The Quebec Act of 1774 Administration of the conquered province by a governor and an appointed council was established by royal proclamation. In 1774 the English Parliament passed the Quebec Act. This was the first important milestone in the constitutional history of British Canada. Under its terms the boundaries of Quebec were extended as far as the Ohio River valley. The Roman Catholic church was recognized by the Quebec Act, and its right to collect tithes was confirmed.
Also of enduring importance was the establishment of the French civil law to govern the relations of Canadian subjects in their business and other day-to-day relations with each other. British criminal law was imposed in all matters having to do with public law and order and offenses for which the punishment might be fine, imprisonment, or in some cases death. These imaginative gestures on the part of the English government won the admiration of the religious leaders in Quebec and to a large extent the goodwill of the people themselves. The privilege of an elected assembly continued to be withheld, however. The loyalty of the new province was soon put to the test.
Within a year of the passing of the Quebec Act, the rebelling 13 Atlantic colonies sent two armies north to capture the "fourteenth colony." Sir Guy Carleton, the British governor of Canada, narrowly escaped capture when one of these armies, under Richard Montgomery, took Montreal. Carleton reached Quebec in time to organize its small garrison against the forces of Benedict Arnold. Arnold began a siege of the fortress, in which he was soon joined by Montgomery. In the midwinter fighting that followed, Montgomery was killed and Arnold wounded. When spring came, the attacking forces retreated. During the rest of the American Revolutionary War, there was no further fighting on Canadian soil.
The United Empire Loyalists When peace was established in 1783, many thousands of Loyalists who were referred to as Tories by their fellow countrymen, left the newly created United States. They started their lives afresh under the British flag in Nova Scotia and in the unsettled lands above the St. Lawrence rapids and north of Lake Ontario. This huge influx of settlers, who were known in Canada and England as the United Empire Loyalists, marked the first major wave of immigration by English-speaking settlers since the days of New France. Their arrival had two immediate consequences for the British colonies. Both the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia and the inland colony of Quebec had to be reorganized.
The previously unsettled forests to the west of the Bay of Fundy, once part of French Acadia, had been included in Nova Scotia. In 1784 this area was established as a separate colony known as New Brunswick. Cape Breton Island was simultaneously separated from Nova Scotia (a division that was ended in 1820). In all, some 35, 000 Loyalist immigrants are believed to have settled in the Maritimes. The settlement of the more inaccessible lands north and west of Lake Ontario and along the north shore of the upper St. Lawrence proceeded somewhat more slowly.
About 5, 000 Loyalists came to this area. Upper and Lower Canada It was clear that these United Empire Loyalists who had come to the western wilderness of what was still part of Quebec would not long be satisfied with the limited rights and French laws established by the Quebec Act. Accordingly, in 1791 the British Parliament enacted the Constitutional Act, whereby Quebec was split into the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Each of these was to be governed by a legislative council appointed for life and a legislative assembly elected by the people.
The right to be represented in a lawmaking assembly was something new for the French-speaking inhabitants of the lower province. Legislative assemblies had been in existence in Nova Scotia since 1758, in Prince Edward Island since 1773, and in New Brunswick since 1786. Representative government, however, was not responsible government, as was to be demonstrated before another 50 years had passed. Settlement and Exploration in the West The Canadian prairies were not entirely unknown even in the days of New France. As early as the 1730 s a family of explorers headed by Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, si eur de La V rend rye, began a series of overland explorations far to the west of Lake Superior.
Their travels carried them into what is now the western United States, perhaps as far as the foothills of the Rockies. They visited Lake Winnipeg, the Red River, the Assiniboine River, and the Saskatchewan River as far upstream as the fork formed by the North and the South Saskatchewan. The posts of the Hudson's Bay Company had given England a preferred jumping-off point for exploration of the Canadian west. An expedition under Henry Kelsey explored the territory between York Factory and northern Saskatchewan in 1690, long before the journeys of the La V rendryes. In 1754 Anthony Hen day traveled from Hudson Bay as far as the foothills of the Rockies, reaching a point near the site of present-day Red Deer, Alta.
Another Hudson's Bay Company trader, Samuel Hearne, discovered Great Slave Lake in 1771, and by descending the Coppermine River to its mouth, he became the first white man to reach the Arctic Ocean by land. Although the Rockies still barred the overland route to the western ocean, the Pacific coast of Canada was visited by sea in 1778, when Capt. James Cook explored the northwest coastline from Vancouver Island to Alaska. In 1783 a group of Montreal merchants founded the powerful North West Company. Not only did the new fur-trading company provide sharp competition, but its trappers explored large parts of the previously unknown expanses of the Canadian west. In 1789 Alexander Mackenzie (one of the Nor " westers) followed the river which now bears his name from its source to the Arctic Ocean.
Disappointed because he had not discovered a route to the Pacific, he set out on another expedition in 1792. After a strenuous journey over the most rugged country on the continent, Mackenzie and his companions at last crossed the Rocky Mountains to reach the Fraser River in 1793. From the Fraser they portaged to the Bella Coola, which they descended until they sighted the long-sought western sea. Only a few weeks earlier Capt. George Vancouver had explored the same part of the Pacific coast by sea. Mackenzie's journey was the first made across the continent in either Canada or the United States.
In 1808 the Fraser River was thoroughly explored by Simon Fraser, after whom it is named. In 1811 David Thompson completed his exploration of the Columbia from its source, in southeastern British Columbia, to its mouth, in present-day Oregon. Struggle for Self-Government The successful defense of their homeland had not left the Canadians incapable of seeing faults in their own form of government. There were those-especially among the successful businessmen and wealthier landowners-who believed that the colonists had sufficient powers of self-government through their elected assemblies. There were others, however, who saw little advantage in an assembly whose bills could be defeated by the legislative council, or could go unsigned by the governor on the advice of the executive council. The real power did not lie in the hands of the people through their elected representatives, but with appointed officials who were responsible only to the government in Britain.
In practice the power lay in the hands of the governor and of his executive advisers. The citizens could use their assembly as little more than a forum in which to criticize the manner in which the government was operated. Worse still, local matters that today are dealt with by elected municipal bodies were all handled by the central government of each colony. Mackenzie and Papineau Rebel The period following the War of 1812 was one of expansion of population, business, and settlement.
This was especially true in Upper Canada, where large numbers of newcomers were attracted by low-cost land grants. The very growth of the colony offered many opportunities for profit by those who could control the land grants. One of the loudest accusers of the government's administration of the land grants was William Lyon Mackenzie (see Mackenzie, William Lyon). His criticisms centered on a group that was known as the Family Compact.
This was a loose and somewhat misleading name for the members of the governing class and their friends, among whom were actually many leaders of great honesty and competence. Mackenzie, however, never clearly understood the principles of responsible government by which the executive would carry out the wishes of the government and the government would hold office only so long as it had the support of the people's elected representatives. Thus when the government failed to redress the long series of grievances that he listed, Mackenzie began to call for the independence of Upper Canada. As affairs in Upper Canada moved toward a climax, an equally serious crisis was building in Lower Canada.
The grievances were different, but the causes were similar. Here the real power was in the hands of a British governor and his councilors, referred to critically as the Ch teau Clique, who constantly rebuffed the elected representatives of the French-Canadian majority. The leader of the radical reforms in Lower Canada was Louis Joseph Papineau (see Papineau). Papineau, like Mackenzie, had been several times elected to the provincial assembly. Like Mackenzie, he had finally come to the conclusion that no lasting reform could be achieved unless the bonds with Britain were severed.
Rioting occurred in Montreal in 1837. When the government decided to arrest Papineau, he immediately fled across the border to the United States. Largely because the radicals interpreted this as persecution of their leader, open rebellion followed in several centers. All revolts were quickly put down.
Similar troubles broke out in Upper Canada almost immediately. Mackenzie prematurely called for an advance toward Toronto from his headquarters just north of the city before his ill-equipped followers were sufficiently well organized. The attack was driven back; and the city, rapidly filling with Loyalist supporters, was fully alerted. A few days later these forces marched northward against Mackenzie and, after a short skirmish, dispersed his troops.
Like Papineau, Mackenzie fled across the United States border, but he had not abandoned the struggle. Early in 1838 he took possession of Navy Island in the Niagara River and, with a small number of followers, tried to organize his planned republic under what he spoke of as a "provisional government of Upper Canada." The army and militia were now in full control of the situation, and they forced Mackenzie to return to the United States once again. Other disturbances followed along the border during 1838. After a few unsuccessful raids, the United States took steps to prevent its territory from being used for further attacks against the Canadas. The struggle for reform was more peaceful in the Maritimes.
Here the leading reformers included Joseph Howe, in Nova Scotia, and Lemuel Allan Wilmot, in New Brunswick. Howe had a much clearer understanding of the principles and advantages of responsible government than had either Mackenzie or Papineau. Although he was persecuted for some of the criticisms he voiced in his newspaper, the Nova scotian, he rallied widespread support. When sued for libel, he won his case.