"We Have Asked for Bread, and You Gave us a Stone" Western Farmers and the Siege of Ottawa
Elliott, Nathan Sinclair
"We Have Asked For Bread and You Gave Us a Stone" examines the "Siege of Ottawa," a monumental meeting that took place on December 16, 1910 between roughly 800 organized farmers representing the Canadian Council of Agriculture, and Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, his cabinet, and the rest of government. The "Siege" has not been given its due attention. A handful of academic works have looked at the "Siege," but only superficially. Most of these works have provided only a general description of the delegation's demands once they arrived in Ottawa. As a result, many details of the "Siege" were not investigated. This thesis represents the first major academic study of the "Siege," a pivotal event in Canadian political, economic, agricultural and social history. The thesis focuses specifically on the events surrounding the "Siege," including the motivations, experiences and impact of 500 farmers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba who made up what was referred to at the time as the greatest delegation that ever waited on government. Particular attention is devoted to examining western farmers' motivations for going to Ottawa, the on-board business meetings that took place on the train from Winnipeg to Ottawa, the delegates' arrival in the nation's capital and the proceedings that took place in the House of Commons. Laurier's response to the farmers' memorials and the farmers' reaction to the prime minister's reply are also analyzed. The contemporary significance of the "Siege," along with the democratic principles embedded within it are also examined. Rural protest and populism are still defining characteristics of western Canada today. Farmers are an important group in Canada; we owe it to them to more clearly understand one of the first significant events in their history.