In 1763 the Treaty of Paris placed the French colony of New France, now called Quebec, under the rule of Great Britain, who had conquered it during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). After a period of military occupation, a civilian government, headed by a British-appointed governor, was introduced on August 10, 1764.
In 1791, Quebec was split into two districts, Upper Canada and Lower Canada, each with its own lieutenant-governor, subordinate to the authority of the governor of Quebec. In 1841 Quebec was further reorganized into a colony known as the United Province of Canada. The highest authority over the United Province was the governor general of British North America, who was given supreme authority over all other British colonies on the continent as well.
For governor generals after 1867, see the data chapter on heads of state.
Officially, the sole ruler of the United Province of Canada was the governor general; there was no prime minister or premier.
The highest ranking elected politician in the colony was the president of the Executive Council, the governor general’s cabinet, whose members were appointed from the United Province’s parliament. Though the presidency was not a very powerful office, the person who held it was nevertheless sometimes informally referred to as the prime minister or premier of Canada.
The most powerful jobs in the Executive Council were the two attorneys general, one for Upper Canada and one for Lower Canada. Beginning in 1848, these positions were given to the bosses of the parliament’s largest political “factions” (there were no parties in those days), and thus often regarded as the true leaders of the government during the United Province period. They are sometimes dubbed the “joint premiers” of Canada between 1841-1867.
On July 1, 1867 A.J. Fergusson Blair was made President of the Privy Council of Canada, a job that would be subsequently held by many prime ministers of Canada. See that data chapter for more information.