Report on the affairs of British North America
(Also known as The Durham Report.)
French text.

Historical Note

John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham, was appointed in January 1838 to investigate the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada. His report was met with scorn and anger from many, but was welcomed by Upper Canada reformers.

Document Summary:
Charged with finding the roots of the unrest that had led to the uprisings in Lower Canada, Durham states that he expected to find that the problem lay between those who sought free government and those in the executive protecting their own authority. What he found instead was "two nations warring in the bosom of a single state… a struggle, not of principles, but of races." Most of the blame for this he attributed to French Canadians.· Refers to French Canadians as backward and illiterate.

  • Argues that irresponsible leaders easily manipulate them.

  • The English minority, in contrast, is practical and interested in improving the province.

In Upper Canada, Durham blamed the Constitutional Act, 1791, which gave too much power to the lieutenant-governor and his appointed advisors.

In his conclusion and recommendations, he warns that if government does not change, Canadians might turn to the United States for a solution. He then makes several key recommendations:

  • The colonies should have control over their internal affairs (although he severely restricted the kind of legislation this could include).

  • The Colonial Office should retain control of many areas including "the constitution of the form of government, the regulation of foreign relations and trade… and the disposal of the public lands."

  • There must be responsible government, with a proper cabinet system as in Britain.

  • Responsible government should only be given to an English-speaking majority (as he does not believe that French Canadians are ready).

  • A program of education to make French Canadians more progressive.

  • In order to assimilate French Canadians, there should be a union of the Canadas with the possibility of including the other British North American Colonies later.