June 30, 2009


Treason bill from 1837 Rebellion found in archives

Charges cite plot against Queen Victoria

Hamilton, ON. June 30, 2009 –A fascinating piece of Canadiana—a bill of treason dating back to the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837—has been discovered in a storage area of the McMaster University archives collection.

Written on parchment and dated March 1838, the bill—in today’s terminology it is essentially an arrest warrant—was filed against William Rogers, a yeoman living in or near Albion, York Township, Upper Canada.

"The bill has great research potential for scholars of Canadian history and specifically of Canadian politics in the pre-Confederation period," said archivist Renu Barrett.

The bill pertains to the 1837 uprising led by William Lyon Mackenzie, a Scottish-Canadian journalist, reformer and politician. Mackenzie rallied 400 rebels, including many farmers from the Toronto area, to fight the bureaucratic allocation of land, much of which was controlled by wealthy owners in the government as Crown reserves or in support of the Anglican Church.

Rogers was arrested for treason on December 13, 1837 for plotting an insurrection against the Queen, persuading others to join in the insurrection, and assembling with approximately 50 other people. In the indictment Rogers is described as "not having the fear of God in his heart but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil." He was tried April 18, 1838, and ultimately acquitted.

The bill has been catalogued and a description is available at http://library.mcmaster.ca/archives/findaids/fonds/r/rogers.htm

For further information:

Jane Christmas

Manager, Public and Media Relations

McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 27988