Burning in Montreal The Burning of the Parliament Building in Montreal
Joseph Légaré (attribué à/attributed to)
About 1849
M11588
© McCord Museum
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The Rebellion Losses Bill in 1849 was designed to compensate those Lower Canadians whose property had been damaged during the Rebellions of 1837 and 38. This had already been done for losses in Upper Canada and many, including Louise-Hippolyte LaFontaine, saw it as a symbolic way to heal the wounds of the rebellion and assure French Canadians that they were to be treated as equals. Many anglophone Tories saw the bill as a sign of French Canadian domination of the Union government, and called it payment for disloyalty. The reform majority passed the legislation and the Tories demanded the Governor, Lord Elgin, refuse assent, which he did not do. On April 25, 1849 crowds of anglophone protesters in Montreal threw stones and rotten eggs at Lord Elgin’s carriage and burnt him in effigy; that evening the protests turned into a riot in which the mob invaded the parliament building and set it on fire. Thousands of people were involved in this riot, which lasted two days and included attacks on the property of several reform leaders. However, Elgin’s endorsement of the bill won the approval of most of the people. The crisis passed and responsible government would be established.