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Province did rise in open rebellion against the authority of the Colonial Government, the measure of provocation, and the causes which led to the outbreak, were widely different in Upper and Lower Canada. irrits
The latter Province was first settled by the French, under Samuel de Champlain, in 1608, on the spot where the city of Quebec now stands. - Seventy-four years before this, Jacques Cartier had seen an Indian village on this site. But, two hundred and fifty years ago, European governments generally discouraged colonization; and the consequence was, that the French colony in Canada progressed very slowly during the hundred and fifty years through which it remained in the hands of France. At the close of that period, the city of Quebec did not contain over 8,500 inhabitants; and four years after the conquest of the country by General Wolfe, when the Province was ceded in full sovereignty to Great Britain by the treaty of Paris, (1763,) the whole population of the country did not exceed 70,000. In the full spirit of conquest, the English Government changed at once the whole system of jurisprudence then established in the country, both civil and criminal, and assimilated it to that of Great Britain. It was hoped that the colony would soon become by immigration from the British Isles essentially English in its inhabitants, as well as in its laws and customs. This proved to be an erroneous calculation, for the inhabitants of French origin continued to outnumber, by far those from England ; and they never really forgave the English for conquering them, nor for changing their customs and laws. About the commencement of the American Revolution, in order to soothe and conciliate the Canadians, the English Government restored, by the act of 1774, called the Quebec Act, the French customs and laws, in all civil cases. Here were two blunders: the one, in abolishing these old feudal relics, especially at the peculiar time and in the manner in which this was done; the other, and yet graver blunder, consisted in restoring these antiquated customs and laws after they had once been done away. Seventeen years after this (1791) the Province of Quebec was divided into two, called respectively Upper and Lower Canada ; and a kind of representative system was introduced, precisely the same in both sections, with this exception, that the Governor of Lower Canada was the highest authority in the Provinces, the chief officer in Upper Canada being called a Lieutenant Governor. According to this Constitution, (if it should be dignified with such a title,) there were to be in each Province a Governor,
ng these; the peculiar, abolismall.co
an Executive Council, and a Legislative Council representing the English House of Lords. All these were appointed by the Crown. There was also a House of Assembly elected by the people of Canada. This was considered by the great William Pitt the perfection of wisdom and benevolence. The colonists were blest with a fac-simile of the British Constitution, and would they, could they murmur after this?
The Constitution of 1791, however, laid the foundation of all the troubles which have since agitated and cursed the Canadas. We cannot conceive of a better contrivance for developing all the latent elements of strife and discord scattered over the country, than this famous Constitution. The officials sent out from England, or appointed by the King from among the residents in the country, were too often rapacious men, who regarded Canada much as people looked upon India twenty years ago ; they thought it was made, not to live in, but to furnish as speedily as possible a gigantic private fortune. And from the fact, that the officers of government were in no sense amenable to the country which they ruled, they despised the wishes and interests of the people. The popular branch of the Legislature was soon discovered to be a mere cipher " set at the extreme left;" and a handful of Englishmen, many of them strangers to the country, had the entire control and government of a people that outnumbered them five times over. These officers had the ear of the English Government, and consequently the complaints of the people, whether well or ill founded, seldom reached the throne. It could scarcely be expected that such a state of things could long be quietly borne by a people who disliked the English race. They had too good an opportunity of gratifying their national prejudices, under the appearance of patriotism and love of constitutional liberty. Soon therefore were the Legislative Council and the elective Assembly in direct antagonism to each other; and in this state they continued, with greater or less bitterness, till the revolution of 1837–8, or more properly perhaps till the adoption of the resolutions of 1841.
If the Anglo-Saxons had to charge the French Canadians with opposing many valuable reforms, and with being doggedly conservative of the miserable relics of the feudal system introduced at the first settling of the country, the latter could justly retort, that their rights as British subjects were to a great extent denied them; that they had been mocked by the shadow of a representative government; that, though they imposed their own taxes, they could not control their
expenditure, or punish public officers for political delinquencies or crimes.
Thus the Constitution of the country, instead of mingling or fusing the two races into one, tended only to embitter national animosities, and make it all but impossible for them to live under one government. The origin, the religion, the manners and customs of the two people are different. And when we add to this the fact, that the honors and emoluments of office were chiefly given to men who spoke the English language, even though they represented but a fraction of the population, we cannot wonder that the affections of the French inhabitants should have been alienated from Great Britain-if indeed they ever had any love for it. · On the other hand, many considerations may be urged in apology for the course pursued by the English Government. Had the power been put into the hands of the French Catholics, it is certain that laws would have been passed and measures adopted which would have paralyzed the prosperity of the Province, and made the country utterly intolerable to any man of British origin. On the one hand, the people who spoke the English language, though comparatively few in number, possessed the intelligence, the enterprise, and the self-control which entitle people to rule ; on the other, there were overwhelming numbers, unenterprising in spirit, shortsighted in policy, bigoted in religion, and destitute of that self-control and moral culture which alone can fit a nation to govern themselves. Suppose the British residents in India were entirely subjected to the natives, or the American residents in Mexico had no more influence than bare numbers would give them, what would be the results ? In proportion as the Government party firmly refused to comply with the wishes of the French, their demands appear to have grown more numerous and peremptory, for they felt the power of numbers.
There has we think been a very general mistake in this country respecting the real nature of the difficulties, especially in Lower Canada. Because the French Canadians have been for years in opposition to the British Government, and because they have in general only demanded those rights which belong to a strictly popular government, they have by the American people been commonly considered as patriots, liberals, and reformers. The French Canadians have indeed contended for popular institutions; but for the simple reason that such institutions would be entirely under their own control, whilst they themselves are under their priests and notaries public. There never was a greater mistake than to suppose a French Roman Catholic liberal in any proper sense of the word. The British settlers in Lower Canada have been really the liberals and reformers in that section, albeit they have nearly all been ranked with the Tories. They have always been in favor of improvements of all kinds. They have insisted upon law reform, upon a general system of common-school education, upon the abolition of the tithe system, the “ lods et vents," and the remodelling of the seigneurial tenures. In a word, they have insisted upon sweeping away as far as possible all the remnants of the feudal system both from Church and State. To all these reforms the French party have either paid no attention, or have exhibited an active opposition.
The difficulties in Lower Canada did not develop themselves very rapidly, at least not in their present incurable form. It was not till twenty-nine years after the proclamation of the Constitution of 1791, that the French party were fairly organized under their leaders, Papineau and Neilson, for fierce and protracted strife. These gentlemen were most excellent agitators, though they have since proved themselves meagre politicians, and most contemptible soldiers. Lord Dalhousie, from 1820 till he was recalled, saw wrangling enough to satisfy even a sturdier spirit than his. The English Government began to be aware of the blunder they had committed in separating Upper from Lower Canada; and they proposed in 1822 to retrace their steps by reuniting the two Provinces. This movement agitated the whole country, . like the ocean in a storm. Then the “Canada Tenures Act," by which the relations between the “ seigneurs” and their tenants were abolished, still further exasperated the people. There are in Lower Canada one hundred and seventy-five seigneuries and thirty-three fiefs.* And though it was a real boon to the country to abolish these remnants of barbarism, the people had not asked it, and had now been taught to suspect every act which was sanctioned in England. In 1827 Lord Dalhousie refused to acknowledge L. I. Papineauthe greatest demagogue among all the French leaders—as
* The proprietors of these make over small lots, under feudal titles, to hardForking men, who, on thus receiving a permanent interest in the soil, are willing to clear and cultivate it. The annual payment, or quitrent, is various on different seigneuries; on some it does not exceed two dollars a year, with a bushel of wheat and two fowls. The seigneur has besides certain feudal claims : a tithe on fish, mill-dues, and especially payments on sale or transference, (i. e. lods et vents,) which in some cases amount to one fifth of the purchase money. Cf. Murray, Vol. I Cap. 3.
Speaker of the Assembly, when chosen to that office. The excitement consequent on this grew so great, that the English Government appointed a Commission to inquire into the state of things. This Commission reported in July, 1828, to the effect that the difficulties of the Province were occasioned by the different characters of the French and English populations, and by the faulty construction of the Legislative Council. Some suggestions were then made which might, if adopted, have soothed the irritation at that time existing, but none that could reach the root of the evil, or give permanent peace to the colony. An open rupture however was avoided by the recall of Lord Dalhousie. His successor, Sir James Kempt, pursued a conciliatory course during the two years of his administration. Lord Aylmer, who succeeded him in 1830, adopted a similar policy ; but as really nothing was done to remove the grievances of which the French Canadians complained, they lost all patience, and voted in 1836 to grant taxes only for six months. This resolution, with a list of grievances, was sent to England, and drew forth Lord John Russell's celebrated Resolutions of 1837, to the effect that the wishes of the Canadians should not be conceded. In reply to this, the Canadian Assembly stopped the supplies in August, 1837, and were soon after prorogued sine die by Lord Gosford. Now the confusion became greater than ever; and Dr. Neilson and Mr. Papineau began to organize clubs, &c.,.. to carry out their aims. ch
Next followed the ill-advised and ill-fated outbreaks of 1837 and 1838, and the suspension of the Constitution till November, 1840. The English Government next appointed a high officer with all the powers of a dictator, to settle the distracted affairs of the country. But after five months of toil, in which he failed of pleasing any party, he threw up his office and went home. The fact was, that no one man could then bring order or harmony out of such confusion and uproar. At length the Act of Parliament, III. and IV. Victoria, c. 35, was carried into effect by the resolutions of Mr. Baldwin (the present Attorney General of Canada) on the 23d July, 1841. By these resolutions, the Provinces were reunited, and an entirely new model or Constitution was adopted for the united Province. We shall call attention to the leading provisions of this new instrument of government at another stage of our remarks. · The political and social difficulties of Lower Canada appear to us all but insurmountable. Nothing but the conversion of the Catholics to God, and the diffusion of a sound