DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day

DESSAULLES, JEAN – Volume VI (1821-1835)

d. 20 June 1835 in Saint-Hyacinthe, Lower Canada


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

RAMSAY, GEORGE, 9th Earl of DALHOUSIE, army officer and colonial administrator; b. 22 Oct. 1770 at Dalhousie Castle, Scotland, eldest son of George Ramsay, 8th Earl of Dalhousie, and Elizabeth Glene; m. 14 May 1805 Christian Broun, and they had three sons; d. 21 March 1838 at Dalhousie Castle.

George Ramsay received his primary education from his mother and later attended the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh. Following his father’s death in November 1787, he felt obliged, perhaps for financial reasons, to pursue a military career and in July 1788 purchased a cornetcy in the 3rd Dragoons. Promoted captain in January 1791 on raising his own independent company, he later joined the 2nd battalion, 1st Foot, then in Gibraltar. In June 1792 he became major of the 2nd Foot by purchase, and in December 1794 he advanced to lieutenant-colonel. He led its 2nd battalion in the West Indies from 1795 and in December was wounded during an unsuccessful attack against a French party on Martinique. Stationed in Ireland during the rebellion of 1798, he took part the following year in an expedition to Helder (Netherlands), and received the brevet rank of colonel in January 1800. After service at Belle-Île-en-Mer, France, and Minorca, he commanded assaults on the forts at Abukir and Rosetta (Rashīd), Egypt, in 1801. He was back in Gibraltar in 1802 before taking up the duties of brigadier-general on the staff in Scotland the following year, when he managed some time at home for agricultural improvements on his estate.

Promoted major-general in April 1808, Dalhousie participated in the ill-fated expedition to Walcheren (Netherlands), and in August 1809 he became colonel of the 6th Garrison Battalion. In the autumn of 1812 he was appointed commander of the 7th Division under the Marquess of Wellington on the Iberian peninsula with the local rank of lieutenant-general; he received the full rank in June 1813. He took part in actions at Vitoria, Spain, in the Pyrenees, and at Toulouse, France. In May 1813 he became colonel of the 26th Foot, and he remained so the rest of his life. Although he was probably not among Wellington’s better commanders, being often slow-moving and pedantic, he received several honours, including the thanks of both houses of parliament for his services, a kb in 1813, and a gcb in 1815 when he was also created Baron Dalhousie in the peerage of the United Kingdom. Since 1796 he had been a representative peer of Scotland in the House of Lords. He would be promoted general in July 1830.

Like many of Wellington’s Peninsular officers after the war, Dalhousie embarked on a career as a colonial administrator. In the spring of 1816 he solicited appointment as lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia in succession to Sir John Coape Sherbrooke*. His motives were to follow Sherbrooke as commander-in-chief in the Canadas and to relieve “financial concerns” resulting from heavy building expenses on his estate incurred “in these times of general distress.” Appointed in July, he arrived in Halifax on 24 October, bringing to his new position at age 46 an intelligent and well-stocked mind, an exacting sense of duty, a readiness to command and an expectation of being obeyed, a cold, aloof manner with a touch of aristocratic hauteur, and a prickly personality reinforced by a dour Scottish Presbyterianism. Conscientious to a fault and full of curiosity, he at once familiarized himself with the province. With an appreciative eye for rugged scenery and an insatiable interest in agricultural improvement, he adopted the habit of making frequent tours of the countryside, confiding his impressions to the pages of a journal. To record provincial life more graphically he took with him an official draftsman, John Elliott Woolford*, whose artistic production, along with that of others, he patronized.

Dalhousie’s attention was immediately drawn to the plight of poor settlers and immigrants, then arriving in increasing numbers. Refugee blacks sent from the United States during the War of 1812 posed an urgent problem. To avert starvation among them Dalhousie renewed an issue of government rations until June 1817, hoping that, if then settled on land and given seeds and implements, the refugees might subsist by their own efforts. With the British government urging economy, Dalhousie halved the number of recipients in the summer of 1817 by restricting rations to families who had cleared land and to the aged and infirm. He acknowledged, however, that most of the refugees would long require support, which neither the legislature nor the inhabitants were keen to provide. “Slaves by habit & education, no longer working under the dread of the lash,” he commented despairingly, “their idea of freedom is idleness and they are therefore quite incapable of Industry.” There was talk of repatriating them to the United States or of sending them to join former Nova Scotian blacks in Sierra Leone; they refused to go to the West Indies lest they be returned to slavery.

Dalhousie regarded the destitute condition of the Micmac Indians in much the same light. Critical of their apparent indolence, he was willing to grant lands to be held in trust for those who “shew disposition to settle & plant potatoes.” He endorsed the humanitarian endeavours of Roman Catholic priests and of social activists such as Walter Bromley, while opposing attempts by Bromley and others to meddle with the customs and Catholicism of the Micmacs as “improper” and tending “to defeat the object of settling them.”

British immigrants, too, experienced difficulties establishing themselves, and Dalhousie stressed the long-term advantages of providing initial government aid in rations, tools, and seeds. The obstacles immigrants faced in obtaining land soon convinced him that the substantial fees charged for processing titles, the deficiencies of surveys, the frauds of land-jobbers, and the tracts of unimproved land in private ownership all required attention. The prospect of settling on their own smallholdings no doubt attracted immigrants, but Dalhousie preferred the notion of conveying extensive areas to wealthier proprietors who would then grant long leases to new settlers. As things stood, “every man . . . is laird here, & the classes . . . known in England as Tenantry & peasantry do not exist in these Provinces & probably will not be formed untill a full stop is put to the System of granting lands” and public sale introduced.

Dalhousie was keen to promote improved methods of farming. He established fruitful relations with John Young, a fellow Scot and a Halifax merchant, whose celebrated Letters of Agricola . . . , first published from 1818 to 1821, were later dedicated to him. He prompted a reluctant legislature to spend money on importing seeds and superior breeds of stock from Britain and was patron and president of the Central Board of Agriculture, formed at Halifax. For a time local societies, with annual shows and prizes, were all the rage, but such fashionable enthusiasm proved transitory, and Dalhousie remarked: “There is an obstinacy, an aversion to improvement that may be led but will not be driven in this new world; a slowness that is sickening to a man of the other Hemisphere, who has seen the rapidity with which art & science is bursting upon the intellects of the nations of Europe, & who feels the desire to open the eyes & the energies of men here as there – but it won’t move out of its own pace, & will require the patience of more than one man’s life to do what seems to me within the accomplishment of a very few years.”

Dalhousie believed the provincial government might accelerate development by constructing roads that would open up the colony to settlement, commerce, and the readier exchange of information as well as possibly serve a military purpose. Typical of this design was a project in which disbanded soldiers were located along a new cross-country road from Annapolis Royal to the South Shore. A long-mooted reunification of Cape Breton with the mainland colony was again actively considered on the ground that it would bring the people and coal mines of the island back into the mainstream of provincial development. Government action could achieve only limited effects, however, even in this country “capable of great improvement,” and Dalhousie was quick to applaud individual habits of industry and sobriety or to criticize laziness and improvidence in the lower class whenever he saw evidence of them during his travels.

Given his aristocratic background, Dalhousie was most comfortable in the company of the civil and military élite of Halifax, some of whom Lady Dalhousie mischievously satirized in delightful portraits. As ready to embrace dissenters as Anglicans, he undoubtedly preferred councillors to assemblymen, and discriminated between “the most respectable men – disposed to support the Government from Loyalty and right principles” and the “double faced Halifax Politicians, or Country Colonels, more addicted to Rum and preaching than to promote the welfare of the State.” His attitude towards colonial merchants was more ambivalent, unless they happened to be fellow Scots, but he actively supported petitions to the British government concerning the terms of the Anglo-American commercial agreement of 1818. Congressional restrictions on access to American ports by foreign shipping threatened Nova Scotia’s prosperous carrying trade as well as the import of necessary supplies from New England. Dalhousie therefore welcomed Britain’s designation of Halifax as a free port, which might preserve its role as an entrepôt for British manufactures to be sent to the United States and American produce destined for the West Indies. He believed it to be “the only measure which can reanimate the industry & the spirit of the Merchants, at present failing & dejected.” Dalhousie also shared Nova Scotian anxieties about the readmission of Americans to the fisheries, and he disliked the prospect of their establishing thereby closer commercial and possibly political relations with the provincial outports.

With his Scottish educational background and enthusiasm for improvement, Dalhousie deplored the sorry state of higher learning in Nova Scotia. King’s College, Windsor, inconveniently located 40 miles from the bustling capital, languished from a lack of funds, a dilapidated building, and “violent open war” between its president, Charles Porter*, and its vice-president, William Cochran*. More fatally in Dalhousie’s view, it served the needs only of members of the Church of England and was therefore unsuited to a community three-quarters of whom were dissenters. To break the Anglican monopoly and rescue education from the competition of denominations [see Thomas McCulloch], Dalhousie conceived the idea of a college open to youth of all religions and every class of society. Obtaining advice from Principal George Husband Baird of the University of Edinburgh, Dalhousie envisaged a school modelled on that institution, with professors lecturing on classics, mathematics, and eventually moral and natural philosophy. A site was chosen on the Grand Parade in Halifax and the venture launched through appropriation of customs duties levied in 1814–15 at occupied Castine (Maine). On 22 May 1820, after agreeing with genuine reluctance that the college be named in his honour, Dalhousie laid the cornerstone with full masonic and military honours. The difficulties of finding money to complete the edifice, obtaining a royal charter of incorporation, and appointing the first instructors would fall to his friend and successor Sir James Kempt*. Dalhousie himself could do little more than watch helplessly from a distance as the premature, under-subscribed, and as yet lifeless enterprise hung fire amidst the indifference of the legislature and the anxious aversion of high-churchmen, led by the Reverend John Inglis, whom Dalhousie later described as a “Hypocritical Jesuit.”

For all his criticism of Anglican exclusiveness, Dalhousie was not always sympathetic towards the claims of dissenters. Responding to a flood of petitions, the provincial legislature in 1819 passed a controversial bill extending to ministers of all denominations the right of Anglican clergy to marry by government licence. Dalhousie reserved the bill for imperial decision. He found customary practices objectionable in two particular regards; he disliked having to sign blank forms, in quires at a time, and he considered dangerous the practice whereby Anglican clergymen, in return for a fee, redirected licences to dissenting ministers, so that they could then perform the ceremonies according to their own rites. If the system was to be reformed Dalhousie wanted the privilege to marry by licence restricted, and certainly not extended beyond the Church of Scotland; ample security existed for the sound principles and character of the clergy of the two established churches, he believed, but none for the homely preachers patronized by dissenting congregations.

If Dalhousie found himself at odds with the House of Assembly over marriage licences, reform of the provincial militia constituted a more serious bone of contention. Concerned about the defenceless state of the colony, with its dilapidated barracks and fortifications and a force of British troops hardly sufficient to fulfil ordinary garrison duties in Halifax, Dalhousie placed great store by an efficient militia. From 1818 two successive assemblies refused to entertain his proposals for reorganization and inspection of the militia, since they were likely to involve increased expenditure. The issue brought to a head growing friction between the lieutenant governor and the assembly over control of provincial finances, and in 1820 it ruptured hitherto cordial relations between them. At the end of the session of 1820, as Dalhousie was preparing to take over the governorship at Quebec, he belatedly discovered that the assembly had omitted to make financial provision for inspection of the militia – an underhand trick, he felt, characteristic of a growing petulance on its part as revealed in a recent fondness for secretive, irregular proceedings, “a sort of jealousy of the Council, & an inclination to refuse intercourse with the Executive Government during the Session.” Dalhousie also regarded the assembly’s action as a personal insult to the king’s representative. “I am disappointed & vexed,” he recorded, “that a very few cunning Yankees . . . should have outwitted, & defeated me.” In a fit of pique, he refused the star and sword valued at 1,000 guineas voted him by the assembly as a parting token of esteem and, blaming the speaker, Simon Bradstreet Robie*, declared that he would not again have accepted the mercurial, disputatious, “sneaking little lawyer” in that responsible position. It was perhaps as well for political harmony in Nova Scotia, and for Dalhousie’s peace of mind, that he was about to hand over his duties to the more pliable Kempt.

From the beginning Dalhousie had considered his appointment as an essential apprenticeship for “the high and important command in Canada.” He had had what he regarded as a tacit understanding with Earl Bathurst, the colonial secretary, that he would succeed Sherbrooke, who openly endorsed his candidature after suffering a paralytic stroke early in 1818. Dalhousie had, therefore, been hurt and angered when he learned that the Duke of Richmond [Lennox*], Bathurst’s impecunious brother-in-law, had been given the coveted command. He had met Richmond in the course of an extensive tour of the Canadas in the summer of 1819 and told the governor that he intended to resign that autumn. Then, in September, he heard of the duke’s death from hydrophobia. Refraining this time from requesting the vacancy, Dalhousie waited to see whether he would be going to Quebec or retiring to Scotland. Meanwhile, he pondered the challenge of Lower Canada, “a country where violent party feelings have long separated the two distinct Classes of the King’s subjects – the English and the French.” In that command, he thought, “I must stand the cast of the die, prospering, do honour to myself, or failing, I must lose the little share of my Country’s praise which I have already received.” In November he learned the bittersweet news of his appointment on 12 April 1820 as governor-in-chief of British North America.

Taking with him good memories and genuinely fond farewells from friends and councillors, Dalhousie departed from Halifax on 7 June 1820 and arrived at Quebec on the 19th. The capital had a certain scenic grandeur as befitted a viceregal city, but the streets were “narrow & filthy – the people noisy & vociferous . . . [with] monks & friars at every turn.” He was appalled by his official quarters, the Château Saint-Louis. Successive governors had passed on their tattered furniture at exorbitant valuation, producing a “Harlequin dress of apartments, in which every succeeding generation had paid for the rags of the preceding, & casting out the worst, had put in a little new to mend its own comfort.” Confronted with an outlay of £5,000 before he had touched a shilling of his salary, Dalhousie bemoaned that he could not afford “that sort of furniture which ought to be in the public residence of the Governor General of His Majesty’s American dominions.”

With a general election in progress and no need to summon the legislature for several months, Dalhousie was able to spend a quiet summer acquainting himself with Lower Canada, its people, and their affairs. He would make it an annual pleasure to undertake extended excursions through the Canadas and would as often as possible escape to the governor’s house at William Henry (Sorel) for he grew increasingly to detest Quebec. From the outset he was determined to maintain his custom of confining official business to three days a week, reserving the others for private avocations, personal correspondence, and reading. Unfortunately, the cramped accommodation of the cottage at William Henry precluded his offering spare beds to friends and entertaining guests to dinner, and over the next few years he vainly tried to persuade British authorities to build a house for the commander of the forces at this key military location more suited to his dignity. His failure pointed up British indifference to the governor’s status, a “very bad policy,” he grumbled, in a province where “much of the mischief arises from the really state of contempt to which the king’s representative is lowered, without a house to live in respectably, or any patronage to distinguish merit, or public service.”

As in Nova Scotia, Dalhousie embarked on agricultural enterprise. In 1821 he purchased 50 acres adjoining the property at William Henry for £400. By 1823 he had 41 acres in clover, 200 sheep, and 6 cows and had drained a further 20 acres of swamp, which were then sown with oats and grass. In 1821 he leased 50 acres at Wolfesfield, on the outskirts of Quebec. More ambitiously, the same year he rented a 250-acre establishment at Beauport from the commissioners for the Jesuit estates in order “to establish a farm for future Governors as an appendage to the Chateau, & which may prove not only an example to [the] public, but useful to the family”; however, bad management and “heavy expence” forced him to give up this venture within a year. He and his wife also began a botanical garden, and plants were assiduously exchanged with Dalhousie Castle.

The Dalhousies actively patronized social and cultural institutions that might arouse in Canada the ‘march of mind’ then evident in Britain. The governor supported the Quebec Bible Society and the British and Canadian School Society of Montreal [see William Lunn*], donated books and money to village libraries, presented beavers and bears to a zoological society (and sent a collection of stuffed Canadian birds to the college museum in Edinburgh). To preserve the voluminous records relating to the early history of Indian tribes gathered by the Jesuits and other religious bodies, and to stimulate research and inquiry, Dalhousie was instrumental in forming the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1824. Since “in England these societies lead to every improvement, amusing, instructive, moral & Religious,” he mused, “in Canada they will & must first lead to harmony in private life; the use of books will put down that narrow minded tyranny of the Catholic Priesthood; will open new views, and new sentiments more suited to the present state of the civilised world.” He subscribed £100 a year to the society for fear “that if not pushed with spirit now in the outset, . . . it may droop & die as almost all foreign, or European plants do in the Province at the present day.” Books, instruments, and a cabinet of mineralogical specimens were ordered from London. Attendance at meetings remained thin, however. “We make miserably slow progress,” he bemoaned in 1827; “want of talent. education, and liberal feeling in this Catholic country are sad checks upon any attempt like this.” That year Lady Dalhousie presented a paper on Canadian plants to the society. Apart from indulging her interests in the sciences, exceptional in a woman of her time, she enthusiastically fulfilled the more conventional role of the governor’s wife, that of patroness of literature and the arts. In 1824 the writer Julia Catherine Beckwith* had dedicated her novel, St Ursulas convent . . . , to the governor’s wife.

That first carefree summer of 1820 Dalhousie undertook, mainly for military purposes, a visit of settlements in eastern Upper Canada, the Ottawa valley, and southwestern Lower Canada. The following year, with Woolford, he toured as far as Lake Superior. His intention of presenting his credentials as governor of Upper Canada to the Legislative Council was abandoned in order not to ruffle the feathers of the sensitive lieutenant governor, Sir Peregrine Maitland*. Nevertheless Dalhousie was determined that “the Governor in Chief ought to take an active part in the administration of all the several Governments committed to his care . . . to a degree that shall not affect the local powers of the Lt Governors, but require them to communicate with me confidentially on public measures, & on the state of the Provinces generally.”

Dalhousie’s tours of inspection reinforced his view that local and British funds could usefully be devoted to developing land and water communications in the Canadas in order to strengthen military defence and to open up areas for settlement. Particularly needed were trunk roads to link Montreal with Bytown (Ottawa) and the Eastern Townships and local roads to service settlements springing up in the western districts. Like other military men, Dalhousie was an enthusiastic advocate of canal building, particularly of the Ottawa–Rideau system. The possibility of cost-sharing with the Lower Canadian legislature was freely mentioned, and by 1825, after a military commission under Sir James Carmichael Smyth had reported expansively on the requirements and expense of Canadian defence, the Board of Ordnance was committed to executing and financing the Rideau canal. In 1826 and 1827 Dalhousie visited the site of Lieutenant-Colonel John By’s grandiose scheme, which was to cost the British taxpayer dearly. Dalhousie was impressed as well with the importance as a public work of the Lachine Canal [see John Richardson*], which he visited in May 1826, and regretted that the Canadians showed no more interest in it than in the splendid new Notre-Dame church then being built in Montreal [see James O’Donnell*]. “The conclusion must be,” he felt, “that there is no natural disposition to public improvement – they would go on to the end of time, indolent, unambitious, contented, & un-enterprising.”

Dalhousie stressed to British authorities that canal building would also offer ready employment to the immigrants then arriving massively at Quebec, two-thirds of whom were being drawn into the United States instead of reinforcing the scanty population of the Canadas. He was profoundly concerned at the way in which Americans were locating themselves in the western frontier districts, placing themselves “between us & the only remaining warrior tribes in that district, to cut off our alliance & influence with them.” A loyal population had to be encouraged to people the western regions and efforts made to form among them an effective, well-disposed militia. On the other hand, he decided that the expensive practice of building military settlements might be discontinued because of the influx of British immigrants.

In the early 1820s some 10,000 migrants were arriving each year at Quebec, many of them destitute Irish who placed severe strains on the charity and good will of the colonists, the provincial legislature and British government being reluctant to spend public money on unwelcome paupers. Dalhousie, too, expressed unease at the invasion of needy, turbulent Irish, and he strongly opposed the schemes of assisted emigration sanctioned by the Colonial Office in 1823 and 1825. The settlers brought out by Peter Robinson, he claimed, were inadequately superintended, and their locations in Upper Canada were remote and too close to the American border. Public money should be used, he argued, not to bring out Britons, who were in any case paying their own passages in their thousands, but to prepare sites for settlement. He came increasingly to regard the Baie des Chaleurs region of the Gaspé as a better location for immigrants, since it was accessible by ship, easily supplied, and presented individuals with no distracting alternatives to work or starvation.

At a time of extensive immigration, Dalhousie’s attention was drawn to the evils of land administration in the Canadas even more compellingly than it had been in Nova Scotia. Thousands of acres held by absentees remained in their wild state, and the crown needed the power to escheat all uncultivated grants. Settlement and communications were also impeded by the “altogether unwise, impolitic and mischievous” plan of setting aside crown and clergy reserves as a landed endowment, which had so far yielded negligible revenue. No one would lease such land while he might obtain his own smallholding. Equally objectionable was the Anglican monopoly of the clergy reserves, the exclusion of the established church in Scotland from a share of landed endowments being a sore point with the Presbyterian governor. He contended that the inequity, having “created a great deal of heart burning & uncharitable feeling” between Anglican and Presbyterian clergy, “must be removed or the irritated feelings of the present day will grow into rooted discontent, and . . . end in disloyalty.” For both the crown and the clergy reserves Dalhousie favoured sales instead of grants or leases. Not averse to the operations of large-scale proprietors, he nevertheless opposed the resort to monopolistic, speculative land companies such as the Canada Company [see John Galt] and the Lower Canada Land Company [see William Bowman Felton] as a means of accelerating settlement, which was a necessarily slow process.

In addition to increasing control by government over land granting, Dalhousie intended to strengthen the forces of law and order. “This Country is grown too large for the old established regulations,” he told Kempt. “Those that 50 years ago sufficed for the whole Province are now called for in every County. The Circuit, the Grand Jury, & the Q. Sessions [Court of Quarter Sessions] in districts are not now sufficient; the immense population requires increased number of Magistrates, more jails, & more frequent exercise of the Laws than was necessary in times gone by.”

To maintain political tranquillity Dalhousie resolved to pursue a course above the partisan squabbles that had disfigured Lower Canada’s recent history. “It seems . . . as if popularity had been the sole object of . . . all the Governors in Canada – & to it there were only two paths – the French or the English – Catholic or Protestant – & each succeeding chief followed in regular opposition to . . . his Predecessor – there is no steadiness nor prudence . . . & the mischief was increased by frequent change of Governors.” Dalhousie determined to remain beholden to no one, steering wide of the “political managements which . . . have led Govt to be itself the cause of the troubles.” This was no mean task in a divided community led by politicians scrambling for favours with a “ravenous appetite.” Being a stranger to everyone, he resolved to hold himself “most cautiously guarded against the advice of those in power because they are most likely to be warped and influenced by former discussions.” In consequence he was obliged to rely for political counsel and administrative assistance on humdrum officials who carried little weight. His civil secretary from 1822, Andrew William Cochran, for example, had many admirable qualities as an assistant and confidant but few political contacts of value outside the circle of British officials. Choice and circumstance therefore threw Dalhousie on his own resources; it was a lonely and vulnerable position.

Dalhousie also intended initially to show due regard for the Canadians. He was spontaneously drawn to the habitants, whom he perceived as submissive and respectful with their “civil & even polished manners.” They may have reminded him of the Highland crofters, just as the Canadian seigneurs passably resembled Scottish lairds. “If there is trouble & discontent to be found [among the Canadians],” he thought, “it is among the lawyers, & in troubled waters these have ever delighted.” Even so, it was “only justice to the sons of the old Canadian families that the road of honour should be laid open to them in every branch of the Public Service.” Ultimately, loyalty would be secured through the deprecation of all distinction, religious and ethnic, and the granting of office or favour “only by the test of abilities, or of conduct.” In line with this approach, Dalhousie in December 1820 appointed the speaker of the assembly, Louis-Joseph Papineau*, to the Executive Council. Not that Dalhousie liked Papineau, whom he considered rather “an ill tempered, cross, tho’ clever barrister, [who] scarcely knows the rules of good Society.” Nor did he intend “to flatter, or to coax” the assembly. Rather he wanted the public to “know that I am acting a frank, fair, and candid part with them, free from intrigue and free from guile,” and hoped “to push every public man to do his duty in his station & to draw towards unanimity & cordial cooperation in the public affairs.”

In his dealings with the Canadians in the assembly, Dalhousie’s impartiality and forbearance were soon placed under severe strain. His best intentions were offset by two fatal disabilities: an exotic political conservatism and a tetchy temperament. Reading British history, he identified with the early Stuart kings and their defence of the royal prerogative against parliamentary encroachment, an episode which he thought “peculiarly applicable to my present situation” but which did not provide him with a sound guide for managing a colonial assembly bent on enlarging its power at the expense of the governor and councils. Dalhousie conceived of the prerogative as a constructive form of authority and believed that “the King’s Representative in these Provinces must be the guide and helmsman in all public measures that affect the public interests generally.” The role of the assembly was distinctly subordinate, and its duty was to accept direction by the executive. In the inevitable disputes that arose with the assembly, Dalhousie reacted with acute sensitivity for his authority and dignity as the representative of the sovereign and instinctively personalized every attack or reverse. Lacking pliability and a sense of proportion, he allowed trivial incidents to become inflated into major constitutional issues. Like all embattled imperial administrators, then and since, he rationalized initiatives, criticisms, and resistance on the part of the assembly as the conduct of a few ambitious agitators, unrepresentative of responsible opinion in the community, but exercising a temporary influence over an ignorant, deluded populace.

This ambivalent view of the Canadians as both contented subjects and turbulent politicians was reflected in Dalhousie’s attitude towards the Roman Catholic Church in Lower Canada. He recognized that the Catholic religion might act as a conservative, stabilizing force in society and as a defence against American influence, if not as a positive inculcator of loyalty to the British connection. He thought every encouragement should be given the church in promoting education among Canadian youth. For this purpose he strongly but vainly urged on the colonial secretary the advantage of transferring superintendence of Catholic schools from the Protestant-dominated board of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning to a parallel Catholic corporation [see Joseph Langley Mills*]. Dalhousie’s championship of the educational and pastoral activities of the Catholic clergy might have secured him an invaluable source of support, but his Presbyterian upbringing disinclined him to embrace a relaxed attitude towards the Catholic Church. He was invariably suspicious of the priest who dabbled in politics.

Dalhousie’s suspicions extended to the archbishop of Quebec, Joseph-Octave Plessis*, who might have brought him the backing of Canadian moderates had the governor worked for an understanding with that influential prelate as two recent predecessors, Sir George Prevost* and Sherbrooke, had profitably done. From the outset, however, Dalhousie condemned their administrations as excessively pro-Canadian and examples of partisanship to be avoided. As well, despite sharing with Plessis certain views on education, Dalhousie was uneasy about the archbishop’s authority and prestige and feared the growth of an overweening sacerdotal power in the province. Dalhousie was also puzzled – and then, probably under the influence of Herman Witsius Ryland and Andrew William Cochran, angered – by Plessis’s independent conduct as a member of the Legislative Council. He increasingly regarded Plessis as a moving spirit of the Canadian party in the assembly, a disturber of harmony in the legislature, a “deep & designing Hypocrite.” So powerful was the archbishop’s hold over Catholic assemblymen, parish priests, and ordinary electors, he believed, that it undermined freedom of debate and the working of the constitution. The governor was no better pleased with the “mischievous machinations” of Jean-Jacques Lartigue, a cousin of Papineau and his ally Denis-Benjamin Viger* and suffragan bishop at Montreal of the bishop of Quebec. He therefore came to urge on Bathurst that the crown reassert its authority over the church, and he even claimed that the most respectable priests – by whom he meant particularly François-Xavier Pigeon and Augustin Chaboillez* – wanted the government to do so.

As his relations with the assembly and the clergy deteriorated in the 1820s, Dalhousie evinced a more hostile view of Canadian Catholics. It was not long before his growing distrust of the Canadians undermined his intention of bringing them into the colonial administration. He contended that his efforts to do so were frustrated because too few Canadian aspirants measured up to his demanding standards of ability and conduct.

Yet Dalhousie had approached his first session of the provincial legislature in 1820–21 with considerable optimism. Finance seemed likely to be the only contentious topic and that ought at once to be settled by an intimation from the British government that the disposal of crown and of provincial revenues must be kept distinct. For years the assembly had been trying to extend its power at the expense of the executive, in part by asserting a right to control the appropriation of all revenues. In 1818 Sherbrooke had engineered a compromise that might have provided a fruitful precedent. However, his successor, Richmond, adopted a hard line, recommending to Bathurst that no bill providing for the civil list should be approved unless the total sum requested was voted unconditionally and permanently, advice that was accepted and repeated for Dalhousie’s guidance.

This resolute approach harmonized with Dalhousie’s personal inclinations. In 1820–21 he requested the legislature to pass a supply bill for the lifetime of the king, immediately provoking a confrontation between the two houses. Under the prompting of the leader of the Montreal merchants, John Richardson, the Legislative Council, not content with throwing out the bill, adopted a series of resolutions that became part of the standing rules of the upper house. Contravening English constitutional practice, and in a language insulting to the lower house, the council asserted its control over the form and procedure for future money bills. Dalhousie thought the council had adopted an unexpectedly bold stand against “a violent attempt [by the assembly] to dictate in all measures of Government” and instinctively sided with it. In the session of 1821–22 Dalhousie repeated his request for a permanent civil list, but the assembly refused to pass any appropriation bill until the council withdrew its offending resolutions. When there seemed a possibility that the council might concede, the governor, suspecting Plessis’s influence, showed no compunction about threatening the dismissal of wavering officials on the council, a tactic, he complacently noted, that “had the best effects.” Dalhousie believed that the assemblymen had fatally overreached themselves and would be disowned by their constituents once the deadlock had produced a suspension of provincial services. As well, the authorities in London would now see the representatives in their true colours. He determined to lie on his oars and wait for salvation from a bill introduced into the imperial parliament in June 1822 which proposed to reunite the Canadas and thereby create a majority of English-speaking members in the new legislature. “I rejoice in this glimpse of Sunshine on the Province,” he told Cochran, even though he had not been consulted on the bill, for under the existing constitution he found himself “a Cypher in the high station.” His hopes were disappointed; criticism in the House of Commons induced ministers to withdraw the bill in July.

In 1823, with Papineau absent in London to counter reintroduction of the union bill and a more compliant speaker, Joseph-Rémi Vallières de Saint-Réal, in the chair, Canadian leaders accepted a temporary, partial accommodation on supplies. Indeed the assembly appropriated funds for local purposes with a liberality that clashed with Dalhousie’s attempts to slash government spending in response to the earlier financial deadlock. Through economy, he thought, his financial means could be made adequate to all reasonable demands, once confusion in the public accounts had been sorted out. He had not anticipated, however, the discovery that year of the defalcation of Receiver General John Caldwell, to the amount of some £96,000, as a result of mercantile speculation with public funds. This revelation, besmirching Dalhousie’s administration, elicited his severest censure. In the session of 1824 the assembly investigated the Caldwell affair and called on “British justice & generosity to repay the deficit to the Province,” Caldwell being an imperial officer and the audit of his accounts a British responsibility. At the same time the assembly reiterated a catalogue of ill usage by the mother country that signalled a return to its recalcitrance. It refused to vote the supplies, and Dalhousie lamented the evident weakness of the government in the house, where there were no forceful spokesmen to present or defend the administration’s point of view or to act as a channel of communication between executive and assembly. Closing a barren session, the governor privately hoped that “the good sense of the country” would disown its factious representatives at the next election, by which time parliament might have decisively intervened with a new plan of union.

Dalhousie’s thoughts turned to an impending leave of absence in Britain and longer-term prospects. From his earliest days at Quebec he had been subject to periodic bouts of homesickness and grumbling about his predicament. At the end of 1821 he had reflected gloomily: “I am fretful & tired of this . . . unprofitable waste of my life here. I would willingly resign my command . . . could I do so with honour. But can I throw up my task merely because it was plaguy & troublesome, & difficult? . . . Could I avow myself unequal to a post into which I had in a manner forced myself? Could I confess myself to my Sovereign an officer unworthy of his notice, by want of firmness & perseverance? Happen what may, I never can disgrace myself so deeply.”

Nevertheless, personal concerns could not be entirely dismissed. In 1821 Dalhousie grew increasingly alarmed at discrepancies appearing in the financial accounts submitted by his agents in Scotland. As well, during the summer of 1822 he suffered a recurrence of an inflammation of the eyes and blurred vision that he had first experienced on the eve of his departure from Nova Scotia. Confined to a darkened room for much of the time at William Henry, he received little relief from either leeches or medication. In 1823 he obtained permission to take leave, but, postponing his departure, that summer paid an official visit to Nova Scotia. Entertained royally by old friends and admirers, the recipient of flattering addresses, Dalhousie was happily in his element, considering his treatment “the reward of service.” Finally, on 6 June 1824 he left Quebec for Britain, uncertain whether he would be returning.

The journey was undertaken in part to enlighten the Colonial Office about Lower Canadian difficulties; the results proved disastrous for Dalhousie, personally and politically. The shrewd, urbane, easy-going Bathurst found the governor a high-minded, dour, boring Scot, and was careful not to invite him to his country house in Gloucestershire as he did many other visitors from the Canadas. Dalhousie himself noted, “I never approached him on the affairs of Canada, but he heard me with impatience, and appeared delighted when I rose to take my leave.” Dalhousie retired to his Scottish castle to settle private affairs, leaving Cochran in London to discuss official business for him.

On his departure from Quebec Dalhousie had left in charge Lieutenant Governor Sir Francis Nathaniel Burton*, advising Burton to postpone until his return the summoning of the new assembly, to be elected in the summer of 1824, unless the lieutenant governor was prepared to undertake the disagreeable task of rejecting Papineau as speaker. However, counselled by Herman Witsius Ryland, who nursed a grudge against Dalhousie, Burton soon saw the credit he might reap by resolving the financial deadlock with a daring initiative. Convening the legislature in 1825, he persuaded the assembly to vote the supplies for one year without raising awkward issues of principle and then, chiefly through the influence of Ryland and Plessis, obtained approval of the bill in the Legislative Council. When Dalhousie heard of Burton’s coup, triumphantly reported to the Colonial Office, he protested that the arrangement implicitly conceded the assembly’s pretensions to appropriate crown revenues. His arguments convinced Bathurst, who in June 1825 censured Burton for having disobeyed instructions on financial affairs given in 1820–21. Dalhousie arrived back at Quebec in mid September, confident that his stand on the financial dispute had the backing of his superiors, and Burton left for London.

Dalhousie’s equanimity was soon shattered. Burton having made a convincing defence of his action, the colonial secretary lifted the censure, and Burton breezily informed Papineau and friends that Dalhousie had lost the confidence of his superiors. A furious Dalhousie dismissed as “a schoolboy’s excuse” Burton’s plea that he had been ignorant of the instructions of 1820–21 because Dalhousie had taken them to England. “The substance was well known to him in his residence, & confidential intercourse with me for two years on the most intimate & friendly terms,” Dalhousie contended. Now, he complained, Bathurst’s withdrawal of the reprimand disarmed him of the authority necessary to refuse a bill similar to Burton’s.

Taking advantage of a private visit to England in 1826–27 of Chief Justice Jonathan Sewell, Dalhousie sought to persuade the colonial secretary of the necessity for his decisive intervention and for parliamentary amendment of the provincial constitution to rescue the authority of the crown’s representative in the colony. However, Sewell weakened Dalhousie’s position by agreeing with Burton that the supply bill of 1825 had not infringed the executive’s right to dispose of the revenues under its control, and the English law officers reached the same conclusion. The undersecretary, Robert John Wilmot-Horton, unkindly blamed Dalhousie and Cochran for having misled the Colonial Office in the matter.

Borne down by these trials, Dalhousie again considered relinquishing his thankless post. But so long as he remained in harness, he was determined to uphold the prerogatives of the crown against the demands of the assembly. Papineau and Viger evinced politeness and cordiality, but soon they revived claims to financial control, being unwilling to surrender the gains made in 1825. Since Dalhousie refused to accept another bill in that form, no supplies were voted. With “all the polite & fawning manners,” he wrote, the assemblymen had proved themselves “detestable dissemblers.” “They are truly in character Frenchmen – there is not a spark in them of British honour, or honesty, Loyalty or Patriotism – a half dozen of democratic attorneys lead by the nose a set of senseless ignorant fools, who not knowing to read, cannot know the Constitution nor the Laws of their Country – they are . . . incapable of the great trust devolved upon them.” Only one conclusion was possible: “The Country is unfit for such an Institution as a Parliament in the present state of society & advancement”; to have granted it was like “the folly of giving a lace veil to a Monkey or a Bear to play with.”

The governor contemplated dissolving the legislature, but Sewell and John Richardson, who, along with businessman Mathew Bell, were his closest advisers, dissuaded him from resorting to a futile but irritating election. Confronted by the problem of meeting essential expenditures with inadequate crown revenues, Dalhousie looked to London. Although the Colonial Office was not prepared to restructure the constitution, it did support his policy of preserving the financial independence of the provincial executive by refusing to surrender crown revenues except in return for a permanent civil list. In consequence Dalhousie was authorized to deposit in the military chest, ostensibly for security, surplus funds accumulating from provincial acts, which the legislature had the right to control, and to “borrow” from them to pay the expenses of government.

Dalhousie’s flagging spirits were momentarily revived in the summer of 1826 by a visit to Nova Scotia, where “Champaign in rivers flowed around” in “one continued scene of riot & amusement.” After a more sober tour of New Brunswick and the Gaspé, he inspected the site of the Rideau canal in Upper Canada. The Lower Canadian legislature reconvened in January 1827; when in March the assembly rejected his request for supplies, Dalhousie abruptly prorogued the session, and then later dissolved the legislature, “with the chief view of rejecting Papineau as Speaker in future.” The governor may also have hoped that sufficient British or moderate members would be elected to offer leadership in the house to those who wished to change sides. That objective required a more interventionist role in politics by the agents of government, and despite professions of calm impartiality in dispatches sent home, Dalhousie launched into the election campaign with vigour and ruthlessness. Being resident at William Henry, he openly backed the candidate there, Attorney General James Stuart*, berating the local priest, Jean-Baptiste Kelly*, for stirring up hostility to the government. In Montreal and Quebec opponents were struck off the lists of magistrates. Throughout the province a purge of militia officers was conducted on the grounds that officers had refused to attend summer musters, had exhibited a spirit of disobedience to orders, thinking that the assembly’s failure to renew the existing militia bill meant that no militia law was in operation, or had abused the government at public meetings [see Nicolas Eustache Lambert* Dumont]. Such naked resort to intimidation exacerbated hostility in the country parishes, and by this masterpiece of miscalculation Dalhousie produced an assembly in which the number of his supporters was even more meagre. He continued to blame a knot of agitators led by Papineau and backed by a few newspapers in Quebec and Montreal. Behind them lay “the deep & cunning intrigue of the Clergy . . . , and all ascribe . . . to them chiefly, the astonishing & otherwise unaccountable influence of Papineau’s faction.” Thus, by self-deception or wishful thinking, Dalhousie could reassure officials in London that “really the tranquillity & contented happiness of the people in Lower Canada is almost Proverbial . . . there is no foundation whatever for . . . Reports of ‘trouble in Canada.’”

Consoling himself with the thought that he had always followed faithfully Bathurst’s instructions of 1820–21, Dalhousie believed that on the results of the coming session “the minister must judge whether to put a new hand here.” He had in fact already informally requested leave to attend to private affairs in Britain, having received in October 1826 the dreaded news of the bankruptcy of his trusted regimental agent. He estimated that his loss would be from £10,000 to £12,000. Six months later he learned that he might obtain a military command in India. While he was waiting for leave the Colonial Office authorized him to request a permanent civil list of a reduced amount, but he feared that a reduction would unduly cramp the activities of government. Such a surrender would be objectionable “were I not flapping my wings & ready for a start,” he confided to Kempt. “I will not remain to concede one hair’s breadth of what I have hitherto maintained.”

The assembly met in November 1827 and Papineau was duly elected speaker. In a final dramatic gesture and assertion of the royal prerogative, Dalhousie commanded the house to make another choice. When Papineau’s selection was confirmed and resolutions passed to the effect that “the King’s approval was mere form, empty words, not at all necessary,” Dalhousie prorogued the session. He justified his action to the colonial secretary by arguing that he could not acknowledge as speaker someone intimately connected with seditious newspapers and “notoriously opposed to justice, impartiality, and moderation in that chair, and publickly engaged to use the whole weight of his influence against the views of Govt for an accomodation.” For Dalhousie, Papineau personified the evil forces against which the governor had to struggle. The finances were no longer, if they ever had been, the real subject of controversy. “His object is Power – his spurring motive, personal & vindictive animosity to me ‘the Governor’ – arrogant, headstrong & self willed.” Dalhousie hoped that the constitution of 1791 would be suspended, since “instead of uniting the Canadian and British subjects in mutual friendship, and social habits; instead of uniting them in admiration of the principles of the Constitution which had been given them – [it] has had exactly a contrary effect; . . . a Canadian hates his British neighbour, as a Briton hates a Frenchman, by an inborn impulse.” “The Canadians have succeded,” he added, “in obtaining a majority of votes in the House of Commons of this Province – a jealousy & hatred of the superior education, & superior industry of his British neighbour have led him to believe, that if he loses that majority, he loses also, liberty, laws, religion, property, and language, every thing that is valuable on earth.” The other major cause of the province’s ills, Dalhousie maintained, was the persistent indifference and neglect of the Colonial Office. “Greater confidence in the Governor of the Province, would immediately smooth, unite, and put an end to all the workings of a few seditious demagogues,” he reflected.

Dalhousie’s rejection of Papineau created consternation in London, where ministerial confidence in the governor had been steadily waning. The new colonial secretary, William Huskisson, decided that no settlement seemed likely in Lower Canada while Dalhousie remained. Perhaps through his Scottish patron, Lord Melville, first lord of the Admiralty and formerly president of the India Board of Control, Dalhousie was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in India. His request for leave of absence was refused, however, and he was advised early in 1828 to set out for India as soon as possible, without tarrying in Britain to explain his conduct. Dalhousie considered his appointment the summit of his ambition and “the highest mark of approbation the King could convey of my conduct here.” Still, because his administration might be attacked, he wanted an unequivocal declaration of approval from the colonial secretary. Indeed, the leaders of the Patriote party had been busy with addresses and petitions of grievance, employing, Dalhousie charged, secrecy, “cunning care,” and scare tactics to collect signatures and crosses on blank rolls of parchment from deluded Canadian peasants. To ensure that his views were heard in London, he briefed Scottish relatives and acquaintances and sent Samuel Gale*, a Montreal lawyer, armed with addresses from the “loyal, respectable, and well-informed” members of the community, particularly from the Eastern Townships, whose interests Gale also represented. Gale had neither contacts nor familiarity with England, he recognized, but “well received he must be, because he is in every thing gentlemanlike.”

Dalhousie did not anticipate personal difficulties from an investigation of Lower Canadian questions by ministers and parliament. In fact, he welcomed it as a preliminary to corrective legislation. At first private letters from Britain suggested that his conduct was generally approved. In May 1828 Huskisson defended his administration in the Commons and advocated amendment of the act of 1791. Between May and July a select committee heard evidence from interested parties [see Denis-Benjamin Viger]. Then, however, absenteeism on the part of government members enabled opposition MPs to carry the committee’s report, which was sympathetic to the grievances of the assembly and critical of Dalhousie. The report had been influenced by the arrival in London, after the committee had closed its inquiry, of a petition, with 87,000 signatures, protesting against Dalhousie’s purge of the militia and the magistracy. The allegations were recorded in a postscript to the report, without comment, but even Huskisson censured the dismissals.

Immediately before leaving the colony, Dalhousie presided at a ceremony for placing the top stone on a monument to James Wolfe* and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm*, Marquis de Montcalm. Erected in a prominent position near the Château Saint-Louis, overlooking the river, this memorial, which Dalhousie considered “Wolfe’s monument,” had been an enthusiasm of the earl’s, completed with his own subscription to compensate for Canadian indifference. The ceremony clearly assumed a personal importance in the same way that laying the foundation stone of Dalhousie College had done on his departure from Nova Scotia. “I am vain enough,” he recorded, “to think it in some respects, a monument to my own name, at the last hour of my Administration of the Government in this Country.” The following day, 9 Sept. 1828, Kempt was sworn into office as his successor, and Dalhousie departed with “all the pomp, power & parade which belonged to me as the Representative of my Sovereign.”

In England Dalhousie read the evidence and report of the select committee with “utter astonishment.” He took particular exception to the concluding paragraphs of the report as condemning him unheard. Further, he encountered a patent lack of sympathy on the part of the new colonial secretary, Sir George Murray, a fellow Wellingtonian officer from whom he had expected better. Murray held out no hope of either an official investigation or a public vindication. Rather, he urged a dignified silence. Privately (but not officially), however, he agreed to Dalhousie’s having printed and circulated among friends copies of his observations on the petitions and evidence placed before the committee. Dalhousie accordingly confined his efforts to sending copies to Cochran for distribution among close acquaintances in Lower Canada. From a Murray “cold & insensible,” there could be no appeal to Wellington as prime minister. “I might as well appeal to a stone wall,” Dalhousie thought, since Wellington would be a thousand times more frigid and indifferent than Murray to anyone who was not of a “courting character.” Dalhousie thus left for India in July 1829 without obtaining the vindication he had sought.

In India the perceived injustice of his treatment continued to rankle, and Dalhousie seems to have decided that redress lay in stating his case to the king. However, with the demise of George IV and the advent of a Whig ministry in 1830, his last hopes must have faded. His mood was not improved by India’s heat, which he found oppressive. He may have suffered a stroke in March 1830, but he was well enough to tour Burma the following year, and he derived some relief from residence in the cooler hill-station of Simla. However, with his health palpably unequal to his onerous responsibilities, he resigned his command and returned to Britain in April 1832. Six months later he suffered a fainting fit, and the following February a further attack rendered him a “couch invalid,” unable to see or write for several months. For a year or more he lived abroad – Nice and Strasbourg (France) and Wiesbaden (Federal Republic of Germany) – returning to his beloved Dalhousie Castle in 1834. There he spent his final years in pain and decrepitude and ultimately in blindness and senility. He died on 21 March 1838; a former sparring-partner, Bishop John Inglis, responding to an invitation to dine, attended the funeral instead and represented all those colonists who remembered the governor with affection or dislike. Dalhousie’s beloved “Lady D” died less than a year after her husband, on 22 Jan. 1839. As the wife of a civil administrator, she had accompanied him everywhere, sharing his interests and pains, and like him she had carried out her official duties conscientiously, with dignity and charm.

The geologist John Jeremiah Bigsby* portrayed Dalhousie as “a quiet, studious, domestic man, faithful to his word, and kind, but rather dry,” adding that “he spoke and acted by measure, as if he were in an enemy’s land.” An anonymous Lower Canadian critic described him less sympathetically as “a short, thick set, bowleg man . . . often called the Scotch ploughman,” avaricious – “indeed saving was his chief object” – and extremely vain, “passionate & tyrannical or kind as the moment directed,” given to blaming his subordinates for his difficulties, a man who “tried and parted in anger with all parties.” “Ill luck hung over him,” this observer concluded. Despite the differences, both portraits – Bigsby’s through the suggestion of assailed loneliness – indicate that Dalhousie was not well suited by temperament to govern an obstreperous colony enjoying representative institutions with their accompanying clash of opinions and warring factions. Another contemporary, the author John Richardson*, later asserted that Dalhousie had not possessed the “quickness and pliability of mind . . . in all the degree necessary to the Governor of so turbulent a country” that was enjoyed by a successor, Lord Sydenham [Thomson]. Although no dullard, being a man of intellectual curiosity, wide reading and interests, and sensitivity to the beauties of nature, Dalhousie as a civil administrator manifested the tendencies to plodding and pedantry that had characterized his style as a military commander.

Dalhousie was accustomed to a hierarchical society, Scottish and military, in which he ordered and others obeyed. He had no patience with those who showed disrespect, challenged authority, or, in the case of the lower class, had ideas above their station. Much of this behaviour in Lower Canadians he considered a result of their “total neglect of education.” In Dalhousie’s world, rulers exercised paternal authority for the welfare of the people and gave disinterested public service in the British aristocratic tradition. It was as an essential part of his public duty that he unremittingly championed improvement, both economic and intellectual. This concern was a hallmark of his Scottish educational and cultural background and of a Scottish society in which leadership and example afforded the key to social progress.

Nova Scotia was sufficiently élitist and deferential to permit Dalhousie to act out his perceived role as a benevolent father-figure at a time when popular discontent had not yet assumed an overtly political form. At Quebec, he was made conscious of the governor’s lack of power, resources, and patronage. Unable himself to advance the public good by purposeful action, Dalhousie came to condemn the constitutional structure as wholly unsuited to the colony’s needs and character. “The Govt altogether is the worst piece of machinery I ever handled, and the British Constitution might have been given with equal propriety to Cats & dogs, as to the discordant Protestant & Catholic population of this Country,” he complained. His ingrained aversion to Catholics and to the Canadians, inculcated by his sturdy Presbyterianism and years of fighting France, no doubt heightened and coloured his animosity towards political opponents in Lower Canada.

Dalhousie, however, would likely have reacted in a similar fashion to criticism or challenge in any colony where dissension was rife. He lacked philosophical detachment. His responses were shaped more decisively by temperament than by conservative political principles. Perhaps insecure in the face of opposition by more sagacious politicians than himself, he became paranoiac in his detection of intrigue. Criticism was taken as personal affront. Set-backs obsessed him. With a brooding, even morbid, cast of mind which his deep religious convictions cultivated as well as assuaged, he easily became prey to melancholy reflection. Under such dispositions he entertained agonizingly ambivalent feelings about his career of public service. Despite possessing few compelling qualifications, he had been ambitious to reach the highest commands and thus gain honour and repute as well as financial security. But he remained painfully aware of the sacrifices that this career had exacted in terms of peace of mind, home life, private avocations, and friendships, and he perpetually evinced a nostalgic longing for his native Scotland. The circumstances of his departure from Lower Canada, however, implanted a sense of injustice and ingratitude that rankled for the rest of his life. For all Dalhousie’s achievements as a colonial governor, the man and his destiny were not happily matched.

Peter Burroughs

George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, is the co-author, probably with his civil secretary Andrew William Cochran, of Observations on the petitions of grievance addressed to the imperial parliament from the districts of Quebec, Montreal, and Three-Rivers (Quebec, 1828). His journals are at SRO, GD45 (mfm. at PAC); they have been published in part as The Dalhousie journals, ed. Marjory Whitelaw (3v., [Ottawa], 1978–82). There are portraits of Dalhousie at the National Gallery of Scotland (Edinburgh) and Dalhousie Univ. (Halifax), and a silhouette is at the PAC. Drawings and paintings John Elliott Woolford did for Dalhousie and caricatures painted by Lady Dalhousie form part of a sizeable collection of drawings, water-colours, engravings, maps, plans, and other documents assembled by Dalhousie. This material was brought back to Canada from Scotland in the 1980s and distributed among five institutions: the N.S. Museum (Halifax), Dalhousie Univ., the PANB, the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), and the PAC. Further details are provided in Marie Elwood, “The study and repatriation of the Lord Dalhousie Collection,” Archivaria (Ottawa), no.24 (summer 1987): 108–16.

GRO (Edinburgh), Cokpen, reg. of births and baptisms, 18 Nov. 1770; reg. of deaths, 21 March 1838. PAC, MG 23, GII, 10; MG 24, A64, B1, B2, B3, B6, B16. PANS, MG 1, 253; RG 1, 63, 111–12, 288–89. PRO, CO 42/185–216; CO 43/25–27; CO 217/98–139; CO 218/29; CO 323/147–57; CO 324/73–90. J.-J. Bigsby, The shoe and canoe, or pictures of travel in the Canadas, illustrative of their scenery and of colonial life; with facts and opinions on emigration, state policy, and other points of public interest . . . (2v., London, 1850), 1: 27. Robert Christie, Memoirs of the administration of the government of Lower Canada, by the Right Honorable the Earl of Dalhousie, G.C.B., comprehending a period of eight years, vizt: – from June, 1820 till September, 1828 (Quebec, 1829). G.B., Parl., Hansards parliamentary debates (London), 3rd ser., 19 (1828): 300–44; House of Commons paper, 1828, 7, no.569, Report from the select committee on the civil government of Canada (repr.: Quebec, 1829). L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1820–28. John MacGregor, British America (2v., Edinburgh and London, 1832), 2: 54–56. N.S., House of Assembly, Journal and proc., 1816–20. [John] Richardson, Eight years in Canada; embracing a review of the administrations of lords Durham and Sydenham, Sir Chas. Bagot, and Lord Metcalfe, and including numerous interesting letters from Lord Durham, Mr. Chas. Buller and other well-known public characters (Montreal, 1847), 187. G.B., WO, Army list, 1787–1838. H. J. Morgan, Sketches of celebrated Canadians, 248–51. The Scots peerage, founded on Woods edition of Sir Robert Douglass peerage of Scotland . . . , ed. J. B. Paul (9v., Edinburgh, 1904–14). Wallace, Macmillan dict. Susan Buggey, “Churchmen and dissenters: religious toleration in Nova Scotia, 1758–1835” (ma thesis, Dalhousie Univ., 1981). Christie, Hist. of L.C. (1848–55), vols.2–3. Judith Fingard, “The Church of England in British North America, 1787–1825” (phd thesis, Univ. of London, 1970). K. E. Killam, “Lord Dalhousie’s administration in Nova Scotia” (ma thesis, Univ. of Toronto, 1931). Lambert, “Joseph-Octave Plessis.” William Lee-Warner, The life of the Marquis of Dalhousie (2v., London, 1904), 1. Helen Taft Manning, “The civil list of Lower Canada,” CHR, 24 (1943): 24–47; Revolt of French Canada.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Peter Burroughs, “RAMSAY, GEORGE, 9th Earl of DALHOUSIE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 20, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ramsay_george_7E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ramsay_george_7E.html
Author of Article:   Peter Burroughs
Title of Article:   RAMSAY, GEORGE, 9th Earl of DALHOUSIE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1988
Year of revision:   1988
Access Date:   June 20, 2024