Lord Elgin Collection
It was Lord Dufferin who, while Governor General of Canada in the s, reflected upon the nature of his role, describing his experience of government as 'very much a matter of instinct - like steering a ship, or handling a horse'. Considerable talent was necessary for a Governor General to steer a judicious course between upsetting Canadian sensibilities on the one hand and damaging the interests of the Empire on the other.
The thesis of this book is that the success or failure of these imperial plenipotentiaries was less the result of their familiarity with, or mastery over, the arcane complexities of the imperial constitution if such a thing existed than it was the result of common sense, bonhomie and a degree of good fortune. The linking of biography with constitutional evolution adds an element of raciness to the book rarely a feature of such accounts , and allows the reader to see how nebulous forces - outside factors, trends, popular opinion and a zeitgeist or two - impinged upon the persons concerned, such as Dufferin, who found himself driving a team of horses, both apparently intent upon travelling in divergent directions.
The best example in the book of the way in which biography became instrumental in determining a line of policy was during the imperial tenure of Lord Elgin from to Elgin had to steer a difficult course, amidst Tory rioting and the burning of the Parliament buildings, in order to gain recognition for the rightness and acceptance of colonial self-government.
The memory of what his father-in-law, the redoubtable Lord Durham, had stood for both in his famous Report and in his liberal views on colonial government helped to sustain him during the difficulties he faced. At the same time he had the vision to realise that Durham's views on the anglicisation of French Canadians were completely impractical. The circumstances justified "the liberty of pressing upon you by this note, as I have already often done verbally, my opinion of the grave responsibility which you will take upon yourself if you should refuse to do so.
Canada's Governors General, - E-bok - Barbara J Messamore () | Bokus
For Brown, the coalition was a temporary means to an end: he took an active part in the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences, promoted the project in the debates, and travelled to Britain to both facilitate Confederation and the acquisition of the Northwest. But with that achieved, he crowed to his wife that he could again become a free man. He continued to exert enormous partisan influence, not least through his newspaper. It is characteristic of the man that he was better suited to opposition than cabinet. In describing Brown as a "second-rank politician," Gwyn is half right; temperamentally speaking, he wasn't a politician at all.
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As we approach the anniversary of the Charlottetown agreement, it is natural to look to Confederation as the beginning of a unified nation. But in truth, the agreement was more a divorce than a marriage, and Brown led the way out of the unworkable union of Confederation was not a way to repudiate differences, but rather a way to accommodate them.
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- Lord Elgin Collection - Library and Archives Canada.
- Canada?s Governors General, 1847?1878 Biography and Constitutional Evolution.
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Contributed to The Globe and Mail. Events since in Canada Author: Edward R. Date: June 22, From: Canadian Public Administration Vol. Publisher: Institute of Public Administration of Canada. Document Type: Article. Length: 2, words. Sign In to view the full article. Gale Academic Onefile , Accessed 21 Sept.