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The Re b ellions of 1837. From 1815 to 1815, more than 800,000 people cross the Atlantic to settle in BNA Many more thousands, ‘Loyalists’, move north following War of 1812

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the re b ellions of 1837

The Rebellions of 1837

From 1815 to 1815, more than 800,000 people cross the Atlantic to settle in BNA

Many more thousands, ‘Loyalists’, move north following War of 1812

These immigrants face established elites in Upper (Family Compact) and Lower Canada (Chateau Clique) who have grip on economic and political power

French and US revolutions shape British approach to political system in Canada

Rise of coureurs du bois and failure to properly settle New France (Quebec popn. in 1618 only 65)

New France ceded to English in 1629

upper canada
Upper Canada
  • Created by the Constitutional Act of 1791 – an attempt to recreate 18th century England
  • Populated largely by loyalists (this ends in 1812): soldiers get 200 acres, officers 5,000, Legislative Council members 6,000, Protestant Church (1/7) and private companies large tracts
  • Cliques of councillors and office holders had complete control of policy, issued bank and canal charters to themselves, land grabbing etc.
  • By 1830s settlers are comparing their powerless situation to south of border, altho many recent immigrants cautious
  • Emergence of William Lyon Mackenzie (Colonial Advocate), elected first mayor of Toronto and many times to assembly
  • Following LC rebellion, Mackenzie assembles rabble at north Toronto tavern with promise of free land
lower canada
Lower Canada
  • English-speaking merchants who dominated Montreal furious at split with Upper Canada, saw it as lost opportunity to dominate trade
  • French vote not expected to translate into French control of legislative assembly, but it did, pitting nationalist French on one side against English businessmen, senior Catholic clergy and French-Canadian official class
  • Emergence of Louis Joseph Papineau; seigneur and Speaker of Assembly, admired British institutions, spoke for farmers, small professional and business people
  • 92 Resolutions in 1834 – more democracy in church and politics; resisted by bishops and minister
  • Crop failure and financial crisis in US leave farmers near ruin; spontaneous riot in Montreal in November 1837 following meeting of Les Patriotes, 120 captured, Papineau flees to US
upshot of rebellions durham
Upshot of Rebellions - Durham
  • British do not respond punitively – John Lambton, First Earl of Durham, is asked to investigate (Durham was an advanced liberal, believed Empire could only survive by devolution of power); intended to apply to colonies recent cabinet system of 1832 (make executive council responsible to assembly)
  • Problem is whether Governor is responsible to assembly or to London
  • Durham drops charges against Mackenzie and Papineau to show he is not interested in just restoring aristocracy
  • In LC listens mostly to English businessmen, who convince him main problem is determination of French to hold on to their culture; report hated by French, spurs FC identity even though its constitutional liberalism makes it possible for French to survive; in US listens to Robert Baldwin
  • Calls for union and political unity of St Lawrence economy, responsible government and separation of local and imperial jurisdictions; pleases LC merchants and UC reformers
union and responsible govt
Union and Responsible Govt
  • London accepts union but not responsible government
  • Act of Union 1840 – single province and legislature with equal rep for LC and UC (immigration leads to UC dissatisfaction)
  • RG fails on question of who Governor should obey, crown or council; Russell suggests Governor appoint Council whose reps were supported by assembly
  • First Governor was Lord Sydenham, who functions like PM, but he is opposed by moderate reformers under Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine; Lafontaine realizes French can survive only with responsible government
  • Next governor, Lord Bagot, realizes Sydenham’s policy of appointing Council from popular assembly members will lead inevitably to RG; this brings Baldwin and Lafontaine to government, and establishes the principle that Canada cannot be governed without the French
  • Repeal of Corn Laws in 1846 removes basis for mercantilist control of imperial trade, and last reason for refusing RG
  • 1848 Baldwin and Lafontaine asked to form government