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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XXVIII.-Responsible Government—To 1846


Inauguration of new Constitution-1841. Kingston becomes the seat of Government—Adoption of the "Double Majority" Principle— Sir Charles Bagot, Governor-General-1S42. Sir Charles Metealfe, Governor-General—1843. Constitutional Struggle — Montreal becomes the seat of Government—1844. Death of Lord Metcalfe— Earl of Cathcart, Administrator of Government—1845. Rebellion Losses Agitation in Upper and Lower Canada—1846.

The Legislature assembled in the city of Kingston, which had been selected as the new seat of government. To counteract the dominant influence of the French members, the principle of "double majority," as it was called, was introduced. This required not merely a majority of the whole House for the support of the Government, but also a majority of the representatives of each province separately. The application of this principle, while often a safeguard against sectional domination, frequently led to sectional jealousy, and sometimes to the retarding of needful legislation.

Lord Sydenham, however, was not permitted to witness the full results of his labours, nor the triumph of that system of responsible government which he had assisted in introducing. While out riding, the fall of his horse fractured his leg. His constitution, never robust, and now undermined by his zeal in the discharge of public duty, was unable to withstand the shock. After lingering in great pain a few days, he sank beneath his injuries, September 19th, 1841. He was buried, by his own request, in the land to whose welfare he devoted the last energies of his life. No columned monument perpetuates his memory ; but the constitutional privileges which we to-day enjoy, and the peace and prosperity which resulted from the union of the Canadas, which he laboured so strenuously to bring about, constitute an imperishable claim upon our esteem and gratitude.

The new Governor-General, Sir Charles Bagot, arrived January 10th, 1842. Like his predecessor, he was not long permitted' to discharge his official duties. He died at Kingston, greatly regretted, sixteen months after his arrival, May 19th, 1843.

Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, the new Governor-General of Canada, had risen, by the sheer force of his energy and talent, from the position of a writer in the East India civil service to that of Acting Governor-General of India, and afterwards to that of Governor of Jamaica. His administrative experience in these countries, where the prerogatives of the crown were unquestioned, was no special qualification for the constitutional government of a free country like Canada. The right of patronage and of appointment to office he conceived was vested in himself as representative of the crown, for the exercise of which he considered himself responsible only to the Imperial Parliament. This principle was incompatible with the colonial theory of responsible government; and the appointment of certain members of the Conservative party to official position, without the advice or consent of his ministers, was the ground of grave dissatisfaction. In 1844, the seat of government was removed to Montreal.

A terrible malady fromi which Lord Metcalfe suffered— a cancer in the face—caused him to request his recall. He returned to England in November, and shortly after his arrival died, greatly regretted. His munificent liberality and many personal virtues commanded the respect even of those who condemned his political acts.

The Earl of Cathcart, Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's forces in Canada, was appointed administrator of the government on the resignation of Lord Metcalfe. He observed a wise neutrality between the almost evenly-balanced political parties.

The subject of public school education had from time to time received legislative attention. In 1816, an Act was passed by the Parliament of Upper Canada for the establishment of common schools. They were as yet, however, very insufficient in number and defective in character. In 1846, the important duty of reorganizing the common school system of Upper Canada was entrusted to a gentleman eminently qualified for the task, who has identified his name for ever with the history of popular education in his. native province.

The Rev. Egerton Ryerson, LL.D., the son of a United Empire Loyalist, was the youngest of three brothers, who all, by their force of character, rose to eminence in the ministry of the Methodist Church. Having been appointed Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada, he continued for more than thirty years to devote his energies to the development of the school system of the country, crossing the ocean many times in order to examine the educational systems of Europe, and incorporating their best features in that of his native province. Under the fostering influence of the wise and liberal legislation of successive parliaments, the public school system of Upper Canada has become one of the noblest of our institutions, the admiration of travellers from older lands, and one of the surest guarantees of our future national prosperity.


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