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By Carol Wilton

Wilton demonstrates that via the 1830s the political energies of higher Canadians have been way more prone to be channelled via petitioning hobbies than election campaigns. Petitioning events, which have been attached not just with public conferences yet with demonstrations and parades, have been additionally more and more linked to political violence. The ensuing attacks, riots, and effigy-burnings - trendy positive factors of Tory governance - not just contributed to the impressive political polarization of the inhabitants but in addition helped galvanize the uprising of 1837. Wilton offers new insights into the careers of best figures, explores the constructing ethnic and non secular conflicts within the context of the petitioning events, and illuminates the query of formally subsidized political violence. via an intensive exam of fundamental assets, together with a variety of newspapers, Colonial workplace files, released files of the higher Canadian executive, pamphlet literature, and personal correspondence, Wilton demonstrates how the province's dissidents challenged demonstrated styles of paternalism, subverted legitimate notions of hierarchy, and promoted the advance of an increased public sphere in ways in which had an enduring impact at the province's political culture.

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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.

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