The Shift from Representative Government to Responsible Government

Social Studies Project

The Shift from Representative Government to Responsible Government

The Need For Change

1830 - 1847

Citizens of BNA were unhappy with how the government was formed. They wanted change. This was because government called "Representative Government" was controlling BNA. The things that were unfair about this is that, first of all because a King or Queen from Britain ruled it. All of the final decisions went to him/her. Underneath them were the Governor who put Britain's wishes first, could say "Veto" to any bill and they decided when elections were held. Then there were the councils who were pretty democratic because the were people of BNA but thy were still a little unfair because only Elited could become Councils, who were actually people from Britain that just lived in BNA and also because they were chosen by the Governor. They advised the governor who about bills and decided bills too. After them were the Assembly who were also a little democratic because they were from BNA but they were still unfair because they were the Elites. The Asembly suggested bills and raised money through taxes. Finally at the bottom were the Voters. They were pretty democratic but they were still only people from BNA. Even though First Nations, Black Colonists and others could vote, they had rules for what you needed and more. Overall it was pretty democratic because there were people from BNA, but they were not elected members.

The Impact of Joseph Howe

1835 - 1847

He was the most famous politician during that time. Joseph Howe was a Reformer from Nova Scotia. He published a newspaper called 'Novascotian'. On one New Year's Day he published a letter on his newspaper criticizing the city leader (magistrates) in Halifax who were spending public money. Basically the letter talked about how large sums of money were supposed to help the poor but instead they were being "pocketed by men who had jobs that the country might spare". Joseph Howe literally did not write the letter but was responsible for it since it was published on his newspaper. Even though he did not write it the citizens knew he agreed with what the person had written because Howe had published some similar stories months ago. The magistrates were not happy with what he had done so they took him to court to charge him for telling lies. If he was found guilty he was sent to jail. When the main trial day came he actually spoke for about six hours. Howe was a very good at talking in public. Everyone in the jury and in the audience listened to what he had to say. He talked about many different things like how the elites were unfair and many more. His talk made people laugh and also cry at some times. In the end they decided that he was not guilty. After everything was finished they carried him out like a real hero. Speaking out like this made Joseph Howe to be elected as "Assembly" the next year.

Rebellions of 1837

1837 - 1838

There were two rebellions in 1837, there was one in Upper Canada and in Lower Canada. Also there was one more in 1838. In Lower Canada the rebellion started on 23 November 1837. This was when a group of Patriotes defeated British troops in a minor battle. This fight broke out because the government heard that some people might be thinking of rebellion, so they started arresting some people. They were ready to fight. There were several more minor fights and the people rebelling started to take over communities and homes. Even though they all have fought by the end of the year the Patriotes were easily defeated by the British troops because of the lack of supplies. The British troops had much more weapons, and the Patriotes had never gotten military training. Once again another rebellion started in 1838, but the Patriotes and rebels were quickly defeated. There were not enough rebels to fight for them to continue it. After everything had ended 800 patriotes were jailed, and several homes od Patriote supporters were destroyed. Many of he Patriotes were released from prison, but 12 were hung and 58 were sent to prison colonies in Australia and Bermuda.

While the rebellion there was happening there was one more happening in Upper Canada during that time. William Lyon Mackenzie heard that many British soldiers were fighting in Lower Canada, and could not defend them. So, he decided that the time had come to act. At the beginning of 1837 in December, Mackenzie and his group of followers built headquarters in a place called Montgomery's Tavern, which was in north Toronto. Mackenzie hed about 700 men down in December 5th towards Toronto. Some officials from the government organized a group called a "Militia" who were not professional soldiers but acted like one in case any trouble happened. They easily defeated the rebels in just a few days because of the same reasons the rebels from Lower Canada were defeated. Mackenzie tried to keep it going from an island called Niagara River, but he couldn't . The rebellion was over in 1838. During that time 880 rebels were arrested. Most were released but 20 were hung, 92 were sent to prison colonies in Australia and 26 were never allowed to live in Canada, so they were banished.

Lord Durham Report

1838 - 1839

Lord Durham was born in Britain. Durham was sent to Canada in 1837 to investigate what was happening in Lower Canada when the rebellion was still occurring. He was the first person who felt that Britain should give Responsible Government to the new formed colony of Canada because they were forcing them to live with the unfair government called Representative Government. This was very surprising to Britain they didn't know someone like him would say something like that. He truly felt that it would help those people in poverty.

Responsible Government Achieved

In Nova Scotia


In Provinces of Canada


In Prince Edward Island


In New Brunswick


In Newfoundland