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The Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), famously known as the Durham Report, is an essential document in the history of Quebec, Ontario, and Canada including the British Empire that led to a series of reforms and changes. In 1838, the British politician John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, was sent to Upper and Lower Canada to investigate and report on the causes of the rebellions of 1837–38.
See the fact file below for more information on the Durham Report or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Durham Report worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- These changes included the union of the two Canadas (Lower and Upper Canada) into a single colony, the Province of Canada, in 1841.
- In addition, the Durham Report paved the way for responsible government, a critical step in the development of Canadian democracy.
DURHAM: SHORT PROFILE
- John George Lambton was the 1st Earl of Durham, commonly referred to in Canadian history texts simply as Lord Durham.
- Durham was a British political reformer also known as “Radical Jack”.
- Durham had previously been appointed the Governor-General in Lower Canada in 1837 by the imperial Prime Minister Lord Melbourne.
- However, soon after he resigned due to a dispute with the British Parliament. Conflicts were vast due to the progressive nature of Lord Durham, believing the British Parliament should give the colonies more power in their government, namely a responsible government.
- In 1838, Lord Durham was sent back to Canada by the British Parliament and the Crown. He was asked to investigate the cause of the rebellions of both Upper and Lower Canada as well as to propose suggestions fixing any remaining problems and lessen the risk of future rebellions.
DURHAM’S PROGRESSIVE IDEAS
- In 1839, Durham finished his Report on the Affairs of British North America.
- The report was controversial since its recommendations were progressive for their time.
- He suggested the creation of municipal governments and a supreme court in the British North American colonies.
- Durham additionally desired to resolve the land question on Prince Edward Island.
- His long-standing plan for the unification of all BNA colonies was dropped because Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were not interested. (It took three more decades before Durham’s vision of a BNA union was accomplished by means of Confederation.)
- Durham’s report presented two main recommendations. It called for the union of Upper and Lower Canada and the initiation of responsible government. Immediately, the British Parliament implemented the first point but not the second.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF REBELLION 1837-38
- Durham believed that the problems in mostly Lower Canada were traditionalistic French and the modernizing English elements.
- According to him, Canada’s French culture had changed little in 200 years and displayed no sign of the progress British culture had made. Durham’s report includes the famous evaluation that Lower Canada consisted of “two nations warring within the bosom of a single state”.
- Durham was obviously biased against the French Canadian culture as he called them “a people with no literature and no history”.
- He suggested assimilating them by the unification of the Upper and Lower Canada in a way that would allow the English-speaking majority in Upper Canada to dominate. This would prevent the French Canadians from continuing ethnic plans and and would also enable most of the anglophone merchants in Lower Canada to pursue a strong St. Lawrence economy and ensure future prosperity.
- Durham believed the success of capitalism would cause harmony and peace but would require political changes. He believed that Upper Canada’s constitutional system was defective. Power was monopolized by a group of ruling elites called the Family Compact. (The close adviser of Durham, Charles Buller called them “a petty, corrupt, insolent Tory clique.) The Family Compact had been hindering economic and social improvement in a potentially wealthy colony. This was a principal reason for the discontent that led to the rebellion in Upper Canada.
- The solution presented by Durham was to introduce a system where the colonial governments, at least in domestic matters, were responsible to the electorate rather than to the governor and the Crown.
- This reform would lessen the authority of the Family Compact and stimulate colonial development as well as strengthening the imperial connection with Britain and minimize American influence in the colony.
- Upper Canada’s Tory elite condemned Durham’s Report. However, Reformers there and in Nova Scotia hailed the concept of responsible government.
- Montreal’s anglophone Tories in Lower Canada supported the union. They viewed it as a step to overcome French Canadian opposition to their plans for economic development. French Canadians were opposed to the union and were determined to keep their nationality.
- In the end, the British government accepted the recommendation for a union of the Canadas, known as the Act of Union.
- In 1841, The Unified Province of Canada came into being and was governed by a joint legislature in which the newly formed Canada West (formerly Upper Canada) and Canada East (formerly Lower Canada) had an even number of seats. But because Canada West had a smaller population, the French population in Canada East was under-represented.
- However, the responsible government was too much for the imperial government in London because they believed that tight control of the colonies was important to maintain loyalty to Britain.
- It wasn’t until 1847 that Britain allowed local self-government to the colonies. This was since a newly elected government in London was eager to decrease spending.
- The Reformers in Nova Scotia, including Joseph Howe, established the first responsible government in the British Empire In 1848, known as The Cradle of Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.
- That same year, the Reformers, led by Robert Baldwin and Louis H. LaFontaine, formed a responsible government in the Province of Canada.
- Then, it was later granted in New Brunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland.
- The Durham Report was controversial for recommending the assimilation of the French Canadians by means of uniting Upper and Lower Canada. Because of this, Durham became a hated figure among French Canadians. However, his report played a significant role in the development of Canadian democracy and the evolution of political independence in Canada from Britain.
Durham Report Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Durham Report across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Durham Report worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), famously known as the Durham Report, which is an essential document in the history of Quebec, Ontario, and Canada including the British Empire that led to a series of reforms and changes. In 1838, the British politician John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham, was sent to Upper and Lower Canada to investigate and report on the causes of the rebellions of 1837–38.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Durham Report Facts
- The Wh-Questions
- Lord Durham
- Fast Facts
- Durham Report: A Timeline
- Creating the History
- Progressive Ideas
- Canada’s Rebels
- Durham’s Recommendation
- My Report
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Link will appear as Durham Report Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, December 3, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
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