Tag Archives: Lower Canada

Building Canada, Why Confederation?

In the 1860s, the British colonies were facing various issues. One resolution for each one of these was that the colonies come together to form one country. These are the problems that brought about Confederation:

The Province of Canada was made of a lot of people and was later made into the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The government of the Province of Canada did not run smoothly because the English-speaking and French-speaking halves each had different ideas about how things should be run. Leaders from both areas of the province decided that joining other colonies might help solve their own political problems.

In order for their economies to do well, the colonies needed to be able to sell their goods to other markets. One solution was to bring all the colonies together.

Since America had fought Britain to gain its independence, the relationship between British North America and the United States had never been stable. Many Americans wanted to take over all of what is now Canada.

Britain didn’t want to have to pay for the cost of defending its colonies. Hence, it decided to encourage the colonies to amalgamate, because the United States would be less likely to attack Canada if it were a self-governing country in lieu of separate colonies of Britain. This fear of the U.S. helped to strengthen the decision for Confederation.

Leaders from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had actually already begun discussing the idea of signing up for a Marine union and had also planned for a meeting.  The political leaders from the Province of Canada asked if they could come to their conference to recommend a bigger union of all the British North American colonies.  The Maritime colonies were given invitations and so started the quest of Confederation.


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Imagine Getting Paid and Not Showing Up at Work!

Louis-Joseph Papineau

Louis-Joseph Papineau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: British General Guy Carleton

English: British General Guy Carleton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Repost and updated post I published on November 29, 2012

One of the problems that hindered the development of Canada for many years was the absence of people appointed to do important jobs. On November 29, 1808, for instance, N. Francis Burton was appointed by the British Government to be Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada. He remained in Britain until 1822, but drew his salary. When he finally did come to Canada, he stayed for ten years.

Many important positions in Canada were regarded as sinecures (a position of little work, but given stature or financial support). General James Murray, who became Governor of Canada, after the fall of Quebec, until 1766, continued to draw his pay as governor for eight years after he returned to Britain.

When Sir Guy Carleton was Governor of Canada, his brother Thomas was made Lieutenant-Governor of the newly-created province of New Brunswick. He held the position for thirty-three years, but was absent during the last fourteen of them. Yet, it was not that he lacked fortitude: on one occasion he travelled from Fredericton to Quebec on snowshoes to see his brother who was ill.

Many absentees were ministers of the church. The Rector of Sorel, an important military post, had a salary of £200 a year, but spent ten years of his term in England. Lord Plymouth said he was too charming a neighbour to be allowed to live in remote Canada.

The situation eventually came to a head in 1823 when it was discovered that the Receiver-General of Lower Canada had stolen £96,000 of the provincial funds. French-speaking citizens of Lower Canada said this would not have happened if some of them had been given the responsible positions held by absentee British officials. Louis Joseph Papineau, who became one of the leaders of the 1837 rebellion, and John Nielson, editor of the Quebec Gazette, felt so strongly about this that they travelled to London to protest against a proposal to unite Upper and Lower Canada. They felt it would give English-speaking Canadians more power than ever. The union was delayed until 1840 and this possibly delayed Confederation.



Posted by on November 29, 2013 in On This Day


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This Week in Canadian History – November Week 3

English: View of the Battle of Windmill Point,...

English: View of the Battle of Windmill Point, below Prescott, Upper Canada, (from the Ogdensburg side of the St. Lawrence). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir John A. Macdonald‘s place in Canadian history is that of architect of Confederation and the first prime minister.  It is easy to forget that he was also a practicing lawyer from Kingston, Ontario.

Macdonald lost one of his most important law cases as the result of an incident that took place on November 13, 1838, during the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada.  An American leader of the Brotherhood of Hunters, John Birge, raised a force of 400 men to attack Prescott, Ontario, and thus drive a wedge between Upper and Lower Canada.  In recruiting speeches throughout New York, Birge claimed that nine-tenths of the population of Upper Canada and four-fifths of the militia were “oppressed” and ready to join his invasion force.

The invasion force sailed from Sackets Harbor on November 11, 1838, but as it came closer to Prescott, Birge developed a convenient stomach ache, and asked to be put on shore at Ogdensburg.  About half the force deserted with him.

Command then fell on a former Polish officer, Nils Von Schultz  (He was born Nils Gustaf Ulric in October 1807; in 1836, he changed his name to “Von Schoultz” and had been drawn into a secret society known as the Hunters’ Lodges.)  He was a brave, competent soldier, and under his direction, the invaders managed to capture a windmill on the river bank below Prescott and some stone houses, which they made into forts.  They unfurled a Patriot flag, made by the women of Onondaga County, New York, on which they embroidered a star, an eagle, and the words, “Liberated by the Onondaga Hunters.”

Von Schultz expected help from the Canadians, whom Birge had claimed would join them.  Instead, a British naval detachment from Kingston arrived on the scene on November 13.  It was followed by Canadian militia which, far from being disloyal, attacked the windmill.  Von Schultz and his deluded men fought bravely, but had to surrender after three days.  British and Canadian troops had seventy-six men killed or wounded, while the Hunters lost thirty-seven.

The invaders were taken to Kingston where the leaders were defended by the young lawyer, John A. Macdonald.  Von Schultz was the only one who pleaded guilty.  He said he had thought that Canadians wanted to be liberated, but he had been misled by the Hunters.  Eight of them, including Von Schultz, were hanged at Fort Henry on December 8, 1838. although Macdonald did his best for them.

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… There Was a Great Deal of Eating and Drinking

Timbre-poste du Canada 3 cents 1917

Timbre-poste du Canada 3 cents 1917 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By October 28, 1864, the Quebec Conference had drawn up a blueprint for Confederation.  Seventy-two resolutions had been discussed.  When the delegates and their wives left for Montreal by special train, all but three resolutions had been approved, and these were dealt with at Montreal.

There was great jubilation because the delegates did not realize how difficult the days ahead would be – Confederation still had to be approved by the five provinces, then submitted to the British Parliament, and this was to take another two and a half years.

After their meeting at Montreal the delegates toured the chief cities of Upper and Lower Canada.  They went first to Ottawa, the new capital chosen by Queen Victoria, and had lunch in the new Parliament Buildings, although they were only half-finished.  Then they went on to Toronto, making stops at Kingston, Belleville, and Cobourg, where they were greeted by cheering crowds and brass bands.  There was a torchlight procession in Toronto as they went from the station to the Queen’s Hotel and four brass bands played along the route.  Then the tour went on to Hamilton and St. Catharines.  Everywhere, there was sight-seeing, speech-making, and a great deal of eating and drinking.  The men did the eating and drinking, while their women, in true Victorian style, sat in the galleries and watched!

The most difficult problems solved by the seventy-two resolutions included that of striking a balance between federal and provincial powers — the American Civil War had shown how important it was to have a strong federal government.  It was agreed that all powers not expressly assigned to the provinces should be reserved for the Federal Government, which could also disallow provincial legislation.

The provinces would lose a great deal of revenue by not being able to impose customs duties; so it was decided that the Federal Government would pay each province 80 cents for every member of its population.  It was agreed to build the Inter-colonial Railway between Canada and the Maritimes.  The seventy-two resolutions also made provision for the Northwest, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island, should they decide to join the Confederation later.


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And Then There Were Two

English: Jonathan Sewell

English: Jonathan Sewell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On August 24, 1791, the British Parliament passed the Constitutional Act.  It divided Canada into two provinces, Upper and Lower Canada, each having its own lieutenant-governor and legislature.  This system was kept in effect until the Act of Union in 1840.

Britain has been criticized for not taking the opportunity to unite all the British North American colonies, as they were in 1867.   Confederation was suggested as early as 1794 by Colonel Robert Morse of the Royal Engineers, whose letter on the subject is in the National Archives.  He predicted “a great country may yet be raised up in North America.”  Confederation was also urged by a New York Loyalist, William Smith, who later became Chief Justice of Quebec, and Jonathan Sewell, another Chief Justice of the same province.

William Pitt, who sponsored the Canada Act, and other British statesmen who supported it, thought that the Confederation suggestions were ahead of their time.  They felt it would be better if Confederation was worked out by Canadians themselves than by Britain.

This Act was made necessary by the great influx of United Empire Loyalists after the American Revolutionary War.  The new English-speaking settlers did not want to live under French law, despotic governors, or the Roman Catholic Church.  In order to help the Protestants, the act provided that every eighth acre of land should be set aside to give revenue for the clergy.  These were called “the clergy reserves.”  When Pitt was asked what he meant by the “Protestant clergy, ” he replied that it was the clergy of the Church of England.  This caused great problems later because many of the new settlers were Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Congregationalists.

Actually, Pitt wanted to make Canada like Britain, with a hereditary nobility. He said there was “something in the habits, customs and manners of Canada that peculiarly fitted it for the reception of hereditary honours.”  Some of the governors had similar ideas.

To learn more about this, I suggest going to Canada in the Making on; and then Historica Canada at!

“And whereas His Majesty has been pleased to signify, by his message to both Houses of Parliament, his Royal intention to divide his Province of Quebec into two separate Provinces, to be called the Province of Upper Canada and the Province of Lower Canada; Be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that there shall be within each of the said Provinces respectively a Legislative Council and an Assembly, to be severally composed and constituted in the manner hereinafter described; and that in each of the said Provinces respectively, His Majesty, His Heirs, and Successors, shall have power during the continuance of this Act, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Assembly of such Provinces respectively, to make laws for the peace, welfare and good Government thereof, such laws not being repugnant to this Act; and that all such laws being passed by the Legislative Council and Assembly of either of the said Provinces respectively, and assented to by His Majesty, His Heirs or Successors, or assented to in His Majesty’s name by such person as His Majesty, His Heirs or Successors, shall from to time appoint to be the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor of such Province, or by such person as His Majesty, His Heirs or Successors, shall from time to time appoint to administer the Government within the same, shall be, and the same are hereby declared to be, by virtue of and under this Act, valid and binding, to all intents and purposes whatever, within the Province in which the same shall have been so passed.” – Section II, The Constitutional Act.


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Lauded Légaré & Lyman

Continuing my theme of Canadian painters, I have a treat for you.  Two great artists: Joseph Légaré and John Goodwin Lyman, both settled in the province of Quebec.

✔  Joseph Légaré was born on March 10, 1795, in Quebec City and passed away on June 21, 1855.  He was a painter and glazier, artist, seigneur and political figure in Lower Canada.  He was the eldest son in a family of six children.

The Martyrdom of Fathers Brébeuf and Lalemant

The Martyrdom of Fathers Brébeuf and Lalemant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was the first landscape artist of French-Canadian origin, and in 1833, Légaré opened his own gallery in Quebec City, the first art gallery in Canada; it closed two years later.

Légaré painted a number of works depicting the “customs of North American Indians“. However, some of his more memorable works include: First Monastery of the Ursulines at Quebec, Memorials of the Jesuits of New France, The Martyrdom of Brothers Brebeuf and Lalement and The Battle of Sainte-Foy.

The 1980 film A Québécois Rediscovered: Joseph Légaré 1795-1855 was made about his life.

✔  Next. let me tell you about John Goodwin Lyman.

John Goodwin Lyman was born on 29 September 1886, and passed away at age 80 on 26 May 1967.  He was a Canadian modernist painter active largely in Montreal. In the 1930s.  He founded the Contemporary Art Society in 1939. Stylistically, he opposed both the Group of Seven and the Canadian Group of Painters, painting in a more “refined” style influenced by the School of Paris.

Woman with a White Collar, 1936. Oil on Cardboard.

Woman with a White Collar, 1936. Oil on Cardboard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1938 Lyman began to gather Montreal painters who were disillusioned with the Canadian Group and The Group of Seven, and in December of that year they exhibited together as The Eastern Group of Painters.


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Pushing His Luck …

The Red River drainage basin, with the Souris ...

The Red River drainage basin, with the Souris River highlighted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lord Selkirk’s decision to colonize the area near the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers was not received warmly by either the North West Company or the Hudson’s Bay Company.  Both Companies hunted and traded in the Assiniboia region.  They feared that a farming settlement would surely interfere with their business.

Friction between the settlers and fur traders soon erupted.  Miles Macdonnell, appointed Governor of Assiniboia by Selkirk, was angry to see the Nor’Westers transporting bales of pemmican through his territory while many of his own settlers were starving.

Pemmican was made by pounding strips of dried buffalo meat into powder.  Wild berries and melted buffalo fat were then mixed with the powder and compressed into bales weighing as much as ninety pounds.  Pemmican was the most important food on the Prairies at that time.

In January, 1814, Macdonnell posted his “Pemmican Proclamation,” forbidding the export of food supplies from Assiniboia.  From the standpoint of the colony, his decision was beneficial, but how were the Métis and the trading companies to survive without their supplies?

Macdonnell was still not satisfied.  He sent an armed party to Souris, a North West Company trading post on the Assiniboine River.  There, they confiscated about 6000 bales of pemmican.  Macdonnell was “pushing his luck.”  He boasted that he would “crush all the Nor’Westers on the river, should they be so handy as to resist my authority.”

The partners of the North West Company, meeting at Fort William, decided to destroy the Selkirk at Fort William.  A temporary compromise was reached on June 28, 1814, but Miles Macdonnell was nevertheless terribly shaken by the enmity he had aroused.  Even the Hudson’s Bay Company men turned against him.  Macdonnell,  a discouraged, beaten man, wrote to Selkirk and asked to be relieved of his command.

Macdonnell spent his later years at his farm in Upper Canada.  He died at the home of his brother in Point Fortune, Lower Canada, on June 28, 1828.

To read more about today’s post, I have a few notable sites for you to visit. There is the Lord Selkirk Association of Rupert Land, and the Electric Canadian .com, and the Roots Web. The always dependable Canadian Encyclopedia. And lastly, if you have the time a 272-page document, I really do recommend the The Assiniboine Basin by Martin Kavanagh.


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