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The mid-nineteenth century was an age of reform in the civil courts of the common-law world. Why, in spite of the clamour for change within Upper Canada and the introduction of reforms in adjacent common-law jurisdictions, were Upper Canada’s leading lawyers and politicians so reluctant to act? The answer is found in the conservatism of the province’s leaders, which stemmed not only from the legal training of the lawyers, but also from the moderate conservative ideology of the Upper Canadian leadership as a whole. At an almost unprecedented time of public debate, when resentment to lawyers and the courts was being expressed and a radical critique of the courts and the profession was emerging, Upper Canada’s most influential residents managed to maintain political control and steadfastly refused to act in advance of the mother country.

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