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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XXVII—The Union op the Canadas—To 1841


A "Family Compact" in Nova Scotia-Joseph Howe a popular tribune —Struggle for Responsible Government—1837. Boundary Dispute —Ashburton Treaty—Hon. Charles Poulett Thompson, Governor-General- 1839. The Union Bill passes Colonial and Imperial Parliaments —Provisions of the Union Act—Responsible Government Granted—1840.

The maritime provinces, concurrently with the rebellion in the Canadas, were agitated by a good deal of political excitement. The general causes of discontent were similar, but they did not lead to any of the acts of violence which unhappily took place in the western provinces.

In Nova Scotia, Joseph Howe, the son of a U. E. Loyalist, became the champion of popular rights. A shrewd and vigorous journalist, and a ready and eloquent speaker, "Joe Howe," as he was familiarly called, wielded immense influence throughout the province. In his place in the Assembly, on the public rostrum, and through the columns of his journal, he thundered against the oligarchy that governed the province. Sir Colin Campbell, the future hero of Alma, Balaclava, and Lucknow, who administered the government during the greater part of this stormy period, was succeeded by Lord Falkland, whose high notions of viceregal prerogative were the occasion of much popular discontent.

The dispute as to the New Brunswick frontier was not yet settled. The King of the Netherlands, to whom the decision had been referred, had given the lion's share of the debatable ground to the United States. That country, however, refused to be bound by the award. Lawless persons invaded the disputed territory ; armed collisions occurred ; and the frontier settlements were ablaze with excitement. Governor Fairfield, of Maine, ordered eighteen hundred militia to the border, and called upon the state for ten thousand men—horse, foot, and artillery. Sir John Harvey, the Governor of New Brunswick, asserted by proclamation the right of Great Britain to protect the disputed territory, and sent two regiments to watch the Maine militia. Volunteers flocked to the British standard. The legislature of Nova Scotia, amid an unwonted scene of patriotic enthusiasm, and with an outburst of hearty British cheers, voted Ł100,000 for the defence of the frontier, and placed a strong force of militia at the disposal of the military authorities.

Considerable excitement was roused in the United States. That belligerent statesman, Daniel Webster, declared that the American Government should seize the disputed property unless Great Britain would abide by the treaty of 1783. President Van Buren, however, with praiseworthy moderation, advocated the peaceable arrangement of the difficulty. General Winfield Scott was sent to the border to settle the dispute. He countermanded all hostile demonstrations and opened a friendly correspondence with the British Governor, who had been an old antagonist at Stony Creek and Lundy's Lane.

Both parties now withdrew from the contest, and referred the matter to Lord Ashburton and Daniel Webster, as commissioners for their respective countries. " The award, given in 1842, yielded the larger and more valuable territory to the United States, to the intense chagrin of the colonists, who conceived that their rights were sacrificed to Imperial interests. The Ashburton treaty also fixed the forty-fifth parallel as the dividing line of latitude westward from the disputed territory to the St. Lawrence, and the forty-ninth parallel as the boundary from the Lake of the Woods to the Gulf of Georgia, on the Pacific. The central line of the great lakes and their connecting rivers completed the boundary. An important article of the treaty also provided for the extradition from either country, upon sufficient evidence of criminality, of persons charged with "murder, piracy, arson, robbery, or forgery."

Lord Durham's report on the state of the Canadas had meanwhile been submitted to the Imperial Parliament. Its wise and liberal suggestions greatly tended to the pacification of public feeling in the colonies. It urged the principle of the dependence of the executive upon the representatives of the people, and prepared the way for the establishment of responsible government. It proposed the union of the provinces in order to restore the balance of power between the French and English races, and to remove the commercial difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada. It suggested a federal union of all the colonies, and the construction of an intercolonial road as a link between them.

Sir John Colborne, the successor of Lord Durham as Governor-General, had effectually suppressed the rebellion, and left the province in an efficient state of defence.

He was succeeded by the Hon. Charles Poulett Thompson, a statesman of liberal opinions, of great tact and judgment, and of wide financial experience. The Home ministry had determined on the union of the two Canadas, and on the acknowledgment in the new constitution of the principle of responsible government.

The Union Bill having passed the legislatures of the two provinces, was ratified by the Imperial Parliament, and took effect the 10th of February, 1841.

The Act of Union provided that there should be one Legislative Council and one Legislative Assembly, in which each province should be equally represented. The Legislative Council to be composed of not less than twenty life members, appointed by the crown. The Assembly of eighty-four members, elected by the people. The great object of years of contention was secured—the control by the representatives of the people of all the public revenues.

Mr. Thompson was raised to the peerage, with the title of Lord Sydenham of Kent and Toronto, and assumed the vice-royalty of the united provinces.


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