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

By Helen Taft Manning | Go to book overview

IX
The Question of Union

I

In the writing of Canadian history the disputes between Governor and assembly over the annual supply bills have been featured to the exclusion of other political battles in the lower province. This is entirely natural since it was a dramatic struggle for power and provides a single theme running through the whole story of the years prior to the rebellion of 1837. There were other issues between the French and English parties, however, which cut deeper and were more enduring in their nature. Generally speaking, these issues were of less interest to the Governors than was the annual battle over finances and, since they involved possible changes in the fundamental principles of the Quebec Act and the Canadian Constitutional Act, they were carried by the leaders of the English or the French party to England where they were fought out either at the Colonial Office or in the imperial Parliament. Of these the most ominous for the survival of French Canada were the proposals, of which there were many, for the union or federation of the two Canadian provinces, or for the dismemberment of the French province.

The first Union Bill was introduced into the House of Commons by Robert Wilmot, the new under-secretary for the colonies, in the summer of 1822. The decision that any important measure changing the constitution of the Canadas should be brought in by the government at this time was made with very great reluctance by the Tory ministers, since they disliked the prospect of an argument in the House of Commons about Canada or any other colony. In fact their acceptance of the plan offered by the Colonial Office was frankly based on the promise of Edward Ellice, later the party whip, that if the bill were presented it would be accepted by the opposition without debate. It is therefore important to emphasize not only that Ellice had mercantile interests in North America and was the proprietor of one of the most valuable seigneuries, which he wished to develop without the restrictions imposed by the seigneurial system of land tenure, but that he was the

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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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