The Province Of Quebec
The French people.—At the time of the conquest the Canadian people numbered about 65,000 living in the St. Lawrence Valley, with several thousand scattered among the western posts. The settlers were in the main a frugal, industrious, unlettered, religious people. They were of two distinct classes, the gentry and the peasant tenants. After the war there was a considerable emigration to France of the official, noble, and commercial classes, leaving chiefly cultivators of the soil and fur traders. By 1775 the population had grown to perhaps 90,000, chiefly through natural increase of the French. By 1784 the population was 113,000.
The British settlers.—The conquest left in the province and attracted to it later a small body of British settlers but by 1775 they did not number more than five or six hundred. Most of them lived in the towns of Quebec and Montreal, and engaged in business, especially in the fur trade, many as agents for English houses, others being independent merchants. When Hillsborough restored seignorial tenure, many of them acquired seigniories, though they continued to live by trade.
Military rule.—British rule in Canada began with the capitulation of Montreal in September, 1760. General Amherst was made governor-general, with lieutenant-governors at Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers. From that time to the enforcement of the Proclamation of 1763 Canada was under military rule. But French law and customs were followed in the main, and there was little discontent.
Civil government established.—Civil government was established in August, 1764. The governor was assisted by an executive council composed of the lieutenant-governor, chief justice, and eight citizens. The government provided by the Proclamation of 1763 was unsuited to a population almost wholly French, professing the Catholic religion, and living under laws and customs of their own. The Proclamation provided for an assembly, but none was held in Quebec because the French people would not take the test oath, and the British settlers were too few in numbers to warrant an assembly representing them alone. Uncertainty existed regarding tithes and the future status of the Catholic Church. The Proclamation contemplated the establishment of British law, but practice was uncertain. The French inhabitants were not politically ambitious, but the British were aggressive in their demands for an assembly and the uniform establishment of English law.
The Quebec Act.—Under these circumstances a change of system was deemed necessary. It was provided by the Quebec Act of 1774, the first parliamentary legislation for Canada. The act maintained the privileges of the Catholic clergy, tithes from Catholic subjects being continued. French civil procedure was established, with some exceptions, but English criminal procedure was enforced. Provision was made for an appointive executive council with powers to make ordinances for the province, but no provision was made for a provincial assembly.
Boundaries extended.—The population of the Illinois country was similar to that of Quebec. The French habitants there had been demanding civil government, and it had been complained by the Montreal traders that the prosperity of Canada had been impaired by cutting off the western posts. Therefore the boundaries of Quebec were extended to include the region between the Ohio River and the Upper Mississippi. By the Proclamation of 1763 Labrador east of River St. John's, Anticosti, and the Magdalens, had been attached to Newfoundland. Labrador now began to develop commerce with the interior and the North and with Newfoundland. Opposition to the fishing admirals of Newfoundland caused these three districts to be annexed to Quebec in 1774.
Not intended as a blow at liberty.—The Quebec Act was regarded in the other colonies as a blow at popular liberties and as an encroachment upon colonies whose chartered boundaries extended into the Northwest. It was in fact an administrative act intended primarily as a means of providing for the interests of the great body of the inhabitants, the French. The attachment of the Ohio country to Quebec, however, checked the natural spread of settlement from the seaboard colonies, and the act, on the other hand, prevented the assimilation of the French people by the English in Canada.
The Loyalists in Canada.—During the American Revolution a considerable number of Loyalists crossed into Canada and settled at the border posts. Many others joined the British army against the Americans. At the close of the war some of the border counties of New York were almost depopulated. In 1783 there were in the Montreal district seventeen hundred Loyalists at seventeen posts, not counting enlisted men. Of those who migrated after the revolution the greater number at first settled in Nova Scotia. By the end of 1784 the number there exceeded 28,000 and caused the forming of the new province of New Brunswick. Over three thousand went to Cape Breton Island, and three times that number to the interior of Canada. Thirteen hundred settled at Kingston and formed the nucleus of Upper Canada, which was separated from Lower Canada in 1791. More important than this, the Revolution determined the course of Canadian history. In order not to be absorbed by the United States, Canada was forced into unswerving loyalty to the British Empire.
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