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196   HISTORY OF CANADA.

absence of that active oppression to which the Family Compact resorted in order to maintain their position in Upper and Lower Canada. The battle for reform was, as a natural consequence, well advanced in the two Canadas before it began iii the Maritime Provinces ; and in the latter, where executive oppression had been less felt, it was fought with less bitterness.

The Family Compact in the Courts.—It was in the harsh use of harsh laws that the executive factions of the two Canadas became prominent. That in the superior courts there was actual corruption has been freely charged ; but proof is wanting. That there was a disposition to uphold a strong executive at the expense of popular rights is undeniable. Even had such bias been wanting, the close family, social, and even political ties existing between the judges and the Crown officers gave rise to a distrust in the administration of justice. The court, from judge to crier, was of the Family Compact. The laws then in force left too much discretion to the sheriff in the selection of juries, and the jury-box, it is said, was often "packed." In the subordinate tribunals-quarter sessions and magistrates' courts—matters were even worse.

Public Prosecutions.—But, apart from the composition of the courts, there were harsh laws to be invoked, if need be, by the Crown officers against "libellous and seditious persons." As some of the prosecutions under these laws called forth much popular sympathy and materially helped to create an organized opposition to Family Compact domination, they merit special attention.

Robert Gourlay.—Among the many who came to Upper Canada in 1817 was Robert Gourlay, the son of a Scotch laird who had fallen upon evil days. Gourlay went into business as a land agent, and thus became familiar with the many grievances under which settlers labored. He was outspoken in his condemnation of the abuses of the land system, and soon incurred the enmity of the authorities, who looked upon him as a grievance-monger. He was twice prosecuted for libel against officials and -twice acquitted. Finally under an old statute of 1804, respecting alien immigration,' he was taken before two members of the legislative council. Although it seems clear that his case was not within the statute, they declared him to be a seditious person and ordered him to


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