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

By Helen Taft Manning | Go to book overview

IV
The Popular Party

I

In the year 1814 a document was transmitted to the Colonial Office by the Governor-General, Sir George Prevost, which attempted to state the case for the French party in Lower Canada. It contains a passage of which the following represents a free translation:

The divisions in the House of Assembly have become national in character; on one side the English minority, with whom the official class is allied, on the other the Canadian majority backed by the mass of the people. The heat engendered by this party strife passes from the House of Assembly to its constituents. The whole country is by now divided into two parties, one the party of administration, the other that of the people. This appearance of opposition on the part of the French Catholic Canadians to their government excites the anger of the baser part of the English population, who treat their French follow subjects in a manner which is highly insulting to a people conscious of its loyalty. The more the Canadians wish to enjoy their constitution, the more they are accused of being unworthy of confidence by those English leaders whose whole political programme is based on the belief that the French Canadians are disloyal to their King.1

The thesis that it was the purpose of the French party to enjoy their constitution, the purpose of the English party to undermine it by showing that the Canadian people were unworthy of it, had in it, at the time the 'Mémoire' was composed, considerable truth. It was the English leaders, during the first three decades of the nineteenth century, who advocated changes in the Act of 1791, and at times appeared to be willing to sacrifice even their right to representative institutions unless the working of those institutions could be placed safely under the control of 'the ancient subjects of His Majesty'. It was they who repeatedly invoked the interference of the imperial Parliament and repudiated most of the principles of colonial self-government for which not only the thirteen colonies, but also Nova Scotia and the West Indies, had always contended.

-58-

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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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