Lord Grenville's Act
In the early nineteenth century the Canadas were unlike any other British colony in that they had a form of government carefully fashioned for them by the imperial Parliament, supposedly in the image of that of the mother country. When Canadians spoke of their constitution, therefore, they had in mind something as tangible and as available for citation as the constitution of the United States. There was, however, the vital difference that the American constitution, having been adopted by 'the people', could be changed only by the people acting under a special procedure of amendment, whereas the Canadian constitution, having been conferred on Canada by Parliament, could also be changed by Parliament, and only by Parliament.
Yet it was by no means presupposed in England that such changes would be made against the wishes of the Canadian people. The nature and purpose of the two acts of Parliament which jointly composed the constitution of Lower Canada made them in a sense charters which guaranteed certain rights to the French Canadians, among them the retention of their religious establishment and of their system of civil law, for as long as they wished to keep them. Probably the most important single clause of the Quebec Act of 1774, as far as the constitutional rights of the Canadians were concerned, was the one which made it possible for the King to appoint councillors who would not be required to make the declaration against transubstantiation. The inclusion of a new form of oath of allegiance, so worded as to be acceptable to Roman Catholics, was the proof of the intention of the British authorities that the 'new subjects' would be represented in their own government, and in 1791 a similar oath was the only one required of representatives elected to the assembly. Thus it came about that Roman Catholics sat in the legislature of Canada thirty-eight years before they could sit in the British Parliament. Since it was taken for granted, in 1791, that the French Roman Catholics would continue, for a good many years to