Canada Under British Rule, 1760-1791

THOUGH Montreal surrendered in 1760, there was a delay of nearly three years before the Treaty between France and England was ratified.

By the generous terms of the Treaty of Paris full free-dom was granted to the Roman Catholics to follow their religion, and the only restriction placed upon the priests was that they should abstain from meddling with civil affairs and devote themselves purely to their religious duties.

Certain specified fraternities and all communities of religieuses were guaranteed possession of their goods and privileges ; but the Jesuits, the Franciscans and the Sulpicians were not so favoured.

Canada, with all its dependencies, Cape Breton and the Laurentian Isles, was ceded to Great Britain, and the French claim to Acadia was renounced. All the country east of the Mississippi was ceded, except New Orleans. France retained the barren islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and fishing rights on the coast of Newfoundland which, until the recent settlement by Arbitration, have proved so prolific a source of annoyance to the Newfoundlanders.

Generally the terms of the treaty were loyally observed ; and if here and there a priest or a seignior hoped for the time when France should come to her own again, it was but human nature ; and since the bulk of the community was content but little harm resulted. Less than 300 persons—and these mostly officials, clergy and officers left Canada.

It is difficult today to realise that in 1760 there was more than a little doubt whether or no Canada was worth taking over ; and with the British Government it was for some time a question whether to take the little island of Guadeloupe, which exported to England sugar and cotton to the exent of half a million sterling, or what was then deemed to be the barren waste of Canada, which then produced nothing but a few thousand pounds’ worth of furs.

There was also another view, the most notable exponent of which was Burke. The American colonies, while quite loyal, were not too fond of England and their adherence to the Motherland was largely due to the fact that their neighbours in Canada were of the then hated French nation. This, then, was the argument : “If we accept Canada, and so free the American colonies from anxiety, we loosen the ties which bind America to us.” It was probably a perfectly sound view, and it is interesting to speculate on the probable course of North American history had it prevailed.

However, in 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed and Canada became British territory.

It is worth while to survey the boundaries of the Canada of 1763 which Great Britain took over. To Nova Scotia, which had for half a century been British, was added Cape Breton and, temporarily, Prince Edward Island. For the rest, Canada proper was what we under-stand as Canada of to-day as far as Lake Superior ; the country to the westward being unexplored, and so inaccessible in those days as to be unconsidered, To this was added the country to the south between the Ohio and the Mississippi ; and here was fruitful ground for contention in later years.

In due course the Province of Quebec was delimited with borders roughly corresponding to the outlines of Quebec and Ontario in modern times. The region to the south and west beyond lakes Huron and Eric was a wilderness inhabited largely by Indian tribes, garrisoned by small parties of British soldiers, and administered by the British Commander-in-Chief at New York. The area it covered is roughly represented to-day by the states of Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.

The civilisation of 1760 hugged the river as it does in Egypt today. Beginning about eighty miles below Quebec the settled population of about 70,000 people was strung Out along the river bank for 170 miles as far as Montreal. West of Montreal were virgin forests, and unchartered rivers. A few scattered forts made pretence of keeping open the line of communication. Here and there pioneers and trappers lived out their solitary lives. But it was on the St. Lawrence that the life of Canada was lived.

For some years Canada was under ” the rule of the soldiers,” as it was called. The province was divided into the three districts of Montreal, Quebec and Three Rivers, each administered by a military chief, General Gage, General Murray, and Colonel Page being the respective rulers. By their impartiality and their consideration for local prejudices the military won the confidence of the people in a surprising degree.

Whilst affairs in the East looked smiling and prosperous, the Indians in the West, stirred up by French emissaries, suddenly rose, and in 1763 seized a number of forts built by the French on the lakes, the Ohio valley and in Illinois. Many tribes took part in the rising, though of the impor-tant Six Nations only one joined the rebels. But the figure which stands out foremost is that of the Chief Pontiac : and the war is generally known as Pontiac’s war. The scattered fighting raged for three years until Virginia and Pennsylvania, whose borders had been ravaged, sent a strong force under General Bouquet, carried the war into the enemies’ country, and caught the Indians between two fires.

In the autumn of 1763, George III issued a proclamation establishing in North America four new governments, Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada with Governors who had the power to summon general assemblies. General Murray was the Governor of Canada, but since the French population refused to take the prescribed oaths, no general assembly was ever called, and the country appears to have been managed successfully by an executive council appointed by Murray.

The difficulties of the situation lay, curiously enough, not in the 80,000 French subjects who worked contentedly enough under the new régime, but in two hundred British traders who clamoured incessantly for the most preposterous privileges. If their demands had been carried out they would have been masters of the rest of their fellow-subjects. For years a war of petitions and counter-petitions was waged, and in the end the English malcontents brought about, not the fall of Murray, but his recall to explain matters to the British Government —and General Carleton was appointed to fill his place.

In 1768 Charlottetown, on Prince Edward Island, was founded, and a year later the Island was separated from Nova Scotia and made into a separate province with Walter Patterson as its first Governor.

The next event of importance was the passing of the Quebec Act of 1774. The Ordinance annexed large territories of the Province of Quebec, and provided for the appointment by the Crown of a legislative council. It confirmed to the French residents the free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion, and the protection of their own civil laws and customs. Labrador, Anticosti, and the Magdalen Islands were made part of Quebec.

The Province of Quebec, therefore, extended to the borders of New England, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and the left bank of the Mississippi, thus causing great annoyance in the English colonies, because it limited the expansion to which they felt by right of exploration they were entitled.

That the act was popular amongst the British nationality in Canada cannot be said. There was a storm of protest from the little British colony, and even the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords spoke of it as ” a most cruel and odious measure.”

In the years when Canada came under the operation of the Quebec Act the thirteen colonies of the south were in a state of great unrest, and in the following year the American Revolution broke out. Good King George, safe at home, sent a message of cheer to Carleton, authorising him to raise an army of 6,000 men, and expressing his Majesty’s confidence in the loyalty of his subjects. But the habitant had had his fill of war, and consistently refused to muster ; the British subject when he was not openly in league with the enemy was often enough in secret correspondence with him. In the end Carleton found himself at the head of 800 regulars and a handful of loyal French Seigniors and British loyalists. Montgomery, sweeping up from the south, had taken Montreal without a fight, and General Arnold, with a picked force of 1,100 men, was struggling through the trackless country to attack Quebec. Of these, nearly 400 men, after enduring the greatest hardships, turned back, the rest, braving the Canadian winter, struggled on, but only to find that Carleton was before them in Quebec and too strong to be assaulted.

Quebec, the only unconquered stronghold in the whole country, entered again on siege conditions. Carleton was the life and soul of the defence, and on the last day of 1775, when General Montgomery and Arnold made a combined night attack, the defenders beat it off with ease. General Montgomery was killed, Arnold was wounded, and the army of invasion so demoralised that when in the spring reinforcements arrived from England it fled precipitately before the resistless Carleton. The country was rapidly cleared of invaders, and on October 11th of the same year Carleton fought and defeated Arnold in a naval engagement at Lake Champlain. Soon after this, the command of the troops was given to. Burgoyne, a greatly inferior leader, but Carleton remained Governor-General until 1778, when he retired at his own request, and was succeeded by Admiral Haldimand.

The war went badly for England in those days. Burgoyne was defeated at Saratoga ; French men, money, and ships, assisted the Revolutionaries ; and the defeat sustained by Cornwallis at Yorktown, in 1781, was for all practical purposes the end of the war. In 1783 the thirteen states were recognised as independent, and the boundary line between them and Canada was delimited. With the exception of some absurd geographical blunders, which were with infinite trouble rectified later, the line between the United States and Canada was as it now is.

Almost unnoticed in the fog of war was the voyage of exploration by Captain Cook in 1778, and he arrived at Nootka Sound and claimed the North-West coast (British Columbia) as the property of the British Crown.

Soon after the peace of 1783 a fresh element of great value was introduced into Canada in the coming of many thousands of people from the United States. They were known as the United Empire Loyalists—men who had sided with England and as a consequence had suffered great hardships and no little loss of property by confiscation during the war. Probably fifty thousand people emigrated to Canada in this fashion. Generous grants of land were given to many of them. Some settled in Nova Scotia, others in the St. John valley and founded the province of New Brunswick ; whilst others, going farther afield, helped to make Upper Canada.

They became a valuable asset to the country, and their political influence, guided as it was by deep distrust of the United States, has been a factor of importance.