The Act of Union, formally the The British North America Act, 1840, was enacted in July 1840 and proclaimed 10
February 1841. It abolished the legislatures of Lower Canada and Upper Canada and established a new political entity, the Province of Canada to replace them. This act effected the political union of The Canada's, and was similar in nature and in goals to the other Acts of Union enacted by the British Parliament.
The inspiration for the Act is typically attributed to Lord Durham's Report on Canada. Lord Durhamwas sent to the colonies to examine the causes of the Rebellions of 1837 in both Upper and Lower Canada. The union was also proposed to solve pressing financial issues in Upper Canada, which had become increasingly indebted under the previous regime dominated by the Family Compact. These debts stemmed mostly from poor investments in canals connecting Upper Canada to the port of Montreal in Lower Canada via the Great Lakes and StLawrence river. Due to Upper Canada's considerable debt and chronic budget shortfalls, it was hoped that its finances could be salvaged by merging it with the thensolvent Lower Canada.
Upper Canada, with its British and Protestant majority, was growing more rapidly than Lower Canada, with the
FrenchCanadian and Catholic majority. It was hoped that by merging the two colonies, the FrenchCanadian cultural presence in North America would gradually disappear through assimilation. As such, the Act also contained measures banning the French language from official use in the Legislative Assembly. However, despite the amalgamation, the distinct legal systems of the two colonies was retained with Upper Canada becoming referred to as Canada West (with English common law) and Lower Canada as Canada East (with French civil law).
The new, merged colony was named the Province of Canada and the seat of government was moved to Kingston by
Lord Sydenham. Canada West, with its 450,000 inhabitants, was represented by 42 seats in the Legislative
Assembly, the same number as the morepopulated Canada East, with 650,000 inhabitants. The FrenchCanadian majority as well as numerous anglophones considered this an injustice. In Lower Canada, LouisJoseph Papineau demanded representation by population and the recall of the union the minute he entered the new Parliament of
The granting of responsible government to the colony is typically attributed to reforms in 1848 (principally the effective transfer of control over patronage from the Governor to the elected ministry). These reforms resulted in the appointment of the second BaldwinLafontaine government that quickly removed many of the disabilities on
FrenchCanadian political participation in the colony.
By the late 1850s, massive immigration from the British Isles to Canada West changed the previous demographic imbalance between the English