John George Bourinot.

Canada under British rule, 1760-1905 online

. (page 8 of 30)
Online LibraryJohn George BourinotCanada under British rule, 1760-1905 → online text (page 8 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

provinces, afterwards divided into New Brunswick and Nova
Scotia, a British population of only some 14,000 souls, mostly
confined to the peninsula. In the valley of the St Lawrence
there was a French population of probably 100,000 persons,
dwelling chiefly on the banks of the St Lawrence between
Quebec and Montreal. The total British population of the
province of Quebec did not exceed 2000, residing for the most
part in the towns of Quebec and Montreal. No English
people were found west of Lake St Louis ; and what is now the
populous province of Ontario was a mere wilderness, except
where loyal refugees had gathered about the English fort at
Niagara, or a few French settlers had made homes for them-
selves on the banks of the Detroit River and Lake St Clair.
The migration of between 30,000 and 40,000 Loyalists to the
maritime provinces and the valley of the St Lawrence was the
saving of British interests in the great region which England
still happily retained in North America.

The refugees who arrived in Halifax in 1783 were so
numerous that hundreds had to be placed in the churches or
in cabooses taken from the transports and ranged along the
streets. At Guysborough, in Nova Scotia so named after Sir
Guy Carleton the first village, which was hastily built by the
settlers, was destroyed by a bush fire, and many persons only
saved their lives by rushing into the sea. At Shelburne, on the
first arrival of the exiles, there were seen " lines of women sitting
on the rocky shore and weeping at their altered condition."
Towns and villages, however, were soon built for the accom-
modation of the people. At Shelburne, or Port Roseway
anglicised from the French Razoir a town of fourteen
thousand people, with wide streets, fine houses, some of them
containing furniture and mantel-pieces brought from New York,

III.] The American Revolution. 83

arose in two or three years. The name of New Jerusalem had
been given to the same locality some years before, but it
seemed a mockery to the Loyalists when they found that the
place they had chosen for their new home was quite unsuited
for settlement. A beautiful harbour lay in front, and a rocky
country unfit for farmers in the rear of their ambitious town,
which at one time was the most populous in British North
America. In the course of a few years the place was
almost deserted, and sank for a time into insignificance. A
pretty town now nestles by the side of the beautiful and
spacious harbour which attracted the first too hopeful settlers ;
and its residents point out to the tourist the sites of the
buildings of last century, one or two of which still stand, and
can show many documents and relics of those early days.

Over twelve thousand Loyalists, largely drawn from the
disbanded loyal regiments of the old colonies, settled in New
Brunswick. The name of Parrtown was first given, in honour
of the governor of Nova Scotia, to the infant settlement which
became the city of St John, in 1785, when it was incorporated.
The first landing of the loyal pioneers took place on the i8th
of May, 1783, at what is now the Market Slip of this in-
teresting city. Previous to 1783, the total population of the
province did not exceed seven hundred souls, chiefly at
Maugerville and other places on the great river. The number
of Loyalists who settled on the St John River was at least ten
thousand, of whom the greater proportion were established at
the mouth of the river, which was the base of operations for
the peopling of the new province. Some adventurous spirits
took possession of the abandoned French settlements at
Grimross and St Anne's, where they repaired some ruined
huts of the original Acadian occupants, or built temporary
cabins. This was the beginning of the settlement of Frederic-
ton, which four years later became the political capital on
account of its central position, its greater security in time of
war, and its location on the land route to Quebec. Many


84 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

of the people spent their first winter in log-huts, bark camps,
and tents covered with spruce, or rendered habitable only by
the heavy banks of snow which were piled against them. A
number of persons died through exposure, and " strong, proud
men " to quote the words of one who lived in those sorrowful
days "wept like children and lay down in their snow-bound
tents to die."

A small number of loyal refugees had found their way to
the valley of the St Lawrence as early as 1778, and obtained
employment in the regiments organised under Sir John Johnson
and others. It was not until 1783 and 1784 that the large pro-
portion of the exiles came to Western Canada. They settled
chiefly on the northern banks of the St Lawrence, in what are
now the counties of Glengarry, Stormont, Dundas, Grenville,
Leeds, Frontenac, Addington, Lennox, Hastings and Prince
Edward, where their descendants have acquired wealth and
positions of honour and trust. The first township laid out in
Upper Canada, now Ontario, was Kingston. The beautiful
Bay of Quinte' is surrounded by a country full of the memories
of this people, and the same is true of the picturesque district
of Niagara.

Among the Loyalists of Canada must also be honourably
mentioned Joseph Brant (Thayendanega), the astute and cour-
ageous chief of the Mohawks, the bravest nation of the Iroquois
confederacy, who fought on the side of England during the
war. At its close he and his people settled in Canada, where
they received large grants from the government, some in a
township by the Bay of Quinte, which still bears the Indian
title of the great warrior, and the majority on the Grand River,
where a beautiful city and county perpetuate the memory of
this loyal subject of the British crown. The first Anglican
church built in Upper Canada was that of the Mohawks, near
Brantford, and here the church bell first broke the silence of
the illimitable forest.

The difficulties which the Upper Canadian immigrants had

III.] The American Revolution. 85

to undergo before reaching their destination were much greater
than was the case with the people who went direct in ships from
American ports to Halifax and other places on the Atlantic
coast. The former had to make toilsome journeys by land, or
by bateaux and canoes up the St Lawrence, the Richelieu,
the Genesee, and other streams which gave access from the
interior of the United States to the new Canadian land. The
British government did its best to supply the wants of the
population suddenly thrown upon its charitable care, but,
despite all that could be done for them in the way of food and
means of fighting the wilderness, they suffered naturally a great
deal of hardship. The most influential immigration found its
way to the maritime provinces, where many received congenial
employment and adequate salaries in the new government
of New Brunswick. Many others, with the wrecks of their
fortunes or the pecuniary ^id granted them by the British
government, were able to make comfortable homes and culti-
vate estates in the valleys of the St John and Annapolis, and in
other fertile parts of the lower provinces. Of the large popu-
lation that founded Shelburne a few returned to the United
States, but the greater number scattered all over the provinces.
The settlers in Upper Canada had to suffer many trials for
years after .their arrival, and especially in a year of famine,
when large numbers had to depend on wild fruits and roots.
Indeed, had it not been for the fish and game which were
found in some, but not in all, places, starvation and death
would have been the lot of many hundreds of helpless people.

Many of the refugees could trace their descent to the early
immigration that founded the colonies of Plymouth and
Massachusetts Bay. Some were connected with the Cavalier
and Church families of Virginia. Others were of the blood
of persecuted Huguenots and German Protestants from the
Rhenish or Lower Palatinate. Not a few were Highland
Scotchmen, who had been followers of the Stuarts, and yet
fought for King George and the British connection during the

86 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP. III.

American revolution. Among the number were notable- An-
glican clergymen, ejBinenitjudges and lawyers, and probably
one hundred graduates of Harvard, Yale, King's, Pennsylvania,
and William and Mary Colleges. In the records of industrial
enterprise, of social and intellectual progress, of political de-
velopment for a hundred years, we find the names of many
eminent men, sprung from these people, to whom Canada owes
a deep debt of gratitude for the services they rendered her in
the most critical period of her chequeredjiistory.



SECTION r. Beginnings of the provinces of New
Brunsivick, Loiver Canada and Upper Canada.

ON the 1 6th August, 1784, as a consequence of the coming
of over ten thousand Loyalists to the valley of the St John River,
a new province was formed out of that portion of the ancient
limits of Acadia, which extended northward from the isthmus
of Chignecto to the province of Quebec, and eastward from
the uncertain boundary of the St Croix to the Gulf of
St Lawrence. It received its present name in honour of the
Brunswick-Luneburg or Hanoverian line which had given a
royal dynasty to England, and its first governor was Colonel
Thomas Carleton, a brother of the distinguished governor-
general, whose name is so intimately associated with the
fortunes of Canada during a most critical period of its history.
The first executive council, which was also the legislative
council, comprised some of the most eminent men of the
Loyalist migration. For instance, George Duncan Ludlow,
who had been a judge of the supreme court of New York;
Jonathan Odell, the famous satirist and divine; William
Hazen, a merchant of high reputation, who had large interests
on the St John River from 1763, and had proved his fidelity to
the crown at a time when his countrymen at Maugerville were

88 Canada under British Ride. [CHAP.

disposed to join the revolutionary party ; QaJ^rjeJ. G. Dudlow,
previously a colonel in a royal regiment; Edward Winslow,
Daniel Bliss and Isaac Allen, all of whom had borne arms in
the royal service and had suffered the loss of valuable property,
confiscated by the successful rebels.

The constitution of 1784 provided for an assembly of
twenty-six members who were ejected in 1785, and met for the
first time on the 3rd of January, 1786, at the Mallard House,
a plain two-storey building on the north side of King Street.
The city of St John ceased to be the seat of government in
1787, when the present capital, Fredericton, first known as
St Anne's, was chosen. Of the twenty-six members elected to
this assembly, twenty-three were Loyalists, and the same class
necessarily continued for many years to predominate in the
legislature. The first speaker was Amos Botsford, the pioneer
of the Loyalist migration to New Brunswick, whose grandson
occupied the same position for a short time in the senate of
the Dominion of Canada.

Coming to the province of Lower Canada we find it
contained at this time a population of about a hundred
thousand souls, of whom six thousand lived in Quebec and
Montreal respectively. Only two thousand English-speaking
persons resided in the province, almost entirely in the towns.
Small as was the British minority, it continued that agitation
for an assembly which had been commenced long before the
passage of the Quebec act. A nominated council did not
satisfy the political ambition of this class, who obtained little
support from the French Canadian people. The objections of
the latter arose from the working of the act itself. Difficulties
had grown up in the administration of the law, chiefly in conse-
quence of its being entrusted exclusively to men acquainted only
with English jurisprudence, and not disposed to comply with
the letter and intention of the imperial statute. As a matter of
practice, French law was only followed as equity suggested ; and
the consequence was great legal confusion in the province. A

IV.] Development of Representative Institutions. 89

question had also arisen as to the legality of the issue of writs
of habeas corpus, and it was eventually necessary to pass an
ordinance to remove all doubts on this important point.

The Loyalist settlers on the St Lawrence and Niagara
Rivers sent a ejition_m_rx85 to the home government,
praying for the establishment of a new district west of the
River Beaudette "with the blessings of British laws and British
government, and of exemption from French tenure of property."
VVhiie^such matters were under the consideration of the im-
perial authorities, Sir Guy Carleton, once more governor-general
of Canada, and lately raised to the peerage as Lord Dorchester,
established, in 1788, five new districts for the express object of
providing for the temporary government of the territory where
the Loyalists had settled. These districts were known as
Luneburg, Mecklenburg, Nassau and Hesse, in the western
country, and Gaspe in the extreme east of the province of
Quebec, where a small number of the same class of people had
also found new homes. Townships, ranging from eighty to
forty thousand acres each, were also surveyed within these
districts and parcelled out with great liberality among the
Loyalists. Magistrates were appointed to administer justice
with the simplest possible machinery at a time when men
trained in the law were not available.

The grants of land made to the Loyalists and their children
were large, and in later years a considerable portion passed
into the hands of speculators who bought them up at nominal
sums. It was in connection with these grants that the name of ?
"United Empire Loyalists" originated. An order-in-council
was passed on the Qth of November, 1780, in accordance with
the wish of Lord Dorchester " to put a mark of honour upon
the families who had adhered to the unity of the empire and
joined the royal standard in America before the treaty of
separation in 1783." Accordingly the names of all persons
falling under this designation were to be recorded as far as
possible, in order that "their posterity may be discriminated

9O Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

from future settlers in the parish lists and rolls of militia of
their respective districts, and other public remembrances of
the province."

The British cabinet, of which Mr Pitt, the famous son of the
Earl of Chatham, was first minister, now decided to divide the
province of QueJiecdnto^two districts, with separate legislatures
and governments. LorcTGrenville, while in charge of the de-
partment of colonial affairs, wrote in 1789 to Lord Dorchester
that the "general object of the plan is to assimilate the
constitution of the province to that of Great Britain as nearly
43 the differences arising from the names of the people and
from the present situation of the province will admit." He
also emphatically expressed the opinion that "a considerable
degree of attention is due to the prejudices and habits of the
French inhabitants, and every degree of caution should be
used to continue to them the enjoyment of those civil and
religious rights which were secured to them by the capitulation
of the province, or have since been granted by the liberal and
enlightened spirit of the British government." When the bill
for the formation of the two provinces of Upper Canada and
Lower Canada came before the house of commons, Mr Adam
Lymburner, an influential merchant of Quebec, appeared at the
Bar and ably opposed the separation "as dangerous in every
point of view to British interests in America, and to the safety,
tranquillity and prosperity of the inhabitants of the province of
Quebec." He pressed the repeal of the Quebec act in its
entirety and the enactment of a perfectly new constitution
14 unclogged and unembarrassed with any laws prior to this
period." He professed to represent the views "of the most
intelligent and respectable of the French Canadians"; but their
antagonism was not directed against the Quebec act in itself,
but against the administration of the law, influenced as this
was by the opposition of the British people to the French civil
code. Nor does it appear, as Mr Lymburner asserted, that the
western Loyalists were hostile to the formation of two distinct

rv.] Development of Representative Institutions 9 1

provinces. He represented simply the views of the English-
speaking inhabitants of Lower Canada, who believed that the
proposed division would place them in a very small minority
in the legislature and, as the issue finally proved, at the mercy
of the great majority of the French Canadian representatives,
while on the other hand the formation of one large province
extending from Gaspe to the head of the great lakes would en-
sure an English representation sufficiently formidable to lessen
the danger of French Canadian domination. However, the
British government seems to have been actuated by a sincere
desire to do justice to the French Canadians and the Loyalists
of the upper province at one and the same time. When intro-
ducing the bill in the house of commons on the 7th March,
1791, Mr Pitt expressed the hope that "the division would
remove the differences of opinion which had arisen between the
old and new inhabitants, since each province would have the
right of enacting laws desired in its own house of assembly."
He believed a division to be essential, as " otherwise he could
not reconcile the clashing interests known to exist." Mr Burke
was of opinion that "to attempt to amalgamate two populations
composed of races of men diverse in language, laws and
customs, was a complete absurdity"; and he consequently
approved of the division. Mr Fox, from whom Burke became
alienated during this debate, looked at the question in an
entirely different light and was strongly of opinion that "it
was most desirable to see the French and English inhabitants
coalesce into one body, and the different distinctions of people
extinguished for ever."

The Constitutional act of 1791 established in each province
a legislative council and assembly, with powers to make laws.
The legislative council was to be appointed by the king for life .
in Upper Canada it was to consist of not less than seven, and in
Lower Canada of not less than fifteen members. The sovereign
might, if he thought proper, annex hereditary titles of honour
to the right of being summoned to the legislative council in

92 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

either province a provision which was never brought into
operation. The whole number of members in the assembly of
Upper Canada was not to be less than sixteen; in Lower
Canada not less than fifty to be chosen by a majority of
votes in either case. The British parliament reserved to itself
the right of levying and collecting customs-duties, for the regu-
lation of navigation and commerce to be carried on between the
two provinces, or between either of them and any other part of
the British dominions or any foreign country. Parliament also
reserved the power of directing the payment of these duties, but
at the same time left the exclusive apportionment of all moneys
levied in this way to the legislature, which could apply them
to such public uses as it might deem expedient. The free
exercise of the Roman Catholic religion was guaranteed per-
manently. The king was to have the right to set apart, for
the use of the Protestant clergy in the colony, a seventh part of
all uncleared crown lands. The governor might also be em-
powered to erect parsonages and endow them, and to present
incumbents or ministers of the Church of England. The
English criminal law was to obtain in both provinces.

In the absence of Lord Dorchester in England, the duty
devolved on Major-General Alured Clarke, as lieutenant-
governor, to bring the Lower Canadian constitution into force
by a proclamation on the i8th February, 1791. On the 7th
May, in the following year, the new province of Lower Canada
was divided into fifty electoral districts, composed of twenty-
one counties, the towns of Montreal and Quebec, and the
boroughs of Three Rivers and William Henry (now Sorel).
The elections to the assembly took place in June, and a
legislative council of fifteen influential Canadians was ap-
pointed. The new legislature was convoked " for the despatch
of business" on the i7th December, in the same year, in an
old stone building known as the Bishop's Palace, which stood
on a rocky eminence in the upper town of the old capital.

Chief Justice Smith took the chair of the legislative council

IV.] Development of Representative Institutions. 93

under appointment by the crown, and the assembly elected as
its speaker Mr Joseph Antoine Panet, an eminent advocate,
who was able to speak the two languages. In the house there
were only sixteen members of British origin and in later
parliaments there was even a still smaller representation
while the council was nearly divided between the two nation-
alities. When the house proceeded to business, one of its
first acts was to order that all motions, bills and other
proceedings should be put in the two languages. We find in
the list of French Canadian members of the two houses
representatives of the most ancient and distinguished families
of the province. A descendant of Pierre Boucher, governor of
Three Rivers in 1653, and the author of a rare history of
Canada, sat in the council of 1792 just as a Boucherville sits
now-a-days in the senate of the Dominion. A Lotbiniere had
been king's councillor in 1680. A Chaussegros de Lery had
been an engineer in the royal colonial corps ; a Lanaudiere
Jiad been an officer in the Carignan regiment in 1652; a
Salaberry was a captain in the royal navy, and his family won
further honours on the field of Chateauguay in the war of
1812-15, when the soil of Lower Canada was invaded. A
Taschereau had been a royal councillor in 1732. The names
of Belestre, Valtrie, Bonne, Rojjyille, St Ours, and Duchesnay,
are often met in the annals of the French re'gime, and show the
high character of the representation in the first parliament of
Lower Canada.

The village of Newark was chosen as the capital of Upper
Canada by Colonel (afterwards Major-General) Simcoe, the first
lieutenant-governor of the province. He had served with
much distinction during the revolution as the commander of
the Queen's Rangers, some of whom had settled in the Niagara
district. He was remarkable for his decision of character and
for his ardent desire to establish the principles of British
government in the new province. He was a sincere friend of
the Loyalists, whose attachment to the crown he had had many

94 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

opportunities of appreciating during his career in the rebellious
colonies, and, consequently, was an uncompromising opponent
of the new republic and of the people who were labouring to
make it a success on the other side of the border. The new
parliament met in a wooden building nearly completed on the
sloping bank of the river, at a spot subsequently covered by a
rampart of Fort George, which was constructed by Governor
Simcoe on the surrender of Fort Niagara. A large boulder has
been placed on the top of the rampart to mark the site of the
humble parliament house of Upper Canada, which had to be
eventually demolished to make place for new fortifications.
The sittings of the first legislature were not unfrequently held
under a large tent set up in front of the house, and having an
interesting history of its own, since it had been carried around
the world by the famous navigator, Captain Cook.

As soon as Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe assumed the direc-
tion of the government, he issued a proclamation dividing the
province of Upper Canada into nineteen counties, some of which
&vere again divided intp ridings for the purjppse of electing the
sixteen representatives to which the province was entitled under
the act of 1791. One of the first acts of the legislature was to
change the names of the divisions, proclaimed in 1788, to
Eastern, Midland, Home, and Wejte^n_^Districts, which re-
ceived additions in the course of years until they were entirely
superseded by the county organisations. These districts were
originally intended for judicial and legal purposes.

The legislature met under these humble circumstances at
Newark on the i7th September, 1792. Chief Justice Osgoode
was the speaker of the council, and Colonel John Macdonell,

Online LibraryJohn George BourinotCanada under British rule, 1760-1905 → online text (page 8 of 30)