Wilton demonstrates that by the 1830s the political energies of Upper Canadians were far more likely to be channelled through petitioning movements than election campaigns. Petitioning movements, which were connected not only with public meetings but with demonstrations and parades, were also increasingly associated with political violence. The resulting assaults, riots, and effigy-burnings - prominent features of Tory governance - not only contributed to the striking political polarization of the population but also helped provoke the Rebellion of 1837. Wilton provides new insights into the careers of leading figures, explores the developing ethnic and religious conflicts in the context of the petitioning movements, and illuminates the question of officially sponsored political violence. Through a thorough examination of primary resources, including a wide range of newspapers, Colonial Office records, published records of the Upper Canadian government, pamphlet literature, and private correspondence, Wilton demonstrates how the province's dissidents challenged established patterns of paternalism, subverted official notions of hierarchy, and promoted the development of an expanded public sphere in ways that had a lasting influence on the province's political culture.