Previous The History of the Dominion of Canada (1897) Next

 

290   HISTORY OF CANADA.

viewed with much disfavor by a majority of Canadians, was allowed to remain unquestioned for some years. The whole question was reopened in 1847 by the action of those who benefited by the Act. It was said that the management of the reserves by the government was not judicious, and a request was made, therefore, that the lands themselves should be handed over to the churches to be dealt with as they might deem proper. Public attention was thus drawn to the question, and an agitation at once sprang up for complete secularization. At first many of the more moderate reformers deprecated a renewal of the old feud. By the year 1850, however, the current of popular opinion had set in so strongly that an address was passed by both Houses requesting that the Canadian parliament should be allowed to deal with the matter. Owing to political complications in England, the necessary Imperial Act was not passed until 1853. In 1854 the question vas finally disposed of by the Canadian parliament. Pro-vision was made for the sale of the reserves, and, after setting aside a fund for those clergymen who had acquired vested interests in the income arising from them, the balance was divided among the municipalities in proportion to population. The further endowment of rectories had been forbidden by an Act passed some years before this time.

The Seigneurial Tenure Abolished.—In the same year (1854) an Act was passed abolishing the Seigneurial Tenure in Lower Canada. In the earlier years of British rule the seigneur had desired to change his tenure into English freehold in order to escape payment of feudal dues to the Crown, and in order also to turn his obligation to accept tenants upon customary terms into a right to sell the land freed of all such conditions. The habitant, prizing the right to secure land upon easy terms, had opposed the change of tenure. Now the position was reversed. The Crown had long since abandoned all claim upon ,the seigneurs, and, as the seigneuries filled up and became more valuable, the rents payable by the censitaires were raised. It was contended that under the ordinances of the French intendants the exaction of an increased rent was illegal, and upon this question the agitation first arose. In the year 1852 a bill was passed by the assembly dealing only with this question of rent. It fixed a low rate for the future, with provision, however, for compensation


Previous The History of the Dominion of Canada (1897) Next