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[Frontispiece: Burning of the Parliament Buildings, Montreal, 1849.
From a colour drawing by C. W. Jefferys]





THE WINNING OF

POPULAR GOVERNMENT


A Chronicle of the Union of 1841


BY

ARCHIBALD MACMECHAN





TORONTO

GLASGOW, BROOK & COMPANY

1916




Copyright in all Countries subscribing to
the Berne Convention




TO

ROBERT ALEXANDER FALCONER

PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
STUDENT OF HISTORY AND ENCOURAGER
OF HISTORIANS




{ix}

CONTENTS

Page

I. DURHAM THE DICTATOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
II. POULETT THOMSON, PEACEMAKER . . . . . . . . . . 25
III. REFORM IN THE SADDLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
IV. THE GREAT ADMINISTRATION . . . . . . . . . . . . 97
V. THE PRINCIPLE ESTABLISHED . . . . . . . . . . . 132
EPILOGUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167




{xi}

ILLUSTRATIONS


BURNING OF THE PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS, MONTREAL, 1849 _Frontispiece_
From a colour drawing by C. W. Jefferys.

THE EARL OF DURHAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Facing page_ 6
After the painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

LORD SYDENHAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 34
From an engraving by G. Browning in M'Gill
University Library.

SIR CHARLES BAGOT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 74
From an engraving in the Dominion Archives.

SIR CHARLES METCALFE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 82
After a painting by Bradish.

CHARLES, EARL GREY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 98
From the painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

SIR LOUIS H. LAFONTAINE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 108
After a photograph by Notman.

THE EARL OF ELGIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . " 136
From a daguerreotype.




{1}

CHAPTER I

DURHAM THE DICTATOR

And let him be dictator
For six months and no more.

The curious sightseer in modern Toronto, conducted through the
well-kept, endless avenues of handsome dwellings which are that city's
pride, might be surprised to learn that at the northern end of the
street which cuts the city in two halves, east and west, bands of armed
Canadians met in battle less than a century ago. If he continued his
travels to Montreal, he might be told, at a certain point, 'Here stood
the Parliament Buildings, when our city was the capital of the country;
and here a governor-general of Canada was mobbed, pelted with rotten
eggs and stones, and narrowly escaped with his life.' And if the
intelligent traveller asked the reason for such scenes, where now all
is peace, the answer might be given in one word--Politics.

To the young, politics seems rather a stupid {2} sort of game played by
the bald and obese middle-aged, for very high stakes, and governed by
no rules that any player is bound to respect. Between the rival teams
no difference is observable, save that one enjoys the sweets of office
and the mouth of the other is watering for them. But this is, of
course, the hasty judgment of uncharitable youth. The struggle between
political parties in Canada arose in the past from a difference in
political principles. It was a difference that could be defined; it
could be put into plain words. On the one side and the other the
guiding ideas could be formulated; they could be defended and they
could be attacked in logical debate. Sometimes it might pass the wit
of man to explain the difference between the Ins and the Outs.
Sometimes politics may be a game; but often it has been a battle. In
support of their political principles the strongest passions of men
have been aroused, and their deepest convictions of right and wrong.
The things by which men live, their religious creeds, their pride of
race, have been enlisted on the one side and the other. This is true
of Canadian politics.

That ominous date, 1837, marks a certain climax or culmination in the
political {3} development of Canada. The constitution of the country
now works with so little friction that those who have not read history
assume that it must always have worked so. There is a real danger in
forgetting that, not so very long ago, the whole machinery of
government in one province broke down, that for months, if not for
years, it looked as if civil government in Lower Canada had come to an
end, as if the colonial system of Britain had failed beyond all hope.
_Deus nobis haec otia fecit_. But Canada's present tranquillity did
not come about by miracle; it came about through the efforts of faulty
men contending for political principles in which they believed and for
which they were even ready to die. The rebellions of 1837 in Upper and
Lower Canada, and what led up to them, the origins and causes of these
rebellions, must be understood if the subsequent warfare of parties and
the evolution of the scattered colonies of British North America into
the compact united Dominion of Canada are not to be a confused and
meaningless tale.[1]

{4}

Futile and pitiful as were the rebellions, whether regarded as attempts
to set up new government or as military adventures, they had widespread
and most serious consequences within and without the country. In
Britain the news caused consternation. Two more American colonies were
in revolt. Battles had been fought and British troops had been
defeated. These might prove, as thought Storrow Brown, one of the
leaders of the 'Sons of Liberty' in Lower Canada, so many Lexingtons,
with a Saratoga and a Yorktown to follow. Sir John Colborne, the
commander-in-chief, was asking for reinforcements. In Lower Canada
civil government was at an end. There was danger of international
complications. For disorders almost without precedent the British
parliament found an almost unprecedented remedy. It invested one man
with extraordinary powers. He was to be captain-general and
commander-in-chief over the provinces of British North America, and
also 'High Commissioner for the adjustment of certain important
questions depending in the ... Provinces of Lower and Upper Canada
respecting the form and future government of the said Provinces.' He
was given 'full power and authority ... by {5} all lawful ways and
means, to inquire into, and, as far as may be possible, to adjust all
questions ... respecting the Form and Administration of the Civil
Government' of the provinces as aforesaid. These extraordinary powers
were conferred upon a distinguished politician in the name of the young
Queen Victoria and during her pleasure. The usual and formal language
of the commission, 'especial trust and confidence in the courage,
prudence, and loyalty' of the commissioner, has in this case deep
meaning; for courage, prudence, and loyalty were all needed, and were
all to be put to the test.

The man born for the crisis was a type of a class hardly to be
understood by the Canadian democracy. He was an aristocratic radical.
His recently acquired title, Lord Durham, must not be allowed to
obscure the fact that he was a Lambton, the head of an old county
family, which was entitled by its long descent to look down upon half
the House of Peers as parvenus. At the family seat, Lambton Castle, in
the county of Durham, Lambton after Lambton had lived and reigned like
a petty prince. There John George was born in August 1792. His father
had been a Whig, a consistent friend of Charles James {6} Fox, at a
time when opposition to the government, owing to the wars with France,
meant social ostracism; and he had refused a peerage. The son had
enjoyed the usual advantages of the young Englishman in his position.
He had been educated at Eton and at the university of Cambridge. Three
years in a crack cavalry regiment at a time when all England was under
arms could have done little to lessen his feeling for his caste. A
Gretna Green marriage with an heiress, while he was yet a minor, is
characteristic of his impetuous temperament, as is also a duel which he
fought with a Mr Beaumont in 1820 during the heat of an election
contest. After the period of political reaction following Waterloo,
reaction in which all Europe shared, England proceeded on the path of
reform towards a modified democracy; and Lambton, entering parliament
at the lucky moment, found himself on the crest of the wave. His Whig
principles had gained the victory; and his personal ability and energy
set him among the leaders of the new reform movement. He was a
son-in-law of Earl Grey, the author of the Reform Bill of 1832, and he
became a member of the Grey Cabinet. Before the Canadian crisis he had
shown his {7} ability to cope with a difficult situation in a
diplomatic mission to Russia, where he is said to have succeeded by the
exercise of tact. He was nicknamed 'Radical Jack,' but any one less
'democratic,' as the term is commonly understood, it would be hard to
find. He surrounded himself with almost regal state during his brief
overlordship of Canada. In Quebec, at the Castle of St Louis, he lived
like a prince. Many tales are told of his arrogant self-assertion and
hauteur. In person he was strikingly handsome. Lawrence painted him
when a boy. He was an able public speaker. He had a fiery temper
which made co-operation with him almost impossible, and which his weak
health no doubt aggravated. He was vain and ambitious. But he was
gifted with powers of political insight. He possessed a febrile energy
and an earnest desire to serve the common weal. Such was the physician
chosen by the British government to cure the cankers of misrule and
disaffection in the body politic of Canada.

[Illustration: The Earl of Durham. After the painting by Sir Thomas
Lawrence.]

Lord Durham received his commission in March 1838. But, though the
need was urgent for prompt action, he did not immediately set out for
Canada.



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