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Last revised:
23 August 2000

Documents on the Proposed Union of Upper and Lower Canada (1822)

Petition from Wentworth, Upper Canada, against Union, 1822

To the Honorable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Imperial Parliament assembled.

The Petition of the Inhabitants of the County of Wentworth in the District of Gore and Province of Upper Canada.

Most respectfully Sheweth,

That, Your Petitioners, His Majesty's dutiful and loyal Subjects many of whom emigrated to this Province, at an early period of its existence as such (for the purpose of enjoying the blessings of British Government) immediately drew forth the Paternal care and solicitude of His late Majesty George the third, who in the thirty first year of His Reign by and with the advice of the British Parliament gave to Canada a Constitution, a transcript of their own, and at the same time for good and sufficient reasons divided Canada into two Provinces; the Upper Province being principally settled by subjects of His Majesty who were accustomed to British Laws, and using the English language.

Every Circumstance that has arisen during the period elapsed has tended to unfold its benefits by bringing its enactments into practical operation, raising our admiration of, and attachment to, a constitution so well adapted to our feelings, and contributing so largely to our happiness.

Conscious that our Gratitude and attachment to His Majesty's Government had been manifested on every proper occasion, it was with deepest regret and utmost astonishment that we received the heads of a Bill brought before Your Honorable House during its last Session for altering the said Act of 3lst Geo. 3d Ch. 31. Altering the same so as to destroy our liberty altogether, without our consent, or even our knowledge and without any misconduct on our part amounting to a forfeiture.

We beg leave to assure Your Honorable House, that, the proposed alterations could only 'have originated in misrepresentations of the grossest nature & from utter ignorance of the localities of the Country and the Wants, Circumstances and feelings of the people.

It was thought proper in the present Constitution to leave the quantum of property possessed by Representatives to be assigned by the Provincial Legislature which has been done so as to secure the respectability of the Assembly without circumscribing too far the choice of the Electors; but raising the qualification of Members to £500 Sterling, agreeably to the Bill  before Your Honorable House, at its last Session, would have the effect of disfranchising the electors altogether, some Counties not being able to select such qualified persons out of their whole population: Landed property likewise being made answerable for demands against the Owners, in cases where Chattels would only be liable in England, causes real Estate in this Province frequently to change possessors; We would rather therefore, resign the Representative Branch altogether, than to have the House of Assembly established on such principles, and to be told of every Act with which we could not accord, that it was our own, when we might, and frequently would be under the necessity of choosing men for our Representatives, no other way qualified, than by holding large tracts of wild land, which is in effect one of the greatest nuisances in the Province. The lengthening the duration of each Parliament to five years is to us particularly objectionable as extending too far the period before which the Representatives could again meet their constituents, and the vesting of the Executive Government of each Province with power to introduce Two Members, into the Assembly without the exercise of the elective franchise, is we believe without a precedent, and would give an undue influence to the Executive, which in our Opinion already possesses enough for all the proper purposes of Government; for in this Country Officers under the Government are not excluded from the Legislature as in England, by whom every wish of the Executive may be made Known and ably supported, as has been constantly the case.

The requisition likewise made upon the Legislature to make permanent provision for the administration of Justice and support of the Civil Government, would at once render that power, a nominal and unsubstantial [sic] one, and deprive the House of Assembly of the only proper and effectual check necessary to balance the otherwise overwhelming force of the Executive: For our own short history has taught us, that times of plenty are times of profusion and by granting a permanent supply, the House of Assembly will part with the power to accommodate the expenditure to the amount their resources may enable them to grant, to curtail enormous contingencies, or to afford compensation to services that may imperatively call for reward-The propriety of this observation has become more evident by the experience of a few years, for, from 1812 to 1816 an unusual quantity of money was in circulation in this Province, and as might be expected, abundance in receipt produced extravigance [sic] in expenditure, both public and private. - The reverse has been great and sudden, for we have experienced and do still experience a period of depression beyond parallel, during which, all the usual means of the Country have scarcely been equal to the nett [sic] supply of an increased Expenditure.

We proceed humbly to state our objections to an Union of the Legislatures of the Canadas on any terms.

The population of this Province is chiefly composed of subjects, who have emigrated from Great Britain and Ireland, or from His Majesty's late American Colonies and their descendants, who from a Sameness of origin, Language, Customs, and Government, easily unite commix and become one people.

While His Majesty's Subjects, our Bretheren of Lower Canada, sprung from a distinct origin, speak a different language, profess a different form of religion, are wedded to their own peculiar manners and customs, and each Legislature haveing [sic] enacted, adopted and retained Laws suitable to their own usages, customs and local wants; And these two Provinces having been separated into different Governments for more than thirty years; Your Petitioners do not believe that two Bodies so heterogeneous and discordant in all their parts as the Legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada must necessarily be, can unite, cement and become one so as to Tender equal advantages to both, which each has a right to expect from it's own separate Legislature and, if an ascendancy should be given to the Representation of Upper Canada over that of Lower Canada, to which we do not feel entitled from our population it would be offering injustice to our Brethren of the Lower Province, with whom, we have no desire to quarrel nor by any measure to break in upon their rights and peace; and should the advantage be on the part of Lower Canada we must be at their mercy, and we have no right to expect that attention to our interests which our wants and circumstances require, the only ground of difference heretofore existing between us being on account of our Quota of the Revenue, which having been put in an amicable train of adjustment by the prompt and timely interference of the British Parliament and His Majesty's Government, at once does away with every Semblance of reasonable Argument, that might be offered by those anxious for a reunion: -and also the extent of Territory would be so great, that were it inhabited by the Same people throughout, it must necessarily present such varied Local interests that, the wants of Some parts of so extensive a Colony will be more liable to suffer from neglect, from ignorance or from clashing interests, than a less extent of territory would be.

To Sum up all, Your Petitioners are of opinion that the different origin of the population of the two provinces, the difference of their languages, habits manners, customs and Religions, together with their varied interests, will necessarily produce efforts for ascendency, create jealousies, strifes animosities and contentions, which may break out in consequences of an alarming nature, and all, without answering any one desirable object, which we can foresee, or that may balance the least of the evils that appear to us so obvious: Wherefore We his Majesty's faithful subjects most earnest [sic] beseech Your Honorable House to abstain from placing us in a situation so perilous, so contrary to our wishes, and as we fear, so destructive of our best interests, and that Your Honorable House would forbear passing the said or any other Bill, of a like nature into a Law for uniting the Legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada, at any future Session of the Imperial Parliament.

And Your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Source: Adam SHORTT and Arthur G. DOUGHTY, Documents Relating to the Constitutional History of Canada, 1819-1828, Ottawa, 1935.