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CANADA FROM 1763 TO 1867.
BY GEORGE BRYCE, LL. D.
HE experiment of transforming a hostile French population into good
British subjects had failed in Acadia. The ill-fated Acadians fell on evil days when, in the opinion of British and colonial leaders alike, the only mode of governing them was to scatter them among the colonies of the Atlantic coast. Whatever else it meant, the Acadian deportation of 1755 was a confession that the resources of controlling power and expedient had failed. Another similar and yet greater problem confronted Britain in her assumption of the government of Canada after Wolfe's conquest in 1759. Acadia had contained probably 10,000 French people, all told. What must be done with 65,000 people of the same ardent nature, glorying in being descendants of the rivals of the British from the days of Crécy and Poictiers, and, moreover, differing in language and religion from their conquerors ? No doubt the irritating effect of having French compatriots for neighbors, as in the case of Acadia, was absent; but, on the other hand, discontent was plainly rising against the mother country all along the Atlantic seaboard. No young monarch ever had a harder task thrown upon him than George III, coming to the throne with a newly acquired and hostile Canada, and with colonial America restless and querulous. On the acquisition of Canada, after the capitulation of Montreal, a capable and judicious British officer, General Murray, was put in charge of the conquered country. The promises made to the "new subjects," as the FrenchCanadians were called, had been liberal : "the inhabitants and merchants were to enjoy all the privileges granted to subjects of his Britannic Majesty.” To a sensitive people, such as the French-Canadians, it was not likely that the new yoke would be agreeable. While General Murray was much respected, yet the four years following the capture of Quebec are contemptuously referred to as the “rule of the soldiery," which one of their historians has declared "constituted a formal violation of two capitulations.” When the Treaty of Paris (1763) had finally destroyed all hope of a French reoccupation of Canada, a number of prominent officers and merchants, to whom the people under the paternal government of New France had looked as indispensable, departed for their mother country or for
San Domingo. The vacant positions in the towns, and the unoccupied lands and forests of Quebec offered freely to officers and soldiers, were an invitation to adventurers from Great Britain and the Atlantic seaboard
From the London Magazine, January, 1701. Note to oprosite MAP. - A reduced section of the map, North America from the French of Mr. D'Anville," in Jeffervs' Natural and Crei Hustery of the French Dominions in North and South America (London, 17601.
colonies. Thus the influx of strangers aroused the fear and jealousy of the timid colonists of the St. Lawrence. One of their writers has thus described the strange incursion: “Immediately after the Treaty of Paris, the English, who were seeking for their personal advantage to profit from the new colony, began to arrive amongst us. The greater part carried their bales of merchandise; others brought Bibles, while others the English laws. Of these last, some were lawyers, some judges, appointed, dispatched, and installed here by the crown. They arrived, some from the three kingdoms, but yet more from New England. To say the truth, they came from all parts." . . General Murray had selected an executive council, but it was almost entirely made up of English-speaking people. There was no other plan. In a few years some even of the noblesse accepted the situation, and the pleasant story is told of Chevalier de Léry and his spouse being presented to George III in London, when the gallant monarch remarked with reference to the lady, " that if all the Canadian ladies resembled her, he had indeed made a fair conquest."
Practically, however, the acceptance of their new masters by the FrenchCanadians was slow, though on the other hand the small part taken by the people in government under the preceding French régime was continued in the form of a mere passive obedience under the new circumstances. Their priests and religion were respected; the British system of jurisprudence was introduced, but was not popular; and to their curés the people took most of their disputes for settlement. If General Murray had been a people's favorite, he was also succeeded by one of the most popular men of his time in North America. This was the noted general and diplomat, Sir Guy Carleton. Full of Irish spirit and wit, Carleton had been a favorite in the army, had seen many a bitter fight, and was the man to maintain the confidence of the light-hearted Canadians. Seven years after Wolfe's victory, which had made him a brigadier-general, he became governor.
His associates were well chosen. Chief Justice Hey was capable; and a most distinguished lawyer, Francis Maseres, of French Huguenotic blood, was a councillor for three years, and afterwards returned to a high position in England. Charles Lamb speaks of him : “Baron Maseres, who walks, or did till very lately, in the costume of the reign of George II, closes my imperfect recollection of the old benchers of the Inner Temple.”
No doubt the event most important at this time was the passage of the “Quebec Act of 1774.” It is remarkable that almost every one had something to say for or against this famous act, except the French-Canadians themselves. Pennsylvania and New York objected because the boundaries of the new province seemed to invade their claims; the merchants of London were opposed to the introduction of the French civil law; many British parliamentarians disliked the act because it made no provision for representative institutions, but looked to a government by crown officers alone ; the Congress meeting in Philadelphia urged the Canadians to resent the illiberal features of the act being passed in London. Jean Baptiste, however, if allowed to smoke his pipe in peace, speak his own tongue unmolested, and obey his good father-confessor, cared nothing for his other rights. The main provisions of the act of 1774 are the preservation of their religion to the French-Canadians, the encouragement of the Protestant religion, the continuation of the criminal law of England, the permission of the French code in civil causes, and the establishment of an executive council. The act declares, “It is at present inexpedient to call an assembly ;” and this was probably done on the advice of Governor Carleton, who seemingly desired to conciliate the Canadians as to law and religion, but as a military man to keep the government very much out of their hands. The act is very well characterized by George Heriot (1807): "The system (introduced by the Quebec Act) was not contemplated with partiality even on the part of the statesmen by whom it was originally framed. But its temporary operation was considered as expedient on account of the symptoms of discontent which had then appeared in several of the British provinces on the continent of America.” The French-Canadians hailed the return of Governor Carleton to Canada, after the passage of the act, with demonstrations of great satisfaction. General Carleton was, however, soon compelled to lay down the pen of the diplomat, and to seize the sword in the defence of Canada. An account is given elsewhere 1 of the expedition of Generals Montgomery and Arnold to take Quebec, after the English colonies had rebelled. For the defence of Quebec Carleton had but one company of regulars and the few seamen and marines of a sloop lying at Quebec. With his power of arousing enthusiasm, Carleton raised from among the people, most of them French-Canadians, a considerable body of defenders. His favorable standing on both continents as a soldier makes it difficult to explain the treatment given him, in superseding him as commander-in-chief, and sending General Burgoyne in his place. It may have been the intention of the British ministry to push the war in the enemy's country with more vigor, and thus leave Carleton more opportunity to devote himself to the management of a fickle people. Whatever the causes, Carleton felt and wrote keenly on the matter, and, Achilles-like, retired from Canada to his tent at home in 1778. The dissatisfied governor left Canada at a most inopportune time for the country. The closing years of the Revolutionary War were of great moment to Canada.
Carleton's successor did not gain so high a reputation as the free-hearted soldier, since called “the founder and saviour of Canada." General Frederick Haldimand, who was appointed governor on the retirement of Carleton, was born at Yverdun in Switzerland, and had entered the British service under the mercenary system so common at the time. Twenty years before the outbreak of the War of Independence he was in command of the British troops stationed at Philadelphia; and we find him under constant appointment by Britain, for more than thirty years, in her different American colonies, including those in the West Indies. He had been in many of the
1 Ante, Vol. VI. pp. 161-7.