Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

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


Sir Charles Theophilius, first Baron of Metcalfe


Metcalfe, Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, first Baron (1785-1846), governor-general of Canada (1843-5), was born at the Lecture House, Calcutta, India, on January 30, 1785, the second son of Thomas Theophilus Met­calfe, a major in the Bengal army. He was educated at Eton, and in 1801 entered the Indian civil service. He rose rapidly, and in 1833 was appointed provisional governor-general of India. In 1838 he retired from the Indian civil service; and in 1839 he was appointed governor of Jamaica. In this office he was remarkably successful; and in 1843 he was appointed governor-general of Canada. His period of office in Canada was a critical period. His predecessor, Sir Charles Bagot, had conceded, in effect, the demands of the Reformers for "responsible government"; but the Colonial Office was as yet not prepared to accept the principle without reservations. Metcalfe took up virtually the position which had been adopted by Lord Sydenham ; and in November, 1843, his ministers, headed by Robert Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine, resigned as a protest against his failure to consult them in regard to an official appointment. For nine months he carried on the government with the assistance of a single secretary of state; and then, having formed a Conservative administration, he appealed to the country in November, 1844, and was sustained at the polls. This triumph, however, he did not long survive. He was already the victim of a malignant disease, and in 1845 he was compelled to ask for his recall. He died at Malshanger, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, England, on September 5, 1846. In 1822, on the death of his elder brother, he succeeded to the baronetcy which his father had acquired in 1802; in 1836 he was invested with the G.C.B.; and in 1845, as "a mark of the Queen's entire approbation and favour", he was created Baron Metcalfe of Fern Hill in the county of Berks. He was not married, and on his death the barony became extinct. As an administrator, he was exceptionally able and upright; and in Canada justice has never been done to his self-sacrificing zeal and integrity.


See Sir J. W. Kaye, Life and correspondence of Charles, Lord Metcalfe (new and revised ed., London, 1858) ; E. G. Wakefield, View of Sir Charles Metcalfe's government of Canada (London, 1844) ; J. C. Dent, The last forty years (2 vols., Toronto, 1881); and J. L. Morison, British supremacy and Canadian self-government (Toronto, 1919).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 400p., pp. 276-277


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College