Patriote Petition

Lower Canadians demanded democratic reforms from an unyielding British Crown.

Written by Annick Desmarais

Posted December 23, 2022

This scroll consists of a petition signed in 1828 by the majority of the members of Lower Canada’s legislative assembly and by more than eighty-seven thousand citizens of Lower Canada. Initiated by members of the Patriote Party — including Louis-Joseph Papineau, Bonaventure Viger, Wolfred Nelson, and Augustin Cuvillier — the petition demanded democratic reforms, including ministerial accountability and proportional representation.

Although the Patriotes held a majority in Lower Canada’s elected legislative assembly, their conservative adversaries in the unelected legislative council wielded far more power. The petition was sent to London, England, along with a list of grievances against the colonial administration of the Governor General of British North America, Lord Dalhousie.

The lack of response to this petition and the subsequent rejection of the Ninety-Two Resolutions adopted in 1834 by the Patriote Party added to political tensions in the colony. These tensions flared up in 1837–38, resulting in mass protests, an armed uprising, and an outbreak of violence. The Patriotes’ demands included responsible government, an elected legislative council, and a greater presence of francophones in  government administration.

The Durham Report, drafted in the wake of the Rebellions of 1837–38, brought about the union of the two Canadas (to facilitate the assimilation of francophones) and the adoption of a system of responsible government.

This object resides at the McCord Stewart Museum.

This article originally appeared in 50 Merveilles de nos musées : les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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