270: St. Valentine 1973: Francisco Caamaño, the Dominican Republic’s would-be Fidel

1839: Five Patriotes Canadiens, leaders of the Lower Canada Rebellion

February 15th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1839, five French-Canadian Patriotes were hanged at Montreal’s Pied-du-Courant Prison for their parts in an abortive rebellion against British authority.

Conflict between the Francophone territory Britain seized from France in the Seven Years’ War and the colonial government had been brewing for years, sometimes read as a parallel to the self-determination struggle that had shaped the American Revolution decades before.

Except for the outcome. When the Lower Canada Rebellion erupted in 1837-38, the British crushed it.

This day’s hangings were the result. And while Britain would keep Canada unified, it would never seamlessly absorb her French subjects. So the men who mounted the gallows this day, and others who fought the British, are commemorated on Quebec’s National Patriotes Day, intentionally scheduled to oppose the national — and distinctly English-flavored — Victoria Day in May.

Filmmaker and Quebec independence activist Pierre Falardeau honors the martyrs in their final hours in February 15, 1839 (review):

Accounts — which also recorded that one of the hanged men was able to free a hand and resist the rope with it, and to get his feet to a supporting beam from which he had to be pushed — recalled Charles Hindelang‘s final words thus:

I declare that I die with the conviction of having fulfilled my obligations with dignity. The sentence that struck me is unjust; I forgive those who bore it.

The cause for which I sacrifice myself is noble and great. I am proud of it. I don’t fear death. The blood that is spilled will be washed away with blood. Let the responsibility fall on those who deserve it.

Canadians, my final farewell is the old French cry:

VIVE LA LIBERTÉ!

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Arts and Literature,Botched Executions,Canada,England,Famous Last Words,Hanged,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Occupation and Colonialism,Public Executions,Quebec,Revolutionaries,Soldiers,Treason

3 thoughts on “1839: Five Patriotes Canadiens, leaders of the Lower Canada Rebellion”

  1. Hi, My name is Martin Vennard. I work on an international discussion programme on BBC World Service radio called World Have Your Say, and today (Friday 15th) between 1pm and 2pm East Coast Time we are asking who has the right to decide whether a region should become independent? We would like to speak to someone from Québec who can explain why they think it should be independent and someone who thinks the opposite. If you are interested in taking part in the programme please send me your contact numbers (martin.vennard@bbc.co.uk) or call me on +442075570635 and I will call you straight back. Many thanks

    Martin Vennard

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