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Themes:
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
1839 - 1850
1850 - 1867
1867 - 1931 (1)
1867 - 1931 (2)
1931 - 1982
1982 - 2002
Documents

Aboriginals: Treaties & Relations
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Pionniers et Immigrants
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Watercolour: Cataraqui Creek, Kingston, Ontario, ca. 1833/1834 - NAC/ANC C-002752
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1791 - 1837: Agitating for Change

French-Canadians in Lower Canada and Loyalists and immigrants from the United States in Upper Canada were not satisfied with the granting of elected assemblies: they wanted control as well. The conservative groups around the governors resisted. This started a cycle of hostility and frustration.

This second section covering 1791 to 1837 looks at the growing deadlock between various forces in the British North American colonies, and how they led to rebellion and change.

Topics in this section:

Growing Hostility
The Call for Responsible Government
A Movement to Reunite the Canadas
A Search for Solutions
The Atlantic Provinces
Newfoundland: The Exception
Other Interesting or Important Documents

Growing Hostility
This period is characterized by increasingly hostile relations between the Legislative Assembly and those in the executive, which can be seen in the correspondence of the day. Legislatures were frequently dissolved and elections held again. These often returned the same men who had been in the Assembly before.

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Milnes to Portland, November 1st, 1800
(Expresses concerns about "lower orders" of people in Lower Canada.)

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Craig to CastleReagh, June 5th, 1809
(Craig discusses difficulties controlling the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada.)

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Craig to Liverpool, March 30th, 1810
(Craig considers dissolving the Assembly.)

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Craig to Liverpool, May 1st, 1810
(Craig recommends suspending the constitution and reuniting the Canadas.)

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Murray to Kempt, September 29th, 1828
(Instructions for the new Lieutenant-governor; may face problems.)

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The Call for Responsible Government
The executive in the provinces were able to prevent change and maintain control until the 1830s. At that time, their power began to erode. Pierre Bédard and Louis-Joseph Papineau of the Parti canadien (later called the Parti patriote) led those seeking change. The party split in the 1830s into moderate and radical factions. The demands of the radical faction were laid out in the Ninety-Two Resolutions in 1834.

Watercolour: An election during the struggle of responsible Government - NAC/ANC C-073707
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Those seeking change in Upper Canada led a group calling itself the Reform movement.
These men called for "responsible government," a term which became popular in the 1830s. In responsible government, elected members of the Legislative Assembly controlled the executive and revenue.

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Observations on the Government of Canada by John Black, October 9, 1806
(Recommends that province be reunited.)

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Proceedings… Relative to the Exercise of the Power of Imprisonment by the Executive Council, Lower Canada, May 11th, 1812
(Objects to the power to arrest and detain without trial.)

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First report on the state of the representation of the people of Upper Canada …, 16th March, 1831
(Notes the negative effects of "an imperfect state of representation.")

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The Ninety-two Resolutions, 21 February, 1834
(Demands of Papineau and his colleagues in the Lower Canada House of Assembly.)

READ the summary
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Proceedings… on the affairs of the colony, 1836
(Mackenzie outlines some of the concerns of the Upper Canada House of Assembly.)

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Baldwin to Glelelg, July 13, 1836
(Argument for responsible government.)

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Lord John Russell's Ten Resolutions, March 6, 1837
(Gives reasons why the legislative council cannot be elective.)

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Watercolour: Settlement on Long Island on the Rideau River, Upper Canada, 1830 - NAC/ANC C-040048
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A Movement to Reunite the Canadas
Ironically, soon after Upper and Lower Canada were created, some began calling to reunite the provinces. For some, the motive was to assimilate the French-speaking population. Naturally, this was opposed by the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, which was controlled by a French-speaking majority by the end of the War of 1812.

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Observations of Chief Justice Sewell on the Union of the Provinces
(Recommends changes to speed up assimilation of French Canadians.)

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A Bill for Uniting the Legislatures of the Provinces of Lower and Upper Canada, 1822

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Papineau to Wilmot, December 16th, 1822
(Objects to the proposed bill of union.)

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Bathurst to Dalhousie, January 13th, 1822
(Bathurst informs Dalhousie that the proposed act of union has been refused.)

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Did you know?

One reason Québec was divided into two provinces was because the English-speaking Loyalists did not want to be dominated by the more numerous French Canadians. The division of the province created two territories: one mainly English speaking, the other mainly French Canadian (now Ontario and Québec). Due to substantial immigration from the British Isles, the population of Upper Canada grew much more quickly than Lower Canada, and soon the English speaking population outnumbered French Canadians.


The Search for Solutions
British colonial officials did not ignore the problems developing in British North America. Changes were considered on the issues of revenue and land management. They did not understand, however, the importance of an elected Legislative Council to the people.

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Murray to Colborne, September 29th, 1828
(Discusses the state of civil government in Upper Canada.)

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Report of Committee of House of Commons, 1828
(Examines Lower Canada and makes recommendations for changes in law.)

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Earl Amherst: copy of a despatch, and its enclosures, addressed to Earl Amherst by the Earl of Aberdeen, on the 2d April 1835
(Instructions to investigate the sources of grievances in Lower Canada.)

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Glenelg to Gosford, July 17, 1835
(Calls for a "full platform of conciliation" towards French Canadian reformers.)

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Aquatint: Government House [Halifax] from the S. W., 1819 - NAC/ANC C-003558
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The Atlantic Provinces
The old systems of authority were also being challenged in the Atlantic provinces. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were all dominated by oligarchies in the same way as Upper and Lower Canada. However, unlike the Canadas, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia made a relatively smooth transition to more responsible government in the 1830s.

In effect, a compromise was made: the Colonial Office in Britain granted the assemblies control over revenue for a civil list which set the salaries of judges and civil servants and could not be tampered with by the assemblies. New Brunswick was first to accept this in 1837, followed shortly by Nova Scotia. It was imposed on Prince Edward Island in 1839.

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Joseph Howe to Lord John Russell, September 1839
(Howe responds to Russell's objections to responsible government.)

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Newfoundland: The Exception
Newfoundland was ruled by a lieutenant-governor from 1818 until 1832, when representative government was finally established. In 1842, due to violence between the Protestant elite and Catholic labourers and fishermen, the constitution was changed to make half the seats in the Assembly appointed.


Did you know?

The British discouraged settlement in Newfoundland for years: fishermen and whalers were only permitted to stay for the summer. Despite this, settlers came and stayed. By the early 1800s enough lived there for the British to appoint a permanent governor.

Other Important or Interesting Documents

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