One of the greatest welcomes ever given to an American citizen, I think, occurred July 18, 1867, a few days after Confederation, when Jefferson Davis appeared in Montreal. He had been President of the Confederate States during the American Civil War and had just been released from Fortress Monroe where he had been held for two years as a war criminal. He had been bound with chains, insulted, and ill-treated, but had finally been released on bail. After his release Davis travelled to Montreal where his wife had found shelter for her two children with her mother, Mrs. William Burr Howell, whose home was on St. Catherine’s Street, where the Henry Morgan store now stands.
The occasion for the ovation was a performance of Sheridan’s play The Rivals at the Theatre Royal on Coté Street. It was a benefit performance for the Southern Relief Association which was helping Southern states devastated by the Civil War. When Davis and his family appeared in the theatre the crowd cheered for half an hour; the band played Dixie and someone shouted, “We shall live to see the South a nation again” to which the audience answered, “Amen.”
Montreal had been a hotbed of Confederate spy activity during the Civil War, and many escaped prisoners of war found shelter there. A group of them raided St. Albans, Vermont, during the Quebec Conference on Confederation in 1864, and raised fears that a Northern army might retaliate by invading Canada. The welcome in Montreal on July 18, 1867, aroused more hostility among the “Yankees.” The New York Herald said in an editorial: “The fuss made over the arch-rebel on this occasion proves that the Canadians are in a very bad condition of mind. They won’t recover their equanimity until they are formally annexed to us.”
Davis and his family stayed in Montreal in a home on Mountain Street bought for them by friends. It later became the office and home of Dr. Henry Drummond, famous for his poem about the habitants.
To learn more about Mr. Davis, there’s quite an article at History.com.