Building the Canadian Identity in Amherstburg



(Editor’s Note: This is the fourteenth in a series of articles regarding the Belle Vue house and its history. Historian/genealogist Debra Honor is a member of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)


By Debra Honor UE, PLCGS


There was a corps of influential people, who strove to create a Canadian identity in Upper Canada vs. the strong American identity across the river. An example was the American political elections of the 1830’s.

Some of those who were running for office in 1836 and 1840 had fought in the War of 1812.

Richard M. Johnson, in 1836 ran for Vice President with President Martin Van Buren. Johnson was at the Battle of the Thames in which Johnson was given credit for killing Tecumseh. His campaign slogan was “Rumseh, dumseh, Johnson killed Tecumseh.” Van Buren and Johnson won the election for the Democratic party.

In 1840, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler ran for the Republican party using the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” In 1811, six months before the War of 1812, William Harrison had gone to Tippecanoe to confront Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet. Tecumseh was not present, but Harrison’s troops destroyed Prophetstown. It was considered a great American victory. In 1813, Harrison also commanded the American troops at the Battle of the Thames where Tecumseh was killed.

Robert Reynolds

How did this American hatred of Tecumseh compare with the Canadians in Upper Canada? Many of the men in the area had known and fought beside Tecumseh. They knew his great bravery and thought he should be honoured and commemorated.

In the Western Herald newspaper of June 17, 1841, many prominent men proposed to erect a monument to show their respect for Tecumseh. A monument had been erected to commemorate Isaac Brock. So, a memorial should also be made to the great warrior, Tecumseh.

Rev. Cheyne and George Bullock resolved: “That although this may be the first instance of a civilized people erecting a monument to an untutored Indian, yet the sterling worth and noble conduct of that brave warrior, who sacrificed his life in defence of our country, entitles his memory to our lasting gratitude.”

A committee was formed to collect subscriptions to pay for the monument which included: Hon. James Gordon, Francis Caldwell, Robert Reynolds, J.P., William Duff, J.P., Col. Matthew Elliott, J.P., Col. Wm. Ambridge, J.P., Charles Fortier, J.P., James Dougall, J.P., William Anderton, J.P., Lewis J. Gordon, J.P., George Ironside, Major Rudyard, Andrew Kemp, George Bullock and others.

So, while the Americans demonized Tecumseh, the Canadians of Amherstburg celebrated his greatness by planning the first monument to a First Nations leader, Tecumseh.

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