The Revolt of French Canada, 1800-1835: A Chapter of the History of the British Commonwealth

By Helen Taft Manning | Go to book overview

II
Lord Grenville's Act

I

In the early nineteenth century the Canadas were unlike any other British colony in that they had a form of government carefully fashioned for them by the imperial Parliament, supposedly in the image of that of the mother country. When Canadians spoke of their constitution, therefore, they had in mind something as tangible and as available for citation as the constitution of the United States. There was, however, the vital difference that the American constitution, having been adopted by 'the people', could be changed only by the people acting under a special procedure of amendment, whereas the Canadian constitution, having been conferred on Canada by Parliament, could also be changed by Parliament, and only by Parliament.

Yet it was by no means presupposed in England that such changes would be made against the wishes of the Canadian people. The nature and purpose of the two acts of Parliament which jointly composed the constitution of Lower Canada made them in a sense charters which guaranteed certain rights to the French Canadians, among them the retention of their religious establishment and of their system of civil law, for as long as they wished to keep them. Probably the most important single clause of the Quebec Act of 1774, as far as the constitutional rights of the Canadians were concerned, was the one which made it possible for the King to appoint councillors who would not be required to make the declaration against transubstantiation. The inclusion of a new form of oath of allegiance, so worded as to be acceptable to Roman Catholics, was the proof of the intention of the British authorities that the 'new subjects' would be represented in their own government, and in 1791 a similar oath was the only one required of representatives elected to the assembly. Thus it came about that Roman Catholics sat in the legislature of Canada thirty-eight years before they could sit in the British Parliament. Since it was taken for granted, in 1791, that the French Roman Catholics would continue, for a good many years to

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The Revolt of French Canada, 1800-1835: A Chapter of the History of the British Commonwealth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Maps x
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Setting 1
  • I - The Province of Lower Canada 3
  • II - Lord Grenville's Act 23
  • Part II - The Struggle in the Colony: Governor Versus Assembly 39
  • III - Governor, Electorate, Assembly 41
  • IV - The Popular Party 58
  • V - Sir James Craig, 1807-11 77
  • VI - The Francophile Governor Sir George Prevost, 1811-15 95
  • VII - Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, I816-I8 109
  • VIII - Lord Dalhousie, 1820-28 124
  • Part III - The Struggle in the Colony: The Fundamental Issues 149
  • IX - The Question of Union 151
  • XII - The Question of Representation 187
  • XII - The Attack on the Councils 207
  • Part IV - The Reaction in England 223
  • XIII - Reaction in War 225
  • XIV - Reaction in Peace 243
  • XV - The Politics of the Colonial Office 260
  • XVI - The Mind of Parliament 277
  • Part V - The Ascendancy of French Canada 297
  • XVII - The Triumph of the Assembly 299
  • XVIII - The Work of the Assembly 311
  • XIX - The Forces Dividing 321
  • XX - The Catastrophe 335
  • XXI - The Election of 1834 355
  • Conclusion 374
  • Appendix 378
  • Bibliographical Notes 384
  • Notes 390
  • Index 419
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