By Carol Wilton
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Additional resources for Popular Politics and Political Culture in Upper Canada, 1800-1850
In particular, a group of political and religious reformers based in the provincial capital, York, launched a remarkably successful series of petitioning campaigns on behalf of religious and political causes in 1827-31. THE THORPE-WILLCOCKS GROUP An examination of the first oppositionists illuminates how petitioning moved from the periphery to the forefront of Upper Canadian politics. Petitioning the British government was very much an afterthought 24 Popular Politics and Political Culture on the part of the Thorpe-Willcocks group, the first group to oppose the government of Upper Canada on a systematic basis.
As they have shown, the major centre of political power in the province did not lie, as in the present day, with a cabinet (executive) dependent for its tenure in office on a majority in the Assembly. Instead, within the province, political power was held by an elite body of officials: essen- 8 Popular Politics and Political Culture tially a pre-industrial combination of professional, commercial, and administrative elements that governed a rapidly expanding population of farmers and lumberers. "18 Their numbers included the Anglican prelate John Strachan, his protege John Beverley Robinson, and members of the Boulton family, as well as their political friends and allies across the province.
By bringing key issues almost literally to the doorstep of every inhabitant, they had a powerful impact on the creation of a broadly based sense of political consciousness. In other words, the petitioning movements ensured that Upper Canadians would share a common understanding of the character of the issues before them. This was a precondition for the emergence of more firmly rooted political parties in the 18405. 2O Popular Politics and Political Culture The petitioning movements, of course, mobilized public support both for and against political change.