Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
April 2007

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


The "Murder" of Thomas Scott


The following excerpt was written by J. E. Collins in 1883. It is part of a biography on John A. Macdonald. Collins was a great admirer of the "old chieftain" as Macdonald was called. He shared the usual prejudices against the Métis and Riel common in the English-speaking areas of Canada at the time. His rendition of the Thomas Scott affair is typical of the English, Conservative, Protestant and Orange supporters of the time. Thirteen years after the events that the exerpt describes, the intensity of the anti Riel feelings can be easily felt by the reader. As the other excerpts will show, the description of the events by Collins is both inaccurate, in several respects, aside from lacking in objectivity. These inaccuracies, and the prejudicial terminology used to describe the situation, served to darken the image of Riel and arouse sympathy for Scott. Convinced that events had taken place in the manner, and for reasons, as described by Collins, is it any wonder that the average English-protestant Canadian had no sympathy for Riel in 1885 and resented their French Canadian compatriots for wishing to intercede in his favour?

"But Riel's worst offence so far was rebellion, and a high-handed use of his unlawful powers ; he was yet to enact the foulest crime that stains the page of Canadian history. It ap­pears that among the besieged at Dr. Shultz's house was one Thomas Scott, a sturdy and spirited young fellow, who had moved to the territory from Ontario. He did not surrender with the main body of Canadian settlers, but was arrested the same evening and confined in the Fort. Scott was a fiery youth, loyal to the government, but indiscreet enough to make speeches which brought upon his head the wrath of the dictator. There is now no doubt that for Scott Riel had conceived a personal hatred. Twice had he risen in arms against the insurgents, and even under the lock and key of the president made no effort to suppress his turbulent spirit. One morning the story was told that the prisoners had heaped gross insult upon their half-breed guards, that the example had been set by Scott, and that the latter's conduct was no longer tolerable. Whether the story was true or not it served the bloodthirsty purpose of Riel, who, with murder in his eye, on the evening of the 3rd of March, within the walls of the fort, improvised a court martial, consisting of the " council of seven," to try Scott. The crimes for which he was to be tried were resistance to the provisional government, and assault upon one of his keepers. Riel appeared in the character of prosecutor, witness and judge, and refused to allow Scott to be present at the trial, or to make any defence. After a brief consultation, the seven sentenced the victim to be shot on the following morning at ten o'clock. When news of the unheard-of proceedings, and the barbarous sentence got abroad, there was even in that rebellious fort general excitement, and much sympathy was expressed for the condemned man. Rev. Mr. Young, a Methodist minister, Père Lestang, Mr. Smith and others, besought with tearful earnest­ness that the sentence might be commuted, but the president was thirsting for Scott's blood, and, with his barbarous ally Lepine, peremptorily refused to listen to any plea for mercy. Poor Scott, as may be supposed, could scarcely realize his position; and did not at first believe that the bloody sentence would be carried out. But a few minutes past noon on the following day, the executioners, a band of half-breeds, partially intoxicated, came into his cell, and led him out blind-fold through the chief entrance to the fort to a spot a few yards distant from the wall. "My God, my God," he could only say, in a tremulous voice, " this is cold-blooded murder." His coffin, covered with white cotton, was carried before him, and laid down at the spot planned for execution, where the firing party of six half-breeds under "Adjutant-general" Ambrose Lepine, now drew up. Scott then, his arms pinioned, knelt on the ground, said farewell, and fell back pierced by three bullets. The victim it was observed was not dead, and one of the firing party stepping over to where he lay bleeding upon the snow, drew a revolver which he discharged into his head. The body was then thrust into the coffin, and there are those that wit­nessed the bloody deed who assert that the cry of the dying man could be heard after the lid had been fastened down. What was afterwards the fate of the corpse, no one save those engaged in its disposal knows. It was reported that the body had been burned in the fort, but the box, which was alleged to have contained the remains was found to contain naught but stones. The general opinion is that the corpse was thrust below the ice in Red River."

from J. E. COLLINS, Life and Times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, Premier of the Dominion of Canada, Toronto, Rose publishing Company, 1883, 642p., pp. 358-360.

The second description of the events is written by Thomas Flanagan. He is recognized as the foremost expert on Riel amongst historians. Yet, his views are not universally accepted. Flanagan is highly critical of Riel and of the course of action taken by the Métis. In his numorous writings on the subject, he has strongly defended the course of action taken by the authorities at the time and described Riel in an unflatering manner. He has argued that Riel was both sane and guilty of what he was charged with in 1885. In the excerpt presented below, his critical views come out in the use of vocabulary: the Métis are said to be "insurgents" and the group is described as the "half-breeds". The use of this XIXth century derogatory term is usually banished in contemporary writings.


"A complicated series of events during the winter ratified Riel's control of Red River. Although Sir John A. Macdonald did not like it, he had little choice but to deal with the insurgents. The métis had made their move at the beginning of winter, and absence of suitable transportation made it impossible for Canada to put an armed force in the field before the next summer. Sir John feared that in the meantime the colony might invite the Americans in, making it impossible for Canada to take possession of her purchase. Thus he was compelled to send delegates to Red River, first the Abbé Thibault and Colonel de Salaberry, then Donald A. Smith, chief officer of the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada.


Smith was a clever adversary and almost undercut Riel's position, but the latter managed to maintain his power. A convention held in the bitter cold of January created a second Provisional Government, this time with the participation of the English. Riel was again named president. There were two attempts, led by the Canadian faction within the colo­ny, to overthrow Riel by force of arms – one in December, one in Febru­ary. Although both were successfully put down by the métis, they led to catastrophe for Riel through the execution of Thomas Scott. Scott par­ticipated in both uprisings of the Canadian faction. Imprisoned after the first attempt, he escaped and took part in the second, after which he was again jailed. In custody the second time, Scott was difficult to control and repeatedly antagonized his métis guards. Riel, on the request of his men, set up a court martial which condemned Scott to death.


Cooler heads advised against the execution. The Reverend George Young, Father Lestanc, and Donald A. Smith intervened on behalf of the condemned prisoner. But Riel was inflexible. He seems to have felt that an act of capital punishment-would demonstrate the authority of the Provisional Government. 'We must make Canada respect us,' he told Smith) He had earlier condemned to death Major Boulton, the leader of the abortive second uprising of the Canadian faction, but had relented when others pleaded for the major's life. Now Riel was determined to show that his government possessed the sovereign authority of a state. He calculated that this act would put down internal resistance once and for all and would compel the Canadian government to negotiate in good faith. The sentence was carried out by firing squad on 4 March 1870.


The execution was a ghastly mistake. For one thing it was morally re­pugnant because of the procedures followed. Scott was hastily tried for an unclear offense; he had no legal assistance nor did he enjoy any other benefits of fair play. He could not even understand the proceedings, which were conducted in French. The alleged legal deficiencies of Riel's own trial fifteen years later pale by comparison. Furthermore the execu­tion of Scott was unnecessary even on grounds of political necessity. The Provisional Government was well established by then, while the Cana­dian party was in disarray. No object lesson in intimidation was needed. If Scott was hard to manage, he could have been controlled by other means. In the long run, the Scott affair brought about Riel's downfall. When English Canadians learned of Scott's fate, there was widespread outrage; and Riel became such a controversial figure that he was pre-vented from having a future in Canadian politics.


But in March 1870, all this lay unforeseen in the future, while the pressing need was to conclude negotiations with Ottawa. A delegation of three, of whom the most forceful member was Riel's mentor Father Rit­chot, set out for the East late that month. They carried with them a comprehensive set of demands. The new territory should enter Confed­eration as a self-governing province. There should be guarantees for the French language and Catholic religion modeled upon those prevailing in the Province of Quebec. The half-breeds should receive a land-grant set­tlement to extinguish the aboriginal land title they had inherited from their Indian forebears. Macdonald and Cartier, who conducted the dis­cussions on behalf of the government, were quickly able to reach an ac­ceptable compromise on everything except the one issue which the Scott affair had made the most urgent – the question of amnesty. Before 4 March, it would not have been difficult for the Canadian government ei­ther to grant an amnesty for all acts committed during the insurrection or to ask the imperial government to do so. But Scott's death and the clamorous reaction to it in Ontario made such an easy solution impossi­ble. Ritchot insisted upon a complete amnesty, but in the end he was only able to extract verbal assurances from Cartier that no one would be prosecuted."

from Thomas FLANAGAN, Louis 'David" Riel. Prophet of the New World, Toronto, university of Toronto Press, 1979, Goodread biographies, 1983 edition, 215p., pp. 29-30.


The third description of the events is from the pen of Lewis H. Thomas. He has written extensively about various elements of the history of the West in Canada. Thomas is a great supporter of Riel. The main thrust of his writings on the subject is to defend the cause of Riel and of the Métis. In one of his papers, he described the trial of Riel as a "Judicial Murder", something with which Flanagan has taken great exception. In the excerpt below, it is Scott who is "unscrupulous", "ignorant and bigoted". As for Riel, he is shown to have been reasonable in sparing Boulton. Yet, indirectly, in the end, Thomas admits that the "murder" of Scott was a "political blunder".


“the unscrupulous triumvirate of Schultz, Mair, and Thomas Scott was determined to foment civil war to eliminate Métis power. However, as outsiders they misjudged the willingness of the country-born and Scottish settlers to oppose the Métis. Unfortunately for all concerned the three men had escaped from Upper Fort Garry in January1870. Schultz had made his way downstream to drum up support for an armed force in the English-speaking parishes and among the Indians. Mair and Scott had gone to Portage la Prairie, a Canadian settlement, where, to gain support, Scott retailed horror stories of his imprisonment. At Portage, Charles Arkoll Boulton, captain of the 46th militia regiment and a member of Dennis’ survey crew, was inveigled into assuming the leadership of a force which left Portage on 12 February with the objective of joining Schultz’s party at Kildonan (now part of Winnipeg). The ostensible reason for action was to free the Canadian prisoners in Fort Garry. The last of them was released on 15 February, but this had no effect on Schultz, Mair, and Scott, and their real purpose– to overthrow the provisional government– was revealed. The Portage party, including Boulton, decided to return home but, contrary to Boulton’s advice, marched as a body close to Fort Garry instead of dispersing to make their way west. News of the expedition had caused intense excitement in Fort Garry and every available man was called in to defend the fort. When the armed Portage party approached the fort on 17 February, a small force of some 50 men arrested the 48 Canadians, including Scott and Boulton, and took them to the recently vacated cells in Fort Garry. Schultz, realizing that he was a marked man, left for Ontario.”


“Riel correctly believed that it was the Canadians who were responsible for the turbulence in the settlement; they had twice resorted to force to overthrow him.One of them needed to be punished, and Boulton was condemned to death, a more severe sentence than any inflicted by a Métis leader on a disruptive member of a buffalo hunt. A number of people appealed for clemency, among them Donald Smith, but Riel only relented when he obtained from Smith a promise to persuade the English parishes to elect representatives. Thomas Scott, regarding the pardon as a sign of weakness, proceeded to insult his Métis guards who became so angry that they would have given him a severe beating had Riel not intervened. He warned Scott to behave. An ignorant and bigoted young man with a profound contempt for all mixed-bloods, Scott thought that the Métis were cowards. When he continued to make difficulties the guards insisted that he be tried by court martial and he was charged with insubordination; Scott was sentenced to death by a jury which was presided over by Ambroise-Dydime Lépine and which included Jean-Baptiste Lépine, André Nault, and Elzéar Goulet. On this occasion the appeals of Smith and others were firmly rejected by Riel. Whether he was worried by the signs of insubordination among his followers, whether he persuaded himself that the settlement was in danger, or whether he thought it necessary to intimidate the Canadian conspirators and show Canada that the Métis and their government would have to be taken seriously, will always be debated. Professor G.F.G.Stanley believes the last consideration, Riel’s own explanation, to be true. In the settlement the death of Scott on 4 March was soon forgotten but in Ontario the “murder” became a major issue. As people then and later have said, it was Riel’s one great political blunder.

Lewis H. Thomas, "Louis Riel", in Dictionary of canadian Biography (accessed on April 5, 2007)


George F. G. Stanley stands as the "Dean" of the scientific historiographical writers on Louis Riel. In 1936, he penned a seminal work entitled The Birth of Western Canada. First amongst English-speaking historians in Canada, he wrote with feeling, sympathy and compassion about the Métis in general and Louis Riel in particular. He was hugely instrumental in bringing a positive view of Riel to prevail in English-speaking Canada. Although a pathetic figure in some respects, Riel, under his pen, is cast as the Father of Manitoba.


"Of the new prisoners, Thomas Scott was unquestionably the leader in the absence of Schultz. Boulton, the man who had led the Portage party, had lost the respect of his men, for they believed him lacking in fortitude and determination. It was Boulton's fate that his common sense was equated with cowardice, and Scott's misfortune that his pugnacity was mistaken for courage. Scott had come to Ontario from northern Ireland some seven years before. He lived for a while in Hastings county and served briefly with the Sterling Company of the Hastings Battalion of Rifles. According to his company commander he was "the finest looking man in the battalion . . . about six feet two inches in height and twenty-five years of age . . . an Orangeman, loyal to the backbone." In 1869, he joined John Snow's work party in Red River. Although his militia captain had thought highly of him and referred to him as "gentlemanly," Scott soon revealed other qualities, qualities likely to emerge under frontier conditions, recklessness, stub­bornness and lawlessness. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that Scott was a man prepared to stand up for what he believed to be his rights and prepared to flout authority in order to secure them. His leadership of the road workers' strike in July, 1869, and his attempts to hurl his employer, Snow, into the river illustrate the pugnacious side, the dominant side, of his character. Out of work, he drifted into Winnipeg where he drank and fought, and where he came under the influence of John Schultz. Here were two men who understood each other; the one was a man whom Schultz could use, the other a man whom Scott could serve. Scott therefore threw in his lot with Schultz and was one of those who gathered in Winnipeg to defend the supplies of pork which were in the doctor's possession. On December 6, the day before the surrender of the men in Schultz's house, Scott was taken prisoner by the métis along with Alexander McArthur. The métis believed the two men had left Schultz's with the object of assassinating the leaders of the French National Committee. It is more likely they were trying to escape to the lower settlement to communicate with Dennis. In an event they were recognized as Schultz's men and imprisoned.


Scott was in prison only a month. He was one of those who escaped with Woodington, Adair and Parker on the night of January 9. He had played a leading role in rousing the people of Portage la Prairie to the desperate venture, described by Sir John A. Macdonald as "foolish" and "criminal," that ended in surrender on February 18.


Again in prison, Scott and one of his companions, Murdoch McLeod, set out to make life miserable for their captors. They hurled insults at the métis and jostled and threatened them on every possible occasion. Finally, on February 28, after an altercation with Scott, the métis guards grabbed him and, in spite of his great strength, dragged him outside, with the intention either of killing him or giving him a severe beating. It was only the timely arrival of one of Riel's councillors that saved him. Scott was then ordered to be returned to his cell. The following day Riel, informed of the altercation on the 28th, went to see if he could calm the guards who were surly and resentful. He went also to visit Scott to try to persuade him to be more tractable lest his continual provocation lead to bloodshed. Scott merely "sneered" at Riel and "made fun of" the métis leader. He had nothing but contempt for all mixed-bloods and to his sense of racial superiority he added the narrow bigotry of the Ulster Orangeman. The yelling and the cursing began all over again, and Scott was, in consequence, put in irons. For a man like Riel, who even as a schoolboy had been noted for an inability to brook opposition, Scott's actions were both irritating and provocative: to a man like Scott, narrow, ignorant and lacking discretion at a time when passions were aroused, Boulton's reprieve and Riel's admonitions were signs of timidity. Both men misunderstood each other, and as Riel yielded to the demands of his followers that Scott must be punished, Scott was crying: "The métis are a pack of cowards. They will not dare to shoot me."


It was a dangerous challenge at any time. It was doubly dangerous when feelings were raw and tempers were rising. On March 3, the métis called a court-martial to try Scott for "insubordination." This was the way they handled problems of a similar nature on the prairie. It was the buffalo hunters' method, the formation of an ad hoc tribunal. All the men comprising the court-martial were familiar with the law of the prairie. The presiding officer was Ambroise Lépine. With him sat Janvier Ritchot, André Nault, Joseph Delorme, Elzéar Lagimodière, Elzéar Goulet and Baptiste Lépine. The clerk of the court was Joseph Nolin, the young man whom Bishop Taché had chosen to go to Quebec with Riel and Schmidt, but whose parents would not let go so far from home.


The court met in the evening. Scott was not called in for the pre­liminary hearing. Several witnesses were examined, including Riel himself, and two of the guards, Joseph Delorme and Edmund Turner, the latter the son of an Irish pensioner in the Settlement. Nolin took the oath from the witnesses, each of whom told how Scott had rebelled against the Provisional Government, how he had struck a captain of the guard and how he had assaulted the person of Louis Riel. Finally, Scott was brought to the court room. Riel asked Nolin to read what had taken place, and when Nolin excused himself from doing so on the ground that his notes were inadequate, Riel himself explained in English the evidence that had been given. It is not clear whether Scott asked to examine any of the witnesses or not; Nolin's memory on this point was defective and Nolin was the only eye-witness to give any details about the trial. At this point Janvier Ritchot moved that the death penalty be invoked. André Nault seconded the motion, and both Goulet and Delorme agreed with them. Baptiste Lépine, however, was opposed to the imposition of so harsh a penalty, and Lagimodière suggested that it would be quite sufficient to send Scott out of the country. Ambroise Lépine, the president of the court, said only that, since the majority favoured death, that would be the penalty imposed. Scott had listened to this exchange of views wondering what was being said. Then Riel turned to translate the court's decision to him. The shackles were removed from the prisoner and he was taken back to his room where pen and ink were provided him on Riel's instructions.


The Reverend George Young, the Methodist minister, was returning home from an appointment in the country when he encountered one of the métis guards who asked him to go to the fort. He went immediately to Scott's cold, fireless room. The prisoner was in a daze. He could not bring himself to believe that what he had seen had taken place and that what he had heard was really true. Perhaps it was only a threat. "I believe they are bad enough," he said to Young, "but I can hardly think that they dare do it." Young felt much the same way but decided to see Riel. He failed to secure an interview that night, but early the next morning he went about the Settlement, calling upon people who were friendly with Riel to ask them to use their influence with the métis leader should he really be determined upon so drastic a course. No one would believe Riel had anything more in mind than to put a scare into the prisoners. It was the Boulton business all over again. Finally Young went to see Donald A. Smith, who consented to go to remonstrate with Riel. But even Smith was a little skeptical of Young's alarm and promised to see Kiel after Young himself had a talk with him first. Admitted to Riel's presence, Young pleaded for Scott. But Riel was emphatic in his reply: "He is a very bad man, and has insulted my guards and has hindered some from making peace; so I must make an example to impress others and lead them to respect my government, and will take him first, and then, if necessary, others will follow!" When Young found he could make no impression on Riel, he sent immediately for Smith, and "paralyzed with horror" went to console the worried but still incredulous young man in his cell.


Taking Father Lestanc with him, Smith went to Riel's office. When the priest spoke up on Scott's behalf, Riel cut him short with, "My Reverend Père, you know exactly how the matter stands," and then turning to Smith he went into a lengthy explanation of how Scott had been a "troublesome character" ever since he had come to Red River; of how he had been "the ringleader in a rising against Mr. Snow"; how he had "risen against the Provisional Government" in December; how he had "again been taken in arms" and despite the promise that the prisoners' lives and liberties would be respected, he had been "incorrigible and quite incapable of appreciating the clemency with which he had been treated" ; how he was "rough and abusive to the guards" and "insulting to him, Mr. Riel"; and how "his example had been productive of the very worst effects on the other prisoners who had become insub­ordinate to such an extent that it was difficult to withhold the guards from retaliating." Smith argued with Riel. He pointed out that the "one great merit" claimed for the insurrection "was that, so far, it had been bloodless, except in one sad instance which all were willing to look upon as an accident," and he implored Riel "not now to strain it, to burden it with what would be considered a horrible crime." Riel exclaimed sharply, "We must make Canada respect us." This was, after all has been said, the real motive behind the execution. There were more arguments, more entreaties, more protests, but Riel would not withdraw from his stand. To him the carrying out of the decision of the court-martial had now become a matter of prestige. He closed the interview by saying: "I have done three good things since I commenced, I have spared Boulton's life at your instance, and I do not regret it, for he is a fine fellow; I pardoned Gaddy, and he showed his gratitude by escaping out of the bastion, but I do not grudge him his miserable life, and now I shall shoot Scott." Lépine, who had just entered the room, said merely, "He must die." There was no further discussion. Riel then turned to Father Lestanc and suggested that he might offer a prayer for the condemned man. But Smith did not wait to hear it.


At the appointed hour, on March 4, Elzéar Goulet and André Nault went to Scott's room. Scott was given permission to say good-bye to the other prisoners, all of whom were silent now. With the Reverend George Young at his side, he marched down the outside stairway and through the gate. As he walked, he turned to Young and muttered, "This is horrible! This is cold-blooded murder!" Only then did he realize that the episode he had regarded as only a meaningless comedy was going to end in an equally meaningless tragedy. At Young's request, Scott was allowed a few minutes of prayer. With Scott in the centre, the party moved down the stairs, Young having his arm around the prisoner to keep him from falling forward; then a white bandage was adjusted over the prisoner's eyes. Frantically the clergyman appealed to the captain of the guard, André Nault, and to W. B. O'Donoghue who was standing nearby. Could there not be, say, a day's stay of execution? But O'Donoghue merely said: "It is very far gone." He did nothing." Nor did any of the crowd of morbidly curious people who stood about, silently watching. On a given signal the rifles were raised. Only four of them fired. Scott sank to the ground and the blood from his chest ran slowly into the snow upon which he lay. He was still moving when one of the firing squad stepped forward and, with his revolver, delivered the coup de grâce. It was just noon, and the sun shone brightly over the fort.


Riel had been standing somewhere in the background watching with the others. Then he stepped forward and in a sharp tone of voice ordered the crowd to disperse. As he stood there the inert, blood-stained body was placed in a rough board coffin and was carried by several métis guards inside the walls of Fort Garry.



Probably no action of Louis Riel excited as much controversy and as much strong feeling as the execution of Thomas Scott. No act of his is harder to explain. There are some who argue that it was an impulsive act of vengeance on the part of the métis, that Riel was virtually forced to agree to the execution owing to the pressure upon him of his own men. It has been said that Riel himself was threatened unless he agreed to the death of Scott. There are others who take the view that the execution was a deliberate act of policy. The latter was certainly the explanation offered by Riel himself. And it probably fits the circumstances better than the former, if only because the métis, if quickly moved to anger, were not a people given to bloodshed. The division within the court-martial itself suggests that the pressures on Riel were not so irresistible as to force him into an action against his better judgment. Moreover, Riel several times attempted to explain what lay behind his act. In a memorandum which he sent to L. R. Masson in 1872, he said that the shooting was necessary, not because the métis soldiers insisted upon it, but because it was essential "to intimidate the conspirators." Even though the Portage people had, following Boulton's reprieve, agreed to recognize the Provisional Government, they made it clear they were only waiting for another opportunity to overthrow that government "as soon as they were able to do so." It should be remembered that Riel's delegates had not yet left for Ottawa to negotiate the terms of Red River's entry into Confederation, and that Riel was anxious and determined to prevent anything from interfering with this part of his policy. It had been his idée maîtresse from the very beginning of the rising. If it was necessary to spill the blood of a malcontent, one who had not only refused to co-operate with the other settlers, but had even appealed to force in an effort to disrupt the arrangements the Provisional Government was making to obtain concessions from Canada, then that blood would be spilled. It was as simple as that. Moreover, there was the desire to impress. Underneath all his assertiveness, Riel suffered from a feeling of insecurity. Neither he nor his government were taken seriously enough by the Canadians in the Red River Settlement, or by those in Canada. Perhaps an execution would show them that he meant business. "We wanted to be sure that our attitude was taken seriously," Riel wrote to Masson.


The execution of Scott was a political act: and, as such, it was a political blunder. It may have been followed, as it assuredly was, by a lessening of tension and by a period of calm, but it was not a healthy calm. The English-speaking parishes were stunned by the news of Scott's death. They would co-operate with the Provisional Government for the sake of the Settlement which they all loved ; but there could be no warmth, no sincere affection in their co-operation, no real unity of spirit. Riel gained his immediate end; but in the long run he opened a breach between the French- and English-speaking elements of the population of Red River which has never been entirely closed. If henceforth little love was lost between them, it was because there was little love to lose. Elsewhere in Canada the Scott affair stripped from the underlying bitterness, of race and religion, the veneer of co-operation with which it had been covered by Confederation in 1867. In the years to come, both Scott and Riel ceased to be men, human beings with human frailties; they became political symbols, political slogans, around which men rallied and for which they argued and fought with little knowledge of the real strengths and weaknesses of the men whose names they bandied to and fro.


By one unfortunate error of judgment—this is what the execution of Scott amounted to—and by one unnecessary deed of bloodshed—for the Provisional Government was an accomplished fact—Louis Riel set his foot upon the path which led not to glory but to the gibbet."


From George F. G. STANLEY, Louis Riel, Toronto, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1963, 431p., pp. 111-117.


[On Thomas Scott, consult the biographies at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography and at the Canadian Encyclopedia]


© 2007 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College