Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Riel, Louis

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RIEL, Louis, Canadian insurgent, b. in St. Boniface, Manitoba, 23 Oct., 1844; d. in Regina, Northwest territory, 16 Nov., 1885. He was the son of Louis Riel, a popular leader of the Metis race, or Franco-Indians of the northwest, who in 1849 led a revolt against the authority of the Hudson bay company. The son was a protégé of Archbishop Taché, and after completing his education at the Jesuit college in Montreal he returned to Red river. In October, 1809, he became secretary of the “Comité national des Metis,” an organization formed in the interests of the native people to resist the establishment of Canadian authority in the territories, which had then been lately acquired from the Hudson bay company. Riel, on behalf of the half-breeds, demanded part of the money that had been paid by Canada to the company, and when this was refused he opposed, at the head of a band of his countrymen, the entry of William McDougall, the first lieutenant-governor under the Dominion government. On 8 Dec., 1869, he was elected president of a provisional government that was established at Fort Garry, after his followers had taken possession of that place, and captured Dr. John Christian Schultz and 44 Canadians. In February, 1870, Archbishop Taché, who had been sent for from Rome, was authorized to promise Riel and his followers a general amnesty. On 17 Feb., Riel captured Maj. Bolton and 47 men, and on 4 March one of his prisoners, Thomas Scott, an Ontario Orangeman, was executed by his order. On the approach of the expeditionary force under Sir Garnet (now Lord) Wolseley, Riel evacuated Fort Garry and escaped from the country. A reward of $5,000 was offered by the Ontario government for his apprehension, for his share in the execution of Thomas Scott. He soon afterward returned to Manitoba, but was not arrested, and in October, 1873, he was elected to the Dominion parliament for Proveneher, but was not permitted to take his seat. At the ensuing election in January, 1874, he was re-elected, and suddenly appeared in Ottawa and signed the roll of membership, after which he disappeared. He was expelled from parliament on 16 April, but was again returned for the same constituency by acclamation on 3 Sept., 1874. On 15 Oct. following a warrant of outlawry was issued against him by the court of Queen's bench of Manitoba, and in February, 1875, he was sentenced to five years' banishment and forfeiture of political rights. In 1877 he was confined for several months in Beaufort lunatic asylum, Quebec, under an assumed name, but whether this was owing to insanity, or for concealment and protection, is doubtful. He afterward removed to Montana, where, in the summer of 1884, a deputation of half-breeds invited him to lead them in an agitation for their rights in Manitoba. On 8 July, 1884, Riel arrived at Duck Lake with his family, and at once began a systematic agitation among the half-breeds and Indians. On 5 Sept. he stated the claims of his followers, which were not granted, and in March, 1885, he established for the second time a provisional government in the northwest. On the 18th the rebels made prisoners of the Indian agent at Duck Lake and several teamsters, and on the 25th they seized the government stores. The following day a collision occurred between the insurgents and a party of mounted police and volunteers under the command of Maj. L. N. F. Crozier, in which the former were successful. After the arrival of Maj.-Gen. Frederick D. Middleton with Canadian troops, the rebellion was speedily suppressed. Riel, who had been taken prisoner after the capture of Batoche, was conveyed to Regina, where he was tried and convicted of treason-felony, and sentenced to death. The execution of Riel was followed by great public excitement in the province of Quebec, and the government was bitterly denounced for not recommending the commutation of his sentence. It also led to a serious, though only temporary, defection of supporters of the administration; but finally Riel's French-Canadian sympathizers generally recognized the justice of his sentence, and admitted that his mental aberration was not of such a character as to render him irresponsible.