Upper Canada: The Formative Years, 1784-1841

By Gerald M. Craig | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Rise of the Reform Movement

As Sir Peregrine Maitland's term as lieutenant-governor drew to a close in the autumn of 1828 he was an angry and a somewhat bewildered man. He had been responsible for the province's government for ten years. During that period its population had approximately doubled. Settlements had been formed in dozens of new townships, and obvious progress had been made in providing them with roads, sawmills, and grist mills, while in the older districts churches and courthouses as well as private buildings were taking on a more substantial form. Vigorous canal-building projects were under way, and a provincial bank had been established. Elementary and secondary schools were dotted about the province, and a university with a magnificent endowment had recently been chartered. Sir Peregrine felt that the growing economic prosperity and the more civilized aspect of Upper Canada owed much to the honest and conscientious government over which he had presided.

Yet it was a bitter fact that for some two years there had been a rising agitation, which showed no signs of abating. Grievance-mongers had been busily getting up petitions, filled with harsh and extravagant attacks upon his conduct of affairs and, what was far worse, receiving aid and comfort from members of the imperial parliament. And only lately, during the past summer, a provincial election had returned a majority of malcontents and oppositionists to the Assembly. While he believed that the majority of the population consisted of loyal subjects, he was filled with foreboding for the fate of the province as he went off to his new post in Nova Scotia. Like conservative government leaders in other times and places, he could see only a few wicked and seditious men where there was in fact a growing popular movement.

Although there was a touch of exaggeration in Maitland's statement that "for more than eight years [he had] administered this Government with satisfaction," he was on the whole correct in dating the beginning of agita-

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