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Description found in Archives
1750-1795, predominant 1764-1791
Place of creation
2.469 m of textual records; transcripts.
400 postal covers.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of records created and/or maintained by the Councils of the Province of Quebec. The majority of the records date from the period between the first Council meeting in August 1764, and the last meeting in December 1791. Also included is a small quantity of records inherited by the Council from the military governments which had existed since 1760 and a similarly small quantity of records from the transitional period at the beginning of the government established under the Province of Lower Canada. The records found in this fonds document, to varying extents, the executive, legislative, and judicial functions of the Councils. The deliberations and decisions of the Governor and Council were recorded as minutes in books maintained by the Clerk of the Council. These minutes are found in three series within this fonds: Minute Books of the Council (1764-1775); State Minute Books of the Executive Council (1775-1791); and Land Minute Books of the Executive Council (1775-1791) of the Province of Quebec. Records relating to the legislative functions of the Council (before the Quebec Act) and of the Legislative Council (after the Quebec Act) are found within the series titled Ordinances and related legislative records of the Council (1764-1775) and the Legislative Council (1775-1791). Journals of the Legislative Council established under the Quebec Act, acting in its legislative capacity, are found in the series titled Journals of the Legislative Council (1775-1791). Records relating to the activities of the Council, acting in its judicial capacity, are reflected in the series titled Judicial records of the Councils. Committee activities are reflected in the three series documenting minutes of Council and in the two series titled: Records of the Councils of the Province of Quebec relating to Highways, Roads and Bridges; and Submissions to and Reports of the Councils of the Province of Quebec relating to the Audit of Provincial Public Accounts. In his capacity as secretary and records-keeper for the Council and its committees, the Clerk had custody of the various papers and reports presented before Council in support of business transacted. In addition to these records which he maintained on behalf of the Council, the Clerk also created and accumulated a variety of administrative records which he required to ensure the efficient operation of his office. These records are found in the Office Records of the Clerk of the Councils of the Province of Quebec series. The fonds also consists at least of 400 postal covers covering the period from 1782 to 1823. Most covers were mailed from Montreal and Three Rivers, but covers from smaller towns in Lower Canada appear in the series as well.
The access restriction indicated here do
es not apply to all records in the fonds. Physical restrictions (e.g., a requirement to consult microfilm rather than the originals, or a requirement to consult originals only under the direction of the archivist) do apply in some cases, however. Further information is provided in the relevant series descriptions.
Physical restrictions (e.g., a requireme
nt to consult microfilm rather than the originals, or a requirement to consult originals only under the direction of the archivist) do apply in some cases, however. Further information is provided in the relevant series descriptions.
from 8 to 9
from 21 to 28
Copyright belongs to the Crown. Please credit the Library and Archives of Canada.
In order to protect the fragile originals, many records in this fonds 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 series descriptions. In those cases in which microfilm is not available, but where attachments, tight binding or size make copying from the originals hazardous, only photography is permitted.
Textual records Finding aids that relate to the contents of specific series are described in the entries for those lower levels. Inter-relationships among the series are such that a finding aid describing one series may also provide a degree of access to other series. Details of such inter-relationships among finding aids are provided in the relevant series descriptions.
CAB RG1 Shelf List; CAB RG4 Shelf List; CAB RG14 Shelf List 90 (Paper)
Textual records The primary finding aid for the majority of the records in this fonds is the CAB RG 1 Shelf List. It does not have a finding aid number. Rather, it takes the form of a binder which combines both a typed narrative description of the holdings (i.e., an inventory) and a typed listing of the records at the volume-title level of description. The CAB RG 1 Shelf List is organized internally according to the former arrangement structure of the fonds. That is to say, it groups the record lists under series numbers (e.g., E 1, E 2, L 1, ) and series titles which have been superseded in the most recent intellectual arrangement of the fonds. CAB RG1 Shelf List; CAB RG4 Shelf List; CAB RG14 Shelf List 90 (Paper)
Textual records Until such time as the CAB RG 1 Shelf List can be automated, however, it must continue to serve as the principal detailed finding aid for the majority of the records. In order to facilitate this continued use of the CAB RG 1 Shelf List, a finding aid note has been placed in lower level descriptive entries directing the user to the appropriate section of the CAB RG 1 Shelf List. CAB RG1 Shelf List; CAB RG4 Shelf List; CAB RG14 Shelf List 90 (Paper)
Textual records For example, the records now described as the Journals of the Legislative Council (1775-1791) of the Province of Quebec series were formerly part of a series known as RG 1, series E 1. A finding aid note in the descriptive entry directs the user to the E 1 section of the CAB RG 1 Shelf List for a volume list CAB RG1 Shelf List; CAB RG4 Shelf List; CAB RG14 Shelf List 90 (Paper)
Textual records Some records which are now part of this fonds were previously arranged and described as parts of other fonds, in particular, RG 4 (Civil and Provincial Secretaries - Quebec, Lower Canada, and Canada East) and RG 14 (Records of Parliament). The current primary finding aids for RG 4 and RG 14 are the RG 4 Shelf List and the RG 14 Shelf list, respectively. Until such time as a single finding aid can be created to bring together volume lists for all parts of the Councils of the Province of Quebec fonds, the RG 4 Shelf List and the RG 14 Shelf List must continue to serve as the principal detailed finding aids for those records. CAB RG1 Shelf List; RG4 Shelf List; RG14 Shelf List 90 (Paper)
Textual records To facilitate continued use of RG 4 and RG 14 Shelf Lists, a finding aid note was placed in lower level descriptive entries to the appropriate section of those tools. For example, the records now described as the Ordinances and Related Legislative Records of the Council (1764-1775) and the Legislative Council (1775-1791) of the Province of Quebec series were formerly parts of series known as RG 14, series A 1 and RG 4, series B 6. A finding aid note in the descriptive entry directs the user to the A 1 section of the CAB RG 14 Shelf List and to the B 6 section of the RG 4 Shelf List for volume lists. CAB RG1 Shelf List; RG4 Shelf List; RG14 Shelf List 90 (Paper)
Textual records MSS0992 (Paper)
Philatelic record A finding aid describing the postal covers has been prepared and is available at the series level. 90 (Electronic)
Biography / Administrative history
The publication of the Proclamation of 7 October 1763 declared the granting by the King of Letters Patent to erect the Province of Quebec within a portion of the territory ceded by France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (10 February 1763). The Royal Proclamation announced the creation of a new constitution for the Province and the intended introduction of civil government within its boundaries, to replace the military governments which had existed since the French capitulation in 1760. The colony existed as the Province of Quebec - albeit with different boundaries after 1774 and 1783 - until 1791. Throughout the Province's life its government operated under two distinct constitutions. The constitution initially established for the colony was superseded as a result of the passage in 1774 in the British Parliament of An Act for making more effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec in North America (commonly referred to as the Quebec Act). It is useful to bear these constitutional distinctions in mind when looking at the councils created in the colony, since the institutions put in place before and after the coming into effect of the Quebec Act differ. The Council during the period 1764-1774: The Proclamation of 7 October 1763 announced, broadly, the features which it was intended that the government of the Province should take. The Governor sat at the apex of the administration, exercising the civil powers delegated to him by his Commission from the King, in accordance with Royal Instructions. A "council" the role of which was to advise and assist the governor in the performance of his executive and legislative functions, was a usual feature of British colonial governments of the period. The Proclamation of 7 October 1763, as well as the Commission and Instructions issued to James Murray as Captain-General and Governor in Chief of the Province of Quebec, all make mention of such a council and, collectively, identify its role and powers in the administration. These documents do not refer to the body as an "executive council". Indeed, the early council's role in advising and assisting the Governor in the exercise of his powers was not restricted to the executive sphere of government.
A number of the clauses in the Instructions issued to Governor Murray deal specifically with aspects of the Council's composition and activities. They discuss, among others, such matters as: the method for replacement, suspension or removal of councillors; the quorum required for the transaction of business; and the situations in which the Governor was required to seek the advice and/or consent of council. Provision was also made in both the Governor's Commission and the Instructions that, in the event of the absence or death of the Governor and Lieutenant Governors and the absence from the Province of any commissioned Commander in Chief, the "Eldest Councillor" (also referred to as the President of the Council) should take on the administration of government, executing the powers and authorities contained in the Governor's Commission and Instructions.
The documents which laid the foundation in 1763 for civil government in the Province of Quebec demonstrate the intent of the British government that the colony should also have an assembly made up of representatives of the people. However, it was recognized that, given the circumstances of the colony, it might be impracticable to summon one immediately. In the meantime, Murray was instructed to make, with the advice of his Council, such rules and regulations "as shall appear necessary to the peace, order and good government" of the Province, with the proviso that all such rules and regulations be forwarded to London for approval. Instructions issued to Guy Carleton on his appointment as Governor in 1768 reiterated the intention to call an assembly when circumstances permitted. However, no popular assembly was called together during the years 1764-1774. In the absence of an assembly, the appointed Council in the Province of Quebec took on a legislative role in that period in addition to its other duties in advising and assisting the Governor.
Murray's Instructions directed him to establish an initial Council composed of four Crown appointees as well as eight other persons to be chosen by the Governor and whose appointments were subject to approval from London. The Council held its first meeting on 13 August 1764. When Carleton succeeded Murray to the office of Governor in 1768, the appointees to council numbered eleven. The membership of the Council changed over the years with the death or dismissal of incumbents and new or replacement appointments. In fulfilling their executive role, councillors analysed issues brought to their attention by the Governor and recommended appropriate responses. On some matters the Governor was compelled by his Instructions to consult the Council; on other matters he had discretion in whether to consult. Business was brought before the Governor in Council by means of submissions. The Governor gave effect to his decisions, made with the advice of Council, through orders-in-council. The deliberations and decisions of the Governor and Council were recorded as minutes in books maintained by the Clerk of the Council. As the volume of business presented to the Council increased, committees were nominated from among the Council members to investigate individual issues and their findings were presented to Council and entered as reports into the minutes. The Council committees of the first decade of civil government were temporary, although a more permanent committee structure did develop later. In the judicial sphere, the Governor and Council constituted a court of appeal (termed the Court of Chancery in equity matters before 1775, and the Court of Appeal in all other matters, before and after 1775) to hear certain cases previously adjudicated by the lower courts. In their legislative capacity, Council members participated in the formulation of ordinances. Whether the matter under consideration fell within the executive, legislative or judicial realms of government, members of the Council could only recommend action. For a decision to be made and authorization given, the Governor's assent was required. As the government evolved, a broad range of issues came to occupy the Council. Questions requiring the expert opinion of officials who did not sit on the Council were referred to them for report and the findings entered into the minutes. As the volume of business presented to the Council increased, committees were nominated from among the Council members to investigate individual issues as they arose, and their findings were presented to Council and entered as reports into the minutes. Although a more permanent committee structure did begin to develop later, the Council committees of the first decade of civil government were temporary. Councils during the period 1775-1791: The Quebec Act of 1774 provided the Province of Quebec with a new constitution. The provisions made under the previous constitution with respect to civil government were revoked, effective 1 May 1775. As regards the apparatus of government, the colony was expressly denied a popular assembly. Rather, the Act authorized the appointment by the Crown of a legislative council of from 17 to 23 people with power and authority to make, subject to Royal approval and with some specified limitations, ordinances for the peace, welfare, and good government of the said Province, with the consent of His Majesty's Governor. Governor Carleton's Instructions named the appointees to the Legislative Council and stipulated, further, that any five councillors "shall constitute a board of council for transacting all business, in which their advice and consent may be requisite, acts of legislation only excepted." Legislation was to be passed only with a majority of the whole Council. The Council was also given a direct role to play in the administration of justice, the Instructions providing for a court of appeal to be composed of any five councillors, with the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor or Chief Justice. Whatever may have been the intent of the framers of the Quebec Act, the system for governing now established by Carleton, in effect, compartmentalized the legislative and the executive functions of the Council. Under Carleton and his successors, the Council met not in a single forum but, rather, in two - the full Council in its legislative capacity, and a "Board" (often referred to in the records as "the privy council"), the membership of which was drawn from the larger body and which might best be likened to an executive committee of the Council. The Council summoned on 8 August 1776 included only five councillors, whom Carleton then proceeded to designate "a Board of Privy Council." For the remainder of Carleton's term as Governor this Board (comprising his most trusted allies from among the larger body of councillors) met to carry out the executive functions of government. Provision had been made for other members of the Council to be called to assist the Board as the need arose, so membership was not restricted to the original five designated by Carleton. The number of Board attendees varied over time and according to the issues being discussed. Usually composed of fewer than ten councillors, the Board was frequently presided over by the Lieutenant-Governor, with the presence of the Governor required only when his approval was necessary to authorize some action.
Frederick Haldimand, who replaced Carleton as Governor in June 1778, continued the Board system created by his predecessor for the prosecution of the executive business of government. However, following censure from London for his use of a "privy council" to advise and assist him in place of summoning his full Council, Haldimand did come to include a larger group of councillors than had previously been the case. The Instructions issued in 1786 to Carleton (now Lord Dorchester) on his return to Quebec as Governor reiterated the point that the proviso permitting the calling of a board of council should not be interpreted as permission to govern with the advice of only a small clique of councillors. In the final years of the Province's existence, most councillors attended Board meetings and the executive decision-making of the government was no longer the preserve of a select few.
The picture that emerges of the committee system through which the Council carried out its functions during these years is one of transition. For some issues, such as the regulation of land-related matters, "permanent" committees were appointed. For others, even where the business was onerous and regular, the Council continued to appoint temporary committees. The committee system is discussed further in the relevant series descriptions elsewhere within this fonds.
While the executive decisions of government were being made by the Governor with the advice and assistance of a Board/Executive Council, the larger Council had a legislative function to perform. Carleton's Instructions in 1775 stated that in matters of legislation he could act only with a majority of the whole Council. The Legislative Council met in the first quarter of each calendar year to hear the address of the Governor in which his legislative program was laid out. Councillors then met under the presidency of the Lieutenant-Governor or President of the Council and debated the matters at hand and passed legislation for the subsequent approval of the Governor. Temporary committees were struck within the Legislative Council to investigate issues in detail, and their reports recorded. Other matters were discussed in a committee of the whole. Many of the reports presented to the Board/Executive Council were also laid before the Legislative Council during its sessions, naturally enough, since the work of the Legislative Council was essentially the legislative extension of that of the executive arm of government. Deliberations and recommendations, the readings of ordinances, the votes taken on legislation and the record of the Governor's approval were documented in journals. These formal journals of proceedings, along with supporting documentation on the questions under consideration were maintained by the Clerk of Council and his staff. The passage in the British Parliament of An Act to Repeal certain Parts of an Act, passed in the Fourteenth Year of His Majesty's Reign, intituled, An Act for making more effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec, in North America; and to make further Provision for the Government of the said Province (commonly referred to as the Constitutional Act of 1791) paved the way for the division of the Province of Quebec into the two separate Provinces of Lower Canada and Upper Canada. The intent of the Act was carried out through a British order-in-council dated 24 August 1791 and a subsequent proclamation announced that the Act would come into effect 26 December 1791. The Legislative Council of the Province of Quebec, acting in its legislative role, had already been prorogued for the final time 30 April 1791. The last meeting of the Council in its executive capacity took place 24 December 1791.
Citation / reference note
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