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Description found in Archives

Imperial correspondence [textual record] 

Sub-series consists of


2 October 1846-24 December 1855

Place of creation

Various places

55 cm of textual records.

Scope and content

This sub-series brings together Lord Elgin's official correspondence as governor of the Province of Canada with the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (more commonly known as the Colonial Secretary), the centre of imperial administration, using the traditional channel of Despatches and the parallel channel of Private Letters, supplemented with a sequence of transcriptions from his private letters, prepared for his biographer Theodore Walrond. Both private letters and despatches address issues of boundaries, defence, Indian affairs, trade and commerce, telegraphs and railroads, economic and political development relative to both his responsibilities as Governor of the Province of Canada within that and focused on that jurisdiction, and his role as Governor General of the colonies of British North America to promote inter-colonial collaboration on matters of mutual interest and to address issues of foreign relations on behalf of all jurisdictions named in his commissions. The private letters address the same range of topics, but with differing emphases. They also provide a more candid discussion of issues such as his salary and staff, the appointment and dismissal of officials, the niceties of recruiting politicians capable of forming a ministry, or being trained to that task in support of the implementation of Responsible Government, and recommendation of individuals for honours. Elgin understood and exploited the distinctions between these channels: where the routine (numbered) despatches were likely to be printed for Parliament, the Secret and Confidential would not; where the secret despatches might appear as Confidential Prints for the information of Colonial Office, Foreign Office or the Privy Council, the private letters should remain exactly that. That he took home so few despatches argues a confidence in his position. Throught his term in office as Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Canada, Elgin established strong working relationships with successive Colonial Secretaries and fellow governors. His honorific titl of Governor General of the provinces of British North America confirmed his status as "primus inter pares" but conferred no authority to direct or command them. He refined the role of Governor General through the consultations pursued with those colleagues, the fostering of inter-colonial collaboration on railroads, telegraphs, the postal service, navigational aids and other ventures. He brought his diplomatic skills to bear most notably in negotiating the Reciprocity Treaty on behalf of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the Province of Canada, each of which ratified the treaty.

Textual records
90: Open
Archival reference no.