The Political Poetry of Louis Riel: a Semiotic Study

by Glen Campbell

     For most Canadians, the name of Louis Riel is invariably linked to epithets such as rebel, patriot, prophet, mystic, defender of rights and revolutionary.  Few would add “poet” to this list.  Yet, throughout his life, Riel wrote a considerable amount of poetry in the form of fables, love poems, songs, letters in verse as well as political and religious compositions. Although certainly not in the category of “great poetry,” the works nevertheless are not devoid of interest and even assume a certain importance because of the notoriety of their author.  By disclosing certain facets of Riel’s thought processes, they allow us a glimpse of his arresting, often enigmatic personality. Until recently, only a small number of the poems had ever appeared in print.1  With the exception of the poem addressed to Sir John A. Macdonald which appeared in Poésies Religieuses et Politiques, the works discussed in this article are at present available only in manuscript form.2

     I have chosen for analysis six poems which, because of their subject matter, may be classed under the rubric “political poetry” and which are, in my opinion, representative of Riel’s output in this particular genre. Although there is some doubt surrounding the exact dates of composition,3  I believe that the poems span a period of approximately thirteen years in Riel’s life, from 1870 when he was experiencing the immediate repercussions of the Thomas Scott affair, to 1883 when, as an American citizen living in Montana, he was jailed on charges of election fraud complicity.4

     I have undertaken a semiotic reading of these six works, analyzing the system of signs found in each.  The study will emphasize those elements of the Poetic code5 which are imbued with the distinctive traits of the poet. A methodology generally associated with the analysis of narrative structures will be used,6 such an approach being justified by the prosaic, narrative-like quality of much of the corpus.

     At the micro-contextual7 (i.e. linguistic or surface) level, the poems appear to be quite different. They deal with a wide variety of individuals and groups:  English Canada, George Etienne Cartier, Ottawa, Joseph Dubuc, John A. Macdonald and the American Democratic Party.  At the macro-contextual (i.e. thematic or deep) level, the poems are, however, remarkably similar.  By uncovering characteristic signs encoded in Riel’s verse and by hypothetically restructuring the poems, I will attempt to make these similarities more apparent.

     A preliminary structural framework was evolved inductively. Pertinent functional components were determined from the composition  “Crucifiez-le . . .,” then tested against the remaining generically similar poems. A definitive analytic grid was elaborated from these results and an inventory of unities made. The semiotic restructuration has a ternary system. Each poem is structured around three interrelated core semes:

The Allegation — Discord is revealed in this seme, and a political foe singled out. Riel accuses his adversary of a misdeed which has caused much anguish to him and his people.

The Conflict — In this seme the conflicting nature of the antagonists is made known.  While declaring his fundamental opposition to his enemy, not only does Riel describe in great detail the immorality of the latter, he takes pleasure in itemizing his own qualities or those of his people, whether French-Canadian or Métis.

The Ultimatum — The final seme of this operational model is externalized in a concluding statement about the polemic. It takes the form of a warning or censure and may involve punitive measures.

     The poems will now be examined individually, following the postulated order of composition.

1. “Crucifiez-le. . .”8

     This work is untitled and undated.  Since the poem deals with the death of Thomas Scott we can place it after March 4, 1870, the date of the execution of Scott, by a firing squad of Riel’s provisional government.  The affair raised the ire of English Canada, especially the Orangist factions of Ontario, who demanded the Métis leader’s head.  In the poem, Riel justifies the action taken:  “L’infâme Scott” (v.33) “allait plonger son fer, la nuit avec malice / Dans le coeur de son souverain” (vv.35-36).  The “souverain” referred to is of course Riel who was head of the provisional government.  Being guilty of lese-majesty, reasons the poet, Scott therefore deserved to die.  (We know historically that Thomas Scott was a belligerent bigot who, after being imprisoned by Riel’s men, made life difficult for his captors. On one occasion, he attacked a Métis guard in the prison where he was being held. There is no evidence that he ever physically attacked Riel himself.  In the lines I have just quoted, we are obviously witness to a certain poetic licence.)

     In the poem, Scott becomes a symbol for English Canada and all its faults.  According to Riel, the attacks made against him as a result of the Scott execution are really aimed at French Canada:

Ce que vous demandez dans votre aveugle rage
       C’est que le canadien français
Dont l’esprit généreux partout vous porte outrage
       Soit foulé sous un pieds [sic] anglais.  (vv.57-60)

     In reality, the poet claims, English Canadians do not care about Scott — he was only a pawn. The true motivation for their actions lies else where; they are alanned at the loss of their political power to a “successful rival”:

Ce que vous regretter, ce n’est pas la carcasse
       de votre ami traître et veinal [sic].
Mais c’est le sceptre seul, le sceptre meme qui passe
       Dans les mains d’un heureux rival.  (vv.53-56)

Since Riel exemplifies French Canada — and also catholicism — the exacting “vous” wants him eliminated:

Ce que vous demandez c’est que le catholique
       Qui toujours si bien vous traita
expire sur la croix, ô secte fanatique
       Comme son christ au golgotha.  (vv.61-64)

The conflict is fueled by the antagonistic nature of the two races which the poet contrasts figuratively. Riel and his people are similar to the noble lion who, although formidable, acts righteously and mercifully. A contrasting simile likens English Canada to the insatiable tiger who instills terror throughout the land:

Nous sommes le lion clément mais redoutable
       Dans sa juste et noble fureur
Vous êtes sachez-le, le tigre insatiable
       Qui veut régner par la terreur.  (vv.73-76)

In the last two stanzas, Riel throws down the glove. He and his fearless Métis followers will hold their ground against the fanatical elements that oppose them.  If the “Anglais” are the more numerous, they are certainly the more worthy.  They will defend themselves nobly against the “inhuman schemes” of the others:

Mais nous ne craignons rien!  Nous rions aux entraves
      Qu’on forge ici comme là-bas.
Si vous êtes nombreux, nous sommes les plus braves.
       Nous combattons les bons combats.

De votre fanatisme, allez, vaillants apôtres
       Répandre ailleurs les noirs venins.
J’arrache votre masque, et je défends les nôtres
       Contre vos projets inhumains.  (vv.77-84)

2. “L’ontario. . .”9

     In the second poem of the corpus, Riel attacks Ottawa, capital of the new Confederation and seat of the government that he and the Métis have learned to mistrust so intensely.  Speaking collectively, he states: “Le canada / . . . avait tâché de nous détruire” (vv.22-23).  Then, on a personal note, he alleges:   “Cette ville damnée / Veut mon trépas” (vv.100-101).  Why would Ottawa do this to him?:

       Moi qui soutiens
La justice et l’honneur. . . . (vv.52-53)

In his dealings with the country, he maintains, he has always acted honourably:  “Je n’ai traité / Avec le canada que selon la droiture” (vv.92-93).   And how has the government dealt with him?  It has, contends Riel, behaved miserably; it has treated his “Christian” rights like dirt:

       Mes droits chrétiens
Le monde d’ottawa les a mis dans la boue.  (vv.50-51 )

Submission to these confederate “puniques” (v.49), as the poet calls them, is not possible. With celestial guided either in jail or out, he will continue his fight in order to bring an end to this miscarriage of justice:

       Par le christ en qui je vis,
       Il faut que l’erreur échoue.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Que libre ou prisonnier j’annonce ma victoire.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
On ne fera jamais capituler ma gloire.  (vv.55-56,58,60)

3. “Fourbe et menteur. . .”10

     English Canadians are not the only targets of Riel’s wrath. Some of his own people (Métis or French Canadians) are often subjected to outbursts of poetic diatribe. One such individual is George Etienne Cartier (1814-73) who led French Canada into Confederation. At one time, Riel admired him greatly.   In 1865 and 1866, in fact, the young poet wrote three letters in verse to Cartier in which he praises the virtues of the politician.11  A number of years later, however, this youthful admiration long since faded, Cartier is now considered a traitor and has, by his treachery, inflicted much suffering on Riel:

       Fourbe et menteur
Sir George Etienne, avec sa politique anglaise,
       Et sa hauteur
M’a trahi! Son coeur noir m’a fait souffrir, à l’aise.
       Malgré la foi d’un traité,
       Il a tonjours empiété
       Sur mes droits. Cartier me pèse! . . . . (vv.1-7)

Cheat,” “liar,” “betrayer,” words generally reserved by the poet as descriptors for English Canada can, then, be equally applied to people of his own race who have gone astray.  In opposition to the defects of Cartier, the poet implies that honesty is, for him, an important personal criterion:

       Je désirais
Elire, pour m’aider, des députés honnêtes. . . . (vv.22-23)

The unequivocal Riel has no difficulty reaching his ultimate verdict:  Cartier is guilty of breach of faith.  As right-hand man to John A. Macdonald, and therefore well-placed to remedy many ills, he has paid only lip-service to Riel’s cause:

A su me parler ferme: il a gagné mon vote.
       Et le voleur!
En chambre pour moi, c’est à peine s’il chuchote.
       Quand il réclame mon dû,
       Il a l’air d’un chien pendu
       Qui veut crier et qui gigotte (vv.29-35)

4. “Nous t’avions pris. . .”12

     Another one-time friend and compatriot to come under fire is Joseph Dubuc (1840-1914) who was, for a short while in 1874, Attorney General of Manitoba.  In the third poem, Riel accuses Dubuc of siding with the enemy and neglecting the well-being of the Métis. In his capacity as Attorney General, argues the poet, Dubuc could be doing more.  Instead, he has chosen to let the Metis die:

       Tu nous as fuis
En nous quittant au fond du puits.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Premier gardien de la justice,
       Tu t’empalais
En suivant le régime anglais.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Les métis trahis sont mourants.
Tu sers leurs odieux tyrans.  (w.29-30,70-72,92-93)

We thought that you were one of us, that you would defend our rights in the legislature,” says an indignant Riel, implying that his own action would have been just that were he in Dubuc’s place:

Nous t’avions pris pour notre membre.
Nous croyions tous que tu serais
Homme à chercher des succès vrais;
Et que tu défendrais en chambre
       Le droit des gens. . . . (vv.1-5)

However, because of his cowardice, Dubuc has only shown contempt (“Que ta conduite est effrontée!”, v.91) for Riel and his people.  Imitating Dubuc, the poet says mockingly:

       “Je fais pour eux”
“Ce que feraient d’autres peureux.”  (vv.95-96)

The remedy for the transgression is simple:  the “Procureur général factice” (v.67) should resign:

. . . résigne ta place
       Va-t-en Dubuc.
Nous chercherons un autre Duc. (vv.88-90)

Then, to reinforce his demands, the poet makes reference to divine justice which oversees all worldly acts, and which will act as the ultimate censor of Dubuc’s wrong doings:

Sais-tu que le christ est sévère?
Il est le roi des nations.
Il a pesé tes actions . . .
Sa main broyera comme du verre
       Les gouverneurs
Du mal, et les faux raisonneurs. (vv.103-108)

5. “Sir John A. MacDonald. . .”13

     The poem addressed to Sir John A. Macdonald is Riel’s longest poetic work.  It was composed in 1879 when Riel was in exile in the United States.  From the draft versions of the poem which remain today,14  it is obvious that a good deal of time was spent in its creation.

     The poem is structured on two levels. The first level is personal and is a scathing indictment of Macdonald whom Riel considered a mortal enemy, and the man personally responsible for most of his suffering.  Macdonald’s government had promised amnesty to the insurgents involved in the Red River Uprising of 1870.  The Prime Minister had however reneged on his promise to Riel:

Sir John A. MacDonald gouverne avec orgueil
       Les provinces de la Puissance
Et sa mauvaise foi vent prolonger mon deuil
Afin que son pays l’applaudisse et l’encense.

       Au lieu de la paix qu’il me doit;
Au lieu de respecter d’une manière exacte
       Notre Pacte
       Et mon droit,
Depuis bientôt dix ans, Sir John me fait la guerre.  (vv.l-9)

Macdonald is arrogant and insincere, according to the poet, a man definitely not to be trusted:  “Un homme sans parole est un homme vulgaire” (v.10).  Moreover, he is a “traître” (v.37), a “scélèrat” (v.45) who has sucked Riel’s lifeblood (“vous m’avez mangé comme un vampire”, v.170) by banishing him from his homeland:  “C’est à vous”, declares the poet angrily, “que j’en veux pour ma proscription” (v.184)

     The conflict is intensified by the fundamental differences between the two men and by their opposing methods of operation:  “Vos moyens d’action, John, ne vent pas les miens” (v.179).  Riel declares himself “equitable” (v.128) and righteous:

. . . moi je souhaite et veux
Conduire en m’appuyant sur les bonns idées.  (vv.131-132)

He will never give in to Macdonald’s oppressive acts.  He will, if necessary, fight to the death, because he knows that he is in the right and is fortified by his unbounded devotion to his cause:

Le Bon Dieu m’a donné du coeur et de la taille.
Et je ne mourrai pas sans vous livrer bataille
       La bataille du bon sens
       Et celle du droit des gens.
Ce qui me rend fort, c’est un dévouement sans borne.  (vv.347-351)

     The second level of the poem is structured around the collective struggle of the French Canadians and the Métis.  Both groups have suffered for too long under the “English” yoke, affirms Riel.  It is understandable that they should bear ill will against the people who have governed them so scornfully:

Les enfants dispersés de la Nouvelle-France
Ont, sous le joug anglais, trop connu la souffrance
Pour ne pas en vouloir au peuple décrépit
Qui les a gouvernés avec tent de dépit.  (vv.458-461)

Moreover, English Canada has tried to assimilate them:

Et nous savons qu’il veut par d’infâmes leçons
Et par tous les moyens nous rendre anglo-saxons.  (vv.294-29)

Even worse, it has undertaken their annihilation:

O Dieu Puissant!  Daignez protéger les Métis
Que déjà les Anglais ont presqu’anéantis.  (vv.144-145)

     The English Canadian “n’est ni droit ni généreux” (v.249); he is also “égoiste” (v.244), states the poet.  On the other hand, Riel’s people are praised as being “bon” (v.437) and “sincère” (v.466).  At the conclusion of the poem, a warning is sounded.  If the French Canadians and Métis are not treated equitably, they will separate from the rest of Canada:

Si vous ne voulez pas que notre fière race
       Se détache sitôt de vous:
Traitez-la comme il faut:  puisqu’elle est à sa place
Ne vous en montrez pas insensément jaloux.  (vv.478-481 )

6. “The Political voice of Choteau!”15

     No matter where he was, Riel seemed to have a penchant for getting himself into trouble.  During the time he was living in the United States, charges of illegal election practices were brought against him by the Demo cratic party.  It was alleged that Riel had encouraged certain half-breeds to vote for the Republican party, the half-breeds in question being unregistered voters.  In May, 1883, he was imprisoned for a short while in the county jail at Choteau, Montana; the charges were later dropped.  During his incarceration, he drafted “The Political voice of Choteau!,” the last poem to be examined here.

     Although written about another political situation, in another country, and in another language, the poem nevertheless exhibits the same semiotic structure as the others.  The three core semes are immediately identifiable.  There is the allegation that certain powerful and corrupt Democrats are trying to suppress the freedom of the half-breeds (note the play on the word “Choteau,” where reside the Democratic officials that Riel is attacking):

Your principal men, o Show-Tow,
Show and Tow in jail the Halfbreed,
As if, having lost the Negro,
Their rage had to have a new feed.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You come West and crush at all rates
In our Midst public liberty.  (vv.13-16,27-28)

Equally, the antithetical nature of the antagonists is evoked.  About himself, Riel says:

My views are solemn and up-right.
I respect all those who are good.
I cannot undertake to fight
Justice in favor of falsehood.  (vv.41-44)

On the contrary his opponents are “high ton’d and proud pharisees” (v.49) who are “deceitful” (v.65) and practise “perfid[i]ous politics” (v.63).   Riel emphasizes, if somewhat unpoetically:

Yes! the most important leaders
Of the conservative party
Are false, only smart in blunders.
Their good acts even are dirty.

The Benton Weekly Record, a newspaper which sported the Democrats, also comes under attack.  Riel’s criticism of the newspaper is displayed in the following pun-filled verses:

Do you hear the Bent-on-Wreck-Horde
Rattling in its columns sublime?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Their pen knives and their fine null edge
Match well their Ink-capacity.  (vv.101-102,105-106)

(Although Riel does not express himself as well in English, his clever sign manipulation, as demonstrated above, reveals that he had a fairly solid grasp of the language.)

     The ultimatum consists of a warning and a prediction.  Due to their shameful treatment of the half-breeds, the Democrats, predicts the poet, will lose the next election and be forever disgraced:

But, Show-Tow — you will be sorry
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . this new struggle of race
Will cost you the supremacy
In eighty-four; and throw disgrace
For ever on your policy.  (vv.87,93-96)

Since there is often a lack of verbal art in Riel’s poetry — some of the English verse being no more than doggerel, it would be impractical to study it uniquely for its esthetic function.  A more worthwhile contribution could be made from an analysis of the emotive function of the verse.  The semiotic summary of the six political poems, as shown in the schema, should hopefully help with such an analysis.  From the summary, the poet’s image of himself, and his attitude toward the referents may be determined.  It be comes obvious, at a glance, that a highly emotional state is encoded in the poetry.

     If we examine the semic paradigms and note the lexical alternatives used in the encoding process, we observe the emergence of certain patterns, patterns which did not perceptibly change during the many years in which these poems were composed.  The homologous nature of lexemes contained in the seme “Conflict” is particularly striking.  There, dogmatic amplification leads to a sharply defined polarization of values, a trait commonly found in messianic writings.   Riel and his long-suffering people are appraised as righteous, just, noble, etc., while the antagonists are adjudged — to list only a few of his derogatory descriptors — dishonest, corrupt and treacherous.  These elements of the poetic code are obviously impregnated with Riel’s particular experience, the sermonic overtones of the verse, for example, bearing the distinct traces of his religious upbringing, especially of the more than six years spent at the Sulpician seminary in Montreal.

     The reduction of the various poetic components to a single semic archetype summarizes a specific conceptual process.  This heuristic procedure externalizes the logic firmly established in the poet’s unconscious.  The continuous interplay of antithetical symbols, as shown on the schema, discloses a moral universe of contrasting stereotypes.  Everything for Riel is either black or white, good or evil.  This manichean concept of the world is linked in his mind with the themes of distributive and immanent justice.  There are the good, he and his people, victims of evil oppression, who will one day be rewarded for their sufferings; and the bad, his enemies, who will ultimately be punished for their sins.  The political poetry is thus merely the outward manifestation of his singular and unchanging “conscience némésiaque”.16

     Reality was distorted for Riel by his rigid dialectical reasoning.  He refused to accept ideological differences; he failed to recognize his own defects, but criticised others for theirs.  The distortion of self-image is especially apparent in “Crucifiez-le . . .”, a poem noteworthy for its prophetic qualities.  Riel paints himself as a long-suffering, persecuted outcast who is the saviour of his people. By means of biblical references, particularly his allusion to the crucifixion, the poet assumes Christ-like dimensions.  The iconic imprint left in the poetic fabric need not be surprising; it merely reinforces our impression of the man who often signed his writings:  “Louis ‘David’ Riel:   Prophet, Priest-King, Infallible pontiff”.

Semic Distribution in the Political Poetry of Louis Riel





1. “Crucifiez-le...

Enunciation of transgression against Riel and/or his people

Antithetical nature of antagonists

Definitive resolution and/or censure

Oppression of French Canadians.
Death of Riel sought.

Riel/Fr. Can.
merciful  noble
formidable  worthy

vs. Eng. Can insatiable

Fanaticism condemned.  Defence operative.

2. “L’Ontario...

Annihilation of Métis pursued.

just  righteous

vs.  Ottawa
violator of  rights

Miscarriage of justice must end.

3. “Fourbe et menteur...

Betrayal.  Infringement of rights.


vs. G.E. Cartier
cheat    liar
thief     sponger

Cartier castigated.

4. “Nous t’avions pris...

Dereliction of duty (= Métis dying).

defender of rights

vs.    J. Dubuc

Resignation demanded.  Divine punitive action inferred.

5. “Sir John A. MacDonald...”

(Personal Level)
Agreement not honoured (=bereavement).

equitable      righteous

vs.  J.A. MacDonald

Death struggle for rights to continue.

(Collective Level)
Survival of minority races threatened.
vs.  Eng Can
selfish  ignoble
Fight to continue.  Separation threatened.

6. “The political voice of Choteau!

Suppression of liberties.


vs.  Democratic Party

Election loss and disgrace predicted.


This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Canadian Semiotics Research Association Symposium, University of Western Ontaido, May 1978.  I am indebted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and to the Calgary Intitute for the Humanities for their support of the research presented in this article.  My thanks go also to Thomas Flanagan, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary, for his helpful comments.

  1. As far as is known, Riel never published any poetry himself His friend Eustache Prud’homme published four of his poems in LOpinion publique of February 19, 1870.   Three weeks after Riel had surrendered at Batoche, La Minerve, on June 5, 1885, printed three more of his poetic endeavours.  A few months after Riel’s execution, his family published another eight poems in a small booklet entitled Poesies Religieuses et Politiques (Montréal:  L’Etendard, 1886).

         From time to time, the occasional poem appears in print mostly in the form of extracts in learned articles.  The most recent major work devoted to the poetry may be found in G. Martel, G. Campbell and T. Flanagan’s Louis Riel:  Poésies de jeunesse (Saint-Boniface:   Les Editions du Blé, 1977), a critical edition containing some three dozen poems penned by young Riel when he was living in Montreal.[back]

  2. I am currently preparing for publication all of Riel’s poetry.  I am being assisted in this project by Louise Westra.[back]

  3. Riel dated only some of his works.  When no date appears, I have assigned one by relating details found in the poems with known historical and biographical data.[back]

  4. For a detailed account of Riel’s life the reader is referred to George F.G. Stanley’s authoritative biography Louis Riel (Toronto:  McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited, (latest edition)1972.)[back]

  5. A code is a linguistic tool consisting of lexical variants that actualize a structure.  Susan W. Tiefenbrun, “Mathurin Regnier’s Macette: a Semiotic Study in Satire,” Semiotica, 13, 1975, p. 136.[back]

  6. See in particular Eugene Dorfman, The Narreme in the Medieval Romance Epic (Toronto:   University of Toronto Press, 1969).  A related methodology may be seen in Claude Bremond, “La logique des possibles narratifs,” Communications, 8 (1966), 60-76.[back]

  7. See the discussion on the terms “micro” and “macro-contextual” in William O. Hendricks, Essays on Semiolinguistics and Verbal Art, (The Hague:  Mouton, 1973), p. 57.[back]

  8. Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Riel Family Papers (1966), MG3, D2, Box 3 “Poetry (Misc.)”, 84 vv.[back]

  9. Archives du Séminaire de Quebec, Louis Riel:  Ecrits de Beauport, pp. 1-5, 119 vv.  The poem is not dated, however lines 81-84 provide certain clues:

    Le cabinet de John néanmoins me répète
    Qu’il ne cobalt pas man nom.
    I1 me mandit sane ration.
    On a mis à prix ma tête.

    On March 9, 1872, the province of Ontario put up a reward of $5000 for the capture ofthose involved in the Scott affair.  On November 5, 1873, the government of John A. Macdonald resigned as a result of the Pacific Scandal.  The probable time of composition would therefore be between these two dates.  In the poem, note that some proper nouns are not capitalized, a curious habit of Riel’s.  (On the other hand, it must be noted that elsewhere Riel often capitalized certain common nouns.)[back]

  10. Archives du Séminaire de Québec, Louis Riel: Ecrits de Beauport, pp. 10-15, 168 vv.  The poem is dated May 13, 1877, as are several others in the same collection.  The date refers undoubtedly to the day on which Riel copied the poem into the notebook.  Since Riel speaks of G.E. Cartier in the present tense, the composition must have been prior to May 20, 1873, the date of Cartier’s death.[back]

  11. See Poésies de jeunesse, op. cit., pp. 149-156.[back]

  12. Archives du Séminaire de Québec, Louis Riel:  Ecrits de Beauport, pp. 16-20, 126 vv.  Like the preceding composition, this poem is also dated May 13, 1877.   It must have been written before then, however, since Riel, using the present tense, addresses Joseph Dubuc as Attorney General, a title borne by the latter only for several months in 1874.[back]

  13. Public Archives of Canada, Papers of Louis Riel, MG27, IF3, vol. 2, No. 42, 481 vv.  The poem, untitled, does not carry a date.  The version printed in Poésies Religieuses et Politiques, op. cit., pp. 37-51, has the title “A Sir John A. MacDonald” and is dated “Saint Joseph, Dakota, Août 1879.”  There are a number of substantival variants between the manuscript and printed versions of the poem.   Note also Riel’s spelling of the Prime Minister’s name:   “MacDonald”.[back]

  14. See Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Riel Family Papers (1966), MG3, D2, Box 3 “Poetry (Misc.)”.[back]

  15. Public Archives of Canada, Department of Justice Records, Microfilm C-1229, pp. 2167, 2177, 2179, 2187, 2191, 2365 (F, G, H, I, J, K, L, N), 192 vv.[back]

  16. The “conscience némésiaque” of Riel has been discussed at greater length in Poésies de jeunesse, op. cit., pp. 36-38.[back]