Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada

The Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada was the elected legislature for the province of Upper Canada and functioned as the province's lower house. Created by the Constitutional Act of 1791, in practice the Assembly's power was enormously curtailed by the fact that its actions were subject to the veto of the British-appointed lieutenant governor as well as appointed the Executive and Legislative Councils. The first elections, in which only land-owning males were permitted to vote, took place in August 1792. The first sitting of the Assembly's sixteen members occurred in Newark, later Niagara-on-the-Lake on September 17 1792. Shortly before the capital of Upper Canada was moved to York in 1796 the Assembly was dissolved and reconvended for twelve more sittings between 1797 to 1840 in modest buildings in the new capital. Members continued to be elected by land-owning males to represent counties and the larger towns.

After the War of 1812, the Executive and Legislative Councils became increasingly dominated the Family Compact, a clique of wealthy individuals led primarily by John Strachan. The Compact was deeply opposed to American republicanism and favoured full establishment for the Anglican church in Upper Canada. Their increasingly authoritarian style of governance and disregard for the will of the Legislative Assembly led to demands for government that was more responsible to the people and eventually the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837.

The Act of Union (1840) united Upper and Lower Canada into the single Province of Canada and, from this point until Confederation in 1867, a joint parliament was held for the united provinces.

List of Parliaments


The chief justice of the Court of King's Bench was usually the Speaker of the Assembly:

Changing Loyalties

A few members of the Legislature eventually left Canada. Some were involved in the Rebellion of 1837 and other just simply abandonded Canada. Most moved to the United States, some left for Britain.

Name Born Died Reason for leaving Canada
William Macomb (merchant) northern Ireland, Great Britain Fort Detroit, Upper Canada Detroit was part of Upper Canada before 1796
Hugh McDonell Aberchalder Lodge, Scotland Florence (March of Tuscany, Austrian Empire) left Canada to serve as British diplomat
Robert Thorpe Dublin, Ireland, Great Britain London, United Kingdom left Canada to serve as judge in Sierra Leone
Benajah Mallory Vermont (Thirteen Colonies) Lockport, NY, USA fled Canada after 1837 Rebellion
Abraham Markle Ulster County, Province of New York Terre Haute, Indiana, USA left Canada during War of 1812 to join US Army
Marshall Spring Bidwell Stockbridge, Massachusetts, USA New York, NY forced to leave Canada due in involvement in 1837 Rebellion, became NY State lawyer
Peter Perry Ernestown, Upper Canada Saratoga Springs, New York, USA died after visiting Bidwell
Hiram Norton Vermont, USA Lockport, Illinois, USA fled Canada due to involvement in 1837 Rebellion
Charles Duncombe Connecticut, USA Hicksville, Calfornia, USA fled Canada due to involvement in 1837 Rebellion, became California State Assemblyman
William Lyon Mackenzie Dundee, Scotland Toronto, Province of Canada fled Canada due to involvement in 1837 Rebellion and later returned to Canada 1849
Jesse Ketchum Spencertown, New York, USA Buffalo, NY, USA retired and moved from Canada
Henry Yager Claverack, New York, USA Dane County, Wisconsin, USA left Canada with family
Robert Alway Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England, Great Britain Republic of Texas fled Canada due to involvement in 1837 Rebellion


  • Handbook of Upper Canadian Chronology, Frederick H. Armstrong, Toronto : Dundurn Press, 1985. ISBN 0-919670-92-X

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