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the supremacy in North America ; but the genius of Pitt relieved the English colonists of the fears they entertained with reason when they saw a cordon of forts stretching from Louisbourg to the heights of Quebec, to Champlain, Niagara, and the forks of the Ohio. With the fall of Quebec and Montreal in 1759–60, France left the New World to England, and of all her former possessions she now retains only some insignificant islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland, where her fishermen continue to prosecute the fisheries as they did centuries ago before a European had founded a settlement in Canada. The conflict with France had done much to restrain the spirit of self-assertion among the English colonists, and to keep them dependent upon England; but at the same time it had shown them their power, and taught them to have much more confidence in their own resources as a people. The capture of the formidable fortress of Louisbourg, one of the triumphs of Vauban's engineering skill, by the New England volunteers under Pepperrell and the fleet under Warren, was the principal incident in their history which showed the people their strength, and nerved them to enter into what must have seemed to many a hopeless struggle with England. The fall of Quebec may be considered the first step in the direction of the independence of the old English colonies.
When the War of Independence was over, Canada was only a sparsely settled country, in which the French Canadians were very largely in the majority. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island there was a small English population, chiefly composed of United Empire loyalists.* A considerable number of the same class came over froin the United States, and settled in the eastern townships of French or Lower Canada--now Quebec-and in the province of Upper or Western Canada, now Ontario. During the War of Independence the French Canadians resisted all attempts that were made to induce them to unite their fortunes with the revolted colonies. The British Government and Parliament had seen the necessity of conciliating the conquered people, and had passed in 1774 what is known as the Quebec Act,f which gave additional
• In 1784 there were in Upper Canada 10,000 United Empire loyalists; in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, 20,000. In 1790 the population of Canada was 161,311, of whom 120,000 were French
† Imperial Statute, 14 George III. c. 83.
guarantees to that nationality for the security of their property and the preservation of their language, religion, and institutions. Owing in a great measure to this conciliatory policy, and to the efforts of the priests, who have always been firm friends of British rule, the French people of Lower Canada remained faithful to the king of England, and the history of those times records the death of the brave Montgomery and the defeat of his troops, who invaded Canada and besieged Quebec, under the delusion that the province would be an easy conquest as soon as the invaders set foot within its limits.
With the settlement of Upper Canada by the loyalists and the English population that subsequently flowed into the country, it was thought advisable to establish two provinces, in which the French and English elements would be kept separate and distinct.* With the light that experience has given us in these later times, it was a great inistake, in the opinion of many statesmen, to have isolated the races, and, by hedging in the French at the very commencement of their history, to bave prevented the gradual absorption of all nationalities into one great English-speaking people. Parliament formed a legislature for each province, and wished the people of Canada 'God speed ' in the new experiment of government on which they were entering. No doubt can exist as to the sincerity and good wishes of the English statesmen of those days, but it cannot be said they always built with wisdom. In the first place, they erected a structure of provincial government which was defective at its very foundation. There was an entire absence of institutions of local government in French Canada-of that system which, from the earliest period in the history of the old English colonies, enabled them to manage their local affairs. May it not be said with truth that England herself has received no more valuable heritage than that system of local self-government which, cumbrous and defective as it may have become in the course of centuries, can be traced back to those free institutions in which lay the germs of English liberty and parliamentary government?
But in Canada there was no semblance of township or parish government as in New England or even in Virginia. The people of Canada were called upon to manage the affairs of a state before they had learned those elements of
* Constitutional Act, 1791, or 31 Geo. III. c. 31,
government which necessarily existed in the management of the local affairs of every community, whether it were town, township, or village. It was, indeed, surprising that a people like the French Canadians, unaccustomed to parliamentary institutions or local self-government in its most elementary form, should in the early stages of their legislative history have shown so much discretion. As a matter of fact, they discharged their functions for a while with prudence, and set to work to understand the principles on which their system of government rested. For some years the machinery of government worked fairly enough, and the public men of both provinces passed much useful legislation. The war of 1812-1815, in which Canada performed her part with credit, in a measure prevented any outbreak of political conflict, since all classes of people recognised the necessity of uniting at such a crisis to defend their homes and country. But when peace was proclaimed and the legislatures were relieved from the pressure that the war had brought upon them, the politicians again got the upper hand. The machinery of government became clogged, and political strife convulsed the country from one end to the other. An 'irrepressible conflict' arose between the Government and the governed classes, especially in Lower Canada. The people, who in the days of the French régime were without influence and power, had learned under their new system, defective as it was in essential respects, to get a very correct insight into the operation of representative government as understood in England.
They found they were governed, not by men responsible to the legislature and the people, but by governors and officials who controlled both the executive and legislative councils. If there had always been wise and patient governors at the head of affairs, or if the Imperial authorities could always have been made aware of the importance of the grievances laid before them, or had understood their exact character, the difference between the Government and the majority of the people's representatives might have been arranged satisfactorily. But, unhappily, military governors like Sir James Craig only aggravated the dangers of the situation, and gave demagogues new opportunities for exciting the people. The Imperial authorities, as a rule, were sincerely desirous of meeting the wishes of the people in a reasonable and fair spirit, but, unfortunately for the country, they were too often ill-advised and ill-informed in those days of slow communication, and public discontent was allowed to seethe until it burst forth in a dangerous form.
In all the provinces, but especially in Lower Canada, the people saw their representatives practically ignored by the governing body, their money expended without the authority of the legislature, and the country governed by irresponsible officials. A system which gave little or no weight to public opinion, as represented in the House elected by the people, was necessarily imperfect and unstable; and the natural result was a deadlock between the legislative council, controlled by the official and governing class, and the body elected by the people. The governors necessarily took the side of the men whom they had themselves appointed, and with whom they were acting. In the maritime provinces, in the course of time, the governors made an attempt to conciliate the popular element by bringing in men who had influence in the Assembly, but this was a matter entirely within their own discretion. The system of government was generally worked in direct contravention to the principle of responsibility to the majority in the popular House. Political agitators had abundant opportunities for exciting popular passion. In Lower Canada, Papineau--an eloquent but impulsive man, having rather the qualities of an agitator than those of a statesman-led the majority of his compatriots. For years he contended for a legislative council elected by the people, for it is curious to note that none of the men who were at the head of the popular party in Lower Canada ever recog. nised the fact, as did their contemporaries in Upper Canada, that the difficulty would be best solved, not by electing an Upper House, but by obtaining an executive which would only hold office while supported by the majority of the representatives in the people's House.* In Upper Canada the Radical section of the Liberal party was led by Mr. W. Lyon Mackenzie, who fought vigorously against what was generally known as the · Family Compact,' which occupied all the public offices and controlled the govern
In the two provinces these two men at last precipitated a rebellion, in which blood was shed and much property destroyed, but which never reached any very extensive proportions. In the maritime province, however, where the public grievances were of less magnitude, the
• Lord Durham's Report, p. 47.
† The rebellion in Lower Canada broke out in 1837. Sir John Colborne was in chief command of the forces, and soon quelled the rebellion. In Upper Canada, Sir F. Bond Head was LieutenantGovernor, and the attempt at rebellion broke out in December. 1837.
people showed no sympathy with the rebellious elements of the upper provinces. The agitation for responsible government in those colonies was led by Mr. Joseph Howe, who in the course of his public life was always animated by truly loyal British feelings, and was never influenced by passion to step beyond the limits of legitimate constitutional agitation.
Such was the political situation in Canada when Queen Victoria ascended the throne on June 20, 1837. If we survey the general condition of things in those troublous times, the prospect was not encouraging. The total population of the two provinces did not exceed 1,000,000 souls, of whom nearly one-half were French Canadians. Trade and commerce were quite paralysed by the political discontent which had existed for years, and had already broken out into rebellion. The value of the whole trade of British North America--that is, of the imports and exports in the aggregate—was about 5,000,0001. The principal trade was in fish and lumber, for the export of which a considerable number of vessels was yearly built in the maritime provinces. Not more than four or five banks existed, and none of them had a large capital except the old bank of Montreal, which has always been the most important monetary institution of this continent.
The total revenue at this time did not exceed 140,0001., and in more than one province the revenue was insufficient to meet the legitimate expenses required for public works and other necessary improvements. In Upper Canada the situation was extremely serious. In consequence of the construction of public works, commenced in the infancy of the colony, a debt of 1,000,0001. had been accumulated when the whole revenue did not reach 60,0001., and was inadequate to pay the interest. A financial crisis in the United States had led the banks to suspend specie payments, and aggravated the difficulties of the commercial situation in Canada. The banks of Lower Canada found it necessary to follow the example of similar institutions in the American republic; though those of the upper province, to their credit, successfully tided over the crisis, and materially lessened the weight of financial embarrassment. The total production of wheat was not beyond 5,000,000 bushels, of which nearly four-fifths at that time was raised in French Canada. The French habitants carried on their agricultural operations with little energy or skill, and, from their ignorance of the system of the rotation of crops and of the