The Work of the Assembly
Of the tasks undertaken by the legislature in the three sessions which began in the autumn of 1829, the work of building school-houses and striving to increase the literacy of the Canadian population was the one which evoked the most universal approval and enthusiasm. There was never a doubt in the mind of members of the assembly that Canadian civilization would be rapidly transformed by the measures taken and most right-minded people in the province seem to have agreed with them. Tocqueville and Beaumont, during their visits to Montreal and Quebec in 1831, were assured on all sides that 'the Canadian race which is growing up will not resemble that which now exists'.1 So strong was the tide that even the opposition of the Catholic bishops to the form of the assembly measures made remarkably little difference either to the legislature itself or to the population of the towns and villages that were to benefit from them, and the Church proceeded quietly to adapt itself to this aspect of a new order.
The underlying principles of the assembly philosophy about education were formed in the early twenties and never greatly changed. There was always a considerable interest in the various systems then in vogue in Europe, and especially in England, for spreading elementary education among the poorer classes without too great public expenditure. The system of Joseph Lancaster was on the whole favoured partly because he was a Quaker, whereas his leading rival, Andrew Bell, was an Anglican; the assembly often displayed a preference for dissenters over members of the established Church. Joseph Lancaster had come to America in the twenties and carried on an active correspondence with Papineau and others in Lower Canada, which resulted in his settling in Montreal and receiving a grant from the assembly to enable him to continue his experiments and assist in the organization of elementary schools in that city.2 Through the efforts of J. F. Perrault, Quebec's most noted philanthropist, a Lancastrian school was opened as early as 1821 for the needy children of the Lower Town, and three years later Perrault, knowing