The fiasco of departed Governor General Julie Payette highlights what has gradually become the terminal absurdity of that office. It is a colonial title and the colonial governors general not only represented the French and British monarchs symbolically but asserted almost absolute authority under the French and ultimate authority under the British until Lord Elgin was sent by the young Queen Victoria to establish responsible government and autonomy in domestic matters for the then so-called United Province of Canada in 1848.
This was the triumph of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Canada’s purposeful participation in the revolutionary movements that swept much of Europe that year, evicting the House of Orleans in France and bringing in Napoleon’s nephew, and ejecting the 39-year chief minister of the Habsburg Empire in Vienna, Metternich. Many of the early Canadian governors were very capable, especially Samuel de Champlain, the founder of New France, and Louis de Frontenac its principal defender against the hostile natives and Americans, and Sir Guy Carleton (Lord Dorchester), chief author of the Québec Act and de facto founder of Ontario; they were among the greatest statesmen in Canada’s history.
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