1870-xx Update



Archive - 1870

Homicide #1870-xx

Date - 1870-03-04

Victim - Scott, Thomas (??)
Accused - GUILLEMETTE, Francois; LEPINE, Ambroise-Dydime; NAULT, Andre

Charge - Murder
Sentence - GUILLEMETTE - Death - Commuted; LEPINE - Guilty - Amnesty; NAULT - Hung Jury

On March 4th, 1870, Thomas Scott was executed by order of Ambroise Lépine in Fort Garry, Manitoba.

(the following is excerpted from the Wiki articles - link below)


In mid February 1870 Lépine and a group of Métis arrested Major Charles Arkoll Boulton and a number of men after their plan to capture Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg) aborted. Among the prisoners was Thomas Scott, whose behaviour soon angered his Métis guards. Riel ordered Scott court martialled on 3 March. As the military leader, Lépine headed the tribunal that tried Scott and found him guilty of rebelling against the government and it was he who declared that Scott should be executed. It was Riel, however, who turned down all pleas to spare Scott’s life.

While imprisoned Scott constantly threatened and insulted guards, and threatened that he would assassinate Louis Riel upon gaining his freedom. Scott made an attempt to escape but was recaptured by Riel's men and was summarily executed for committing insubordination.

Charles Boulton's Memoirs of the North West Rebellions cites Métis leader John Bruce's claim that only two bullets from the firing squad actually hit Scott, wounding him once in the left shoulder, and once in the upper chest. A man stepped forward and discharged his pistol close to Scott's head, but the bullet only penetrated the upper part of the left cheek and came out somewhere near the cartilage of the nose. Still not dead, Scott was placed in a kind of coffin, from which he was later reported to cry:

"For God's sake take me out of here or kill me."

In October 1871 Lépine was chosen captain of the troops from Saint Boniface who volunteered to defend the settlement against the Fenian invasion led by William Bernard O’Donoghue. He hoped that these loyal actions would result in amnesty, but it was not forthcoming. Although the government had little interest in bringing him and Riel to trial, fearing the uproar that such a move would cause throughout the country, certain individuals wanted vengeance. Given the increasing danger of their arrest, he and Riel were persuaded by Taché to go into voluntary exile in the United States. Lépine was unhappy there. Alternately bored and afraid for his life, he also worried about the welfare of his family and by May 1873 had resolved to go home.

Back in Manitoba, Lépine returned to his farm. His arrest on 17 September on the charge of murdering Scott was the initiative of two Canadians who had been imprisoned by the Métis during the troubles and it caused a great stir in Manitoba. The trial was delayed several times since the judges were unwilling or unable to decide if the Court of Queen’s Bench had jurisdiction to try the case. The matter was settled in June 1874 by the newly appointed provincial chief justice, Edmund Burke Wood, who released Lépine on $8,000 bail. Andrew G. B. Bannatyne contributed one-quarter of this amount, most of the rest being raised by the Métis community.

The trial, which began on 13 October, lasted until 4 November, when the jury, consisting of six French- and six English-speaking members, returned a verdict of guilty with the recommendation of mercy. Wood, comparing the execution of Scott to a “savage atrocity,” sentenced Lépine to death by hanging. The conviction and sentencing elicited great excitement and indignation in Red River and the rest of Canada. Le Nouveau Monde (Montréal) [see Alphonse Desjardins] demanded that the federal French Canadian ministers secure a pardon or resign their seats, and the Legislative Assembly of Quebec passed a unanimous resolution asking for amnesty. The federal Liberal government of Alexander Mackenzie turned the matter over to the governor general, Lord Dufferin [Blackwood], hoping that the intervention of the imperial authorities would be useful in reconciling the Orange faction in Ontario to a policy of clemency. Dufferin eventually decided that Lépine’s sentence should be commuted to two years in prison along with the forfeiture of his civil rights. A few months later, in April 1875, both Riel and Lépine were offered an amnesty on the condition that they accept a five-year banishment from Canada. Unlike Riel, Lépine refused the offer, choosing to serve out the balance of his sentence.

After his release from prison on 26 October 1876 Lépine maintained close contact with Riel and Taché and remained active in Manitoba’s French-speaking community. In 1871 he had participated in the formation of the Union Saint-Alexandre to protect Métis interests in the new province and in 1878 he was elected vice-president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste. The following year, when Riel tried to enlist him in the project of uniting the Métis and Indians of the northwest into a confederacy, he travelled to Montana Territory to meet with Riel. Although he spent the winter with the Métis of the region, he took the advice of Taché, who was worried about possible trouble in the northwest, and left before seeing Riel. This decision, and his siding with Taché over the Métis leader, seems to have been a turning-point. From then on he stayed out of Métis politics.


For an excellent detailed history on Ambroise Lepine and Thomas Scott read the rest of the Wiki articles found here...