British Empire
Living in the British empire - North America
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Extract from the Durham Report of 1839, which followed rebellions against British rule in Canada
(Catalogue ref: CO 42/299)
  • From the 1600s onwards Britain gradually developed its empire in North America. By the late 1700s Britain controlled the Thirteen Colonies on the east coast of North America, as well as large parts of present-day Canada. This was divided into regions such as Upper Canada (modern Ontario), Lower Canada (modern Quebec), and Newfoundland. As settlers moved westward in the 1800s new regions were added, such as Victoria and British Columbia.
  • In 1776 the Thirteen Colonies revolted against British rule and after a long war threw off British control. They became the United States of America.
  • The British kept control of Canada, although this was shaken in 1837-8 when there were a series of revolts against British rule.
  • The revolts were not large in scale and were easily defeated. The vast majority of Canadians stayed loyal to Britain and the Native Americans helped to defeat the rebels.
  • Even so, Britain appointed the Earl of Durham to investigate the revolts and come up with solutions to the problems. This source is a small extract from his report (the Durham Report), which was published in 1839.
  • The Durham Report basically said that the settlers were not represented fairly. They had their own assemblies (called representative body in this source), but the British Governor (called the executive) often ignored them. He only answered to Parliament in London. The Legislative Council that advised him was not elected by the settlers.
  • The Durham Report suggested that the Canadians should effectively rule themselves. From 1840 the various assemblies in the different regions of Canada gained much greater powers.
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