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Louis Riel - Thomas Scott

On January 9, 1870, 12 prisoners including Charles Mair and Thomas Scott escaped from the Fort. On January 23, John Schultz managed to escape as well. On February 12, Riel freed the other prisoners on the condition that they not interfere with the politics in the Settlement. This initiative cooled the ardour of many, but the "Canadian" party continued its march on Fort Garry.

On February 18, Major Charles Boulton and his men, passing near the Fort, were arrested by Riel's men, 48 were captured, including Thomas Scott. Major Boulton was tried and sentenced to death, but the sentence was never carried out. After causing problems and attempting to escape, Thomas Scott was summoned to appear before a Métis court martial formed in accordance with the custom of the buffalo hunt and presided over by Ambroise Lépine, Louis Riel's lieutenant. The seven members of the court found him guilty of defying the authority of the Provisional Government, of fighting with the guards and insulting the President.

He was sentenced to death by a vote of five to two and the next day, March 4, 1870, he was executed by a firing squad. Although pressure was brought to bear on Riel to prevent the execution, he refused to be swayed. We can only wonder what motives prompted Riel to allow Scott's execution.

Was it an act of vengeance against Scott or fear of losing the respect of the Métis? Scott was an Orangeman who was fiercely anti-Catholic and Riel perhaps believed he would make an example of him. Whatever the real motive, this action excited much controversy. It forced Riel into exile and shook even his most ardent supporters.


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