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The U. C. House of Assembly, 1821-41

From 1821 to 1841 such of the modern Victorian townships as were then in existence; formed part of Durham County, known also politically as the West Riding of Newcastle District. For this riding two representatives sat concurrently in the House of Assembly of Upper Canada.

The following were the members elected during the period from the first settlement of Victoria up to 1841:
1820-24, Samuel Street Wilmot;
1824-28, George Strange Boulton and Charles Fothergill;
1828-30, John David Smith and Charles Fothergill;
1830-34, George Strange Boulton and Jesse Ketchum;
1834-36, George Strange Boulton and John Brown;
1836-1841, George Strange Boulton and George Elliott.

It was during this period that the bilious ferment of Family Compact misrule came to its climax. The economic ills of the province suffered from the malpractice of an irresponsible government. The settlement of the land had been made wellnigh hopeless by grants to the church, to politicians, and to politicians' friends. Redress seemed beyond hope and in 1837 a few of the reformers, headed by William Lyon McKenzie, entered on a rash, brief, pitiful little revolt. The British government at last realized that all was not well in Canada and sent out Lord Durham to investigate. The outcome was a monumental report on the grievances and problems of both Upper and Lower Canada.

Durham recommended:
(1) that responsible government be granted to the colony as a cure for political abuses and
(2) that the two provinces be united in the hope that mutual understanding might temper racial antagonism.

In surveying the events of this period it would not be wise to brand the notorious leaders of either faction as deliberately evil. Most of their acts were probably performed in accordance with conscience. We need to learn that integrity of character may be accompanied by uncivilized prejudice and cruelty. Witness, for example, the almost unbelievable tyranny of bigoted righteousness in the case of Archdeacon Strachan, and the narrowness, bitterness and emotional violence of many of his followers. On the other hand, some men, even today, take a long time to realize that those who differ with the political party nominally in power are not necessarily traitors or rebels.

All the members for Durham County from 1821 to 1841 were supporters of the Family Compact. Perhaps the foremost of their unsuccessful opponents was Cheeseman Moe, of Ops, a retired naval officer, who owned the northern one-quarter of the modern townsite of Lindsay. Moe left for California by the overland route during the gold rush of 1848. He was never heard of again and his land in Lindsay was sold for taxes.

Politics Following the Act of Union

As a result of Lord Durham's report, the British parliament passed an Act in July 1840 uniting the two provinces. The first election was held the following spring.

The electors of Durham County voted at Newtonville in Clarke township. Representation had been cut down to one and the contest was between George Strange Boulton (Family Compact) and John Tucker Williams (Reformer). Boulton took every precaution to ensure his election. Temporary refreshment booths were set up and whole barrels of free whiskey stood on end with their heads knocked out. Axe handles were provided for the persuasion of those who refused to be mellowed. As voting was public and each man had to ascend a flight of steps to an open air platform and verbally announce the name of the candidate whom he favored, the Compact had always won heretofore under such circumstances. On this occasion, however, the Scotch settlers of Eldon, who were nearly all ex-soldiers, marched to the polls in a body, dressed in navy blue and led by their pipers, and voted to a man against Boulton. When it was announced that Williams had been elected, there was a riot and a Reformer named John Marshall was clubbed to death.

During the first parliament in 1841, the townships now in South Victoria and South Peterborough were formed into the Colborne District and assigned one representative. In 1853 Victoria County was. made a separate political riding, with one member, an arrangement which persisted until Confederation.

The promised principle of responsible government was soon to be rudely violated. Sir Charles Metcalfe ,who became governor in 1843, refused to follow the advice of his ministers in the matter of appointments to public offices and actually conducted an election in person in 1844 in order to secure the arbitrary powers which he desired. Wholesale bribery, especially by grants of public lands, was used and he succeeded in getting a small majority in his favor. In the Colborne District, however, his candidate, Colonel Baldwin, of Toronto, was defeated by George Barker Hall, a Peterborough lawyer, who ran for the Reform party.

The next governor was the Earl of Elgin, appointed in 1847. In December 1847 the Viger-Draper government, formed under Metcalfe, resigned and parliament was dissolved. In the elections of 1848 the Reformers swept the country, and formed a ministry under Robert Baldwin and Sir L. H. Lafontaine. Colborne District returned James Hall (Reformer), a Peterborough Scotchman, with a plurality of 81 votes over John Langton of Fenelon and Richard Birdsall, of Asphodel.

The Earl of Elgin had married a daughter of Lord Durham and was very anxious to give Durham's report full application in colonial affairs. He therefore accepted fully the principle of responsible government and held it his duty to accede to the advice of the leaders of the party in power.

In 1849 a Rebellion Losses Bill was passed by the parliament, which then met in Montreal, giving compensation to all in Lower Canada (exclusive of convicted rebels) who had suffered losses in the revolt of 1837. When Elgin gave the Crown's assent to the bill, a mob of blackguards ,consisting of the so called aristocracy of Anglo-Saxon Montreal ,assaulted Elgin with stones and rotten eggs, burnt down the parliament buildings, and looted Lafontaine's house. The governor persisted patiently in his chosen course, however, and constitutional government emerged stronger than ever from this last outrageous assault on it by the survivors of the Family Compact party.

In 1851 another general election took place. The Reform party was again in the majority but Lafontaine and Baldwin retired from public life and their places were taken by A. N. Morin and Francis Hincks. In the United Counties of Peterborough and Victoria (as our riding then stood), John Langton of Fenelon township (Moderate Conservative) was elected by a majority of 70 over James Hall (Reformer), the former member.

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Victoria County


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