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Continuing Debates in the Province of Canada
(1843–48)
Original title:  La Cyberligne du temps - 1848

Source: Link

 

Several calls for the establishment of responsible government were made in the years following the dissolution of the first Baldwin–La Fontaine ministry, such as those by journalist, poet, and publisher of the Woodstock Herald, and Brock District General Advertiser George MENZIES:

“The motto of the Herald was ‘British Connection, With Responsible Government,’ clearly reflecting the moderate outlook of its editor. When in November 1846 Menzies was charged by a correspondent with being a fence-straddler, he replied it was indeed so, but the fence he straddled was the British constitution; from that fence, he said, he was able to look down on the antagonistic flocks.… His wish was to preserve the British constitution as the basis of government in the Canadas, but to acknowledge that ‘new circumstances may render necessary a new system of tactics.’ Such an outlook naturally made him an opponent of the radicalism of William Lyon Mackenzie* and a supporter of responsible government, which in 1846 he urged the new governor-in-chief, Lord Elgin [Bruce*], to move toward with understanding and swift decision.”

 

While not endorsing the principle of responsible government as defined by Robert BALDWIN and Louis-Hippolyte LA FONTAINE, William Henry DRAPER, in power from December 1843 to May 1847, was yet anxious to ensure that the Executive Council held the trust of the majority in the Legislative Assembly, thereby paving the way for the permanent adoption of responsible government in 1848:

“Draper’s role in the evolution of responsible government was an unwitting one, but perhaps his most important.… An unremitting clash between a Canadian legislature championing responsible government and a British Colonial Office and governor could have had serious consequences in this period, and such a clash appeared about to develop in December 1843 with the resignation of Baldwin and La Fontaine. Draper stepped into the breach, first by supporting Metcalfe with his temporary government, and then from 1844 to 1847 by carrying on a full administration which stood on a majority in the assembly after the election of 1844. Thus he neatly bridged the transition between the era of Metcalfe and Stanley and that of Elgin [Bruce] and Grey. In doing so he helped allow responsible government to evolve peacefully, and was thus one of the many architects in the development of commonwealth from empire.”

 

The biographies in the lists below give more information about the debates on the idea and conceptions of responsible government expressed between 1843 and 1848.

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