The Queen v Louis Riel
Published: December 1974© 1974
420 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 x 1.00 in
In that age litigation was a prime public spectacle and the trial of Louis Riel in 1885 was followed intently across the country. The crowded, stuffy courtroom in Regina was the stage for the most dramatic and perhaps the most important state trial in Canadian history.
Riel had decided never to return to the dreary, hopeless life of an exile. Guided by his own private vision of reality, he tried to carry his revolutionary struggle from the field into a new arena, because he was not a man of action but a man of words. He went to his enemies to demand the great public trail which he had never received – a trial that was the deliberately chosen climax of his political life and an opportunity to vindicate himself. Much of the drama of the courtroom was created by his struggles with his own lawyers to be able to present his own case. In the background were the almost insoluble dilemmas created by a conflict of cultures.
In his introduction, Desmond Morton has sought to banish many of the myths which surround both Riel and the trial, doing justice to Macdonald and the government as well as to the prisoner of Regina. In the process, he has restated the issues of the trail in the terms understood by his contemporaries.