Archive for the ‘Guerre de la Conquete’ tag
I’m going to break out of the usual format of this blog today for a couple of reasons. First of all, today is July 1st, and while I’ve been outside of Canada on Canada Day before, this is the first time I’ve actually been living elsewhere (and not just on vacation). But it also seemed to be a perfect day on which to respond to a question that Roy posed on Facebook in response to my post on the first marker titled Arnold’s British Defenses, 1781.
In that response, he said:
You know, I’ve never actually understood why the British colonies from Georgia to Maine declared independence, but those in Canada didn’t.
And I don’t know that I’d ever really thought about it before. And I admit that the first place I turned in trying to draft my response was Google. And the first page I found was on a website from the Faculty of Law at McGill University in Montreal titled “Why Canada Did Not Join the American Revolution.”
His first point brought up a law that would figure in the other responses I read about that day, the Quebec Act, 1774:
1) The British Parliament in London adopted the Quebec Act, 1774 which implies the right to the French language, and confirms the right to the Roman Catholic religion and to the French civil law, and the right of the Catholic Church and the seigneurs to impose taxes. The test oath was abolished. The purpose of the Act was to encourage the “canadiens” not to join the American rebellion.
And to me as a schoolkid in Canada (especially one in a French immersion history classroom), I can hardly think of how a civilized nation could govern Quebec without allowing for the French language and the Catholic religion. I don’t think it occurred to me even to link the time period too much in my head to the Revolution that would take place around the same time to our south.
But it didn’t take long for me to find a contrary point of view:
Resolved, N. C. D. That the following acts of Parliament are infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists; and that the repeal of them is essentially necessary in order to restore harmony between Great-Britain and the American colonies, viz:
Also the act passed in the [last] session [of parliament] for establishing the Roman Catholick Religion in the province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there, to the great danger, from so total a dissimilarity of Religion, law, and government of the neighbouring British colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure the said country was conquered from France.
Those words are from the Journals of the Continental Congress, an entry dated Friday, October 14, 1774.
In the interests of brevity, I’ll turn to Wikipedia for an explanation of some of these feelings:
The Quebec Act was a piece of legislation unrelated to the events in Boston, but the timing of its passage led colonists to believe that it was part of the program to punish them.…The Quebec Act offended a variety of interest groups in the British colonies. Land speculators and settlers objected to the transfer of western lands previously claimed by the colonies to a non-representative government. Many feared the establishment of Catholicism in Quebec, and that the French Canadians were being courted to help oppress British Americans.
So I’m going to say that, in the context of feeling like they had no say, American colonists felt that this set up relatively close to them a colony under the same government that protected a religion they didn’t trust, and probably worst of all, expanded the borders of that colony to include land they were eyeballing for westward expansion. Wikipedia explains that the Quebec Act expanded Quebec’s borders “to take over part of the Indian Reserve, including much of what is now southern Ontario, plus Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota.”
Also, given what I would guess of Protestant sentiment of the time towards the Roman Catholic church, I would guess that those colonists who had served in the British forces during the French and Indian War to gain control of New France (now Quebec) for the British felt betrayed by allowing the “French-ness” and “Catholic-ness” of this territory to prevail despite their defeat.
(A word of digression here: until yesterday morning, when I was writing this piece, I couldn’t have told you anything about the French and Indian War. Why? Because it wouldn’t have been taught to me under that name. Wikipedia explains that in Canada, it would be called part of the Seven Years War that was going on in Europe, and in Quebec is often known simply as the Guerre de la Conquête (War of the Conquest). Another reminder to me that history is always viewed through a lens and that even such a trivial detail as the name of a war does not escape those lenses.)
So, if I had to sum up in a few words my answer to why the Canadian colonies didn’t separate, it would come down to the Quebec Act, where Britain granted the people of Quebec the most important things they desired from their (relatively new) European colonizers while continuing to not give what the American colonists were seeking from them.
I know I’m still quite early in understanding American history and at looking at this question, so I expect that as I continue to study over the years, I’ll come to greater understandings of various aspects of this question, and it wouldn’t surprise me if my answer a year from now is somewhat different, but for today? That’s what I’m thinking.
To my fellow Canadians, enjoy your day today (and I hope to watch the noon show from Parliament Hill online later today). To my fellow Americans (if you’ll permit me to call myself one of you, as I await my green card), enjoy your long weekend coming up. I know that I owe a lot of who I am today to both countries.