Political and Economic Developments in the Canadas 1840-64.doc
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Political and Economic Developments in the Canadas, 1840-64: Why the
“short but stormy life” of this period is important
INTRODUCTION: This complex era in Canadian history was of great importance for
the coming of Confederation and for the establishment of many long-lasting patterns
in political relations between English and French Canada. The efforts required to
make the Act of Union work were in some ways a training ground for the new political
system established in 1867 by Confederation.
Lord Durham’s Report, 1839: analyzed causes of the rebellions; made
British Gov’t’s response to the Report: Yes, to a union of the Canadas; No to
THE ACT OF UNION, 1840: gave Canada East [Quebec] and Canada West [Ont] a
single legislature in what was now to be called the Province of Canada. Each section
could elect an equal number of members in the Legislative Assembly even though
Canada East at the time had a greater population. English was the only official
language. Although this was a legislative rather than a federal union, the two
formerly separate colonies did retain some separate institutions and practices (e.g.,
separate systems of civil law) Also, separate systems of education would emerge
during the Union period.
Problems and compromises in making the new system work: the significance
of cooperation between Baldwin and LaFontaine; allowing French as an official
language in the LA (1848) and other compromises
THE GRANTING OF RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT TO THE PROVINCE OF
CANADA [see chart, p. 147]
What did responsible government signify, and what marked its establishment?
Lord Elgin’s role in 1848 and 1849, and the significance of Elgin’s acceptance of the
Rebellion Losses Bill
Why? Why did the British Government now allow responsible government in the
Province of Canada? The significance of economic changes in Britain related to the
abandonment of mercantilist trade policies and the adoption of free trade. Britain
now had pragmatic reasons for allowing more autonomy to its BNA colonies.
Responses in the Province of Canada to the granting of responsible government,
and to the end of the mercantilist system: RG was welcomed by reformers like
Baldwin and LaFontaine who had worked for the change.
BUT ... the implementation of RG and the end of the mercantilist trade system was
resisted by Tories and their supporters who resented the loss of their former political
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