John George Bourinot.

Canada under British rule, 1760-1905 online

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Some farmers had orchards from which cider was made, and
patches of the coarse strong tobacco which they continue to
use to this day, and which is now an important product of their
province. Until the war the condition of the French Canadian
habitant was one of rude comfort. He could never become
rich, in a country where there was no enterprise or trade which
encouraged him to strenuous efforts to make and save money.
Gold and silver were to him curiosities, and paper promises to
pay, paper or card money, were widely circulated from early
times, and were never for the most part redeemed, though the

I.] The French Regime. 1534 1760. 33

British authorities after the peace of 1763 made every possible
effort to induce the French government to discharge its obliga-
tions to the French Canadian people. The life of the habitants
in peaceful times was far easier and happier than that of the
peasants of old France. They had few direct taxes to bear,
except the tithes required for the support of the church and
such small contributions as were necessary for local purposes.
They were, however, liable to be called out at any moment
for military duties and were subject to corvees or forced labour
for which they were never paid by the authorities.

The outbreak of the Seven Years' War was a serious blow
to a people who had at last surmounted the greatest difficulties
6f pioneer life, and attained a moderate degree of comfort.
The demands upon the people capable of bearing arms were
necessarily fatal to steady farming occupations ; indeed, in the
towns of Quebec and Montreal there was more than once an
insufficiency of food for the garrisons, and horse-flesh had to
be served out, to the great disgust of the soldiers who at first
refused to take it. Had it not been for the opportune arrival
of a ship laden with provisions in the spring of 1759, the
government would have been unable to feed the army or the
inhabitants of Quebec. The gravity of the situation was
aggravated for years by the jobbery and corruption of the men
who had the fate of the country largely in their hands. A few
French merchants, and monopolists in league with corrupt
officials, controlled the markets and robbed a long-suffering
and too patient people. The names of Bigot, Pean, and other
officials of the last years of French administration, are justly
execrated by French Canadians as robbers of the state and
people in the days when the country was on the verge of war,
and Montcalm, a brave, incorruptible man, was fighting against
tremendous odds to save this unfortunate country to which
he gave up his own life in vain.

So long as France governed Canada, education was entirely
in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. The Jesuits,
B. c, 7

34 Canada tinder British Rule. [CHAP.

Franciscans, and other religious orders, male and female, at an
early date, commenced the establishment of those colleges and
seminaries which have always had so important a share in the
education of Lower Canada. The Jesuits founded a college at
Quebec in 1635, or three years before the establishment of
Harvard, and the Ursulines opened their convent in the same
city four years later. Sister Bourgeoys of Troyes founded at
Montreal in 1659 the Congregation de Notre-Dame for the
education of girls of humble rank, the commencement of an
institution which has now its buildings in many parts of
Canada. In the latter part of the seventeenth century Bishop
Laval carried out a project for providing education for
Canadian priests drawn from the people of the country. Con-
sequently, in addition to the great seminary^t Quebec, there
was the lesser seminary where boys were taught in the hope
that they would take orders. In the inception of education
the French endeavoured in more than one of their institutions
to combine industrial pursuits with the ordinary branches of an
elementary education. But all accounts of the days of the
French regime go to show that, despite the zealous efforts of
the religious bodies to improve the education of the colonists,
secular instruction was at a very low ebb and hardly reached
the seigniories. One writer tells us that " even the children of
officers and gentlemen scarcely knew how to read and write ;
they were ignorant of the first elements of geography and
history." Still, dull and devoid of intellectual life as was the life
of the Canadian, he had his place of worship where he received
^a moral training which elevated him immeasurably above the
peasantry of England as well as of his old home. The clergy
of Lower Canada confessedly did their best to relieve the
ignorance of the people, but they were naturally unable to
accomplish, by themselves, a task which properly devolved on
the governing class. Under the French re'gime in Canada
the civil authorities were as little anxious to enlighten the
people by the establishment of public or common schools

I.] The French Regime. 15341760. 35

as they were to give them a voice in the government of the

Evidence of some culture and intellectual aspirations in
social circles of the ancient capital attracted the surprise of
travellers who visited the country before the close of the French
dominion. "Science and the fine arts," wrote Charlevoix, in
1744, "have their turn and conversation does not fail. The
Canadians breathe from their birth an air of liberty, which
makes them very pleasant in the intercourse of life, and our
language is nowhere more purely spoken." La Gallissoniere,
a highly cultured governor, spared no effort to encourage
a sympathetic study of scientific pursuits. Dr Michel Sarrasin,
who was a practising physician in Quebec for nearly half a
century, devoted himself most assiduously to the natural
history of the colony, and made some valuable contributions to
the French Academy. The Swedish botanist, Peter Kalm, was
impressed with the liking for scientific study which he observed
in the French colony. But such intellectual culture, as Kalm
and Charlevoix mentioned, never showed itself beyond the
walls of Quebec or Montreal. The province, as a whole, was
in a state of mental sluggishness at the time of the conquest
by England, under whose benign influence the French Canadian
people were now to enter on a new career of political and
intellectual development.

Pitt and Wolfe must take a high place among the makers
of the Dominion of Canada. It was they who gave relief to
French Canada from the absolutism of old France, and started
her in a career of self-government and political liberty. When
the great procession passed before the Queen of England on
the day of the " Diamond Jubilee " when delegates from all
parts of a mighty, world-embracing empire gave her their loyal
and heartfelt homage Canada was represented by a Prime
Minister who belonged to that race which has steadily gained
in intellectual strength, political freedom, and material pros-
perity, since the memorable events of 1759 and 1760. In that


36 Canada under British Ride. [CHAP. I.

imperial procession nearly half the American Continent was
represented Acadia and Canada first settled by France, the
north-west prairies first traversed by French Canadian adven-
turers, the Pacific coast first seen by Cook and Vancouver.
There, too, marched men from Bengal, Madras, Bombay,
Jeypore, Haidarabad, Kashmir, Punjaub, from all sections of
that great empire of India which was won for England by Clive
and the men who, like Wolfe, became famous for their achieve-
ments in the days of Pitt. Perhaps there were in that imperial
pageant some Canadians whose thoughts wandered from the
Present to the Past, and recalled the memory of that illustrious
statesman and of all he did for Canada and England, when
they stood in Westminster Abbey, and looked on his expressive
effigy, which, in the eloquent language of a great English his-
torian, "seems still, with eagle face and outstretched arm, to
bid England be of good cheer and to hurl defiance at her


SECTION I. From the Conquest until the Quebec Act.

FOR nearly four years after the surrender of Vaudreuil at
Montreal, Canada was under a government of military men,
whose headquarters were at Quebec, Three Rivers, and Mon-
treal the capitals of the old French districts of the same name.
General Murray and the other commanders laboured to be
just and considerate in all their relations with the new subjects
of the Crown, who were permitted to prosecute their ordinary
pursuits without the least interference on the part of the con-
querors. The conditions of the capitulations of Quebec and
Montreal, which allowed the free exercise of the Roman
Catholic religion, were honourably kept. All that was required
then, and for many years later, was that the priests and cures
should confine themselves exclusively to their parochial duties,
and not take part in public matters. It had been also stipu-
lated at Montreal that the communities of nuns should not be
disturbed in their convents ; and while the same privileges
were not granted by the articles of capitulation to the Jesuits,
Recollets, and Sulpitians, they had every facility given to them
to dispose of their property and remove to France. As a
matter of fact there was practically no interference with any of
the religious fraternities during the early years of British rule ;

38 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

and when in the course of time the Jesuits disappeared
entirely from the country their estates passed by law into the
possession of the government for the use of the people, while
the Sulpitians were eventually allowed to continue their work
and develope property which became of great value on the
island of Montreal. The French merchants and traders were
allowed all the commercial and trading privileges that were
enjoyed by the old subjects of the British Sovereign, not only
in the valley of the St Lawrence, but in the rich fur regions of
the West and North-West. The articles of capitulation did
not give any guarantees or pledges for the continuance of the
civil law under which French Canada had been governed for
over a century, but while that was one of the questions depen-
dent on the ultimate fate of Canada, the British military rulers
took every possible care during the continuance of the military
re'gime to respect so far as possible the old customs and laws
by which the people had been previously governed. French
writers of those days admit the generosity and justice of the
administration of affairs during this military regime.

The treaty of Paris, signed on the loth February, 1763,
formally ceded to England Canada as well as Acadia, with
all their dependencies. The French Canadians were allowed
full liberty " to profess the worship of their religion according
to the rites of the Romish Church, as far as the laws of Great
Britain permit." The people had permission to retire from
Canada with all their effects within eighteen months from the
date of the ratification of the treaty. All the evidence before
us goes to show that only a few officials and seigniors ever
availed themselves of this permission to leave the country. At
this time there was not a single French settlement beyond
Vaudreuil until the traveller reached the banks of the Detroit
between Lakes Erie and Huron. A chain of forts and posts
connected Montreal with the basin of the great lakes and the
country watered by the Ohio, Illinois, and other tributaries of
the Mississippi. The forts on the Niagara, at Detroit, at

II.] Beginnings of British Rule. 17601774. 39

Michillimackinac, at Great Bay, on the Maumee and Wabash, at
Presqu' isle, at the junction of French Creek with the Alleghany,
at the forks of the Ohio, and at less important localities in
the West and South-West, were held by small English garrisons,
while the French still occupied Vincennes on the Wabash and
Chartres on the Mississippi, in the vicinity of the French
settlements at Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and the present site of
St Louis.

Soon after the fall of Montreal, French traders from New
Orleans and the French settlements on the Mississippi com-
menced to foment disaffection among the western Indians,
who had strong sympathy with France, and were quite ready
to believe the story that she would ere long regain Canada.
The consequence was the rising of all the western tribes under
the leadership of Pontiac, the principal chief of the Ottawas,
whose warriors surrounded and besieged Detroit when he
failed to capture it by a trick. Niagara was never attacked,
and Detroit itself was successfully defended by Major Gladwin,
a fearless soldier ; but all the other forts and posts very soon
fell into the hands of the Indians, who massacred the garrisons
in several places. They also ravaged the border settlements
of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and carried off a number of
women and children to their wigwams. Fort Pitt at the con-
fluence of the Alleghany and the Monongahela rivers the site
of the present city of Pittsburg was in serious peril for a time,
until Colonel Bouquet, a brave and skilful officer, won a signal
victory over the Indians, who fled in dismay to their forest
fastnesses. Pontiac failed to capture Detroit, and Bouquet
followed up his first success by a direct march into the country
of the Shawnees, Mingoes and Delawares, and forced them to
agree to stern conditions of peace on the banks of the Muskin-
gum. The power of the western Indians was broken for the
time, and the British in 1765 took possession of the French
forts of Chartres and Vincennes, when faeflenr-de-lys disappeared
for ever from the valley of the Mississippi. The French settlers

4O Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

on the Illinois and the Mississippi preferred to remain under
British rule rather than cross the great river and become sub-
jects of Spain, to whom Western Louisiana had been ceded by
France. From this time forward France ceased to be an
influential factor in the affairs of Canada or New France, and
the Indian tribes recognized the fact that they could no longer
expect any favour or aid from their old ally. They therefore
transferred, their friendship to England, whose power they had
felt in the Ohio valley, and whose policy was now framed with
a special regard to their just treatment.

This Indian war was still in progress when King George III
issued his proclamation for the temporary government of his
new dependencies in North America. As a matter of fact,
though the proclamation was issued in England on the 7th
October, 1763, it did not reach Canada and come into effect
until the loth August, 1764. The four governments of
Quebec, Grenada, East Florida, and West Florida were
established in tfie territories ceded by France and Spain. The
eastern limit of the province of Quebec did not extend beyond
St John's River at the mouth of the St Lawrence, nearly oppo-
site to Anticosti, while that island itself and the Labrador
country, east of the St John's as far as the Straits of Hudson,
were placed under the jurisdiction of Newfoundland. The
islands of Cape Breton and St John, now Prince Edward,
became subject to the Government of Nova Scotia, which
then included the present province of New Brunswick. The
northern limit of the province did not extend beyond the
territory known as Rupert's Land under the charter given to
the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670, while the western boundary
was drawn obliquely from Lake Nipissing as far as Lake
St Francis on the St Lawrence ; the southern boundary then
followed line 45 across the upper part of Lake Cham plain,
whence it passed along the highlands which divide the rivers
that empty themselves into the St Lawrence from those that
flow into the sea an absurdly denned boundary since it gave

II.] Beginnings of British Rule. 1760 1774. 41

to Canada as far as Cape Rosier on the Gaspe peninsula a
territory only a few miles wide. No provision whatever
was made in the proclamation for the government of the
country west of the Appalachian range, which was claimed by
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other colonies under the indefinite
terms of their original charters, which practically gave them
no western limits. Consequently the proclamation was regarded
with much disfavour by the English colonists on the Atlantic
coast. No provision was even made for the great territory
which extended beyond Nipissing as far as the Mississippi
and included the basin of the great lakes. It is easy to form
the conclusion that the intention of the British government
was to restrain the ambition of the old English colonies east
of the Appalachian range, and to divide the immense territory
to their north-west at some future and convenient time into
several distinct and independent governments. No doubt the
British government also found it expedient for the time being
to keep the control of the fur-trade so far as possible in its own
hands, and in order to achieve this object it was necessary in
the first place to conciliate the Indian tribes, and not allow
them to come in any way under the jurisdiction of the chartered
colonies. The proclamation itself, in fact, laid down entirely
new, and certainly equitable, methods of dealing with the
Indians within the limits of British sovereignty. The governors
of the old colonies were expressly forbidden to grant authority
to survey lands beyond the settled territorial limits of their
respective governments. No person was allowed to purchase
land directly from the Indians. The government itself thence-
forth could alone give a legal title to Indian lands, which must,
in the first place, be secured by treaty with the tribes that
claimed to own them. This was the beginning of that honest
policy which has distinguished the relations of England and
Canada with the Indian nations for over a hundred years, and
which has obtained for the present Dominion the confidence
and friendship of the many thousand Indians, who roamed for

42 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

many centuries in Rupert's Land and in the Indian Territories
where the Hudson's Bay Company long enjoyed exclusive
privileges of trade.

The language of the proclamation with respect to the
government of the province of Quebec was extremely unsatis-
factory. It was ordered that so soon as the state and circum-
stances of the colony admitted, the governor-general could with
the advice and consent of the members of the council summon
a general assembly, " in such manner and form as is used and
directed in those colonies and provinces in America which are
under our immediate government." Laws could be made by
the governor, council, and representatives of the people for the
good government of the colony, " as near as may be agreeable
to the laws of England, and under such regulations and restric-
tions as are used in other colonies." Until such an assembly
could be called, the governor could with the advice of his
council constitute courts for the trial and determination of all
civil and criminal cases, " according to law and equity, and as
near as may be agreeable to the laws of England," with liberty
to appeal, in all civil cases, to the privy council of England.
General Murray, who had been in the province since the battle
on the Plains of Abraham, was appointed to administer the
government. Any persons elected to serve in an assembly were
required, by his commission and instructions, before they could
sit and vote, to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and
subscribe a declaration against transubstantiation, the adoration
of the Virgin, and the Sacrifice of the Mass.

This proclamation in reality a mere temporary expedient
to give time for considering the whole state of the colony was
calculated to do infinite harm, since its principal importance
lay in the fact that it attempted to establish English civil as
well as criminal law, and at the same time required oaths which
effectively prevented the French Canadians from serving in the
very assembly which it professed a desire on the part of the
king to establish. The English-speaking or Protestant people

II.] Beginnings of British Rule. 1760 17/4. 43

in the colony did not number in 1764 more than three hundred
persons, of little or no standing, and it was impossible to place
all power in their hands and to ignore nearly seventy thousand
French Canadian Roman Catholics. Happily the governor,
.General Murray, was not only an able soldier, as his defence
of Quebec against Levis had proved, but also a man of
statesmanlike ideas, animated by a high sense of duty and
a sincere desire to do justice to the foreign people committed
to his care. He refused to lend himself to the designs of the
insignificant British minority, chiefly from the New England
colonies, or to be guided by their advice in carrying on his
government. His difficulties were lessened by the fact that the
French had no conception of representative institutions in the
English sense, and were quite content with any system of
government that left them their language, religion, and civil
law, without interference. The stipulations of the capitulations
of 1759-1760, and of the treaty of Paris, with respect to the
free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion, were always
observed in a spirit of great fairness; and in 1766 Monseigneur
Briand was chosen, with the governor's approval, Roman
Catholic bishop of Quebec. He was consecrated at Paris after
his election by the chapter of Quebec, and it does not appear
that his recognition ever became the subject of parliamentary
discussion. This policy did much to reconcile the French
Canadians to their new rulers, and to make them believe that
eventually they would receive full consideration in other essen-
tial respects.

For ten years the government of Canada was in a very
unsatisfactory condition, while the British ministry was all the
while worried with the condition of things in the old colonies,
then in a revolutionary ferment. The Protestant minority con-
tinued to clamour for an assembly, and a mixed system of
French and English law, in case it was not possible to establish
the latter in its entirety. Attorney-General Maseres, an able
lawyer and constitutional writer, was in favour of a mixed

44 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

system, but his views were notably influenced by his strong
prejudices against Roman Catholics. The administration of
the law was extremely confused until 1774, not only on account
of the ignorance and incapacity of the men first sent out from
England to preside over the courts, but also as a consequence
of the steady determination of the majority of French
Canadians to ignore laws to which they had naturally an
insuperable objection. In fact, the condition of things became
practically chaotic. It might have been much worse had not
General Murray, at first, and Sir Guy Carleton, at a later time,
endeavoured, so far as lay in their power, to mitigate the hard-
ships to which the people were subject by being forced to
observe laws of which they were entirely ignorant.

At this time the governor-general was advised by an execu-
tive council, composed of officials and some other persons
chosen from the small Protestant minority of the province.
Only one French Canadian appears to have been ever ad-
mitted to this executive body. The English residents ignored
the French as far as possible, and made the most unwarrantable
claims to rule the whole province.

A close study of official documents from 1764 until 1774
goes to show that all this while the British government was
influenced by an anxious desire to show every justice to French
Canada, and to adopt a system of government most conducive
to its best interests. In 1767 Lord Shelburne wrote to Sir Guy
Carleton that " the improvement of the civil constitution of the
province was under their most serious consideration." They
were desirous of obtaining all information "which can tend to
elucidate how far it is practicable and expedient to blend the
English with the French laws, in order to form such a system
as shall be at once equitable and convenient for His Majesty's
old and new subjects." From time to time the points at issue
were referred to the law officers of the crown for their opinion,
so anxious was the government to come to a just conclusion.
Attorney-General Yorke and Solicitor-General De Grey in

II.] Beginnings of British Rule. 17601774. 45

1766 severely condemned any system that would permanently
"impose new, unnecessary and arbitrary rules (especially as
to the titles of land, and the mode of descent, alienation

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