Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Tilting at Windmills: The Utopian Socialist Roots of the Patriot War, 1838–1839

Document type Article
Author Schrauwers, Albert
Journal Labour / Le Travail
Volume 79
Date 2017 Spring
ISSN 1911-4842
Pages 53-80


The Hunters' Lodge was a secretive, grassroots American social movement that arose during the Patriot War in support of the Canadian Rebellions of 1837–38. However, despite the large number of participants, we know little about those who took part. This article decentres the military narratives that dominate the existing historiography by providing a collective cultural biography (or prosopography) of the Lodge's leadership elected in September 1838 at a Patriot Congress in Cleveland. An examination of the life trajectories of these men indicates their shared prewar participation in three related social movements: freethought, free banking, and Freemasonry. A closer cultural examination of the development and intersection of these movements reveals common ties within the Hunters' Lodge to Owenite utopian socialism as it moved from its communitarian phase to its involvement with an emerging American labour movement. These ties would place the Patriot War participants at the far left of the Democratic Party and in opposition to the concentration of land, wealth, and political power in the developing evangelical-antimasonic-Whig alliance in the aftermath of the financial panic of 1837.