The colonial government of Upper Canada at the time of the rebellions was a corrupt establishment controlled by a handful of rich families. In Upper Canada, the ruling elite were known as "the Family Compact". This local oligarchy, supported by the British government, and in close collaboration with local business interests, soon came to be despised by the rural population, especially the farmers, whose concerns were being ignored, and who were facing impoverishment due to the increased domestic production in Britain at the time. This had led to a slump in demand for Canadian wheat. Although locals could elect representatives to office,the real power remained in the hands of the appointed Family Compact and British governor. Out of frustration with the autocratic system, a reform movement inspired by the United States and the reform movement in Britain soon came to dominate the elected colonial assembly. William Lyon Mackenzie would not only lead the reformers but also the rebellion of 1837. A Scottish immigrant, Mackenzie was elected to the assembly in 1828, but was expelled from the legislature for publishing anti-government articles in his paper the Colonial Advocate, and again in 1831 for libeling members of the Family Compact. Despite repression from colonial officials and royalists, he held a seat from 1834 to 1836 in the colonial government (in 1834 he was elected the first mayor of Toronto). In 1836, after his reform party lost the elections due to a split between moderates and radicals, and by what Mackenzie saw as manipulation and intimidation by the colonial government, Mackenzie began calling for revolution.
Rebels began to gather at Montgomery's Tavern (6km North of the city, at the present day corner of Eglinton and Yonge streets), where food and supplies were distributed. Men from the outskirts of the city began to arrive. During the week of the rebellion, over 700 men would arrive at the tavern.
Colonel Moodie along with six other loyalists attempt to break through a rebel roadblock to warn the governor of Upper Canada in Toronto. The colonel fires the fist shot in the rebellion of Upper Canada, while trying to break through the roadblock.Some rebels return the fire, killing Moodie.
Mackenzie hesitates before charging into the city, giving Governor Bond Head a chance to organize a force.
Dr. Duncombe, a reformer from the western part of the colony, gives a speech to rebels that marks the beginning of open rebellion in the western half of Upper Canada. Hearing news of the beginning of Mackenzie's Rebellion in Toronto, he assembles a force of Rebels that would eventually reach 500 to 600 in number by December 13. Duncombe's men meet in Scotland Township and Oakland (Malcolm's Mills) on the road to Dundas (Hamilton).
Attempting to divert the main government force, rebels were sent to the Don River Bridge. The men fail to repel the force of more than 1000 men supported by two cannons. The main rebel force that had left the tavern numbered only 400 (only 200 of which had guns).
When the two groups met, an exchange of fire sent the heavily outnumbered rebels on the retreat, leaving a number of dead and wounded.
Colonel Allan Napier MacNab was then ordered to leave Toronto and assemble a force to confront the rebels led by Duncombe.
Colonel MacNab approached Duncombe's rebels at the village of Sodom. Hearing that the colonial troops were approaching and that Mackenzie's rebels had been defeated, Duncombe's force broke up.
MacNab attacked Duncombe's camp, but most of the rebels had already fled. Over the next couple of days, MacNab would take about 500 prisoners from the surrounding area. With the approval of the lieutenant governor, MacNab freed the prisoners. The more prominent rebels would again be arrested and tried.
1838: Rebellions continue
In Upper Canada the exiled rebels and their American supporters were called the Hunters' Lodges.
While seizing Navy Island in the Niagara River, Mackenzie and members of the Hunters Lodge form a provisional government, and declare a Republic of Upper Canada.
The United States government affirms its neutrality.
Rebel forces are decisively crushed by British regulars and Loyalist militia.