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Download e-book for kindle: British Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century by C. C. Eldridge (eds.)

By C. C. Eldridge (eds.)

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When serious friction occurred, as it did whenever the interests ofEnglish and French inhabitants clashed, the governor lacked sufficient patronage and influence to make the constitution operate harmoniously. Indeed, personal inclination encouraged most governors in Lower Canada to use what patronage they did possess to promote the English party, a tendency which created dissatisfaction among leading French-Canadian politicians who wanted to monopolise the patronage themselves. Moreoever, factional fighting acquired a keener edge in Lower Canada because political divisions were accentuated by ethnic antagonisms.

Within two decades, however, tensions and disharmony began to appear and by the 1820s struggles for political power placed increasing strains on the functioning of representative government in the Canadas. To a greater or lesser degree in all the British North American provinces, political control fell into the hands of local oligarchies or 'family compacts' entrenched in the councils. Their hold over government in the Canadas was the stronger because the distinction between executive and legislative councils was not in practice observed.

Pitt and Grenville secured their colonial elite; but it was an official clique, not a colonial aristocracy with political weight and standing devoted to disinterested public service. The local elites used their power to promote selfish or sectional interests, to overawe governors, and to check the measures and ambitions of the lower houses. The assemblies naturally responded by asserting their privileges and authority in the time-honoured fashion by exploiting control over the voting of money. They were aided in 46 BRITISH IMPERIALISM IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY this campaign by the rising costs of administration and the withdrawal of imperial subsidies, which together made annual appropriations from general provincial revenues unavoidable.

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