Durham's 2 main recommendations - RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT and union of Upper and Lower Canada - emerged from an analysis of the causes of the rebellions. He criticized the defective constitutional system in Upper Canada, where power was monopolized by "a petty, corrupt, insolent Tory clique." This FAMILY COMPACT blocked economic and social development in a potentially wealthy colony, thereby causing the discontent which led to the rebellion. His solution, based on advice from colonial reformers, was a system in which the executive would be drawn from the majority party in the assembly. It would stimulate colonial expansion, strengthen the imperial connection and minimize American influences.
In Lower Canada, Durham described the problems as racially, not politically, based. He found "two nations warring in the bosom of a single state" To ensure harmony and progress, he recommended assimilating the French Canadians, whom he called "a people with no literature and no history," through a legislative union of the Canadas, in which an English-speaking majority would dominate.
Durham's report was condemned by Upper Canada's Tory elite, but Reformers in UC and NS hailed the idea of responsible government. Montréal Tories supported the union largely because they saw it as a way to overcome French Canadian opposition to their plans for economic development. French Canadians were opposed to the union and reaffirmed their determination to defend their nationality. The British government accepted the recommendation for a union of the Canadas (see ACT OF UNION).
However, responsible government was not formally implemented until 1847 and Durham's recommendation for a division of powers between imperial and colonial responsibilities was rejected. Although controversial in its direct influence in the creation of the Province of Canada, the emergence of a party system and the strengthening of local self-government, the Durham Report is generally regarded to have played an important role in the development of Canadian autonomy.
Author DAVID MILLS
J.M.S. Careless, The Union of the Canadas (1967) ; G.M. Craig, ed, Lord Durham's Report (1963); Chester New, Lord Durham's Mission to Canada (1963); J.M. Ward, Colonial Self-Government (1976).
Links to Other Sites
Watch the Heritage Minute about the concept of "responsible government" from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
This overview of the political history of Lower Canada is part of the "Canadian Confederation" website at Library and Archives Canada. Also features historical maps.
John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham
A biography of John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Queen Victoria's journals
See brief comments about rebellions in Upper Canada in a Tuesday 16th January 1838 entry in a digitized copy of Queen Victoria's journals. Search or browse this site for other references to Canada and political figures involved in Canadian affairs during the reign of Queen Victoria. From the website "Queen Victoria's Journals."