UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Liberalism in Lower Canada, 1774-1815 Robert, Louise


The historians characterizing Lower Canada's thought in the period before 1815 have argued that it was principally nationalist. French Canadians, moreover, were assessed either as clinging to the values and precepts of a feudal past or as adopting advanced republican ideas. In neither case, however, was attention paid to the articulation by French Lower Canadians of a system of thought that reflected the complex reality of the society in which they lived. This thesis attempts to recreate the system of thought using the public writings of the most politically active members of the community. It analyses the various intellectual influences on the colony and the unique mixture arrived at by the commentators who were affected by them. Having, it argues, combined elements of thinking drawn from the old regime, the Enlightenment and British writers and statesmen, French Canadians devised an idea of community which reflected their society's bicultural and bilingual nature and articulated the nature of the participation of its members in their newly acquired parliamentary institutions. Far, then, from being dissaffected with the existing structures or showing a desire for independence, they comprised an active and politically aware population which viewed its future as intimately tied to the Constitution and to the British Empire.

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