Material originally presented by Paul Malo in the Thousand Islands Life April 2008 magazine.
The original dairies of William Lyon Mackenzie King, from which this article was extracted, are in the National Archives of Canada. King wrote copiously in his diaries, in his later years dictating entries, beginning in 1893 when a student at the University of Toronto continuing until three days before his death in 1950.
Friday, July 1st, 1938
A very memorable day!
. . . . .
I had actually lying on my table and among papers for the morning reading, a monograph on "Old Forts in Canada" containing a picture of Fort Wellington. I took with me to the House of Commons, volume II of Lindsey's "Life of [his grandfather, William Lyon] Mackenzie," to write about von Schoultz and the battle of the Windmill. This volume I was actually reading in the Commons during the morning, and had it, before me, on the table [when becoming engaged in debate about British imperial policy regarding establishment of military installations advocated by the Tories], reversing the whole trend of a century. I had decided to launch out into a clear statement of full Sovereign self government on the question of all matters pertaining to war and defence.
. . . . .
I venture to say that what was said in the House of Commons today will go down in history as the last word, in the last chapter, at the end of a hundred years, of a battle which was opened with the first word of the first chapter of the Rebellion, a hundred years ago. That this should be on a day set apart for the Battle of the Windmill, at Prescott where my father's father trained a cannon on this building when it was rumored that [his other grandfather, William Lyon] Mackenzie was secreted there, is indeed another fascinating phase of the story that some day, I pray, I may be able to write myself.
. . . . .
They had, unfortunately, had the worst kind of weather but they were waiting at Windmill Point for me to come before having the ceremony of the unveiling of the tablet to General von Schoultz by the Polish Consul, General Pawlica. The scene there was one of real interest.
The people were standing in the space between the tracks and the Windmill. Most of them humble folk. There were detachments of the Mounted Police. Others in uniform; volunteers, may veterans, rows of Polish veterans; Polish bands from Toronto; a little gathering of speakers; a couple of clergymen [and other representatives of U. S. and Canadian governments]. We stood on a little platform around which some boughs had been placed.
After a prayer and the unveiling of the Memorial, [inscribed: "To the Immortal Memory of Polish Patriots Who Fought in The Battle of the Windmill, 12 - 16 November 1838"] I was asked to speak, and did so with the greatest possible ease, and with real pleasure and feeling. Said I had a personal as well as public reason for being present. ... [Here King related his family history in Scotland and Canada, referring to his grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie]
I then went on to speak of von Schoultz, and the honour that was due him, and why we were brought to honour him as we were today knowing his purpose had been to serve a larger freedom.
I then spoke of [his grandfather, William Lyon] Mackenzie being in exile at the time of von Schoultz's crossing. ... I then spoke of the relations between Canada and the United States... . The preservation of forts as being historic relics, and of what an object lesson this was to others who continued in the ways of peace. I end up by speaking of our common humanity being the one real concern, being all sons of one common God.
Had I been speaking a little more freely, I would probably have concluded with the same thought a little more felicitously expressed. However, I think I was able to give the real message. The main thing was to be there, narrate the facts of the truth, and have the matter one of record which can be referred to later in its true significance in some written biography.
. . . . . .
[After dining with the Fulfords at Brockville], as we neared the Fort at Prescott and the Windmill, we began to get the mist from the river and damp of the ground. There came into my mind, the lines of Longfellow's "Resignation"
"We see but dimly through the mists and vapors'
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers
May be heaven's distant lamps."
As I looked over my shoulder to the left, the old Fort at Wellington was surrounded by strings of electric lights, red, green and gold. As I returned to the old Windmill, the last I saw was its light shining very brightly, it now being a beacon to mariners.
. . . . . .
I felt that the day had been one of the best and most memorable of my life. ... I am leaving for the country to begin a new chapter, I pray of better service to my country, my King and my God.