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Responsible Government | Lord Elgin | Responsible Government Maritimes | Union of the Canada's | Newfoundland | Barkerville | Stalemate

Lord Elgin was the son in law of Lord Durham and an energetic supporter of reform in the Britain. With the rejection of the Tories and the election of the reformers in 1848 in Parliament, Elgin was given instructions to direct Canada towards the full form of responsible government and he began this process by calling on both Baldwin and Lafontaine to form and Executive Cabinet. Baldwin and Lafontaine choose supports from within the elected Legislative Assemble to fill the positions of the executive and accepted the principle that decisions would be made with the approval of the assembly.

These principles were reflective of the coinciding evolution of the British Parliamentary system. With the change of governments in Britain, Queen Victoria was having to work with new political parties and leaders who she did not always agree with but who she had to learn to support and work with.


The transition was not an easy one, when in 1849 the Assembly passed the rebellion Losses Bill which was intended to compensate people who had suffered property damage during the rebellions. Although Lord Elgin did not entirely agree with the bill he signed it as an act of support for the principle of responsible government. The reaction by the entrenched business and social interested was violent and strong. Elgin was attacked by radical Tories who stoned his carriage and in Lower Canada burnt down the Parliament Buildings in Montreal.

In 1849 the Tories and entrenched merchant interests launched a campaign for independence and annexation to the U.S.. Their efforts and actions were not supported by the Executive Council, the Legislative Assemblies or the population. The movement fell apart and the triumph of responsible government had become a reality under Lord Elgin.