The Quebec Act

mercredi 22 février 2017

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The Quebec Act
Loyalists
The War of 1812
The Fur Empire
Timber and Wheat
Population Increase
Rebellions
Self-government
Little Englandism
Confederation

 

 

 

After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, New France was integrated into the British Empire, under the form of two colonies (Nova Scotia and Quebec), a fishing settlement in Newfoundland, a big fur territory in the North and Northwest governed by the Hudson Bay’s Company, and an Indian territory in the West (the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys) closed to settlement by the Proclamation of 1763. The fate of the Canadian territories was deeply influenced by political events and pressures in the American colonies.

During and immediately after the Conquest, Quebec was governed by military rule. At first, Quebec was not accepted as a distinct society. The plan was to administer it according to the existing rules of the British Empire, i.e. with an elected assembly, because the British government anticipated a rush of American colonists to the newly acquired territories that would result in the assimilation of French Canadians. But this did not happen. A number of reasons (the Northern climate + the prevalence of a foreign culture + no financial help due the cost of war and industrial revolution at home) made Quebec unattractive to Americans. Only a small but noisy population of American merchants arrived in Montreal to take over much of the commercial activity. This forced the British government to gradually accept Quebec as a French province.

 

Moreover, the growing restlessness of the American colonies made it crucial for the Crown not to antagonize the French population of Quebec. This explains that the Quebec Act, adopted in 1774, confirmed the seigniorial system, recognized the rights of the Catholic Church (Catholics could take an oath of allegiance to become office holders, something impossible in Britain), abandoned the project of an elected assembly, and extended the Quebec border into the Ohio Valley.

 

The American colonists were outraged by the Quebec Act. They feared that this new system of colonial government without an elected assembly would be imposed on them; they were furious at the loss of the Ohio Valley; and the concessions made to the Catholic Church clashed with the deep anti Catholic sentiment that existed in the American colonies. The American colonists denounced the Quebec Act as an “intolerable act”. They persuaded themselves that the French Canadians would see it, as they did, as the expression of British tyranny, and would join them in the fight against Britain.

 

Meanwhile Nova Scotia was neglected. It had cost a lot of money before (from the 1750s, efforts to attract British immigrants and removal of the Acadians). Because the British population was dominant in 1763, Nova Scotia received an elected assembly like those of the American colonies.