After the rebellions, the Crown appointed a special commission
under Lord Durham to investigate the Canadian troubles.
Durham traveled for 4 months in Canada and wrote his Report in 1839.
The Durham Report blamed the rebellion in Upper Canada on the unbalanced
political system, in which power belonged to a small elite: Durham
hence agreed with the Upper Canada reformers. On the other
hand, French Canadian nationalism in Lower Canada was perceived as futile and
harmful. Durham proposed self-government, but also the union of Upper Canada and Lower
Canada, in the hope of assimilating the French Canadians. The
was accepted and enacted through the 1841 Act of Union, but not the first one.
The result was an alliance between
the French reformers, led Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine and
the English reformers led by Robert Baldwin, which
allowed the French Canadians to avoid assimilation. Finally, in 1848,
party of Baldwin and La Fontaine came to power and the new governor
of Canada, Lord Elgin, agreed to self-government. Canadian
Conservatives found it hard to accept the new Reformist
government, especially when it voted a law to compensate former
losses incurring during the Rebellions.
When Lord Elgin signed the bill on April 25, 1849, the Montreal
Tories rioted, attacking the governor's carriage and burning
down the Parliament building.
In Nova Scotia,
from the mid-1830s onwards, Joseph Howe, a fiery orator and
newspaperman, had been demanding popular government, but the
struggle never turned to armed rebellions. The elections of 1847
gave Howe a majority in the elections, and the Colonial Office
instructed the governor to choose the majority party to form his
cabinet. Thus responsible government in Nova Scotia was achieved
a few months before the Canadas, and without violence. Prince
Edward Island followed in 1851, New Brunswick in 1854, and
Newfoundland in 1855.
pride themselves on their fight for self-government in the
1840s, it is to be remembered that it was facilitated by
Britain's changing views on empire and its increasing desire of
getting rid of colonies no longer viewed as assets, but as