Library reading of timely subject

Tecumseh and Brock author in Grimsby Friday


When James Laxer began penning his latest book, he had little idea how popular the subject matter would become.

It was three-and-a-half years ago and planning for the celebrations of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 were in their infancy stages. In preparation for the war’s anniversary, Laxer began looking into two of its heroes. And though the main characters of the book have little in the common, their unlikely friendship and political alliance had a major impact.

“I’ve been aware of both Tecumseh and Brock for a long, long time, and what inspired me to write this, is that you are looking at two very different characters and how they came together in the War of 1812 and made such an outcome,” said Laxer. “One is a Shawnee who was born in Ohio country and would rise to become the leader of native confederation and the other, Brock, was born in Guernsey and for whom the British army was life.”

Laxer, a professor at York University, will be reading from his latest book, Tecumseh and Brock, and taking questions from residents Friday as part of the Grimsby Author Series’ @ the Library program.

Laxer said the short relationship between Tecumseh and Brock in August of 1812 changed the course of the first stages of war.

Though driven by different motives, the two joined forces against all advice. Brock, ignoring advice from higher powers, and Tecumseh went on the immediate offence and attacked the fort at Detroit though the Americans outnumbered them two-fold.

“They crossed the river and frightened the witts out of American commander William Hull,” said Laxer. “Those manoevures caused the US to surrender the fort. It was a huge victory.”

And it wasn’t just a victory on the battle field.

“What that did is set back Americans who thought that capturing Canada would be a mere matter of marching,” said Laxer, quoting Thomas Jefferson. “The victory at Detroit not only threw the Americans back on the field, but it convinced a large number of people that Americans were not inevitably going to win.

“The victory at Detroit caused people to change their minds, and minds kept changing.”

While the debate over who won the centuries-old war continue, Laxer is happy with the way the war ended.

“I’m glad Canada exists,” said Laxer. “Regardless, these two characters, neither of whom were Canadian or would want to be described as Canadian, play a big role in Canadian history and the fact that there is a Canada.”

Bringing Brock to life was easy, said Laxer, noting the records for Major-General Sir Isaac Brock are endless. But bringing the personality of Tecumseh to life was a little more difficult.

“Research on Brock was pretty easy, the written records are huge,” he said.

Native tradition is to pass stories on orally, meaning there are discrepancies about which stories are true. The best source for Laxer was a manuscript written by Stephen Ruddell, who was captured by the Shawnees at age 12 and would go on to fight with them on the battlefield. Ruddell and Tecumseh became close friends and his manuscript, said Laxer, provides a picture of Tecumseh from childhood to manhood.

Laxer is the bestselling and award winning author of 25 books, a former columnist for the Toronto Star, Gemini Award winning screen writer and host of a public affairs show on TV Ontario.

Tickets for Laxer’s talk are $5 and available at the Grimsby Public Library. The talk takes place Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Grimsby Public Library.

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