Upper Canada

Province of Upper Canada

Flag of Upper Canada
Map of Upper Canada (in orange) with 21st-century Canada (in pink) surrounding it
Map of Upper Canada (in orange) with 21st-century Canada (in pink) surrounding it
StatusBritish colony
CapitalNewark 1792–1797 (renamed Niagara 1798, Niagara-on-the-Lake 1970)
York (later renamed Toronto in 1834) 1797–1841
Common languagesEnglish
GovernmentFamily Compact oligarchy
under a
Constitutional monarchy
• 1791–1820
George III
• 1820–1830
George IV
• 1830–1837
William IV
• 1837–1841
Lieutenant-Governor; Executive Council of Upper Canada 
LegislatureParliament of Upper Canada
Legislative Council
Legislative Assembly
Historical eraBritish Era
26 December 1791
10 February 1841
1836[1]258,999 km2 (100,000 sq mi)
• 1823[1]
• 1836[1]
CurrencyHalifax pound
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Province of Quebec (1763–1791)
United Province of Canada
Today part of


Part of a series on the
History of Ontario
Coat of arms of Ontario.svg
First Nations
Pays d'en Haut1500s–1763
Upper Canada1791–1841
Canada West1841–1867
Upper Canada Topics
Province of Canada Topics
Province of Ontario topics
Flag of Ontario.svg Ontario portal

The Province of Upper Canada (French: province du Haut-Canada) was a part of British Canada established in 1791 by the Kingdom of Great Britain, to govern the central third of the lands in British North America, formerly part of the Province of Quebec since 1763. Upper Canada included all of modern-day Southern Ontario and all those areas of Northern Ontario in the Pays d'en Haut which had formed part of New France, essentially the watersheds of the Ottawa River or Lakes Huron and Superior, excluding any lands within the watershed of Hudson Bay. The "upper" prefix in the name reflects its geographic position along the Great Lakes, mostly above the headwaters of the Saint Lawrence River, contrasted with Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) to the northeast.

It was the primary destination of Loyalist refugees and settlers from the United States after the American Revolution, who often were granted land to settle in Upper Canada. The province was characterized by its British way of life, including bicameral parliament and civil and criminal law not mixed like in Lower Canada or elsewhere in the British Empire.[2] The division was created to ensure the exercise of the same rights and privileges enjoyed by loyal subjects elsewhere in the North American colonies.[3] In 1812, war broke out between Great Britain and the United States, leading to several battles in Upper Canada. The US had hoped to capture Upper Canada, but the war ended with the situation unchanged.

The government of the colony came to be dominated by a small group of persons, known as the "Family Compact", who held most of the top positions in the Legislative Council and appointed officials. In 1837, an unsuccessful rebellion attempted to overthrow the undemocratic system. Representative government would be established in the 1840s. Upper Canada existed from its establishment on 26 December 1791 to 10 February 1841 when it was united with adjacent Lower Canada to form the Province of Canada.


Map of Upper Canada's Districts

As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris which ended the Seven Years' War global conflict and the French and Indian War in North America, Great Britain retained control over the former New France, which had been defeated in the French and Indian War. The British had won control after Fort Niagara had surrendered in 1759 and Montreal capitulated in 1760, and the British under Robert Rogers took formal control of the Great Lakes region in 1760.[4] Fort Michilimackinac was occupied by Roger's forces in 1761.

The territories of contemporary southern Ontario and southern Quebec were initially maintained as the single Province of Quebec, as it had been under the French. From 1763 to 1791, the Province of Quebec maintained its French language, cultural behavioural expectations, practices and laws. The British passed the Quebec Act in 1774, which expanded the Quebec colony's authority to include part of the Indian Reserve to the west (i.e., parts of southern Ontario), and other western territories south of the Great Lakes including much of what would become the United States' Northwest Territory, including the modern states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota.

After the American War of Independence ended in 1783, Britain retained control of the area north of the Ohio River. The official boundaries remained undefined until 1795 and the Jay Treaty. The British authorities encouraged the movement of people to this area from the United States, offering free land to encourage population growth. For settlers, the head of the family received 100 acres (40 ha) and 50 acres (20 ha) per family member, and soldiers received larger grants.[5] These settlers are known as United Empire Loyalists and were primarily English-speaking Protestants. The first townships (Royal and Cataraqui) along the St. Lawrence and eastern Lake Ontario were laid out in 1784, populated mainly with decommissioned soldiers and their families.[6]

"Upper Canada" became a political entity on 26 December 1791 with the Parliament of Great Britain's passage of the Constitutional Act of 1791. The act divided the Province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, but did not yet specify official borders for Upper Canada. The division was effected so that Loyalist American settlers and British immigrants in Upper Canada could have English laws and institutions, and the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could maintain French civil law and the Catholic religion. The first lieutenant-governor was John Graves Simcoe.[7][8]

The 1795 Jay Treaty officially set the borders between British North America and the United States north to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. On 1 February 1796, the capital of Upper Canada was moved from Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) to York (now Toronto), which was judged to be less vulnerable to attack by the Americans.

The Act of Union 1840, passed 23 July 1840 by the British Parliament and proclaimed by the Crown on 10 February 1841, merged Upper Canada with Lower Canada to form the short-lived United Province of Canada.

Other Languages
Ænglisc: Ūpcanada
العربية: كندا العليا
català: Alt Canadà
čeština: Horní Kanada
Deutsch: Oberkanada
español: Alto Canadá
Esperanto: Supra Kanado
français: Haut-Canada
한국어: 어퍼캐나다
hrvatski: Gornja Kanada
Bahasa Indonesia: Kanada Hulu
italiano: Alto Canada
Nederlands: Opper-Canada
português: Canadá Superior
română: Canada de Sus
svenska: Övre Kanada
Türkçe: Yukarı Kanada
українська: Верхня Канада
Tiếng Việt: Thượng Canada
中文: 上加拿大