invasion of Kingston from Hickory Island, Mackenzie refused to participate or send any supplies to help with the endeavour, citing later his lack of confidence in the mission's success. [113] Mackenzie travelled west with Calvin Willcox to avoid getting arrested again by the Americans. After the forces from Navy Island were defeated in mainland America, Mackenzie and Willcox decided that any further recruitment attempts for Patriot forces would cause them to be ridiculed. On March 4 he returned to Albany where his friends tried to convince him that their rebellion could not continue. [114]

Years in the US, 1838–1849

Support for Patriots and Mackenzie's Gazette

Mackenzie and his wife arrived in New York on March 10 1838. He launched Mackenzie's Gazette with money loaned to him from supporters including Henry O'Reilly. Its early editions supported the Patriots and focused on topics relating to Canada and events along the Canada-US border. [115] In August 1838, Mackenzie published articles commenting on American politics and supported the Democratic party in the upcoming 1838 United States elections. This caused supporters of the Whig Party to cancel their subscriptions and Canadian Patriots to become disinterested in the paper's new focus. [116] After the Battle of the Windmill Mackenzie admitted that Patriot forces had been defeated and noted the failures of rebel forces in Upper and Lower Canada. He organised meetings in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore and Albany to raise funds for the Patriots. [117] In January 1839 he paused production of Mackenzie's Gazette and his son, William was born. [118]

Mackenzie moved to Rochester to run The Canadian Association. [119] Mackenzie used the association to keep Patriot forces organised and motivated to help if a war or rebellion happened in Canada. It struggled to attract enough Canadians to sustain its operations and he refused American support because he did not want the United States to invade Canada. One of his goals was to raise money to publish an account of the Upper Canada Rebellion but the association was unsuccessful and the money it did receive was spent on Mackenzie's trial. [120] Mackenzie also restarted Mackenzie's Gazette while he was in Rochester in February 1839. [118]

Neutrality law trial and sentence

The trial for Mackenzie's violation of American neutrality laws began on June 19, 1839, and he represented himself in the proceedings. The District Attorney argued that Mackenzie recruited members at his speech in the Eagle Theatre and brought the crowd to the city hall of Black Rock where they stole arms, established an army, and refused to allow a sheriff to recover the stolen weapons. The DA also argued that Mackenzie broke the Neutrality Act when he wrote and distributed the Navy Island Proclamation. Upon cross-examination Mackenzie had the prosecution's witnesses admit that they did not know if Mackenzie was part of the crowd that was formed after Eagle Theatre and did not know where the crowd went when they left the meeting. Mackenzie also stated that a committee in Buffalo was going to pay for the arms that were stolen and that the Navy Island Proclamation was to only be distributed in Canada. Mackenzie also contended that the United States and Britain were not at peace because of the Caroline affair and thus the Neutrality Act did not apply. [121]

In his defence arguments, Mackenzie gave the history of the Upper Canada Rebellion and compared it to the American Revolution. Mackenzie challenged Britain's right to rule Canada due to obtaining the colony through invasion and conquest. He argued that the people of Canada did not have to be loyal to Britain because of the mismanagement of Upper Canada by its ruling class. Mackenzie tried to submit the Durham Report as evidence that Canada was in a state of anarchy, but this was ruled inadmissible by the judge because Canada was a colony and its internal affairs could not be given as evidence. Mackenzie tried to prove that Canada was in a civil war when Mackenzie committed his alleged crimes but the judge also ruled this evidence as inadmissible because only Congress could make that determination and the American Congress did not consider this. [122]

When defending against charges related to the Navy Island campaign, Mackenzie argued that citizens of Buffalo had conceived the idea and that he did not have the resources to organise this expedition. The prosecution countered these arguments by producing a letter written by the Buffalo committee requesting Mackenzie give guidance on how they could help his cause. The judge denied testimony on Mackenzie's reply to this letter and of a letter supposedly sent by Thomas Sutherland showing the readiness for conflict by the Buffalo committee. This frustrated Mackenzie and he did not call further witnesses for his defence. [123]

Mackenzie was sentenced to pay a $10 fine and spend eighteen months in jail. He did not appeal this ruling after consulting with lawyers whom he did not publicly name. [124] He stated after the trial that he was depending upon key witnesses giving testimony but they did not come to the courtroom. He also denounced the application of the Neutrality Law, wrongly stating that the law had not been considered or applied for nearly fifty years. [125]

Mackenzie chose to be imprisoned in Rochester so he could be closer to his family. He wanted to be treated as a political prisoner and only ate meals that his family brought to him. During his sentence, he read Workingman's Advocate and created a code of law for his ideal structure of government. He also published The Caroline Almanack and issues of Gazette. The first editions of Gazette while Mackenzie was in jail consisted of a retelling of Mackenzie's trial and appeals for his release. He then moved on to reporting on Canadian and American politics. [126]

While imprisoned Mackenzie's health deteriorated and a bullet was fired through his prison window. [127] His mother became sick and he was not given permission to see her, so John Montgomery arranged for Mackenzie to be a witness at a trial. [128] The trial took place at Montgomery's establishment and Mackenzie was allowed to visit his mother before she passed away. [129] During his sentence Mackenzie encouraged his friends to write to prominent American politicians and petition Van Buren for a pardon. Van Buren was reluctant to pardon Mackenzie because he did not want others to believe he supported Mackenzie's actions and increase hostilities between the United States and Britain. He acquiesced in May 1840 after numerous petitions were submitted to Congress and a resolution calling for Mackenzie's release was submitted to the Senate. [127]

After pardon

The last issue of the Gazette was published in December 1840. His twelfth child was born in February 1841 and he applied to become a lawyer in Monroe County, but was rejected because he had not previously worked as a counsellor. [130] In April he launched The Rochester Volunteer and printed negative articles on Canadian Tory legislators and how ridings in Montreal and Quebec were configured to disadvantage French Canadian voters. [131] He also tried to start a war between the United States and Britain over the trial Alexander McLeod in the hopes that a war between the two nations would create an independent Upper Canada. [132] The Volunteer ceased production in September 1841, and Mackenzie moved back to New York City in June 1842. [1]

Mackenzie worked for various publishers but refused to accept a job as an editor. In August 1842 he was elected as an actuary and librarian at the Mechanics' Institute, but resigned because he was not receiving his expected salary. [133] Mackenzie's final child, Isabel Grace, was born in February 1843. [134] Mackenzie became an American citizen in April 1843 [133] and in October 1843 he launched the Examiner, which failed after three issues. [134] He wrote a biography of 500 Irish patriots entitled, The Sons of the Emerald Isle and the first volume was published on February 21, 1844. He also co-founded the National Reform Association with the goal of giving public lands to people who will live on the property, limiting the quantity of land a single person can own and outlawing the confiscation of homesteads that were given to settlers for free. He remained on the association's central committee until July 1844 and was a speaker at many of their meetings. [135]

In July 1844 he was nominated to be an inspector at the New York Custom House, but this was withdrawn after Whig newspapers were critical that Mackenzie was not born in the United States. [136] He was instead appointed as a clerk in the archives office of the customs house. [137] Mackenzie copied private letters of Jesse Hoyt which described various negotiations between members of the Albany Regency for financial transactions and appointments to government offices. Mackenzie resigned from his position at the custom-house in June 1845 and published some of the letters as Lives and Opinions of Benjamin Franklin Butler and Jesse Hoyt. [138] It sold 50 000 copies and made a $12 000 profit before an injunction stopped the sale of the book. [139] Mackenzie gave the rights and the profits of his pamphlet to the publishers because he did not want the public to think he was trying to profit from exposing a scandal. [140] In April 1846, Mackenzie published another book based on Hoyt's letters called Life and Times of Martin Van Buren: The Correspondence of His Friends, Family, and Pupils. This book focused on Van Buren and contained Mackenzie's commentary on American politics with supporting evidence from the letters. [141]

In October 1845 Mackenzie also published the second volume of The Sons of the Emerald Isle. [142] Horace Greeley hired Mackenzie to report on the New York State Constitutional Convention for the New York Tribune . [143] After the convention Mackenzie stayed in Albany hoping to continue reporting for the Tribune or to receive a patronage appointment. He edited an issue of the Albany Patriot and wrote various articles for the Tribune. [144] In May 1847 he returned to New York City to work for the Tribune. [145] In August 1847 he was hired by Henry O'Reilly to organise and index James Monroe's correspondence for his memoir. In April 1848 Mackenzie resigned from the Tribune and two months later his daughter Margaret became sick and died. [146] O'Reilly paid Mackenzie to write editorials promoting his new telegraph companies and defending against accusations from Morse telegraph patentees. [147]

Amnesty and return to Canada, 1849–1861

On January 30, 1849, the Canadian Legislature passed an amnesty bill for crimes committed during the 1837 rebellion. Mackenzie travelled to Montreal in February, and his arrival in Canada caused riots in Belleville and Toronto and his effigy being burned in Kingston. In March 1849 Mackenzie reached Toronto and stayed with John McIntosh. A mob gathered at McIntosh's house and burned an effigy of Mackenzie on the front lawn. Mackenzie continued touring Upper Canada and returned to New York on April 4. [148]

Mackenzie insisted that he had no desire to return permanently to Canada and documented his tour in A Winter's Journey through the Canadas. [149] Greely hired Mackenzie to assemble various Whig almanacs and the Business Men's Almanack, which were both published in 1850. Mackenzie was also writing weekly letters to the Toronto Examiner [146] and became a correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune in Washington, D.C in April 1850.

He returned to Toronto in May 1850 with his family. [150] He wrote weekly articles for the Tribune and contributed to the Niagara Mail and the Examiner [151] although he refused offers to work full-time. He sought to collect money he believed was owed for his public service in the 1830s and received $1200 from York County [1] and £250 his work as a Welland Canal commissioner in 1835. [152]

Return to the Legislature, 1851–1858

Mackenzie in the 1850s. OldMackenzie (cropped).jpg
Mackenzie in the 1850s.

In 1850 John Doel sold to Mackenzie a town lot in Dundas that had once belonged to Mackenzie but was seized by Canadian government. In February 1851, Mackenzie ran for a vacated seat in Haldimand County as an Independent politician. [153] In April 1851 Mackenzie won the by-election against three other opponents because many people in the county were against the government's Reform candidates and believed Mackenzie would be an independent voice. [154] He won the election with 294 votes. [155]

In the legislature, Mackenzie made a motion for an investigation of the Court of Chancery. The majority of Canada West legislators supported him and Robert Baldwin resigned because of the assembly's lack of confidence for the court. [156] In the October 1851 elections Mackenzie campaigned against various reformers like Baldwin, Francis Hincks [157] and James Hervey Price while winning his own election in Haldimand County with 63% of the vote. [158]

In 1852 Hincks asked Mackenzie to participate in negotiations with George Brown's Clear Grits, as Hincks hoped Brown would rejoin the Reform Party. Mackenzie refused to attend to maintain his independence in the Legislature. John Rolph was appointed to a ministry position and consulted Mackenzie on appointments in Haldimand county. [1] He offered Mackenzie a job as an agent for the Commissioner of Crown Lands, but Mackenzie refused because he did not want to burden the Canadian taxpayers with an unnecessary job created for him. [159]

On October 5, 1852, Mackenzie wrote a letter to the Examiner that Lesslie wanted to edit before printing. Mackenzie refused to allow any edits and Lesslie refused to publish any of Mackenzie's letters. Losing his only source of communication with his constituents, Mackenzie began his own newspaper on December 25, 1852 called Mackenzie's Weekly Message (and later renamed Toronto Weekly Message). [160] Anticipating a surprise election in 1854, Mackenzie analysed the voting records of Hincks and Clear Grit legislators and attempted to raise money to print 20 000 of an updated Voter's Guide. [161]

In May 1853, Mackenzie opposed a scheme dubbed the "£10,000 Job" where Hincks and John George Bowes had profited by lending money to railway companies at public expense. He accused Rolph and Malcolm Cameron of opposing reform ideals in order to become electable and accused Rolph of treason during the 1837 rebellion after Rolph refused to consult him on appointments in Haldimand county. Mackenzie also disagreed with George Brown, stating that Brown's reform beliefs were hypocritical and commenting on Brown's anti-Catholic prejudices. [1]

Mackenzie faced a difficult reelection campaign in 1854 for his Legislative Assembly seat in Haldimand. Local newspapers complained that Mackenzie only came to the riding during election time and that other legislators would not vote for any amendments or legislation he proposed due to their negative opinion of Mackenzie. His positions against religious school boards and his articles in the Message caused some voters to withdraw their support. Although Mackenzie wanted to campaign against Hincks and his supporters in other ridings, his opponent in Haldimand demanded a poll and Mackenzie was forced to spend more time campaigning in his riding. He won the election by 54 votes, a smaller majority than in the previous election. [162]

In the 5th Parliament of the Province of Canada Mackenzie opposed the MacNab-Morin coalition government and denounced Reform members who supported the administration. [163] Mackenzie gave a speech in the legislature that criticised Governor-General James Elgin for not giving reform legislators a chance to form a government before accepting a Tory government, calling his actions unconstitutional. During this session of Parliament Mackenzie was appointed chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts during this session of Parliament. The committee's reports criticised the disorganisation of the province's record-keeping of various budgets and expenditures. The committee also exposed various expenditures by the government that had not been approved by Parliament, including an expenditure at a loading pier on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City where £119 611 was spent when only £41 500 had been approved. This caused the administration to avoid spending money that had not been approved by the legislature first. Mackenzie pursued a resolution that condemned previous administrations for similar acts but this was rejected by the committee. In retaliation for this proposal, Mackenzie was removed from the committee. [164]

Clear Grit founders sought his advice in 1854 to create policy and wanted him to join their reform movement. They wanted him to support Brown as their leader but Mackenzie continued his attacks on Brown. By 1957 only David Christie wanted to include Mackenzie in Reform proposals. [1]

In 1855 Mackenzie's health began to deteriorate. In February he was forced to close the Message, citing the time consumed by his work as a legislator. [165] He wrote columns for the Examiner until it was merged with the Globe in August 1855. [166] He revived the Message in December 1855 [167] and published the Reader's Almanac in April 1856, outlining his arguments to split the union of Upper and Lower Canada. [166]

Mackenzie worked with constituents to pressure the legislator to investigate land speculators illegally obtaining large plots of land. Subsequent reports stated that speculators acquired 63 000 acres under questionable circumstances and the Crown Lands Department, from whom they obtained the land from, was disorganised and filled with incompetent employees. [168] He tried to get the government to prosecute Crown land agents and help citizens who defaulted on mortgages but this was delayed by Mackenzie's resignation as a legislator and a lack of willingness for government officials to proceed on this issue. He opposed a Conservative-sponsored bill to regulate the sale of land because it left many issues to the discretion of members of the executive branch and a minimum price for plots of land were not established. [169]

In the 1857 election, Mackenzie was narrowly reelected to the in the riding of Haldimand with 38% of the vote [170] and accepted Brown's invitation to caucus with opposition members against the Macdonald-Cartier administration. [171] After the defeat of the Macdonald-Cartier government, Mackenzie supported the Brown-Dorion administration, although he criticised the differing viewpoints between ministers and was disappointed that he was not given a portfolio. [172] Mackenzie resigned his seat on August 16, 1858 [173] stating that he believed the legislature was illegitimate after the Mackenzie-Cartier administration was reinstated by the Governor-General without an election. [174] However, his constituents had encouraged him not to run in the next election because he did not support building a railway in Haldimand. [175] He had also been suffering from rheumatism and was attending Parliament less frequently. [176]

Final years, 1858–1861

The exterior of Mackenzie House. This house was built by the Homestead Fund to support Mackenzie in his retirement. Mackenzie House.JPG
The exterior of Mackenzie House. This house was built by the Homestead Fund to support Mackenzie in his retirement.

At the end of 1858 Mackenzie decided to stop production of the Message, citing running the paper at a financial loss and how the paper's lack of popularity made it difficult to influence politics. [177] He continued trying to dismantle the union of Upper and Lower Canada by collecting petitions and planning to deliver them to the Colonial Office in England. The Homestead Fund refused to give him money for his trip so he travelled to New York attempting to raise money for his trip. He was unsuccessful, returned to Toronto [178] and restarted the Message in June. [179]

In 1859 Mackenzie attended a Reform convention organised by Brown as an observer. He disagreed with the outcome of the convention that Reform politicians should advocate for representation by population in the legislature. [180] He wrote Almanac for Independence and Freedom for 1860 outlining arguments for dissolving the union. [181] In October he moved to a new home in Toronto purchased by the Homestead Fund set up by Lesslie and Riddell. [182] and due to decreasing subscriptions to the Message he ended publication on September 15, 1860. [183]

John Doel sued Mackenzie over acres of land he sold to Mackenzie in exchange for a note and Doel wanted Mackenzie to begin paying a mortgage. The lawsuit ended when Mackenzie agreed to sign a mortgage. [184] He was also compiling an autobiography. [185] Near the end of his life he was getting sicker but Mackenzie refused all medication. [186]

At the end of August 1861 Mackenzie went into a coma. [187] He died on August 28 following an apoplectic seizure [1] and was buried at Toronto Necropolis. [188]

Writing style

Topics in Mackenzie's articles and editorials were not consistent or linked together between issues. Instead, he preferred writing about the topics he was thinking about at a particular time [189] causing the writing to ramble about grievances from previous decades. [190] Lillian F. Gates wrote that Mackenzie's writing format was disorganised, with obscure references that are difficult for today's readers to understand. [138] Gates struggled with The Life and Times of Martin Van Buren because Mackenzie did not describe events chronologically and used too many footnotes and large lists. [191] William Kilbourn described Sketches of Canada and the United States as a book disconcerted with conventional storytelling techniques or "a sense of order" [192] while Charles Lindsey believed the stories were not connected to each other and little regard for the order they were presented. [193]

Kilbourn stated that articles in Colonial Advocate were better when read out loud and described Mackenzie's structure as a "three-volume Victorian novel" because of its slow pace. [194] He described Mackenzie's writing in The Constitution as "baroque convolutions of style and their harsh jumble of book learning are really not for the printed page" [195] and noted that when articles generated positive feedback, subsequent articles would use harsher language and become less focused on the topic he was criticizing. Articles would continue this progression until an event intervened or he was no longer upset about the topic. [196] Rasporich believed his writing was exciting for citizens in the 1800s and contemporary readers [197] while John Sewell believed his political affairs articles were well written. [198]

In Colonial Advocate Mackenzie printed the members of the Family Compact, their roles in the government and how they were related to each other. [199] Lindsay stated that Mackenzie's articles were, "mild and playful beside the savagery of the unprovoked attack" and when Mackenzie was further provoked he responded with sharp sarcasm. [200] He also noted that the writing showed Mackenzie's uneven temper but believed the writing was moderated compared to the personal attacks he was subjected to by political and professional opponents. [201] Anthony W. Rasporich claimed Colonial Advocate was the first sensationalist newspaper in Canada due to articles on murders and other's people's personal misfortune. [202] He also noted that Mackenzie would print information after promising that he would not and plagiarised from other editorials. [203] In describing Lives and Opinions of Benjamin Franklin Butler and Jesse Hoyt the New York Tribune called it a surprising report on the political actions of New York State politicians. [138]

Political philosophy and views

Political philosophy

J.C. Dent wrote in 1885 that Mackenzie changed his opinions depending on public opinion. John King, Mackenzie's son-in-law, disagreed and said Mackenzie's policies were adopted by both Canadian political parties and "If there ever was a man who had fixed and uncompromising views of public policy and public affairs, it was Mackenzie." [204] According to John Sewell, Mackenzie did not express a consistent political philosophy throughout his life. Rather, he wanted his actions to express his political leadership style. [205] Mackenzie changed his position on various policies because he wanted a person's judgement, not predetermined ideas, to decide the best course of action. [206]

Mackenzie embraced the version of rationalist liberalism that existed at the time [207] and his journalism favoured radical reform causes. [197] Mackenzie professed in the Colonial Advocate that he was a Whig and his views supported popular sovereignty and the compact theory. [208] Dent said his policies aligned with Conservative Party policies of the 1880s, which King disagreed with by saying all Canadian political parties adopted Mackenzie's policies. [204] King believed Mackenzie was both a Reform leader and a Liberal. [209] Mackenzie was conservative in his stance on social causes. He adopted a puritanical outlook towards gambling and prostitution and wanted women to return to an agrarian lifestyle of taking care of the home. [210] Anthony W. Rasporich described him as a "temperamental conservative" whose editorials on Jewish people, Catholics, French Canadians and black people were prejudiced, even when the views went against reform causes. [208] John Sewell said previous biographers like Kilbourn and Rasporich would describe Mackenzie as radical, but current scholars would regard him as "an ideologue ranting against the Family Compact." [211]

Mackenzie also opposed legislation from England governing Upper Canada without Canadian representation in their legislature. [212] He believed Upper Canada's government would be more efficient in responding to the people's needs if the province was able to elect its lawmakers. [213] He supported responsible government as a solution to the conflict between the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council of Upper Canada. [214] When exiled to the United States Mackenzie declared himself a believer in social democracy and the equality of everyone in society and in the law. [109] Mackenzie's beliefs moderated when Jacksonian democracy and Chartism lost their popularity in the 1840s and he adopted social causes expunged by Horace Greeley. [202] Upon his return to Canada in the 1850s Mackenzie campaigned for the agrarian community in Upper Canada. [215] In 1886 Mackenzie's son-in-law John King called Mackenzie both a Liberal and a Reform leader.

Religious views

Mackenzie was a Presbyterian. Although he rebelled against the religion as a youth, he returned to the religion and remained faithful for the rest of his life. [207] He supported the social gospel and believed clergy should be advocating for equality among citizens and was critical of clergy members who advocated for the status quo in the United States and Canada. [216] Mackenzie campaigned on equal rights for religious denominations in the 1830 election. [217] He was against attacking Catholics or Protestants for their religious beliefs and believed all Christian denominations had persecuted other faiths at various points in their histories and that they all believed in miracles as outlined in the bible. [218] However, he criticised the Papacy in the Message in 1859. [183]

Mackenzie was against clergy reserves and creating an established church. [212] He proposed transferring ownership of clergy reserves to the legislature and abolishing a religious test for employment and services. [219] Mackenzie wanted to abolish clergy reserves as a legislator in the 1850s and proposed secularising their land. [161] He supported the Crown obtaining ownership over clergy reserves and distributing the funds from these lands to municipalities. [220] He criticised a grant given to British Wesleyans from the Crown to proselytise to Indigenous communities in Upper Canada, causing Egerton Ryerson and Methodists to split from the Reform movement in 1833. [221]

Mackenzie was an opponent of dividing public education by religion. He was concerned that religious schools would teach children to follow a religion without challenging their beliefs. [222] Instead, Mackenzie supported the creation of a non-religious school system funded by the provincial government. He opposed increasing sectarian school funding because it would cause their schools to be better funded than common schools. [223] He opposed establishing Trinity College upon Crown lands and worked with Wesleyan Methodists to oppose giving Methodist benevolent society properties to a corporation run by Methodist ministers. Instead, Mackenzie supported lay members who wanted representation in the organisational structure of this corporation. [224]

Economic policies

Mackenzie's economic policies derided from an agrarian focus that believed agriculture was the foundation of an economy and struggled to understand how stocks and banknotes could denote wealth. [225] In his draft of the State of Upper Canada constitution, Mackenzie wanted to establish gold and silver as the only legal tender in his state [219] and in the 1850s advocated for a stable currency. [226] He was critical of granting state aid or privileges to companies which would inadvertently make them monopolies. [226] He also wanted tougher laws for lending money to corporations, proposing in 1859 a requirement for three-fourths of Parliament and approval from the government leader before a loan could be approved. [178]

Mackenzie wanted protections for the people who deposited their money in banks [227] and disliked the Bank of Upper Canada's exclusive rights to government deposits. [228] Mackenzie reported that the bank was charging more interest on the government's debt than it was giving on the government's deposits in their bank and called for the end of its monopoly. [229] He also criticised chartered banks for not paying interest on deposits they held and issuing notes that were not adequately secured. [230] He supported restricting charters to new banks unless their ability to issue notes was safeguarded and restricted. [228] In his constitution for the State of Upper Canada Mackenzie proposed a ban on banks. [231]


Historical reputation

At the time of his death, newspapers printed obituaries emphasising his independence, desire for an honest public administration and patriotism that was misguided. [232] Charles Lindsey wrongly stated that Mackenzie was solely responsible for the Upper Canada Rebellion [1] and said Mackenzie turned down opportunities for financial success because he did not want to burden taxpayers with the cost of his salary. [233] In 1885 J.C. Dent wrote Story of Upper Canada Rebellion which negatively critiqued Mackenzie's character and political achievements. Mackenzie's son James and son-in-law John King both refuted Dent's research, with the later publishing his refutation in a brochure called The Other Side of the "Story". [232] [234] King stated that many reform achievements happened because of Mackenzie's actions and that he was "one of the greatest Liberal leaders in Canada." [209] William Dawson LeSueur's biography of Mackenzie in the early twentieth century presented him as an unsympathetic figure who did not influence the creation of Canada nor the politics of the 1850s. [232] Kilbourn agreed with LeSueur that Mackenzie's political career in the 1850s did not influence the governance of Canada. [235] He believed that as Mackenzie got older his requests became impossible for the Legislature to fulfil and he struggled to influence legislation. [175] Lillian F. Gates wrote that detractors of Mackenzie could describe him as "a dauntless little old man, persistently getting in the way of the big engines" [235] but Gates thought Mackenzie did not know how to achieve his goals and instead became a "moral crusader". [236] Rasporich agreed, calling Mackenzie "a moral crusader, not a social reformer." [210]

Historians and commentators on Mackenzie's life have disagreed on whether his actions suppressed democratic reforms or caused politicians to hasten its development. [237] Lindsey believed Mackenzie's actions in 1837 caused responsible government to be established in the colony and without this new governance structure Upper Canada would not have remained a British colony or its people would be so poor that they would seek another country's help to liberate them. [238] King agreed, stating that he was influential in bringing reforms to Upper Canada. [209] LeSueur believed that Mackenzie's actions hurt his reform causes and delayed the implementation of responsible government. [237] According to Ronald Stagg, William Kilbourn's biography determined that Mackenzie's actions did not influence Upper Canada's later democratic reforms. [239] Kilbourn also wrote that the cause of reform was hampered by the exodus of reform politicians fleeing arrest in Upper Canada after the 1837 rebellion. [237]

In memoriam

Walter Seymour Allward's bust of William Lyon Mackenzie outside the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in Toronto. Willian Lyon Mackenzie statue.JPG
Walter Seymour Allward's bust of William Lyon Mackenzie outside the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in Toronto.

The last home of Mackenzie was designated as a historical site in 1936 to prevent its demolition. The Mackenzie Homestead Foundation turned the building into the Mackenzie House museum and operated the facility until it was sold to the City of Toronto in 1960. [240] In 1991 a group of volunteers opened a museum called the Mackenzie Printery in Mackenzie's Queenston home to document the newspaper industry in North America. [241]

A statue of Mackenzie was commissioned by the William Lyon Mackenzie Centennial Committee and sculpted by Walter Seymour Allward. It was placed in Queen's Park west of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 1940. [242] Dennis Lee included Mackenzie in his poem entitled 1838. Mackenzie also appeared in 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt, a play written in 1976 by Rick Salutin. [243]

In 1960, Southview Collegiate in North York became William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute after students suggested the name. [244] Toronto Fire Services named a fireboat the William Lyon Mackenzie in 1964. [245]

"The Rebel Mayor", a Twitter account which posted satirical comments on various candidates in Toronto's 2010 mayoral election, was written in the persona and voice of Mackenzie. [246] The feed was written by Shawn Micallef, a journalist for Eye Weekly and Spacing magazine. [247]

Bibliography of major works

See also

Related Research Articles

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James Lesslie was an Ontario bookseller, reform politician and newspaper publisher. His career was closely associated with - and somewhat overshadowed by - William Lyon Mackenzie, the Reform agitator, mayor of Toronto, and Rebellion leader. However, as a leader himself, Lesslie took a prominent role in founding the Mechanics Institute, the House of Refuge & Industry, the Bank of the People, as well as the political parties known as the Canadian Alliance Society and Clear Grits. In many way, he defined the Reform movement in Upper Canada without having reverted to the violent methods of Mackenzie. His legacy may thus have lasted longer.

Patriot War

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The Colonial Advocate was a weekly political journal published in Upper Canada during the 1820s and 1830s. First published by William Lyon Mackenzie on May 18, 1824, the journal frequently attacked the Upper Canada aristocracy known as the "Family Compact", which governed the province. Over its twelve years in publication, Mackenzie explicitly advocated constitutional change to resemble a more American government with the principles of responsible government, and working for the greater good of the people. The Colonial Advocate was used as a voice for constitutional reform, educating and inspiring citizens to take action against their government, making Mackenzie and his paper an important leader in the formation of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

Reform movement (Upper Canada)

The Reform movement was a political movement in British Canada in the early 19th century.


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  14. 1 2 3 Sewell 2002, p. 41.
  15. Kilbourn 2008, p.  43.
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  17. Sewell 2002, p. 43.
  18. Kilbourn 2008, p.  46.
  19. Lindsey 1862, p.  125.
  20. Sewell 2002, p. 46.
  21. Kilbourn 2008, p.  69.
  22. Kilbourn 2008, p.  70.
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Works cited

Political offices
Preceded by
new post replacing the Chairman of the Home District Council
Mayor of Toronto
Succeeded by
Robert Baldwin Sullivan