Empire & Commonwealth: Studies in Governance and Self-Government in Canada

By Chester Martin | Go to book overview

I
THE OLD COLONIAL SYSTEM

THE functions of government exercised by the British Dominions now amount in practice to self-government and potential equality with Great Britain in the British Commonwealth. If traced back to the middle of the eighteenth century, these functions would be found in a bewildering variety of institutions, many of them from the beginning so directly under imperial control that colonists had scarcely contemplated the possibility of any other.

A Canadian protective tariff at the present time would be announced by a Canadian Minister of Finance at Ottawa. It would be collected by officials appointed by the Minister of Customs. It would be enforced by Canadian courts under the administration of the Canadian Department of Justice. The revenues thus accruing would find their way automatically into the consolidated fund of the Dominion. In 1765 not one of these functions was controlled by colonial legislation or administered by colonial officials acting in the interests of the colonies. In this field, therefore, governance was the rule, confirmed, as Burke pointed out upon the eve of the American Revolution, 'even more by usage than by law'. On the other hand there had scarcely been a time when British settlers in America had failed to feel and to exercise certain instinctive aptitudes which colonial patriots could call 'the inalienable rights of British subjects'. An Assembly of freeholders came to be regarded as indispensable in a British province. By the middle of the eighteenth century the law officers of the Crown and the Lords of Trade had laid down the principle that no government 'can be properly carried on without such an Assembly'.1 In a resolution which Dickinson in his Farmers' Letters called 'the American Declaration of Rights', the Stamp Act Congress at New York, October 19, 1765, declared that 'His Majesty's liege subjects in the Colonies are intitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his natural-born subjects within the Kingdom of Great

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1
William Murray and Sir Richard Lloyd, Apr. 29, 1755; "Lords of Trade to Gov. of N.S., May 7, 1755". Pub. Arch. Can., Nova Scotia, A. Series, vol. lvii.

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Empire & Commonwealth: Studies in Governance and Self-Government in Canada
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents xi
  • INTRODUCTORY xiii
  • I - THE OLD COLONIAL SYSTEM 1
  • II- Nova Scotia and the Old Empire 56
  • III - 'NEW SUBJECTS' IN QUEBEC 94
  • IV - NOVA SCOTIA AND THE SECOND EMPIRE 148
  • V - RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT IN CANADA 240
  • VI - THE COMMONWEALTH AND ITS COROLLARIES 327
  • Index 357
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