Thomas Scott (Orangeman)

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Thomas Scott

Thomas Scott (c. 1842 – 4 March 1870) was an Irish-born Canadian whose 1870 execution by the provisional government of the Red River Settlement led to the Wolseley Expedition to quell the Red River Rebellion.


Thomas Scott was born in the Clandeboye area of County Down, in what is now Northern Ireland. He was an immigrant to Ontario.[1]

Employed by the Canadian government as a surveyor during the Red River Rebellion, Scott was arrested and imprisoned in Upper Fort Garry by Louis Riel and his men while trying to attack the fort along with 34 other volunteers. Unique amongst this group of prisoners, Scott was an extraordinarily difficult, opinionated and verbally abusive individualist who refused to acknowledge his captors' legal authority. Summarily executed for committing insubordination following a trial.

Riel was now seeking to obtain as many personal supporters among the English-speaking community as he could, and it was with that view he sent Dan Shea to solicit the suffrages of the prisoners resident at Portage La Prairie. It was this effort on Riel's part that caused Scott to warn the prisoners not to vote for him, and which, consequently, enraged Riel against him. Later on, Scott asked leave to go outside, and was refused by the guards, which led to an altercation. Riel and O'Donogue visited the prison once or twice that afternoon and evening, and used violent language towards Scott. A court-martial was convened to try Scott, composed of Lepine, as president and some of the guards as members, upon whom Riel no doubt wished, with mock show of legality, to throw the responsibility of taking Scott's life. Feeling anxious about what was going on, I asked the guard's permission to go into Scott's room to see him, and questioned him as to what had taken place. I found that similar questions had been put to him as had been put to me, and the same mode of passing sentence had been passed upon him as was passed upon me. I told Scott to be very careful what he said, as, I felt sure that Riel meant mischief and would take his life if he could. I also told him that my life had been spared only in consequence of the exertions that had been made on my behalf. He had sent for the Rev. Mr. Young to come and see him, who arrived some time during the night. Riel had got the opportunity he now wanted, which was to commit his people to an act of violence. Heretofore, there had been no violence or resistance to his wrong doings, but Scott, he thought, had now given sufficient provocation for him to work upon his guards. He represented to his people that Scott was a dangerous man, and if he ever got at large he would take his revenge. So he worked up their feelings to the pitch he desired; at least that is the idea we formed at the time. Riel came in to my room about 11 o'clock on the morning of Scott's death. I spoke to him and said, "Don't you think you are doing a most imprudent act for your own safety in shooting Scott; don't you know enough about history to realize that England has never yet left the most remote region unpenetrated, to punish those who take the life of a British subject?" The only answer I got was, "I did not come here to talk to you about that," and he made some passing remark and went away...

Charles Boulton, Memoirs of the North West Rebellions


Boulton supports Métis leader John Bruce's claim that only two bullets from the firing squad actually hit Scott, wounding him once in the left shoulder, and once in the upper chest. A man came forward and discharged his pistol close to Scott's head, but the bullet only penetrated the upper part of the left cheek and came out somewhere near the cartilage of the nose. Still not dead, Scott was placed in a kind of coffin, from which he was later reported to cry:

"For God's sake take me out of here or kill me."

which he was denied, and lived on to die slowly in his coffin.

An artist's depiction of the execution of Scott

Though relatively unknown during his lifetime, once news of his death made it to Ontario he was regarded as a martyr by the predominantly English-speaking, Protestant population. Upon learning about Scott's death, the Canadian government dispatched the Wolseley Expedition to Fort Garry from Ontario to seize the fort and force Louis Riel, now branded a murderer, to flee the settlement.

Shortly thereafter the Manitoba Act was passed the creation of the Canadian province of Manitoba occurred.


Thomas Scott was a member of the Presbyterian Church and the 49th Hastings Battalion of Rifles. He also belonged to the Loyal Orange Lodge as was common amongst male Protestants of the day. The Thomas Scott Memorial Orange Hall (erected 1902) on Princess Street, Winnipeg, was named to commemorate him.


  1. ^ "The Murder of Thomas Scott". OrangeNet. 1999. Retrieved 2007-08-19. 

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