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

By Helen Taft Manning | Go to book overview

VIII
The Authoritarian Governor
LORD DALHOUSIE, 1820-28

The years from 1808 to 1820 had set the pattern of party strife in Lower Canada; the administration of Lord Dalhousie not only intensified the violence of feeling on both sides, but also created new political problems and an increased sense of insecurity, for Canadians and British-born alike, which was not to be liquidated until long after the rebellion. Yet of all the Governors of his generation, Dalhousie was the most high-minded and conscientious, and the most determined to be absolutely impartial as between the two races in Canada. Like his predecessors, he was a professional soldier, but it was a much more important factor in his mental and spiritual equipment that he was, in every fibre of his being, a Scot and a Presbyterian. Bigsby, who served under him and who contrasts him with the easy-going and sporting Richmond, tells us that he 'was a very favourable specimen of the Scottish mind . . . a quiet, studious, domestic man, faithful to his word and kind, but rather dry. He spoke and acted by measure, as if he were in an enemy's land, and so in truth he was, because in the face of the most determined opposition, he was honestly carrying out, as well as he could, the instructions of ill-informed men residing three thousand miles away.'1

It does not detract from the truth of Bigsby's picture to know that, even in his relations with the Colonial Office, Dalhousie's ultra-Scottish sympathies and connections were a handicap of which he himself had an exaggerated awareness. His predecessors had all had private pipelines to those near the ear of the Colonial Secretary, if not to the Colonial Secretary himself; Dalhousie depended entirely on the good offices of the Scots in London and Edinburgh, who cared for such matters on behalf of their countrymen -- Lord Melville, the Duke of Buccleuch, the Chief Baron for Scotland. These powerful patrons did not fail him, but their efforts on his behalf were probably of more use in securing for

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