The Canadian Dominion, a Chronicle of our Northern Neighbor by Oscar D. Skelton

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  • 1920
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Copyright, 1919, by Yale University Press


The history of Canada since the close of the French regime falls into three clearly marked half centuries. The first fifty years after the Peace of Paris determined that Canada was to maintain a separate existence under the British flag and was not to become a fourteenth colony or be merged with the United States. The second fifty years brought the winning of self-government and the achievement of Confederation. The third fifty years witnessed the expansion of the Dominion from sea to sea and the endeavor to make the unity of the political map a living reality–the endeavor to weld the far-flung provinces into one country, to give Canada a distinctive place in the Empire and in the world, and eventually in the alliance of peoples banded together in mankind’s greatest task of enforcing peace and justice among nations.

The author has found it expedient in this narrative to depart from the usual method of these Chronicles and arrange the matter in chronological rather than in biographical or topical divisions. The first period of fifty years is accordingly covered in one chapter, the second in two chapters, and the third in two chapters. Authorities and a list of publications for a more extended study will be found in the Bibliographical Note.

O. D. S.











Scarcely more than half a century has passed since the Dominion of Canada, in its present form, came into existence. But thrice that period has elapsed since the fateful day when Montcalm and Wolfe laid down their lives in battle on the Plains of Abraham, and the lands which now comprise the Dominion finally passed from French hands and came under British rule.

The Peace of Paris, which brought the Seven Years’ War to a close in 1763, marked the termination of the empire of France in the New World. Over the continent of North America, after that peacee, only two flags floated, the red and yellow banner of Spain and the Union Jack of Great Britain. Of these the Union Jack held sway over by far the larger domain–over the vague territories about Hudson Bay, over the great valley of the St. Lawrence, and over all the lands lying east of the Mississippi, save only New Orleans. To whom it would fall to develop this vast claim, what mighty empires would be carved out of the wilderness, where the boundary lines would run between the nations yet to be, were secrets the future held. Yet in retrospect it is now clear that in solving these questions the Peace of Paris played no inconsiderable part. By removing from the American colonies the menace of French aggression from the north it relieved them of a sense of dependence on the mother country and so made possible the birth of a new nation in the United States. At the same time, in the northern half of the continent, it made possible that other experiment in democracy, in the union of diverse races, in international neighborliness, and in the reconciliation of empire with liberty, which Canada presents to the whole world, and especially to her elder sister in freedom.

In 1763 the territories which later were to make up the Dominion of Canada were divided roughly into three parts. These parts had little or nothing in common. They shared together neither traditions of suffering or glory nor ties of blood or trade. Acadia, or Nova Scotia, by the Atlantic, was an old French colony, now British for over a generation. Canada, or Quebec, on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, with seventy thousand French habitants and a few hundred English camp followers, had just passed under the British flag. West and north lay the vaguely outlined domains of the Hudson’s Bay Company, where the red man and the buffalo still reigned supreme and almost unchallenged.

The old colony of Acadia, save only the island outliers, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, now ceded by the Peace of Paris, had been in British hands since 1713. It was not, however, until 1749 that any concerted effort had been made at a settlement of this region. The menace from the mighty fortress which the French were rebuilding at that time at Louisbourg, in Cape Breton, and the hostility of the restless Acadians or old French settlers on the mainland, had compelled action and the British Government departed from its usual policy of laissez faire in matters of emigration. Twenty-five hundred English settlers were brought out to found and hold the town and fort of Halifax. Nearly as many Germans were planted in Lunenburg, where their descendants flourish to this day. Then the hapless Acadians were driven into exile and into the room they left, New Englanders of strictest Puritan ancestry came, on their own initiative, and built up new communities like those of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Other waves of voluntary immigration followed–Ulster Presbyterians, driven out by the attempt of England to crush the Irish woolen manufacture, and, still later, Highlanders, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian, who soon made Gaelic the prevailing tongue of the easternmost counties. By 1767 the colony of Nova Scotia, which then included all Acadia, north and east of Maine, had a prosperous population of some seven thousand Americans, two thousand Irish, two thousand Germans, barely a thousand English, and well over a thousand surviving Acadian French. In short, this northernmost of the Atlantic colonies appeared to be fast on the way to become a part of New England. It was chiefly New Englanders who had peopled it, and it was with New England that for many a year its whole social and commercial intercourse was carried on. It was no accident that Nova Scotia later produced the first Yankee humorist, “Sam Slick.”

With the future sister province of Canada, or Quebec, which lay along the St. Lawrence as far as the Great Lakes, Acadia or Nova Scotia had much less in common than with New England. Hundreds of miles of unbroken forest wilderness lay between the two colonies, and the sea lanes ran between the St. Lawrence, the Bay of Fundy, or Halifax and Havre or Plymouth, and not between Quebec and Halifax. Even the French settlers came of different stocks. The Acadians were chiefly men of La Rochelle and the Loire, while the Canadians came, for the most part, from the coast provinces stretching from Normandy and Picardy to Poitou and Bordeaux.

The situation in Canada proper presented the British authorities with a problem new in their imperial experience. Hitherto, save for Acadia and New Netherland, where the settlers were few in numbers and, even in New Netherland, closely akin to the conquerors in race, religion, and speech, no colony containing men of European stocks had been acquired by conquest. Canada held some sixty or seventy thousand settlers, French and Catholic almost to a man. Despite the inefficiency of French colonial methods the plantation had taken firm root. The colony had developed a strength, a social structure, and an individuality all its own. Along the St. Lawrence and the Richelieu the settlements lay close and compact; the habitants’ whitewashed cottages lined the river banks only a few arpents apart. The social cohesion of the colony was equally marked. Alike in government, in religion, and in industry, it was a land where authority was strong. Governor and intendant, feudal seigneur, bishop and Jesuit superior, ruled each in his own sphere and provided a rigid mold and framework for the growth of the colony. There were, it is true, limits to the reach of the arm of authority. Beyond Montreal stretched a vast wilderness merging at some uncertain point into the other wilderness that was Louisiana. Along the waterways which threaded this great No Man’s Land the coureurs-de-bois roamed with little heed to law or license, glad to escape from the paternal strictness that irked youth on the lower St. Lawrence. But the liberty of these rovers of the forest was not liberty after the English pattern; the coureur-de-bois was of an entirely different type from the pioneers of British stock who were even then pushing their way through the gaps in the Alleghanies and making homes in the backwoods. Priest and seigneur, habitant and coureur-de-bois were one and all difficult to fit into accepted English ways. Clearly Canada promised to strain the digestive capacity of the British lion.

The present western provinces of the Dominion were still the haunt of Indian and buffalo. French-Canadian explorers and fur traders, it is true, had penetrated to the Rockies a few years before the Conquest, and had built forts on Lake Winnipeg, on the Assiniboine and Red rivers, and at half a dozen portages on the Saskatchewan. But the “Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay” had not yet ventured inland, still content to carry on its trade with the Indians from its forts along the shores of that great sea. On the Pacific the Russians had coasted as far south as Mount Saint Elias, but no white man, so far as is known, had set foot on the shores of what is now British Columbia.

Two immediate problems were bequeathed to the British Government by the Treaty of Paris: what was to be done with the unsettled lands between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi; and how were the seventy thousand French subjects in the valley of the St. Lawrence to be dealt with? The first difficulty was not solved. It was merely postponed. The whole back country of the English colonies was proclaimed an Indian reserve where the King’s white subjects might trade but might not acquire land. This policy was not devised in order to set bounds to the expansion of the older colonies; that was an afterthought. The policy had its root in an honest desire to protect the Indians from the frauds of unscrupulous traders and from the encroachments of settlers on their hunting grounds. The need of a conciliatory, if firm, policy in regard to the great interior was made evident by the Pontiac rising in 1763, the aftermath of the defeat of the French, who had done all they could to inspire the Indians with hatred for the advancing English.

How to deal with Canada was a more thorny problem. The colony had not been sought by its conquerors for itself. It was counted of little worth. The verdict of its late possessors, as recorded in Voltaire’s light farewell to “a few arpents of snow,” might be discounted as an instance of sour grapes; but the estimate of its new possessors was evidently little higher, since they debated long and dubiously whether in the peace settlement they should retain Canada or the little sugar island of Guadeloupe, a mere pin point on the map. Canada had been conquered not for the good it might bring but for the harm it was doing as a base for French attack upon the English colonies–“the wasps” nest must be smoked out.” But once it had been taken, it had to be dealt with for itself.

The policy first adopted was a simple one, natural enough for eighteenth-century Englishmen. They decided to make Canada* over in the image of the old colonies, to turn the “new subjects,” as they were called, in good time into Englishmen and Protestants. A generation or two would suffice, in the phrase of Francis Maseres–himself a descendant of a Huguenot refugee but now wholly an Englishman–for “melting down the French nation into the English in point of language, affections, religion, and laws.” Immigration was to be encouraged from Britain and from the other American colonies, which, in the view of the Lords of Trade, were already overstocked and in danger of being forced by the scarcity or monopoly of land to take up manufactures which would compete with English wares. And since it would greatly contribute to speedy settlement, so the Royal Proclamation of 1763 declared, that the King’s subjects should be informed of his paternal care for the security of their liberties and properties, it was promised that, as soon as circumstances would permit, a General Assembly would be summoned, as in the older colonies. The laws of England, civil and criminal, as near as might be, were to prevail. The Roman Catholic subjects were to be free to profess their own religion, “so far as the laws of Great Britain permit,” but they were to be shown a better way. To the first Governor instructions were issued “that all possible Encouragement shall be given to the erecting Protestant Schools in the said Districts, Townships and Precincts, by settling and appointing and allotting proper Quantities of Land for that Purpose and also for a Glebe and Maintenance for a Protestant minister and Protestant schoolmasters.” Thus in the fullness of time, like Acadia, but without any Evangelise of Grand Pre, without any drastic policy of expulsion, impossible with seventy thousand people scattered over a wide area, even Canada would become a good English land, a newer New England.

* The Royal Proclamation of 1763 set the bounds of the new colony. They were surprisingly narrow, a mere strip along both sides of the St. Lawrence from a short distance beyond the Ottawa on the west, to the end of the Gasps peninsula on the east. The land to the northeast was put under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Newfoundland, and the Great Lakes region was included in the territory reserved for the Indians.

It is questionable whether this policy could ever have achieved success even if it had been followed for generations without rest or turning. But it was not destined to be given a long trial. From the very beginning the men on the spot, the soldier Governors of Canada, urged an entirely contrary policy on the Home Government, and the pressure of events soon brought His Majesty’s Ministers to concur.

As the first civil Governor of Canada, the British authorities chose General Murray, one of Wolfe’s ablest lieutenants, who since 1760 had served as military Governor of the Quebec district. He was to be aided in his task by a council composed of the Lieutenant Governors of Montreal and Three Rivers, the Chief Justice, the head of the customs, and eight citizens to be named by the Governor from “the most considerable of the persons of property” in the province.

The new Governor was a blunt, soldierly man, upright and just according to his lights, but deeply influenced by his military and aristocratic leanings. Statesmen thousands of miles away might plan to encourage English settlers and English political ways and to put down all that was French. To the man on the spot English settlers meant “the four hundred and fifty contemptible sutlers and traders” who had come in the wake of the army from New England and New York, with no proper respect for their betters, and vulgarly and annoyingly insistent upon what they claimed to be their rights. The French might be alien in speech and creed, but at least the seigneurs and the higher clergy were gentlemen, with a due respect for authority, the King’s and their own, and the habitants were docile, the best of soldier stuff. “Little, very little,” Murray wrote in 1764 to the Lords of Trade, “will content the New Subjects, but nothing will satisfy the Licentious Fanaticks Trading here, but the expulsion of the Canadians, who are perhaps the bravest and best race upon the Globe, a Race, who cou’d they be indulged with a few priviledges wch the Laws of England deny to Roman Catholicks at home, wou’d soon get the better of every National Antipathy to their Conquerors and become the most faithful and most useful set of Men in this American Empire.”*

* This quotation and those following in this chapter are from official documents most conveniently assembled in Shorn and Doughty, “Documents relating to the Constitutional History of Canada, 1759-1791”, and Doughty and McArthur, “Documents relating to the Constitutional History of Canada, 1791-1818”.

Certainly there was much in the immediate situation to justify Murray’s attitude. It was preposterous to set up a legislature in which only the four hundred Protestants might sit and from which the seventy thousand Catholics would be barred. It would have been difficult in any case to change suddenly the system of laws governing the most intimate transactions of everyday life. But when, as happened, the Administration was entrusted in large part to newly created justices of the peace, men with “little French and less honour,” “to whom it is only possible to speak with guineas in one’s hand,” the change became flatly impossible. Such an alteration, if still insisted upon, must come more slowly than the impatient traders in Montreal and Quebec desired.

The British Government, however, was not yet ready to abandon its policy. The Quebec traders petitioned for Murray’s recall, alleging that the measures required to encourage settlement had not been adopted, that the Governor was encouraging factions by his partiality to the French, that he treated the traders with “a Rage and Rudeness of Language and Demeanor” and–a fair thrust in return for his reference to them as “the most immoral collection of men I ever knew”–as “discountenancing the Protestant Religion by almost a Total Neglect of Attendance upon the Service of the Church.” When the London business correspondents of the traders backed up this petition, the Government gave heed. In 1766 Murray was recalled to England and, though he was acquitted of the charges against him, he did not return to his post in Canada.

The triumph of the English merchants was short. They had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. General Guy Carleton, Murray’s successor and brother officer under Wolfe, was an even abler man, and he was still less in sympathy with democracy of the New England pattern. Moreover, a new factor had come in to reenforce the soldier’s instinctive preference for gentlemen over shopkeepers. The first rumblings of the American Revolution had reached Quebec. It was no time, in Carleton’s view, to set up another sucking republic. Rather, he believed, the utmost should be made of the opportunity Canada afforded as a barrier against the advance of democracy, a curb upon colonial insolence. The need of cultivating the new subjects was the greater, Carleton contended, because the plan of settlement by Englishmen gave no sign of succeeding: “barring a Catastrophe shocking to think of, this Country must, to the end of Time, be peopled by the Canadian race.”

To bind the Canadians firmly to England, Carleton proposed to work chiefly through their old leaders, the seigneurs and the clergy. He would restore to the people their old system of laws, both civil and criminal. He would confirm the seigneurs in their feudal dues and fines, which the habitants were growing slack in paying now that the old penalties were not enforced, and he would give them honors and emoluments such as they had before enjoyed as officers in regular or militia regiments. The Roman Catholic clergy were already, in fact, confirmed in their right to tithe and toll; and, without objection from the Governor, Bishop Briand, elected by the chapter in Quebec and consecrated in Paris, once more assumed control over the flock.

Carleton’s proposals did not pass unquestioned. His own chief legal adviser, Francis Maseres, was a sturdy adherent of the older policy, though he agreed that the time was not yet ripe for setting up an Assembly and suggested some well-considered compromise between the old laws and the new. The Advocate General of England, James Marriott, urged the same course. The policy of 1768, he contended eleven years later, had already succeeded in great measure. The assimilation of government had been effected; an assimilation of manners would follow. The excessive military spirit of the inhabitants had begun to dwindle, as England’s interest required. The back settlements of New York and Canada were fast being joined. Two or three thousand men of British stock, many of them men of substance, had gone to the new colony; warehouses and foundries were being built; and many of the principal seigneuries had passed into English hands. All that was needed, he concluded, was persistence along the old path. The same view was of course strenuously urged by the English merchants in the colony, who continued to demand, down to the very eve of the Revolution, an elective Assembly and other rights of freeborn Britons.

Carleton carried the day. His advice, tendered at close range during four years’ absentee residence in London, from 1770 to 1774, fell in with the mood of Lord North’s Government. The measure in which the new policy was embodied, the famous Quebec Act of 1774, was essentially a part of the ministerial programme for strengthening British power to cope with the resistance then rising to rebellious heights in the old colonies. Though not, as was long believed, designed in retaliation for the Boston disturbances, it is clear that its framers had Massachusetts in mind when deciding on their policy for Quebec. The main purpose of the Act, the motive which turned the scale against the old Anglicizing policy, was to attach the leaders of French-Canadian opinion firmly to the British Crown, and thus not only to prevent Canada itself from becoming infected with democratic contagion or turning in a crisis toward France, but to ensure, if the worst came to the worst, a military base in that northland whose terrors had in old days kept the seaboard colonies circumspectly loyal. Ministers in London had been driven by events to accept Carleton’s paradox, that to make Quebec British, it must be prevented from becoming English. If in later years the solidarity and aloofness of the French-Canadian people were sometimes to prove inconvenient to British interests, it was always to be remembered that this situation was due in great part to the deliberate action of Great Britain in strengthening French-Canadian institutions as a means of advancing what she considered her own interests in America. “The views of the British Government in respect to the political uses to which it means to make Canada subservient,” Marriott had truly declared, “must direct the spirit of any code of laws.”

The Quebec Act multiplied the area of the colony sevenfold by the restoration of all Labrador on the east and the region west as far as the Ohio and the Mississippi and north to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s territory. It restored the old French civil law but continued the milder English criminal law already in operation. It gave to the Roman Catholic inhabitants the free exercise of their religion, subject to a modified oath of allegiance, and confirmed the clergy in their right “to hold, receive and enjoy their accustomed dues and rights, with respect to such persons only as shall confess the said religion.” The promised elective Assembly was not granted, but a Council appointed by the Crown received a measure of legislative power.

On his return to Canada in September, 1774, Carleton reported that the Canadians had “testified the strongest marks of Joy and Gratitude and Fidelity to their King and to His Government for the late Arrangements made at Home in their Favor.” The “most respectable part of the English,” he continued, urged peaceful acceptance of the new order. Evidently, however, the respectable members of society were few, as the great body of the English settlers joined in a petition for the repeal of the Act on the ground that it deprived them of the incalculable benefits of habeas corpus and trial by jury. The Montreal merchants, whether, as Carleton commented, they “were of a more turbulent Turn, or that they caught the Fire from some Colonists settled among them,” were particularly outspoken in the town meetings they held. In the older colonies the opposition was still more emphatic. An Act which hemmed them in to the seacoast, established on the American continent a Church they feared and hated, and continued an autocratic political system, appeared to many to be the undoing of the work of Pitt and Wolfe and the revival on the banks of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi of a serious menace to their liberty and progress.

Then came the clash at Lexington, and the War of American Independence had begun. The causes, the course, and the ending of that great civil war have been treated elsewhere in this series.* Here it is necessary only to note its bearings on the fate of Canada.

* See “The Eve of the Revolution” and “Washington and His Comrades in Arms” (in “The Chronicles of America”).

Early in 1775 the Continental Congress undertook the conquest of Canada, or, as it was more diplomatically phrased, the relief of its inhabitants from British tyranny. Richard Montgomery led an expedition over the old route by Lake Champlain and the Richelieu, along which French and Indian raiding parties used to pass years before, and Benedict Arnold made a daring and difficult march up the Kennebec and down the Chaudiere to Quebec. Montreal fell to Montgomery; and Carleton himself escaped capture only by the audacity of some French-Canadian voyageurs, who, under cover of darkness, rowed his whaleboat or paddled it with their hands silently past the American sentinels on the shore. Once down the river and in Quebec, Carleton threw himself with vigor and skill into the defense of his capital. His generalship and the natural strength of the position proved more than a match for Montgomery and Arnold. Montgomery was killed and Arnold wounded in a vain attempt to carry the city by storm on the last night of 1775. At Montreal a delegation from Congress, composed of Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, accompanied by Carroll’s brother, a Jesuit priest and a future archbishop, failed to achieve-more by diplomacy than their generals had done by the sword. The Canadians seemed, content enough to wear the British yoke. In the spring, when a British fleet arrived with reenforcements, the American troops retired in haste and, before the Declaration of Independence had been proclaimed, Canada was free from the last of its ten thousand invaders.

The expedition had put Carleton’s policy to the test. On the whole it stood the strain. The seigneurs had rallied to the Government which had restored their rights, and the clergy had called on the people to stand fast by the King. So far all went as Carleton had hoped: “The Noblesse, Clergy, and greater part of the Bourgeoisie,” he wrote, “have given Government every Assistance in their Power.” But the habitants refused to follow their appointed leaders with the old docility, and some even mobbed the seigneurs who tried to enroll them. Ten years of freedom had worked a democratic change in them, and they were much less enthusiastic than their betters about the restoration of seigneurial privileges. Carleton, like many another, had held as public opinion what were merely the opinions of those whom he met at dinner. “These people had been governed with too loose a rein for many years,” he now wrote to Burgoyne, “and had imbibed too much of the American Spirit of Licentiousness and Independence administered by a numerous and turbulent Faction here, to be suddenly restored to a proper and desirable Subordination.” A few of the habitants joined his forces; fewer joined the invaders or sold them supplies–till they grew suspicious of paper “Continentals.” But the majority held passively aloof. Even when France joined the warring colonies and Admiral d’Estaing appealed to the Canadians to rise, they did not heed; though it is difficult to say what the result would have been if Washington had agreed to Lafayette’s plan of a joint French and American invasion in 1778.

Nova Scotia also held aloof, in spite of the fact that many of the men who had come from New England and from Ulster were eager to join the colonies to the south. In Nova Scotia democracy was a less hardy plant than in Massachusetts. The town and township institutions, which had been the nurseries of resistance in New England, had not been allowed to take root there. The circumstances of the founding of Halifax had given ripe to a greater tendency, which lasted long, to lean upon the mother country. The Maine wilderness made intercourse between Nova Scotia and New England difficult by land, and the British fleet was in control of the sea until near the close of the war. Nova Scotia stood by Great Britain, and was reserved to become part of a northern nation still in the making.

That nation was to owe its separate existence to the success of the American Revolution. But for that event, coming when it did, the struggling colonies of Quebec and Nova Scotia would in time have become merged with the colonies to the youth and would have followed them, whether they remained within the British Empire or not. Thus it was due to the quarrel between the thirteen colonies and the motherland that Canada did not become merely a fourteenth colony or state. Nor was this the only bearing of the Revolution on Canada’s destiny. Thanks to the coming of the Loyalists, those exiles of the Revolution who settled in Canada in large numbers, Canada was after all to be dominantly a land of English speech and of English sympathies. By one of the many paradoxes which mark the history of Canada, the very success of the plan which aimed to save British power by confirming French-Canadian nationality and the loyalty of the French led in the end to making a large part of Canada English. The Revolution meant also that for many a year those in authority in England and in Canada itself were to stand in fear of the principles and institutions which had led the old colonies to rebellion and separation, and were to try to build up in Canada buttresses against the advance of democracy.

The British statesmen who helped to frame the Peace of 1783 were men with broad and generous views as to the future of the seceding colonies and their relations with the mother country. It was perhaps inevitable that they should have given less thought to the future of the colonies in America which remained under the British flag. Few men could realize at the moment that out of these scattered fragments a new nation and a second empire would arise. Not only were the seceding colonies given a share in the fishing grounds of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, which was unfortunately to prove a constant source of friction, but the boundary line was drawn with no thought of the need of broad and easy communication between Nova Scotia and Canada, much less between Canada and the far West. Vague definitions of the boundaries, naturally incident to the prevailing lack of geographical knowledge of the vast continent, held further seeds of trouble. These contentions, however, were far in the future. At the moment another defect of the treaty proved to be Canada’s gain. The failure of Lord Shelburne’s Ministry to insist upon effective safeguards for the fair treatment of those who had taken the King’s side in the old colonies, condemned as it was not only by North and the Tories but by Fox and Sheridan and Burke, led to that Loyalist migration which changed the racial complexion of Canada.

The Treaty of 1783 provided that Congress would “earnestly recommend” to the various States that the Loyalists be granted amnesty and restitution. This pious resolution proved not worth the paper on which it was written. In State after State the property of the Loyalists was withheld or confiscated anew. Yet this ungenerous treatment of the defeated by the victors is not hard to understand. The struggle had been waged with all the bitterness of civil war. The smallness of the field of combat had intensified personal ill-will. Both sides had practiced cruelties in guerrilla warfare; but the Patriots forgot Marion’s raids, Simsbury mines, and the drumhead hangings, and remembered only Hessian brutalities, Indian scalpings, Tarleton’s harryings, and the infamous prison ships of New York. The war had been a long one. The tide of battle had ebbed and flowed. A district that was Patriot one year was frequently Loyalist the next. These circumstances engendered fear and suspicion and led to nervous reprisals.

At least a third, if not a half, of the people of the old colonies had been opposed to revolution. New York was strongly Loyalist, with Pennsylvania, Georgia, and the Carolinas closely following. In the end some fifty or sixty thousand Loyalists abandoned their homes or suffered expulsion rather than submit to the new order. They counted in their ranks many of the men who had held first place in their old communities, men of wealth, of education, and of standing, as well as thousands who had nothing to give but their fidelity to the old order. Many, especially of the well-to-do, went to England; a few found refuge in the West Indies; but the great majority, over fifty thousand in all, sought new homes in the northern wilderness. Over thirty thousand, including many of the most influential of the whole number (with about three thousand negro slaves, afterwards freed and deported to Sierra Leone) were carried by ship to Nova Scotia. They found homes chiefly in that part of the province which in 1784 became New Brunswick. Others, trekking overland or sailing around by the Gulf and up the River, settled in the upper valley of the St. Lawrence–on Lake St. Francis, on the Cataraqui and the Bay of Quinte, and in the Niagara District.

Though these pioneers were generously aided by the British Government with grants of land and supplies, their hardships and disappointments during the first years in the wilderness were such as would have daunted any but brave and desperate men and women whom fate had winnowed. Yet all but a few, who drifted back to their old homes, held out; and the foundations of two more provinces of the future Dominion–New Brunswick and Upper Canada–were thus broadly and soundly laid by the men whom future generations honored as “United Empire Loyalists.” Through all the later years, their sacrifices and sufferings, their ideals and prejudices, were to make a deep impress on the development of the nation which they helped to found and were to influence its relations with the country which they had left and with the mother country which had held their allegiance.

Once the first tasks of hewing and hauling and planting were done, the new settlers called for the organization of local governments. They were quite as determined as their late foes to have a voice in their own governing, even though they yielded ultimate obedience to rulers overseas.

In the provinces by the sea a measure of self-government was at once established. New Brunswick received, without question, a constitution on the Nova Scotia model, with a Lieutenant Governor, an Executive Council appointed to advise him, which served also as the upper house of the legislature, and an elective Assembly. Of the twenty-six members of the first Assembly, twenty-three were Loyalists. With a population so much at one, and with the tasks of road making and school building and tax collecting insistent and absorbing, no party strife divided the province for many years. In Nova Scotia, too, the Loyalists were in the majority. There, however, the earlier settlers soon joined with some of the newcomers to form an opposition. The island of St. John, renamed Prince Edward Island in 1798, had been made a separate Government and had received an Assembly in 1773. Its one absorbing question was the tenure of land. On a single day in 1767 the British authorities had granted the whole island by lottery to army and navy officers and country gentlemen, on condition of the payment of small quitrents. The quitrents were rarely paid, and the tenants of the absentee landlords kept up an agitation for reform which was unceasing but which was not to be successful for a hundred years. In all three Maritime Provinces political and party controversy was little known for a generation after the Revolution.

It was more difficult to decide what form of government should be set up in Canada, now that tens of thousands of English-speaking settiers dwelt beside the old Canadians. Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, had returned as Governor in 1786, after eight years’ absence. He was still averse to granting an Assembly so long as the French subjects were in the majority: they did not want it, he insisted, and could not use it. But the Loyalist settlers, not to be put off, joined with the English merchants of Montreal and Quebec in demanding an Assembly and relief from the old French laws. Carleton himself was compelled to admit the force of the conclusion of William Grenville, Secretary of State for the Home Department, then in control of the remnants of the colonial empire, and son of that George Grenville who, as Prime Minister, had introduced the American Stamp Act of 1765: “I am persuaded that it is a point of true Policy to make these Concessions at a time when they may be received as a matter of favour, and when it is in Our own power to regulate and direct the manner of applying them, rather than to wait till they shall be extorted from us by a necessity which shall neither leave us any discretion in the form nor any merit in the substance of what We give.” Accordingly, in 1791, the British Parliament passed the Constitutional Act dividing Canada into two provinces separated by the Ottawa River, Lower or French-speaking Canada and Upper or English-speaking Canada, and granting each an elective Assembly.

Thus far the tide of democracy had risen, but thus far only. Few in high places had learned the full lesson of the American Revolution. The majority believed that the old colonies had been lost because they had not been kept under a sufficiently tight rein; that democracy had been allowed too great headway; that the remaining colonies, therefore, should be brought under stricter administrative control; and that care should be taken to build up forces to counteract the democracy which grew so rank and swift in frontier soil. This conservative tendency was strengthened by the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.* The rulers of England had witnessed two revolutions, and the lesson they drew from both was that it was best to smother democracy in the cradle.

* It will be remembered that in the debate on the Constitutional Act the conflicting views of Burke and Fox on the French Revolution led to the dramatic break in their lifelong friendship.

For this reason the measure of representative government that had been granted each of the remaining British colonies in North America was carefully hedged about. The whole executive power remained in the hands of the Governor or his nominees. No one yet conceived it possible that the Assembly should control the Executive Council. The elective Assembly was compelled to share even the lawmaking power with an upper house, the Legislative Council. Not only were the members of this upper house appointed by the Crown for life, but the King was empowered to bestow hereditary titles upon them with a view to making the Council in the fullness of time a copy of the House of Lords. A blow was struck even at that traditional prerogative of the popular house, the control of the purse. Carleton had urged that in every township a sixth of the land should be reserved to enable His Majesty “to reward such of His provincial Servants as may merit the Royal favour” and “to create and strengthen an Aristocracy, of which the best use may be made on this Continent, where all Governments are feeble and the general condition of things tends to a wild Democracy.” Grenville saw further possibilities in this suggestion. It would give the Crown a revenue which would make it independent of the Assembly, “a measure, which, if it had been adopted when the Old Colonies were first settled, would have retained them to this hour in obedience and Loyalty.” Nor was this all. From the same source an endowment might be obtained for a state church which would be a bulwark of order and conservatism. The Constitutional Act accordingly provided for setting aside lands equal in value to one-seventh of all lands granted from time to time, for the support of a Protestant clergy. The Executive Council received power to set up rectories in every parish, to endow them liberally, and to name as rectors ministers of the Church of England. Further, the Executive Council was instructed to retain an equal amount of land as crown reserves, distributed judiciously in blocks between the grants made to settlers. Were any radical tendencies to survive these attentions, the veto power of the British Government could be counted on in the last resort.

For a time the installment of self-government thus granted satisfied the people. The pioneer years left little leisure for political discussion, nor were there at first any general issues about which men might differ. The Government was carrying on acceptably the essential tasks of surveying, land granting, and road building; and each member of the Assembly played his own hand and was chiefly concerned in obtaining for his constituents the roads and bridges, they needed so badly. The English-speaking settlers of Upper Canada were too widely scattered, and the French-speaking citizens of Lower Canada were too ignorant of representative institutions, to act in groups or parties.

Much turned in these early years upon the personality of the Governor. In several instances, the choice of rulers for the new provinces proved fortunate. This was particularly so in the case of John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1792 to 1799. He was a good soldier and a just and vigorous administrator, particularly wise in setting his regulars to work building roads such as Yonge Street and Dundas Street, which to this day are great provincial arteries of travel. Yet there were many sources of weakness in the scheme of government–divided authority, absenteeism, personal unfitness. When Dorchester was reappointed in 1786, he had been made Governor in Chief of all British North America. From the beginning, however, the Lieutenant Governors of the various provinces asserted independent authority, and in a few years the Governor General became in fact merely the Governor of the most populous province, Lower Canada, in which he resided.

In Upper Canada, as in New Brunswick, the population was at first much at one. In time, however, discordant elements appeared. Religious, or at least denominational, differences began to cause friction. The great majority of the early settlers in Upper Canada belonged to the Church of England, whose adherents in the older colonies had nearly all taken the Loyalist side. Of the Ulster Presbyterians and New England Congregationalists who formed the backbone of the Revolution, few came to Canada. The growth of the Methodists and Baptists in the United States after the Revolution, however, made its mark on the neighboring country. The first Methodist class meetings in Upper Canada, held in the United Empire Loyalist settlement on the Bay of Quinte in 1791, were organized by itinerant preachers from the United States; and in the western part of the province pioneer Baptist evangelists from the same country reached the scattered settlers neglected by the older churches.

Nor was it in religion alone that diversity grew. Simcoe had set up a generous land policy which brought in many “late Loyalists,” American settlers whose devotion to monarchical principles would not always bear close inquiry. The fantastic experiment of planting in the heart of the woods of Upper Canada a group of French nobles driven out by the Revolution left no trace; but Mennonites, Quakers, and Scottish Highlanders contributed diverse and permanent factors to the life of the province. Colonel Thomas Talbot of Malahide, “a fierce little Irishman who hated Scotchmen and women, turned teetotallers out of his house, and built the only good road in the province,” made the beginnings of settlement midway on Lake Erie. A shrewd Massachusetts merchant, Philemon Wright, with his comrades, their families, servants, horses, oxen, and 10,000 pounds, sledded from Boston to Montreal in the winter of 1800, and thence a hundred miles beyond, to found the town of Hull and establish a great lumbering industry in the Ottawa Valley.

These differences of origin and ways of thought had not yet been reflected in political life. Party strife in Upper Canada began with a factional fight which took place in 1805-07 between a group of Irish officeholders and a Scotch clique who held the reins of government. Weekes, an Irish-American barrister, Thorpe, a puisne judge, Wyatt, the surveyor general, and Willcocks, a United Irishman who had become sheriff of one of the four Upper Canada districts, began to question the right to rule of “the Scotch pedlars” or “the Shopkeeper Aristocracy,” as Thorpe called those merchants who, for the lack of other leaders, had developed an influence with the governors or ruled in their frequent absence. But the insurgents were backed by only a small minority in the Assembly, and when the four leaders disappeared from the stage,* this curtain raiser to the serious political drama which was to follow came quickly to its end.

* Weekes was slain in a duel. Wyatt and Thorpe were suspended by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Francis Gore, only to win redress later in England. Willcocks was dismissed from office and fell fighting on the American side in the War of 1812.

In Lower Canada the clash was more serious. The French Canadians, who had not asked for representative government, eventually grasped its possibilities and found leaders other than those ordained for them. In the first Assembly there were many seigneurs and aristocrats who bore names notable for six generations back Taschereau, Duchesnay, Lotbiniere, Rouville, Salaberry. But they soon found their surroundings uncongenial or failed to be reelected. Writing in 1810 to Lord Liverpool, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, the Governor, Sir James Craig, with a fine patrician scorn thus pictures the Assembly of his day.

“It really, my Lord, appears to me an absurdity, that the Interests of certainly not an unimportant Colony, involving in them those also of no inconsiderable portion of the Commercial concerns of the British Empire, should be in the hands of six petty shopkeepers, a Blacksmith, a Miller, and 15 ignorant peasants who form part of our present House; a Doctor or Apothecary, twelve Canadian Avocats and Notaries, and four so far respectable people that at least they do not keep shops, together with ten English members compleat the List: there is not one person coming under the description of a Canadian Gentleman among them.”

And again:

“A Governor cannot obtain among them even that sort of influence that might arise from personal intercourse. I can have none with Blacksmiths, Millers, and Shopkeepers; even the Avocats and Notaries who compose so considerable a portion of the House, are, generally speaking, such as I can nowhere meet, except during the actual sitting of Parliament, when I have a day of the week expressly appropriated to the receiving a large portion of them at dinner.”

Leadership under these conditions fell to the “unprincipled Demagogues,” half-educated lawyers, men “with nothing to lose.”

But it was not merely as an aristocrat facing peasants and shopkeepers, nor as a soldier faced by talkers, but as an Englishman on guard against Frenchmen that Craig found himself at odds with his Assembly. For nearly twenty years in this period England was at death grips with France, end to hate and despise all Frenchmen was part of the hereditary and congenial duty of all true Britons. Craig and those who counseled him were firmly convinced that the new subjects were French at heart. Of the 250,000 inhabitants of Lower Canada, he declared, “about 20,000 or 25,000 may be English or Americans, the rest are French. I use the term designedly, my Lord, because I mean to say that they are in Language, in religion, in manner and in attachment completely French.” That there was still some affection for old France, stirred by war and French victories, there is no question, but that the Canadians wished to return to French allegiance was untrue, even though Craig reported that such was “the general opinion of all ranks with whom it is possible to converse on the subject.” The French Revolution had created a great gulf between Old France and New France. The clergy did their utmost to bar all intercourse with the land where deism and revolution held sway, and when the Roman Catholic Church and the British Government combined for years on a single object, it was little wonder they succeeded. Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar was celebrated by a Te Deum in the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Quebec. In fact, as Craig elsewhere noted, the habitants were becoming rather a new and distinct nationality, a nation canadienne. They ceased to be French; they declined to become English; and sheltered under their “Sacred Charter”* they became Canadians first and last.

* “It cannot be sufficiently inculcated ON THE PART OF GOVERNMENT that the Quebec Act is a Sacred Charter, granted by the King in Parliament to the Canadians as a Security for their Religion, Laws, and Property.” Governor Sir Frederick Haldimand to Lord George Germaine, Oct. 25, 1780.

The governors were not alone in this hostility to the mass of the people. There had grown up in the colony a little clique of officeholders, of whom Jonathan Sewell, the Loyalist Attorney General, and later Chief Justice, was the chief, full of racial and class prejudice, and in some cases greedy for personal gain. Sewell declared it “indispensably necessary to overwhelm and sink the Canadian population by English Protestants,” and was even ready to run the risk of bringing in Americans to effect this end. Of the non-official English, some were strongly opposed to the pretensions of the “Chateau Clique”; but others, and especially the merchants, with their organ the Quebec “Mercury”, were loud in their denunciations of the French who were unprogressive and who as landowners were incidentally trying to throw the burden of taxation chiefly on the traders.

The first open sign of the racial division which was to bedevil the life of the province came in 1806 when, in order to meet the attacks of the Anglicizing party, the newspaper “Le Canadien” was established at Quebec. Its motto was significant: “Notre langue, nos institutions, et nos lois.” Craig and his counselors took up the challenge. In 1808 he dismissed five militia officers, because of their connection with the irritating journal, and in 1810 he went so far as to suppress it and to throw into prison four of those responsible for its management. The Assembly, which was proving hard to control, was twice dissolved in three years. Naturally the Governor’s arbitrary course only stiffened resistance; and passions were rising fast and high when illness led to his recall and the shadow of a common danger from the south, the imminence of war with the United States, for a time drew all men together.

While the foundations of the eastern provinces of Canada were being laid, the wildernesses which one day were to become the western provinces were just rising above the horizon of discovery. In the plains and prairies between the Great Lakes and the Rockies, fur traders warred for the privilege of exchanging with the Indians bad whiskey for good furs. Scottish traders from Montreal, following in the footsteps of La Verendrye and Niverville, pushed far into the northern wilds.* In 1788 the leading traders joined forces in organizing the North-West Company. Their great canoes, manned by French-Canadian voyageurs, penetrated the network of waters from the Ottawa to the Saskatchewan, and poured wealth into the pockets of the lordly partners in Montreal. Their rivalry wakened the sleepy Hudson’s Bay Company, which was now forced to leave the shores of the inland sea and build posts in the interior.

* It is interesting to note the dominant share taken in the trade and exploration of the North and West by men of Highland Scotch and French extraction. For an account of La Verendrye see “The Conquest of New France” and for the Scotch fur traders of Montreal see “Adventurers of Oregon” (in “The Chronicles of America”).

On the Pacific coast rivalry was still keener. The sea otter and the seal were a lure to the men of many nations. Canada took its part in this rivalry. In 1792, when the Russians were pressing down from their Alaskan posts, when the Spaniards, claiming the Pacific for their own, were exploring the mouth of the Fraser, when Captain Robert Gray of Boston was sailing up the mighty Columbia, and Captain Vancouver was charting the northern coasts for the British Government, a young North-West Company factor, Alexander Mackenzie, in his lonely post on Lake Athabaska, was planning to cross the wilderness of mountains to the coast. With a fellow trader, Mackay, and six Canadian voyageurs, he pushed up the Peace and the Parsnip, passed by way of the Fraser and the Blackwater to the Bella Coola, and thence to the Pacific, the first white man to cross the northern continent. Paddling for life through swirling rapids on rivers which rushed madly through sheer rock-bound canyons, swimming for shore when rock or sand bar had wrecked the precious bark canoe, struggling over heartbreaking portages, clinging to the sides of precipices, contending against hostile Indians and fear-stricken followers, and at last winning through, Mackenzie summed up what will ever remain one of the great achievements of exploration in the simple record, painted in vermilion on a rock in Burke Channel: Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three. The first bond had been woven in the union of East and West. Between the eastern provinces a stronger link was soon to be forged. The War of 1812 gave the scattered British colonies in America for the first time a living sense of unity that transcended all differences, a memory of perils and of victories which nourished a common patriotism.

The War of 1812 was no quarrel of Canada’s. It was merely an incident in the struggle between England and Napoleon. At desperate grips, both contestants used whatever weapons lay ready to their hands. Sea power was England’s weapon, and in her claim to forbid all neutral traffic with her enemies and to exercise the galling right of search, she pressed it far. France trampled still more ruthlessly on American and neutral rights; but, with memories of 1776 still fresh, the dominant party in the United States was disposed to forgive France and to hold England to strict account.

England had struck at France, regardless of how the blow might injure neutrals. Now the United States sought to strike at England through the colonies, regardless of their lack of any responsibility for English policy. The “war hawks” of the South and West called loudly for the speedy invasion and capture of Canada as a means of punishing England. In so far as the British North American colonies were but possessions of Great Britain, overseas plantations, the course of the United States could be justified. But potentially these colonies were more than mere possessions. They were a nation in the making, with a right to their own development; they were not simply a pawn in the game of Britain and the United States. Quite aside from the original rights or wrongs of the war, the invasion of Canada was from this standpoint an act of aggression. “Agrarian cupidity, not maritime right, wages this war,” insisted John Randolph of Roanoke, the chief opponent of the “war hawks” in Congress. “Ever since the report of the Committee on Foreign Relations came into the House, we have heard but one word–like the whippoorwill, but one eternal monotonous tone–Canada, Canada, Canada!”

At the outset there appeared no question that the conquest of Canada could be, as Jefferson forecast, other than “a mere matter of marching.” Eustis, the Secretary of War, prophesied that “we can take Canada without soldiers.” Clay insisted that the Canadas were “as much under our command as the Ocean is under Great Britain’s.” The provinces had barely half a million people, two-thirds of them allied by ties of blood to Britain’s chief enemy, to set against the eight millions of the Republic. There were fewer than ten thousand regular troops in all the colonies, half of them down by the sea, far away from the danger zone, and less than fifteen hundred west of Montreal. Little help could come from England, herself at war with Napoleon, the master of half of Europe.

But there was another side. The United States was not a unit in the war; New England was apathetic or hostile to the war throughout, and as late as 1814 two-thirds of the army of Canada were eating beef supplied by Vermont and New York contractors. Weak as was the militia of the Canadas, it was stiffened by English and Canadian regulars, hardened by frontier experience, and led for the most part by trained and able men, whereas an inefficient system and political interference greatly weakened the military force of the fighting States., Above all, the Canadians were fighting for their homes. To them the war was a matter of life and death; to the United States it was at best a struggle to assert commercial rights or national prestige.

The course and fortunes of the war call for only the briefest notice. In the first year the American plans for invading Upper Canada came to grief through the surrender of Hull at Detroit to Isaac Brock and the defeat at Queenston Heights of the American army under Van Rensselaer. The campaign ended with not a foot of Canadian soil in the invaders’ hands, and with Michigan lost, but Brock, Canada’s brilliant leader, had fallen at Queenston, and at sea the British had tasted unwonted defeat. In single actions one American frigate after another proved too much for its British opponent. It was a rude shock to the Mistress of the Seas.

The second year’s campaign was more checkered. In the West the Americans gained the command of the Great Lakes by rapid building and good sailing, and with it followed the command of all the western peninsula of Upper Canada. The British General Procter was disastrously defeated at Moraviantown, and his ally, the Shawanoe chief Tecumseh, one of the half dozen great men of his race, was killed. York, later known as Toronto, the capital of the province, was captured, and its public buildings were burned and looted. But in the East fortune was kinder to the Canadians. The American plan of invasion called for an attack on Montreal from two directions; General Wilkinson was to sail and march down the St. Lawrence from Sackett’s Harbor with some eight thousand men, while General Hampton, with four thousand, was to take the historic route by Lake Champlain. Half-way down the St. Lawrence Wilkinson came to grief. Eighteen hundred men whom he landed to drive off a force of a thousand hampering his rear were decisively defeated at Chrystler’s Farm. Wilkinson pushed on for a few days, but when word came that Hampton had also met disaster he withdrew into winter quarters. Hampton had found Colonel de Salaberry, with less than sixteen hundred troops, nearly all French Canadians, making a stand on the banks of the Chateauguay, thirty-five miles south of Montreal. He divided his force in order to take the Canadians in front and rear, only to be outmaneuvered and outfought in one of the most brilliant actions of the war and forced to retire. In the closing months of the year the Americans, compelled to withdraw from Fort George on the Niagara, burned the adjoining town of Newark and turned its women and children into the December snow. Drummond, who had succeeded Brock, gained control of both sides of the Niagara and retaliated in kind by laying waste the frontier villages from Lewiston to Buffalo. The year closed with Amherstburg on the Detroit the only Canadian post in American hands. On the sea the capture of the Chesapeake by the Shannon salved the pride of England.

The last year of the war was also a year of varying fortunes. In the far West a small body of Canadians and Indians captured Prairie du Chien, on the Mississippi, while Michilimackinac, which a force chiefly composed of French-Canadian voyageurs and Indians had captured in the first months of war, defied a strong assault. In Upper Canada the Americans raided the western peninsula from Detroit but made their chief attack on the Niagara frontier. Though they scored no permanent success, they fought well and with a fair measure of fortune. The generals with whom they had been encumbered at the outset of the war, Revolutionary relics or political favorites, had now nearly all been replaced by abler men–Scott, Brown, Exert–and their troops were better trained and better equipped. In July the British forces on the Niagara were decisively beaten at Chippawa. Three weeks later was fought the bloodiest battle on Canadian soil, at Lundy’s Lane, either side’s victory at the moment but soon followed by the retirement of the invading force. The British had now outbuilt their opponents on Lake Ontario; and, though American ships controlled Lake Erie to the end, the Ontario flotilla aided Drummond, Brock’s able successor, in forcing the withdrawal of Exert forces from the whole peninsula in November. Farther east a third attempt to capture Montreal had been defeated in the spring, after Wilkinson with four thousand men had failed to drive five hundred regulars and militia from the stone walls of Lacolle’s Mill.

Until this closing year Britain had been unable, in face of the more vital danger from Napoleon, to send any but trifling reenforcements to what she considered a minor theater of the war. Now, with Napoleon in Elba, she was free to take more vigorous action. Her navy had already swept the daring little fleet of American frigates and American merchant marine from the seas. Now it maintained a close blockade of all the coast and, with troops from Halifax, captured and held the Maine coast north of the Penobscot. Large forces of Wellington’s hardy veterans crossed the ocean, sixteen thousand to Canada, four thousand to aid in harrying the Atlantic coast, and later nine thousand to seize the mouth of the Mississippi. Yet, strangely, these hosts fared worse, because of hard fortune and poor leadership, than the handful of militia and regulars who had borne the brunt of the war in the first two years. Under Ross they captured Washington and burned the official buildings; but under Prevost they failed at Plattsburg; and under Pakenham, in January, 1815, they failed against Andrew Jackson’s sharpshooters at New Orleans.

Before the last-named fight occurred, peace had been made. Both sides were weary of the war, which had now, by the seeming end of the struggle between England and Napoleon in which it was an incident, lost whatever it formerly had of reason. Though Napoleon was still in Elba, Europe was far from being at rest, and the British Ministers, backed by Wellington’s advice, were keen to end the war. They showed their contempt for the issues at stake by sending to the peace conference at Ghent three commissioners as incompetent as ever represented a great power, Gambier, Goulburn, and Adams. To face these the United States had sent John Quincy Adams, Albert Gallatin, Henry Clay, James Bayard, and Jonathan Russell, as able and astute a group of players for great stakes as ever gathered round a table. In these circumstances the British representatives were lucky to secure peace on the basis of the status quo ante. Canada had hoped that sufficient of the unsettled Maine wilderness would be retained to link up New Brunswick with the inland colony of Quebec, but this proposal was soon abandoned. In the treaty not one of the ostensible causes of the war was even mentioned.

The war had the effect of unifying Canadian feeling. Once more it had been determined that Canada was not to lose her identity in the nation to the south. In Upper Canada, especially in the west, there were many recent American settlers who sympathized openly with their kinsmen, but of these some departed, some were jailed, and others had a change of heart. Lower Canada was a unit against the invader, arid French-Canadian troops on every occasion covered themselves with glory. To the Canadians, as the smaller people, and as the people whose country had been the chief battle ground, the war in later years naturally bulked larger than to their neighbors. It left behind it unfortunate legacies of hostility to the United States and, among the governing classes, of deep-rooted opposition to its democratic institutions. But it left also memories precious for a young people–the memory of Brock and Macdonell and De Salaberry, of Laura Secord and her daring tramp through the woods to warn of American attacks, of Stony Creek and Lundy’s Lane, Chrystler’s Farm and Chateauguay, the memory of sacrifice, of endurance, and of courage that did not count the odds.

Nor were the evil legacies to last for all time. Three years after peace had been made the statesmen of the United States and of Great Britain had the uncommon sense to take a great step toward banishing war between the neighbor peoples. The Rush-Bagot Convention, limiting the naval armament on the Great Lakes to three vessels not exceeding one hundred tons each, and armed only with one eighteen-pounder, though not always observed in the letter, proved the beginning of a sane relationship which has lasted for a century. Had not this agreement nipped naval rivalry in the bud, fleets and forts might have lined the shores and increased the strain of policy and the likelihood of conflict. The New World was already preparing to sound its message to the Old.


The history of British North America in the quarter of a century that followed the War of 1812 is in the main the homely tale of pioneer life. Slowly little clearings in the vast forest were widened and won to order and abundance; slowly community was linked to community; and out of the growing intercourse there developed the complex of ways and habits and interests that make up the everyday life of a people.

All the provinces called for settlers, and they did not call in vain. For a time northern New England continued to overflow into the Eastern Townships of Lower Canada, the rolling lands south of the St. Lawrence which had been left untouched by riverbound seigneur and habitant. Into Upper Canada, as well, many individual immigrants came from the south, some of the best the Republic had to give, merchants and manufacturers with little capital but much shrewd enterprise, but also some it could best spare, fugitives from justice and keepers of the taverns that adorned every four corners. Yet slowly this inflow slackened. After the war the Canadian authorities sought to avoid republican contagion and moreover the West of the United States itself was calling for men.

But if fewer came in across the border, many more sailed from across the seas. Not again until the twentieth century were the northern provinces to receive so large a share of British emigrants as came across in the twenties and thirties. Swarms were preparing to leave the overcrowded British hives. Corn laws and poor laws and famine, power-driven looms that starved the cottage weaver, peace that threw an army on a crowded and callous labor market, landlords who rack-rented the Connaughtman’s last potato or cleared Highland glens of folks to make way for sheep, rulers who persisted in denying the masses any voice in their own government–all these combined to drive men forth in tens of thousands. Australia was still a land of convict settlements and did not attract free men. To most the United States was the land of promise. Yet, thanks to state aid, private philanthropy, landlords’ urging and cheap fares on the ships that came to St. John and Quebec for timber, Canada and the provinces by the sea received a notable share. In the quarter of a century following the peace with Napoleon, British North America received more British emigrants than the United States and the Australian colonies together, though many were merely birds of passage.

The country west of the Great Lakes did not share in this flood of settlement, except for one tragic interlude. Lord Selkirk, a Scotchman of large sympathy and vision, convinced that emigration was the cure for the hopeless misery he saw around him, acquired a controlling interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company, and sought to plant colonies in a vast estate granted from its domains. Between 1811 and 1815 he sent out to Hudson Bay, and thence to the Red River, two or three hundred crofters from the Highlands and the Orkneys. A little later these were joined by some Swiss soldiers of fortune who had fought for Canada in the War of 1812. But Selkirk had reckoned without the partners of the North-West Company of Montreal, who were not prepared to permit mere herders and tillers to disturb the Indians and the game. The Nor’Westers attacked the helpless colonists and massacred a score of them. Selkirk retorted in kind, leading out an armed band which seized the Nor’Westers’ chief post at Fort William. The war was then transferred to the courts, with heart-breaking delays and endless expense. At last Selkirk died broken in spirit, and most of his colonists drifted to Canada or across the border. But a handful held on, and for fifty years their little settlement on the Red River remained a solitary outpost of colonization.

Once arrived in Canada, the settler soon found that he had no primrose path before him. Canada remained for many years a land of struggling pioneers, who had little truck or trade with the world out of sight of their log shacks. The habitant on the seigneuries of Lower Canada continued to farm as his grandfather had farmed, finding his holding sufficient for his modest needs, even though divided into ever narrower ribbons as le bon Dieu sent more and yet more sons to share the heritage. The English-speaking settler, equipped with ax and sickle and flail, with spinning wheel and iron kettle, lived a life almost equally primitive and self-contained. He and his good wife grew the wheat, the corn, and the potatoes, made the soap and the candles, the maple sugar and the “yarbs,” the deerskin shoes and the homespun-cloth that met their needs. They had little to buy and little to sell. In spite of the preference which Great Britain gave Canadian grain, in return for the preference exacted on British manufactured goods, practically no wheat was exported until the close of this period. The barrels of potash and pearl- ash leached out from the ashes of the splendid hardwood trees which he burned as enemies were the chief source of ready money for the backwoods settler. The one substantial export of the colonies came, not from the farmer’s clearing, but from the forest. Great rafts of square pine timber were floated down the Ottawa or the St. John every spring to be loaded for England. The lumberjack lent picturesqueness to the landscape and the vocabulary and circulated ready money, but his industry did little directly to advance permanent settlement or the wise use of Canadian resources.

The self-contained life of each community and each farm pointed to the lack of good means of transport. New Brunswick and the Canadas were fortunate in the possession of great lake and river systems, but these were available only in summer and were often impeded by falls and rapids. On these waters the Indian bark canoe had given way to the French bateau, a square-rigged flat- bottomed boat, and after the war the bateau shared the honors with the larger Durham boat brought in from “the States.”

Canadians took their full share in developing steamship transportation. In 1809, two years after Fulton’s success on the Hudson, John Molson built and ran a steamer between Montreal and Quebec. The first vessel to cross the Atlantic wholly under steam, the Royal William, was built in Quebec and sailed from that port in 1833. Following and rivaling American enterprise, side-wheelers, marvels of speed and luxury for the day, were put on the lakes in the thirties. Canals were built, the Lachine in 1821-25, the Welland around Niagara Falls in 1824-29, and the Rideau, as a military undertaking, in 1826-32, all in response to the stimulus given by De Witt Clinton, who had begun the “Erie Ditch” in 1817. On land, road making made slower progress. The blazed trail gave way to the corduroy road, and the pack horse to the oxcart or the stage. Upper Canada had the honor of inventing, in 1835, the plank road, which for some years thereafter became the fashion through the forested States to the south. But at best neither roads nor vehicles were fitted for carrying large loads from inland farms to waterside markets.

Money and banks were as necessary to develop intercourse as roads and canals. Until after the War of 1812, when army gold and army bills ran freely, money was rare and barter served pioneer needs. For many years after the war a jumble of English sovereigns and shillings, of Spanish dollars, French crowns, and American silver, made up the currency in use, circulating sometimes by weight and sometimes by tale, at rates that were constantly shifting. The position of the colonies as a link between Great Britain and the United States, was curiously illustrated in the currency system. The motley jumble of coins in use were rated in Halifax currency, a mere money of account or bookkeeping standard, with no actual coins to correspond, adapted to both English and United States currency systems. The unit was the pound, divided into shillings and pence as in England, but the pound was made equal to four dollars in American money; it took 1 pound 4s. 4d. in Halifax currency to make 1 pound sterling. Still more curious was the influence of American banking. Montreal merchants in 1808 took up the ideas of Alexander Hamilton and after several vain attempts founded the Bank of Montreal in 1817, with those features of government charter, branch banks, and restrictions as to the proportion of debts to capital and the holding of real property which had marked Hamilton’s plan. But while Canadian banks, one after another, were founded on the same model and throughout adhered to an asset-secured currency basis, Hamilton’s own country abandoned his ideas, usually for the worse.

In the social life of the cities the influence of the official classes and, in Halifax and Quebec, of the British redcoats stationed there was all pervading. In the country the pioneers took what diversions a hard life permitted. There were “bees” and “frolics,” ranging from strenuous barn raisings, with heavy drinking and fighting, to mild apple parings or quilt patchings. There were the visits of the Yankee peddler with his “notions,” his welcome pack, and his gossip. Churches grew, thanks in part to grants of government land or old endowments or gifts from missionary societies overseas, but more to the zeal of lay preachers and circuit riders. Schools fared worse. In Lower Canada there was an excellent system of classical schools for the priests and professional classes, and there were numerous convents which taught the girls, but the habitants were for the most part quite untouched by book learning. In Upper Canada grammar schools and academies were founded with commendable promptness, and a common school system was established in 1816, but grants were niggardly and compulsion was lacking. Even at the close of the thirties only one child in seven was in school, and he was, as often as not, committed to the tender mercies of some broken-down pensioner or some ancient tippler who could barely sign his mark. There was but little administrative control by the provincial authorities. The textbooks in use came largely from the United States and glorified that land and all its ways in the best Fourth-of-July manner, to the scandal of the loyal elect. The press was represented by a few weekly newspapers; only one daily existed in Upper Canada before 1840.

Against this background there developed during the period 1815-41 a tense constitutional struggle which was to exert a profound influence on the making of the nation. The stage on which the drama was enacted was a small one, and the actors were little known to the world of their day, but the drama had an interest of its own and no little significance for the future.

In one aspect the struggle for self-government in British North America was simply a local manifestation of a world-wide movement which found more notable expression in other lands. After a troubled dawn, democracy was coming to its own. In England the black reaction which had identified all proposals for reform with treasonable sympathy for bloodstained France was giving way, and the middle classes were about to triumph in the great franchise reform of 1832. In the United States, after a generation of conservatism, Jacksonian democracy was to sweep all before it. These developments paralleled and in some measure influenced the movement of events in the British North American provinces. But this movement had a color of its own. The growth of self- government in an independent country was one thing; in a colony owing allegiance to a supreme Parliament overseas, it was quite another. The task of the provinces–not solved in this period, it is true, but squarely faced–was to reconcile democracy and empire.

The people of the Canadas in 1791, and of the provinces by the sea a little earlier, had been given the right to elect one house of the legislature. More than this instalment of self-government the authorities were not prepared to grant. The people, or rather the property holders among them, might be entrusted to vote taxes and appropriations, to present grievances, and to take a share in legislation. They could not, however, be permitted to control the Government, because, to state an obvious fact, they could not govern themselves as well as their betters could rule them. Besides, if the people of a colony did govern themselves, what would become of the rights and interests of the mother country? What would become of the Empire itself?

What was the use and object of the Empire? In brief, according to the theory and practice then in force, the end of empire was the profit which comes from trade; the means was the political subordination of the colonies to prevent interference with this profit; and the debit entry set against this profit was the cost of the diplomacy, the armaments, and the wars required to hold the overseas possessions against other powers. The policy was still that which had been set forth in the preamble of the Navigation Act of 1663, ensuring the mother country the sole right to sell European wares in its colonies: “the maintaining a greater correspondence and kindness between them [the subjects at home and those in the plantations] and keeping them in a firmer dependence upon it [the mother country], and rendering them yet more beneficial and advantageous unto it in the further Imployment and Encrease of English Shipping and Seamen, and vent of English Woollen and other Manufactures and Commodities rendering the Navigation to and from the same more safe and cheape, and makeing this Kingdom a Staple not only of the Commodities of those Plantations but also of the Commodities of other countries and places for the supplying of them, and it being the usage of other Nations to keep their [plantation] Trade to themselves.” Adam Smith had raised a doubt as to the wisdom of the end. The American Revolution had raised a doubt as to the wisdom of the means. Yet, with significant changes, the old colonial system lasted for full two generations after 1776.

In the second British Empire, which rose after the loss of the first in 1783, the means to the old end were altered. To secure control and to prevent disaffection and democratic folly, the authorities relied not merely on their own powers but on the cooperation of friendly classes and interests in the colonies themselves. Their direct control was exercised in many ways. In last reserve there was the supreme authority of King and Parliament to bind the colonies by treaty and by law and the right to veto any colonial enactment. This was as before the Revolution. One change lay in the renunciation in 1778 of the intention to use the supreme legislative power to levy taxes, though the right to control the fiscal system of the colonies in conformity with imperial policy was still claimed and practised. In fact, far from seeking to secure a direct revenue, the British Government was more than content to pay part of the piper’s fee for the sake of being able to call the tune. “It is considered by the Well wishers of Government,” wrote Milnes, Lieutenant Governor of Lower Canada, in 1800, “as a fortunate Circumstance that the Revenue is not at present equal to the Expenditure.” A further change came in the minute control exercised by the Colonial Office, or rather by the permanent clerks who, in Charles Buller’s phrase, were really “Mr. Mother Country.” The Governor was the local agent of the Colonial Office. He acted on its instructions and was responsible to it, and to it alone, for the exercise of the wide administrative powers entrusted to him.

But all these powers, it was believed, would fail in their purpose if democracy were allowed to grow unchecked in the colonies themselves. It was an essential part of the colonial policy of the time to build up conservative social forces among the people and to give a controlling voice in the local administration to a nominated and official class. It has been seen that the statesmen of 1791 looked to a nominated executive and legislative council, an hereditary aristocracy, and an established church, to keep the colony in hand. British legislation fostered and supported a ruling class in the colonies, and in turn this class was to support British connection and British control. How this policy, half avowed and half unconscious, worked out in each of the provinces must now be recorded.

In Upper Canada party struggles did not take shape until well after the War of 1812. At the founding of the colony the people had been very much of one temper and one condition. In time, however, divergences appeared and gradually hardened into political divisions. A governing class, or rather clique, was the first to become differentiated. Its emergence was slower than in New Brunswick, for instance, since Upper Canada had received few of the Loyalists who were distinguished by social position or political experience. In time a group was formed by the accident of occupation, early settlement, residence in the little town of York, the capital after 1794, the holding of office, or by some advantage in wealth or education or capacity which in time became cumulative. The group came to be known as the Family Compact. There had been, in fact, no intermarriage among its members beyond what was natural in a small and isolated community, but the phrase had a certain appositeness. They were closely linked by loyalty to Church and King, by enmity to republics and republicans, by the memory of the sacrifice and peril they or their fathers had shared, and by the conviction that the province owed them the best living it could bestow. This living they succeeded in collecting. “The bench, the magistracy, the high officials of the established church, and a great part of the legal profession,” declared Lord Durham in 1839, “are filled by the adherents of this party; by grant or purchase they have acquired nearly the whole of the waste lands of the province; they are all powerful in the chartered banks, and till lately shared among themselves almost exclusively all offices of trust and profit.” Fortunately the last absurdity of creating Dukes of Toronto and Barons of Niagara Falls was never carried through, or rather was postponed a full century; but this touch was scarcely needed to give the clique its cachet. The ten-year governorship of Sir Peregrine Maitland (1818-28), a most punctilious person, gave the finishing touches to this backwoods aristocracy.

The great majority of the group, men of the Scott and Boulton, Sherwood and Hagerman and Allan MacNab types, had nothing but their prejudices to distinguish them, but two of their number were of outstanding capacity. John Beverley Robinson, Attorney General from 1819 to 1829 and thereafter for over thirty years Chief Justice, was a true aristocrat, distrustful of the rabble, but as honest and highminded as he was able, seeking his country’s gain, as he saw it, not his own. A more rugged and domineering character, equally certain of his right to rule and less squeamish about the means, was John Strachan, afterwards Bishop of Toronto. Educated a Presbyterian, he had come to Canada from Aberdeen as a dominie but had remained as an Anglican clergyman in a capacity promising more advancement. His abounding vigor and persistence soon made him the dominant force in the Church, and with a convert’s zeal he labored to give it exclusive place and power. The opposition to the Family Compact was of a more motley hue, as is the way with oppositions. Opposition became potential when new settlers poured into the province from the United States or overseas, marked out from their Loyalist forerunners not merely by differences of political background and experience but by differences in religion. The Church of England had been dominant among the Loyalists; but the newcomers were chiefly Methodist and Presbyterian. Opposition became actual with the rise of concrete and acute grievances and with the appearance of leaders who voiced the growing discontent.

The political exclusiveness of the Family Compact did not rouse resentment half as deep as did. their religious, or at least denominational, pretensions. The refusal of the Compact to permit Methodist ministers to perform the marriage ceremony was not soon forgotten. There were scores of settlements where no clergyman of the Established Church of England or of Scotland resided, and marriages here had been of necessity performed by other ministers. A bill passed the Assembly in 1824 legalizing such marriages in the past and giving the required authority for the future; and when it was rejected by the Legislative Council, resentment flamed high. An attempt of Strachan to indict the loyalty of practically all but the Anglican clergy intensified this feeling; and the critics went on to call in question the claims of his Church to establishment and landed endowment.

The land question was the most serious that faced the province. The administration of those in power was condemned on three distinct counts. The granting of land to individuals had been lavish; it had been lax; and it had been marked by gross favoritism. By 1824, when the population was only 150,000, some 11,000,000 acres had been granted; ninety years later, when the population was 2,700,000, the total amount of improved land was only 13,000,000 acres. Moreover the attempt to use vast areas of the Crown Lands to endow solely the Anglican Church roused bitter jealousies. Yet even these grievances paled in actual hardship beside the results of holding the vast waste areas unimproved. What with Crown Reserves, Clergy Reserves, grants to those who had served the state, and holdings picked up by speculators from soldiers or poorer Loyalists for a few pounds or a few gallons of whisky, millions of acres were held untenanted and unimproved, waiting for a rise in value as a consequence of the toil of settlers on neighboring farms. Not one-tenth of the lands granted were occupied by the persons to whom they had been assigned. The province had given away almost all its vast heritage, and more than nine-tenths of it was still in wilderness. These speculative holdings made immensely more difficult every common neighborhood task. At best the machinery and the money for building roads, bridges, and schools were scanty, but with these unimproved reserves thrust in between the scattered shacks, the task was disheartening. “The reserve of two-sevenths of the land for the Crown and clergy,” declared the township of Sandwich in 1817, “must for a long time keep the country a wilderness, a harbour for wolves, a hindrance to a compact and good neighborhood.”

A further source of discontent developed in the disabilities affecting recent American settlers. A court decision in 1824 held that no one who had resided in the United States after 1783 could possess or transmit British citizenship, with which went the right to inherit real estate. This decision bore heavily upon thousands of “late Loyalists” and more recent incomers. Under the instructions of the Colonial Office, a remedial bill was introduced in the Legislative Council in 1827, but it was a grudging, halfway measure which the Assembly refused to accept. After several sessions of quarreling, the Assembly had its way; but in the meantime the men affected had been driven into permanent and active opposition.

The leaders of the movement of resistance which now began to gather force included all sorts and conditions of men. The fiercest and most aggressive were two Scotchmen, Robert Gourlay and William Lyon Mackenzie. Gourlay, one of those restless and indispensable cranks who make the world turn round, active, obstinate, imprudent, uncompromisingly devoted to the common good as he saw it, came to Canada in 1817 on settlement and colonization bent. Innocent inquiries which he sent broadcast as to the condition of the province gave the settlers an opportunity for voicing their pent-up discontent, and soon Gourlay was launched upon the sea of politics. Mackenzie, who came to Canada three years later, was a born agitator, fearless, untiring, a good hater, master of avitriolic vocabulary, and absolutely unpurchasable. He found his vein in weekly journalism, and for nearly forty years was the stormy petrel of Canadian politics. From England there came, among others, Dr. John Rolph, shrewd and politic, and Captain John Matthews, a half-pay artillery officer. Peter Perry, downright and rugged and of a homely eloquence, represented the Loyalists of the Bay of Quinte, which was the center of Canadian Methodism. Among the newer comers from the United States, the foremost were Barnabas Bidwell, who had been Attorney General of Massachusetts but had fled to Canada in 1810 when accused of misappropriating public money, and his son, Marshall Spring Bidwell, one of the ablest and most single-minded men who ever entered Canadian public life. From Ireland came Dr. William Warren Baldwin, whose son Robert, born in Canada, was less surpassingly able than the younger Bidwell but equally moderate and equally beyond suspicion of faction or self-seeking.

How were these men to bring about the reform which they desired? Their first aim was obviously to secure a majority in the Assembly, and by the election of 1828 they attained this first object. But the limits of the power of the Assembly they soon discovered. Without definite leadership, with no control over the Administration, and with even legislative power divided, it could effect little. It was in part disappointment at the failure of the Assembly that accounted for the defeat of the Reformers in 1830, though four years later this verdict was again reversed. Clearly the form of government itself should be changed. But in what way? Here a divergence in the ranks of the Reformers became marked. One party, looking upon the United States as the utmost achievement in democracy, proposed to follow its example in making the upper house elective and thus to give the people control of both branches of the Legislature. Another group, of whom Robert Baldwin was the chief, saw that this change would not suffice. In the States the Executive was also elected by the people. Here, where the Governor would doubtless continue to be appointed. by the Crown, some other means must be found to give the people full control. Baldwin found it in the British Cabinet system, which gave real power to ministers having the confidence of a majority in Parliament. The Governor would remain, but he would be only a figurehead, a constitutional monarch acting, like the King, only on the advice of his constitutional advisers. Responsible government was Baldwin’s one and absorbing idea, and his persistence led to its ultimate adoption, along with a proposal for an elective Council, in the Reform party’s programme in 1834. Delay in affecting this reform, Baldwin told the Governor a year later, was “the great and all absorbing grievance before which all others sank into insignificance.” The remedy could be applied “without in the least entrenching upon the just and necessary prerogatives of the Crown, which I consider, when administered by the Lieutenant. Governor through the medium of a provincial ministry responsible to the provincial parliament, to be an essential part of the constitution of the province.” In brief, Baldwin insisted that Simcoe’s rhetorical outburst in 1791, when he declared that Upper Canada was “a perfect Image and Transcript of the British Government and Constitution,” should be made effective in practice.

The course of the conflict between the Compact and the Reformers cannot be followed in detail. It had elements of tragedy, as when Gourlay was hounded into prison, where he was broken in health and shattered in mind, and then exiled from the province for criticism of the Government which was certainly no more severe than now appears every day in Opposition newspapers. The conflict had elements of the ludicrous, too, as when Captain Matthews was ordered by his military superiors to return to England because in the unrestrained festivities of New Year’s Eve he had called on a strolling troupe to play Yankee Doodle and had shouted to the company, “Hats off”; or when Governor Maitland overturned fourteen feet of the Brock Monument to remove a copy of Mackenzie’s journal, the “Colonial Advocate”, which had inadvertently been included in the corner stone.

The weapons of the Reformers were the platform, the press, and investigations and reports by parliamentary committees. The Compact hit back in its own way. Every critic was denounced as a traitor. Offending editors were put in the pillory. Mackenzie was five times expelled from the House, only to be returned five times by his stubborn supporters. Matters were at a deadlock, and it became clear either that the British Parliament, which alone could amend the Constitution, must intervene or else that the Reformers would be driven to desperate paths. But before matters came to this pass, an acute crisis had arisen in Lower Canada which had its effect on all the provinces.

In Lower Canada, the conflict which had been smoldering before the war had since then burst into flame. The issues of this conflict were more clearcut than in any of the other provinces. A coherent opposition had formed earlier, and from beginning to end it dominated the Assembly. The governing forces were outwardly much the same as in Upper Canada–a Lieutenant Governor responsible to the Colonial Office, an Executive Council appointed by the Crown but coming to have the independent power of a well-entrenched bureaucracy, and a Legislative Council nominated by the Crown and, until nearly the end of the period, composed chiefly of the same men who served in the Executive. The little clique in control had much less popular backing than the Family Compact of Upper Canada and were of lower caliber. Robert Christie, an English-speaking member of the Assembly, who may be counted an unprejudiced witness since he was four times expelled by the majority in that house, refers to the real rulers of the province as “a few rapacious, overbearing, and irresponsible officials, without stake or other connexion in the country than their interests.” At their head stood Jonathan Sewell, a Massachusetts Loyalist who had come to Lower Canada by way of New Brunswick in 1789, and who for over forty years as Attorney General, Chief Justice, or member of Executive and Legislative Councils, was the power behind the throne.

The opposition to the bureaucrats at first included both English and French elements, but the English minority were pulled in contrary ways. Their antecedents were not such as to lead them to accept meekly either the political or the social pretensions of the “Chateau Clique”; the American settlers in the Eastern Townships, and the Scotch and American merchants who were building up Quebec and Montreal, had called for self-government, not government from above. Yet their racial and religious prejudices were strong and made them unwilling to accept in place of the bureaucrats the dominance of an unprogressive habitant majority. The first leader of the opposition which developed in the Assembly after the War of 1812 was James Stuart, the son of the leading Anglican clergyman of his day, but he soon fell away and became a mainstay of the bureaucracy. His brother Andrew, however, kept up for many years longer a more disinterested fight. Another Scot, John Neilson, editor of the Quebec “Gazette”, was until 1833 foremost among the assailants of the bureaucracy. But steadily, as the extreme nationalist claims of the French-speaking majority provoked reprisals and as the conviction grew upon the minority that they would never be anything but a minority,* most of them accepted clique rule as a lesser evil than “rule by priest and demagogue.”

* The natural increase of the French-Canadian race under British rule is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in social history. The following figures illustrate the rate of that increase: the number was 16,417 in 1706; 69,810 in 1765; 479,288 in 1825; 697,084 in 1844. The population of Canada East or Lower Canada in 1844 was made up as follows: French Canadians, 524,244; English Canadians. 85,660; English, 11,895; Irish, 43,982; Scotch, 13,393; Americans, 11,946; born in other countries, 1329; place of birth not specified, 4635.

In the reform movement in Upper Canada there were a multiplicity of leaders and a constant shifting of groups. In Lower Canada, after the defection of James Stuart in 1817, there was only one leader, Louis Joseph Papineau. For twenty years Papineau was the uncrowned king of the province. His commanding figure, his powers of oratory, outstanding in a race of orators, his fascinating manners, gave him an easy mastery over his people. Prudence did not hamper his flights; compromise was a word not found in his vocabulary. Few men have been better equipped for the agitator’s task.

His father, Joseph Papineau, though of humble birth, had risen high in the life of the province. He had won distinction in his profession as a notary, as a speaker in the Assembly, and as a soldier in the defense of Quebec against the American invaders of 1775. In 1804 he had purchased the seigneury of La Petite Nation, far up the Ottawa. Louis Joseph Papineau followed in his father’s footsteps. Born in 1786, he served loyally and bravely in the War of 1812. In the same year he entered the Assembly and made his place at a single stroke. Barely three years after his election, he was chosen Speaker, and with a brief break he held that post for over twenty years.

Papineau did not soon or lightly begin his crusade against the Government. For the first five years of his Speakership, he confined himself to the routine duties of his office. As late as 1820 he pronounced a glowing eulogy on the Constitution which Great Britain had granted the province. In that year he tested the extent of the privileges so granted by joining in the attempt of the Assembly to assert its full control of the purse; but it was not until the project of uniting the two Canadas had made clear beyond dispute the hostility of the governing powers that he began his unrelenting warfare against them.

There was much to be said for a reunion of the two Canadas. The St. Lawrence bound them together, though Acts of Parliament had severed them. Upper Canada, as an inland province, restricted in its trade with its neighbor to the south, was dependent upon Lower Canada for access to the outer world. Its share of the duties collected at the Lower Canada ports until 1817 had been only one-eighth, afterwards increased to one-fifth. This inequality proved a constant source of friction. The crying necessity of cooperation for the improvement of the St. Lawrence waterway gave further ground for the contention that only by a reunion of the two provinces could efficiency be secured. In Upper Canada the Reformers were in favor of this plan, but the Compact, fearful of any disturbance of their vested interests, tended to oppose it. In Lower Canada the chief support came from the English element. The governing clique, as the older established body, had no doubt that they could bring the western section under their sway in case of union. But the main reason for their advocacy was the desire to swamp the French Canadians by an English majority. Sewell, the chief supporter of the project, frankly took this ground. The Governor, Lord Dalhousie, and the Colonial Office adopted his view; and in 1822 an attempt was made to rush a Union Bill through the British Parliament without any notice to those most concerned. It was blocked for the moment by the opposition of a Whig group led by Burdett and Mackintosh; and then Papineau and Neilson sailed to London and succeeded in inducing the Ministry to stay its hand. The danger was averted; but Papineau had become convinced that if his people were to retain the rights given them by their “Sacred Charter” they would have to fight for them. If they were to save their power, they must increase it.

How could this be done? Baldwin’s bold and revolutionary policy of making the Executive responsible to the Assembly did not seem within the range of practical politics. It meant in practice the abandonment of British control, and this the Colonial Office was not willing to grant. Antoine Panet and other Assembly leaders had suggested in 1815 that it would be well, “if it were possible, to grant a number of places as Councillors or other posts of honour and of profit to those who have most influence over the majority in the Assembly, to hold so long as they maintained this influence,” and James Stuart urged the same tentative suggestion a year later. But even before this the Colonial Office had made clear its position. “His Majesty’s Government,” declared the Colonial Secretary, Lord Bathurst, in 1814, “never can admit so novel & inconvenient a Principle as that of allowing the Governor of a Colony to be divested of his responsibility [to the Colonial Office] for the acts done during his administration or permit him to shield himself under the advice of any Persons, however respectable, either from their character or their Office.”

Two other courses had the sanction of precedent, one of English, the other of American example. The English House of Commons had secured its dominant place in the government of the country by its control of the purse. Why should not the Assembly do likewise? One obvious difficulty lay in the fact that the Assembly was not the sole authority in raising revenue. The British Parliament had retained the power to levy certain duties as part of its system of commercial control, and other casual and territorial dues lay in the right of the Crown. From 1820, therefore, the Assembly’s main aim was twofold–to obtain control of these remaining sources of revenue, and by means of this power to bludgeon the Legislative Council and the Governor into compliance with its wishes. The Colonial Office made concessions, offering to resign all its taxing powers in return for a permanent civil list, that is, an assurance that the salaries of the chief officials would not be questioned annually. The offer was reasonable in itself but, as it would have hampered the full use of the revenue bludgeon, it was scornfully declined.

The other aim of the Patriotes, as the Opposition styled themselves, was to conquer the Legislative Council by making it elective. Papineau, in spite of his early prejudices, was drawn more and more into sympathy with the form of democracy worked out in the United States. In fact, he not only looked to it as a model but, as the thirties wore on, he came to hope that moral, if not physical, support might be found there for his campaign against the English Government. After 1830 the demand for an elective Legislative Council became more and more insistent.

The struggle soon reached a deadlock. Governor followed Governor: Lord Dalhousie, Sir James Kempt, Lord Aylmer, all in turn failed to allay the storm. The Assembly raised its claims each session and fulminated against all the opposing powers in windy resolutions. Papineau, embittered by continued opposition, carried away by his own eloquence, and steadied by no responsibility of office, became more implacable in his demands. Many of his moderate supporters–Neilson, Andrew Stuart, Quesnel, Cuvillier–fell away, only to be overwhelmed in the first election at a wave of the great tribune’s hand. Business was blocked, supplies were not voted, and civil servants made shift without salary as best they could.

The British Government awoke, or half awoke, to the seriousness of the situation. In 1835 a Royal Commission of three, with the new Governor General, Lord Gosford, as chairman, was appointed to make inquiries and to recommend a policy. Gosford, a genial Irishman, showed himself most conciliatory in both private intercourse and public discourse. Unfortunately the rash act of the new Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Sir Francis Bond Head, in publishing the instructions of the Colonial Office, showed that the policy of Downing Street was the futile one of conciliation without concession. The Assembly once more refused to grant supplies without redress of grievances. The Commissioners made their report opposing any substantial change. In March, 1837, Lord John Russell, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Melbourne Ministry, opposed only by a handful of Radical and Irish members, carried through the British Parliament a series of resolutions authorizing the Governor to take from the Treasury without the consent of the Assembly the funds needed for civil administration, offering control of all revenues in return for a permanent civil list, and rejecting absolutely the demands alike for a responsible Executive and for an elective Council.

British statesmanship was bankrupt. Its final answer to the demands for redress was to stand pat. Papineau, without seeing what the end would be, held to his course. Younger men, carried away by the passions he had aroused, pushed on still more recklessly. If reform could not be obtained within the British Empire, it must be sought by setting up an independent republic on the St. Lawrence or by annexation to the United States.

In Upper Canada, at the same time, matters had come to the verge of rebellion. Sir John Colborne had, just before retiring as Lieutenant Governor in 1836, added fuel to the flames by creating and endowing some forty-four rectories, thus strengthening the grip of the Anglican Church on the province. His successor, Sir Francis Bond Head, was a man of such rash and unbalanced judgment as to lend support to the tradition that he was appointed by mistake for his cousin, Edmund Head, who was made Governor of United Canada twenty years later. He appointed to his Executive Council three Reformers, Baldwin, Rolph, and Dunn, only to make clear by his refusal to consult them his inability to understand their demand for responsible government. All the members of the Executive Council thereupon resigned, and the Assembly refused supplies. Head dissolved the House and appealed to the people.

The weight of executive patronage, the insistence of the Governor that British connection was at stake, the alarms caused by some injudicious statements of Mackenzie and his Radical ally in England, Joseph Hume, and the defection of the Methodists, whose leader, Egerton Ryerson, had quarreled with Mackenzie, resulted in the overwhelming defeat of the Reformers. The sting of defeat, the failure of the Family Compact to carry out their eleventh hour promises of reform, and the passing of Lord John Russell’s reactionary resolutions convinced a section of the Reform party, in Upper Canada as well as in Lower Canada, that an appeal to force was the only way out.

Toward the end of 1837 armed rebellion broke out in both the Canadas. In both it was merely a flash in the pan. In Lower Canada there had been latterly much use of the phrases of revolution and some drilling, but rebellion was neither definitely planned nor carefully organized. The more extreme leaders of the Patriotes simply drifted into it, and the actual outbreak was a haphazard affair. Alarmed by the sudden and seemingly concerted departure of Papineau and some of his lieutenants, Nelson, Brown, and O’Callaghan, from Montreal, the Government gave orders for their arrest. The petty skirmish that followed on November 16, 1837, was the signal for the rallying of armed habitants around impromptu leaders at various points. The rising was local and spasmodic. The vast body of the habitants stood aloof. The Catholic Church, which earlier had sympathized with Papineau, had parted from him when he developed radical and republican views. Now the strong exhortations of the clergy to the faithful counted for much in keeping peace, and in one view justified the policy of the British Government in seeking to purchase their favor. The Quebec and Three Rivers districts remained quiet. In the Richelieu and Montreal districts, where disaffection was strongest, the habitants lacked leadership, discipline, and touch with other groups, and were armed only with old flintlocks, scythes, or clubs. Here and there a brave and skillful leader, such as Dr. Jean Olivier Chenier, was thrown up by the evidence opened a way out of the difficult situation. A year later Peel and Webster, representing the two countries, exchanged formal explanations, and the incident was closed.

In Upper Canada many a rebel sympathizer lay for months in jail, but only two leaders, Lount and Matthews, both brave men, paid the penalty of death for their failure. In Lower Canada the new Governor General, Lord Durham, proved more clement, merely banishing to Bermuda eight of the captured leaders. When, a year later, after Durham’s return to England, a second brief rising broke out under Robert Nelson, it was stamped out in a week, twelve of the ringleaders were executed, and others were deported to Botany Bay.

The rebellion, it seemed, had failed and failed miserably. Most of the leaders of the extreme factions in both provinces had been discredited, and the moderate men had been driven into the government camp. Yet in one sense the rising proved successful. It was not the first nor the last time that wild and misguided force brought reform where sane and moderate tactics met only contempt. If men were willing to die to redress their wrongs, the most easy-going official could no longer deny that there was a case for inquiry and possibly for reform. Lord Melbourne’s Government had acted at once in sending out to Canada, as Governor General and High Commissioner with sweeping powers, one of the ablest men in English public life. Lord Durham was an