UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The 1838-1839 courts-martial of patriotes in Lower Canada : were they "constitutional"? Thorburn, Mark Allen


The thesis primarily examines the legality of the courtsmartial that followed the 1838-1839 rebellion in Lower Canada against the contemporary principles of British jurisprudence and concludes that Sir John Colborne, the acting governor of the colony, and others within the governing political elite of Lower Canada exceeded their authority and violated the British Constitution in order to obtain convictions and executions of Patriotes for the purpose of satisfying their perception of justice and to deter another rebellion. The paper also concludes that what happened in Lower Canada is an example of the "law" being created by one or more of society's segments in favour of the interest of the dominant class or groups over the rest of society. Furthermore, fundamental legal rights are tossed aside when they are deemed an impediment by the dominant class or groups and the rule of law will only prevail when those in authority feel secure from serious threats. The work looks at the nature of law, its social contexts, and its relationship to power. It also discusses the history of the prohibition in Great Britain against the court-martial of civilians, the entitlement of British colonists and the inhabitants of "conquered colonies" to the legal rights of British subjects, and the use of courts-martial in the early nineteenth century in Upper Canada, South Africa, and the British Caribbean. All of the materials used herein were found in the University of British Columbia's Main Library, Law Library, and Sedgewick Library.

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