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Encyclopedia > Charles Poulett Thomson

Charles Poulett Thomson, 1st Baron Sydenham (1799 - September 19, 1841) was the first Governor of the united Province of Canada.

He was the son of John Buncombe Poulett Thomson, a London merchant. After some years spent in his father's business in Russia and in London he was returned to the House of Commons for Dover in 1826. In 1830 he joined Lord Grey's ministry as Vice-President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy. A free-trader and an expert in financial matters he was elected MP for Manchester in 1832, a seat which he occupied for many years. He was continuously occupied with negotiations affecting international commerce until 1839, when he accepted the Governorship of Canada.

Sydenham succeeded Lord Durham as Governor of Canada in 1839. He was responsible for implementing the Union Act in 1840, uniting Upper Canada and Lower Canada as the Province of Canada. Upper Canadians were given a choice in the matter, which they accepted; Lower Canada had no say, and as a result many French Canadians were opposed to both the union and Sydenham himself. Sydenham was just as anti-French as Durham had been, and he encouraged British immigration to make the French Canadian population less significant. French Canadians referred to him as le poulet, "the chicken." Realizing he had almost no support in Lower Canada (now Canada East), he reorganized ridings to give the English population more votes, and in areas where that was infeasible, he allowed English mobs to beat up French candidates. Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine was one such candidate who suffered from Sydenham's influence; Lafontaine eventually left Canada East to work with Robert Baldwin in creating a fairer union for both sides.

Sydenham also settled the Protestant land dispute in Upper Canada (now Canada West), which the Family Compact had interpreted to refer only to the Anglican Church. Sydenham declared that half of the land set aside for Protestant churches would be shared between Anglicans and Presbyterians, and the other half would be shared between the other Protestant denominations.

Sydenham wanted to make Canada more financially independent, so that there would less danger of annexation by the United States. He had been working on this policy throughout the 1830s, when he was President of the Board of Trade in Britain, though he had little time to implement any economic reforms once arrived was in Canada. After less than two years as Governor_General, Sydenham died in 1841.

Preceded by:
Thomas Frankland Lewis
Treasurer of the Navy
Succeeded by:
Viscount Lowther
Preceded by:
The Lord Auckland
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by:
Alexander Baring
Preceded by:
Alexander Baring
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by:
Henry Labouchere
Preceded by:
Sir George Arthur
Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada
Succeeded by:
John Clitherow
Preceded by:
The Earl of Durham
Governor General of Canada
Succeeded by:
Sir Charles Bagot

Preceded by:
New Creation
Baron Sydenham
Succeeded by:

  Results from FactBites:
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (4446 words)
In the House of Commons, according to one critic, Thomson was looked upon as a “bore”; his voice was “thin and effeminate” and his personal appearance “characteristic of a barber’s apprentice.” He rarely spoke on the “exciting party questions of the day,” his brother Scrope noted, and his speeches on commercial matters were considered dogmatic.
Thomson expanded the responsibilities of the board and exercised a new control over private bills, especially railway and bank charters; when he sought to exert his authority to supervise colonial legislation, he plunged the Colonial Office into a bitter dispute with the Upper Canadian House of Assembly over currency and banking legislation.
Thomson’s primary goal was to get the support of the Canadians for a union acceptable to the British government, and to persuade them of the benefits of union he carried with him the promise of an imperial guarantee for a large loan.
  More results at FactBites »



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