What is a hero? The hockey player or baseball player that makes ‘the play’ that wins the big game? Really? Someone who makes millions of dollars to play a game, that means nothing in the grand scheme of life? How about a movie star? Oops! Same problems there.
Who exactly should you and your children be holding up as a hero? It needs to be someone they can strive to emulate as they grow up. A hero, by definition, is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Today, many can’t define noble, so for you: It is someone having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity or honour. Well, those definitions eliminate most people put on a pedestal today.
My father was my first hero. A man, dying of a disease, who forced himself to go to work to support his family, even though they would sometimes send him home in an ambulance.
Who are some of Canada’s heroes? Perhaps, explorers like Jacque Cartier, who discovered Canada or the coureur de bois? Our first settlers? In my mind one of Canada’s most important heroes was Major General Isaac Brock, a man who truly held the fate of Canada in his hands.
This was a man who didn’t want to even be in Canada. He was a British army officer who wanted to be back where the action was, in Europe fighting against Napoleon Bonaparte. Instead, he was stuck in this backwater colony in 1802. Although granted leave to go home to England, he was never able to get his transfer. In Canada, men were deserting and rumours of war with the United States were rampant but few people besides Brock were listening. Brock had purchased his commission with a loan from his brother. Slowly his career advanced and by 1807 he was a brigadier general. In 1810 he commanded of all forces in Upper Canada. In June 1811 he was promoted to major general and was both the military and civil authority. He sent all of his civil salary back to his brother, who was in financial difficulties, to begin discharging his debt.
Isaac could tell war was in the wind, and although he did manage to do instigate some preparatory defense measures, the British government did not want to have yet another enemy and front to defend, they were too busy fighting in Europe and the high seas.
So, here we have a man doing his job, being held back by the powers that be, not yet a hero. He felt the legislature and officials exuded defeatism and disinterest, while most of the people felt that we would inevitably surrender, so why bother to do your job well, or join the militia? Most of the people had lost all confidence, but, as Brock wrote to the Adjutant General, “I however, speak loud and look big.”
If he had continued on as his superiors dictated, we would now be part of the United States of America. In as much as a man is told not to enter a burning building to rescue his child, it is too dangerous, Brock was told to defend our borders but not to cross them to attack.
What Brock had feared came to pass. War was declared on July 12, 1812. A mere three months later, Isaac Brock was killed at the battle of Queenston Heights. Those three months saw a man who braved the fire of bullets, outwitted the enemy, made lasting friendships with the natives, and inspired a population made of former U.S. citizens and farmers, to fight for their new lands, in their new country, Canada.
How he did it, is not my story to tell. Come, learn about The Life & Times of Isaac Brock, this marvelous man who saved us from being U.S. citizens today. Tillsonburg’s Stephen Bourne is giving a presentation on our hero, Oct. 27, 7 p.m. at the Tillsonburg Library. Stephen also enjoys doing reading of Charles Dickens' books near Christmas and has given previous presentations on King Richard III and other former celebrities. He is also a re-enactor in the War of 1812 (only a private, mind you) and is very knowledgeable on the war as a whole and Isaac Brock in particular. In addition to the presentation, Stephen will have some reproduction equipment and accouterments that would have been typical of a senior British officer of the day.
If you are interested in attending please call the Tillsonburg Library at 519-842-5571 and sign up, it is free.