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July 27 1812: A Defiant Brock


On July 27,  1812 Major-General Brock returns to York from Fort George to attend an emergency session of the Upper Canada's House of Assembly. He opens the session with a rousing speech. "By vigour in our operations, we may teach the enemy this lesson, that a country defended by free men enthusiastically devoted to the cause of their king and constitution, can never be conquered!"

The speech was well received but this does not mean that the Assembly will pass the legislation that Brock wants. Brock will be disappointed because the assembly will not agree to suspend habeas corpus and is reluctant to impose martial law. The defeatist attitude of many in Upper Canada needs to be emphasized to allow for some appreciation of Brock's achievement. 

Many Upper Canadians are sympathetic to the Americans.  On the same date, Lt Colonel Bostwick, from Oxford, is writing to James Chambers about Andrew Westbrook that he had arrested for circulating a petition in favour of General Hull and the Americans: 
Sir, In consequence of information communicated to me by Dan Springer Esq of Delaware, I have thought proper to & detain Andrew Westbrook at this place until the pleasure of Gen' Brock can be known respecting him. Mr Springer informed me that Westbrook had been very- officious in causing a Petition to be circulated, addressed to Gen Hull, requesting him to save them & their property, stating that they would not take up Arms against him,- Also that Westbrook had declared that he (Westbrook) had too much property to risk it, by opposing the Americans, and further that Westbrook's nightly attendance was very frequent at the House of Ebenezer Allen, during the time Watson was there — and that he liad advised the people of Delaware to commit the management of the Petition to Gen^ Hull, to a more proper person thaji the one who had it. —
P.S. M' Springer informed me that the Petition had been transmitted to Gen' Hull by One Westcoat — 
Brock also faces men of the militia that is reluctant to march especially at harvest time and seem to be frightened of their supposed Native allies. For example, on July 27 1812, Lieutenant Colonel James Baby (Great Name) is writing to Captain Clegg that 
We had not more than about 230 Indians when I left Amherstburg A report prevailed that about 300 were expected from the River Huron near the mouth of the River, and a like number from St : Josephs under M' Robert Dixon. God grant- they may be there — There were still between three and four hundred militia when I came away — A great number had withdrawn themselves to go to the harvest

The rebellion in the militia seems to have been quite broad and extended to magistrates.  Again, on July 27 1812, Colonel Thomas Talbot is writing to Brock complaining about the  militia and magistrates that will not compel obedience: 
My dear General, I arrived at this place this morning from Long point where I had been two days, one spent in endeavoring to procure 100 Volunteers from the Norfolk Militia, and I am sorry to in form you that notwithstanding the apparent readiness manifested by the Flank Companies of those Batt on former occasions, that when it was understood that the men required, were  absolutely to proceed to The River Thames, very few turned out for that service, after much explanation of the expectations of the Government and the disgrace that would attend their Reg I made out about 60 men, I then ballotted 40 more and ordered the detachment to march to join Major Chambers as yesterday morning, when I reached the ground from whence the Detachment was to march, I found a large assembly of the Farmers with their Women, who upon my approach addressed me, by declaring that their men should not March, upon this I enquired if there were any Magistrates present, the answer was, several, I required one to come forward, on which M' Bemer appeared, I asked him, how he as a Magistrate could permit such proceedings, he offered no excuse, but said that he conceived the measure of withdrawing any of the Militia from Long point was highly improper. I then ordered the party to March, when about a half obey'd and after proceeding a short distance the men fell out, all but about 20, who continued their march, and even those few appeared unwilling, 
I therefore thought it most prudent to allow those few to return as I could not flatter myself with any material benefit that could result from their weak and uncertain assistance — Major Salmon who was present, I directed to proceed to Head Quarters and state the circumstances as they occurred to you. 
Lastly, on July 27, 1812, Sir George Prevost is also writing to Brock to advise that he cannot provide him with much more assistance. He writes: "With regard to your deficiency of Arms I have to lament my inability to meet your Wants."


Brock is thus facing overwhelming difficulties as he opens the legislature and tries to rally the province behind him to meet the American invasion.  The confident tone of his address is thus the main resource that Brock can yield at the time: 
Gentlemen of the Legislative Council, and Gentlemen of the House of Assembly, 

The urgency of the present crisis is the only consideration which could have induced me to call you together at a time when public, as well as private duties elsewhere, demand your care and attention.

But, gentlemen, when invaded by an enemy whose avowed object is the entire conquest of the province, the voice of loyalty, as well as of interest, calls aloud to every person in the sphere in which he is placed to defend his country.
Our militia have heard that voice, and have obeyed it; they have evinced, by the promptitude and loyalty of their conduct, that they are worthy of the king whom they serve, and of the constitution which they enjoy; and it affords me particular satisfaction, that while I address you as legislators, I speak to men who, in the day of danger, will be ready to assist, not only with their counsel, but with their arms.
We look, gentlemen, to our militia, as well as to the regular forces, for our protection; but I should be wanting to that important trust committed to my care, if I attempted to conceal (what experience, the great instructor of mankind, and especially of legislators, has discovered,) that amendment is necessary in our militia laws to render them efficient.

It is for you to consider what further improvements they still may require. Honorable Gentlemen of the Legislative Council, and Gentlemen of the House of Assembly, From the history and experience of our mother country, we learn that in times of actual invasion or internal commotion, the ordinary course of criminal law has been found inadequate to secure his majesty's government from private treachery as well as from open disaffection; and that at such times its legislature has found it expedient to enact laws restraining for a limited period the liberty of individuals, in many cases where it would be dangerous to expose the particulars of the charge; and although the actual invasion of the province might justify me in the exercise of the full powers reposed in me on such an emergency, yet it will be more agreeable to me to receive the sanction of the two houses.
A few traitors have already joined the enemy, have been suffered to come into the country with impunity, and have been harboured and concealed in the interior; yet the general spirit of loyalty which appears to pervade the inhabitants of this province, is such as to authorize a just expectation that their efforts to mislead and deceive will be unavailing. The disaffected, I am convinced, are few—to protect and defend the loyal inhabitants from their machinations, is an object worthy of your most serious deliberation.
Gentlemen of the House of Assembly, I have directed the public accounts of the province to be laid before you, in as complete a state as this unusual period will admit; they will afford you the means of ascertaining to what extent you can aid in providing for the extraordinary demands occasioned by the employment of the militia, and I doubt not but to that extent you will cheerfully contribute.
Honorable Gentlemen of the Legislative Council, and Gentlemen of the House of Assembly, We are engaged in an awful and eventful contest. By unanimity and dispatch in our councils, and by vigour in our operations, we may teach the enemy this lesson, that a country defended by free men enthusiastically devoted to the cause of their king and constitution, can never be conquered!

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