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Lord Durham, His Report, and the Union (1839–42)
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In the eyes of colonial administrator John George LAMBTON, 1st Earl of Durham, the solution to the political crisis that had led to the rebellions of 1837 and 1838 in Lower and Upper Canada did not lie solely in the union of the two colonies [see Early Advocates of Union in British North America]:

“After his arrival in the colony, Durham reached the conclusion that from the perspective of a need for reform, the solution available within the framework of British institutions implied the introduction of responsible government as a key measure. In the course of a visit he paid to Upper Canada, Robert* and William Warren Baldwin indeed drew his attention to this idea, which they considered of the greatest importance.”


In his 1840 manifesto “Adresse aux électeurs de Terrebonne,” Louis-Hippolyte LA FONTAINE worked to legitimize the union, which was at that time widely held in contempt in Lower Canada, by presenting it as, in particular, the key to obtaining responsible government:

“It was union … that would make possible the responsible government promised to Upper Canada but denied to Lower Canada. ‘For myself,’ added La Fontaine, ‘I do not hesitate to say that I am in favour of the English principle of responsible government. I see in its operation the only possible guarantee of a good, constitutional, and effective government. The inhabitants of a colony must have control of their own affairs. They must direct all their efforts towards this end; and, to achieve it, the colonial administration must be formed and controlled by and with the majority of the people’s representatives.’ The conclusion was clear. Union was the price that must be paid for responsible government, ‘the driving force of the English constitution,’ and the means whereby French Canadians would regain all that the less acceptable recommendations of the [Durham] report sought to take from them.”

 

The biographies in the following lists can be consulted to assess the debates over the idea of responsible government between 1839 and 1842, particularly the impact of the Durham report and the place of responsible government in the debates on the union of Lower and Upper Canada.

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