Photo by W. Notman | Courtesy of Billingsley and Ward families
SCHULTZ, Sir JOHN CHRISTIAN, physician, businessman, politician, and office holder; b. 1 Jan. 1840 in Amherstburg, Upper Canada, son of William Ludwig Schultz of Bergen, Norway, and Elizabeth Reily of Bandon (Republic of Ireland), widow of Henry McKenney; m. 11 Sept. 1867 Agnes Campbell Farquharson; d. 13 April 1896 in Monterrey, Mexico.
John Christian Schultz’s father, described by his descendants as “able, well-educated, and a candidate for the Lutheran ministry,” left his wife and children in Amherstburg in 1846 and returned many years later. Money was scarce at home, so as a youth Schultz worked in a country store and later on a lake vessel in order to pay for his education. He studied medicine at Queen’s College, Kingston, from 1858 to 1860, and at Victoria College, Cobourg, during 1860–61, but did not receive a medical degree from either institution. Unless he purchased a degree, as it was legal to do at the time, there is no evidence that he was an md and much to suggest that he was not. Nevertheless, shortly after taking up residence in the Red River settlement (Man.) in June 1861, he advertised as a “Physician and Surgeon.”
Schultz had first travelled to the Red River settlement in 1860 to visit Henry McKenney*, the younger of his mother’s two sons by her first marriage, but he returned east that year to resume his studies. When he moved to the northwest the following year, it was to assist McKenney in managing the Royal Hotel, the first hotel near the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. He continued to practise medicine, offering in 1866 free medical services to those too poor to pay, but more and more he turned to business activities. He began to speculate in real estate and by the late 1860s owned a number of buildings on Main Street, including a pharmacy, general store, warehouse, and dwelling. Schultz had also become a junior partner in McKenney and Company, a firm engaged in the retail trade and dealing in furs. After it was dissolved in 1864 lengthy and bitter lawsuits ensued between Schultz and his half-brother. McKenney and Company’s agent in London, England, secured a court judgement against the firm. When McKenney, the sheriff of Assiniboia, attempted to have some of Schultz’s goods seized in payment for his share of the debts, Schultz resisted and on 17 Jan. 1868 was committed to prison. The following morning about 15 persons, including his wife, forcibly entered the jail and released him. This defiance of the law was one of the final blows to the authority of the Council of Assiniboia, which was powerless to re-arrest him.
In March 1864 Schultz had become part-owner of the Nor’Wester, in partnership with William Coldwell, its founder. In July 1865 he became sole proprietor of the paper, which soon developed into an even more bitter opponent of the Hudson’s Bay Company than it had been under Coldwell and James Ross*. The only newspaper in the colony, the Nor’Wester gave easterners a one-sided and misleading view of the alleged dissatisfaction of the inhabitants with HBC rule. Nor did this change when Schultz sold the paper to a business associate, Walter Robert Bown*, in July 1868.
Although critical of some of the settlement’s established institutions, Schultz contributed much to the development of new ones. He helped to organize the Institute of Rupert’s Land in March 1862 and to found its museum. He served as the institute’s first secretary and read papers at its early meetings. In 1863, on one of his many trips east, he gave a paper on the flora of the Red River region before the Botanical Society of Canada, in Kingston. He was initiated into freemasonry at St Paul, Minn., and in 1864 organized the first lodge in Manitoba, of which he became the first master.
Father Georges Dugas, who lived in the settlement at this time, later described Schultz as a man of fine manners who spoke French fluently; he also noted that the French-speaking population did not view Schultz unfavourably. Although Schultz was not a Roman Catholic, his wife was, and they were married according to Catholic rite in St Boniface. By the close of the 1860s, however, Schultz was distrusted and disliked by the older settlers, both English- and French-speaking. Many regarded his business practices as not merely shrewd, but unscrupulous and ruthless. His abusive attacks on HBC rule and his defiance of the courts and the council had contributed to a climate of lawlessness and uncertainty. In addition, he had become the recognized leader of the small but noisy Canadian party, which loudly demanded annexation of the Red River colony to Canada. Although the Canadian party never represented more than a handful of the colony’s settlers, it gained power as English-Canadian immigrants began arriving in the spring of 1869. Schultz’s contact with the Canada First movement [see William Alexander Foster*] no doubt reinforced his own views on the future of the northwest within the new dominion. On a trip east in March 1869 he had carried a letter of introduction from Charles Mair* to George Taylor Denison* of Toronto. Both men were among the founders of the movement and Schultz was one of their early recruits.
Schultz had long railed against the “tyranny” of the HBC but it was no part of his plan that democracy should prevail when Canada took over the northwest from the company. He wrote in April 1869 to John McDougall, brother of William McDougall*, lieutenant governor designate of the North-West Territories, that the franchise should not be given to the inhabitants of the settlement until “we get an immigration of Canadians on Canadian principles.” In 1868 the Canadian government had sent out a crew under John Allan Snow* to build a road from Lake of the Woods to Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and the following year, as the transfer of the region drew near, another under Colonel John Stoughton Dennis* was dispatched to survey the settlement. Snow, Dennis, and their men became closely associated with Schultz, several of them staying at his home. There followed what a later commentator described as an “orgy of land-grabbing,” with Schultz, Snow, and Mair, the road project’s paymaster, staking off land claims which they hoped would be recognized when the transfer took place. It was little wonder that the Métis in particular regarded Schultz with fear and hatred as epitomizing all that was menacing about the takeover by Canada.
Schultz played a provocative and destructive role in the tumultuous events of the winter of 1869–70. He posed as a defender of law and order while working for the overthrow of the provisional government, established by Métis leader Louis Riel* with the support of the majority of the community. Early in December 1869 he and others of the Canadian party barricaded themselves in his buildings, ostensibly to guard supplies of government pork stored there. Dennis, who had been appointed “conservator of the peace” by William McDougall, ordered them to disperse but Schultz disregarded the instructions as craven. On 7 December Riel surrounded the buildings with overwhelming force and took about 45 men and 3 women prisoners. Schultz escaped from Upper Fort Garry on 23 Jan. 1870 and made his way to Kildonan (Winnipeg). He sought to persuade the settlers there to join with a group of volunteers from Portage la Prairie, led by Major Charles Arkoll Boulton, in a attempt to rescue the remaining prisoners and to overthrow Riel’s provisional government. On 15 Feb. 1870 a combined group captured Métis Norbert Parisien*, who, during an attempt to escape the following day, shot Hugh John Sutherland. Parisien was retaken and later died of wounds inflicted by his captors. Meanwhile, Riel having liberated those incarcerated on 7 December, the group led by Schultz and Boulton decided to abandon its march. On their way home, however, Boulton’s men were taken prisoner by the Métis and one of them, Thomas Scott*, was executed on 4 March. On 21 February, realizing that the Métis were searching for him, Schultz and a mixed-blood guide had set out on snowshoes for Lake Superior. From Duluth, Minn., Schultz travelled to Toronto, arriving on 6 April along with Mair and other refugees from the Red River settlement.
That evening this group spoke to a meeting of over 5,000 which had been arranged by Denison. Perhaps because of his impressive physique – he was over six feet, weighed 200 pounds, and had a voice to match his stature, as well as red-gold hair and beard and blue eyes – Schultz seemed to make the greatest impression. He aroused the crowd to indignation over the treatment of the “loyal Canadians” at Red River, and especially over what was described as the murder of Scott. In concert with Denison and Foster, Schultz and Mair travelled throughout Ontario to incite agitation over the events at Red River. Schultz spoke at numerous demonstrations, and, as one of the “suffering loyalists,” received gifts of money and other valuables. The deaths of Sutherland and Parisien were never mentioned; always the crowd was stirred to vengeance for Scott, the martyred Orangeman from Ontario. The same spirit of revenge animated many of the militia volunteers from Ontario who later joined the expeditionary force to the Red River settlement led by Colonel Garnet Joseph Wolseley*. At one point, when it appeared that the military expedition might be cancelled, Schultz warned Denison that the emotional atmosphere had to be sustained. “I got . . . the Rope which bound poor Scott’s hands when he was shot,” he wrote. “I send it by express. Use it at Indignation meeting and then present [it] to the Master of [the] Orange Lodge.”
In Ottawa Schultz pressed his claims for property losses and other damages arising from the troubles of 1869–70. He filed the largest claim of anyone – $69,450, including $10,000 for having suffered imprisonment – and even asked Sir George-Étienne Cartier* for a seat in the Senate. He was provided with an advance of $11,000, ostensibly to enable him to satisfy his Montreal creditors and order goods for his business. By appealing to Schultz’s cupidity the government probably averted the opposition that he undoubtedly would have raised to the Manitoba Act, possibly preventing its passage in May. William Mactavish*, departing governor of Assiniboia, remarked in June that “if the Canadians would take trouble to learn the truth about [Schultz] and his pretended loss of property in their behalf, they would drop him at once.” In the end, Schultz’s total compensation was reduced by judge Francis Godschall Johnson to $32,000.
Back at Red River on 6 Sept. 1870, Schultz resumed his business activities but showed no disposition to forget or forgive the events of the previous winter. His Manitoba News-Letter, for a time the only newspaper in the settlement, assailed those who had supported the provisional government, attacked Lieutenant Governor Adams George Archibald for his conciliatory policy, and ingratiated itself with the Canadian militia volunteers, the only guardians of the peace once Wolseley and the British regulars had left. He was defeated by Donald Alexander Smith* in his bid to represent Winnipeg and St John in the Legislative Assembly on 30 Dec. 1870, but was successful in a by-election for the federal constituency of Lisgar on 2 March 1871, during which, according to Archibald in a letter to Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, “he has scrupled at nothing to carry the point. He is the symbol of brute force, and his appointment [to the Senate or other office] would be looked upon as an approval on the part of the Dominion government of violence and disorder. He has encouraged the disposition to rowdyism among the soldiers – and he or his immediate friends have been prominent in every trouble we have had.”
Archibald may have hoped that Schultz’s election to parliament would remove him from the local scene, but this did not happen. In November 1871 he wrote to the prime minister that the Canadian party was still a problem, with a few zealots in it seeking the “extermination” of the Métis. “Your friend Schultz is secretly stirring up the movement.” Schultz, reported Archibald, had recently admitted to him that “he thought he could make capital of the prejudices against the French Breeds” to win election to the assembly. “He is beyond measure the most barefaced fellow I have ever met. He thinks it hardly necessary to throw a decent veil over his want of principle.” The lieutenant governor went on to explain that any arrangement with Schultz must be avoided. It was impossible to govern Manitoba without the cooperation of the French party and “no member from a French constituency would have anything to do with any arrangement of which Schultz forms part.” Archibald added that Schultz’s “greed and selfishness and want of principle would make any association with him a constant fight over the treasury lid.” Gilbert McMicken, agent of the dominion lands branch for Manitoba, wrote to Macdonald at about the same time. By appearing to favour Schultz, the federal government had “deeply offended” people and it was “madness” to continue to support him. “You are building up the Dr. while he is operating against you.” Schultz was unpopular and would bring the Conservatives no support.
It would appear that the Macdonald government had sought to win over Schultz by various favours. If so, the effort was in vain. Schultz’s return from Ottawa in the spring of 1872 was followed by a new outbreak of lawlessness on the part of his supporters, by attacks on prominent French-speaking Manitobans, and by the burning in effigy (paid for in part by Schultz) of Riel and Archibald in the streets of Winnipeg. The ringleader of the activities was Stewart Mulvey*, a former officer in the volunteers and editor of Schultz’s new paper, the Manitoba Liberal. The federal general election in the autumn of 1872 was marked by further violence. A Winnipeg mob, urged on by Francis Evans Cornish*, attacked a polling-booth in St Boniface and the offices of the Manitoban and Le Métis, Schultz’s rivals. Schultz was gleeful. In sum, throughout Archibald’s term of office a lawless minority led by Schultz constantly stirred up trouble, eventually making it difficult for him to continue his conciliatory policy.
Soon after taking his seat in the House of Commons on 5 April 1871, Schultz had supported a motion of censure against the government for not punishing “the murderers of Thomas Scott.” Three years later he seconded the motion of Mackenzie Bowell* to expel Riel from the house, and he supported the motion of the government of Alexander Mackenzie in 1875 banishing the Métis leader for five years. However, the principal matters which engaged his attention were those concerning the development of the northwest, of which he was an enthusiastic supporter. Throughout most of the 1870s he described himself as an independent Liberal but after the elections of 1878 he claimed to be a Liberal Conservative. The Macdonald government’s railway policy, with its potential for the development of Manitoba, naturally met with his approval.
Schultz also took a keen interest in the welfare of the Indians. On 15 Aug. 1873, less than two months before the signing of Treaty No. 3 with the Indians of Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake (Ont.), and eastward [see Alexander Morris*], he urged the minister of the interior to give the Indians “a considerably larger sum per head” than was being contemplated and to pay it in goods rather than money. In parliament he drew attention to the perilous state of the buffalo, and urged a closed hunting season. His proposals for the protection of the buffalo were finally embodied in an ordinance passed by the Council of the North-West Territories, of which he was a member from 1872 to 1876, but by then the ordinance was too little, too late. Roman Catholic missionary Albert Lacombe* wrote to Schultz, his “dear old friend,” in 1891 to solicit support for a hospital which he hoped to build among the Indians, because “as you said and as you have proved many times they deserve our sympathy and compassion.”
On a number of occasions Schultz urged the minister of the interior to settle two contentious issues, the Métis land claims and the loss of haying privileges as new settlers took up land on which the older settlers had traditionally cut their hay supply. His apparent concern for the mixed-blood and Métis conflicts with the contempt which he is generally reputed to have had for them, especially for the Métis, but he may have been motivated by self-interest. Land speculation formed a large part of his business activities, and any developments facilitating land transactions, such as the issuing of scrip [see Alexander McIntyre], would be to his benefit.
Schultz had claims of his own under the Manitoba Act, one for land in the vicinity of Upper Fort Garry, near Colony Creek, but the minister of the interior informed him that the act was intended to confer land only on those who had occupied it and gained a livelihood from it prior to 8 March 1869. Schultz had “merely planted stakes at the corners.” Therefore, his claim was rejected. He and Bown also claimed patents for lots 18 to 23 in St John’s parish, on grounds which are not clear. As late as 1875 these claims were still a matter of dispute with the Department of Justice.
In September 1882, soon after his defeat in the general election, Schultz was named to the Senate. Macdonald is said to have made the appointment because Schultz’s health was so poor that he was not expected to live long. His condition had seriously deteriorated since the late 1870s and he had sought medical advice in New York in 1879. He had trouble with his voice, with walking, and even with writing; he was also subject to frequent colds. Despite these problems he continued to reveal, as a senator, his keen interest in the concerns of Manitoba and the northwest as well as in the welfare of the Indians. He was also an ardent supporter of prohibition. In an enlightened speech (which was read for him) on 16 April 1885 he condemned the illiberal terms of the treaties made with the Indians, urging a more generous settlement, larger land allotments, greater emphasis on material goods such as agricultural implements and seed grain than on money, the appointment of farm instructors, and “education in our language and his own” for the Indian. He chaired a Senate committee on food products of the west and a select committee on the resources of the Mackenzie River basin, a region in which he had long been interested.
On 1 July 1888 he was appointed lieutenant governor of Manitoba. Schultz had agreed with Macdonald’s directive that the lieutenant governor should attempt to influence the political course of Premier Thomas Greenway* “as much as you properly can.” Schultz kept the prime minister fully informed of Greenway’s activities, but he was unable to prevent the premier from concluding an agreement with the Northern Pacific Railroad of the United States to complete and operate the Red River Valley Railway [see John Norquay*]. Macdonald had been obliged to surrender the monopoly clause of the CPR earlier that year and Greenway was free to obtain a competing railway.
Schultz’s relations with Greenway over the issues of school and language legislation were a long record of weakness and deceit on the part of the premier. According to Schultz, the attorney general, Joseph Martin*, was “the ruling spirit in the cabinet and bull dozes Greenway into doing what he pleases.” Throughout the autumn and winter of 1889–90, Greenway repeatedly assured Schultz that his government intended only to save the costs of printing government documents in French and to create a department of education. At the same time Martin was talking openly of instituting secular schools to replace the dual public school system and of abolishing French as an official language. Greenway complained to Schultz that Martin was constantly getting him into trouble and that, when he remonstrated with him, the attorney general threatened to resign. Schultz felt that Martin was using the issues to cover up his corrupt activities.
Despite Greenway’s disclaimers, the legislation that was presented in February 1890 was an assault on the educational and linguistic rights of French-speaking Manitobans as guaranteed by sections 22 and 23 of the Manitoba Act. Schultz gave his assent to the legislation on 31 March as Macdonald had instructed him to do. He pointed out to the prime minister that French-speaking Manitobans were more concerned about the school legislation than about the question of official languages. Greenway continued to complain to the lieutenant governor about Martin, whom he suspected of trying to supplant him. He told Schultz that he expected the legislation would be disallowed by the federal government or declared ultra vires by the courts. For the next few years, Schultz endeavoured to obtain concessions which would make the operation of the act less onerous for the Roman Catholic minority [see Alexandre-Antonin Taché]. Greenway led him to believe that it might be possible for government grants to be given to Roman Catholic teachers who held teaching certificates, and even that special normal school facilities might be provided in St Boniface. Prime Minister Sir John Sparrow David Thompson placed great hopes on Schultz’s good offices. Months of negotiations resulted in an amendment to the school legislation, drafted early in 1894, that was to ease the situation of the minority, but at the last minute it was changed, at the insistence of Greenway’s own followers, and matters became worse. Greenway professed to regret the change and continued to state his intention to make concessions. Schultz constantly urged him to do so, but he was obviously being deceived by a weak and devious premier, as he himself recognized to some extent. However questionable the behaviour of Greenway, there can be no doubt of Schultz’s sincerity in seeking some amelioration in the plight of Roman Catholic Manitobans.
Schultz’s appointment as lieutenant governor was prolonged beyond the usual five-year term because the government delayed in choosing between two local rivals for the office, and this delay coincided with Schultz’s desire to stay on as long as possible. Lady Aberdeen [Marjoribanks*], wife of the governor general, who visited Winnipeg in the summer of 1895, thought that Schultz and his wife had been “intensely unpopular” but added, “One is sorry for the poor old man, who has been v. plucky in his time. . . . His constitution must be marvellous – his colour is that of a corpse, & when he was appointed it was considered impossible that he should live a year, & he has constant hemorrhages.” Dr Ross Mitchell later recalled having been struck as a child by “the lemon-white colour of his face, due to pernicious anemia.” Schultz’s term came to an end in September 1895, and he did not long survive. He died, apparently from a haemorrhage of the lungs, about two months after he and his wife had gone to Monterrey, Mexico, for his health. He was given a state funeral in Winnipeg on 20 April 1896.
Schultz had been one of the founders in 1871 of the Medical Health Board of Manitoba and, in 1879, of the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba. He read several papers before the society, including “The old Crow Wing Trail” and “A forgotten northern fortress.” In 1894 he had been made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and read before it an interesting and enlightened paper, “The Innuits of our Arctic coast.” The following year, on 25 May, he was made a kcmg.
In addition to his varied retail and real estate enterprises, Schultz had been president of the North West Trading Company Limited, a director and president of the Manitoba South-Western Colonization Railway, and a director of the Great North Western Telegraph Company of Canada. In 1884, in Winnipeg alone, he had paid taxes on property assessed at $66,900. By his will drawn up on 4 Oct. 1889 he left annuities of $500 each to his father’s second wife, Matilda McKenney, and Bown, and the remainder of his estate to his wife. Had she predeceased him, the estate would have been divided three ways: one-third for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth; one-third for the technical education of mixed-bloods and Métis in Manitoba; and one-third for hospitals, mainly for the “half-breed and old resident population of this province.” Lady Schultz died on 7 Oct. 1929 and left an estate which by 1946 had bequeathed $404,250 to a long list of religious, charitable, and hospital organizations.
Schultz was a controversial figure in his own day and for long afterwards, admired by many and loathed by others. The Manitoba Morning Free Press, which had never been a partisan of his, commented at his death: “Manitoba never possessed a better friend, Canada a more devoted son, nor the Empire a more loyal subject than John Christian Schultz.” The newspaper was not alone in lauding his patriotism and loyalty. No doubt the later Schultz was a man of broader, more mellow views than the one of earlier years. Opposite assessments of Schultz are also abundant. Joseph James Hargrave, observer of the events at Red River, wrote that Schultz and his “disreputable clique” had paved the way for the troubles of 1869–70 by exciting “sedition against existing authority under the pretence of loyalty to Canada.” Archibald’s comments on Schultz’s “greed and selfishness and want of principle” are amply confirmed by such well-documented studies as George Francis Gilman Stanley’s biography of Riel. It is said that Sheriff Colin Inkster, after reading the fulsome inscription on Schultz’s tombstone in St John cemetery, was moved to remark: “What a pity we knew him.
It is clear that Schultz’s early career left much bitterness behind him, however much respect may have accrued to him in later years. There is no doubt that he was a key figure in the events of 1869–70. The Métis were justifiably alarmed by his activities; resistance followed as a matter of course. Their leader, Riel, won a brief respite for them, but that was all. In the end the Métis were ousted, and even the disposal of the 1.4 million acres which they were supposed to have received remains a matter of dispute to this day. Schultz and the newcomers were triumphant.
Sir John Christian Schultz is the author of “The Innuits of our Arctic coast,” RSC Trans., 1st ser., 12 (1894), sect.ii: 113–34, and of other articles published in Man., Hist. and Scientific Soc., Trans.
Arch. de l’archevêché de Saint-Boniface (Saint-Boniface, Man.), Cathédrale, reg. des mariages, 11 sept. 1867. Man., Legislative Library (Winnipeg), Vert. file, J. C. Schultz. NA, MG 26, A, 103, 185–88, 245–47, 264, D. PAM, MG 12, A; B; E. Begg, Red River journal (Morton). Begg and Nursey, Ten years in Winnipeg. Can., House of Commons, Debates, 1871–78. G. T. Denison, “Sir John Schultz and the ‘Canada First’ party, recollections,” Canadian Magazine, 8 (November 1896–April 1897): 16–23; The struggle for imperial unity: recollections & experiences (London and Toronto, 1909). J. J. Hargrave, Red River (Montreal, 1871; repr. Altona, Man., 1977). [I. M. Marjori-banks Hamilton-Gordon, Marchioness of] Aberdeen, The Canadian journal of Lady Aberdeen, 1893–1898, ed. and intro. J. T. Saywell (Toronto, 1960). J. H. O’Donnell, Manitoba as I saw it, from 1869 to date, with flash-lights on the first Riel rebellion (Toronto, 1909). Globe, 25 June 1870. Manitoba Morning Free Press, 14 April 1896. Nor’Wester (Winnipeg), 15 June 1861, 21 Sept. 1867. Week, 27 Oct. 1893. CPC, 1878–79. Cyclopædia of Canadian biog. (Rose and Charlesworth). Dent, Canadian portrait gallery. Georges Dugas, Histoire véridique des faits qui ont préparé le mouvement des Métis à la Rivière-Rouge en 1869 (Montréal, 1905). F. A. Milligan, “The lieutenant-governorship in Manitoba, 1870–1882”
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Cite This Article
Lovell Clark, “SCHULTZ, Sir JOHN CHRISTIAN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/schultz_john_christian_12E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Lovell Clark|
|Title of Article:||SCHULTZ, Sir JOHN CHRISTIAN|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1990|
|Year of revision:||1990|
|Access Date:||March 29, 2023|