Canada Early History IV

By | December 25, 2021

The complete adoption of responsible government on the English parliamentary model, in 1846 (practically in 1848), marks, it can be said. the end of the Franco-Canadian national unrest: step by step, the French element accepted the reforms, and the political conflict, losing its racial characteristics, became a conflict around principles in the development of legislation. The French-Canadian, nonetheless, continued to remain a closely united element in the defense of its ancient laws. The old parties thus transformed and merged into two, “liberal” and “conservative”; and the financial regime, the land regime and, later on, the customs regime above all, became the favorite fields of the struggle, with the progressive democratic development of the country. For Canada history, please check

Meanwhile, new constitutional developments were maturing, transforming the Upper Chamber of the legislature into elective in 1856, now made up of members elected for 8 years; while the same long-debated question of the colonial capital was being resolved. After meeting in Kingston, then in Montreal, Toronto, Quebec, the legislature (and with it the colonial government) finally found its definitive seat in Ottawa, designated as the capital by the Crown, which – in the disagreement between the various parties – the dispute had been deferred.

While the political and administrative systems developed on an ever more democratic basis, the commercial and land regimes of Canada also improved, also conspiring to create a freer and more democratic society, in which the ancient clerical-feudal elements of the French-Canadian era. The commercial system introduced by England was the one that arose from the most rigid mercantilist principles. But, since the country, for reasons of climate and soil, was not suitable for the agricultural productions required at the time of the overseas lands by the European markets, and on the other hand it was not so developed demographically and socially as to allow the rise of large industries, the mercantile system was far less oppressive to Canada in practice than in theory and spirit. The fall, nevertheless, of the system, gradually eroded from the end of the century. XVIII onwards and abolished with the revocation in 1849 of the ancient navigation acts that had, so to speak, codified, promoted or, at least, guaranteed a more free development of the local economy by ensuring Canada, equal to the other colonies, the full freedom to seek the most convenient market for sales and purchases (in this case the neighboring United States) and above all to regulate customs tariffs at one’s own will, rather than at the will of the metropolis.

A very sensitive influence on the economic constitution and on the demographic and social development of Canada, on the other hand, was exercised by the land policy of the new English ruler. For if it, even in the first seventy years, hindered more than promoted the progress of cultivation and, with this, the population of the country, because of the enormous waste of land granted free of charge to private individuals or speculators; already with the second quarter of the century. XIX tried to remedy the wrongdoing, drawing inspiration from the present and, moreover, future interests of effective agricultural colonization. The irritation of the settlers, the disappointments of the immigrants, the scarcity above all, not to mention the lack, of the good lands available in the most accessible regions of the country, advised the British government not only to be more sparing in its use of the lands (with 1826, in fact, free concessions were suspended and replaced with auction sales) but a reconstitution of the landed property for future colonization purposes in the most ancient populated regions. In 1840 it resolved to suspend the concession of land to the Anglican church, established in 1791 at the rate of one seventh of the total disposals, and to confiscate and sell the lands already assigned and reserved to the said church and to the Catholic one, which, instead to cultivate, they left them abandoned, with serious damage to colonization: put up for sale, to the great benefit of the direct farmers in particular, part of the sums raised were assigned to the clergy themselves.

However, the colonial government was naturally more daring than the metropolitan government, when after 1846 land policy, like commercial policy, became the responsibility of the colony itself, as a complement to the political and legislative autonomy achieved. Indeed, abolished in 1854 the feudal rights that still existed, the lands were freed from any burden of servitude, granting the owners a total indemnity of six million dollars in compensation; while the more rapid reconstitution of a landed property, after the transfer to the colony of the lands reserved for the Crown in the act of 1791 and, much more, after the successive expropriations, in the far West (the¬†Far West¬†Canadian), of vast expanses of land belonging to the centuries-old Hudson’s Bay Company, allowed the adoption of a system of land concessions more favorable to the establishment of the emigrant on earth. The selling price of public lands, which until 1850 had taken place at very high rates (from 10 to 15 and even 20 shillings an acre), was significantly lowered (from 10 pence to 4 shillings, depending on the land and locality), by agreeing to settlers with little means to make the payment in small annual installments; while, to hinder the purchases of land for purely speculative purposes, the obligation was imposed on those who bought considerable extensions, to colonize them within a given number of years. So Canada, to which the wealthy peasants of the metropolis turned to prefer to set up their own property (from 1827 to 1846 the English emigration alone had given them over 600,000 settlers), began, around the middle of the century. XIX, to become a colony of small and medium-sized owners par excellence, an essentially democratic society of two million scarce residents (half a century earlier, in 1801, it was still only 240,000), which could well fit the definition of ‘a governor of the time, Lord Sydenham: “not a lottery with a few exorbitant prizes and a large number of white tickets, but a safe and certain investment, which a prudent and reasonable man can fearlessly undertake”.

Canada Early History IV