July 23rd, 1840 – A United Canada

Today-In-History

The United Province of Canada, or Province of Canada, or the United Canadas 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.

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The Act of Union 1840, passed July 23rd, 1840, by the British Parliament and proclaimed by the Crown on February 10th, 1841, merged the two Colonies by abolishing the Parliaments of Upper and Lower Canada and replacing them with a single one with two houses, a Legislative Council as the upper chamber and the Legislative Assembly as the lower chamber. In the aftermath of the Rebellions of 1837–1838, unification of the two Canadas was driven by two factors. Firstly, Upper Canada was near bankruptcy due to a lack of stable tax revenues, and needed the resources of the more populous Lower Canada to fund its internal transportation improvements. And secondly, unification was an attempt to swamp the French vote by giving each of the former provinces the same number of parliamentary seats, despite the larger population of Lower Canada. Although Durham’s report had called for both the Union of the Canadas and Responsible Government (i.e., an independent local legislature), only the first was implemented. The new government was to be led by an appointed Governor General accountable only to the British Crown and the King’s Ministers. Responsible Government was not to be achieved until the second LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry in 1849.

The Province of Canada ceased to exist at Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867, when it was redivided into the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. From 1791 to 1841, the territory roughly corresponding to modern-day Southern Ontario in Canada belonged to the British colony of the Upper Canada, while Labrador and the southern portion of modern-day Quebec belonged to the colony of the Province of Lower Canada (until 1809, when Labrador was transferred to the Colony of Newfoundland).[1] Upper Canada was primarily “Anglophone” (English-speaking), whereas Lower Canada was primarily “Francophone” (French-speaking).


 

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