Modern British History

Palgrave master series

by Norman Lowe

Chapter 18

Lord Durham and the development of Canada

Study the extract from Lord Durham's Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839) and then answer the questions that follow:

Throughout the whole of the North American Provinces there prevails among the British population affection for the Mother Country which a wise policy on the part of the Imperial government may make the foundation of a safe and enduring connexion. But I must warn that a blind reliance on the all-enduring loyalty of our countrymen may be carried too far. It is not wise to waste and cramp their resources and to allow the backwardness of the British provinces to present a melancholy contrast to the progress and prosperity of the United States....

The influence of the USA surrounds him on every side and is for ever present. It stamps, on all the habits and opinions of the surrounding countries, the thoughts, feelings and customs of the American people... The system which I propose would place the internal government of the colony in the hands of the colonists themselves. I know of no respect in which it is desirable that we should interfere with their internal legislation in matters which do not affect their relations with the Mother Country. The matters which concern us are very few - regulation of foreign relations, trade with the Mother Country, other British colonies and foreign nations... are the only points on which the Mother Country requires a control.

Source: Quoted in D.Holman, Portraits and Documents - Earlier Nineteenth Century 1783-1867, Hutchinson, 1965.


  1. Using the extract and your own knowledge, explain the circumstances which had caused Lord Durham to write this report. (10 marks)
  2. To what extent were Durham’s recommendations carried out in the Canada Act of 1840? (8 marks)
  3. Why did the provinces of Canada become a federation in 1867, and how successfully did the Dominion of Canada develop up to 1914? (12 marks)
(Total 30 marks)