Executive Council Office of the Province of Canada fonds [textual record]
Record Information – Brief
Executive Council Office of the Province of Canada fonds [textual record]
- Hierarchical level:
- 1670-1874, predominant 1841-1867.
- R11250-0-0-E, RG1-E6, RG1-E14, RG1-E13, RG1-E11, RG1-E15A, RG1-E15C, RG1-L1, RG1-L3, RG1-L7, RG1-E1, RG1-E2, RG1-E4, RG1-E7, RG1-E5
- Type of material:
- Textual material
- Found in:
- Archives / Collections and Fonds
- Item ID number:
- Link to this page:
This link identifies the web page describing this particular record. Unlike the temporary link in your browser, this link will allow you to access, and reference, this page in the future. To link to this descriptive record, copy and paste the URL where ever needed (wiki, blog, document).http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.redirect?app=fonandcol&id=205074&lang=eng
- Context of this record:
Record Information – Details
- Fonds includes:
11 lower level description(s)View lower level description(s)
- 1670-1874, predominant 1841-1867.
- Place of creation:
- ca. 52.679 m of textual records.
- Language of material:
- Scope and content:
Fonds consists of records created and/or maintained by the Executive Council Office of the Province of Canada. The majority of the records in this fonds date from the period between the first and last meetings of the Executive Council, 13 February 1841 and 29 June 1867. However, the fonds also includes a small quantity of records inherited from the pre-1841 period, and a similarly small quantity of records which post-date Confederation but which have been included within this fonds for reasons that have more to do with practicality than provenance. The records found in this fonds document, to varying extents, the executive and judicial functions of the Executive Council. The deliberations and decisions of the Governor and Council were recorded as minutes in books maintained by the Clerk of the Council. These minutes are found primarily in two series within this fonds: State Minute Books of the Executive Council; and Land Minute Books of the Executive Council. Rough and draft minutes are found in the Rough and Draft Minutes and Reports of the Executive Council series. Committee activities are reflected in this fonds both in those series devoted to minutes of the Executive Council (where committee reports are entered as minutes) and in the series; titled Submissions to the Executive Council relating to the audit of provincial public accounts. In his capacity as secretary and records-keeper for the Executive Council and its committees, the Clerk had custody of the various papers and reports presented before Council in support of business transacted. In addition to these records which he maintained on behalf of the Council, the Clerk also created and accumulated a variety of administrative records which he required to ensure the efficient operation of his office. These records are found in the Office Records of the Clerk of the Executive Council series. There are also records of the Board of Railway Commissioners, described in the appropriate series level description.
- Biography/Administrative history:
Canada (Province). Executive Council Office : The Executive Council was among the first institutions established in each colony of British North America. Designed to advise and assist the governor in his executive, legislative and judicial functions, the Executive Council was formed pursuant to the Royal Instructions which partnered the governor's commission. A list of the members of the Executive Council of the Province of Canada, with dates upon which they took the oath of office and dates of termination of appointment, is provided in Appendix I of the publication Public Archives of Canada - Manuscript Division - Preliminary Inventory - Record Group 1, Executive Council, Canada, 1764-1867 (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1953). In earlier regimes, Executive Councillors had been, effectively, permanent appointments, but this situation had changed with the 1839 despatch from Lord John Russell which set out the new Imperial policy that Councillors could be called upon to retire if expedient to public policy. The Instructions to Sydenham, dated 30 August 1840, commanded him to provide the names of such persons as were in his opinion fit and proper to be appointed to the Executive Council. His Instructions authorized him further to appoint, from time to time, such and so many persons as may appear to him to be requisite for the Council, subject to Royal approval. A number of the clauses in the Instructions dealt specifically with aspects of the Executive Council's activities, including such things as the quorum required for the transaction of business; the situations in which the Governor was required to seek the advice and/or consent of Council; and the requirement for minutes to be kept and their transcripts to be provided to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London. As the first governor of the new united Province of Canada, Lord Sydenham is credited with introducing many changes in the manner in which the executive arm of government did business, administrative reforms that laid the essential groundwork for the constitutional reforms to follow later in the decade. At a practical level, and following a recommendation of the 1839 Commission of Inquiry into the public departments in Upper Canada, Sydenham appointed a "President of the Committees of Council" (with Councillor Robert Sullivan as the first incumbent) to act, effectively, as a chief executive officer for the Council through chairmanship of the various committees. Other fundamental administrative reforms introduced by Lord Sydenham wrought a great transformation in the character of the Executive Council. For the first time a systematic effort was made to organize the public service into appropriate departments, the heads of which were made members of the Executive Council, responsible individually to the governor for the workings of their own departments. When Sydenham insisted that the members of his Executive Council should also find seats in the Assembly, the first major change in the relationship between the Legislature and the Executive resulted. With Lord Elgin's acceptance of the principle of responsible government the stage was set for the transformation of the Executive Council into the Committee of the Privy Council, a transformation which was not completed until after Confederation. Business was brought before the Governor in Council by means of submissions. The Governor gave effect to his decisions, made with the advice of Council, through orders-in-council (see the Orders-in-Council of the Executive Council series). The deliberations and decisions of the Governor and Council were recorded as minutes in books maintained by the Clerk of the Council. Subjects referred to the Executive Council were classified either as "state" or "land" business and the records relating to each category were kept separately. Committees and sub-committees of the Executive Council were formed to deal with various questions. Some committees were of a temporary nature and were appointed to deal with specific business as it arose. Others took on a more long-term status such as, for example, the committee variously titled "Committee of Council on sundry land petitions" or "Committee of Council on sundry land matters." Given the volume of business presented to the Executive Council, committees were nominated from among the Council members to investigate individual issues, and their findings were presented to Council and entered as reports into the minutes.The committee structure evolved over the period 1841-1867, with the system including both temporary and permanent bodies according to the circumstances of the business under consideration. The appellate duties of Executive Councillors which had existed in earlier regimes were continued after the union, but the arrangement was unsatisfactory. In 1844 Sir Charles Metcalfe reported: "The Courts of Appeals as at present constituted ...is composed of the Governor, who never sits, the Chief Justices of the Lower Province and two or more Executive Councillors for whom it is generally necessary to provide substitutes by appointing Judges or others to be Executive Councillors for this special and sole purpose." In 1843 a provincial statute created a new Court of Appeals for Canada East in which members of the Executive Council were not liable for service. A similar arrangement was made for Canada West in 1849 with the establishment by statute of the Court of Error and Appeal, presided over by the combined justices of the three superior courts. Appendix II of the publication Public Archives of Canada, Manuscript Division, Preliminary Inventory, Record Group 1, Executive Council, Canada, 1764-1867 (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1953) provides a list of Executive Council members of the Provincial Court of Appeals, 1841- 1849, with date of commission.
- Finding aid:
Textual records (Paper) This is the primary finding aid for the majority of the records in this fonds. It does not have a finding aid number and is found in a binder which combines both a typed narrative description of the holdings and a typed listing of the records at the volume and title level of description. The CAB RG 1 Shelf List is organized internally according to the former arrangement structure of the fonds in that it groups the record lists under series numbers, e.g., E1, E2, L1, etc., and series titles which have now been superseded in the the most recent intellectual arrangement of the fonds. CAB RG 1 Shelf List (90: Open)Textual records (Paper) Until such time as the CAB RG 1 Shelf List can be automated, however, it must continue to serve as the principal finding aid for the majority of the records. In order to facilitate continued use of the CAB RG 1 Shelf List, a finding aid note appears in lower level descriptive entries directing the user to the appropriate section of the CAB RG 1 Shelf List. For example, the records now described as the State Minute Books of the Executive Council were formerly part of a series known as RG 1, series E 1. A finding aid note in the descriptive entry directs the user to the E 1 section of the CAB RG 1 Shelf List for a volume list. CAB RG 1 Shelf List (90: Open)Textual records (Paper) The inter-relationships amongst the series in this fonds are such that a finding aid describing one series may also provide a degree of access to other series. Thus, for example, the index and registers known as the Analytical Index to the State Minutes for 1841-1867 (vols. 97-104 of the State Minute Books of the Executive Council series) not only provide access by personal names and subjects to the state minutes but also can be used to gain access to the records in the State Submissions to the Executive Council series and the Orders-in-Council of the Executive Council series (as both are arranged chronologically by date of decision in Council). CAB RG 1 Shelf List (90: Open)Textual records (Paper) Similarly, the annual indexes and registers of submissions in the State Submissions to the Executive Council series must be consulted year by year but offer access by date as well as names and subjects to not only the state submissions but also the State Minute Books of the Executive Council series, the Despatches Referred to the Executive Council series, and the Orders in Council of the Executive Council series. They also provide a degree of access to the 'Put By' Submissions to the Executive Council series. Details of the inter-relationships among finding aids are provided in the relevant series descriptions. CAB RG 1 Shelf List (90: Open)
- Additional information:
- General Note:
- Certification of copies for legal purposes can also be provided at Library and Archives Canada.
- Custodial history:
The great majority of the records forming this fonds have come to the Library and Archives of Canada by means of a transfer from an agency of the federal government. Many were acquired from the Privy Council Office in 1907 as part of a large transfer of pre-Confederation records relating to the Executive Councils of Quebec, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, and the Province of Canada. Other records were received from the Office of the Secretary of State of Canada in 1906, again as part of a much larger body of records relating to all four colonies. These offices had, themselves, inherited these records at Confederation from the defunct Province of Canada (just as the Province of Canada had, in turn, inherited records in 1841 from the governments of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada). While the terms of s. 143 of the Constitutional Act, 1867 provided for the transfer of certain documents to the provincial authorities of Quebec and Ontario, according to the transfer of responsibility for Crown Lands, etc. to those bodies, records of the Executive Council were, and remained, the responsibility of the federal authorities in 1867. Available evidence suggests that the pre-Confederation records deposited in 1867 with the Privy Council Office were not integrated to any great extent into the active record-keeping systems of that agency for continuing operational purposes. Rather, they were placed with that agency, largely for safekeeping, as historical records. On the other hand, it is not clear to what extent the integrity of those records which found their way at Confederation into the hands of the Secretary of State of Canada was compromised during the period 1867-1906. In addition to those records which have been acquired as a transfer from federal agencies, a small number of other records have been acquired from other sources. The provenance of some of these records has been traced through accession registers; the provenance of others is subject to further investigation. It seems likely that such documents were incorporated into the Executive Council records on the basis of subject similarity, not provenance. A pragmatic decision has been taken to leave these records attached to the Executive Council of the Province of Canada fonds. Further information about the custodial history of these records is found in the lower level descriptions of the records.
- Arrangement note:
The records in this fonds have undergone a number of intellectual rearrangements during their period of custody in Library and Archives Canada. The records that were transferred from the Privy Council Office in 1907 were initially designated the "E Series". The E Series included not only records relating to the Executive Council of the Province of Canada but also records relating to the Executive Councils of the colonies of Quebec, Lower Canada, and Upper Canada. The description of the records of the Councils of the four colonies was subsequently further refined with the division of their records, according to the functions of "state" and "land" activities, into an E Series (state) and an "L" Series (land). Other records relating to the functions of the Councils of the four colonies which were acquired from the Secretary of State and from the Office of the Governor General were initially included in the "S Series" and the "G Series", respectively. Some transfers were effected amongst the E, S and G Series prior to 1950. In 1950 the record group system of description was introduced. The records of the Councils of the four colonies were collectively designated "Record Group (RG) 1" within this system and the intellectual arrangement structure was formalized in the publication of an inventory entitled Public Archives of Canada, Manuscript Division: Preliminary Inventory, Record Group 1, Executive Council, Canada, 1764-1867 (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1953). This intellectual arrangement schema reflected a broad division of the functions of the Executive Council into State and Land matters, distinguishing the records of each of the two functions by means of separate series and separate alphabetic prefixes (E or L) attached to series numbers (e.g., E1-State Minute Books series; L1-Land Minute Books series). Research to date has not uncovered a full explanation as to why this particular intellectual arrangement structure was devised. Some compromises were required in the intellectual arrangement for practical reasons. The 1953 Inventory explained: "The records were organized ... as E Series (State Records) and L Series (Land Records). Although the basic principles of this organization differ considerably from those now followed for the record group system, it has been decided that a reorganization should not be attempted because of the numerous published references to both series.... The designation E or L before the series number has been retained as a further indication that the series have not been reorganized but are described together as component parts of the one record group." The intellectual arrangement structure introduced with the inauguration of the record group system in 1950 remained in place until 2002-2003. Following the adoption of the archival fonds concept by Library and Archives Canada a new intellectual arrangement for the records of RG 1 was undertaken. Record Group 1 had brought together the Council records of the four colonies largely according to record type (minute books, draft minute books, submissions, etc.) into series irrespective of geo-political divisions. In the most recent intellectual re-arrangement, this schema was abandoned in favor of one which respects the geo-political reality - that there were four distinct colonies (Quebec, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, and Canada) each with its own Councils. There was not a single 'Executive Council' throughout the period of the British colonial regime. The arrangement schema presented here, then, is the result of an attempt to dismantle the intellectual arrangement structure that had existed for five decades and replace it with one based on four separate offices of records creation. A single Record Group has been converted into four fonds: the Executive Council Office of the Province of Canada fonds, Councils of the Province of Quebec fonds, Executive Council Office of the Province of Lower Canada fonds, and Executive Council Office of the Province of Upper Canada fonds. At the same time, an effort was made to more precisely identify many records which had, under the former schema, been consigned to "miscellaneous" series. In particular, the records in former RG 1, series L6A-E and series L7 were re-assessed and linked more appropriately in the new schema. Because of the inconsistent manner in which successor entities dealt with records inherited from predecessor entities, to say nothing of the arrangement decisions taken over the years and which now obscure original order, it is recognized that the schema presented here remains a 'work in progress'. Provenance and original order cannot always be re-created and some pragmatic compromises have had to be made. These are explained in the relevant series level descriptions. Intellectual arrangement of the records in this fonds will continue to evolve as investigation continues into the inter-relationships among the records.
- Citation/reference note:
A number of publications are cited in the descriptive entries for the series to which they are most relevant. See, for example, the publications relating to the auditing process and policies noted in the descriptive entry for the Submissions to the Executive Council relating to the Audit of Provincial Public Accounts series. The publication Public Archives of Canada, Manuscript Division: Preliminary Inventory: Record Group 1, Executive Council, Canada, 1764-1867 (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1953) provides useful information on the role of the Executive Council and on the records created. Its coverage includes not only the Executive Council in place during the period of the Province of Canada but also the Executive Councils of the Province of Quebec, the Province of Lower Canada, and the Province of Upper Canada. Users are cautioned, however, that the record descriptions found in this publication reflect an intellectual arrangement which has now been superseded. The series structure and series names are no longer in use and the volume numbering should not be relied upon today. J. E. Hodgetts' Pioneer Public Service, An Administrative History of the United Canadas, 1841-1867 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1955) remains a standard text for the administrative history of the period and for the workings of the executive arm of government. Thomas Darcy McGee's "Report on the Origins of the Public Departments," 1863, provides brief comments on the Executive Council and the various departments of the day. See also studies such as Phillip Buckner, The Transition to Responsible Government, British Policy in British North America, 1815-1850 (Westport, Connecticut and London: Greenwood Press) and Olga B. Bishop, Publications of the Government of the Province of Canada, 1841-1867 (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1963).
- Availability of other formats note:
- Many records in this fonds are available on microfilm. Further details are provided in the relevant series descriptions. Users of the microfilm should note that the terminology used to describe the records on the microfilm copy is not necessarily the same as that found in the descriptive record on the institution's website. In addition to copies of material available on microfilm, photographic images of selected documents may also be available. Users should contact the responsible archivist regarding the consultation of contact proof and transparency indexes.
- Related material:
- A number of complex relationships exist between records in this fonds and records in other fonds in the custody of Library and Archives Canada. Details are provided in the relevant series descriptions. As regards the judicial role of the Executive Council (for which no separate series is found in this fonds) it should be noted that a small quantity of material relating to the Executive Council's function as a Court of Appeal, 1841-1845, will be found in the Judicial Records of the Executive Council series in the Executive Council Office of the Province of Lower Canada fonds.
- Former archival reference no.:
Ordering and Viewing Options
- Conditions of access:
Copyright belongs to the Crown. Please credit the Library and Archives of Canada. In order to protect the fragile originals, many records in this fonds have been microfilmed and the originals withdrawn from circulation. The microfilm must be used for consultation and copying rather than the originals. Further details are provided in the relevant series descriptions. In those cases where microfilm is not available, but where attachments, tight binding or size make copying from the originals hazardous, only photography is permitted.
- Date modified: