“The treason trial of Louis Riel in 1885 was the Canadian equivalent, in many ways, of the trial of Aaron Burr in the early history of the United States. Riel was an important personage in Canadian history during the 1870s and early 1880s. He served both within and without the structure of government during the 1870s, leading elements of the French-speaking population of Canada in both military and political confrontations with their English-speaking antagonists.
Riel was a strange and mystical figure who spent more than a year in an insane asylum, a fact that was to play a pivotal role in his subsequent trial. Despite his mental problems, he became a symbol of defiance for the Metis – people of mixed French and Native Canadian parentage – and returned at their request from a self-imposed exile in Montana to lead an unsuccessful uprising in 1885. He surrendered and was placed on trial for treason.
The transcript of the Riel trial is a virtual textbook of nineteenth-century insanity law and expertise. It also contains examples of brilliant legal eloquence from its time and place.”
– Alan Dershowitz
In that age litigation was Prime public spectacle, and the trial of Louis Riel in 1885 was followed intently across the country. The crowded, stuffy courtroom in Regina was the stage for the most dramatic and perhaps the most important state trial in Canadian history. Our Notable Trials Edition, combining as it does Professor Morton’s introduction, the trial transcript, and the texts of the appeals, along with Professor Dershowitz’s special introduction to the book is the most complete document ever published on this fascinating case.