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the tenure hereditary with titles of honour, and thus to
endow Canada with a peerage; this project, however,
together with great landed estates and primogeniture,
the democratic spirit and the economical conditions of the
new world repelled. To complete the constitutional imi-
tation, on each province was bestowed something like a
counterpart of the state church of England in the shape
of a " protestant " church, with an endowment out of the
crown lands. In both provinces the criminal law of Eng-
land, with Habeas Corpus, was established, but to the
French provinces the civil law of France was left. The
right of imposing duties on commerce or navigation, the
exercise of which had led to the quarrel with the 4¬їnierican
colonies, was reserved to the imperial parliament, but the
duties were to be applied to the use of the province.

During the early years the settler in British Canada
was too much engaged in his victorious battle with the
wilderness to think much about politics; while among
the simple peasantry of Quebec, whose life was divided
between their tiny farms and their church, politics had
1812 not been born. Then came the American war and the
invasion of Canada, which turned all thoughts and energies
to arms. Once more the French Canadians were kept true
to Great Britain by their priests, who saw in her the
antagonist of the French Revolution and had sung Te
Deum for Trafalgar. This was the time at which it might
have been said that the last gun in defence of British
dominion on the American continent would be fired by a


French Canadian. A quarter of a century later Lord 1838
Durham, as the British commissioner of inquiry, could
report that an invading American army might rely on the
co-operation of almost the entire French population of
Lower Canada. Before the war commerce and inter-
course, with a certain amount of American immigration,
had been exerting their softening influence on the rela-
tions between the two sections of the English-speaking
race, and it would appear from the complaints of the
British governor and the British commander-in-chief that
the Canadians were at first not eager to take up arms,
though when attacked they made a very gallant and
memorable defence. The war revived the antagonism in
full force, doing for the traditional feeling of Canada
towards the United States what the Revolutionary War
had done for the traditional feeling of Americans towards
Great Britain ; the opposition of New England to the war
going for no more with Canadians than had the opposi-
tion of the Whigs to the coercion of the American colonies
with the people of the United States. The treatment of
the Canadian question from first to last seems little credit-
able to American statesmanship.

In time, however, there was political trouble in both 1837
provinces. In both it took the same form, that of a strug-
gle of the elective assembly to establish its control over
the policy of the governor and over the executive and legis-
lative councils nominated by him ; in other words, to intro-
duce in place of the formal British system the real British
system, which was that of government responsible to the
nation. But the cause of quarrel was different in the
two provinces. In Quebec the cause was race. The
" habitants " were a surviving segment of the French


peasantry before the Revolution ; kindly and good, but sim-
ple-minded, uneducated, unprogressive, primitive even in
the farming which was their only pursuit, and governed
by the priest, to whom had passed all the power once
shared by the king and the signer, saving what might fall
to a few old French families or to the notary. They were
invaded and confronted by Englishmen and Scotchmen,
active-minded, educated, and aggressive, who engrossed
the sources of wealth and bore themselves as the imperial
race. The French, still Frenchmen, French-Canadians
at least, to the core, found their nationality threatened
with suppression in its own home. Their jealousy was
aroused, and a political war of races ensued. The British
had the governor and the offices of government in their
hands. They were intrenched, not only in the executive
council but in the legislative council appointed by the
governor which formed the upper house of the parlia-
ment. In the lower and elective house the French
had a great majority. The chief bone of contention, as
in the contests between the crown and the Commons in
England, was the control of the revenue, part of which
the crown drew from crown lands and sources other
than grants of the assembly. But the signories with
their vexatious incidents; the tenure of the judges,
which was during pleasure, and their appearance in the
political arena ; restrictions placed, in the interest of
French monopoly, on banking ; formed with other minor
issues secondary causes of the political war. The war
was waged on the part of the French, untrained in consti-
tutional tactics, with irregular and sometimes misdirected
fury. Prominent members of the government or judiciary
were made the objects of personal attacks. The ignorance


of the "habitants," which was such that of eighty-seven
thousand persons who signed a petition, only nine thou-
sand could write their own names, combined with their
jealous nationality, made their masses an easy field for
patriotic agitation. Their leader was Papineau, a popular
orator and little more. At his side was Wolfred Nelson, a
man of greater force, one of the few Englishmen who on
radical grounds took the French side. The Colonial Office,
wishing to do right, but in those days of slow communica-
tion ill-informed, not discerning that the source of the
quarrel was race, but taking it to be political and fiscal
discontent, strove in vain by instructions and commissions
of inquiry to arbitrate and to lay the storm. It succeeded
only in showing the impracticability of a system which
sought to combine the parliamentary with the unparlia-
mentary principle and self-government in a distant colony
with the continuance of imperial control. That imperial
control should continue, and that the governor who repre-
sented it should be a viceroy, choosing his own ministers,
shaping his own policy, and responsible to the colonial
office alone, not a constitutional figure-head, with a min-
istry imposed upon him by the colonial Commons, was the
fixed idea of British statesmen ; and not of Tories only, but
of Liberals like Lord John Russell.

In the British province, on the other hand, the contest
was purely political, the object of the movement there being
to put an end to arbitrary rule and introduce the British
system of responsible government. Power, office, and
public emolument had in British Canada been engrossed
by an oligarchy nicknamed the Family Compact, though
with little reason, since family connection among its mem-
bers there was none. The Family Compact was a politi-


cal ring composed of United Empire Loyalists, with other
early settlers and some retired British officers who had
received grants of land, and having, not much to their
discredit, failed in the battle with the wilderness, were
fain to quarter themselves on the state. This oligarchy,
which gave itself the social airs of an aristocracy, was, like
the English oligarchy at Quebec, intrenched in the
nominee House and had the governor and the government
in its hands. It monopolized public emolument, handled
all public money, and helped itself to the public lands.
In opposition to it was the body of the more recent set-
tlers from England, Scotland, and Ireland, exiles often
of discontent, together with some immigrants from the
United States who brought with them and disseminated
republican ideas. With the Family Compact was allied
the Anglican church, endowed, privileged, and every-
where Tory, the head of which, Bishop Strachan, a seceder
from Presbyterianism and, as his enemies said, from
ecclesiastical ambition, was a too active partisan. Of
the special questions on which battle was joined, the most
burning was the disposal of the clergy reserves, which the
Anglican church was resolved to keep for herself, while
the opposition sought to divide them between the Angli-
can church and the church of Scotland; to divide them
among all the protestant sects; or, which was the thor-
oughgoing Radical policy, to appropriate them for the pur-
poses of the state. The reservation of these lands was felt
as an obstruction to settlement in addition to the religious
injustice. Other questions were the control of all the
revenues of the province and the disposal of the public
lands, law reforms, the power to impeach public servants,
exclusion of judges and clergy from parliament, and the


abolition of primogeniture. But the main issue was
responsible government ; in other words the control of
an elective assembly over the appointment and policy of
the ministers of the crown. Of the opposition there were
different sections. On one hand were constitutional re-
formers, still attached to British connection and desirous
only of a complete measure of British institutions. Of
these, forming far the most numerous section, Robert
Baldwin was the chief. On the other hand there were
the thorough-going Radicals, with a leaning to the Ameri-
can republic, of whom the leading spirit at the critical
moment was William Lyon Mackenzie, an excitable and
peppery Scotchman, courageous and honest, but not wise.
Between Lyon Mackenzie and the Family Compact there
was deadly war. The Compact tried to crush him by
legal means and five times expelled him from the assem-
bly, while their hot-headed youth broke into his printing
office and wrecked the press of his patriotic journal. The
governor, Sir John Colborne, was a good old soldier and
a martinet of duty, but incapable of reading the times.
He regarded political agitation as mutiny, gave popular
deputations a chilling reception, and to the numerously
signed petitions of an indignant public for the reform of
abuses returned the military answer, " Gentlemen, I have
received the petition of the inhabitants."

At length in both the provinces came civil war; for 1837
civil war it was rather than rebellion against the British
crown. In Quebec the leader of the insurrection was
Papineau, who, being a mere orator, at once collapsed
and fled. Nelson showed more force and at first gained
a slight success over the royal troops. The priests at first
stood aloof, their nationality and religion inclining them


to the French side; but they knew that incorporation
with the American reput)lic, which loomed in sight, would
be unfavourable to their ascendancy, and they at last
threw their weight into the scale of government. With
their moral aid, and that of the British in arms added
to the regular troops, the British commander easily sup-
pressed the insurrection, and the province, its constitution
suspended, lay at the feet of the government. There was
little concert between the two insurrections ; in fact, the
feeling of the British insurgents in Upper Canada would,
on the supreme question of race, have been against the
insurgents of Quebec.

In Upper Canada the outbreak was due largely to the
eccentricities of Sir Francis Bond Head, a governor de-
void of political experience, whom the colonial office had
sent out apparently because it was supposed that, as an
adventurous traveller, in which character he had made
his mark, he would be likely to suit the backwoods.
Head threw himself into the arms of the Tory party, the
core of which was the Family Compact, and used all the
influence of government in favour of that party. In a
general election, after a contest of the utmost violence,
the Tories won the day, largely by intimidation and cor-
ruption. The extreme reform party, now hopelessly out-
voted in the assembly, was driven to despair and flew to
arms. The governor, confident in his moral influence
and puffed up by his victory in the election, had ostenta-
tiously denuded the province of troops and disdained all
military precautions. Mackenzie brought before Toronto
a force sufficient to take it with the aid of his friends
within the city. But he was no general ; a belated and
almost farcical attack on which at last he ventured failed;


the loyalists rallied; and Mackenzie with most of his
political associates fled, while two of them went to the
gallows. A desultory and ineffectual war was for some
time kept up with the aid of American filibusters on the
border, and revived the angry passions of the war of 1812.
A party of Canadians burned the filibustering schooner
Caroline^ and the arrest of one of them afterwards in
the United States, where he was put on trial for his life,
threatened to bring on war.

In Great Britain Liberalism was now in the ascendant
and had carried parliamentary reform. As its envoy, and
in its mantle. Lord Durham, the son-in-law of Lord Grey,
the Radical aristocrat, the draftsman of the Reform Bill,
came out as governor and high commissioner to report on 1838
the disease and prescribe the remedy. He over-rated his
position and his authority, moved about. Radical though
he was, in regal state, assumed the power of banishing
rebels without process of law, fell into the clutches of
Brougham, with whom he was at feud, was censured and
resigned. But he had brought with him Charles Buller,
an expert in colonial questions, with the help of whose
pen and that of Gibbon Wakefield, he framed a report
which by its great ability and momentous effects forms
an epoch in colonial history.

The Durham report recommends the union of the two
provinces and the concession of responsible government,
that is, of a government like the British cabinet, virtually
designated by the representatives of the people and hold-
ing office by the title of their confidence. "- To conduct
their government," says Durham of the Canadian people,
" harmoniously, in accordance with its established princi-
ples, is now the business of its rulers; and I know not


how it is possible to secure that harmony in any other
way, than by administering the government on those prin-
ciples which have been found perfectly efficacious in Great
Britain. I would not impair a single prerogative of the
crown ; on the contrary, I believe that the interests of the
people of these colonies require the protection of preroga-
tives, which have not hitherto been exercised. But the
crown must, on the other hand, submit to the necessary
consequences- of representative institutions ; and if it has
to carry on the government in unison with a representative
body, it must consent to carry it on by means of those in
whom that representative body has confidence." What
Durham meant by his saving words about the prerogative
is not clear; nor has he explained how supreme power
could be given to the colonial parliament without taking
away prerogative from the crown. No effect, at all
events, has ever been given to those words.

" We can venture," said the Tory periodical of that day
in a notice of the report, " to answer that every uncontra-
dicted assertion of that volume will be made the excuse
of future rebellions, every unquestioned principle will
be hereafter perverted into a gospel of treason, and if
that rank and infectious report does not receive the high,
marked, and energetic discountenance and indignation of
the imperial crown and parliament, British America is
lost." If resignation of authority is loss of dominion,
the prediction of the writer in the Quarterly that British
America would be lost, can hardly be said, from the Tory
point of view, to have proved substantially unfounded.

The avowed object of union was the extinction of
French nationality, which the authors of the report hoped
would be brought about without violence by the political


subjection of the weaker element to the influence of the
stronger. " I entertain," says Durham, " no doubts as to
the national character which must be given to Lower
Canada ; it must be that of the British Empire ; that of the
majority of the population of British America; that of
the great race which must, in the lapse of no long period
of time, be predominant over the whole North American
Continent. Without effecting the change so rapidly or so
roughly as to shock the feelings and trample on the wel-
fare of the existing generation, it must henceforth be the
first and steady purpose of the British government to es-
tablish an English population, with English laws and lan-
guage, in this Province, and to trust its government to
none but a decidedly English Legislature."

Union was accepted in Upper Canada. On the French
province, by which it would certainly have been rejected,
it was imposed, the constitution there having been sus-
pended. For the united provinces the constitution was in
form the same as it had been for each of the provinces
separately, with a governor and his executive council, a
legislative council appointed by the governor and a legis-
lative assembly elected by the people ; but with " responsi-
ble government," the understanding henceforth being in
Canada as in Great Britain that the governor should
accept as the members of his executive council and the
framers of his policy the 'leaders of the majority in parlia-
ment. The upper House was afterwards made, like the
lower, elective with constituencies wider than those for
the lower House. The same number of members in the
legislative assembly was assigned to each of the two
provinces, though the population of Quebec was at this
time far the larger of the two.


The constitution thus granted to the colony was in
reality far more democratic than that of the mother-coun-
try, where, besides a court actually present and a heredi-
tary upper House, there were the influences of a great
land-owning gentry and other social forces of a conserva-
tive kind, as well as deep-seated tradition, to control the
political action of the people.

Not without a pang or without a struggle did the

Colonial Office or the governors finally acquiesce in respon-

' sible government and the virtual independence of the

colony. Poulett Thomson, afterwards Lord Sydenham,

1839 sent out as governor by the Melbourne ministry, showed
some inclination to revert to the old paths, shape his own
policy, and hold himself responsible to the colonial
office rather than to the Canadian people ; but he was a
shrewd politician and took care to steer clear of rocks.

1841 His successor, Bagot, though a conservative and appointed
by a conservative government, surprised everybody by dis-
creet and somewhat epicurean pliancy to the exigencies

1843 of his political position. He reigned in peace. But Met-
calfe, who followed him, had been trained in the despotic
government of India. Backed by the Conservative gov-
ernment which had sent him out, he made strenuous
efforts to recover something of the old power of a gov-
ernor, to shape his own course, and make his appointments
himself, not at the dictation of responsible ministers, The
result was a furious storm. Fiery invectives were inter-
changed in parliament and in the press. At elections
stones and brick-bats flew. Canada was for several
months without a government. The fatal illness of the

1846 governor terminated the strife. Lord Elgin, when he

1846 became governor, heartily embraced the principle of re-


sponsible government, and upon the demise of the minis-
try sent at once for the leader of the opposition. He
flattered himself that he was able to do more under that
system than he could have done if invested with personal
authority. That he could have done a good deal under
any system by his moral influence was most likely, for he
was one of the most characteristic and best specimens of
imperial statesmanship. But moral influence is not con-
stitutional power. About the last relic of the political
world before responsibility was Dominic k Daly, who
deemed it his duty to stay in office, any changes in the
ministry and principles of government notwithstanding.

The other North American colonies, Nova Scotia, New
Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, went through a
similar course of contest for supreme power between the
governor with the council nominated by him and the
elective assembly, ending in the same way. On them also
the boon of responsible government was conferred. In
the case of Prince Edward Island the political problem
had been complicated by an agrarian struggle with the
body of grantees among whom the crown, in its feudal
character of supreme land-owner, had parcelled out the

Liberalism now gained the upper hand in the united
Canada and ultimately carried its various points. Exiled
rebels returned. William Lyon Mackenzie himself was
in time again elected to parliament, and Rolph, another
fugitive, was admitted to the government. The clergy 1853
reserves were secularized, university education was made
unsectarian, and religious equality became the law.
The signories in .the French province were abolished, 1854
compensation being given to the lords. The passions


of the civil war were for a moment revived when an Act
was passed awarding compensation to those whose prop-
erty had suffered in the suppression of the rebellion. This
the Tories took to be payment of rebels. They dropped
their loyalty, as Tories are apt to do when Liberals are

1850 in power, stoned the governor-general, Lord Elgin, who
had assented to the Bill, and burned the parliament-house
at Montreal. But Lord Elgin, calmly wise and well sus-
tained at home, restored peace.

As an attempt to suppress the French nationality,
union signally failed. The French, the mass of them
at least, clung together more closely than ever, and, the
other race being split into factions, held the key of the
political situation. They enforced the repeal of the clause
in the Union Act, making English the only official lan-
guage. A candidate for the speakership was rejected on
the ground of his ignorance of* French. At most the
French politicians became half Anglicized, as their success-
ors do at present, for the purposes of the political field.
It came to be recognized as a rule that government
must have a majority of both sections. To the antagonism
between English and French was added the strife between

1823 Orangism, which had been imported into Canada, though
rather in its political than in its religious character, and
the catholics, French or Irish. The population of the
British province having now outgrown that of the French
province, agitation for representation by population com-
menced on the British side. There ensued a series of
cabals, intrigues, and faction fights which lasted for about
a quarter of a century, all intelligible principles of dif-
ference being lost in the struggle for. place, though one
question after another was taken up as a counter in the


game. The only available statesmanship was address in
the management of party. In this John A. Macdonald 1847-
was supreme, and gained the ascendancy which made him
ruler of Canada for many years.

Durham, in his report, had spoken freely of the sad
contrast between the wonderful prosperity of the United
States and the comparative backwardness of Canada. The
contrast was still more felt when by England's adoption
of free trade Canada lost her privileges in the British
market, while she was excluded from the market of her
own continent. A petition signed by three hundred and
twenty-five persons, including the chiefs of commerce pro- 1849
posed among other remedies, "a friendly and peaceful
separation from British connection, and a union upon
equitable terms with the great North American Con-
federacy of Sovereign States." To open a safety valve
for this discontent. Lord Elgin went to Washington and
negotiated a reciprocity treaty with the United States. 1854
The Democratic party, that is the party of slavery, then
dominant would be ready enough to do whatever would
prevent Canada from entering the union and turning the
balance against slavery. At the same time that Canada
lost her privilege in the British market, British privilege
in the Canadian market was virtually given up, and the
colony received fiscal independence.

Faction, cabal, intrigue, and the antagonism between

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 75 of 84)