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Canada


Canada - Rapid Increase of its Population and its Wealth - Lower Canada - Upper Canada - Mixture of Races: English and Scotch; Irish; Negroes and Men of Colour; Native Indians - Discontents among the Irish and Roman Catholic Population - Lord Aylmer recalled - Lord Amherst - Lord Gosford's Commission - Stoppage of the Supplies- Grievances - Agency of Mr. Roebuck - Violence of the Democratic Party - Papineau - Sir Francis Head, Governor of Upper Canada- Pacification of the Upper Province - Recall of Lord Gosford - Succeeded as Governor of the Lower Province by Sir J. Colborne.
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In 1834 the affairs of Canada got into a very disturbed state, and became a source of trouble for some time to the government in the mother country. To the conflicting elements of race and religion were added the discontents arising from misgovernment by a distant power not always sufficiently mindful of the interests of the colony. For many years after Lower Canada, a French province, had come into the possession of England, a large portion of the country westward - lying along the great lakes - now known as Upper Canada, nearly double the extent of England, was one vast forest, constituting the Indian hunting-ground. In 1791, when by an act of the imperial parliament the colony received a constitution, and was divided into Upper and Lower Canada, with separate legislatures, the amount of the white population in Upper Canada was estimated at 50,000. Twenty years later it had increased to 77,000, and in 1825 emigration had swelled its numbers to 158,000, which in 1830 was increased to 210,000, and in 1834 the population exceeded 320,000, the emigration for the last five years having proceeded at the rate of 12,000 a year. The disturbances which arose in 1834 caused a check to emigration; but when tranquillity was restored, it went on rapidly increasing, till, in 1852, it was nearly a million. The increase of wealth was not less remarkable. The total amount of assessable property, in 1830, was 1,854,965; 1835, 3,407,618; 1840, 4,608,843; 1845, 6,393,630.

Lower Canada was inhabited chiefly by French Canadians, speaking the French language, retaining their ancient laws, manners, and religion, wedded to old customs in agriculture, and stationary in their habits. Of its population, amounting to 890,000 in 1852, nearly three- fourths were of French origin, the remainder being composed of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland and other countries, while in Upper Canada the number of French was under 27,000. Lower Canada, however, might have been expected to make much more rapid progress from its natural advantages in being much nearer to the sea-board of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and being enabled to monopolise much of the ocean navigation, which terminated at Montreal. Thus, the cities of Quebec and Montreal rose quickly into importance when the upper province began to be settled. In 1827 the cities had each a population of above 27,000; but by the census of 1852 it was found that Quebec had a population of 42,000, and Montreal 57%000. The growth of the towns of Upper Canada has been still more rapid. In 1817 Toronto, then called Little York, had only 1,200 inhabitants; in 1826 it had scarcely 1,700; but in 1836 it had risen to 10,000. Among the other principal towns of Upper Canada are Hamilton, Kingston, London, and Bytown, which grew rapidly. Situated so near Europe, and offering inexhaustible supplies of fertile and cheap land, with light taxes and a liberal government, it was natural to expect in Upper Canada a very mixed population, and accordingly an analysis of the census of 1852 showed that its inhabitants were composed of people from most of the countries of Europe. The largest single element was composed of Canadians, not of French origin, upwards of half a million; the next of Irish, 176,267; then English, 82,699; Scotch, 75,811; from the United States, 43,732; Germany and Holland, 10,000. Many of those settlers emigrated from the old countries to avoid the pressure of distress, consisting, to a large extent, of the worst paid classes of workmen, such as the hand-loom weavers, that had been cast out of employment by the introduction of machinery. Those persons were now found to be in the enjoyment of independence, as the proprietors of well-cleared and well-cultivated farms, having all the necessaries of life in the richest abundance.

Among the elements of the Canadian population we should not forget the African race. These refugees from the tyranny of their taskmasters were generally employed in towns as waiters and barbers, as hewers of wood and railway navvies. But many of them have risen, by intelligence and good conduct, to higher positions in society. The native Indians do not so readily mingle with other races. They prefer dwelling together in settlements of their own, where they enjoy the protection of the government, and are the objects of missionary efforts, attended with considerable success. But the people are indolent, and much addicted to intoxication; and there are tribes of them in the great forests along the shores of Lake Superior, and other distant regions, comparatively beyond the range of civilisation, still chiefly engaged in their primeval pursuits of hunting and fishing, preferring the wild freedom of that mode of existence to the comforts of civilised life. The Red Indians feel grateful for the protection of England, which they call their "great mother across the great waters." Major Sprague, of the United States, has since given an illustration of the existence of this feeling. "Some years ago," said he, "I was engaged in removing some Indians beyond the Mississippi, and one day when encamped I saw a party approaching me. I took my glass, and found they were Indians. I sent out an Indian, with the stars and stripes on a flag, and the leader of the Indians immediately displayed the red cross of St. George! I wanted him to exchange flags, but the savage would not; 'for,' said he, "dwell near the Hudson's Bay Company, and they gave me this flag, and they told me that it came from my great mother across the great waters, and would protect me and my wife and children wherever we might go. I have found it to be so, as the white men said, and I will never part with it"

Such are the elements which constituted the nucleus of that great nation which has been growing up under the British sceptre in North America. The French and, Roman catholic portions of the community could be most easily excited to disaffection against their protestant governors, and in 1834 the irritation of the popular mind, supposed to be chiefly the work of the clergy, had risen to such a height, that the home government thought it prudent to recall the governor, lord Aylmer, supposing his administration to be the cause of it. Sir Robert Peel appointed lord Amherst as his successor. In one respect, he was not the best that could be selected; for though his antecedents and experience were sufficient to warrant the appointment, the name must have been obnoxious to the priests and people of Lower Canada, as it was by the arms of his uncle, whose title he inherited, that the province had been rescued from France. He had been at one time ambassador to China, and subsequently governor- general of India. He had, however, no opportunity of testing his administrative abilities in this new field, in consequence of Sir Robert Peel's retirement. Lord Melbourne, soon after his restoration to power, in 1835, sent out the earl of Gosford as governor, with a board of commissioners, of which he was chairman, to inquire into the grievances by which the colony was agitated. A bill had been brought into the lower house of assembly for the purpose of rendering the upper house elective, which the government having refused to sanction, the lower house had recourse to the extreme proceeding of stopping the supplies. The salaries of all the public servants ceased to be paid, in consequence of which our colonial secretary authorised the governor to advance 31,000 from the military chest to meet the emergency. The governor having required time to consider the answer he should give under these circumstances, the opposition members all withdrew; and they were so numerous, that they did not leave a quorum to carry on the public business.

It was under these peculiar circumstances that the extraordinary measure was adopted of sending out a commission, it was found that the sense of grievance and the complaints of bad government prevailed in both provinces, though of a different character in each. The habitants of the Lower Province complained of the preference shown by the government to the British settlers and to the English language over the French. Englishmen, they said, monopolised the public offices, which they administered with the partiality and injustice of a dominant race. They complained also of the interference of the government in elections, and of its unreasonable delay in considering or sanctioning the bills passed by the assembly. They insisted, moreover, that the upper house, corresponding to our house of peers, should be elective, instead of being appointed by the crown and subject to its will. In the Upper Province the chief grounds of discontent arose from the want of due control over the public money and its expenditure. Many of the electors had gone out from Great Britain and Ireland during the reform agitation, bearing with them strong convictions and excited feelings on the subject of popular rights, and they were not at all disposed to submit to monopoly in the colony of their adoption, after assisting to overthrow it in the mother country. Lord Gosford opened the assembly in November, 1835, and in the course of his speech he said, "I have received the commands of our most gracious sovereign to acquaint you that his majesty is disposed to place under the control of the representatives of the people all public moneys payable to his majesty or to his officers in this province, whether arising from taxes or from any other source. The accounts which will be submitted to your examination show the large arrears due as salaries to public officers and for the ordinary expenditure of the government; and I earnestly request of you to pass such votes as may effect the liquidation of these arrears, and provide for the maintenance of the public servants, pending the inquiry by the commissioners."

This concession, though considered by the home government a large one, did not satisfy the demands of the province. They took it as an instalment, but gave no pledge to make the return that was sought, by liquidating the arrears. _ In their answer to the governor they said, " The great body of the people of this province, without distinction, consider the extension of the elective principle, and its application to the constitution of the legislative council in particular; the repeal of the acts passed in Great Britain on matters concerning the internal government of the province, as fully within the jurisdiction of the provincial parliament, as well as the privileges conferred by such acts; and the full and unrestrained enjoyment on the part of the legislature and of this house of their legislative and constitutional rights, as being essential to the prosperity and welfare of his majesty's faithful subjects in Canada, as well as necessary to insure their future confidence in his government, their future contentment under it, and to remove the causes which have been obstacles to it." Mr. Roebuck had become their champion in the British house of commons, and one of their first acts was to insert the agent's bill for the amount of his expenses (500) in the public accounts. This the government refused to sanction, whereupon the assembly took it upon them to pass it themselves without such sanction. The temper exhibited on both sides in these proceedings indicated anything but a fair prospect of conciliation between the ruler and the ruled. The discontent and agitation went on increasing during the following year. The assembly rose in its demands, still persisting in refusing to vote the supplies. They required that the "executive council" of the governor should be subjected to their control, and that their proceedings should be made public. The assembly, in fact, had become quite refractory, owing to the violent measures of the democratic party, led on by Papineau, the Canadian O'Connell.

The result of the general election in the Upper Province was favourable to the government; for of the 62 members returned, "were opposed to the organic changes demanded by the majority of the old assembly. The result was that the government and the legislature of this province were able to work together harmoniously and satisfactorily. This result, however, was said to be obtained by extraordinary, and not always legitimate influence, on the part of the government, and there was a large body of malcontents who joined the Lower Province in its rebellion, which occurred in 1837. The governor of Upper Canada, who brought about this favourable change, was Sir Francis Head, who held the post of major in the army in 1835, when he was employed as assistant poor law commissioner in the county of Kent. Lord Glenelg, then colonial secretary recognising in him a man of capacity and energy, fitted for a great emergency, suddenly appointed him governor of Upper Canada. He rendered most important service afterwards in conducting the military operations, by which the rebellion was put down. Lord Gosford was not so successful in the Lower Province. He was accused of having misled the people by holding out false hopes, and both he and the colonial secretary, under whose instructions he acted, were charged with something like treachery, by hinting at great concessions and keeping the word of promise to the ear, for the mere purpose of quieting the agitation and evading the reforms demanded. Lord Gosford, unable to stem the torrent of disaffection, was recalled, in order to make way for Sir J. Colborne. Both these governors rendered the most important service in putting down the rebellion which soon after broke out, and effecting the pacification and union of the provinces, which, as we shall hereafter see, were placed upon the solid basis of self-government and equal rights.


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