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John Stuart Mill and the liberal idea of Canada

Garrard, Graeme 2021. John Stuart Mill and the liberal idea of Canada. British Journal of Canadian Studies 33 (1) , pp. 31-46. 10.3828/bjcs.2021.2

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The writer and politician John Stuart Mill played an important role in the two greatest constitutional moments of nineteenth-century Canada: he publicly supported Lord Durham’s 1838 report on Canada and he voted for the British North American Act (1867) that formed the Dominion of Canada. Mill had a part, in his own mind an important part, in Canada’s evolution from colony to self-governing dominion. I argue that his attitude to Canada was broadly consistent across these three decades and was consistent with his principled defence of liberal imperialism. But it was complicated by Mill’s relatively low opinion of the French Canadians who, he thought, lagged behind the rest of Canada in their development. That is why Mill supported Durham’s recommendation that they be assimilated into the English-speaking mainstream. I conclude that French Canada exposed the limits of Mill’s form of liberalism, which gave priority to the ‘civilising’ imperative over cultural diversity. And it remains questionable just how capacious Millian liberalism really is in accommodating cultural diversity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
ISSN: 0269-9222
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 October 2020
Date of Acceptance: 8 July 2020
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2021 01:22

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