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Description found in Archives

Executive Council Office of the Province of Lower Canada fonds [multiple media]. 

Date(s)

1637-1843, predominant 1792-1843

Place of creation

Québec (Province)

ca. 42.692 m of textual records; 47.2 cm transcripts.
17 maps on 21 sheets; chiefly ms., chiefly col.
5 technical drawings on 9 sheets; ms., chiefly col.
45 postal covers.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records created and/or maintained by the Executive Council Office of the Province of Lower Canada. The majority of the records in this fonds date from the period between the Council's first and last meetings, 26 December 1791 and 9 February 1841, respectively. However, the fonds also includes a relatively small quantity of records inherited from the Councils of the Province of Quebec, and a smaller still quantity of records from the "transitional period" at the beginning of the government established under the Province of Canada. The records found in this fonds document, to varying extents, the executive and judicial functions of the Executive Council. 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 primarily in two series within this fonds: State Minute Books of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada; and Land Minute Books of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada. An incomplete set of "Public Account Books" (minute books of deliberations and decisions on matters concerning the audit of the Provincial public accounts), for the period after November 1826 only, is found in the Submissions to the Executive Council relating to the audit of provincial public accounts series. Committee activities are reflected in this fonds both in the series devoted to minutes of the Executive Council (where committee reports are entered as minutes) and in the three series titled: Land Petitions and Related Records of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada; Submissions to the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada relating to the Audit of Provincial Public Accounts; and Records of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada relating to Highways, Roads and Bridges. Records relating to the activities of the Executive Councillors, acting in their judicial capacity as a Court of Appeal to hear and determine appeals in civil causes, are reflected in the series titled Judicial Records of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada. In his capacity as secretary and records-keeper for the Executive 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 Executive Council series. The fonds also consists of 45 postal covers covering the period from 1785 to 1841.

Architectural: technical drawings
90: Open
Physical access is restricted for the or
iginals upon approval by an archivist. Prefer the use of microfiche copies.
Cartographic material
90: Open
Physical access is restricted for the or
iginals upon approval by an archivist. Prefer the use of microfiche copies.
Textual records
95: Open, no copying
Physical restrictions, e.g., a requireme
nt to consult microfilm rather than the originals, a requirement to consult originals only under the direction of the archivist pending the re-organizaiton of material, or a restriction on types of copying do apply in some cases. Further information on access conditions is provided at the relevant series level description.
Philatelic records
90: Open
Physical restrictions, e.g., a requireme
nt to consult microfilm rather than the originals, a requirement to consult originals only under the direction of the archivist pending the re-organizaiton of material, or a restriction on types of copying do apply in some cases. Further information on access conditions is provided at the relevant series level description.
Textual records
95: Open, no copying
Volume
4
90: Open
Textual records
95: Open, no copying
Volume
from 8 to 9
from 21 to 28
95: Open, no copying
Textual records
95: Open, no copying
Volume
211
9A
90: Open
Textual records
95: Open, no copying
Volume
107
90: Open
Textual records
95: Open, no copying
Volume
110
90: Open
Archival reference no.

Terms of use

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 where 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 RG 1 Shelf List; CAB RG 4 Shelf List. 90 (Paper)

Textual records The RG 1 Shelf List is the primary finding aid for the majority of the textual records in this fonds. 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 RG 1 Shelf List is organized internally according to the former arrangement structure of the fonds. 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 RG 1 Shelf List. 90 (Paper)

Textual records Until such time as the CAB RG 1 Shelf List can be automated 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 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 RG 1 Shelf List. For example, records now described as State Minute Books of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada 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 RG 1 Shelf List. 90 (Paper)

Textual records Some of the records which now make up this fonds were previously arranged and described as parts of another fonds, RG 4 (Records of the Civil and Provincial Secretaries - Quebec, Lower Canada, and Canada East). The current primary finding aid for RG 4 is the CAB RG 4 Shelf List. Until such time as a single finding aid can be created to bring together volume lists for all parts of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada fonds, the RG 4 Shelf List must continue to serve as the principal detailed finding aid for those records which were formerly part of that fonds. CAB RG 4 Shelf List. 90 (Paper)

Textual records To facilitate continued use of the RG 4 Shelf Lists, a finding aid note appears in lower level descriptive entries directing the user to the appropriate section of the that tool. For example, the records now described as the Judicial Records of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada series were formerly part of a series known as RG 4, series B 16. A finding aid note in the descriptive entry directs the user to the B16 section of the RG 4 Shelf List for volume lists. CAB RG 4 Shelf List. 90 (Paper)

Cartographic material Maps and technical drawings described in the Miscellaneous Records Retained in the Clerk's Office sub-series of the Office Records of the Clerk of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada series, and which are now in the physical custody of the Cartographic and Architectural Archives section are described at the collection level in AG-Canada. 90 (Electronic)

Philatelic records A finding aid describing these covers has been prepared and is available at the series level as CPA-261. CPA-261 90 (Electronic)

Biography / Administrative history

The Executive Council was among the first institutions established in each colony of British North America. Designed to advise and assist the governor in his executive, legislative and judicial functions, the Executive Council was formed pursuant to the Royal Instructions which partnered the governor's commission. Members of the Executive Council were appointed on instruction from the Crown, conveyed by a Royal Warrant, or at the governor's discretion. The initial appointees to the Executive Council in Lower Canada were named in the Instructions provided to Dorchester as Governor in Chief, dated 16 September 1791. The Executive Council of Lower Canada met for the first time on 26 December 1791.

A number of the clauses in the Instructions dealt specifically with aspects of the Executive Council's composition and activities, including such things as method of 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. In the event that the governor was absent or died, the senior member of the Executive Council assumed his powers as Administrator of the province. The title President of Council was also used, where the senior member had been Chairman or President of the Council. The membership of the Executive Council changed over the years with the death or dismissal of incumbents and new or replacement appointments. Until Lord John Russell's despatch of 16 October 1839 regarding tenure of office, most Executive Councillors held their appointments for life. However, attendance at Council was irregular, and in some cases most infrequent. Indeed, beginning in 1794, in response to the need to ensure that government business was not hindered by absenteeism, a system was put in place for the appointment of "honorary" Councillors who attended only when specially summoned. A list of the members of the Executive Council of Lower Canada, with dates upon which they took the oath of office, is provided in Appendix I of the publication Public Archives of Canada - Manuscript Division - Preliminary Inventory - Record Group 1, Executive Council, Canada, 1764-1867 (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1953).

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. Committees and sub-committees of the Executive Council were formed to deal with various questions. 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 committee structure evolved over the period 1791-1841, with the system including both temporary and permanent bodies according to the circumstances of the business under consideration. Committees with long-term or permanent status dealt with matters such as land, for which separate series of minutes, submissions and related records were developed. Other committees were of a temporary nature and were appointed to deal with specific business as it arose.

Secretarial duties for both the Council and its committees were performed by the Clerk of the Executive Council and his assistants, ensuring a degree of consistency for the record-keeping associated with those bodies. In the conduct of his duties, the Clerk of the Executive Council prepared and preserved certain records on behalf of the Council - notably the Land and State Minute Books and the submissions on which they were based - and others on his own behalf. The inventories of records preserved and the daily or weekly logs of work performed and information gathered demonstrate the range of responsibilities assumed by the Clerk over time and the nature of assistance provided by his staff in performing those duties.

Additional information

Microfilm reels are available for consultation through the inter-institutional loan service offered by Library and Archives Canada. Information about this service can be found on the institution's website. Loans must be requested by institutions participating in the loan service on behalf of their patrons and must specify the microfilm reel numbers required. Certification of copies for legal purposes can be provided at Library and Archives Canada.

Custodial history
The custodial history of the records of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada between 1841 and the time of of their transfer to Library and Archives Canada, as well as their subsequent arrangement history, is complicated. The great majority of the records forming this fonds have been acquired by the Archives by means of transfer from an agency of the federal government. Many were acquired from the Privy Council Office in 1907 as part of a large transfer of pre-Confederation records relating to the Executive Councils of Quebec, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, and the Province of Canada. Other records were received from the Office of the Secretary of State of Canada in 1906, again as part of a much larger body of records relating to all four colonies.
These offices had, themselves, inherited these records at Confederation from the defunct Province of Canada which, in turn, had inherited records in 1841 from the governments of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Likewise, in 1791, the province of Lower Canada had inherited records of the Province of Quebec. Available evidence suggests that the pre-Confederation records deposited in 1867 with the Privy Council Office were not integrated to any great extent into the active record-keeping systems of that agency for continuing operational purposes. Rather, they were placed with that agency, largely for safekeeping, as historical records. On the other hand, it is not clear to what extent the integrity of those records which found their way at Confederation into the hands of the Secretary of State of Canada was compromised during the period 1867-1906. In addition to those records which were transferred to the Archives from federal government agencies, there is a small number of other records which were acquired from other sources for which the provenance remains to be determined. Further information about the custodial history of the records in this fonds is found in the lower level descriptions of the particular records.

Arrangement note
The records in this fonds have undergone a number of intellectual rearrangements during their custody in Library and Archives Canada. The records that were transferred from the Privy Council Office in 1907 were initially designated the "E Series". The "E Series" included not only records relating to the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada but also records relating to the Executive Councils of the colonies of Quebec, Upper Canada, and Canada. The description of the records of the Councils of the four colonies was subsequently further refined with the division of their records, according to the functions of "state" and "land" activities, into an E Series (state) and an L Series (land). Other records relating to the functions of the Councils of the four colonies which were acquired from the Secretary of State and from the Office of the Governor General were initially included in the "S Series" and the "G Series", respectively. Some transfers were effected amongst the E, S and G Series prior to 1950. In 1950 the record group system of description was introduced into Library and Archives Canada. The records of the Councils of the four colonies were collectively designated "Record Group (RG) 1" within this system and the intellectual arrangement structure was formalized in the publication of an inventory titled Public Archives of Canada - Manuscript Division - Preliminary Inventory - Record Group 1, Executive Council, Canada, 1764-1867 (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1953). This intellectual arrangement schema reflected a broad division of the functions of the Executive Council into State and Land matters, distinguishing the records of each of the two functions by means of separate series and separate alphabetic prefixes (E or L) attached to series numbers (e.g., E1-State Minute Books series; L1-Land Minute Books series). Research to date has not uncovered a full explanation as to why this particular intellectual arrangement structure was devised. It was recognized at that time that some compromises were required in the intellectual arrangement, for practical reasons. For example, the 1953 Inventory explained: "The records were organized as E Series (State Records) and L Series (Land Records). Although the basic principles of this organization differ considerably from those now followed for the record group system, it has been decided that a reorganization should not be attempted because of the numerous published references to both series.... The designation E or L before the series number has been retained as a further indication that the series have not been reorganized but are described together as component parts of the one record group." Even more problematic for the archivists trying to discern original order and provenance in the early 1950s was the physical inter-mingling of records. As the 1953 Inventory explains, although the minute books for the Councils of Quebec and Lower Canada had been kept separate, transferred to the Privy Council at Confederation, and transferred to the Archives from the Privy Council Office in 1907, the other records of the Councils of Quebec and Lower Canada had had a more convoluted history. They had been filed together, at some point in the past, with the records of the civil and provincial secretaries in Quebec and Lower Canada. As the successor to the civil and provincial secretaries, after Confederation, the Secretary of State of Canada fell heir to their records. When the records of the civil and provincial secretaries were transferred to Archives in 1906 from the Office of the Secretary of State, they were found to contain many documents created or accumulated by the Executive Council Office of the Province of Lower Canada. Among these, the land records and those state records relating to public accounts had been maintained as separate identifiable units and it was possible to re-unite them with the Council minute books in RG 1. However, the rest of the state records were so interfiled with the correspondence of both the civil and provincial secretaries that it was impossible to separate them and to re-unite them with the other Council records in RG 1. Consequently these records were left with the records of the civil and provincial secretaries in what became known as Record Group 4 (Records of the Civil and Provincial Secretaries, Quebec, Lower Canada and Canada East, 1762-1867). The intellectual arrangement structure introduced with the inauguration of the record group system in 1950 remained in place until 2002-2003. Following the adoption of the archival fonds concept by the National Archives it was decided to attempt a new intellectual arrangement for the records of RG 1. Record Group 1 brought together the Council records of the four colonies largely according to record type (minute books, draft minute books, submissions, etc.) into series irrespective of geo-political divisions. In the most recent intellectual re-arrangement, it was decided to abandon this schema in favor of one which respects the geo-political reality - that there were four distinct colonies (Quebec, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, and Canada) each with its own Councils. There was not a single "Executive Council" throughout the period of the British colonial regime. The arrangement schema presented here, then, is the result of an attempt to dismantle the intellectual arrangement structure that has existed for five decades and replace it with one based on four separate offices of records creation. A single Record Group has been converted into four fonds: the Executive Council Office of the Province of Lower Canada; the Councils of the Province of Quebec; the Executive Council Office of the Province of Upper Canada; and the Executive Council Office of the Province of Canada. Moreover, given the decision to undertake a major intellectual re-arrangement within the existing Record Group 1, it was also decided to take the opportunity to attempt to bring together those records which had, over the decades, been found to be astray from RG 1 and described within other record groups. There are instances in which records which were linked to other record groups (especially Records of the Civil and Provincial Secretaries, Quebec, Lower Canada and Canada East - RG 4) were known to belong with the records of the Executive Council. These records are now being linked, to the extent possible, to whichever of the four "new" fonds they relate. Because of the inconsistent manner in which successor entities dealt with records inherited from predecessor entities, to say nothing of the arrangement decisions taken over the years which now obscure original order, it is recognized that the schema presented here remains a "work in progress". Provenance and original order cannot always be re-created and some pragmatic compromises have had to be made. These are explained in the relevant series level descriptions. Intellectual arrangement of the records in this fonds will continue to evolve as investigation continues into the inter-relationships among the records.

Citation / reference note
The publication Public Archives of Canada, Manuscript Division: Preliminary Inventory, Record Group 1, Executive Council, Canada, 1764-1867 (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1953) provides useful information on the role of the Executive Council and on the records created. Its coverage includes not only the Executive Council in place during the period of the Province of Lower Canada but also the Executive Councils of the Province of Quebec, the Province of Upper Canada, and the Province of Canada. Users are cautioned, however, that the record descriptions found in this publication reflect an intellectual arrangement which has now been superseded. The series structure and series names are no longer in use and the volume numbering should not be relied upon today.

Availability of other formats note
Many records in this fonds are available on microfilm. Further details are provided in the relevant series descriptions. Users of the microfilm should note that the terminology used to describe the records on the microfilm copy is not necessarily the same as that found in the descriptive record which appears on the institution's website. The microfilm copy of records filmed prior to the adoption of the fonds system by Library and Archives Canada uses the descriptive terminology of the day - viz. Record Group (RG) and alpha-numeric series designations (E 1, L 1, etc.). That terminology has now changed. For example, the body of records now known as the "State Minute Books of the Executive Council of the Province of Lower Canada" series, volumes 29-42, was formerly described as "State Minute Books: Lower Canada, Executive Council: State Books A-N," RG 1, E 1, and is identified in that manner on the microfilm. In order to avoid confusion in locating material on the microfilm, users should note the "Former Reference Number" (e.g., RG1-E1) which is provided in the descriptive entry on-line. Regardless of changes in the series title, that number remains constant and provides the link between descriptions available on the website and the descriptions on the microfilm. In addition to copies of material available on microfilm, it should also be noted that photographic images of selected documents may also be available. Users should contact the responsible archivist regarding consultation of contact proof and transparency indexes.

Language note
Documents in the French language are found occasionally in a number of series.

Private