Confederation of Canada

Topics: Canada, New Brunswick, Upper Canada Pages: 6 (2175 words) Published: May 9, 2013
It all began with the rebellions of 1837-1838, when discontent citizens of Canada were tired of the oppression brought upon by the ruling classes, Family Compact and Château Clique. After trying to change their “irresponsible government” and failing to do so, frustration turned to fury, their patience waning thin, and reformers took arms against the government. These rebellions were drastic actions taken because reformers wanted political reform in the Colonies, limiting the power of the oligarchies by making them responsible to elected representatives. The rebellions were, sadly, a failure and many reformers died. They failed to last long because the rebels were ill-prepared, lacked popular support and were badly led. However, the citizens of Canada now rejected the idea of using violence and sought to seek reforms by taking part in the government. They were content to use peaceful, constitutional means to achieve political ends. The rebellions had made the British government more aware of the situations in Canada, thus asking Lord Durham to head a commission of inquiry into the rebellions while also making recommendations for the future of the Canadas. This was eventually accomplished with a report regarding the union of the Canadas. Although responsible government was still not a possibility, the Act of Union that Durham proposed was accepted. This would combine the two colonies, Upper and Lower Canada into Canada West and East. The British minority in Lower Canada were in favor of the Act and the Tory-dominated Assembly also gave their approval. However, the Canadiens were not so pleased and opposed the Act of Union. Although their disapproval was evident, in February 1841, the Act of Union proceeded as planned. Now, only one government would govern over the Canadas. This created an opportunity for the reformers in Canada West and East to work together to achieve responsible government. Learning from their predecessors, the reformers strived for political reforms. As Britain's hesitancy became more apparent, the colonies finally saw their chance to attain responsible government. Lord Durham's Act of Union on February 1841 made little change towards the situation at hand. Governor after governor, the reformers attempts were partially thwarted by Sydenham, Bagot, and Metcalfe. During Sydenham's term, he gained immense popularity by ended lifetime appointments to the Executive Council, resolving the Clergy Reserves issue, and giving the residents of towns more say in decisions affecting local work. During Sir Charles Bagot's reign, he brought the previously isolated Canadiens into his Council in order to win their support. After Bagot resigned, Sir Charles Metcalfe was, however, determined to maintain the governor's power. Finally Lord Elgin, Durham's son-in-law became governor in January 1847. Like Durham, he was committed to a more democratic system of government as was the new colonial secretary, Lord Grey, Durham's brother-in-law. In 1848, an election was called with the Reformers coming up top. They chose the Elective Council members from their own party with the approval of the Assembly. Now Canada, a self-governing country, could create their own laws and see fit to adjust the taxations to the citizens of their country. The achievement of responsible government was influenced partially by the end of mercantilism in the BNA's. The economic depression that came with it led some merchants to believe that joining the United States was the only solution and strongly advocated annexation to the US. After the end of mercantilism, the colonies no longer enjoyed benefits in the British market, leading towards an economic depression as many citizens of Canada faced bankruptcy. Montreal merchants who bore the brunt of this sought to join the United States. Thus, on October 11th, 1849, the Annexationist Manifesto was published in the Montreal Gazette. The movement obtained more than 1000 supporters in Lower Canada within a...
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