Thoughts about “Correspondence relative to the recent Expedition to the Red River Settlement: with Journal of Operations”

Red River Settlement, 1870

Red River Settlement, 1870

The source is like all the other British Gov documents I’ve sifted through in my MA work on the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast. They’re routine, detailed, and steeped in administrative duty. This makes them great sources: their attempt at an almost scientific objectivity, since the posture of the writer’s mind is so administrative that a bias immediately jumps off the page. You can really read through the lines in bureaucratic records; the writers are doing a job and yet their selves always comes out eventually. We all know emotions are like that, never being contained or hidden for long before you’re over the sink trying to wash the blood off your hands. Good luck.

So far, I can share that the diplomatic correspondence between the levels of the Dominion Canadian government and the Imperial Government in Britain at either the War Office or the Colonial Office reveals the agreed need among all involved that the Red River Expedition needs to be “Imperial in character”. The various reasons, especially according to Lieutenant-Colonel James Lindsay, included wanting to bolster the morale of the largely volunteer militias that the Government of Canada was planning to field. In fact, this source indicates more than a few times that authorities had trouble recruiting members to completely fill Quebec Battalion. A familiar Canadian political story appears in the drama to ensure French and English Canadians play visible roles in the service of the Dominion and Imperial governments. Lindsay could only barely and almost too late mobilize the whole force for want of recruits from Quebec. The presence of professional soldiers from England would also send the message to the burgeoning Canadian public that government had the support of the Crown in maintaing peace and order in the Red River. Riel was, clearly, an enemy of the state, a murderer, and an insurrectionist in this document.


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