The Durham Report and Responsible Government in Canada.

So we know that Great Britain messed up.  They taxed the United States into rebellion in 1776 and blamed it on too much freedom. Determined not to mess up again, Great Britain forced an oligarchy on what remained of its British North American colonies (Canada).  To no one’s surprise, this led yet again to rebellion in 1837 in Upper and Lower Canada.  Still unsure of why their colonies had this nasty habit of rebelling, Great Britain appointed Lord  “Radical Jack” Durham to both govern its North American colonies and also find out the causes of the rebellions.

Durham told of his findings in the now famous (guess what?) Durham Report.  Basically, he reported what the United States knew decades earlier: People generally like a say in how they are governed (i.e. responsible government).  The thing is, Great Britain rejected the Durham report! Instead, they opted for a kind of hybrid between Durham’s recommendations and what they had already established for government in the colonies. This led to among other things, the Act of Union in 1841, separation of English and French speaking Canadians, separate schools and overall a unique (or weird) political system that would be a forerunner of Canadian Politics.  Here is how it went down:

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Rebellions in Canada?

It has often been suggested that one of the fundamental differences between the United States and Canada is that the United States was born out of a revolution while Canada was created by an Act of the British Parliament.  While this is true, it is an understatement.

In fact, some of the same sentiment that led to the American Revolution also led to rebellions in Canada in 1837 and this, in turn, led us down the road towards nationhood.

You see, one of the causes (and I stress one) of the American Revolution was “taxation without representation.”  Great Britain was taxing its  13 colonies, but those colonies did not have any political power or really any say in British government at all.

After the American Revolution, Great Britain’s response to its colonies’ desire for representative democracy was to further restrict democracy in its remaining North American colonies!  Basically, they set up an oligarchy where a few appointed officials made all of the key decisions in Upper and Lower Canada while elected assemblies had very little political power.

Two separate failed rebellions (really, they were more like riots) ensued and the road to Confederation began.