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  • Created on: 14-05-17 18:31

Upper and Lower Canda

To what extent did the political nature + government systems of Upper + Lower Canada minimise the perceived threat from the USA?

  • The evacuation of loyalists from the US colonies led to the restructuring of the provinces cloest to the border into Upper and Lower Canada by the 1791 constitution.
  • Upper= largely British whereas Lower= descendants of French and loyalists.
  • Had different land tenure systems, languages but political systems were similar.

Upper Canada:

  • Loyalists from US evacuated there, seeking free land available.
  • 1825- moved from the system of free land grants to sale by auction.
  • Governed by a lieutenant governor (appointed by London) but reliant of tax-raising powers of locally elected legislative assembly, executive council helped governor too.
  • Family Compact, maintained control of the council, exercised power for own benefit.
  • Laws passed by assembly had to be approved by council; could block laws passed by elected reps.
  • Family compact (loyalist, Anglican Church), reluctant to coutenance changes to constitution.
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Upper and Lower Canda

Landownership in Upper Canada:

  • Land tenure based on British freehold tenure.
  • Treaties signed with natives to increase Crown lands.
  • Profits of land sales went to Anglican Church; British thought that to maintain loyalty they should support Anglican Church and Family Compact.
  • Anglicans weren't the majority; Protestants, Baptists and Methodists.
  • Family Compact stifled reform by the clergy reserves.

Tensions in Upper Canada:

  • Lacked infrastructure and capital investment= small population to raise revenue.
  • Salaries of officials payed for by sale of land to Canada Company= reformers angry.
  • Opposition to Family Compact around the issue of clergy reserves allotted to Church.
  • Reformers wanted a 'responsible government'; removal of FC and their hold on legislative/executive councils.
  • Baldwin suggested constitutional reform to establish responsible self-government.
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Upper and Lower Canda

Landownership in Lower Canda:

  • Seigneural system: tenants under this system were protected by contracs and the relationship between tenant and seigneur was overseen by the state.

Tensions in Lower Canada:

  • British guaranteed the free practice of Catholicism in Quebec Act 1774.
  • Accepted the use of French civil law (land given to all sons, not the eldest upon death).
  • Principle language of Assembly was English; influx of loyalists caused ongoing racial tension and the French feared threat to their identitiy and way of life.
  • 1791 consitution gave it the same political structure as Upper Canada.
  • Chateau Clique (group of wealthy families who controlled economic/political power through appointment to the council, English).
  • Assembly dominated by French-speakers so quick to oppose moves by Chateau Clique.
  • Patriotes (French-speaking professionals)= seeked reform to protect the French identity.
  • Dalhousie (governor from 1820-28) at loggerheads with French-speaking majority.
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Upper and Lower Canda

Threat from the USA:

  • 1791 constitution allowed French Canadians religious freedom, preserved land tenure system, hoped that this would make any US attempts for rebellion unsuccessful.
  • British intended to prevent possible revolts in their Lower Canada over religious and cultural matters.
  • Established assemblies with financial autonomy due to American tax error (lessons drawn from the American War of Independence) hoped to prevent a similar situation to US.
  • They believed, unreasonably, that the 13 colonies rebelled due to taxation.
  • 1791 constitution represented an advance in colonial relationships.
  • But executive power held by British-appointed Lieutenant governor; tensions inevitable.
  • Slow communication between London and the provinces.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca

  • 1828= delegation from LC and reports of petitions for political reform in UC.
  • Saw LC as a bigger issue- Canada Committee (report on grievances).
  • Committee advised against amendment of 1791 constitution, said proper governorship would solve problems in the Canada's.
  • Whigs replaced tory ministry after report was published; didn't focus on costitutional reform.
  • Failed to act on the committee's recommendations quick enough.
  • Howick Act 1831- transferred revenues duties to assemblies but asked for them to agree to Civil List for the payment of officials; Reformers and Patriotes frustrated w/financial powers.

Causes of the revolt in Upper Canada:

  • The political system + control of the Family Compact + Anglican Church= underlying causes.
  • Short term causes= radical reformers, new British emigrants 1830s, actions of Head and Colborne as lieutenant governors, 1836 election results.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca

Radical Reformers:

  • Led by Baldwin (father of 'responsible self-government').
  • Mackenzie (far less moderate voice of the reformers) ran a newspaper which was attacked by the Family Compact in 1826= victim of persecution and more reputable as a reformer.
  • Argued that LC should follow the example of the US colonies and seek independence.

Emigration into the province:

  • Irish emigration in 1830s; poor immigrants were assisted by the Ops Township scheme.
  • Reformers objected to the programme's costs designed to assist immigration. 
  • Lack of consulataion with the assembly.
  • Family Compact objected to the increase of poor immigrants; threatened status quo.
  • Cholera epidemic 1832/34; concern regarding emigration increases.
  • Impact of financial crisis in US in 1837; affected economic stability of UC.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca

Action of the Lieutenant governors:

  • Colborne and Head both interpreted that they were there to govern + that the council was there to be consulted,
  • Colborne more successful than Head; interest in improving infrastructure.
  • But he bypassed the assmebly using tax revenues to pay official's salaries and used public funds for a prep school instead of a uni.
  • Allocation of income from clergy reserves for the support for 44 Anglican parishes; attempt to establish the Anglican Church more firmly (principle grievance).
  • Head: invited moderates onto the committee which seemed positive but then forced them from office when they complained.
  • 1836 election: campaigned against Reformers.
  • Successful in removing the Reformers from assembly; now had no legal voice so rebellion was the only option.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca

The 1836 election:

  • Victory for Head; pro-government majority.
  • New assembly passes laws to prevent challenge from Reformers.
  • Laws: extending session of the legislative, preventing members of legislature from serving as councillors.
  • Reformers established Committee's of Correspondence and secret councils.
  • Mackenzie prepared a declaration of independence.

The events of the revolt in Upper Canada:

  • Less serious than LC: Mackenzie's leadership was vacillating and had confused aims.
  • Revolt in 1837- plan to attack businesses of those affiliated with Family Compact.
  • Then, the force (mostly farmers) exchanged gunfire with loyalists.
  • Remaining rebels dispersed following Loyalist reinforcements.
  • Mackenzie fled to Navy Island + declared a provisional state; promised 300acres.
  • Captured by US military and sentenced to 18 months for violating neutrality laws.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca

Results of the revolt in Upper Canada:

  • Hundreds of rebels left the province for US, remainders often arrested.
  • British conviced that the events were due to the actions of the FC and something must be done to sort out the governance of the province.
  • Durham dispatched to the province to find a solution.

Causes of the revolt in Lower Canada:

  • Long term- exclusion of French-speaking majority from executive arm of government.
  • Governors tended to appoint British/loyalists to the council.
  • Raising expectations for change following appointment of Canada Committee in 1828.
  • Failure of British to exercise real changes to the system of Government.
  • Short term causes of revolt: leadership of Patriotes by Papineau, economic/social issues in province, the Gosford Commission of Inquiry and British decision about the colony which resulted in its findings.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca


  • Leader of the Patriot party in 1820/30s; anti-British due to French-Canada nationalism.
  • Under his leadership, assembly refused comrpomises + wouldn't vote in favour of the Civil List.
  • Opposed to any change in the seigneurial land system.
  • Adopted a more radical stance post 30s due to revolution; bigger opposition to British now.
  • Drafted the 92 resolutions; demanded constitutional change (elective councils, protect identity).


  • Hardship suffered by habitants, general social unease from immigration made the population increasingly more radical.
  • Immigrants caused cholera outbreak 1832; tensions rose and during election, 2 men were shot.
  • Patriotes benefitted from harship; by 1834, the more radical wing was emerging as a stronger voice in the assembly and province as a whole.
  • Most pressing economic issue; how to pay the salaries of the officials as the assembly (led by Papineau) opposed their proposals for shared economic control of the province.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca

The Gosford Mission:

  • 1835 Commission of Inquiry led by Gosford worsened situation in Lower Canada.
  • Head disclosed the full terms of the inquiry to the assembly in UC (1836)= outrage in LC.
  • Terms showed that British had no intention of consitutional reform the patriotes wanted.
  • Debate on Canada in Britain demonstrated a hardening of British attitudes and the 10 Russel Resolutions rejected the consitutional reform called for in the 92 resolutions, allowed governor to use public funds without the assemblies consent (LC owed UK for payment of officials).
  • Patriotes had large public meetings, called for boycott of British goods + free trade between LC and USA= Gosford increased military presence, banned protest meetings then all public too.
  • Banks closed in May; more unrest.
  • Assembly met in August, refused to accede to British demands and patriotes began to prepare for a revolt.
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Significance of revolts against British rule in Ca

Results of the revolt in Lower Canada:

  • Extent of rebellion worse than in UC; suspended 1791 constitution of LC and Gosford was empowered to run the province with a special council of appointed members.
  • Revoked martial law in Montreal; judged that the situation had calmed.
  • Rebels were ethnically French-Canadian, racial division coloured British views.
  • London accepted that a new constitutional settlement must be found for the province; British viewed the system of land tenure as a principal cause of habitant poverty and discontent.

Was there a real threat of revolution in the Canadas?

  • Revolts were put down by military with relative ease; took them seriously.
  • LC more serious threat than UC due to the French-Canadian identity of Patriotes.
  • Number of rebels was small but the provinces were sparsely populated.
  • Fleeing of rebels over the border to US was also a concern; possible US involvement in the Canada's was a concern due to tensions from war of Independence.
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Development of relationship with colonies: Durham

  • 'Radical Jack'; dispatched to Canada in 1837 (one of the last Whig grandees).
  • Concept of 'responsible self-government' evolved from report; report was the first official definition of the term, recommended immediate unification of the Canada's to solve French-Canadian majority in LC.
  • RSG= settler colonies elected own legislatures + executives, responsible for economies/taxes.
  • Failed to mention native Americans in a report which considered the future of land tenure and land settlement in the provinces.
  • His solution to the Canada issue was only ever used by the British in the white settler colonies.

Importance of Durham's role as high commissioner for the Canadas:

  • Stabilised political situation temporarily; due to his actions + military response the Reformers were forced to find a political solution w/London.
  • Effective at role= consulted with population, discounted views of those who have held executive power in a tight grip.
  • Turned tide away from the revolutionary American model and back once again to engagement with Westminster.
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Development of relationship with colonies: Durham

Lord Durham's early career:

  • Whig inner circle; responsible for passing the Great Reform Act.
  • Advocated household suffrage; Melbourne didn't want him on Government.
  • Took advisers on mission; Wakefield and Turton- met with Canadians to build report.
  • During his time there, was also the effective executive power.
  • 1st action in LC: removed old executive council, ordered all depositions of rebels be submitted to him, issued proclamation to work with those who sought peaceful reform.
  • Made friendly contact with US; they instituted patrols of the border (due to Canadian rebels).
  • Established Canada's 1st police force, appointed a Commission of Inquiry on Crown lands and Emigration for all the British North American provinces (improve land tenure and wanted land to no longer be given freely to immigrants= source of tension).
  • Durham pardoned most rebels bar a few who were sent to Bermuda= popular action.
  • Bill of Indemnity against Durham; Durham reisgned in 1838.
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Development of relationship with colonies: Durham


  • Not prepared to submit to censure from London due to sending prisoners to Bermuda, was annoyed with Melbourne's criticism of his advisers.
  • Resignation greeted with excitement in LC; felt betrayed.
  • Melbourne couldn't afford to defend Durham and risk the fall of his ministry.
  • But Durham departed from his instructions= brought government under justifiable criticism.
  • Dealt with trouble in the Canadas along the border due to rebels based in US (1838).
  • No danger then that British power would be unseated= his ability to work w/provinces.

Influence of Wakefield and Buller:

  • Durham's choice contributed to the short life of the mission but they had distinct skills.
  • Brougham: "Wakefield thought it, Buller wrote it, Durham signed it" (Durham's opponent).
  • Interviewed a spectrum of Canadian society (like Baldwin= RSG).
  • Exercised some executive authority; Durham replaced the council with a number of commissions to administer the provinces and Buller headed some of these.
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Development of relationship with colonies: Durham


  • His theory of systematic colonisation= land to be sold to immigrants in colonies at a high price to benefit the colonies economy.
  • Regarded the system of free land grants in Canada to be the root of the problems in North US.
  • His notoriety and intervention from Melbourne prevented him from being commissioner of lands in Canada.
  • Advocate of the union of the 2 provinces; Durham influenced as report recommends this to deal with French-Canadian majority in LC.


  • Durham's official chief secretary and commissioner for Crown lands. 
  • Sympathetic towards French-Canadian rebels, said British policy made them revolt.
  • His idea to banish some to Bermuda; cause of Durham's resignation from mission.
  • Remained in Canada to help draft report then returned to UK to finish it with Durham.
  • Published Responisble Government for Colonies in 1840.
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Development of relationship with colonies: Durham

Report on the Affairs of British North America 1839:

Principal recommendations of his report where-

  • Unification of the Canadas; said the problems in LC were due to French-Canadians, best solution was to place them in a minority position within a united province.
  • Freedoms granted to French-Canadians under Quebec Act (relating to civil law and land tenure) should be rescinded to improve economic position of habitants and promote economic growth within the colony.
  • Responsible self-government for new province; legislative assembly elected but party with majority would hold power and exercise it through cabinet government (westminster model), so the governor would only be a titular figure.
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Development of relationship with colonies: Durham

Influence of the Durham report:

  • Criticisms made of its treatment of French Canadians and them being a minority in a new province, also disregarded indigenous population of the 2 Canadas.
  • Report became the intellectual basis of the relations between Britain and its white settler colonies due to defining the term of responsible self-government.

Results of report in Canada:

  • Unification recommendation accepted by Melbourne; UC voted for union as they were indebted and wanted British settlers as the new majority.
  • British able to proceed with union as French-Canadian rebels in US; Act of Union proclaimed in Montreal in 1841.

Long-term implications of report:

  • RSG granted to all Canadian colonies between 1848-55 and Aus/NZ during the 1850s.
  • It's importance grew as the policy was adopted in white settler colonies.
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