Clear Grits

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Clear Grits were reformers in the Canada West district of the Province of United Canada, a British colony that is now the Province of Ontario, Canada. Their support was concentrated among southwestern Ontario farmers, who were frustrated and disillusioned by the 1849 Reform government of Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine's lack of democratic enthusiasm. The Clear Grits advocated universal male suffrage, representation by population, democratic institutions, reductions in government expenditure, abolition of the Clergy Reserves, voluntarism, and free trade with the United States. Clear Grits from Upper Canada shared many ideas with Thomas Jefferson.

They came under the leadership of Toronto newspaper editor George Brown, and, in 1857 joined with the Reform Party, which was a loose alliance of liberal minded reformers that became the Ontario Liberal Party and Liberal Party of Canada.

The Clear Grits were one of a long series of farmer-based radical reform movements. Later examples were the United Farmers and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the direct ancestor of the modern New Democratic Party. The word "Grit" is used as a neutral reference to members of the Liberal Party in English Canada. It is currently used far more frequently in print than spoken. "Grit" also has a conveniently small number of letters, for use in headlines.


"Clear Grit" was a complimentary term meaning tenacious or dedicated. The name derives from a quote by party member David Christie who describes the movement as "all sand and no dirt; clear grit all the way through", a reference to the type of sand preferred in the preparation of masonry.

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