Presentation on theme: "Did Lord Durham Change anything? Aftermath of the Rebellions of 1837."— Presentation transcript:
Did Lord Durham Change anything? Aftermath of the Rebellions of 1837
Responsible Government Definition Responsible government, in general terms, refers to a system in which the government is responsible to the electorate. In Canadian terms, however, it has a specific context and meaning. The term gained popularity in Upper Canada early in the 19th century and came to mean a government responsible to the elected representatives of the House of Assembly. Under responsible government, members of the Cabinet are collectively responsible to the elected House (today, the House of Commons). If they lose the confidence of the House, it is an important unwritten constitutional convention that the government resign or call an election to win a new mandate.
Responsible Government Principles As used in Canada, the term refers to a government responsible to the elected representatives of the people. According to the principles of responsible government, the powers of the governor general are limited - a fundamental concept which exists nowhere in any legal document. Responsible government is based on the notion that the executive is accountable to the House of Commons. Those who exercise executive power must obtain the support of the House for the use of that power.
Rules of Responsible Government 1. Title to executive power rests with the Crown. 2. The Crown will only appoint Ministers who as members have the confidence of the House. 3. The Crown will only act on the advice of its ministers. 4. Ministers will act as a team or ministry. 5. If the ministry loses the confidence of the House it must resign or seek new elections. These conventions severely constrain the legal powers of the Crown to the point where the Crown's power is exercised, almost exclusively, on the advice of its ministers.
The Status Quo Before responsible government was granted, the Legislative Council of each of the British North American colonies was appointed and reported to the governor. The elected assemblies had little or no say in who was appointed. In Upper Canada a ruling elite formed that was called the Family Compact by its critics. A similar group was called the Château Clique in Lower Canada. These groups ensured that important positions went to members of the same social, political and economic circles. Because they benefited from the status quo, they resisted change.
Election in 1831 during struggle for Responsible Government
Increasing Frustration As the colonies matured, many people - and especially those in the houses of assembly - became increasingly frustrated. Some sought radical changes that would lead to a republican government as in the United States. Louis-Joseph Papineau was not quite so radical: he sought change through constitutional means, and drew up a list of demands called the Ninety-Two Resolutions. These were rejected by the colonial authorities, which contributed to his views becoming more extreme and his leadership in the rebellions of 1837 and 1838. Others, notably reformers such as William Warren Baldwin, his son Robert Baldwin, and Louis LaFontaine, sought moderate changes that followed the British model and that would make the councils responsible to the elected assemblies.
Lord Durham John George Lambton, first Earl of Durham, was appointed in January 1838 to investigate the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada. His report was met with scorn and anger from many, but was welcomed by Upper Canada reformers.
Report on the Affairs of British North America (The Durham Report) Charged with finding the roots of the unrest that had led to the uprisings in Lower Canada, Durham states that he expected to find that the problem lay between those who sought free government and those in the executive protecting their own authority. What he found instead was "two nations warring in the bosom of a single state… a struggle, not of principles, but of races." Most of the blame for this he attributed to French Canadians.·
The Durham Report Refers to French Canadians as backward and illiterate. Argues that irresponsible leaders easily manipulate them. The English minority, in contrast, is practical and interested in improving the province. In Upper Canada, Durham blamed the Constitutional Act, 1791, which gave too much power to the lieutenant-governor and his appointed advisors. He blamed the lieutenant-governor, Sir Francis Bond Head, for resisting political advances and favouring the Family Compact. In his conclusion and recommendations, he warns that if government does not change, Canadians might turn to the United States for a solution.
Recommendations The colonies should have control over their internal affairs (although he severely restricted the kind of legislation this could include). The Colonial Office should retain control of many areas including "the constitution of the form of government, the regulation of foreign relations and trade… and the disposal of the public lands.“ There must be responsible government, with a proper cabinet system as in Britain. Responsible government should only be given to an English-speaking majority (as he does not believe that French Canadians are ready). A program of education to make French Canadians more progressive. In order to assimilate French Canadians, there should be a union of the Canadas with the possibility of including the other British North American Colonies later.
Durham Controversy Durham was hailed as a statesman by the Reformers in Upper Canada for recommending the granting of responsible government and as a "racist" in Lower Canada for proposing the assimilation of French Canadians. Although he never for a moment questioned the "natural intelligence" and superiority of the English, and described the Canadiens as a people devoid of history and literature and lacking in anything "that elevates a people", his proposal of assimilation of the French was mainly rooted in two considerations: his desire to render the government of Lower Canada more effective, by removing the "racial" antagonism that had paralysed it to this point in time, and to provide French Canadians with greater opportunities as English was decidedly the language of business and social promotion and would continue to dominate in the future on the continent. It was to elevate the Canadiens from this position of inferiority that Durham proposed the solution of assimilation. Thus, his proposal of assimilation was consistent with basic liberal principles that require that equal opportunities be extended to all. To Durham, the patriotes had only used the language of liberalism and the ideals of democracy to defend an unprogressive order – that of feudal France and the institutions of the Ancien régime.
A Constitutional Difficulty Prevents Change What was a colonial governor to do when he received conflicting advice from his superiors in Britain and his subjects in the colonies? The solution some suggested was to retain a few important matters - including external relations and constitutional change - in the hands of the British, and for all the rest require the colonial governors to take their advice from an executive that was responsible to - and that had the confidence of - the elected assembly. The British colonial authorities were not ready to do this, however, and so the Union Act, 1840, did nothing to advance responsible government. This act carried through Durham's recommendations for uniting the provinces, but not for responsible government. Sections L and LI also allowed the debt of Upper Canada to be paid by revenues from Lower Canada.
Document Summary Section I: Union of Upper and Lower Canada into the Province of Canada. Section XII: The areas of Upper and Lower Canada to have an equal number of seats in the newly united province. Sections XXXVII-XXXIX: Lieutenant-governor and Crown have the authority to disallow bills passed by the Assembly. Section XL: Lieutenant-governor to keep the powers held before the union. Section XLI: All official government documents to be in English only. Section XLVII: Laws to remain the same in Upper and Lower Canada "…as if the said two Provinces had not been reunited as aforesaid." Sections L-LI: A consolidated revenue fund created.
The United Province of Canada Canada West(ON) Population: 450 000 42 members in the elected assembly Canada East (QC) Population: 650 000 42 members in the elected assembly
Political Parties in the two Canadas The Clear Grits George Brown The Conservatives (Tories) John A. Macdonald Parti Rouge George Etienne Cartier Parti Bleu Antoine-Aime Dorion
Responsible Government Won In 1846 a change in government in Britain appointed a more reform-minded governor to British North America: Lord Elgin. Earl Grey, the new secretary of state for war and the colonies, made it clear to Elgin that Britain had no interest in exercising any more influence in the colonies than was necessary to prevent one colony from injuring another or the empire as a whole.
The First Cabinet Governments Nova Scotia was the first to take advantage of this new policy. In 1847, the government was defeated and a new one, led by Joseph Howe, formed in February 1848. In Canada, reformers Robert Baldwin and Louis LaFontaine formed a new council in March, 1848.
Responsible Government Tested and Proven The first serious test of the new system came in 1849. The Rebellion Losses Bill sought to compensate those in what had been Lower Canada for damages that resulted from the rebellions. It was controversial because the Tories objected that many of the claimants were former rebels. Lord Elgin opposed it personally, but passed it on the advice of his cabinet. French Canadians were pleased, but British elements of the population were so outraged that they attacked Elgin and burned down the parliament building (which was in Montreal at the time). Responsible government was again tested, and proven, in 1859, when a proposed protectionist duty passed in Canada threatened British commercial interests. It was allowed to pass.
Burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal 1849
Failure of the Act of Union The lack of responsibility in government was sure to displease every reformer in the province and the problems evident in the period of l79l to 1840 were bound to resurface. The Union of Upper and Lower Canada could only be successful if both partners saw a distinct advantage in such a union and if the principle of duality was respected To be successful the Union would have had to call on the loyalty of all of the people in the province; with equality of representation the members of the two sections will tend inevitably, to speak out in favour of their section of the Province. The Union, with its clear intent of assimilation, was to generate trauma and political realignment in Quebec. Its effects were to be felt for over a century in the ultramontane form of nationalism that dominated in the province for so long and in the ideology of ‘la survivance’
Durham on Responsible Government "I know not how it is possible to secure harmony in any other way than by administering the Government on those principles which have been found perfectly efficacious in Great Britain. I would not impair a single prerogative of the Crown; on the contrary I believe that the interests of the people of these provinces require the protection of prerogatives which have not hitherto been exercised. But the Crown must, on the other hand, submit to the necessary consequences of representative institutions; and if it has to carry on the government in unison with a representative body, it must consent to carry it on by means of those in whom that representative body has confidence".
Durham on the “racial” problem in Lower Canada "Nor do I exaggerate the inevitable constancy any more than the intensity of this animosity. Never again will the present generation of French Canadians yield a loyal submission to a British Government; never again will the English population tolerate the authority of a House of Assembly in which the French shall possess, or even approximate to, a majority".
Works Cited Claude Bélanger, Department of History, Marianopolis College http :// www.canadiana.org/citm/ index_e.html