Act of Union 1840

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The British North America Act, 1840 (3 & 4 Victoria, c.35), [1] also known as the Act of Union 1840, (the Act) was approved by Parliament in July 1840 and proclaimed February 10, 1841 in Montréal. [2] It abolished the legislatures of Lower Canada and Upper Canada and established a new political entity, the Province of Canada to replace them. The Act was similar in nature and in goals to the other Acts of Union enacted by the British Parliament.

Montreal City in Quebec, Canada

Montreal is the most populous municipality in the Canadian province of Quebec and the second-most populous municipality in Canada. Originally called Ville-Marie, or "City of Mary", it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the city. The city is centred on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard. It has a distinct four-season continental climate with warm to hot summers and cold, snowy winters.

Lower Canada 19th century British colony in present-day Quebec

The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence (1791–1841). It covered the southern portion of the current-day Province of Quebec, Canada, and the Labrador region of the modern-day Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Upper Canada 19th century British colony in present-day Ontario

The Province of Upper Canada was a part of British Canada established in 1791 by the Kingdom of Great Britain, to govern the central third of the lands in British North America, formerly part of the Province of Quebec since 1763. Upper Canada included all of modern-day Southern Ontario and all those areas of Northern Ontario in the Pays d'en Haut which had formed part of New France, essentially the watersheds of the Ottawa River or Lakes Huron and Superior, excluding any lands within the watershed of Hudson Bay. The "upper" prefix in the name reflects its geographic position along the Great Lakes, mostly above the headwaters of the Saint Lawrence River, contrasted with Lower Canada to the northeast.

Contents

History

Political organization under the Union Act (1840) United Canada 1840.png
Political organization under the Union Act (1840)

The inspiration for the Act is typically attributed to Lord Durham's Report on Canada. Lord Durham was sent to the colonies to examine the causes of the Rebellions of 1837–1838 in both Upper and Lower Canada. Lord Durham wanted to re-instate peace throughout the colonies and recommended a political union. It was under his belief that peace could best be achieved by ensuring a loyal English majority in British North America, as well as by anglicizing French Canadians, and by granting responsible government. [3] The union was also proposed to solve pressing financial issues in Upper Canada, which had become increasingly indebted [4] under the previous regime dominated by the Family Compact. These debts stemmed mostly from poor investments in canals [5] connecting Upper Canada to the port of Montreal in Lower Canada via the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Due to Upper Canada's considerable debt and chronic budget shortfalls, it was hoped that its finances could be salvaged by merging it with the then-solvent Lower Canada.

The Report on the Affairs of British North America, commonly known as the Durham Report, or Lord Durham's Report is an important document in the history of Quebec, Ontario, Canada and the British Empire.

John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham British politician

John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, GCB, PC, also known as "Radical Jack" and commonly referred to in Canadian history texts simply as Lord Durham, was a British Whig statesman, colonial administrator, Governor General and high commissioner of British North America. He was a founding member and chairman of the New Zealand Company that played a key role in the colonisation of New Zealand.

Rebellions of 1837–1838 rebellion

The Rebellions of 1837–1838 were two armed uprisings that took place in Lower and Upper Canada in 1837 and 1838. Both rebellions were motivated by frustrations with political reform. A key shared goal was responsible government, which was eventually achieved in the incidents' aftermath. The rebellions led directly to Lord Durham's Report on the Affairs of British North America and to The British North America Act, 1840 which partially reformed the British provinces into a unitary system and eventually led to the British North America Act, 1867 which created Canada and its government.

Upper Canada, with its British and Protestant majority, was growing more rapidly than Lower Canada, with the French-Canadian and Catholic majority. It was hoped that by merging the two colonies, the French-Canadian cultural presence in North America would gradually disappear through assimilation. As such, the Act also contained measures banning the French language from official use in the Legislative Assembly. However, despite the amalgamation, the distinct legal systems of the two colonies was retained with Upper Canada becoming referred to as Canada West (with English common law) and Lower Canada as Canada East (with French civil law). In Upper Canada, there was opposition to unionization from the Family Compact, while in Lower Canada political and religious leaders reacted against Upper Canada's anti-French measures. [6]

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

The Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada was the lower house of the legislature for the Province of Canada, which consisted of the former provinces of Lower Canada, then known as Canada East and later the province of Quebec, and Upper Canada, then known as Canada West and later the province of Ontario. It was created by The Union Act of 1840. Canada East and Canada West each elected 42 members to the assembly. The upper house of the legislature was called the Legislative Council.

Common law law developed by judges

In law, common law, is that body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of “common law” is that it arises as precedent. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, and synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, and legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue. The court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, and those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, and regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch. Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.

The new, merged colony was named the Province of Canada and the seat of government was moved to Kingston by Lord Sydenham. Canada West, with its 450,000 inhabitants, was represented by 42 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the same number as the more-populated Canada East, with 650,000 inhabitants. The French-Canadian majority, as well as numerous anglophones, considered this an injustice. In Lower Canada, Louis-Joseph Papineau demanded representation by population and the recall of the union the minute he entered the new parliament of the united Canadas.

Province of Canada 1841-1867 UK possession in North America

The Province of Canada was a British colony in North America from 1841 to 1867. Its formation reflected recommendations made by John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham in the Report on the Affairs of British North America following the Rebellions of 1837–1838.

Kingston, Ontario City in Ontario, Canada

Kingston is a city in Eastern Ontario, Canada. It is on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, at the beginning of the St. Lawrence River and at the mouth of the Cataraqui River. The city is midway between Toronto, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec. The Thousand Islands tourist region is nearby to the east. Kingston is nicknamed the "Limestone City" because of the many heritage buildings constructed using local limestone.

Charles Poulett Thomson, 1st Baron Sydenham British politician

Charles Poulett Thomson, 1st Baron Sydenham GCB PC was a British businessman, politician, diplomat and the first Governor General of the united Province of Canada.

Political organization under the Union Act (1848) United Canada 1848.png
Political organization under the Union Act (1848)

The granting of responsible government to the colony is typically attributed to reforms in 1848 (principally the effective transfer of control over patronage from the governor to the elected ministry). These reforms resulted in the appointment of the second Baldwin-Lafontaine government that quickly removed many of the disabilities on French-Canadian political participation in the colony.

Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability, the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Governments in Westminster democracies are responsible to parliament rather than to the monarch, or, in a colonial context, to the imperial government, and in a republican context, to the president, either in full or in part. If the parliament is bicameral, then the government is responsible first to the parliament's lower house, which is more representative than the upper house, as it has more members and they are always directly elected.

Robert Baldwin Canadian politician

Robert Baldwin was a Canadian lawyer and politician who, with his political partner Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, led the first responsible ministry in Canada. "Responsible Government" marked the country's democratic independence, without a revolution, although not without violence. This achievement also included the introduction of municipal government, the introduction of a modern legal system and the Canadian Jury system, and the abolishing of imprisonment for debt. Baldwin is also noted for resisting a decades-long tradition of Orange Order terrorism of political reform in the colony, that went so far as to burn the Parliament buildings in Montreal in 1849.

Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine Canadian politician

Sir Louis-Hippolyte MénardditLa Fontaine, 1st Baronet, KCMG was the first Canadian to become Premier of the United Province of Canada and the first head of a responsible government in Canada. He was born in Boucherville, Lower Canada in 1807. A jurist and statesman, La Fontaine was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in 1830. He was a supporter of Papineau and member of the Parti canadien. After the severe consequences of the Rebellions of 1837 against the British authorities, he advocated political reforms within the new Union regime of 1841.

By the late 1850s, massive immigration from the British Isles to Canada West changed the previous demographic imbalance between the English and French sections of the colony. Many politicians in Canada West began to lobby for representation by population as they no longer considered the equal representation mandated by the Act of Union to be just.

In the end, the Act of Union failed at shutting down French-Canadian political influence, especially after responsible government was granted to the colony. By voting en bloc while the anglophones of Canada West were highly factionalized, the francophones of Canada East guaranteed a strong, unified presence in the legislative assembly. As a result, bills proposed by one of the anglophone Canada West factions required the support of the francophone Canada East votes to be passed. This was known as the double majority principle and reflected the duality of the two administrations. The double majority principle was never officially recognized and was demonstrated to be impracticable. [7]

However, the francophone presence remained inferior to their demographic weight in the executive and legislative councils. The government of Lafontaine-Baldwin succeeded in repealing the measure against the French language in the assembly, in the courts, and in the civil administration. With the double majority principle, both Canadas were so to speak "reseparated" and for a short while, both sides were managed independently. Joint premierships shared by an anglophone from Canada West and a francophone from Canada East became the convention, but continual legislative deadlock resulting from the conflicting aspirations of the two Canadas remained. Dissatisfaction resulting from this deadlock was one of the main factors for Canadian Confederation in 1867.

See also

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References

  1. The Short Titles Act 1896, section 1 and Schedule 1.
  2. "Act of Union". The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  3. ARCHIVED - Upper Canada - Towards Confederation - Canadian Confederation - Library and Archives Canada. Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  4. Canadian Journal of Political Science\ / Volume 26 / Issue 04 / December 1993, pp 809-809Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association Canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 1993 doi : 10.1017/S0008423900000597
  5. Canadian History. Flash.lakeheadu.ca. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  6. Act of Union Archived March 14, 2013, at the Wayback Machine .. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  7. "Quebec History". faculty.marianopolis.edu. Retrieved 2018-01-25.