The media love anniversaries. A historical subject of no current interest becomes instantly pertinent when its age is a multiple of fifty. This worked in my favour in 1987, when the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Rebellions of 1837 in Upper and Lower Canada came around, and the stories of these forgotten wars were suddenly topical. I was delighted. In a series I had done a couple of years before called "Richard Cartwright and the Roots of Canadian Conservatism," I had seized on a distant ancestor of mine to explore the ways in which the Tory tradition had shaped Canadian political culture. Now here was my chance to explore the radical traditions that led to armed revolt in the Canadas in 1837. Once again, I was lucky to have the musical assistance of Anne Lederman and Ian Bell, who then performed together as Muddy York and who were both scholars of early Canadian music as well as skillful musicians. An ample cast of talented actors allowed me to portray a variety of the historical characters. They were: Chris Wiggins, Sandy Webster, David Fox, John Jarvis, Lynne Deragon, Albert Millaire, François Klanfer, and Richard Partington. And, finally I had the assistance of a number of excellent historians, some of whom were by now becoming friends, as I undertook my third excursion into early Canadian history. They were: in Part One - William Kilbourn and Robert Fraser; in Part Two - Sydney Wise and William Kilbourn; in Part Three - Stanley Ryerson, Murray Greenwood, Jean-Pierre Wallot, Philip Buckner, Fernand Ouellet, and Alan Greer; and in Part Four - Alan Greer and Murray Greenwood. The series was first broadcast in December of 1837...
I recently posted a two hour series from 1983 about the Loyalists who lost the American War of Independence and resettled in the remaining British North America colonies that would one day be Canada. While I was working on this series, I had the good fortune to meet and interview George Rawlyk, an eminent scholar of early Upper Canada and 18th century Nova Scotia, who died in 1995. Rawlyk was then a professor of history at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and, during the course of our first conversation, I learned that he had compiled a collection of the papers of Richard Cartwright. Cartwright was a Loyalist, born in 1759 in Albany, New York, who fled in 1777 to what would become, in 1791, Upper Canada. There he prospered and became one of Kingston's founding citizens. Rawlyk says in his article on Cartwright in the Canadian Encyclopedia that he was "a critically important link in the ideological chain that connects the American Loyalist thought of the 1770s with the English-speaking, Upper Canadian Tory conceptual framework of the post-War of 1812 period." I was fascinated to learn of Rawlyk's interest in Richard Cartwright because my middle name is Cartwright in recognition of the interconnection over many generations of the Cayley and Cartwright families. Anyone who counts back through seven generations - my distance from Richard - will, inevitably, turn up a lot of grandfathers, but he was one of mine nonetheless, and, because I had been close to a number of cousins from the Cartwright branch of my family growing up, the connection still meant a lot to me.
George Rawlyk generously offered to share his collection of Cartwright's papers with me, and as I became engrossed in them, the seeds of a new radio series began to grow. As a young man I had been captivated by George Grant's Lament for a Nation, and, by Gad Horowitz's claim that Grant belonged to a unique Canadian species called the Red Tory. (The idea, in brief, is that Canada, through its Loyalist heritage, developed a political culture in which social solidarity counts for more than it does in the more purely liberal United States.) I had also grown up in the advanced sunset of that old Canada whose vanishing is the subject of Grant's lamentation. And, on top of that, my work on the Loyalists had already stimulated a keen interest in early Canadian history. Getting to know Cartwright, I conceived the idea of trying to draw the line from Cartwright to the more fully formed political culture that emerged in Upper Canada after Cartwright's death in 1815 and from there to what endured of this culture in later Canadian history. George Grant, happily, was willing to take part, as was Gad Horowitz, and Northrop Frye. Many distinguished Canadian historians also participated. They were all helpful, but Syd Wise, William Westfall and Robert Fraser stand out for the trouble they took to educate me and the impact they had on my thinking. I was also lucky to have the help of musicians Ian Bell and Anne Lederman, who then performed as Muddy York. Out of their extensive knowledge of early Canadian music, they created the score for the series, though I can't help boasting that it was I who wrote the words to "The Ballad of Richard Cartwright," which Ian sang to a traditional tune - my one and only foray so far into song-writing. I dedicate this new presentation of the series to the memory of George Rawlyk in gratitude for the adventure on which he started me.
The voices heard in the series are as follows:
Part One: Sydney Wise, Bruce Wilson, George Rawlyk, Jane Errington, Robert Fraser
Part Two: Sydney Wise, Robert Fraser, William Westfall, Jane Errington
Part Three: William Westfall, Sydney Wise, Dennis Duffy, Northrop Frye, George Grant, Maurice Careless, Gad Horowitz, Donald Creighton, George Rawlyk
Colin Fox read the part of Richard Cartwright. Additional readings by Paul Soles.