MoboReader > Literature > Canada under British Rule 1760-1900


Canada under British Rule 1760-1900 By John George Bourinot Characters: 59267

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

SECTION I.-The successful Revolution of the Thirteen Colonies in America.

When Canada was formally ceded to Great Britain the Thirteen Colonies were relieved from the menace of the presence of France in the valleys of the St. Lawrence, the Ohio, and the Mississippi. Nowhere were there more rejoicings on account of this auspicious event than in the homes of the democratic Puritans. The names of Pitt and Wolfe were honoured above all others of their countrymen, and no one in England, certainly not among its statesmen, imagined that in the colonies, which stretched from the river Penobscot to the peninsula of Florida, there was latent a spirit of independence which might at any moment threaten the rule of Great Britain on the American continent. The great expenses of the Seven Years' War were now pressing heavily on the British taxpayer. British statesmen were forced to consider how best they could make the colonies themselves contribute towards their own protection in the future, and relieve Great Britain in some measure from the serious burden which their defence had heretofore imposed on her. In those days colonies were considered as so many possessions to be used for the commercial advantage of the parent state. Their commerce and industries had been fettered for many years by acts of parliament which were intended to give Great Britain a monopoly of their trade and at the same time prevent them from manufacturing any article that they could buy from the British factories. As a matter of fact, however, these restrictive measures of imperial protection had been for a long time practically dead-letters. The merchants and seamen of New England carried on smuggling with the French and Spanish Indies with impunity, and practically traded where they pleased.

The stamp act was only evidence of a vigorous colonial policy, which was to make the people of the colonies contribute directly to their own defence and security, and at the same time enforce the navigation laws and acts of trade and put an end to the general system of smuggling by which men, some of the best known merchants of Boston, had acquired a fortune. George Grenville, who was responsible for the rigid enforcement of the navigation laws and the stamp act, had none of that worldly wisdom which Sir Robert Walpole showed when, years before, it was proposed to him to tax the colonies. "No," said that astute politician, "I have old England set against me already, and do you think I will have New England likewise?" But Grenville and his successors, in attempting to carry out a new colonial policy, entirely misunderstood the conditions and feelings of the colonial communities affected and raised a storm of indignation which eventually led to independence. The stamp act was in itself an equitable measure, the proceeds of which were to be exclusively used for the benefit of the colonies themselves; but its enactment was most unfortunate at a time when the influential classes in New England were deeply irritated at the enforcement of a policy which was to stop the illicit trade from which they had so largely profited in the past. The popular indignation, however, vented itself against the stamp act, which imposed internal taxation, was declared to be in direct violation of the principles of political liberty and self-government long enjoyed by the colonists as British subjects, and was repealed as a result of the violent opposition it met in the colonies. Parliament contented itself with a statutory declaration of its supremacy in all matters over every part of the empire; but not long afterwards the determination of some English statesmen to bring the colonies as far as practicable directly under the dominion of British law in all matters of commerce and taxation, and to control their government as far as possible, found full expression in the Townshend acts of 1767 which imposed port duties on a few commodities, including tea, imported into those countries. At the same time provision was made for the due execution of existing laws relating to trade. The province of New York was punished for openly refusing to obey an act of parliament which required the authorities to furnish the British troops with the necessaries of life. Writs of assistance, which allowed officials to search everywhere for smuggled goods, were duly legalised. These writs were the logical sequence of a rigid enforcement of the laws of trade and navigation, and had been vehemently denounced by James Otis, so far back as 1761, as not only irreconcilable with the colonial charters, but as inconsistent with those natural rights which a people "derived from nature and the Author of nature"-an assertion which obtained great prominence for the speaker. This bold expression of opinion in Massachusetts should be studied by the historian of those times in connection with the equally emphatic revolutionary argument advanced by Patrick Henry of Virginia, two years later, against the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Anglican clergy and the right of the king to veto legislation of the colony. Though the prerogative of the crown was thus directly called into question in a Virginia court, the British government did not take a determined stand on the undoubted rights of the crown in the case. English statesmen and lawyers probably regarded such arguments, if they paid any attention to them at all in days when they neglected colonial opinion, as only temporary ebullitions of local feeling, though in reality they were so many evidences of the opposition that was sure to show itself whenever there was a direct interference with the privileges and rights of self-governing communities. Both Henry and Otis touched a key-note of the revolution, which was stimulated by the revenue and stamp acts and later measures affecting the colonies.

It is somewhat remarkable that it was in aristocratic Virginia, founded by Cavaliers, as well as in democratic Massachusetts, founded by Puritans, that the revolutionary element gained its principal strength during the controversy with the parent state. The makers of Massachusetts were independents in church government and democrats in political principle. The whole history of New England, in fact, from the first charters until the argument on the writs of assistance, is full of incidents which show the growth of republican ideas. The Anglican church had no strength in the northern colonies, and the great majority of their people were bitterly opposed to the pretensions of the English hierarchy to establish an episcopate in America. It is not therefore surprising that Massachusetts should have been the leader in the revolutionary agitation; on the other hand in Virginia the Anglican clergy belonged to what was essentially an established church, and the whole social fabric of the colony rested on an aristocratic basis. No doubt before the outbreak of the revolution there was a decided feeling against England on account of the restrictions on the sale of tobacco; and the quarrel, which I have just referred to, with respect to the stipends of the clergy, which were to be paid in this staple commodity according to its market value at the time of payment, had spread discontent among a large body of the people. But above all such causes of dissatisfaction was the growing belief that the political freedom of the people, and the very existence of the colony as a self-governing community, were jeopardised by the indiscreet acts of the imperial authorities after 1763. It is easy then to understand that the action of the British government in 1767 renewed the agitation, which had been allayed for the moment by the repeal of the stamp act and the general belief that there would be no rigid enforcement of old regulations which meant the ruin of the most profitable trade of New England. The measures of the ministry were violently assailed in parliament by Burke and other eminent men who availed themselves of so excellent an opportunity of exciting the public mind against a government which was doing so much to irritate the colonies and injure British trade. All the political conditions were unfavourable to a satisfactory adjustment of the colonial difficulty. Chatham had been one of the earnest opponents of the stamp act, but he was now buried in retirement-labouring under some mental trouble-and Charles Townshend, the chancellor of the exchequer in the cabinet of which Chatham was the real head, was responsible for measures which his chief would have repudiated as most impolitic and inexpedient in the existing temper of the colonies.

The action of the ministry was for years at once weak and irritating. One day they asserted the supremacy of the British parliament, and on the next yielded to the violent opposition of the colonies and the appeals of British merchants whose interests were at stake. Nothing remained eventually but the tea duty, and even that was so arranged that the colonists could buy their tea at a much cheaper rate than the British consumer. But by this time a strong anti-British party was in course of formation throughout the colonies. Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Patrick Henry of Virginia, and a few other political managers of consummate ability, had learned their own power, and the weakness of English ministers. Samuel Adams, who had no love in his heart for England, was undoubtedly by this time insidiously working towards the independence of the colonies. Violence and outrage formed part of his secret policy. The tea in Boston harbour was destroyed by a mob disguised as Mohawk Indians, and was nowhere allowed to enter into domestic consumption. The patience of English ministers was now exhausted, and they determined to enter on a vigorous system of repression, which might have had some effect at an earlier stage of the revolutionary movement, when the large and influential loyal body of people in the colonies ought to have been vigorously supported, and not left exposed to the threats, insults, and even violence of a resolute minority, comprising many persons influenced by purely selfish reasons-the stoppage of illicit trade from which they had profited-as well as men who objected on principle to a policy which seemed to them irreconcilable with the rights of the people to the fullest possible measure of local self-government. As it was, however, the insults and injuries to British officials bound to obey the law, the shameless and continuous rioting, the destruction of private property, the defiant attitude of the opposition to England, had at last awakened the home authorities to the dangers latent in the rebellious spirit that reckless agitators had aroused in colonies for which England had sacrificed so much of her blood and treasure when their integrity and dearest interests were threatened by France. The port of Boston, where the agitators were most influential and the most discreditable acts of violence had taken place, was closed to trade; and important modifications were made in the charter granted to Massachusetts by William III in 1692. Another obnoxious act provided that persons "questioned for any acts in execution of the laws" should be tried in England-a measure intended to protect officials and soldiers in the discharge of their duty against the rancour of the colonial community where they might be at that time. These measures, undoubtedly unwise at this juncture, were calculated to evoke the hostility of the other colonies and to show them what was probably in store for themselves. But while the issue certainly proved this to be the case, the course pursued by the government under existing conditions had an appearance of justification. Even Professor Goldwin Smith, who will not be accused of any sympathy with the British cabinet of that day, or of antagonism to liberal principles, admits that "a government thus bearded and insulted had its choice between abdication and repression," and "that repression was the most natural" course to pursue under the circumstances. Lord North gave expression to what was then a largely prevailing sentiment in England when he said "to repeal the tea duty would stamp us with timidity," and that the destruction of the property of private individuals, such as took place at Boston, "was a fitting culmination of years of riot and lawlessness." Lord North, we all know now, was really desirous of bringing about a reconciliation between the colonies and the parent state, but he servilely yielded his convictions to the king, who was determined to govern all parts of his empire, and was in favour of coercive measures. It is quite evident that the British ministry and their supporters entirely underrated the strength of the colonial party that was opposing England. Even those persons who, when the war broke out, remained faithful to their allegiance to the crown, were of opinion that the British government was pursuing a policy unwise in the extreme, although they had no doubt of the abstract legal right of that government to pass the Grenville and Townshend acts for taxing the colonies. Chatham, Burke, Conway, and Barré were the most prominent public men who, in powerful language, showed the dangers of the unwise course pursued by the "king's friends" in parliament.

As we review the events of those miserable years we can see that every step taken by the British government, from the stamp act until the closing of the port of Boston and other coercive measures, had the effect of strengthening the hands of Samuel Adams and the other revolutionary agitators. Their measures to create a feeling against England exhibited great cunning and skill. The revolutionary movement was aided by the formation of "Sons of Liberty"-a phrase taken from one of Barré's speeches,-by circular letters and committees of correspondence between the colonies, by petitions to the king winch were framed in a tone of independence not calculated to conciliate that uncompromising sovereign, by clever ingenious appeals to public patriotism, by the assembling of a "continental congress," by acts of "association" which meant the stoppage of all commercial intercourse with Great Britain. New England was the head and front of the whole revolution, and Samuel Adams was its animating spirit. Even those famous committees of correspondence between the towns of Massachusetts, which gave expression to public opinion and stimulated united action when the legislative authority was prevented by the royal governor from working, were the inspiration of this astute political manager. Prominent Virginians saw the importance of carrying out this idea on a wider field of action, and Virginia accordingly inaugurated a system of intercolonial correspondence which led to the meeting of a continental congress, and was the first practical step towards political independence of the parent state. Adams's decision to work for independence was made, or confirmed, as early as 1767, when Charles Townshend succeeded in passing the measures which were so obnoxious to the colonists, and finally led to civil war.

At a most critical moment, when the feelings of a large body of people were aroused to a violent pitch, when ideas of independence were ripening in the minds of others besides Samuel Adams, General Gage, then in command of the British regular troops in Boston, sent a military force to make prisoners of Adams and Hancock at Lexington, and seize some stores at Concord. Then the "embattled farmers" fired the shot "which was heard around the world." Then followed the capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and the battle of Bunker's Hill, on the same day that Washington was appointed by congress to command the continental army. At this critical juncture, John Adams and other prominent colonists-not excepting Washington-were actually disavowing all desire to sever their relations with the parent state in the face of the warlike attitude of congress-an attitude justified by the declaration that it was intended to force a redress of grievances. Tom Paine, a mere adventurer, who had not been long in the country, now issued his pamphlet, "Common Sense," which was conceived in a spirit and written in a style admirably calculated to give strength and cohesion to the arguments of the people, who had been for some time coming to the conclusion that to aim at independence was the only consistent and logical course in the actual state of controversy between England and the colonies. On March 14th, 1776, the town of Boston, then the most important in America, was given up to the rebels; and British ships carried the first large body of unhappy and disappointed Loyalists to Halifax. On July the fourth of the same year the Declaration of Independence was passed, after much hesitation and discussion, and published to the world by the continental congress assembled at Philadelphia. The signal victory won by the continental army over Burgoyne at Saratoga in the autumn of the following year led to an alliance with France, without whose effective aid the eventual success of the revolutionists would have been very doubtful The revolutionists won their final triumph at Yorktown in the autumn of 1781, when a small army of regulars and Loyalists, led by Cornwallis, was obliged to surrender to the superior American and French forces, commanded by Washington and Rochambeau, and supported by a French fleet which effectively controlled the approaches to Chesapeake Bay.

The conduct of the war on the part of England was noted for the singular incapacity of her generals. Had there been one of any energy or ability at the head of her troops, when hostilities commenced, the undisciplined American army might easily have been beaten and annihilated Boston need never have been evacuated had Howe taken the most ordinary precautions to occupy the heights of Dorchester that commanded the town. Washington could never have organised an army had not Howe given him every possible opportunity for months to do so. The British probably had another grand opportunity of ending the war on their occupation of New York, when Washington and his relatively insignificant army were virtually in their power while in retreat. The history of the war is full of similar instances of lost opportunities to overwhelm the continental troops. All the efforts of the British generals appear to have been devoted to the occupation of the important towns in a country stretching for a thousand miles from north to south, instead of following and crushing the constantly retreating, diminishing, and discouraged forces of the revolutionists. The evacuation of Philadelphia at a critical moment of the war was another signal illustration of the absence of all military foresight and judgment, since it disheartened the Loyalists and gave up an important base of operation against the South. Even Cornwallis, who fought so bravely and successfully in the southern provinces, made a most serious mistake when he chose so weak a position as Yorktown, which was only defensible whilst the army of occupation had free access to the sea. Admiral Rodney, then at St. Eustatius, is open to censure for not having sent such naval reinforcements as would have enabled the British to command Chesapeake Bay, and his failure in this respect explains the inability of Clinton, an able general, to support Cornwallis in his hour of need. The moment the French fleet appeared in the Chesapeake, Cornwallis's position became perfectly untenable, and he was obliged to surrender to the allied armies, who were vastly superior in number and equipment to his small force, which had not even the advantage of fighting behind well-constructed and perfect defences. No doubt, from the beginning to the end of the war-notably in the case of Burgoyne-the British were seriously hampered by the dilatory and unsafe counsels of Lord George Germaine, who was allowed by the favour of the king to direct military operations, and who, we remember, had disgraced himself on the famous battlefield of Minden.

All the conditions in the country at large were favourable to the imperial troops had they been commanded by generals of ability. The Loyalists formed a large available force, rendered valueless time after time by the incapacity of the men who directed operations. At no time did the great body of the American people warmly respond to the demands made upon them by congress to support Washington. Had it not been for New England and Virginia the war must have more than once collapsed for want of men and supplies. It is impossible to exaggerate the absence of public spirit in the States during this critical period of their history. The English historian, Lecky, who has reviewed the annals of those times with great fairness, has truly said: "The nobility and beauty of the character of Washington can hardly be surpassed; several of the other leaders of the revolution were men of ability and public spirit, and few armies have ever shown a nobler self-devotion than that which remained with Washington through the dreary winter at Valley Forge. But the army that bore those sufferings was a very small one, and the general aspect of the American people during the contest was far from heroic or sublime." This opinion is fully borne out by those American historians who have reviewed the records of their national struggle in a spirit of dispassionate criticism. We know that in the spring of 1780 Washington himself wrote that his troops were "constantly on the point of starving for want of provisions and forage." He saw "in every line of the army the most serious features of mutiny and sedition." Indeed he had "almost ceased to hope," for he found the country in general "in such a state of insensibility and indifference to its interests" that he dare not flatter himself "with any change for the better." The war under such circumstances would have come to a sudden end had not France liberally responded to Washington's appeals and supported him with her money, her sailors and her soldiers. In the closing years of the war Great Britain had not only to fight France, Spain, Holland and her own colonies, but she was without a single ally in Europe. Her dominion was threatened in India, and the king prevented the intervention of the only statesman in the kingdom to whom the colonists at any time were likely to listen with respect. When Chatham died with a protest on his lips "against the dismemberment of this ancient monarchy," the last hope of bringing about a reconciliation between the revolutionists and the parent state disappeared for ever, and the Thirteen Colonies became independent at Yorktown.

SECTION 2.-Canada and Nova Scotia during the Revolution.

If Canada was saved to England during the American Revolution it was not on account of the energy and foresight shown by the king and his ministers in providing adequately for its defence, but mainly through the coolness and excellent judgment displayed by Governor Carleton. The Quebec act, for which he was largely responsible, was extremely unpopular in the Thirteen Colonies, on account of its having extended the boundaries of the province and the civil law to that western country beyond the Alleghanies, which the frontiersmen of Pennsylvania and Virginia regarded as specially their own domain. The fact that the Quebec act was passed by parliament simultaneously with the Boston port bill and other measures especially levelled against Massachusetts, gave additional fuel to the indignation of the people, who regarded this group of acts as part of a settled policy to crush the British-speaking colonies.

Under these circumstances, the invasion of Canada by Arnold in 1775, with the full approval of the continental congress, soon after the taking of Crown Point and Ticonderoga by the "Green Mountain boys" of Vermont, was a most popular movement which, it was hoped generally, would end in the easy conquest of a province, occupied by an alien people, and likely to be a menace in the future to the country south of the St. Lawrence. The capture of Chambly and St. John's-the keys of Canada, by way of Lake Champlain-was immediately followed by the surrender of Montreal, which was quite indefensible, and the flight of Carleton to Quebec, where he wisely decided to make a stand against the invaders. At this time there were not one thousand regular troops in the country, and Carleton's endeavour to obtain reinforcements from Boston had failed in consequence of the timidity of Admiral Graves, who expressed his opinion that it was not safe to send vessels up the St. Lawrence towards the end of the month of October. No dependence apparently could be placed at this critical juncture on a number of the French habitants, as soon as the districts of Richelieu, Montreal and Three Rivers were occupied by the continental troops. Many of them were quite ready to sell provisions to the invaders, provided they were paid in coin, and a few of them even joined Montgomery on his march to Quebec. Happily, however, the influence of the clergy and the seigneurs was sufficiently powerful to make the great mass of the people neutral during this struggle for supremacy in the province.

The bishop and the priests, from the outset, were quite alive to the gravity of the situation. They could not forget that the delegates to the continental congress, who were now appealing to French Canada to join the rebellious colonists, had only a few weeks before issued an address to the people of England in which they expressed their astonishment that the British parliament should have established in Canada "a religion that had deluged their land in blood and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder, and rebellion through every part of the world." Almost simultaneously with the capture of the forts on Lake Champlain, Bishop Briand issued a mandement in which he dwelt with emphasis on the great benefits which the people of French Canada had already derived from the British connection and called upon them all to unite in the defence of their province. No doubt can exist that these opinions had much effect at a time when Carleton had reason to doubt even the loyalty of the English population, some of whom were notoriously in league with the rebels across the frontier, and gave material aid to the invaders as soon as they occupied Montreal. It was assuredly the influence of the French clergy that rendered entirely ineffectual the mission of Chase, Franklin, and the Carrolls of Maryland-one of whom became the first Roman Catholic archbishop of the United States-who were instructed by congress to offer every possible inducement to the Roman Catholic subjects of England in Canada to join the revolutionary movement.

Richard Montgomery, who had commanded the troops invading Canada, had served at Louisbourg and Quebec, and had subsequently become a resident of New York, where his political opinions on the outbreak of the revolution had been influenced by his connection, through marriage, with the Livingstones, bitter opponents of the British government. His merit as a soldier naturally brought him into prominence when the war began, and his own ambition gladly led him to obey the order to go to Canada, where he hoped to emulate the fame of Wolfe and become the captor of Quebec. He formed a junction, close to the ancient capital, with the force under Benedict Arnold, who was at a later time to sully a memorable career by an act of the most deliberate treachery to his compatriots. When Montgomery and Arnold united their forces before Quebec, the whole of Canada, from Lake Champlain to Montreal, and from that town to the walls of the old capital, was under the control of the continental troops. Despite the great disadvantages under which he laboured, Carleton was able to perfect his defences of the city, which he determined to hold until reinforcements should arrive in the spring from England. Montgomery had neither men nor artillery to storm the fortified city which he had hoped to surprise and easily occupy with the aid of secret friends within its walls. Carleton, however, rallied all loyal men to his support, and the traitors on whom the invaders had relied were powerless to carry out any treacherous design they may have formed. The American commanders at once recognised the folly of a regular investment of the fortress during a long and severe winter, and decided to attempt to surprise the garrison by a night assault. This plan was earned out in the early morning of the thirty-first of December, 1775, when the darkness was intensified by flurries of light blinding snow, but it failed before the assailants could force the barricades which barred the way to the upper town, where all the principal offices and buildings were grouped, just below the chateau and fort of St. Louis, which towers above the historic heights. Montgomery was killed, Arnold was wounded at the very outset, and a considerable number of their officers and men were killed or wounded.

Carleton saved Quebec at this critical hour and was able in the course of the same year, when General Burgoyne arrived with reinforcements largely composed of subsidised German regiments, to drive the continental troops in confusion from the province and destroy the fleet which congress had formed on Lake Champlain. Carleton took possession of Crown Point but found the season too late-it was now towards the end of autumn-to attempt an attack on Ticonderoga, which was occupied by a strong and well-equipped garris

on. After a careful view of the situation he concluded to abandon Crown Point until the spring, when he could easily occupy it again, and attack Ticonderoga with every prospect of success. But Carleton, soon afterwards, was ordered to give up the command of the royal troops to Burgoyne, who was instructed by Germaine to proceed to the Hudson River, where Howe was to join him. Carleton naturally resented the insult that he received and resigned the governor-generalship, to which General Haldimand was appointed. Carleton certainly brought Canada securely through one of the most critical epochs of her history, and there is every reason to believe that he would have saved the honour of England and the reputation of her generals, had he rather than Burgoyne and Howe been entrusted with the direction of her armies in North America.

Carleton's administration of the civil government of the province was distinguished by a spirit of discretion and energy which deservedly places him among the ablest governors who ever presided over the public affairs of a colony. During the progress of the American war the legislative council was not able to meet until nearly two years after its abrupt adjournment in September, 1775. At this session, in 1777, ordinances were passed for the establishment of courts of King's bench, common pleas, and probate.

A critical perusal of the valuable documents, placed of late years in the archives of the Dominion, clearly proves that it was a fortunate day for Canada when so resolute a soldier and far-sighted administrator as General Haldimand was in charge of the civil and military government of the country after the departure of Carleton. His conduct appears to have been dictated by a desire to do justice to all classes, and it is most unfair to his memory to declare that he was antagonistic to French Canadians. During the critical time when he was entrusted with the public defence it is impossible to accuse him of an arrogant or unwarrantable exercise of authority, even when he was sorely beset by open and secret enemies of the British connection. The French Canadian habitant found himself treated with a generous consideration that he never obtained during the French régime, and wherever his services were required by the state, he was paid, not in worthless card money, but in British coin. During Haldimand's administration the country was in a perilous condition on account of the restlessness and uncertainty that prevailed while the French naval and military expeditions were in America, using every means of exciting a public sentiment hostile to England and favourable to France among the French Canadians. Admiral D'Estaing's proclamation in 1778 was a passionate appeal to the old national sentiment of the people, and was distributed in every part of the province. Dr. Kingsford believes that it had large influence in creating a powerful feeling which might have seriously threatened British dominion had the French been able to obtain permission from congress to send an army into the country. Whatever may have been the temper of the great majority of the French Canadians, it does not appear that many of them openly expressed their sympathy with France, for whom they would naturally still feel a deep love as their motherland. The assertion that many priests secretly hoped for the appearance of the French army is not justified by any substantial evidence except the fact that one La Valinière was arrested for his disloyalty, and sent a prisoner to England. It appears, however, that this course was taken with the approval of the bishop himself, who was a sincere friend of the English connection throughout the war. Haldimand arrested a number of persons who were believed to be engaged in treasonable practices against England, and effectively prevented any successful movement being made by the supporters of the revolutionists, or sympathisers with France, whose emissaries were secretly working in the parishes.

Haldimand's principal opponent during these troublous times was one Pierre du Calvet, an unscrupulous and able intriguer, whom he imprisoned on the strong suspicion of treasonable practices; but the evidence against Calvet at that time appears to have been inadequate, as he succeeded in obtaining damages against the governor-general in an English court. The imperial government, however, in view of all the circumstances brought to their notice, paid the cost of the defence of the suit. History now fully justifies the action of Haldimand, for the publication of Franklin's correspondence in these later times shows that Calvet-who was drowned at sea and never again appeared in Canada-was in direct correspondence with congress, and the recognised emissary of the revolutionists at the very time he was declaring himself devoted to the continuance of British rule in Canada.

Leaving the valley of the St. Lawrence, and reviewing the conditions of affairs in the maritime provinces, during the American revolution, we see that some of the settlers from New England sympathised with their rebellious countrymen. The people of Truro, Onslow, and Londonderry, with the exception of five persons, refused to take the oath of allegiance, and were not allowed for some time to be represented in the legislature. The assembly was always loyal to the crown, and refused to consider the appeals that were made to it by circular letters, and otherwise, to give active aid and sympathy to the rebellious colonies During the war armed cruisers pillaged the small settlements at Charlottetown, Annapolis, Lunenburg, and the entrance of the St. John River. One expedition fitted out at Machias, in the present state of Maine, under the command of a Colonel Eddy, who had been a resident of Cumberland, attempted to seize Fort Cumberland-known as Beauséjour in French Acadian days-at the mouth of the Missiquash. In this section of the country there were many sympathisers with the rebels, and Eddy expected to have an easy triumph. The military authorities were happily on the alert, and the only result was the arrest of a number of persons on the suspicion of treasonable designs. The inhabitants of the county of Yarmouth-a district especially exposed to attack-only escaped the frequent visits of privateers by secret negotiations with influential persons in Massachusetts. The settlers on the St. John River, at Maugerville, took measures to assist their fellow-countrymen in New England, but the defeat of the Cumberland expedition and the activity of the British authorities prevented the disaffected in Sunbury county-in which the original settlements of New Brunswick were then comprised-from rendering any practical aid to the revolutionists. The authorities at Halifax authorised the fitting out of privateers in retaliation for the damages inflicted on western ports by the same class of cruisers sailing from New England. The province was generally impoverished by the impossibility of carrying on the coasting trade and fisheries with security in these circumstances. The constant demand for men to fill the army and the fleet drained the country when labour was imperatively needed for necessary industrial pursuits, including the cultivation of the land. Some Halifax merchants and traders alone found profit in the constant arrival of troops and ships. Apart, however, from the signs of disaffection shown in the few localities I have mentioned, the people generally appear to have been loyal to England, and rallied, notably in the townships of Annapolis, Horton and Windsor, to the defence of the country, at the call of the authorities.

In 1783 the humiliated king of England consented to a peace with his old colonies, who owed their success not so much to the unselfishness and determination of the great body of the rebels as to the incapacity of British generals and to the patience, calmness, and resolution of the one great man of the revolution, George Washington. I shall in a later chapter refer to this treaty in which the boundaries between Canada and the new republic were so ignorantly and clumsily defined that it took half a century and longer to settle the vexed questions that arose in connection with territorial rights, and then the settlement was to the injury of Canada. So far as the treaty affected the Provinces its most important result was the forced migration of that large body of people who had remained faithful to the crown and empire during the revolution.



SECTION 3.-The United Empire Loyalists

John Adams and other authorities in the United States have admitted that when the first shot of the revolution was fired by "the embattled farmers" of Concord and Lexington, the Loyalists numbered one-third of the whole population of the colonies, or seven hundred thousand whites. Others believe that the number was larger, and that the revolutionary party was in a minority even after the declaration of independence. The greater number of the Loyalists were to be found in the present state of New York, where the capital was in possession of the British from September, 1776, until the evacuation in 1783. They were also the majority in Pennsylvania and the southern colonies of South Carolina and Georgia. In all the other states they represented a large minority of the best class of their respective communities. It is estimated that there were actually from thirty to thirty-five thousand, at one time or other, enrolled in regularly organised corps, without including the bodies which waged guerilla warfare in South Carolina and elsewhere.

It is only within a decade of years that some historical writers in the United States have had the courage and honesty to point out the false impressions long entertained by the majority of Americans with respect to the Loyalists, who were in their way as worthy of historical eulogy as the people whose efforts to win independence were crowned with success. Professor Tyler, of Cornell University, points out that these people comprised "in general a clear majority of those who, of whatever grade of culture or of wealth, would now be described as conservative people." A clear majority of the official class, of men representing large commercial interests and capital, of professional training and occupation, clergymen, physicians, lawyers and teachers, "seem to have been set against the ultimate measures of the revolution". He assumes with justice that, within this conservative class, one may "usually find at least a fair portion of the cultivation, of the moral thoughtfulness, of the personal purity and honour, existing in the community to which they happen to belong." He agrees with Dr. John Fiske, and other historical writers of eminence in the United States, in comparing the Loyalists of 1776 to the Unionists of the southern war of secession from 1861 until 1865. They were "the champions of national unity, as resting on the paramount authority of the general government." In other words they were the champions of a United British Empire in the eighteenth century.

"The old colonial system," says that thoughtful writer Sir J.R. Seeley, "was not at all tyrannous; and when the breach came the grievances of which the Americans complained, though perfectly real, were smaller than ever before or since led to such mighty consequences." The leaders among the Loyalists, excepting a few rash and angry officials probably, recognised that there were grievances which ought to be remedied. They looked on the policy of the party in power in Great Britain as injudicious in the extreme, but they believed that the relations between the colonies and the mother-state could be placed on a more satisfactory basis by a spirit of mutual compromise, and not by such methods as were insidiously followed by the agitators against England. The Loyalists generally contended for the legality of the action of parliament, and were supported by the opinion of all high legal authorities; but the causes of difficulty were not to be adjusted by mere lawyers, who adhered to the strict letter of the law, but by statesmen who recognised that the time had come for reconsidering the relations between the colonies and the parent state, and meeting the new conditions of their rapid development and political freedom. These relations were not to be placed on an equitable and satisfactory basis by mob-violence and revolution. All the questions at issue were of a constitutional character, to be settled by constitutional methods.

Unhappily, English statesmen of that day paid no attention to, and had no conception of, the aspirations, sentiments and conditions of the colonial peoples when the revolutionary war broke out. The king wished to govern in the colonies as well as in the British Isles, and unfortunately the unwise assertion of his arrogant will gave dangerous men like Samuel Adams, more than once, the opportunity they wanted to stimulate public irritation and indignation against England.

It is an interesting fact, that the relations between Great Britain and the Canadian Dominion are now regulated by just such principles as were urged in the interests of England and her colonies a hundred and twenty years ago by Governor Thomas Hutchinson, a great Loyalist, to whom justice is at last being done by impartial historians in the country where his motives and acts were so long misunderstood and misrepresented. "Whatever measures," he wrote to a correspondent in England, "you may take to maintain the authority of parliament, give me leave to pray they may be accompanied with a declaration that it is not the intention of parliament to deprive the colonies of their subordinate power of legislation, nor to exercise the supreme power except in such cases and upon such occasions as an equitable regard to the interests of the whole empire shall make necessary." But it took three-quarters of a century after the coming of the Loyalists to realise these statesmanlike conceptions of Hutchinson in the colonial dominions of England to the north of the dependencies which she lost in the latter part of the eighteenth century.

Similar opinions were entertained by Joseph Galloway, Jonathan Boucher, Jonathan Odell, Samuel Seabury, Chief Justice Smith, Judge Thomas Jones, Beverley Robinson and other men of weight and ability among the Loyalists, who recognised the short-sightedness and ignorance of the British authorities, and the existence of real grievances. Galloway, one of the ablest men on the constitutional side, and a member of the first continental congress, suggested a practical scheme of imperial federation, well worthy of earnest consideration at that crisis in imperial affairs. Eminent men in the congress of 1774 supported this statesmanlike mode of placing the relations of England and the colonies on a basis which would enable them to work harmoniously, and at the same time give full scope to the ambition and the liberties of the colonial communities thus closely united; but unhappily for the empire the revolutionary element carried the day. The people at large were never given an opportunity of considering this wise proposition, and the motion was erased from the records of congress. In its place, the people were asked to sign "articles of association" which bound them to cease all commercial relations with England. Had Galloway's idea been carried out to a successful issue, we might have now presented to the world the noble spectacle of an empire greater by half a continent and seventy-five millions of people.

But while Galloway and other Loyalists failed in their measures of adjusting existing difficulties and remedying grievances, history can still do full justice to their wise counsel and resolute loyalty, which refused to assist in tearing the empire to fragments. These men, who remained faithful to this ideal to the very bitter end, suffered many indignities at the hands of the professed lovers of liberty, even in those days when the questions at issue had not got beyond the stage of legitimate argument and agitation. The courts of law were closed and the judges prevented from fulfilling their judicial functions. No class of persons, not even women, were safe from the insults of intoxicated ruffians. The clergy of the Church of England were especially the object of contumely.

During the war the passions of both parties to the controversy were aroused to the highest pitch, and some allowance must be made for conditions which were different from those which existed when the questions at issue were still matters of argument. It is impossible in times of civil strife to cool the passions of men and prevent them from perpetrating cruelties and outrages which would be repugnant to their sense of humanity in moments of calmness and reflection. Both sides, more than once, displayed a hatred of each other that was worthy of the American Iroquois themselves. The legislative bodies were fully as vindictive as individuals in the persecution of the Loyalists. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, disqualification for office, banishment, and even death in case of return from exile, were among the penalties to which these people were subject by the legislative acts of the revolutionary party.

If allowance can be made for the feelings of revenge and passion which animate persons under the abnormal conditions of civil war, no extenuating circumstances appear at that later period when peace was proclaimed and congress was called upon to fulfil the terms of the treaty and recommend to the several independent states the restoration of the confiscated property of Loyalists. Even persons who had taken up arms were to have an opportunity of receiving their estates back on condition of refunding the money which had been paid for them, and protection was to be afforded to those persons during twelve months while they were engaged in obtaining the restoration of their property. It was also solemnly agreed by the sixth article of the treaty that there should be no future confiscations or prosecutions, and that no person should "suffer any future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty or property," for the part he might have taken in the war. Now was the time for generous terms, such terms as were even shown by the triumphant North to the rebellious South at the close of the war of secession. The recommendations of congress were treated with contempt by the legislatures in all the states except in South Carolina, and even there the popular feeling was entirely opposed to any favour or justice being shown to the beaten party. The sixth article of the treaty, a solemn obligation, was violated with malice and premeditation. The Loyalists, many of whom had returned from Great Britain with the hope of receiving back their estates, or of being allowed to remain in the country, soon found they could expect no generous treatment from the successful republicans. The favourite Whig occupation of tarring and feathering was renewed. Loyalists were warned to leave the country as soon as possible, and in the south some were shot and hanged because they did not obey the warning. The Loyalists, for the most part, had no other course open to them than to leave the country they still loved and where they had hoped to die.

The British government endeavoured, so far as it was in its power, to compensate the Loyalists for the loss of their property by liberal grants of money and land, but despite all that was done for them the majority felt a deep bitterness in their hearts as they landed on new shores of which they had heard most depressing accounts. More than thirty-five thousand men, women and children, made their homes within the limits of the present Dominion. In addition to these actual American Loyalists, there were several thousands of negroes, fugitives from their owners, or servants of the exiles, who have been generally counted in the loose estimates made of the migration of 1783, and the greater number of whom were at a later time deported from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone. Of the exiles at least twenty-five thousand went to the maritime colonies, and built up the province of New Brunswick, where representative institutions were established in 1784. Of the ten thousand people who sought the valley of the St Lawrence, some settled in Montreal, at Chambly, and in parts of the present Eastern Townships, but the great majority accepted grants of land on the banks of the St. Lawrence-from River Beaudette, on Lake St. Francis, as far as the beautiful Bay of Quinté-in the Niagara District, and on the shores of Lake Erie. The coming of these people, subsequently known by the name of "U.E. Loyalists"-a name appropriately given to them in recognition of their fidelity to a United Empire-was a most auspicious event for the British-American provinces, the greater part of which was still a wilderness. As we have seen in the previous chapters, there was in the Acadian 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 themselves 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 accommodation 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, 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 18th of May, 1783, at what is now the Market Slip of this interesting 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 Fredericton, 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 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 proportion 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 Quinté 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 courageous 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 Quinté, 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 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 aid granted them by the British government, were able to make comfortable homes and cultivate estates in the valleys of the St. John and Annapolis, and in other fertile parts of the lower provinces. Of the large population 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 American revolution. Among the number were notable Anglican clergymen, eminent judges 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 development 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 chequered history.

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top