Quebec, the ancient Capital, had fallen before the successful attack of the English under the command of General Wolfe, the army of the gallant Montcalm having been defeated and his strongest and best fortified position captured. Both brave generals gave their lives at this decisive battle and upheld by their bravery the honor of their respective nations. Today the descendants of both races honor the names and revere the memory of these men of France and England. A single monument has been erected in the city in honor of both Generals, which shows that the descendants of two great races have forgotten or buried old differences and have shown their united respect for two brave gentlemen who died, fighting under different banners.
The young settlement which gave so much promise for the future of France now became an English Colony. It is around this former French Colony, that the vast confederation of Canada grew. With a large measure of freedom, civil and religious, the settlers were content to be loyal to the British Crown, and later, when the time of testing came, most of them refused to join the American Revolutionists against the English, while about four hundred of them took up arms in defence of British institutions.
Let us see how our country was settled at this time. She had a total population of about sixty thousand souls, located at Quebec, Three Rivers and Montreal, the rest thinly scattered along the shores of the St. Lawrence and the Richelieu. The lands about the Great Lakes and the western country were held only by a few scattered forts, buried in the thick wilderness, where trade was carried en with the Indians. Many soldiers and traders, cut off from civilization, took wives from the Indian tribes about them and became as lawless as the Indians. In time of war, however, these men were the Frontier’s best defense.
It is of the settlements about the Great Lakes in which we are most interested in this volume which will be dealt with more fully in part 2 of this chapter.
The dress of the upper classes of the French at this period was like that prevailing among the same classes in France, although less extravagantpowdered hair, long wide frocked coats of gay colors, with lace at neck and wristbands. Out of doors the dress of the nobility was more distinctively Canadianovercoats of native cloth were worn with large pointed hoods. I have seen in the ancient Capital in our own time parties of French Snowshoers and tobogganists dressed in blanket coats with pointed collars; these costumes brightened by gay sashes, a survival in some measure of the early out-of-door dress of their ancestors.
The Habitants dressed more simplyin coarse homespun coat, grey leggings, woollen cap and moccasins of cowhide, this costume being brightened by a bright colored sash. The muskets used at this time were the heavy flintlocks which produced fire by the flint striking a piece of steel when the trigger came down, causing a spark, which fell into a pan containing powder which it ignited. This primitive method of producing fire was practised by the Indians and was their only means of starting a fire.
From this brief review of the French Colony let us turn to a review of the conditions existing in the more English part of our country.
In 1774 Sir Guy Carleton, (Lord Dorchester) who was Governor-General (or Governor as he was known in those days), used his influence with the British Parliament to bring about the passing of the Quebec Act, whereby the French Civil law was restored and the Roman Catholic religion established. Thus the French Canadians were given their Civil and Religious liberty, were allowed under British rule to retain their language and individuality, which no doubt had a great influence upon them in determining the attitude they should take in the struggle that was soon to take place in America.
After the Treaty of Paris was signed and the fear of French invasion of the Colonies no longer prevailed, the American Colonists began plotting and planning against the King, and against the Officers of the Crown, who were administering the affairs of the Colony in America.
The reader may ask: “What bearing have these historical facts on the history and development of Smithville?” I may say that it has an all-important bearing for it determined and tested the loyalty of certain men and women of the American colony; it determined the extent of their courage in leaving home and country and entering into the privation and dangers of a new land for a principle. It determined who was to pioneer our Smithville forest of long ago; it determined who were to be the ancestors of its several generations. It determined the time when Smithville should have its first white inhabitant. So let us follow the events in America which have such a direct bearing on the early history of our native village.
The Seven Years War was purely a war for the Colonies. England had been pouring out blood and treasure to defeat their foes. She had burdened herself with a great debt which she asked the Colonies by taxation to assist in paying. They, on the other hand, had no representation in the British Parliament, and objected to paying ‘tribute to Caesar.’
It was a situation where tact, judgment and toleration were required on both sides, but unfortunately none was exercised on either. The British Parliament was bitter because they considered the Colonies ungrateful and unpatriotic, in refusing to share the burden of debt which the war had produced. The Colonists on the other hand believed that their most sacred rights were being trampled under foot. Their wrath, kindled into a flame by agitators, who were paraded across the pages of history as patriots, drove them to extreme resolutions and more extreme measures.
In both the Loyalist and Revolutionary parties there were to be found, however, true patriots. Among them stands out pre-eminently, Washington, who sought a common ground of reconciliation, rather than bloodshed and separation. The customs and trade of the Colonies was being interfered with, Colonial commerce being allowed to flow into British ports only. The great products of the country could be sold to none but Great Britain, and none but British ships were allowed in Colonial harbors. The King’s army and navy were employed to prevent smuggling. The ill-bred arrogance of British officers had made them hated by their equals, the members of the Colonial militia. There is little doubt that the English army stationed in the colonies did more to sow the seed of discord than any other agency. The Colonists saw the stiff-necked will of King and Parliament exemplified in the arrogant behavior of their military forces in America. It is true that the Colonists had just grievances, which should have been given a fair hearing. Pitt fought against the rash policy of Parliament, but in vain. Extremists in America fanned the flame of prejudice and drove the British Parliament into even sterner measures in order to force the colonies into subjection.
Whatever may have been the causes for grievance, direct and indirect; whatever sticks were cast upon the flaming fire of Colonial indignation, this fact stands out prominently, that there came a day in 1774 when a congress was called at Philadelphia, where the first real break between the Colonies and the Motherland took place. Men who had fought together in defence of British soil and institutions now crossed swords. I have visited the historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia where in 1776 the formal Declaration of Independence was signed. A comparatively small plain building, situated in the heart of the Quaker City. On the walls of the famous room hang the pictures of the men who signed the Declaration. In the same building is the historic and much treasured liberty bell, which has a large crack down its side. Whether this is an indication that the bell has been overworked in ringing forth its peals of liberty I am not prepared to say; at any rate it is a much prized treasure of the American people.
We now come to that part of the war which to the Canadian people is of the greatest importance. When the second Congress met in 1775 in Philadelphia, an urgent appeal was sent to Nova Scotia and Quebec, calling on them to join in opposing British tyranny, but the message fell upon deaf ears. Let us remember that these same French-Canadians had not long before this time fought and lost to Great Britain. The French would stay under the British flag. Let those who wave the flag highest and shout loudest of loyalty beware how they criticize the military activities of the French-Canadians. I would suggest that they first study the history of French Canada, her habitant life, temperament and ambitions. We shall see before this chapter closes how the French-Canadians behaved in this crisis in the history of our country.
In April, 1775, General Gage, Military Governor at Boston, sent out a detachment to seize some rebel stores at the village of Lexington. They accomplished their purpose, but were driven back to the city with heavy losses by the minute men of the rebel forces.
This was the actual beginning of the war of independence of the American Colonies, which changed the whole history of America and divided for the first time the English-speaking race. Two months later came the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, where the English regulars were re- pulsed, but finally carried the position and completely defeated the Rebel forces. I have often gazed at the cannon which was captured at this battle by the English forces which is now a trophy standing on the Citadel at Quebec. I say I have often looked upon this prize and wondered why so frequently writers and speakers refer to the Battle of Bunker’s Hill as an American victory. At this time the Congress in session at Philadelphia decided that if Canada was not longing for real liberty, thcn this liberty must be thrust upon her.
An army of 3,000 men under General Montgomery was sent against Montreal while Colonel Arnold with a force of 1,200 men approached Quebec.
To defend Canada against these two invasions the Governor, Sir Guy Carleton, had only about four hundred regulars and 55o French-Canadian volunteers. Had it not been for the added strength brought by these 55o Canadians, Quebec would have fallen and we would now probably be an annexation of The United States of America. These 55o men were fighting the battle of their former enemy and conqueror, England, and let us give them credit for saving to posterity this land of the North which has become the great country within the Empire which it is today.
To Sir Guy Carlton we owe much. Had it not been for his energy and skill Quebec would have been lost. Montreal was captured by the rebel forces. Sir Guy fled to Quebec, rallied all his forces, expelled the doubtful and disloyal ones, and awaited the attack with 1600 men at his back. Arnold and Montgomery now besieged the ancient city and endured for a time the rigorous Quebec winter, which at times is bitterly cold. They were chagrined that the French-Canadians could not be seduced, and if they stayed until spring they feared the arrival of a British fleet.
It was the last night of the year 1775. In the darkness and in a driving storm the besiegers crept up to take the city by assault; two columns moved upon Lower Town, where street fighting took place, until a body of troops arrived from Upper Town. Falling upon the rear of the invaders they captured about 40o and put the rest to rout.
The second assaulting column, led by Montgomery himself, came down the St. Lawrence shore from Wolfe’s Cove, and sought to enter the city by a narrow path where now runs Champlain Street. At the head of this path stood guard a company of Canadians. They had a small cannon loaded with grape, pointing up the path. The invaders made a rush to overpower the guard, but were met by a volley of grape which mowed down the head of their column. Among the slain were Montgomery and his two Aides. The assailants fled in a panic. In the morning the dead bodies of the enemy were brought into the city, that of Montgomery receiving special consideration. He was buried in the St. Louis bastion. The place where Montgomery fell is now marked by a large stone which may be seen from Champlain Street, which runs winding along the St. Lawrence. It is a strange coincidence that Montgomery, an invader of Canada, and Carleton, her defender, had both fought under Wolfe in his last campaign.
How strange the fortunes of war; duty, passion, hatred, patriotism, the lure of the battlefield, the martial music, the heated and oft-times illogical public speech, all these combine to influence men and nations to line up against each other, even brother against brother, father against son and comrade against comrade. And so Montgomery, a good soldier, humane and a gentleman was respected by his foes and his body gently laid to rest on British soil.
In the Spring a British fleet came and the invaders hastily withdrew. Consider the old British fleet,how many hearts it has cheered in its long history of gallant achievement; it has held the Old Empire intact, it has championed and protected isolated civilization in many scenes and climes, and now the besieged Quebeckers were cheered by its timely arrival in the St. Lawrence. Fighting continued during the summer, and a naval battle in the Autumn in which the Revolutionists were defeated, ended the campaign and left Canada free of the invader.
Canada was not willing to have the new liberty thrust upon her, and by force of arms demonstrated her determination to remain a part of the British Empire.
Who were they? They were those men and women living in the American Colonies who were opposed to fighting the British, were opposed to the Declaration of Independence, and had enough love for British tradition, law and institutions, that they refused to join the Rebel forces in their struggle for independence. Many of them took up arms against the Colonial forces. When England signed the Treaty of Versailles she left these Loyalists to their fate. In the British Parliament Lord Sackville said: ” A peace founded on the sacrifice of these unhappy subjects must be accursed in the sight of God and man.- The Government pleaded harsh necessity and so for a time they were left to face daily the hatred and persecution of their neighbors; they were looked upon as traitors because they would not take up arms against England. At the time of the evacuation of New York Sir Guy Carleton commanded the English forces in America and feeling bitterly the desertion of the Loyalists, he sent several thousand of them away in the King’s ships, but many beyond the reach of Carleton’s care were put to death, scourging, ducking, tarring and feathering was the fate that fell to the remainder. There were driven out in poverty, men whose only guilt was having fought in fair fight a lawful cause and lost.
At Charleston, when the King’s troops sailed away they could see the bodies of twenty-four Loyalists abandoned to their fate by the country they had fought for, swing from a row of gibbets on the wharf.
Shame upon the England of that day that permitted such crime and was a party to such a peace. Shame upon the Colonists for meting out such treatment on a beaten unprotected foe.
But history was in the making, events were leading up to the greatest migration of the best blood of the British race, who were to be the builders of a sturdy English settlement in Canada, which would mould the destiny of the greatest Colony of the British Empire. The most influential Judges, the most distinguished lawyers, the most prominent physicians, the most highly educated of the clergy, the Crown officials, people of culture and distinction; these with the faithful few whose fortunes followed theirs were the Loyalists.
From Maine to Georgia they came to the wilds of Canada to make new homes and build up new communities out of the forests of the Northland. Sir Guy Carlton was the great mover on their behalf, and England tried to redress the wrong which had been done these loyal subjects, by giving them grants of land in Canada and assisting them in colonization. From 1784 to 1788 they flocked into Canada, one stream of them settling in the Maritime Provinces, and another in what are now known as the Eastern Townships and on the north shore of Lake Ontario, around its western end, and in the Niagara Peninsula. Pioneer days were past for the habitant of Quebec, but in 1783-1787 they were just beginning for the settlers who were flocking into Ontario. Sixty thousand of them (the Loyalists) came and put the stamp of their character upon the far eastern and middle provinces, and so we learn by following this brief historical outline, who our ancestors were, why and when they came to Canada, and the conditions existing in the country to which they migrated, for these were the men and women who came first to Smithville and whom we honor as our ancestry.