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      The Canadian Civil Wars of 1837–1838

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          Canadian historians have traditionally stressed that the rebellions of 1837 and 1838 in Upper and Lower Canada were revolts against British imperial authority. Less stressed has been the fact that the rebellions were also civil wars and that British troops were aided by substantial numbers of loyalists in defeating the rebels. In recent years historians have tended to downplay the importance of French-Canadian nationalism, but by 1837–8 the rebellion in Lower Canada was essentially a struggle between French-Canadian nationalists and a broadly-based coalition of loyalists in Lower Canada. Outside Lower Canada there was no widespread support for rebellion anywhere in British North America, except among a specific group of American immigrants and their descendants in Upper Canada. It is a myth that the rebellions can be explained as a division between the older-stock inhabitants of the Canadas and the newer arrivals. It is also a myth that the rebels in the two Canadas shared the same objectives in the long run and that the rebellions were part of a single phenomenon. French-Canadian nationalists wanted their own state; most of the republicans in Upper Canada undoubtedly believed that Upper Canada would become a state in the American Union. Annexation was clearly the motivation behind the Patriot Hunters in the United States, who have received an increasingly favourable press from borderland historians, despite the fact that they were essentially filibusters motivated by the belief that America had a manifest destiny to spread across the North American continent. Indeed, it was the failure of the rebellions that made Confederation possible in 1867.

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          Most cited references 40

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          Redcoats and Patriots: The Rebellions in Lower Canada, 1837–1838

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            Loyalties in Conflict: A Canadian Borderland in War and Rebellion 1812–1840

             J. LITTLE (2008)
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              Deterrence through Strength: British Naval Power and Foreign Policy under Pax Britannica


                Author and article information

                London Journal of Canadian Studies
                UCL Press
                30 November 2020
                : 35
                : 1
                : 96-118
                1University of New Brunswick, Canada
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Email: phillipbuckner@
                Copyright © 2020, Phillip Buckner

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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                References: 40, Pages: 24


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