BRITISH COLONISTS AND IMPERIAL INTERESTS IN LOWER CANADA 1820 to 1841
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Lower Canada occupied a strategic position in Britain's policies for the defence, trade and settlement of British North America. The smooth development of these three interests was threatened by the autonomist ambitions of the colony's French-speaking (Canadien) leaders. Between 1820 and 1841 British policy had to cope with the collapse of traditional canadien elites as reliable supporters of imperial interests, the persistent hostility of the new canadien leadership towards commerce and immigration, and the increased restlessness of the growing minority of English speaking colonists. During the 1820s, the Governor alienated the bureaucracy, the traditional social leaders of French Canada, and the elected Assembly by his encouragement of diverse efforts to anglicize the colony's administration, institutions and civil law. The political divisions of the British colonists encouraged the Canadiens to seek greater autonomy for tie colony, tb and British policy after 1828 favoured concession e the Canadiens as the best way to smooth out political obstacles to social and economic change. But increased immigration alarmed the Canadiens, created a larger and more complex British community in the colony, and made the imperial government more anxious to conciliate the British than the French colonists after a few of the latter revolted in 1837-38. Economic and demographic pressures were important but the debate over political legitimacy was a major element too. Belief in prescriptive legitimacy faded during the 1820s; the growth of liberal attitudes in the British part of the population brought impatience towards the colony's antiquated civil law and hastened the creation of suitable conditions for the growth of a modern commercial state. Britain imposed a new constitution giving greater powers to the fast-growing colony of Upper Canada and to the British merchants and settlers of Lower Canada.
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