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Title: British Colonists and Imperial Interests in Lower Canada 1820 to 1841.
Author: Goldring, P.
Awarding Body: Queen Mary, University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 1978
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Lower Canada occupied a strategic position in Britain's policies for the defence, trade and settlement of British North America. The smooth development of these three interests was threatened by the autonomist ambitions of the colony's French-speaking (Canadien) leaders. Between 1820 and 1841 British policy had to cope with the collapse of traditional canadien elites as reliable supporters of imperial interests, the persistent hostility of the new canadien leadership towards commerce and immigration, and the increased restlessness of the growing minority of Englishspeaking colonists. During the 1820s, the Governor alienated the bureaucracy, the traditional social leaders of French Canada, and the elected Assembly by his encouragement of diverse efforts to anglicize the colony's administration, institutions and civil law. The political divisions of the British colonists encouraged the Canadiens to seek greater autonomy for tie colony, tb and British policy after 1828 favoured concession e the Canadiens as the best way to smooth out political obstacles to social and economic change. But increased immigration alarmed the Canadiens, created a larger and more complex British community in the colony, and made the imperial government more anxious to conciliate the British than the French colonists after a few of the latter revolted in 1837-38. Economic and demographic pressures were important but the debate over political legitimacy was a major element too. Belief in prescriptive legitimacy faded during the 1820s; the growth of liberal attitudes in the British part of the population brought impatience towards the colony's antiquated civil law and hastened the creation of suitable conditions for the growth of a modern commercial state. Britain imposed a new constitution giving greater powers to the fast-growing colony of Upper Canada and to the British merchants and settlers of Lower CanadaThis thesis grew out of a belief that the study of Lower Canada before 1841 could profit from further scrutiny of the imperial context in which Canadian society evolved, and that the devolution of the formal Empire can be better understood through studies of groups in the colonies who resisted decentralization. The thesis traces political movements among English-speaking colonists in Lower Canada during two of the three decades before the granting of responsible government, in an effort to explain why colonial autonomy was a socially divisive issue, yet self-government soon began to work with the active co-operation of a majority of both the ethnic communities into which the colony was divided. To write the story of the "losers" in a long-dead historical controversy is to risk criticism for espousing a lost and perhaps disreputable cause. Much that was said and done by the advocates of British hegemony in the valley of the St. Lawrence before 1841 strikes the modern reader as strange and disagreeable. In this study, such attitudes are frequently quoted or paraphrased at length. This has been done in no spirit of retrospective partisanship, but because the British of Lower Canada spoke and acted out of conviction as well as self-interest; and because their attitudes were not illogical or extradordinary in terms of contemporary ideas and experiences in the English-speaking world. This is not a work of advocacy, but chiefly a study of attitudes and the contexts in which they evolved. Most of the terms used in this study were current in Lower Canada or in Britain before 1841. "Can'adiens" were French-speaking natives of the colony who had at least one ne-es6ar t- born there before 1759; "Britons" or "Britishcolonists" were terms loosely applied to English-speaking colonists of all other origins, including those born in the United States and Canada itself. The terms "tories" and "reformers" have been used sparingly; until about 1834 they were widely used in the colony to refer respectively to supporters and opponents of the colonial executive. "Patriotes" after 1826 were advocates of colonial autonomy and of the deliberate preservation of the French language and civil law of Lower Canada. "Bureaucrats", a term of even greater abuse then than now, were colonists of any origin who held executive or judicial office, or had profited conspicuously from advocating the executive's prerogatives rather than the claims of the elected Assembly. An MPP is a member of the Provincial Parliament, as it was called by most contemporaries. The writer has profited greatly from the advice and encouragement of the supervisor of this thesis, Professor Glyndwr Williams, and in general from discussions in the Seminar in British Imperial History at the Institute of Historical Research between 1973 and 1976. Acknowledgement must also be made to the helpful staff of the Institute, and to the staffs of more archives and repositories than there is room here to mention; they are listed in the bibliography. Particular mention is due to the Public Record Office in London, the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh, and the Public Archives of Canada in Ottawa. A doctoral fellowship from the Canada Council made this work possible; additional valuable assistance was received through educational leave and-allowances from Parks Canada, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. This financial assistance, and helpful advice from many quarters, is gratefully acknowledged.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available