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Rebellion hero joins Twitter, 180 years later

Craig Forcese, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, has resurrected Upper Canada Rebellion hero Andrew Drew on social media to remind people of his important military legacy.

University of Ottawa professor resurrecting Cmdr. Andrew Drew on social media to share important legacy

The Destruction of The Caroline, a painting by George Tattersall, depicts the ship about to go over Niagara Falls. (Wikimedia Commons)

When you hear the name Andrew Drew, perhaps it faintly rings a bell from a high school history class long ago and far away. 

Drew was hailed as a hero during the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837, which flared up exactly 180 years ago this month when William Lyon Mackenzie tried to overthrow the government of the day.

Though Drew's exploits took place nearly two centuries ago, he now has his very own Twitter account. 

Craig Forcese, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, has resurrected Drew on social media to remind people of his legacy.

Burned American ship

Drew led a force that crossed the U.S. border and burned an American ship called The Caroline on Dec. 29, 1837. They sent the wreckage over Niagara Falls, claiming self-defence because The Caroline was on its way to invade Upper Canada. 

It's the most important event that happened in the territory of Canada in terms of shaping international law.- Craig Forcese, U of O law professor

The ship burning led to a political standoff between the U.S. and England — stopping just short of all-out war. 

"That set out the parameters of self-defence in international law," Forcese told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Monday. 

"It's the most important event that happened in the territory of Canada in terms of shaping international law."

The incident has shaped the way nations claim self-defence in war today, Forcese explained, adding the example of The Caroline has been used in Europe and North America to debate military responses from the Second World War to North Korea and the rise of ISIS.

"Leading scholars and lawyers invoke 'The Caroline concept,'" he said.

But not all nations have used it appropriately. Forcese said the concept was used to justify the Iraq War in 2003, but it shouldn't have been. 

Drew fades into history

So, what happened to Drew after he burned the ship? 

He wasn't granted his expected promotion, he survived three assassination attempts, moved back to England and died penniless. 

Forcese has also written a book about the adventures of Commander Drew, which launches in January.

The Twitter account has been filling up with historical facts from each day of action during the rebellion.

His Twitter impersonation of the soldier will continue until Dec. 29, the anniversary of The Caroline's destruction. 

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning