The Canadian Federalist Experiment: From Defiant Monarchy to Reluctant Republic

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 2003 - History - 225 pages
In The Canadian Federalist Experiment Frederick Vaughan details how the fathers of Confederation, defiantly determined to perpetuate monarchical government despite Enlightenment philosophy that insisted that republicanism was the only legitimate form of government, embraced the Hobbesean principles of the English constitution and embedded them in the new Canadian constitution in 1867, leading to concentration of power in the office of the prime minister. He then argues that Trudeau's 1982 Charter quietly undermined the monarchic character of the constitution by introducing republican principles of government. The result has been old institutional structures at odds with the republican ambitions, leaving Canada clinging to the wreckage of the old aristocratic order while attempting to provide a new order founded on republican equality. Vaughan shows how, at the time of Confederation, Edward Freeman, a Cambridge historian who convinced John A. Macdonald to experiment with what no one had ever heard of before, a "monarchic federation," and Jean-Louis DeLolme, a popular French authority on the English constitution, helped forge a new federal constitution with a strong central government and a chief executive armed with the powers necessary to govern. Vaughan examines how these principles were undermined by the judicial activism of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which paved the way for the significant expansion of judicial power under the Charter since 1982.


An Improbable Ambition
From Royal Prerogative to Responsible Government
The Foundations of Eddystone
An Object Much to be Desired
A Nation of Christians
The Charter Court and the Decline of Parliament

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About the author (2003)

Frederick Vaughan is professor emeritus of political science, University of Guelph

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