Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dr. John C. Weaver


The distribution of land was one of the largest tasks of the colomal government in Upper Canada. This dissertation reviews that monumental distribution of resources from the perspective of those government agents, Crown land agents and surveyors, who gave practical effect to an array of policies, including the distribution of land to individuals, within the period when land sales, rather than free grants, dominated the land policy beginning in 1837 unti11870, by which time arable land was in short supply. While the land policies of Upper Canada have been examined in detail, little research exists to shed light on the application of those policies with regards to actual settlers. Notably, the place of cultural and social values with regards to settlers and land allocation has been disregarded, especially in terms of the ideas of worth and worthiness. Most research in this field has focused on politics, political development, state formation, and the role of the elite. Yet, the concern of government agents was not centred solely on maintaining strict government control, but also on acting as advocates for those settlers who were seen as making a contribution to the growth of a successful colony. In mediating between the government and the people, agents expressed their own ideas about the meaning of land ownership and who would make the best settlers, especially with regards to squatters. The presence of an active pre-patent market in land claims further expanded the role of agents into one of adjudicators. Evidence shows that surveyors and land agents seemed more concerned with applying what they saw as the spirit, rather than the letter of the official land policy. They sought to encourage settlement and improvement in order to create a stable and prosperous society which had as its foundation successful family farms.

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