The bill had 4 main objectives: to guarantee the same rights and privileges as were enjoyed by loyal subjects elsewhere in North America; to ease the burden on the imperial treasury by granting colonial assemblies the right to levy taxes with which to pay for local civil and legal administration; to justify the territorial division of the PROVINCE OF QUEBEC and the creation of separate provincial legislatures; and to maintain and strengthen the bonds of political dependency by remedying acknowledged constitutional weaknesses of previous colonial governments. This involved bolstering the authority and prestige of the governor by making him a true representative of the imperial power, and limiting the powers of the elected colonial assemblies by creating independent legislative councils whose appointed members comprised an aristocratic body modelled on the House of Lords and devoted to the interests of the Crown (see CHÂTEAU CLIQUE; FAMILY COMPACT). The Act guaranteed continuity of ownership of lands held under the SEIGNEURIAL SYSTEM in Lower Canada and created the CLERGY RESERVES in Upper Canada.
By giving Upper Canada a provincial constitution and a separate existence, and by favouring British colonization there, Britain took the first steps on the path that led, ultimately, to the creation of the Canadian Confederation. Nevertheless, many historians have considered that the Act's failure to establish RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT and its distribution of financial powers in favour of the appointed councils as factors contributing to the political conflict of the early 19th century.
See also REBELLIONS OF 1837.
Author PIERRE TOUSIGNANT
Links to Other Sites
French Canada and the Early Decades of British Rule (1760 - 1791)
A digitized copy of a booklet that examines the issues and policies that defined Britian's administration of its North American colonies in the decades preceeding the implementation of the Quebec Act and the Constitutional Act. From the Canadian Historical Association and Library and Archives Canada.
The Constitutional Act
Read an online digitized copy of the landmark "Constitutional Act," a decree signed by King George III of England on June 10, 1791, that created the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. On its pages are details pertaining to the establishment of effective government institutions, the responsibilities of the lieutenant governor, the role of the church, and more. From Canadiana Online.