29 March

Sir Charles Metcalf (1785-1846)

New Governor-General Appointed

You may rest assured . . . those who support me, I will support.

                            —Sir Charles Metcalf, to Sir Alexander Galt

In the days when Canada was becoming a nation, it took courage to be a governor-general. Durham, Sydenham, and Bagot were the governors between 1838 and 1843, and the work led to their deaths. On March 29, 1843, Sir Charles Metcalfe took over the unenviable task.

Metcalfe had been born in India and was the governor of the huge district of Delhi by the time he was twenty-six years old. Among his achievements were the abolition of the slave trade and of the custom of burning wives on their husbands' funeral pyres.

Metcalfe was sent to Jamaica where there was danger of a rebellion, and then on to Canada where there had been rebellions in 1837-1838. When he arrived, Kingston was the capital of recently united Upper and Lower Canada. The government soon moved to Montreal which was able to provide more accommodation. Montreal then had 40,000 people!

Although Metcalfe was a reformer in India, he was not in favour of the reform movement in Canada that was trying to win responsible government. He complained that his ministers, instead of doing what he wished, were trying to force him to do what they wanted.

Baldwin and Lafontaine, leaders of the Liberal or Reform government, resigned, and Metcalfe was forced to govern almost alone. In September, 1844, he called a general election and campaigned himself. He branded the Reformers as "disloyal" to Britain, and won the election by a small majority.

Ironically, one of the new members was a young lawyer from Kingston, Ontario, John A. Macdonald. Although he was elected as one of Metcalfe's supporters, he was destined to take the lead in bringing about nationhood for Canada.

Metcalfe was the fourth successive governor to lose his life through disease. He returned to Britain in 1845 and died soon after.


29 March

-1632    France recovered Canada from England through the Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye.

-1778    Captain Cook landed at Nootka Sound, British Columbia.

-1848    The Niagara River went dry owing to an ice jam at Lake Erie.

-1867    The Confederation bill received Royal Assent.

-1906    A riot of street railway employees broke out at Winnipeg.

-1912    A trade conference with representatives of the West Indies was held at Ottawa.

-1927    Government control replaced prohibition in Ontario.