Robert Baldwin

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Robert Baldwin (May 12, 1804 – December 9, 1858) was born at York (now Toronto). He, along with his political partner Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, led the first responsible ministry in Canada, regarded by some as the first truly Canadian government.[1]

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Biography

His father William Warren Baldwin (d. 1844), moved to Upper Canada from Ireland in 1798; though a man of wealth and good family and a devoted member of the Church of England, he opposed the religious and political oligarchy which was then at the head of Canadian affairs, and brought up his son in the same principles. Robert Baldwin was called to the Bar in 1825.[2] In 1829 he was elected a member of the Parliament of Upper Canada for the town of York, but was defeated in the following year and retired for a time into private life. In 1836 he was called by Sir Francis Bond Head (1793 – 1875), the Lieutenant Governor, to the Executive Council, but finding himself without influence, and compelled to countenance measures to which he was opposed, he resigned within a month. Though a moderate reformer, he strongly disapproved of the rebellion of 1837 – 1838. He and his father William advised Lord Durham to suggest responsible government to the British government.[3]

He joined the Executive Council under Charles Poulett Thomson (later Lord Sydenham) in 1840 as the Solicitor General. Upon the union of the two Canadas (1841) he was a member of its first executive council under Lord Sydenham, but soon resigned on the question of responsible government. In 1842 he formed an administration, in connection with Lafontaine, who suggested an equal partnership. Baldwin, however, refused and took the position of Deputy Premier under Lafontaine.[4] He resigned the next year, after a quarrel with the Governor General, Sir Charles Metcalfe, on a question of patronage, in which he felt that of responsible government to be involved. At the general election which followed, the Governor General was sustained by a narrow majority, but in 1848 the Reformers were again returned to power, and he and Lafontaine formed their second administration on March 11 under Lord Elgin and carried numerous important reforms, including the freeing from sectarian control of the University of Toronto and the introduction into Upper Canada of an important municipal system.

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