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Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks
Chapter I - Introductory


FROM the time of the surrender of Canada by the capitulation of Vaudreuil at Montreal in 1760, the government of the province presented an unsolved problem, whose difficulties finally culminated in the outbreak of 1837. In the beginning the country was entirely French, an appanage of the British Crown by right of conquest. Its population, some seventy thousand in number, thinly spread along the valley of the St. Lawrence, was almost entirely an agricultural peasantry. Ignorant and illiterate as they were, they cherished towards their Church an unfailing devotion, while a stubborn pride of nationality remained with them as a heritage from the great country from which they had sprung. Of initial loyalty to the British Crown there could be no question. Still less could there be any question of self-government. Military rule was established as a necessity of the situation. Even when, in 1764, a year after the final treaty of cession, the purely military rule was superseded by the institution of an executive council, this body consisted merely of a group of officials appointed by the governor of the province. Nor is t to be said that this form of government was of itself an injustice. The inhabitants of French Canada had known nothing of political rights1 or representative institutions. Only in rare cases had offices, favour, or promotion been bestowed upon native Canadians. Even the Church itself, in spite of its democratic tradition ;n favour of capacity and zeal, had withheld all superior offices from the children of the humble peasantry of the St. Lawrence. To have instituted among such a people a system of democratic self-government on the morrow of the conquest, could only have ended in chaos and disaster.

The government thus established by royal proclamation was systematized and consolidated by the British parliament through the Quebec Act of 1771. This statute established in Canada a province of magnificent extent. Northward it extended to the Hudson Bay Territory: on the south it bordered New England, New York, Pennsylvania and the Ohio; westward it; reached to where all trace of civilization ended with the Mississippi River. The Ohio Valley was already dotted here and there m its forests and open meadow lands with the cabins of adventurous settlers. Of the rest of Canada the valley of the St. Lawrence was t he only occupied part. Thither had come already, since the conquest, a few British immigrants, for the most part small traders and needy adventurers. The upper portion of the province was still a wilderness. The Quebec Act restored to the country the old French civil law, the "Coutume de Paris," under which it had lived before the conquest. It retained the English criminal law. It repeated the guarantee of freedom of worship already extended to the adherents of the Koman Catholic Church, and, in permitting to the clergy of that Church the enjoyment of their "accustomed dues and rights," it legalized the collection of the tithe.1 The government was committed to a governor with a legislative council to be nominated by the Crown, to which was added by Major-General Carleton (1776), in accordance with instructions from England, an executive (or privy) council of five members. The Act declared it "inexpedient to call an assembly." Fox. indeed, pleaded in the House of Commons in favour of representative institutions, but was met with the argument that a Protestant government could not safely entrust power to a Roman Catholic legislature.

It is a disputed point how far the concessions thus granted to the French were adopted as a means of preserving the country from the infection of the revolutionary discontent, widespread in the colonies of the Atlantic sea-board, and of preventing the French habitant from making common cause with the malcontents of New England and Virginia, Such, if not the purpose, was at any rate the effect of the Act. The pulpits of Massachusetts were loud with denunciation of the toleration of popery embodied in the statute. The American congress (September 5th, 1774) expressed its alarm m documentary form, and the small British minority already settled in Lower Canada forwarded to England a pet it ion of energetic protest. The fact that the British government, in the face of bigoted opposition, passed and maintained the statute which stands as the charter of religious liberty for Roman Catholic Canada, may be said to have laid the foundation of that firm attachment of the Canadian French to the Crown, which, after the lapse of four generations, has become one of the fundamental factors of the political life of Canada. The effect of the Act in preventing the adherence of the habitants to the cause of the American revolution is undoubted. The clergy of the province threw the whole weight of their influence in favour of the British side. The agitators sent into the country found but few sympathizers of influence, and the attempt at military conquest ended in failure.

The issue of the Revolutionary War and the separation of the revolted colonies from Great Britain had a momentous effect upon the destinies of British North America. That province now became a haven of refuge for the distressed Loyalists, who abandoned the United States in thousands rather than 4 sever their allegiance from their mother country. Of these nearly thirty thousand found their way into the Maritime Provinces. Others, ascending the St. Lawrence or coming by Lake Champlain, settled in the Eastern Townships of Quebec or near to Montreal itself. Still others, pushing their way up the river or passing over the rough wagon- trails of the forest country of New York, embarked on Lake Ontario to find new homes upon its northern shores. Liberal grants of land were made. Settlements sprang up along the Bay of Quinte, on the Niagara frontier. 011 the Grand River, on the Thames and as far west as the Detroit River. By the year 1791 there were some thirty thousand settlers in the districts thus thrown open. The newcomers, impoverished as most of them were, made excellent pioneers. Their conviction of the righteousness of their cause lent vigour to their arduous struggle with the wilderness. The sound of the axe resounded amid the stillness of the piiie forest; farmsteads and hamlets arose on the shores of the lake and beside its tributary streams. But with the coming of the Loyalists Canada became a divided country. The population of the upper country was British, that of the lower, French. French law and custom seemed to the new settlers anomalous and unjust. British Protestantism was abhorrent to the devout Catholics of French Canada. The new settlers, too, accustomed to the political freedom which they had enjoyed in the colonies of their origin, chafed under autocratic, control, and in repeated petitions demanded of the home government the privilege of a representative assembly.

To meet this situation the British parliament adopted the Constitutional Act of 1791, by which the province was separated Into two distinct governments under the names of Upper and Lower Canada. It was presumed that a natural solution of the vexed question of British and French rivalry had thus been found. "I hope," said Pitt, "that this settlement will put an end to the competition between the old French inhabitants and the new settlers from Britain and the British colonies." Burke at the same time expressed the opinion that "to attempt to amalgamate two populations composed of races of men diverse in language, laws, and customs, was a complete absurdity." To each province was given a legislature consisting of two Houses, the Lower House, or assembly, being elected by the people, the Upper, called the legislative council, being nominated for life by the Crown. By the Crown also were to be appointed all public officers of each district, including the governor-general of the two provinces, the lieutenant-governor who conducted the administration of Upper Canada, and the members of the executive councils which aided in the administration of each province. The British parliament reserved to itself the right of imposing duties for the regulation of navigation and commerce. The free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion was again guaranteed. It was further enacted that the Crown should set apart one-eighth of all the unallocated Crown land in the province for the maintenance of a Protestant clergy, a provision which subseqently entailed the most serious consequences.

The measure was undoubtedly liberal, and at the time of its passage furnished an instrument of government well suited to the requirements of the situation. It was intended to extend to Canada something of the degree of political liberty enjoyed by the people of Great Britain. Its object was declared by Lord Grenville,1 to be to "assimilate the constitution of Canada to that of Great Britain as nearly as the difference arising from the manners of the people and from the present situation of the province will admit." Lieutenant-Goveruor Simcoe, speaking to his "parliament" of twenty-three members m the rough frame-house at Niagara where first they met, spoke of the new government as "an image and transcript of the British constitution." For some years, indeed, after the adoption of the new constitution, the government of the provinces was carried on with reasonable success and a fair amount of harmony. Had the constitution been of a more flexible character and had the conduct of the administration been adapted to the progressive settlement of the country, its success might have continued indefinitely. The incoming century found a contented country;1 wealth and population were on the increase. A tide of immigration from Scotland and Ireland turned steadily towards Upper Canada. Pennsylvania farmers crossed the lakes to find new homes in the fertile land of the province. The little hamlet of York, on the site of the old Indian post of Toronto, became the seat of government. To the north of it a wide, straight road, called Yonge Street in honour of the: secretary of war, carried the tide of settlement towards Lake Simcoe. At the head of Lake Ontario, Dundas Street ran from the settlement at Hamilton to the Thames, and presently was opened eastward as far as York. The inhabitants of the province in the year 1811 were estimated at seventy-seven thousand. Into Lower Canada also British immigrants had come in considerable numbers Ere long it began to appear that the racial conflict, which it was the intention of the Act of 1701 to obviate, had but shifted its ground and was renewed with increasing bitterness in the province of Lower Canada. The War of 1812, in which the energies of both French and British settlers were absorbed in repelling American invasion, stilled for the time the internal conflict of races. But with the renewal of peace the political difficulties of both Upper and Lower Canada assumed an increasingly serious aspect.

The political situation in the two provinces in the twenty years succeeding the peace of 1815 presented analogous, though not identical, features. In each of them the fact that the executive was not under the control of the representatives of the people constituted the main cause of complaint. But in the Lower Province the situation was aggravated by the fact that the executive heads of the administration were identified with the interests of the British minority and opposed to the dominance of the French-Canadians. Even in Upper Canada, however, the position of affairs was bad enough. The actual administration of the province was in the hands of the lieutenant-governor and his executive council of five, later of seven, members, a wholly irresponsible body of placemen appointed by the Crown from among the judges, public officers and members of the legislative council. Of the legislature itself the Upper House, or legislative council, was, as already said, a nominated body. Under such circumstances the political control of the colony had passed into the hands of a privileged class who engrossed the patronage of the Crown, received liberal grants of land and were able to bid defiance to the efforts of the assembly to free >tself from oligarchical control.

Had the constitution been in any real sense a "transcript" of the constitution of Great Britain, the assembly might have fallen back upon the power of the purse as an effective method of political control. But this remedy, under the system in vogue, was inadequate, owing to the fact that the assembly possessed only a limited power over the finances of the colony. The Crown was in enjoyment of a permanent list. Exclusive of the revenue from the clergyreserve. It had at its disposal a patronage of fifty thousand pounds a year. Local expenditure within the province was under the direction of magistrates appointed by the Crown meeting in Quarter Session.1 The legislative council itself claimed the right to reject, and even to amend, the money bills passed by the representatives cf the people. Under such circumstances the House of Assembly found itself deprived of any effective means of forcing its wishes upon the administration.2 Quite early in the history of the period, it had vigorously protested against the impotence to which it was reduced. In an address presented to the acting governor in 1818, the assembly drew attention to the " evil that must result from the legislative and executive functions being materially vested in the same persons, as is unfortunately the case in this province, where His Majesty's executive council is almost wholly composed of the legislative body, and consisting only of the deputy superintendent-general of the Indian department, the receiver-general and the inspector-general, the chief-justice, the speaker of the legislative council, and the honourable and reverend chaplain of that House." The essence of the financial situation appears in the famous Seventh Report of the Committee drawn up in 1835. "Such is the patronage of the colonial office," it declares, "that the granting or withholding of supplies is of no political importance, unless as an indication of the opinion of the country concerning the character of the government."

It has become customary to apply to the privileged class who thus engrossed political power and office in the colony of Upper Canada, the term Family Compact. The designation itself appears to be, in strictness, a misnomer, for there existed among the ruling class no further family relationship than what might naturally be expected in a community whose seat of government cont ained, even in 1830, only two thousand eight hundred and sixty persons. But 't is undoubted that, from 1815 onwards, the members of the administration with their friends and adherents formed a distinct political party united by ties of mutual interest and social cohesion, determined to retain the influence they had acquired, and regarding the protests of the plainer people of the province with a certain supercilious contempt. Nor is Jt to be supposed that the adherents of the Family Compact embodied in themselves the very essence of tyranny. They represented merely, within their restricted sphere, those principles of class government and vested interests which were still the dominant political factor in every country of Fjurope. Of the high moral quality and sterling patriotism of such men as Robinson, the attorney-general, there can be no doubt. The exaggerated diatribes of the indignant Radicals in which the ruling class figure as the "tools of servile power," are as wide of the mark as the later denunciations launched against the party of Reform.

The growing agitation in Upper Canada presently found an energetic leader in William Lyon Mackenzie, a Scotchman of humble parentage. Born at Springfield in Forfarshire in 1795, he came in 1820 to try his fortunes in Canada. He set up ui business "n a small way at the village of York, removing presently to Dundas. It is typical of the restricted commercial life of the time that Mackenzie and his partner dealt in drugs, hardware, jewelry, toys, confections, dye stuffs and paints, and maintained in addition a circulating library. From Dundas, Mackenzie moved to Queenston. Interested from the first in the political affairs of the colony, he started in 1824 the publication of the Colonial Advocate, the first number of which, distributed gratuitously through the countryside, commenced an unsparing attack upon the governing class. Its editor, the "westernmost journalist in the British dominions on the continent of America," assumed, as he himself subsequently expressed it, "the office of a public censor." lie denounced the Family Compact and all its works. He denounced the jobbery of the public land. He denounced the land monopoly of the Church of England, the lack of schools, the perversion of justice and the greed of the official class. The appearance of the Colonial Advocate aided in consolidating the party of Reform. In the elections of 1824 they carried a majority of the seats in the House of Assembly, a victory which only served to reveal the impotence of the opposition in the face of the established system. Dr. Rolph, elected for Middlesex, the stalwart Peter Perry, member for Lennox and Addington, and other leaders of the Reform party, found they could do little beyond selecting a farmer speaker of their own liking and passing resolutions condemning the existing conduct of affairs. None the less their presence as a majority of the House remained as a standing protest and threw .into a clearer light the irresponsible position of the executive. The better to aid their opposition Mackenzie moved his printing presses to York. The virulence of his pen awoke embittered opposition ih return. His printing office was sacked in broad daylight by a gang of young men whom his biographer has called an "official mob." A lawsuit ensued with mutual recriminations, followed presently by prosecutions for libel. Mackenzie, in historic phrase, denounced the minority party in the assembly as an "ominous nest of unclean birds," and invited the people of Upper Canada to sweep them from the "halls that have been so long and shamefully defiled with their abominations."

The provincial quarrel went from bad to worse. The election of 1828 again returned a majority of Reformers, this time including Mackenzie himself. Resolutions of grievances were presented to the House. A select committee on grievances, of which Mackenzie was chairman, was called upon to report. A new lieutenant-governor in the person of Sir John Colborne, a tried soldier and a veteran of Waterloo, appeared on the scene (1828). Him the assembly hastened to warn against the " unhappy policy they [the executive council] had pursued in the late administration." The assembly asserted its right to the full control of the revenue and demanded (1830) the dismissal of the executive councillors. "Gentlemen," was the curt reply of Sir John, " I thank you for your address." In the election of 1830, following on the death of George III, the party of the Compact, aided hv an influx of British immigrants, regained a majority of the assembly. Mackenzie, elected for the county of York, was expelled from the House for libel and branded as a " reptile unworthy of the notice of any gentleman."1 Reelected by his constituents, he was again expelled and declared disqualified to sit in the existing parliament, a proceeding which occasioned wild tumult, in the village capital, with sympathetic meetings in the other settlements of the colony. The Tory party retaliated, perpetrated a second attack on the printing office of the Advocate, and burned Mackenzie in effigy in the streets of York. Mackenzie, seizing the moment of martyrdom, sailed for England laden with ndig-nant petitions from his constituents and their sympathizers, (April, 1832) The signatures on the documents numbered twenty-five thousand, but the counter-petitions forwarded by the party of the Compact were subscribed with twenty-six thousand names. Mackenzie received at the colonial office a not unfavourable hearing. Lord Goderich, the colonial secretary, forwarded to the colony a censorious despatch, characterized by the indignant Tories as an "elegant piece of fiddle faddle."' Hagerman. the solicitor-general, was removed.

During the same period a still more aggravated situation had been developed in Lower Canada. Here the conflict represented something more than a struggle between an office-holding minority and the excluded masses. It was a conflict intensified by the full bitterness of racial and religious antagonism. It was not merely as in Upper Canada, (to use the historic phrases of Lord Durham), a contest between a government and a people;" the spectacle presented was that of " two nations warring in the bosom of a single state," a "struggle, not of principles, but of races." The British minority n the province, insignificant in the early years of the new regime, had grown constantly m numbers and influence. The incoming of the United Empire Loyalists and of immigrants from the mother country had swelled the ranks of a party which, though small in proportion, was determined to assert its claims against the preponderating race. British merchants controlled the bulk of the sea-going trade of the colony. An Anglican bishop of Quebec had been appointed (1793), and an Anglican cathedral erected {1804) on the site of an ancient convent of the Recollets. The governors of the province looked to the British party for support, and selected from its ranks the majority of their legislative and executive councillors. In the minds of the latter the French-Canadians still figured as a conquered people whose claims' to political ascendency were equivalent to disloyalty. The blundering patriotism of such a governor as Cnig (1807-11), widened the cleavage between the rival races and intensified in the minds of the French inhabitants the sentiment of their national solidarity. Excluded from the control of the executive government, the French fell back upon the assembly in which they commanded an easy and permanent majority. Nor were they, although in opposition, altogether powerless against the government. The public revenue of Lower Canada during the period under review was raised, in part by virtue of imperial statutes,1 in part by the provincial legislature itself. To these sources of income were added the "casual and territorial" revenue of the Crown arising from the Jesuits' Estates, the postal service, the land and timber sales and other minor items. The duties raised by the imperial government,2 together with the casual and territorial revenue, were inadequate to meet the public expenditure, and it was necessary, therefore, to have recourse to the votes of supply passed by the House of Assembly. The House of Assembly, dominated by the French Canadian party, made full use of the power thus placed in its hands. It insisted (1818) that the detailed items of expenditure should be submitted to its consideration. It asserted its claim to appropriate not merely the revenue raised by its own act, but the whole expenditure of the province. It insisted on voting the civil list from year to year, refusing to vote a permanent provision for the salaried servants of the Crown. On each point it met with a determined opposition, not only from the governor-general but from the legislative council, whose existence thus began to appear as the main obstacle to that full control of the province which had become the avowed aim of the popular party.

With the advent of Lord Dalhousie as governor-general (1820) the quarrel between the two branches of the legislature and the conflict of races from which it had sprung, reached an acute stage. Dalhousie, one of Wellington's veterans, was more fitted for the camp than the council chamber, a disciplinarian devoid of diplomacy who naturally upheld the side of the British party and discountenanced the financial claims of the assembly.1 Meantime the occasion had found the man. and a leader had appeared well-fitted to head the agitation in the province. Louis-Joseph Papineau, born in Montreal in 1789, had been elected to the assembly m 1812 and early distinguished himself by the brilliance of his oratory. In 1815 he was elected speaker of the House, a position which he filled with decorum until the trend of affairs under the Dalhousie administration aroused him to virulent and sustained opposition to the governing class. From now on, petitions and addresses for redress of grievances in Lower Canada poured in upon the imperial government. The French-Canadian press roused the simple farmers of the countrywide with the cry of national rights; even a certain minority of the English residents, led by such men as Cuthbert of Berthier and Neilson of Quebec, In close alliance with Papineau, made common cause with the French for a reform of the government of the province. On the other hand, the adherents of the ruling powers openly expressed their desire to rid the country of every vestige of French control. "This province" the Quebec Mercury had said as long ago as 1.810, "is far too French for a British colony. After forty-seven years possession ;t is now fitting that the province become truly-British." Such indeed had become the avowed policy of the dominant faction. Papineau, supported alike by the people, the clergy1 and the; majority of the assembly, became emphatically the man of the hour and figured as the open adversary of the governor-general. A petition signed with eighty-seven thousand names was forwarded (1827) to the home government. Dalhousie, departing in 1828 to take command of the forces in India, was succeeded by Sir James Kempt whose efforts at conciliation proved unavailing. In vain the imperial government surrendered its control over the proceeds of its customs duties (1831). The assembly refused to grant a permanent civil list and the leaders of the popular party clamoured for the abolition of the nominated Upper House. Against such a measure of reform, which appeared out; of harmony with monarchical institutions, the British ministry resolutely set its case. Stanley, the colonial secretary, hinted that the government might be forced to curtail even the existing privileges of its colonial subjects. Aroused to furious opposition the assembly adopted the famous "Ninety-two resolutions," indicating a long catalogue of grievances and denouncing the existence of the Upper House (February 21st, 1834). The elections of 1834 were attended with riots and tumultuous gatherings. Revolutionary committees sprang into being. Votes of supplies since 1832 had come to a full stop and the governor, Lord Aylmer, (18315), had been driven to pay salaries by loans taken from the war chest. The malcontents of French Canada corresponded busily with the "patriot" party of the Upper Province. The current of the two movements ran side by side with increasing swiftness, approaching rapidly the vortex of insurrection.


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