William Lyon Mackenzie
William Lyon Mackenzie
|1st Mayor of Toronto|
March 27, 1834 – January 14, 1835
|Preceded by||Alexander Macdonell (Chairman of York)|
|Succeeded by||Robert Sullivan|
|President of the Republic of Canada|
December 17, 1837 – December 4, 1838
|Member of the |
Upper Canada Legislative Assembly
January 8, 1829 – March 6, 1834
|Member of the |
Province of Canada Legislative Assembly
for Haldimand County
|Born||March 13, 1795|
|Died||August 28, 1861 (aged 66)|
Toronto, Canada West (now Ontario, Canada)
|Resting place||Toronto Necropolis|
William Lyon Mackenzie (March 12, 1795 – August 28, 1861) also spelt McKenzie and MacKenzie, was a Scottish-born Canadian-American journalist and politician. His strong views on political equality and clean government drove him to outright rebellion in 1837 after a career as mayor of Toronto and in the colonial legislative assembly of Upper Canada (Ontario). He led the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion and during its bitter end he set up a small rebel enclave named "Republic of Canada," where he served as president December 13, 1837, to January 14, 1838. After a period of exile in the U.S., he returned to Canada and served as an elected member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada from 1851 to 1858.
Early life and immigration
Background, early years in Scotland, and education, 1795–1820
William Lyon Mackenzie was born on March 12, 1795, in Scotland in the Dundee suburb of Springfield. Both of his grandfathers of part of Clan Mackenzie. His mother Elizabeth (née Chambers) of Kirkmichael was a widow seventeen years older than his father, weaver Daniel Mackenzie; the couple married on May 8, 1794. Daniel died three weeks after William's birth, and his 45-year-old mother raised him alone as Daniel had left her no significant property. His mother brought Mackenzie with her as she stayed at various family member's house. Mackenzie's mother was a deeply religious Calvinist and Mackenzie learned psalms and the teachings of the Presbyterian church.
Mackenzie entered a parish grammar school at Dundee at age 5 due to being granted a bursary, and then later transferred to a Mr Adie's school. Mackenzie was successful academically and sought to help students with their math work, particularly female students. Living near the Firth of Tay caused Mackenzie to develop a passion for sailing along the waterways. He created a list of the 958 books he read between 1806 and 1820, organised by year and type of book. By 1810 he was writing for a local newspaper, becoming the youngest person in their newsroom. During this time he also joined an early Mechanics Institute. It was there that he met Edward Lesslie and his sons James and John, who played a large role in his life. They would all be key to establishing a Mechanics Institute in Toronto.
Mackenzie's mother arranged for him to apprentice with several tradesmen in Dundee. In 1814 he secured financial backing from Edward Lesslie to open a general store and circulating library in Alyth with his mother. During this period Mackenzie had a relationship with Isabel Reid and she gave birth to Mackenzie's illegitimate son James on July 17, 1814. The boy was raised by Mackenzie's mother.
A recession followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and Mackenzie's general store went bankrupt. He worked in Wiltshire in 1818 for a canal company. He travelled briefly to France and then worked for a short period for a newspaper in London. During this time Mackenzie was a gambler which almost caused him to lose all of his money. In 1820 Mackenzie emigrated to British North America with his friend John Lesslie. It was during this time that Mackenzie decided to abstain from gambling for the rest of his life.
Early years in Canada, 1820–1824
Mackenzie worked for the Lachine Canal in Lower Canada as an accountant and wrote for the Montreal Herald. Mackenzie moved to York, Upper Canada and was employed at Lesslie's bookselling and drugstore business and Mackenzie would receive the profits for selling drugs. In 1820 Mackenzie began to write for the York Observer under the pseudonym "Mercator".
In 1822, his mother and son immigrated to Upper Canada. His mother also brought a young woman named Isabel Baxter whom she had chosen for Mackenzie to marry. Although they were schoolmates, they did not know each other very well before meeting in Upper Canada. The couple were wed July 1, 1822 in Montreal. Isabel had 13 children with Mackenzie, but six died when they were children.
Edward and John Lesslie opened a branch of their business in Dundas and Mackenzie moved to Dundas to enter into a partnership with the Lesslies and become the branch manager. The store sold drugs, hardware, and general merchandise while also operating as a circulating library. His relationship with the Lesslies deteriorated and the partnership was dissolved in 1823 after extensive arguments. It was also during this time that Mackenzie's first child, Isabel, was born. Mackenzie moved to Queenston in 1824 and bought a printing press to open his first newspaper business. He met Robert Randal and established a strong friendship with him. Upon Randal's death Mackenzie waged a twenty-year legal battle for his estate as its executor and heir.
The Colonial Advocate & the "Types Riot", 1824–26
On May 18, 1824, Mackenzie published the first edition of the Colonial Advocate The goal of the newspaper was to influence voters in 9th Parliament of Upper Canada elections. In November 1824, Mackenzie relocated the paper and his family to York on Palace Street. The newspaper continued to face financial pressures due to a low number of subscribers and competition from the Canadian Freeman, another Reform-aligned paper. Mackenzie suspended publishing the Colonial Advocate from July to December 1825 and purchased a new printing press and typeface in the fall of 1825. He resumed publication in 1826, engaging in scurrilous attacks on Tory politicians William Allan, G. D'Arcy Boulton, Henry John Boulton, and George Gurnett. However, Mackenzie continued to amass debts, and in May 1826, he fled to Lewiston, New York to avoid arrest and evade his creditors.
On June 8, 1826, fifteen young Tories broke into the Colonial Advocate's office to smash the printing press and throw his typeface into the bay. Mackenzie returned to York and sued eight of the perpetrators and refused a £200 settlement. At a subsequent trial, Mackenzie was awarded £625 in damages and used the settlement to pay off his creditors. Throughout his life, Mackenzie referred to the court case as an example of his fight for liberty in Upper Canada. Historians such as Paul Romney believe that this event was not only the start of a feud between Mackenzie and the Family Compact, but also served as a demonstration of discontent and abuse that was also identified by other Upper Canadians, thus tying Mackenzie's political fortunes with others.
Reform member of the Legislative Assembly, 1827–1834
Election to the Legislative Assembly
Mackenzie ran for the 10th Parliament of Upper Canada in one of the two seats for York County as an independent. Mackenzie used his newspapers to help his campaign and published a series of attacks on his opponents called "Black List". Tory opponents also levied attacks on Mackenzie's character, calling him "William Liar Mackenzie". Mackenzie won a seat by a large margin.
As a legislator, Mackenzie organized committees on agriculture, commerce, and the post office, the latter of which he chaired. He spoke for transferring the British-controlled post office service to local control because the office was run to obtain a profit. He was also critical of the Bank of Upper Canada because he believed it was a monopoly and a limited liability company. He also opposed further infrastructure projects until the debt incurred by the province had been paid off. Later in the session, he also spoke out against the Welland Canal Company, denouncing its close links with the Executive Council and the financing methods of William Hamilton Merritt.
In March 1829, Mackenzie travelled to the U.S. to study the new president Andrew Jackson. He admired the small size of the American government and liked the spoils system as a method to remove Family Compact members from government offices. Following Mackenzie's 1829 trip to the U.S., his political attitudes became increasingly pro-American and anti-British.
In 1830 Mackenzie ran for reelection for a York County seat the 11th Parliament. Mackenzie was successful, but the Reform group won 20 out of 51 seats, diminishing the power Mackenzie had in upcoming sessions. Disappointed with the setbacks of the reform movement and frustrated with the political structure of Upper Canada, he began trying to reform other institutions. He refused to join an agricultural society organized by the Tories but attended their meetings and insisted on speaking. He also joined St. Andrew's Presbyterian, a congregation organized by Tories who supported the church-state connection. At St. Andrew's he advocated for the separation of the church from state affairs causing a four-year battle resulting in the departure of Mackenzie and Reverend William Rintoul.
Expulsions and re-elections
The 11th Parliament of Upper Canada met in January 1831 and Mackenzie continued to denounce abuses in the province. Influenced by the Reform movement in England, he called for reviewing how the population was represented in the legislature and chaired a special committee which recommended increased representation for Upper Canadian towns, voting on a single day and voting by ballot instead of voice. This committee caused Mackenzie's riding of York to be split into four ridings that elected a single member each.
In 1830 The British government was proposing legislation that would transfer the cost of some programs to colonial legislatures. Although Mackenzie's reform movement had previously been in favour of this proposal, Mackenzie called the legislation the "Everlasting Salary Bill".
Mackenzie spent 1831 travelling throughout Upper Canada collecting signatures for petitions to redress Upper Canadian grievances and meeting with Lower Canada Reformers. In the November 1831 legislative session, Mackenzie demanded investigations of the Bank of Upper Canada, the Welland Canal, King's College, the revenues, and the chaplain's salary. At the same time, he was still writing in the Colonial Advocate and denounced the Legislative Assembly as a "sycophantic office". The assembly responded by expelling Mackenzie, causing a by-election for his seat. Mackenzie ran for reelection and won his seat on January 2 1832. The elections took place at the Red Lion Hotel and when his victory was announced, a parade of 134 sleighs, accompanied with bagpipes, paraded down Yonge Street in celebration. On January 7, 1832, Mackenzie was expelled again from the Assembly because of new attacks Mackenzie had published in the Colonial Advocate. A second by-election was called, and Mackenzie won by a landslide for a second time. When he was expelled from the Assembly for the third time, Mackenzie appealed to London for redress.
Outside the legislature, Mackenzie was trying to garner support for his movement while disrupting the organisation of the Tories. When the Roman Catholic bishop Alexander Macdonell organized a rally in York to demonstrate Catholic support for the Tories, Mackenzie and his supporters disrupted the meeting. In Hamilton, William Johnson Kerr arranged to have Mackenzie beaten by thugs.
On March 23, Catholic Irish apprentices in York, furious at Mackenzie's attack on Bishop Macdonnell, pelted him with garbage. Riots broke out in York that same day and Mackenzie was saved because of the intervention of Tory magistrate James FitzGibbon. Following the riots, Mackenzie went into hiding on Joseph Sheperd's property.
Appeal to the Colonial Office
In April 1832, Mackenzie travelled to England to petition the British government for redress after receiving the funds to do so from public meetings. In London, he met with reformers Joseph Hume and John Arthur Roebuck and wrote in the Morning Chronicle to influence British public opinion in his favour. He was also present in the galleries for the debate on the Reform Act 1832 and wrote Sketches of Canada and the United States, designed to acquaint the British public with his grievances.
He visited F. J. Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, the Whig party's colonial secretary, on July 2 1832, to give his concerns about the functioning of Upper Canada. He was invited by Robinson to send reports about Upper Canada and Mackenzie sent several dispatches. On November 8, 1832, Robinson sent a dispatch to Lieutenant Governor John Colborne instructing him to make financial and political improvements in Upper Canada, and instructing him to lessen the Assembly's negative attitude against Mackenzie, which upset the Legislative Council. The Legislative Assembly prevented Mackenzie from voting on legislation and refused to call fresh elections. When news of this insubordination reached Lord Goderich, he dismissed Attorney General Boulton and Solicitor General Hagerman. Mackenzie celebrated by touring England, Scotland, and France with his wife.
In April 1833, Lord Goderich was replaced as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies by Lord Stanley. Lord Stanley reappointed Hagerman as solicitor general and named Boulton chief justice of Newfoundland. This incident contributed to Mackenzie's decaying faith in appealing to Great Britain. Returning to Upper Canada, in December 1833 he renamed the Colonial Advocate to simply The Advocate, a sign that he no longer valued its connection to Great Britain. On December 17, 1833, he was again expelled from the Legislative Assembly and later re-elected. Lieutenant Governor Colborne intervened to ensure Mackenzie was able to take his seat and vote in proceedings.
In 1832, Reverend George Ryerson began attacking British Reformer Joseph Hume in the pages of the Methodist newspaper, The Christian Guardian. Mackenzie disagreed with these attacks and wrote articles in his paper denouncing Ryerson. This caused Mackenzie and his paper to develop a negative relationship with the Methodist people in Upper Canada.
Mayor of Toronto, 1834
The township of York incorporated as the city of Toronto and held their first elections for city council on Marck 27, 1834. Mackenzie was elected as an alderman and at a subsequent meeting the city council elected him as the first mayor of Toronto.
Mackenzie spent large portions of his time as mayor focused on preparing for the next provincial election. He dismissed Tory officials and replaced them with his supporters, but did not manage to deal with the city's excessive debt, institute much needed public works or effectively manage a cholera outbreak. Mackenzie's management style provoked frequent quarrels on the City Council making it difficult to pass new by-laws. In the 1835 municipal elections, Reform candidates were continually defeated by Tory opponents and Mackenzie received the least amount of votes in his ward in his reelection for alderman.
Upper Canadian politics 1835–1836
In May 1834, Mackenzie published a letter from British Reformer Joseph Hume in the Advocate calling for independence for the colonies, even by means of violent rebellion if necessary. In elections held in October 1834, the Reformers won a majority in the 12th Parliament of Upper Canada and Mackenzie was re-elected as member for York. He decided to stop issuing the Advocate in November 1834 because he wanted to devote his time to the legislature and he felt the reform movement should be continued by other. He gave the Advocate to William John O'Grady who merged it with is own paper.
On December 8, 1834, Mackenzie submitted various proposals to the Canadian Alliance Society. They were accepted by the reformers and formed the basis for the alliance's reform proposals. Mackenzie was also chosen to be the alliance's corresponding secretary.
Upon meeting in January 1835, the 12th Parliament of Upper Canada voted to reverse all of Mackenzie's previous expulsions from the Legislative Assembly. Mackenzie chaired a special committee of the Legislative Assembly to detail the grievances of Upper Canada, which resulted in the production of the Seventh Report on Grievances, documenting grievances and proposed solutions. The Assembly also appointed Mackenzie as a government director of the Welland Canal Company and Mackenzie produced an exhaustive report on the company's negative financial situation and condemned the company for poor management.
In the July 1836 election for the 13th Parliament of Upper Canada, Mackenzie lost his election to Edward William Thomson. His petition to the legislature to investigate alleged problems in his election was rejected due to a technicality.
Upper Canadian Rebellion, 1837–1838
After his electoral defeat, Mackenzie founded a new newspaper called the Constitution and purposely had its first issue printed on July 4, 1836. Mackenzie began advocating constitutional change for Upper Canada and possibly using force to achieve those ends. In July 1837 Mackenzie organised a "constitutional convention" and delegates would be selected by Reform associations from around the province. This constitutional convention, modelled on the Continental Congress, was to be organized by the new Toronto Political Union. Mackenzie's revolutionary aims were expressed when he reprinted Thomas Paine's Common Sense, in the Constitution.
Mackenzie spent summer 1837 organizing political unions and vigilance committees throughout Upper Canada. He held large Reform meetings in the Home District, the most notable being his speech to disgruntled area farmers in Newmarket on August 3, 1837, when the idea of a violent rebellion was first openly discussed. He also helped write many resolutions that called for delegates from Upper and Lower Canada to meet and discuss solutions to the negative state of their colonies. In fall 1837, Mackenzie attracted large crowds, but also began facing physical attacks from members of the Orange Order. It was during this period that Mackenzie believed overthrowing the government would be necessary.
In mid-October 1837, Mackenzie organized a meeting of ten radical Reformers and proposed gathering employees of reformer industrialists in Toronto to seize control of the Upper Canadian government. The meeting rejected Mackenzie's proposal and Mackenzie proposed organising a resistance to the government among farmers.
Mackenzie approached John Rolph and Thomas David Morrison with false information that people outside Toronto were prepared to march on the city to organize a revolt. He also produced a letter from Thomas Storrow Brown which falsely claimed that the Reformers in Lower Canada wanted Upper Canada reformers to provide a distraction and draw troops away from Lower Canada. Rolph and Morrison rejected his plan and asked Mackenzie to canvass opinion north of the city. Instead, Mackenzie called a meeting of Reform leaders outside the city and convinced them that they would be able to take control of the government. He returned to Toronto and informed Rolph and Morrison that the revolt would begin on December 7.
Rolph and Morrison were angry that Mackenzie had deceived them, but ultimately decided to participate in Mackenzie's plan. Mackenzie asked Colonel Anthony Van Egmond to be the military leader of the rebellion. In the November 15, 1837 issue of The Constitution, Mackenzie published a draft constitution modelled on the constitution propounded by the Equal Rights Party (or Locofocos of New York state), but also incorporating English radical Reform ideas and some aspects of utilitarianism. If things had gone according to Mackenzie's plan, a provincial constitutional convention, with a provisional government headed by John Rolph administering the colony in the meantime would have sat on December 21.
On November 24, Mackenzie travelled north of Toronto to rally supporters. At a meeting on December 2 in Stoufferville, Mackenzie set forth his plan for rebellion in greater detail: British troops occupied in Lower Canada would be unable to do anything as Reformers from the country marched on Toronto; once there they would join up Reformers and politicians who had resigned from the government. Once the Lieutenant Governor Francis Bond Head was seized 300 acres (1.2 km2) of land would be distributed to each participant of the uprising from reserve lands and any Tories who did not participate would have their land taken from them. The rebels were instructed to assemble at John Montgomery's tavern on Yonge Street on December 7 to march into Toronto together.
On December 1, Mackenzie wrote a declaration of independence which was to be distributed to rebels immediately before the march on Toronto. On Sunday, December 3, Mackenzie returned to Toronto, where he learned that John Rolph, having heard a false rumour that the government was preparing to mount a defence, had sent a message to Samuel Lount, instructing him to raise several hundred men and enter Toronto the next day. Mackenzie attempted to stop this action, but he could not reach Lount in time, and thus the Upper Canada Rebellion began ahead of Mackenzie's planned schedule, on December 4.
The Battle of Montgomery's Tavern
On December 5, Mackenzie grew increasingly erratic and spent the day attempting to punish the property or families of leading Tories. His secondary commanders, Lount and David Gibson, began to question Mackenzie's fitness to lead. Rolph encouraged Mackenzie to enter Toronto during the mid-afternoon but Mackenzie waited until the evening to begin the rebellion's march towards Toronto. The men walked down as far as McGill Street, but then turned around when troops led by Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis fired at them on the property of a man named Jonathan Scott. Two of the rebels were injured and the next morning the body of the deceased man was discovered on Jonathan Scott's property.
On Wednesday, December 6 Mackenzie's seized a mail coach running west of Toronto. Mackenzie read out loud a letter he allegedly received from a gentleman named "Mr. Cotton" from Buffalo. In the letter stated that 200 men were going to arrive to help with their rebellion. Mackenzie also sent a letter to a newspaper called Buffalo Whig and Journal asking for more troops and reinforcements from the United States. On Thursday, December 7, Col. Van Egmond told Mackenzie that their position was impossible to defend, but Mackenzie put a pistol to Van Egmond's head and forced him to stay. In the ensuing Battle of Montgomery's Tavern, Mackenzie's troops quickly surrendered after MacNabb opened artillery fire.
Attempted invasion from the United States
The rebel leaders escaped to the United States and Mackenzie arrived in Buffalo, New York on December 11, 1837. On that day he gave a speech outlining his desire for Upper Canada to be independent of Britain. He blamed the failed rebellion in Upper Canada on a lack of weapons and supplies for the men assembled in Montgomery's Tavern. Josiah Trowbridge wrote a letter to Martin Van Buren interpreting the speech as a rallying cry for assistance in the rebellion, and a newspaper called Commercial Advertiser reported a similar interpretation in their article on the event.
Mackenzie visited Rensselaer Van Rensselaer on December 12 with Rolph and Thomas Jefferson Sutherland to convince him to lead troops to invade Upper Canada from Navy Island. While gathering supplies for the invasion, Mackenzie entered into a dispute with the sheriff of Black Rock, New York and the sheriff was able to recover arms stolen earlier that day by rebel supporters. He possibly visited Marshall Spring Bidwell on December 13 to convince him to join their cause, but was unsuccessful.
Mackenzie, Van Rensselaer and 24 supporters occupied Navy Island on December 14 and created the State of Upper Canada. Mackenzie was disappointed that so few men accompanied them on their initial trip to the island. He prepared a proclamation for the creation of the State of Upper Canada and appointed himself its chairman and created an executive committee of 13 men. He also outlined principles he wanted in its constitution and ratified at a convention. Mackenzie snuck into Canada to distribute his constitutional ideas and try to encourage Canadians to join him. He wrote a second proclamation, on December 19 promising $100 in silver to volunteers, and a third proclamation on December 21.
Although Mackenzie was against occupying Navy Island because he wanted to invade Canada, he was in favour of their occupation disrupting trade to Upper Canada, increasing the hostilities between Canada and the United States and changing opinions in Britain over the value of keeping colonies. While on the island Mackenzie conducted correspondence for the patriot forces. On January 4 Mackenzie then travelled to Buffalo to seek medical attention for his wife. While travelling there he was arrested for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794 and reportedly went on an angry tirade against Americans and their political leaders. He was released on $5000 bail, paid by three men in Buffalo, and returned to Navy Island in January.
Mackenzie urged the executive council on Navy Island to send the troops to Buffalo, obtain boats, and invade Canada. He believed that the men gathered in Montgomery's Tavern a month earlier would join them if a large arrived. He also believed more supporters would have arrived at the tavern if they were not defeated, and these people were pretending to be loyalists until they saw an opportunity for a successful rebellion. The council disagreed with Mackenzie, and British forces invaded the island on January 14, 1838, and the rebellion forces dispersed to the American mainland.
There was disagreement over who should lead an invasion of Upper Canada and how it would proceed. Mackenzie wanted the invasion to be led by Canadians with American assistance. In Buffalo, Mackenzie told Van Rensselaer that he should go to the troops that dispersed to Detroit and lead them to Canada at a better opportunity. He also contacted Reformers in Lennox County and Addington County, Upper Canada to coordinate a resistance with the Patriots who were invading Lower Canada. On January 21 he arrived in Rochester and unsuccessfully attempted to raise money for his invasion. He conflicts with Van Rensselaer continued into February when Mackenzie wanted to avoid an American invasion, and instead wanted a limited number of troops to join Canadian rebels once they invaded Upper Canada. When Van Rensselaer attempted an invasion of Kingston from Hickory Island, Mackenzie refused to participate or send any supplies to help with the endeavour, citing later his lack of confidence in the mission's success.
The constant arguments between Van Rensselaer and Mackenzie and the failed invasion from Hickory Island caused public opinion to decrease for Mackenzie. Mackenzie's public denunciation of the Hickory Island plan shortly after it began caused many in Canada to doubt the effectiveness of the rebellion or Mackenzie's leadership. The Ogdensburgh Republican called Mackenzie, "selfish, heartless, unprincipled, and cowardly."
Mackenzie travelled west with Calvin Willcox to avoid getting arrested against by the Americans. After the forces from Navy Island were defeated in mainland America, Mackenzie and Willcox decided that any further recruitment attempts for Patriot forces would cause them to be ridiculed. On March 4 he returned to Albany where his friends tried to convince him that their rebellion could not continue.
Years in the US, 1838–1849
Support for Patriots and Mackenzie's Gazette
Mackenzie and his wife arrived in New York on March 10 and stayed with his friend James Smith. Mackenzie might have travelled to Washington DC to garner support for a war between the United States and Great Britain, but if this did happen it was unsuccessful. After briefly visiting Philadelphia he returned to New York City to launch Mackenzie's Gazette with money loaned to him from supporters including Henry O'Reilly. Its early editions supported the Patriots and focused on topics relating to Canada and events along the Canada-US border. The newspaper was initially successful because the Rebellions of 1837 had created American interest in Canadian affairs and Americans wanted to learn more about Mackenzie's journalism. In September 1838 Mackenzie began his application to become an American citizen.
In August 1838, Mackenzie published articles commenting on American politics and supported the Democratic party in the upcoming 1838 United States elections. This caused supporters of the Whig Party to cancel their subscriptions to his paper and for Canadian Patriots to become disinterested in the paper's new focus. In November 1838 Mackenzie was printing inaccurate articles about the progress of the rebellion by Patriot forces. After the Battle of the Windmill he admitted in his paper that Patriot forces had been defeated and noted the failures of rebel forces in Upper and Lower Canada. He organised meetings in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore and Albany to raise funds for the Patriots. President Van Buren issued a proclamation against the Patriot forces telling Americans to not give support for their cause and declaring that Americans who joined the Patriots would not receive American protection. Mackenzie was furious that he issued this proclamation because Van Buren knew about the preparation of the Patriot invasion but waited until its failure and the American midterm elections to state his opposition.
From December 27, 1838, to January 10, 1839, Mackenzie visited and investigated the Battle of the Windmill to determine how the Patriot forces failed. He visited Hunters' Lodges who had provided the majority of people in this battle and reported that the invasion failed because of a lack of support and arms. However, he overemphasised the successes of the Patriot forces and failed to report on the preparation of Loyalist forces for the invasion. Mackenzie disagreed with the land speculators who organised the American Hunters to invade Upper Canada. The Canadian Association was created and led by Mackenzie and he moved to Rochester to manage the entity. His motivation to move out of New York City might have also been influenced by the Gazette's lack of success. The family's move to Rochester was delayed when Isabel Mackenzie gave birth to Mackenzie's son.
Mackenzie focused the Canadian Association away from frontier raids and instead sought to keep Patriot forces organised and motivated to help if a war or rebellion was to happen in Canada. This association struggled to attract enough Canadian Patriots to sustain its operations. He soon believed that American would never invade Canada and believed the association should publish an account of the Upper Canada Rebellion. However, the association was unable to raise enough funds and the money it did receive was spent on Mackenzie's trial.
Neutrality law trial and sentence
The trial for Mackenzie's violation of American neutrality laws began on June 19, 1839, and he represented himself in the proceedings. The District Attorney argued that Mackenzie recruited members at his speech in the Eagle Theatre and brought the crowd to the city hall of Black Rock where they stole arms, established an army, and refused to allow a sheriff to recover the arms. The DA also argued that Mackenzie broke the Neutrality Act when he wrote and distributed the Navy Island Proclamation. Upon cross-examination Mackenzie had the prosecution's witnesses admit that they did not know if Mackenzie was part of the crowd that was formed after Eagle Theatre and did not know where the crowd went when they left the meeting. Mackenzie also stated that a committee in Buffalo was going to pay for the arms that were stolen and that the Navy Island Proclamation was to only be distributed in Canada. Mackenzie also contended that the United States and Britain were not at peace because of the Caroline affair and thus the Neutrality Act did not apply.
In his defence arguments, Mackenzie gave the history of the Upper Canada Rebellion and compared it to the American Revolution. Mackenzie challenged Britain's right to rule Canada due to obtaining the colony through invasion and conquest. He also argued that the people of Canada did not have to be loyal to Britain because of the mismanagement of Upper Canada by its ruling class. Mackenzie tried to submit the Durham Report as evidence that Canada was in a state of anarchy, but this was ruled inadmissible by the judge because Canada was a colony its internal affairs could not be given as evidence. Mackenzie also tried to prove that Canada was in a civil war when Mackenzie committed his alleged crimes. The judge also ruled this evidence as inadmissible because the American Congress did not consider if Canada was rebelling against Britain and only Congress could make that determination.
When defending against charges related to the Navy Island campaign, Mackenzie argued that citizens of Buffalo had conceived the idea and that he did not have the resources to organise this expedition. The prosecution countered these arguments by producing a letter written by the Buffalo committee requesting Mackenzie give guidance on how they could help his cause. The judge denied testimony on Mackenzie's reply to this letter and of a letter supposedly sent by Thomas Sutherland showing the readiness for conflict by the Buffalo committee. This frustrated Mackenzie and he did not call further witnesses for his defence.
Mackenzie was sentenced to pay a $10 fine and spend 18 months in jail. He decided not to appeal after consulting with lawyers whom he did not publically name. He stated after the trial that he was depending upon key witnesses giving testimony but these people did not come to the courtroom. He also denounced the application of the Neutrality Law, wrongly stating that the law had not been considered or applied for nearly fifty years.
Mackenzie chose to be imprisoned in Rochester in order to be closer to his family. He wanted to be treated as a political prisoner and only ate meals that his family brought to the prison. During his sentence, he read Workingman's Advocate and created a code of law for his ideal structure of government. He also published The Caroline Almanack and issues of Gazette Mackenzie gained support among Americans who sympathised with him and gave him gifts and subscriptions to his newspaper. The first editions of Gazette while Mackenzie was in jail consisted of a retelling of Mackenzie's trial and appeals for his release. Mackenzie then moved on to reporting on Canadian and American politics.
Mackenzie's health deteriorated due to the conditions of the jail. In February 1840 he wrote to a friend describing his situation as being "entombed alive." Throughout his sentence he and his supporters petitioned various American politicians and government officials asking for Mackenzie's release. Van Buren was initially reluctant to pardon Mackenzie because he did not want to offend the British, but he acquiesced in May 1840 and Mackenzie was released after serving less than a year in jail.
Mackenzie began attacking Van Buren and the British in the Gazette and called upon "shrewd and daring fellows" to burn English-owned property in Canada. The Gazette struggled financially, and in spite of Mackenzie's friendship with prominent American newspapermen like Horace Greeley, Mackenzie shut down the paper in December 1840. In April 1841, he launched a newspaper in Rochester, called The Rochester Volunteer which published irregularly. He wrote more articles on Canadian politics and tried to start a war between the United States and Britain over the arrest of Alexander McLeod. The Volunteer failed in September 1841, and Mackenzie expressed regret on organising the Upper Canada Rebellion and fleeing to the United States. In June 1842, Mackenzie moved back to New York City.
Mackenzie worked for various publishers but refused to accept a job as an editor. In August he worked as an actuary and librarian at the Mechanics' Institute. Mackenzie became an American citizen in April 1843. In fall 1843 quit his job at the Mechanics' Institute to launch a new newspaper, the Examiner, which failed after five issues. He wrote a biography of 500 Irish patriots entitled, The Sons of the Emerald Isle and the first volume was published in 1844. In July 1844, he became a customs clerk in the New York Custom House. Mackenzie published the papers of Jesse Hoyt, a customs official associated with Van Buren and the Albany Regency, which he obtained while working at the custom-house. He sold 50,000 copies, but Mackenzie did not make any money from the book and was criticized for publishing private papers solely to discredit political enemies. He resigned from his job in June 1845 when Cornelius Van Wyck Lawrence was appointed Collector of the Port of New York and Mackenzie disagreed with his more conservative political views.
In 1846, Mackenzie published the second volume of The Sons of the Emerald Isle, and a highly critical biography of Martin Van Buren. In May 1846, Mackenzie's friend Horace Greeley asked him to travel to Albany to report on the state constitutional convention for the New York Tribune. Mackenzie stayed in Albany, editing the Albany Patriot until spring 1847 when he returned to New York City to work for the Tribune and to edit almanacs for Greeley.
Final years in Canada, 1849–1861
In February 1849 the Canadian government gave amnesty to persons involved in the rebellions a decade earlier. Mackenzie wrote to James Lesslie asking to be included in this amnesty. In March 1849 Mackenzie reached Toronto where he visited John McIntosh, his father in law. Rumours spread and as the evening set in, dirty, ragged and intoxicated men, anti-reformers, assembled in front of the McIntosh property. Several hundred Torontonians eventually gathered there. Despite a police presence, the mob attacked the home, throwing bricks and rocks. There were no injuries. By 4 o'clock in the morning, the mob left and went to the residence of George Brown, of the Globe, smashing his windows and blinds. The next night another crowd gathered at John McIntosh's home, but two hundred special constables were on hand, reinforced by 60 soldiers and many private citizens. This deterred violence and the night resulted in nothing but noisy demonstrations. The next night another mob gathered but they targeted the unpatrolled Bay and Bond streets, smashing gas lamps and windows. This was the last display of violence against William Lyon Mackenzie. He frequented the shop C. A. Backas, a bookseller and newsdealer, and would regale any friend he met with reminisces of the rebellion in a nook at the south end of the counter.
Mackenzie went on a cross-country tour from Montreal to Niagara Falls, noting that he was happy to be allowed to return to Canada. He insisted that he had no desire to return permanently, and he briefly accepted a position as the New York Daily Tribune's correspondent in Washington, D.C in April 1850. He decided to return to Toronto in May and continued to write for the Tribune. He also wrote articles for the Niagara Mail and the Toronto Examiner although refused offers to work full-time. He sought to collect money that he believed he was owed for his public service in the 1830s and received $1200 from York County and £250 for working as a Welland Canal commissioner.
Return to the Legislature, 1851–1858
In the spring of 1851 Mackenzie won a by-election for the seat of Haldimand County in the 3rd Parliament of the Province of Canada, relying on his notoriety and his opponent's anti-Catholic stance.
In 1851, Mackenzie investigated government affairs and alleged corruption and one of his investigations caused Robert Baldwin to resign as co-premier. Mackenzie and Lesslie campaigned against Baldwin in the October 1851 elections for the 4th Parliament of the Province of Canada, calling his former colleagues "sham reformers".
In 1852, the new premier of Canada Francis Hincks asked Mackenzie to participate in his negotiations with George Brown's Clear Grits, who Hincks hoped would rejoin the Reform Party. Mackenzie refused to attend in order to maintain his "freedom of action". John Rolph was appointed to a ministry position and consulted Mackenzie on appointments in Haldimand county. He also offered Mackenzie a job in Haldimand, but Mackenzie refused because he did not want to burden the Canadian taxpayers with an unnecessary post created especially for him.
In late 1852, Mackenzie had a falling-out with James Lesslie. Mackenzie did not want Lesslie to edit a letter about crown reserves, so Lesslie refused to publish any of Mackenzie's articles. Mackenzie began his own newspaper called Message (and later renamed Toronto Weekly Message). Although successful at the beginning of its existence, Message struggled financially and closed a year later.
In May 1853, Mackenzie opposed a scheme dubbed the "£10,000 Job" where Hincks and John George Bowes had profited by lending money to railway companies at public expense. He also attacked Rolph and his Lower Canadian ally Malcolm Cameron for opposing reform ideals in order to become electable. He also accused Rolph of treason during the 1837 rebellion in the Message after Rolph refused to consult him on appointments in Haldimand county. Mackenzie also disagreed with George Brown, calling out the supposed hypocrisy of Brown's reform beliefs and his anti-Catholic prejudices. Mackenzie also disagreed with the Province of Canada union, believing French Canadians in Lower Canada were receiving more benefits than Upper Canada.
In 1854 Lesslie proposed merging his Examiner newspaper with Message and William McDougall's newspaper North American, with Mackenzie having managerial and editorial control. Mackenzie refused, fearing that having many people own the newspaper would jeopardise his ability to act independently of their wishes.
Clear Grit founders sought his advice in 1854 to create policy and wanted him to join their reform movement. They wanted him to support Brown as their leader, even though Brown's views were not as radical as the views of other members. Mackenzie continued his attacks on Brown and by 1957 only David Christie wanted to include Mackenzie in Reform proposals.
Between 1854–1857, Mackenzie proposed a series of reforms in the Assembly, including the election of municipal mayors by popular vote instead of by city councils. He also supported legislation for the election of legislative councillors, privately financed railways, and reciprocity.
Mackenzie served as chairman of the finance committee between 1854 and 1855. Mackenzie exposed financial mismanagement and misuse of patronage by Allan MacNab and Attorney General John A. Macdonald. Mackenzie came to believe that the union of the two Canadas had been such a disaster that he thought it was no longer reformable.
In February 1855 Mackenzie was forced to close the Message, but refused full-time employment at the Weekly Globe and the Examiner. He revived the Message in December 1855 but again encountered financial difficulty. Lesslie and Archibald Alexander Riddell organized a fund for Mackenzie for his years of service to Canada, ultimately raising $7,500. Mackenzie used the fund to buy a house and to secure a loan for his newspaper.
Mackenzie resigned his seat in August 1858 citing his deteriorating health and a lack of confidence in the reform movement. He refused calls to run for Legislative Council of the Province of Canada or mayor of Toronto.
Final years, 1858–1861
In 1859 Mackenzie approved of Reform policied presented at their convention but refused to sit on any of their committees because he was no longer a legislator.
In 1861, Mackenzie reconciled with George Brown and the two enjoyed friendly relations. Mackenzie began thinking about running for the legislature again and creditors continued to seek him out, demanding that Mackenzie pay his debts. He was also compiling an autobiography. Near the end of his life, as he was getting sicker Mackenzie refused any medication.
Mackenzie died on August 28, 1861, following an apoplectic seizure. He died at his home in which he had lived since 1858 at 82 Bond Street in Toronto, and was buried at Toronto Necropolis. His house was recognized as a historic site in 1936 and became a museum. Toronto's William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute was named after him.
The topics of Mackenzie's editorials were not consistent or usually linked together between issues. Mackenzie preferred to write about topics that he was thinking about at that particular time. Mackenzie's writings often used scripture to support his argument. His knowledge of scripture came from his Calvinist upbringing by his mother.
In Colonial Advocate Mackenzie wrote about the public and private lives of his opponents and their families. Charles Lindsey stated in his biography of his father-in-law that these articles were written in retaliation to J. B. Macaulay printing their private correspondence. Lindsey believed Mackenzie would not have printed these attacks if he was not provoked. Lindsay also stated that Mackenzie's articles were, "mild and playful beside the savagery of the unprovoked attack" and when Mackenzie responded to further provocations from Mackenzie, Lindey believed Mackenzie's responses, "instead of retorting rage for rage, was playfully sarcastic and keenly incisive." Mackenzie also printed the members of the Family Compact and recorded their positions in government, their income and how they were related to each other. Historian William Kilbourn stated that his writing was better appreciated when read out loud, and described Mackenzie's structure as a "three-volume Victorian novel" because of its slow pace. Mackenzie wrote about provincial issues but also included local news stories within his paper.
Political philosophy and views
Mackenzie was a Presbyterian. Although he rebelled against the religion as a youth, he returned to the religion and remained faithful the rest of his life.
When Mackenzie started his first newspaper in 1824, he wrote editorials that supported clergy reserves. These opinions began to change in 1827 when he opposed the John Strachan's petition that the Church of England should receive the proceeds of selling clergy reserves. When he created a draft of the State of Upper Canada, Mackenzie wanted civil and religious equality among citizens. He also proposed transferring ownership of clergy reserves to the legislature and abolishing a religious test for employment and services.
Mackenzie was critical of clergy members who advocated for the status quo in the United States and Canada. When writing about American politics he supported the social gospel and believed clergy should be advocating for equality among citizens.
As a legislator in the 1850s, he opposed state funding of religious colleges and supported legislation that would abolish clergy reserves.
Political institutions and corruption
Mackenzie embraced the version of rationalist liberalism that existed at the time. Mackenzie initially supported Upper Canada's connection to the British Empire and primogeniture in his first newspaper. However, he also advocated for the Reform cause and was an outspoken critic of the Family Compact and their supposed corruption. The officials he identified as being corrupt and opposed to reform changed between issues. A person who had been praised in one editorial might be vilified a few issues later for their decisions. Although the Lieutenant Governor was initially except to scrutiny, Mackenzie eventually included him in his paper's coverage and criticised his wealth and multiple homes within Upper Canada. Mackenzie believed Upper Canada's government would be more efficient in responding to the people's needs if the province was able to elect its lawmakers, like Americans were able to do.
In 1827 Mackenzie started changing his views on Upper Canada's connection with Britain. He helped select Robert Randal to go to England and present petitions calling for the government to give full citizen rights to American-born settlers. The scheme was successful and this convinced Mackenzie that petitioning grievances to the British government was a worthwhile endeavour.
When creating a constitution for his State of Upper Canada, Mackenzie outlined many of the policies he wanted to be adopted. He advocated for the abolition of hereditary titles and their financial and social benefits. Instead, he wanted all government officials, senators, legislators, military officers justices of the peace, governors and members of the executive branch to be elected by the people using a ballot.
As a legislator in the 1850s Mackenzie advocated for "true reform", which was a resumption of political causes from the 1830s. He opposed the Court of Chancery in Upper Canada. He was also opposed to government overspending and was critical of state aid for railways, especially when those railways were monopolies. He repeatedly introduced a simplified legal code that he had drafted with the goal of allowing citizens to more easily bring grievances to a judge, but these reforms were rejected by the assembly.
While in the legislature in the 1820s and 1830s Mackenzie sought legislation to abolish imprisonment if a person could not pay their debts. He also advocated for people to be allowed to keep the minimum goods and money needed to restart employment if they encounter financial trouble.
When writing his draft of the State of Upper Canada constitution, Mackenzie advocated for opening the Saint Lawrence River as a throughway for any country to use for trade. He also believed corporations should be held to the same liability standards that individual partnerships had to endure and wanted to establish gold and silver as the only legal tender in the state.
Mackenzie disliked the Bank of Upper Canada because of their exclusive rights to government deposits and their influence over political figures. He was also in favour of restricting charters to new banks unless their ability to issue notes was safeguarded and restricted.
American relations and annexation
When writing for Mackenzie's Gazette in the late 1830s, Mackenzie advocated for a war between the United States and Great Britain in order to liberate Upper Canada from Great Britain. He also believed that a successful American invasion would bring peace to the continent. He stated, "Until Canada is freed the revolution in America will not be complete."
In 1838 Mackenzie began calling for non-violent action to convince Great Britain that the cost of keeping Upper Canada as a colony was too great. He advocated for the United States to begin an economic boycott of Upper Canada to help with this process. According to historian Lillian F. Gates, this change in attitude was caused by Mackenzie wanting to publicly support the United States President Van Buren and stop a victory of the Whig Party in the upcoming 1838 United States elections. Mackenzie disagreed with the Whig Party's economic policies and claimed they favoured company monopolies over workers. He also believed that if the United States controlled Canada during a Whig Party presidency then the Canadian land would be exploited for their monetary gain. Mackenzie's support for Van Buren could only occur if he agreed with Van Buren's policy of not allowing armed conflict with Canada.
By 1858, Mackenzie advocated possible annexation of Canada by the United States. Writing for Message in March 1859 and he advocated for Upper Canada to become independent from Britain, believing annexation from the United States would shortly follow. By 1861, Mackenzie was advocating for some sort of union between Britain, Canada, Ireland and the United States.
Land policies and immigration
Mackenzie included in his draft constitution for the State of Upper Canada that immigrants from any country should be encouraged to come to Upper Canada to cultivate the wilderness. He proposed reserving one million acres of land for public schools and wanted Crown lands, clergy reserves, land reserved for King's College, Toronto and all unsold land held by Canada Company to be given to the legislature. He also wanted reform to Upper Canada's system of selling land so that it resembled the United State's uniform price policy and allow buying a property with cash payments.
After the Battle of the Windmill Mackenzie concluded that American Hunters were not invading Canada to liberate the people but to distribute valuable lands and obtain a profit. He formed the Canadian Association in order to separate his cause from land speculators, whom he despised.
Mackenzie advocated for including the right to a free press in the constitution of Upper Canada. He also included equality for everyone under the law. 
In response to the Indian Mutiny, Mackenzie initially wrote in support of the rebels. He argued that "the inhabitants of Hindostan" were as capable of civilisation as "the Celt or Anglo-Saxon", but not the "woolyhaired African". Later he became more evenhanded writing that "[t]here is cruelty on both sides" and asked, "Which has the most reason to be cruel? The strangers who seek to trample India for gain, or the natives whose home is there?"
Mackenzie's role in Canadian politics has been commented on by historians since his death. Charles Lindsey wrongly stated that Mackenzie was solely responsible for the Upper Canada Rebellion. He believed Mackenzie's actions in 1837 caused responsible government to be established in the colony and without this new governance structure Upper Canada would not have remained a British colony or its people would be so poor that they would seek another country's help to liberate them. Ronald Stagg stated that William Kilbourn's biography determined that, even though it was his life's work, Mackenzie's actions did not influence Upper Canada's later democratic reforms and Kilbourn himself stated his belief that Mackenzie's actions and ideas did not influence Canadian history.
In 1960, William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute opened in North York. Mackenzie's name was chosen for the school after a public contest was held. Toronto Fire Services named a fireboat the William Lyon Mackenzie in 1964.
Mackenzie's early 19th century home in Queenston, Ontario has been restored and is now the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum. The museum includes a working mid-19th-century printing shop and features displays of printing equipment and technology ranging over a 500-year period. The museum is operated by the Niagara Parks Commission.
"The Rebel Mayor", a Twitter account which posted satirical comments on various candidates in Toronto's 2010 mayoral election, was written in the persona and voice of Mackenzie. The feed was eventually revealed to have been written by Shawn Micallef, a journalist for the publications Eye Weekly and Spacing.
Bibliography of major works
- The History of the Destruction of the Colonial Advocate Press by Officers of the Provincial Government of Upper Canada and Law Students of the Attorney & Solicitor General (1827)
- Catechism of Education: Part First (1830)
- Sketches of Canada and the United States (1833)
- Mackenzie's Own Narrative of the Late Rebellion (1837)
- The Caroline Almanack (1840)
- The Sons of the Emerald Isle, or Lives of One Thousand Remarkable Irishmen (1845)
- The Lives and Opinions of Benj'n Franklin Butler, United States District Attorney for the Southern District of New York; and Jesse Hoyt, Counsellor at Law, formerly Collector of Customs for the Port of New York (1845)
- The Life and Times of Martin Van Buren: the Correspondence of his Friends, Family and Pupils (1846)
- Armstrong, Frederick H.; Stagg, Ronald J. (1976). "Mackenzie, William Lyon". www.biographi.ca. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
- Gates 1996, p. 12.
- Kilbourn 2008, p. 35.
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- Lindsey 1862, p. 34. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLindsey1862 (help)
- Lindsey 1862, p. 15. sfn error: no target: CITEREFLindsey1862 (help)
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- Kilbourn 2008, p. 37-38.
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- Romney, Paul (1987). "From the Types Riot to the Rebellion: Elite Ideology, Anti-legal Sentiment, Political Violence, and the Rule of Law in Upper Canada". Ontario History. LXXIX (2): 114.
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- Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 35: The Red Lion Hotel". Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto Revisited.
- https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/90b6-edc-hostpot-loops-guide-north-york-web.pdf "The rebel leader, William Lyon Mackenzie hid on this property before escaping to the United States to avoid imprisonment."
- Gates 1996, p. 14.
- "The seventh report from the Select Committee of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada on grievances..."
- Schrauwers 2009, pp. 194–195.
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- Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 21: Jonathan Scott's House". Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto Revisited.
- Gates 1996, p. 17.
- Flint, David (1971). William Lyon Mackenzie - Rebel Against Authority. Toronto: Oxford University Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-19-540184-0.
- Gates 1996, p. 17-18.
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- Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 4: John McIntosh's House". Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto Revisited.
- Peppiatt, Liam. "Chapter 33: The Checkered Store". Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto Revisited.
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- Kilbourn 2008, p. 13.
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- Sufrin, Jon (May 20, 2010). "The best of Rebel Mayor: the funniest quips from city hall's mystery tweeter, who was unmasked (sort of) this week". Toronto Life. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Grant, Kelly (November 5, 2010). "Revealed: The true identity of Twitter's Rebel Mayor". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 2, 2014.