On This Day
1885 – Louis Riel declares a provisional government in Saskatchewan, beginning the North-West Rebellion.
The North-West Rebellion (or the North-West Resistance, Saskatchewan Rebellion, Northwest Uprising, or Second Riel Rebellion) of 1885 was a brief and unsuccessful uprising by the Métis people under Louis Riel and an associated uprising by First Nations Cree and Assiniboine of the District of Saskatchewan against the government of Canada. Many Métis felt Canada was not protecting their rights, their land and their survival as a distinct people. Riel had been invited to lead the movement of protest. He turned it into a military action with a heavily religious tone. This alienated Catholic clergy, whites, most Indians and some Métis. But he had the allegiance of a couple hundred armed Métis, a smaller number of other Aboriginal people and at least one white man at Batoche in May 1885, confronting 900 Canadian army soldiers plus some armed local residents. About 91 people would die in the fighting that occurred that spring, before the rebellion’s collapse.
Despite some notable early victories at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion ended when the Métis were defeated at the Siege of Batoche. The remaining Aboriginal allies scattered. Riel was captured and put on trial. He was convicted of treason and despite many pleas across Canada for amnesty, he was hanged. Riel became a heroic martyr to Francophone Canada, and ethnic tensions escalated into a major national division that was never resolved. Due to the key role that the Canadian Pacific Railway played in transporting troops, Conservative political support for it increased and Parliament authorized funds to complete the country’s first transcontinental railway. Although only a few hundred people were directly affected in Saskatchewan, the long-term result was that the Prairie Provinces would be controlled by English speakers, not French. A much more important long-term impact was the bitter alienation French speakers across Canada showed, and anger against the repression of their countrymen.
Born On This Day
1748 – Elias Hicks, American farmer, minister, and theologian (d. 1830)
Elias Hicks (March 19, 1748 – February 27, 1830) was a traveling Quaker minister from Long Island, New York. In his ministry he promoted unorthodox doctrines that led to controversy, which caused the first major schism within the Religious Society of Friends. Elias Hicks was the older cousin of the painter Edward Hicks.
Elias Hicks was born in Hempstead, New York, in 1748. He was a carpenter by trade and in his early twenties he became a Quaker like his father, John Hicks.
On January 2, 1771, Hicks married a fellow Quaker, Jemima Seaman, at the Westbury Meeting House and they had eleven children, only five of whom reached adulthood. Hicks eventually became a farmer, settling on his wife’s parents’ farm in Jericho, New York, in what is now known as the Elias Hicks House. There he and his wife provided, as did other Jericho Quakers, free board and lodging to any traveler on the Jericho Turnpike rather than have them seek accommodation in taverns for the night.
In 1778, Hicks helped to build the Friends meeting house in Jericho, which remains a place of Quaker worship. Hicks preached actively in Quaker meeting, and by 1778 he was acknowledged as a recorded minister. Hicks was regarded as a gifted speaker with a strong voice and dramatic flair. He drew large crowds when he was said to be attending meetings, sometimes in the thousands. In November 1829, the young Walt Whitman heard Hicks preach at Morrison’s Hotel in Brooklyn, and later said, “Always Elias Hicks gives the service of pointing to the fountain of all naked theology, all religion, all worship, all the truth to which you are possibly eligible—namely in yourself and your inherent relations. Others talk of Bibles, saints, churches, exhortations, vicarious atonements—the canons outside of yourself and apart from man—Elias Hicks points to the religion inside of man’s very own nature. This he incessantly labors to kindle, nourish, educate, bring forward and strengthen.”
Elias Hicks was one of the early Quaker abolitionists.
On Long Island in 1778, he joined with fellow Quakers who had begun manumitting their slaves as early as March 1776 (James Titus and Phebe Willets Mott Dodge). The Quakers at Westbury Meeting were amongst the first in New York to do so and, gradually following their example, all Westbury Quaker slaves were freed by 1799.
In 1794, Hicks was a founder of the Charity Society of Jerico and Westbury Meetings, established to give aid to local poor African Americans and provide their children with education.
In 1811, Hicks wrote Observations on the Slavery of Africans and Their Descendents and in it he linked the moral issue of emancipation to the Quaker Peace Testimony, by stating that slavery was the product of war.
He identified the economic reason for the perpetuation of slavery:
Q. 10. By what class of the people is the slavery of the Africans and their descendants supported and encouraged? A. Principally by the purchasers and consumers of the produce of the slaves’ labour; as the profits arising from the produce of their labour, is the only stimulus or inducement for making slaves.
and he advocated a consumer boycott of slave-produced goods to remove the economic reasons for its existence:
Q. 11. What effect would it have on the slave holders and their slaves, should the people of the United States of America and the inhabitants of Great Britain, refuse to purchase or make use of any goods that are the produce of Slavery? A. It would doubtless have a particular effect on the slave holders, by circumscribing their avarice, and preventing their heaping up riches, and living in a state of luxury and excess on the gain of oppression …
Observations on the Slavery of Africans and Their Descendents gave the free produce movement its central argument. This movement promoted an embargo of all goods produced by slave labor, which were mainly cotton cloth and cane sugar, in favor of produce from the paid labor of free people. Though the free produce movement was not intended to be a religious response to slavery, most of the free produce stores were Quaker in origin, as with the first such store, that of Benjamin Lundy in Baltimore in 1826.
Hicks supported Lundy’s scheme to assist the emigration of freed slaves to Haiti and in 1824, he hosted a meeting on how to facilitate this at his home in Jericho. In the late 1820s, he argued in favor of raising funds to buy slaves and settle them as free people in the American Southwest.
Hicks influenced the abolition of slavery in his home state, from the partial abolition of the 1799 Gradual Abolition Act to the 1817 Gradual Manumission in New York State Act which led to the final emancipation of all remaining slaves within the state on July 4, 1827.
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