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Constitutional History
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Aboriginals
1608 - 1759
1749 - 1759
1759 - 1763
1763 - 1774
1774 - 1791
1791 - 1837 (1)
1791 - 1837 (2)
1837 - 1839
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1867 - 1931 (2)
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Documents

Aboriginals: Treaties & Relations
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Pionniers et Immigrants
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Watercoulour: Papineau addressing a crowd - NAC/ANC C-073725
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1837 - 1839: Rebellion

British colonial authorities and conservative groups in Canada underestimated the level of discontent in both Upper and Lower Canada. The violence that ensued forced them to act, and although conservatives in the Canadas did not realize it, spelled the beginning of the end of the old order.

Topics in this section:

The 1837 and 1838 Rebellions
Lord Durham is Sent to Canada
Other Interesting or Important Documents

The 1837 and 1838 Rebellions
Efforts to produce change continued into the 1830s until 1837. At this time, ethnic tensions in Lower Canada between the French Canadian majority and the British minority (which was increasing rapidly through immigration) pushed opinions among French Canadians to greater extremes.

In Upper Canada, the situation was brought to a head when the governor, Sir Francis Bond Head, became actively involved in an election and helped the Tories (and by extension the Family Compact) to win.

Lithograph: Back View of the Church of St. Eustache and Dispersion of the Insurgents, 1837 - NAC/ANC C-000396
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Rebellions broke out in both Upper and Lower Canada in 1837, and again in Lower Canada in 1838. These rebellions were quickly suppressed, and the panic they created at first gave a great deal of power to the conservative groups in both provinces.

Read more about the rebellions of 1837 and 1838 in the Specific Events and Topics section.


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An Act to make temporary provision for the Government of Lower Canada, 10th February, 1838

READ the summary
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Instructions to Sir John Colborne from Lord Glenelg, 19 February 1838

READ the summary
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Report from the select committee of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada, on the state of the province, 28th February, 1838
(Summarizes the view of the Family Compact on rebellion.)

READ the summary
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The Indemnity Act, 1838
(Indemnifies any persons who acted under an ordinance of the Governor or Council of Lower Canada during the rebellion.)

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Drawing: Lord Durham - NAC/ANC C-121846
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Lord Durham Sent to Canada
The British government, however, was alarmed and dispatched Lord Durham as governor general and high commissioner. His mandate included the requirement to investigate and report on the 1837 rebellions. He landed on May 29, 1838, but stayed only a few months.

On September 29, 1838, he resigned and soon returned to England. The report which he produced early the next year and which advocated the assimilation of French Canadians made him a figure who was hated in French Canada, but helped to establish responsible government and the shape of Canadian Confederation 28 years later.

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Instructions to Lord Durham from Lord Glenelg, 20 January, 1838

READ the summary
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Letters Commissioning Lord Durham as Governor and Captain-general of all British North American provinces, 1838
(Contains the letters for Lower Canada, Upper Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.)

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Durham to Glenelg, 16 October, 1838
(Durham explains the reasons for his early resignation as Governor General.)

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To learn more about the rebellions of 1837 and 1838:

Other Important or Interesting Documents

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