In the meantime Lord Durham's enemies were raging at home. They fixed their eyes, and endeavoured to fix the eyes of others, on the mere fact that in his decrees intended for the immediate suppression of the rebellion, he had outstepped the limits of constitutional law. It was not pretended, even by the worst of his enemies, that he had done this from any desire for a vindictive punishment of the Canadian rebels. In fact, the more his decrees were studied and their meaning thoroughly understood, the more it became apparent that Lord Durham's great object was to restore peace with the least possible effusion of blood. But, undoubtedly, he had decreed things which, under ordinary circumstances, a Lord High Commissioner would have had no power to decree. If, for example, Lord Durham had been sent as Government Commissioner to deal with some disturbances caused, let us say, by a strike in one of the mining counties of England, it is quite clear that he would have had no power whatever to issue any decrees which put aside the existing laws. But then Lord Durham had been sent out to deal with a colony, the whole constitution of which was already superseded by the authorities of the Mother Country. He had been sent out to a colony where the Government officials controlled the judges and packed the juries, and rendered a fair trial impossible for any one who was in opposition to any of the local controlling influences. The business of the Lord High Commissioner, as it seemed to Lord Durham, and as it seems to every one now, was simply to clear the field of all the old obstructions, and make an open space on which a new constitutional scheme might be erected. But his enemies at home were too strong for him; and the Government, on the whole, were weak.
A dispatch was issued annulling Lord Durham's Ordinances, and Durham was not exactly the kind of man to submit quietly to the overruling of his authority. He returned to England a man who, in the official meaning of the words, might be considered disgraced and ruined. But there was still public spirit enough among the Liberals of England, to ensure him when he landed at Plymouth the popular welcome which he deserved. The Government had ordered that no official honours should be paid to him; but the population turned out and welcomed him as a public benefactor and a hero. He had on his side one man whose authority will now be accepted by the world in general as outweighing that of any number of Government officials, the authority of Mr. John Stuart Mill. Mill, in his Autobiography, tells us that Lord Durham was bitterly attacked from all sides, inveighed against by enemies, given up by timid friends; while those who would willingly have defended him, did not know what to say. He appeared to be returning a defeated and discredited man. "I had followed the Canadian events from the beginning; I had been one of the prompters of his prompters; his policy was almost exactly what mine would have been; and I was in a position to defend it : I wrote and published a manifesto in the Westminster Review, in which I took the highest ground in his behalf, claiming for him not mere acquittal, but fame and honour. Instantly a number of other writers took up the tone." Further, Mr. Mill says, " Lord Durham's report written by Charles Buller, partly under the inspiration of Wakefield, began a new era. Its recommendations, extending to complete internal self-government, were in full operation in Canada within two or three years; and have been since extended to nearly all the other colonies of European race which have any claim to the character of important communities." Lord John Russell shortly after brought in with right good will, a Bill described by him as intended to lay the foundation of a permanent settlement for the colony of Canada. Lord John Russell was then Secretary for the Colonies; and had always taken a deep interest in Colonial affairs. In 1840 the Bill was passed which reunited Upper and Lower Canada on the lines laid down by Lord Durham. Lord Durham did not live to see the growth of the scheme. He had gone to the Isle of Wight for rest and in the hope that the soft air might restore his shaken health. It was too late, however, and in a few days after the passing of the Act he died His later years were but another illustration of Dryden's immortal lines, which tell how the " Fiery soul that, working out its way, Fretted the pigmy body to decay, And o'er-informed its tenement of clay".
He wanted the patience which would have enabled another man to bear the struggles and the humiliations that had lately come upon him. But if his political career, regarded from the point of view of personal ambition, was a failure, his scheme for the reorganisation of Canada proved a signal and a lasting success. The Canadian Government Act enabled other British Colonies in North America to join with Canada if they should desire to become a part of the new Dominion. The Province of Manitoba, lately made up of what had been the Hudson Bay Territories, was the first to throw in its lot with the Dominion. British Columbia and Vancouver's Island followed soon after, and Prince Edward Island obtained admission in 1873. Newfoundland held out, and still holds out, preferring so far its isolation as a province; but it may be expected that Newfoundland, too, will sooner or later join the federation. For a federation it has already become, and the Dominion of Canada stretches from ocean to ocean. The establishment of the federation was accomplished by the Bill for the Confederation of the North American Provinces of the British Empire, introduced by the late Lord Carnarvon in 1867. Lord Carnarvon was a man of intellect, who had taken a deep interest in the whole progress of the federation movement and who did his best to give full development to Lord Durham's scheme. Lord Carnarvon's measure proposed that the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, formerly called Upper and Lower Canada, together with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, should be joined together as the Dominion of Canada.