The government of Upper Canada was run by wealthy landowners known as the Family Compact. The British had set up the colonial government hoping to inspire the former American colonies to abandon their democratic form of government, but instead American democracy spread to Canada as well, leaving many dissatisfied with the Family Compact. William Lyon Mackenzie was one of the more radical reformers in Upper Canada; most reformers, such as Robert Baldwin, did not agree with Mackenzie's calls for republican government.
When the Patriotes Rebellion broke out in the fall of 1837, Sir Francis Bond Head sent the British troops stationed in Toronto to help suppress it. With the regular troops gone William Lyon Mackenzie and his followers seized an armoury in Toronto, and organized an armed march down Yonge Street[?], beginning at Montgomery's Tavern[?] on December 4, 1837.
On December 7, Colonel Moodie attempted to ride through a roadblock to warn Sir Francis Bond Head, governor of Upper Canada, but the rebels panicked and killed him. Mackenzie waited for Bond Head's force of about 1000 men, led by Colonel James Fitzgibbon[?], which outnumbered Mackenzie's approximately 400 rebels and inflicted heavy casualties upon them. In less than half an hour the confrontation was over.
Meanwhile, a group of rebels from London, led by Charles Duncombe, marched toward Toronto to support Mackenzie. Colonel Allan MacNab[?] met them near Hamilton, Ontario on December 13, and the rebels fled.
Mackenzie, Duncombe, and John Rolph[?] fled to the United States, where they continued to attack across the Niagara River (see Caroline Affair). The other major leaders, Anthony van Egmond[?], Samuel Lount[?], and Peter Matthews[?] were arrested; van Egmond died in prison, and Lount and Matthews were executed in 1838.
Compared to the Patriotes Rebellion, the Upper Canada Rebellion was short, disorganized, and almost inconsequential. However, Britain could not ignore the rebellion in light of the more serious crisis in Lower Canada. Bond Head was recalled and replaced with Lord Durham, who was assigned to report on the grievances among the colonists and find a way to appease them. His report eventually led to greater autonomy in the Canadian colonies, and the union of Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada in 1840.
See also: Patriot War