Self-government

 

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The Quebec Act
Loyalists
The War of 1812
The Fur Empire
Timber and Wheat
Population Increase
Rebellions
Self-government
Little Englandism
Confederation

 

 

 

 

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 second recommendation 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, the Liberal 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 rebels for 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.

 

 

While Canadians 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 liabilities.