The Special Council of Lower Canada and the Origin of Canadian Sovereignty

Michael P. A. Murphy


Turning to Agamben’s notion of the decision of the “state of exception” as the fundamental act of the sovereign, this article traces the origin of Canadian sovereignty through a legal history of the suspension of habeas corpus in Lower Canada. Building both on the work of Canadianists engaging the political and legal theory of Giorgio Agamben and the work of Canadian historians on the Special Council of Lower Canada, this article demonstrates how Governor Colborne’s declaration of martial law in response to the 1837-1838 rebellions in Lower Canada reveals the genesis-moment of Canadian sovereignty. This historical contextualization of the Special Council fills an important gap in the historiography of the Council, as well as the continental approaches to applied theory in Canadian political science.


Giorgio Agamben; Canadian History; Sovereignty; State of Exception

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125