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For the more easy recovery of debts in His Majesty’s plantations : credit and conflict in Upper Canada, 1788-1809 Pearlston, Karen


This thesis is concerned with the relationship between creditor/debtor law and broader political, economic, and social relations in Upper Canada before 1812. The research reviews the history of credit relations in early Upper Canada through a critical reassessment of both the historiographic debates and available primary legal and archival sources. Recent historical writing, in seeking out the community based nature of creditor/debtor relations has often tended to overlook the extent to which social, political, and economic conflicts were also played out in the arena of credit and debt. In early Upper Canada, matters relating to credit and debt were not infrequently the focus of conflicts about constitutionalism and the rights of colonial subjects. The thesis argues for a re-framing of the study of creditor/debtor relations to take account of the overall context of economic inequality. Feminist historical and theoretical work is drawn upon to expand conventional understandings of the economic, and to argue that local or communal based relations are not always consensual. The thesis draws a connection between social inequality, political repression, constitutional politics and the private law of property, credit, and debt. It asserts that early Upper Canadian creditor/ debtor relations were expressive of the struggle over the kinds of institutions that would represent the new polity, and of a sensibility among at least some portion of the population that the rule of law should apply to a wider range of people than those who made up the elite. It is found that the role of certain financial instruments and the contents of certain court records has been misunderstood. These findings change our understanding of the 1794 court reforms in Upper Canada, which established an English-style Court of King's Bench. It is also found that debtor/creditor law, in particular the seizure of land for debt in Upper Canada (a remedy that was not available in England) impacted upon the constitutional politics of the time.

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