The Constitutional Act, 1791.-At length, in 1791, Pitt deemed the time ripe for conferring on Canada a permanent form of government. To that end the Constitutional Act was introduced by him into the British parliament, and after a warm debate became law. Under it the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada were governed for nearly fifty years.
The boundary line between the two new provinces was fixed by royal proclamation, and, although it has since been found necessary to define this line more accurately, it is still the dividing line between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Nothing on the south shore of the St. Lawrence was included in the new province of Upper Canada. The line began on the north shore of Lake St. Francis, at the western end of the seigneury of New Longueuil (" at the cove west of Pointe au Baudet "), and followed the western limits of the seigneuries to the Ottawa ; thence it followed the Ottawa to Lake Temiscaming ; thence it was drawn due north to Hudson Bay.
Provisions of the Act.—(1) The Two Parliaments.—By the Act the council, which for the last sixteen years (1775-1791) had passed such laws as were deemed necessary for the province of Quebec, was dissolved, and for each of the new provinces a parliament was provided. It consisted of (1) the Crown, (2) an appointed legislative council, and (3) an elective legislative assembly ; with power to pass laws "for the peace, welfare, and good government " of the province.
The Crown would of course be represented in each province by the governor or lieutenant-governor, whose assent was necessary to all Acts of the provincial legislature. The legislative council of Lower Canada was to consist of not less than fifteen members, that of Upper Canada of not less than seven. In each the members were appointed by the Crown and held their seats for life. The Act indeed provided for the creation of hereditary titles iii Canada, to which the right to a seat in the legislative council should be annexed, but this clause happily was allowed to remain a dead letter. Public opinion in the provinces has always decidedly condemned the idea of a Canadian House of Lords. In addition to the legislative council there was in each province an executive council to advise the governor in the conduct of public affairs.