The Question of Union
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