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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XXXII.—The Coalition Ministry—To 1858


Sir Edmund Walker Head, Governor-General—1855. Parliament meets at Toronto—Sir Allan MeNab resigns leadership to Mr. John A. Macdonald—Sketch of new Premier's career—The Legislative Council made Elective—Its Constitution—1856. Severe Commercial Crisis—1857. General Election —Reform majority in Upper Canada —The "Double-Majority" principle abandoned — Demand for "Representation by Population"—1858.

Sir Edmund Walker Head, the successor of Lord Elgin as Governor-General of Canada, was a gentleman of distinguished scholarship, a prizeman and fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and a man of considerable administrative ability. His first diplomatic appointment was that of Governor of New Brunswick, from which he was promoted to the position of Governor-General of British North America.

In 1856, the seat of government was again removed to Toronto, where Parliament was opened on the 15th of February. Sir Allan McNab resigned office in order to make way for the more brilliant leadership of the acting Attorney-General, Mr. John A. Macdonald, who subsequently filled so prominent a position in Canadian politics. On the resignation of the Hincks administration, in 1854, Mr. Macdonald became a member of the coalition ministry by which it was succeeded, and was now recognized as the leader of the Conservative party of Upper Canada. With a considerable degree of administrative skill, he combined a large amount of political tact and sagacity.

Under this Conservative Government was passed a measure for which the Reform party had long striven, and which their opponents had resolutely resisted. This was the Act making the Legislative Council an elective body. This system was relinquished under the Confederation Act, but a strong feeling is entertained in favour of its restoration.

The continuance of the Chinese war and the outbreak of the Sepoy mutiny taxed to the utmost the force of Britain's arms, and called forth the intense sympathy of Her Majesty's Canadian subjects. The names of the veteran Out-ram, the gallant Campbell, the chivalric Lawrence, the saintly Havelock, Were added to Britain's bead-roll of immortal memories, to be to her sons an inspiration to patriotism, to piety, and to duty, forever. - A comparative failure of the wheat crop, coincident with a depression in the English money market and a commercial panic in the United States, together with the almost total cessation of railway construction, produced a financial crisis of great severity throughout Canada. The inflated prices of stocks and real estate came tumbling down, and many who thought themselves rich for life were reduced to insolvency.

The rapid development of the natural resources of the country, and the elasticity of public credit, however, were such that, under the Divine blessing, prosperity soon returned to crown with gladness the industry of the merchant, the artizan, and the husbandman.

Since the union of the Canadas in 1840, successive ministries had succeeded in carrying their measures by a majority from each province, in accordance with what was known as the "double-majority" principle, adopted in order to prevent either section of the country from forcing unpalatable legislation on the other. The Reform preponderance in the western province compelled the ministry of Mr. John A. Macdonald to abandon this " double-majority " principle if they would continue in office. The Government measures were therefore carried chiefly by a Lower Canadian ministerial majority. This was felt by the Upper Canadian Opposition to be all the more galling, because the wealth and population, and consequently the contributions to the public revenue, of the western province had increased relatively much more than had these elements of prosperity in eastern Canada. This soon led to an outcry against what was designated as "French domination," and the persistent advocacy of the principle of representation by population was adopted by the Reform leaders of Upper Canada.

The most conspicuous and influential advocate of this principle was Mr. George Brown, the editor of the Toronto 1858 a gentleman who, though seldom holding office, largely contributed to the moulding of the institutions and political destiny of his adopted country. In 1851

Mr. Brown was elected to the representation of the county of Kent in the Parliament of Canada; and from that time to his retirement from active public life, subsequent to the confederation of the British North American provinces, he occupied a conspicuous place and exerted a powerful influence in Parliament.


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