The United States of America, a nation born out of a nasty revolution against alleged British tyranny in 1776, still struggles with the frontier pride developed during that transitional period of its history.
The constitution of the new nation was written and attested to by the founding fathers in the best way of the times to protect the individual rights of the people, considering their rocky beginning.
Thankful that the vast majority of British regular army was withdrawn from the colonies to fight an exhausting war with France, the unregulated militia hastily raised and seized the opportunity to engage the British garrisons and drive them out of the country.
The rebel force following the war still bore the assumed right to bear arms, which at that time were the simplest of weapons, namely muskets that fired a 75-calibre ball in a smooth-bore barrel. The weapons were of simple design and with any luck might come near a target, provided it was no more than 50 yards in the distance.
In 1787, the constitution of the USA assented to the right to keep and bear arms (muskets). It was required by law that all male members of the population keep and maintain a musket, powder and ball in the event they were required to muster in defence of the country again.
In those dangerous years, 1787 to 1812, threats and probes were being made against and into Canada West (Ontario) by hostile forces of the USA that assumed incorrectly that they could take Canada from the Crown in a blink.
At the signing of the second amendment of the constitution in the States regarding arms, Canada also had a plan or two to offset any American incursion into our land.
General Brock of the 49th of Foot, stationed at Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake) was ordered to raise a militia force from amongst the Canadian farmers and settlers to augment his small garrison left to defend the Niagara border.
By decree, it was ordered that every male family member age 16 to 60 be in possession of a workable musket, powder and ball and attend training parades as “sedentary militia.”
During the war of 1812-15, the Canadian militia, as rag tag and ill-equipped as it was, performed bravely under Brock’s command, and after intense training some become his “flank companies.”
By the 1850s, the old sedentary or conscripted militia was disbanded and the first volunteer uniformed militia raised. Our own city regiment is the product of the sedentary militia known then as the 5th Regiment of West Lincoln Militia (Barton Township), older still than the 2nd York Militia, wrongly chosen to perpetuate the RHLI. Following the 1812-15 war, Canadians still kept their guns with no official “right to bear arms.”
Instead we have enjoyed the privilege to own and use arms.
Our superior militia force is well regulated now and we needn’t mount an AR15 over the mantle, as many would do in the States. We can still go freely to a gun shop and purchase arms for target shooting, hunting and collecting freely. God bless Canada!
Mountain historian Colwyn Beynon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.