The rebellions of 1837-1838 that took place in Lower and Upper Canada were enacted over lack of political reforms. This essay will explore the causes, actions and consequences of the rebellions by examining the tensions between settlers and the British crown. In doing so, this essay will argue the thesis that a fundamental lack of liberty and ability to control and vote on representation and legislation, acted as the defining features that lead to the rebellions of 1837-38 in both Upper and Lower Canada. .
The subject of the rebellion and the subsequent political reforms in Canada are subject to great debate. Some historians attribute the 1837 rebellions within the wider context of the French and American Revolutions, asserting that these events are intimately related as the struggle for independence gained momentum on this side of the Atlantic. The political roots of the unrest that best Upper Canada in the 1830s can be traced back to 1791 when Western Loyalists sought a government separate from that of Quebec, free from francophone influence. According to Colin Read, the Constitutional Act of 1791 and the creation of Upper Canada "gave the province a framework for government. Upper Canada was to have a lieutenant governor, answerable to the governor general at Quebec and, ultimately, to the British imperial government" (Read, 1985, p. 5). While on the surface it may seem that the Constitutional Act gave considerable attention to the creation of a people's assembly, in practice this could be no further from the truth. Instead, it limited the power of the people of Upper Canada. According to Read, "not only could the legislation of the assembly be rejected by the legislative council, but it could also be turned back by the lieutenant governor or the British government" (Read, 1985, p. 6). The reasons for this, like many others, were due to history. In particular, the lieutenant governor and the powers of the British imperial Crown feared a similar situation that had caused the American Revolution if too much power were vested in an assembly of common people.