Friday, 25 April 2014

25 April 1849 the Parliament of the United Province of Canada burns in Montreal

Today marks a very sad day in Canadian democracy, the burning by a mob in Montreal of the Parliament of the United Province of Canada.

Montreal was the Capital of the United Province of Canada from 1844-1849. We had achieved in 1848 the stage of Ministerial Responsibility in Government meaning that the Governor General appointed by London was no longer the Head of Government. We now had an elected Parliament and  Prime Minister in the person of Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine. However the Assembly of the United Province of Canada was bitterly divided between French and English population.

The Parliament voted a controversial law in April 1849, this law gave compensation to anyone who had lost property during the Rebellion of 1837-1838. Compensation would be given for loss of property due to the British army or Rebel action. The Montreal Gazette then and now a prominent newspaper incited the English population to revolt, claiming that since the Rebels were French no compensation should be given to criminals who defied Royal Authority for any damage they caused to property.

On April 25, 1849 Lord Elgin, then Governor General of Canada came to the Parliament on the Carré D'Youville to sign the new Law and give it Royal Assent. Within minutes a dangerous crowd gathered outside the Parliament and forced its way into the building. Setting it ablaze, the great loss of that day was the library of 25,000 books and archives which dated back to 1608 containing all the Official documents and Acts of New France up to the time of this incident, many fine paintings were also destroyed. The building was a complete loss. In November of that year, the Capital was transferred to Toronto.

Here is a short video in French about this terrible incident and how the site is now being restored so that this page of Canadian history can be remembered.



  1. I wish I could find a good history course on Canada. Until then, you do quite well :-)