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

By Helen Taft Manning | Go to book overview
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XX
The Catastrophe

I

The year 1832 could scarcely have begun under more favourable auspices. The government of Lord Grey had been in power in England for a little more than a year and, although the Great Reform Bill had not as yet been accepted by the House of Lords, the alignment of forces made it inevitable that even the Tories would have to pass a measure of a similar nature if they came back into power. The Colonial Secretary, Lord Goderich, had served in several Tory cabinets, and once at the Colonial Office. During his first brief term as Colonial Secretary he had not shown any 'liberal' tendencies, but his parliamentary under-secretary was Lord Howick, son and heir of Lord Grey, who was as far to the left of his father as Lord Goderich was to the right. Due to Lord Goderich's pliable character and lack of any fixed policy Howick was the most important person to hold this post after the retirement of Wilmot Horton. In the course of their three years of joint service the minister displayed, upon occasion, a streak of stubbornness that was to prevent his strong-willed subordinate having things all his own way. During his first year in the Grey cabinet, however, Goderich himself was entirely complacent in posing as the embodiment of Whig principles and the messenger of good will to the North American colonists. They were, he said, to receive at once all the benefits of English institutions, and every reform recommended by the Canada Committee would be introduced with all possible speed.1

There was only one factor in the whole situation which was clearly unfortunate, and was due to one of those accidents of an unkind fate which happen when governments are changing. Sir James Kempt was released from his unwelcome duties in the summer of 1830. Wellington and Murray, in looking over the field for his successor, hit upon Lord Aylmer, another general who had served on Wellington's staff but one who had no experience at all in civil administration or in politics, and, what was worse, had remarkably little common sense. If there was any

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