Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Sir Charles Bagot


Bagot, Sir Charles, Bart. (1781-1843), governor-general of British North America (1841-3), was born at Blithfield House, Rugely, in Staffordshire, England, on September 23, 1781, the second son of William, first Baron Bagot, and Lady Louisa St. John. He was educated at Rugby and at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1807 he entered parliament, and became under-secretary of state for foreign affairs in the Conservative administration of the Duke of Portland. In 1818 he was instrumental, while British minister at Washington, in concluding the Rush-Bagot Treaty. In 1841, on the death of Lord Sydenham, he was appointed by the Conservative administration of Sir Robert Peel governor-general of British North America. He arrived in Kingston, then the temporary capital of Canada, on January 10, 1842 ; and he administered the government under the strain of rapidly failing health, until the arrival of his successor, Sir Charles Metcalfe, on March 30, 1843. Six weeks later, on May 18, he died at Alwington House, in Kingston. He was married to Lady Mary, daughter of the third Earl of Mornington, and niece of the Duke of Wellington; and by her he had three sons and five daughters. He was created a privy councillor in 1815, and a G.C.B. in 1820.


His period of office in Canada was marked by constitutional changes of great importance. Lord Sydenham, his predecessor, had declined to accept the principle of responsible government in Canada, but had set up the machinery of responsible government,-that is, a cabinet of ministers sitting in the legislature-except that he acted as his own prime minister, and himself presided at the meetings of council. Bagot, partly through ill-health, frequently absented himself from the meetings of council and so made possible the development in Canada of the office of prime minister; and when the Conservative administration formed by Sydenham lost control of the Assembly, Bagot sent for the opposition leaders, Robert Baldwin, and Louis Lafontaine, and invited them to form a ministry. His action caused consternation in England, and incurred the displeasure of both Queen Victoria and the Duke of Wellington; his policy was virtually repudiated by his successor, Sir Charles Metcalfe; and it was not until the arrival of the Earl of Elgin in 1848 that his policy triumphed. Yet to him belongs the credit for giving to the principle of responsible government in Canada its first practical application. See G. P. de T. Glazebrook, Sir Charles Bagot in Canada (London, 1929).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. I, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 398p., pp. 143-144.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College