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Description found in Archives

Office of the Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada [textual record]. 

Series consists of



Place of creation


11.2 m of textual records

Scope and content

Series consists of records created and/or maintained in the Office of the Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada. The series includes a Civil Secretary's correspondence received sub-series containing numbered correspondence, registers and indexes; and a letter books sub-series containing internal letter books, letters received from Lieutenant Governors, and Civil Secretary's letter books.

Textual records
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Former archival reference no.

Terms of use

Copyright belongs to the Crown.
In order to protect the fragile originals, records in this series have been microfilmed and the originals withdrawn from circulation. The microfilm must be used for consultation and copying rather than the originals. Further details are provided in the relevant sub-series and sub-sub-series descriptions.

Finding aids that relate to the contents of specific sub-series and sub-sub-series are described in the entries for those lower levels. See also the finding aids cited in the fonds-level description. Although they were prepared many years ago according to an arrangement schema which has been superseded, those finding aids continue to have descriptive value for records in this series. (Paper)

Biography / Administrative history

In 1841, when Upper and Lower Canada were united to form the Province of Canada, the office of Lieutenant Governor was abolished in the province. At this time the records which had been accumulated in the Lieutenant Governor's Office in Upper Canada were transferred to the Governor's custody. At Confederation the records of the Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada were retained in the Governor General's Office.

As the representative of the crown, nominated by the British Government, the Governor-in-Chief carried on a voluminous exchange of information and advice with the British colonial authorities concerning events which were transpiring in Canada. Before the principle of responsible government was accorded general acceptance, in 1848, few decisions were made on important matters until the Governor-in-Chief had referred the subject to the Colonial Office for advice and instructions. The renowned Durham Report recommended a division between matters of purely provincial concern and those of Imperial interest.

Although the particular division suggested by Lord Durham was not adopted, the principle behind the recommendation soon became generally accepted. Henceforth the tone and volume of the Governor-in-Chief's correspondence with the Colonial Office began gradually to change. Matters which were considered as being entirely within the domestic sphere were generally reported in much less detail than in the earlier years. It should be noted, however, that there was no rigid dividing line and the Governor-in-Chief was expected to keep the British Government well informed on all events which had real or potential Imperial implications.

As Canadian autonomy increased there was a corresponding decrease in the subjects that were considered to be under Imperial jurisdiction. The scope of Canadian control was gradually extended to include all domestic issues. Two instances may be cited by way of example. The Act of Union of 1840 gave the provincial parliament control over the public accounts except for the civil list, which remained nominally under Imperial control until Confederation. In 1860 Indian Affairs passed from Imperial to Canadian ministerial jurisdiction.

The Governor-in-Chief's Office together with the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office formed the channel for correspondence with foreign governments. Diplomatic negotiations were conducted by officers of the British Foreign Office. On occasion the Governor-in-Chief was called upon to act as a quasi-diplomatic agent of the Canadian Government, as witnessed by Lord Elgin's successful efforts to arrange a reciprocity agreement with the United States in 1854. There was a continual exchange of views and information between the British Minister at Washington and the Governor-in-Chief on subjects concerning relations between the United States and Canada. Until 1869, when Sir John Rose became an unofficial forerunner of the Canadian High Commissioner, all correspondence between the Canadian and British Governments passed through the Governor-in-Chief's/Governor General's Office.

The Governor-in-Chief maintained three levels of communication, which are reflected in the structure of the record-keeping systems in his office. At the first level were despatches exchanged with the Colonial Office (for which see the description of despatches in the correspondence with the Colonial Office series, elsewhere within this fonds). At the second level were despatches exchanged with fellow governors and senior officials who might be categorized as colleagues. The entry books demonstrate substantial variations in place and time as to who was considered a colleague. At both levels, the despatches were prepared for the governor's signature (though rarely in his own hand). At the third level were letters addressed to and received from subordinates (for which see the description of the Secretaries' correspondence in the Civil Secretary's correspondence received sub-series within the present series). Responsibility for preparing and signing correspondence at this level was delegated to the Private, Civil or Military Secretaries. Great consistency is evident in the segregation of despatches prepared in the Governor-in-Chief's name (first and second levels) from letters prepared at his orders but signed by his Secretaries (third level).

Governors, Captains General, Governors-in-Chief (11 March 1841 Liber A.F. 188) and administrators of Province of Canada between 1841 and 1867 include: Lord Sydenham, Governor, 10 February 1841; died 19 September 1841. Sir Richard Downes Jackson, Administrator, 24 September 1841 - 12 January 1842. Sir Charles Bagot, Governor, 12 January 1842 - 30 March 1843; died at Kingston, 19 May 1843. Sir Charles Metcalfe, Governor, 30 March 1843 - 26 November 1845; Lord Cathcart, Administrator, 26 November 1845; Governor, 24 April 1846 - 30 January 1847. Lord Elgin, Governor, 30 January 1847 - 19 December 1854; on leave 23 August 1853 - 10 June 1854, during which time William Rowan was Administrator. Sir Edmund Head, Governor, 19 December 1854; on leave 20 June - 2 November 1857, and 12 October 1860 - 23 February 1861, during which times Sir William Eyre and Sir William F. Williams respectively were Administrators; left the country 24 October 1861. Lord Monck, Administrator, 25 October 1861; Governor, 28 November 1861 - 30 June 1867; on leave 30 September 1865 - 12 February 1866, and 10 December 1866 - 25 June 1867, during which periods the Administrator was Sir John Michel. RG7 General Inventory

Additional information

Custodial and reference questions related to these records should be directed to the Canadian Archives Branch (CAB).

The term letter book has been used generally to describe volumes in which the text of documents was recorded. Entry book is the more correct generic term for such volumes, when all manner of documents are recorded therein; letter book should be reserved form volumes in which only correspondence was recorded.

The index to an entry book can facilitate access to records outside the series in which it is located and to which it immediately relates. Incoming correspondence can be traced and identified through the dates and other clues provided in the replies.

No further accruals are expected.

Availability of other formats note
Records in this series are available on mmicrofilm. Microfilming of the records in the Internal entry books sub-sub-series, the Letters received from Lieutenant Governors sub-sub-series, and of the Civil Secretary's letter books sub-sub-series, all in the Letter books sub-series, was carried out in 1981. The records in the Numbered correspondence sub-sub-series of the Civil Secretary's correspondence received sub-series were filmed in 1983; those in the Registers and indexes sub-sub-series of the same sub-series were filmed in 1991.