Lecture 15 – The Rebellions of 1837-38
The Politics of the Elite
By 1820, the various governments of British America were all well ensconced in power.
Each colonial government was headed by a lieutenant-governor, appointed in England.
Most oligarchies favoured government intervention in the economy such as: banks, roads, and
Political conflict involved disagreements between the governor and the oligarchy.
Four major reformers stand out in the rebellions of 1837-38:
- William Lyon Mackenzie
- Louis-Joseph Papineau
- Joseph Howe
- William Cooper
Each of these men made some inroads to the political system at the time and anticipated a
democratization of politics in British America. They displayed profound hostility to commerce,
the merchant classes, and expensive economic development in the public sector.
They were typical 19 century liberal democrats who sought to reduce the influence of
government on the lives of the population.
Reform and Rebellion
Eventually in 1837 the frustration of the reformers in the Canadas led to rebellion.
Mobs became very popular forms of political expression for inhabitants that usually did not take
part in politics.
The rebellions were unsuccessful challenges to the stability of urban elite political cultures in the
The goal was to