Reform Movement in Upper Canada

The rapid development of Upper Canada after the War of 1812 produced social and economic tensions which were translated into politics through such issues as the expulsion of Robert Gourlay, the Alien Question, the Anglican monopoly of the Clergy Reserves and education, and Tory domination of patronage. A varied group, calling itself the Reform movement and including the Baldwins, the Bidwells, William Lyon Mackenzie, John Rolph and Egerton Ryerson, presented opposition to the dominant Family Compact. By 1828 the Reformers formed a majority in the assembly, but their program was blocked in the Tory-dominated councils.

During the early 1830s the Reform movement split. Moderates, led by Robert Baldwin, were committed to the British constitution, the imperial connection and the concept of a stable, hierarchical society; they simply wanted to enlarge the ruling elite through the introduction of Responsible Government. Radical reformers increasingly demanded the application of republican principles to create a social and economic democracy modelled on the US; they also sought greater colonial independence. Mackenzie led a third, extreme faction.

In 1836 Baldwin entered the executive council but Lt-Gov Sir Francis Bond Head refused to accept responsible government. The administration resigned and the moderates were squeezed out of the political process. Mackenzie's group, devastated in the subsequent election, became more revolutionary but was crushed in the Rebellions of 1837. The moderates, led by Baldwin and Francis Hincks, re-emerged as a potent political force in the United Province of Canada, and the nonrevolutionary radicals sank into oblivion.