Lord Durham's Report: An Abridgement of Report on the Affairs of British North America

Excerpt

Lord Durham's Report has come to occupy such a central place in the history of the Commonwealth of Nations that no apology is needed for making it readily available to students and readers, both inside and outside the schools and universities. Indeed, so much praise has been showered on the famous Report that it may come as a surprise to some to learn that when it appeared it was widely regarded as a partisan, opinionated, and inaccurate document and that even now, after the smoke of contemporary controversy has long since lifted, we can easily find glaring weaknesses of fact and argument in this noted and notorious state paper. Nevertheless, it is true that no attempt to debunk or to deflate the great Report would be very successful. Despite all its shortcomings and defects it remains one of the most vigorous and perceptive expositions of the principles and practice of free government in the history of the English-speaking peoples.

Thus the Report has come to have a significance and a relevance that far transcend the circumstances of its immediate origins. Yet, if we are to understand both the strong and the weak features of the document we must look back, however briefly, to those circumstances, for Lord Durham was not only uttering a testament of his political faith that he thought to be universally valid; he was also prescribing for a particular political problem.

That problem existed in the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and much more ominously and immediately in the latter, where the legislative assembly had been suspended following the outbreak of rebellion in 1837. This rebellion, which had a much less serious counterpart in Upper Canada . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Toronto
Publication year:
  • 1963

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