William Lyon Mackenzie led the reform movement in Upper Canada. Although the Legislative Assembly was elected, it had no power to introduce legislation. The Legislative Council effectively controlled the colonial government. The governor appointed members from the wealthy members of Upper Canadian society. This oligarchical group was known as the "Family Compact" because of the widespread patronage and nepotism of council members.

After repeated attempts to induce the Governor to reform the government, William Lyon Mackenzie organized armed rebellion. Neither Mackenzie nor his colleagues had military experience, and the armed insurrection was poorly coordinated. The reformers-convinced that the local militia would not act against them-planned to seize Toronto and proclaim a provisional government.

On 5 December, a group of reformers intercepted and detained two loyalists who had discovered the reformers' plan for rebellion. But John Powell, one of the loyalists, shot reformer Anthony Anderson and escaped. Powell alerted Lieutenant-Governor Head.

By 7 December, hundreds of militia poured into Toronto from outlying districts. Together with British regulars, the militia helped quell the uprising. Although they were poorly equipped, they had no difficulty defeating the disorganized reformers. By 16 December, the rebellion was over, and Mackenzie had fled to the United States. Two of the rebels were hung in Toronto in 1838 and another 10, members of The Hunters, a group that invaded the colony from the United States in a second phase of the rebellions, went to the gallows in Kingston. Another 29 were sent in chains to Montreal where they joined the Lower Canadian rebels being transported to Tasmania.

The rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada led to an investigation by Lord Durham, who, in 1838, had been appointed governor general and high commissioner of British North America. In his 1840 report to the British Parliament, the so-called Durham Report. Durham recommended several reforms, the most important of which was that the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada be unified into one self-governing colony. Self-, or responsible, government finally gave the colonists of all classes control of colonial internal affairs and was a reform that would help lay the foundation for Confederation in 1867. Responsible government was also extended to the Atlantic colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

 

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