Archives of Manitoba
Sessional Journal of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia
The Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia sat from March 9, 1870 to June 24, 1870 with Louis Riel as its president and a council with councillors representing the French and English communities equally.
The Legislative Assembly met to consider matters of governance for the region known as Assiniboia. This region encompassed roughly the area which would soon become the ‘postage-stamp’ province of Manitoba. The meetings were held at Upper Fort Garry.
The Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia concluded with the passing of the Manitoba Act and the entry of Manitoba as a province into Confederation.
One of the key documents held at the Archives of Manitoba which relates to the 1870 Legislative Assembly is the “Sessional Journal of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia” (AM, Red River Disturbance collection MG3 A1-15). The journal contains a record of the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, from the first meeting of the First Session on March 9, 1870 until the last meeting of the Third Session on June 24, 1870.
The Sessional Journal begins with the session held on March 23, 1870; the date on which William Coldwell was appointed Clerk of the Assembly. Earlier sessions were entered on pages 11 through 15 of the journal, following the entry for March 26 and the listing of the bills passed in the First Session. The earlier sessions are documented largely through clippings, from “The New Nation”, which were glued into the journal.
The way in which the journal was kept leaves some questions as to its creation:
- When was the journal written? Was it written at the time of the sitting, beginning with the March 23 session? Was it written at some point after the existence of the Assembly?
- Who wrote the journal? The journal is not signed or inscribed in any way to identify its author. Was it William Coldwell, clerk of the Assembly and whose wife’s descendants sold the journal to the Library?
How did the journal come to the Archives of Manitoba?
The Archives of Manitoba holds records documenting the Red River Settlement, the Red River Resistance and the establishment of the province of Manitoba. These records have come to the Archives from various individuals and from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Records from private citizens take different routes to come to the Archives and often pass through many hands before being offered to an archival institution. Information about the records may be incomplete.
This journal was purchased by the Legislative Library, then also responsible for archival records, in 1939, along with copies of the newspaper “The New Nation”. The journal was purchased for $40 from Mr. E. R. James of Rosser, Manitoba. The purchase of the journal, along with the newspapers, was noted in the annual report of the Legislative Library for 1939. At that time, the journal was noted as having been ‘kept by William Coldwell’.
William Coldwell came from London, England to Toronto in 1854 and then to the Red River Settlement in 1859. Coldwell was the publisher of the first newspaper in the settlement, “The Nor-Wester”. He was married to Jemima Ross, daughter of Alexander Ross and subsequently to Jemima Mackenzie Ross, widow of William Ross.
Coldwell and his second wife lived in Ross House at the end of Market Street, overlooking the Red River in Winnipeg. On March 23, 1870, Coldwell was named clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia.
William Coldwell eventually moved to Victoria, BC and died there in 1907. His wife, Jemima McKenzie Ross, moved back to Manitoba to live with her daughter’s family in Rosser, Manitoba. In 1912, she passed away at the home of her grandson, Edward Ross James. His son, E. Renouard James, is presumably the E.R. James from whom the Legislative Library bought the journal.
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