This Week in History
A Responsible Government
For the week of Monday April 19, 1999
On April 25, 1849, the Rebellion Losses bill was passed in parliament and made a law, an event considered the first big test for responsible government in Canada.
In Upper Canada, the appointed Executive Council consisted of men who were related or very good friends, most of them Anglican, earning it the nickname the Family Compact. The Compact favoured their own church when distributing government money, even though most colonists were not members. This displeased many. The rebels drafted a new constitution and tried to attack York (now Toronto) in order to "liberate" Upper Canada.
Following the rebellions, Britain sent Lord Durham to the Canadas to investigate. In his famous report, he recommended that the colonies unite and be given some power to govern themselves. The Act of Union of 1840 gave Canada East and Canada West (previously Lower and Upper Canada) equal representation in a more powerful elective assembly.
The government introduced a bill to pay for damages caused during the rebellion in Canada East. The passing of this bill, on April 25, 1849, confirmed that Canadians enjoyed responsible government. Parliament was finally controlled by the elected assembly instead of the appointed executive.
Many people worried that the rebels would find a way to profit from this decision. Tory protestors burned down the Parliament Buildings in Montréal and attacked the Governor General, Lord Elgin, after he gave the bill royal ascent. Still, support for the government's decision was strong and the law remained in place.
For helping to establish Responsible Government,
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