Canada under British Imperial control (1764-1867)

Canada under British Imperial control (1764-1867)

New France under British Rule

In North America, Seven Years' War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763. As part of the treaty, France ceded all North American land to Britain, except Louisiana and two islands off the shores of Newfoundland, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

Specifically, Britain gained control of a strip of territory along the St. Lawrence River with a population of approximately 54,000 French-speaking, Roman Catholics. Near the beginning of the war, in 1755, the British had expelled French-speaking populations in Acadia to Louisiana, creating the Cajun population, but this would not be repeated in 1763. Many British people (including the American colonies to the south) hoped the French Canadians would be assimilated, but distinct rules of governance for Quebec were set out in the Quebec Act of 1774.

The Quebec Act expanded the territory of Quebec, which was then limited to a narrow area around the St-Lawrence river. The most significant expansion was to the southwest, into land that American colonists wanted to settle. The Act also allowed French Canadians to retain their Catholic religion and their French system of civil law. The Quebec Act became one of the Intolerable Acts that infuriated the thirteen American colonies.

The American Revolution and the British defeat at Yorktown

In 1775, American revolutionaries attempted to push their insurrection into Quebec. The "Canadians" did not support the revolution, preferring British protection under the Quebec Act to certain assimilation under an American government. The Americans took the towns of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Montreal, and laid siege to Quebec City. An attempt to take the city on the night of New Year's Eve 1775 failed, and the Americans were driven from Quebec in 1776.

Many Quebeckers joined the American army: a full regiment composed of Quebeckers fought in the battle of Yorktown in 1781: the "congress own" or the "Canadian regiment". Quebeckers living in the fort in the Great Lakes region also massively sided with the Americans and were instrumental in the taking of the fort by the Americans. Major Clément Gosselin, Pierre Ayotte, Antoine Paulin, Louis Gosselin, Germain Dionne, Pierre Douville, Edward Antil and Moses Hasen and 747 Quebec militiamen were all in Quebec when they joined the Americans and successfully defeated the British at Yorktown in 1781. In front of Yorktown, Louis-Philippe de Vaudreuil and Bougainville defeated the British Navy.

During and after the Revolution, approximately 70,000 United Empire Loyalists fled the United States. Of these, roughly 50,000 Loyalists settled in the British North American colonies, which then consisted of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, the Province of Quebec, and Prince Edward Island (created 1769). The Loyalists were unwelcome in Nova Scotia, so Britain split off the colony of New Brunswick in 1784 from part of Nova Scotia, and divided Quebec and Ontario into Lower Canada and Upper Canada under the Constitutional Act of 1791. Loyalists brought over 2,000 African slaves north with them. [James W. ST. G. Walker, [ "Blacks"] , in The Canadian Encyclopedia] Slavery would remain legal in Upper Canada until 1793, the Act Against Slavery was passed allowing for its gradual abolition.

The War of 1812

thumb|275px|Loyalist Laura Secord warns British of an impending American attack at Beaver Dams.]

In the War of 1812, the Canadas were once again a battleground, this time between the British and the relatively young United States. During the war, unsuccessful attempts were made by the Americans to invade Upper Canada, after overestimating the amount of support they would receive from Canadian colonists. Many of the inhabitants of Upper Canada (now Ontario) were Americans who had very recently arrived in the colony, and some of them did support the invading force; however, the rest of the population was made up of the descendants of Loyalists or the original French colonists, who did not want to be part of the United States. The first American invasion came in October 1812, but they were defeated by General Isaac Brock at the Battle of Queenston Heights. The Americans invaded again in 1813, capturing Fort York (now Toronto). Later in the year, the Americans took control of the Great Lakes after the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of the Thames, but they had much less success in Quebec, where they were defeated at the Battle of Châteauguay and the Battle of Crysler's Farm. The Americans were driven out of Upper Canada in 1814 after the Battle of Lundy's Lane, although they still controlled the Great Lakes and defeated the British at the Battle of Lake Champlain. Combined with the failed British invasions of the United States, the war was essentially a draw, and it is much more important for Canadian mythology than it is as a historical event. In English Canada, it is seen as a victory against American invasions, with heroic legends surrounding many of the participants (such as Isaac Brock and Laura Secord) and battles (especially those in the Niagara Peninsula).

The timber trade

As the fur trade declined in importance, the timber trade became Canada's most important commodity. The industry became concentrated in three main regions. The first to be exploited was the St. John River system. Trees in the still almost deserted hinterland of New Brunswick were cut and transported to St. John where they were shipped to England. This area soon could not keep up with demand, and the trade moved to the St. Lawrence River where logs were shipped to Quebec City before being sent on to Europe. This area also became insufficient, and the trade expanded westward, most notably to the Ottawa River system, which by 1845 provided three quarters of the timber shipped from Quebec City. The timber trade became a massive business. In one summer 1200 ships were loaded with timber at Quebec City alone.

The cutting of the timber was done by small groups of men in isolated camps. For most of the nineteenth century, the most common product was square timber, which was a log that had been cut into a square block in the forest before being shipped. The timber was transported from the hinterlands to the major markets by assembling it into a raft and floating it downstream. Because of the narrower and more turbulent waters that one would encounter on the Ottawa River system, smaller rafts, known as "cribs", were employed. On the St. Lawrence, however, very large rafts, some up a third of a mile in length would be employed. The most common type of tree harvested was white pine, mostly because it floated well. Oak, which does not float, was in high demand but was much harder to transport and oak timbers needed to be carefully integrated into the raft if they were to be carried to market.

In 1842, the British preferential tariff was lifted, but the transatlantic trade still remained a profitable one. Demand in Britain remained high, especially for railway ties. Improved ships and new technologies, especially the steam engine, allowed the trade to continue to prosper. After the middle of the century, the trade in timber began to decline, being replaced by trade in cut lumber and the pulp and paper industry.

One of the most important side effects of the timber trade was immigration to British North America. Timber is a very bulky and not a particularly valuable cargo. For every ship full of British manufactured goods, dozens were needed to carry the same value of timber. There was no cargo coming from the British Isles to Canada that could take up as much room on the return voyage. Exporting salt filled a few ships, and some vessels were even filled with bricks, but many timber ships made the westward voyage filled with ballast. The population of Canada was small and the lack of wealth in the area made it an unattractive market.

There was, however, one cargo that the ship-owners did not have to worry about finding a market for in the sparsely populated New World: people. Many of the timber ships turned to carrying immigrants for the return voyage from the British Isles to fill this unused capacity. Timber ships would unload their cargo and sell passage to those desiring to emigrate. During the early nineteenth century, with the preferential tariff in full effect, the timber ships were among the oldest and most dilapidated in the British merchant fleet, and travelling as a passenger upon them was extremely unpleasant and dangerous. It was, however, very cheap. Since timber exports would peak at the same time as conflicts in Europe, such as the Napoleonic Wars, a great mass of refugees sought this cheap passage across the Atlantic Ocean.

In later decades after the repeal of the tariff and the increase of competition, the quality and safety of the ships improved markedly. Since the travellers would bring along their own food and bedding, the trade was an extremely easy one to operate. All that was required was a few advertisements, generally in Irish newspapers, and the installation of bunks along the side of the hold. An average timber ship could thus carry about 200 passengers. Even with only a fraction of the hundreds of timber ships carrying passengers, this created an unprecedented influx of new inhabitants. By comparison, it has been calculated that the trade between New France and Europe only included an average sixty-six immigrants per year over the lifetime of that colony.

"Responsible government" and the Rebellions of 1837-38

After the War of 1812, the first half of the 19th century saw the growth of political reform movements in both Upper and Lower Canada, largely influenced by American and French republicanism. The colonial legislatures set out by the Constitutional Act had become dominated by wealthy elites, the Family Compact in Upper Canada and the Château Clique in Lower Canada. The moderate reformers, such as Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, argued for a more representational form of government which they called "responsible government".

By "responsible," the reformers meant that such a government would be ultimately responsible to the will of the subjects of the colonies, not to the British legislature or monarchy. The radical reformers, such as William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau demanded equality or a complete break from British rule and the establishment of a republic.

Louis-Joseph Papineau was elected speaker of the colonial assembly in 1815. His attempts at reform were ignored by the British, and in 1834, the assembly passed The Ninety-Two Resolutions, outlining its grievances against the legislative council. Papineau organized boycotts and civil disobedience. The colonial government illegally ordered the arrest of Papineau. The "Patriotes" resorted to armed resistance and planned the Lower Canada Rebellion in the fall of 1837. British troops in the colony quickly put down the rebellion and forced Papineau to flee to the United States. A second rebellion by the Frères chasseurs of Robert Nelson broke out one year later, but the British put it down as well, with much loss of life and destruction of property.

William Lyon Mackenzie, a Scottish immigrant and reformist mayor of York (Toronto), organized the Upper Canada Rebellion in December 1837 after the Patriotes rebellion had begun. Upper Canadians had similar grievances; they were annoyed at the undemocratic governance of the colony, and especially by the corrupt and inefficient Canada Company. On December 4, the rebels assembled near Montgomery's Tavern, where the British troops stationed in the city met them on December 7. The rebels were hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, and were defeated in less than an hour. Mackenzie escaped to the United States.

Also in December, a group of Irish immigrants attempted to seize southwestern Ontario by force in the Patriot War. They were defeated by government troops at Windsor.

Lord Durham's report

Lord Durham was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1838. He was assigned to investigate the causes of the Rebellions, and concluded that the problem was essentially animosity between the British and French inhabitants of Canada. His "Report on the Affairs of British North America" contains the famous description of "two nations warring in the bosom of a single state." For Durham, the French Canadians were culturally backwards, and he was convinced that only a union of French and English Canada would allow the colony to progress in the interest of Great Britain. A political union would, he hoped, cause the French-speakers to be assimilated by English-speaking settlements, solving the problem of French Canadian nationalism once and for all.

Act of Union (1840)

Lord Durham was succeeded by Lord Sydenham who was responsible for implementing Durham's recommendations in the Act of Union (1840) passed on July 23, 1840 by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and proclaimed February 10, 1841. Upper and Lower Canada became, respectively, Canada West and Canada East, both with 42 seats in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada despite Lower Canada being more populated. The official language of the province became English and French was explicitly banned in the Parliament and in the courts.

The moderate reformers Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin fought two successive governors general Sir Charles Bagot and Sir Charles Metcalfe to secure what became known as responsible government. Metcalfe fought to preserve the prerogatives of the Crown and the governor's control over the administration and patronage. He nonetheless had to make some concessions to win support, and the most notable of these was persuading the Colonial Office to grant amnesty to the rebels of 1837-38, and to abandon forced anglicization of the French-speaking population. Lafontaine and Baldwin reintroduced French as an official language alongside English in the Assembly, the Courts and other governmental bodies. Under the progressive Governor General Lord Elgin, a bill was passed to allow the leaders of former Patriote movement to return to their homeland; Papineau returned and for a short time re-entered Canadian politics. A similar bill was passed for the former Upper Canadian rebels. Elgin also implemented the practice of responsible government in 1848, several months after it had already been conceded in the colony of Nova Scotia.

The parliament of United Canada in Montreal was set on fire by a mob of Tories in 1849 after the passing of an indemnity bill for the people who suffered losses during the rebellions of Lower Canada.

One noted achievement of the Union was the Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1855 which sanctioned free trade in resources. However, the achievement must be seen in the wider politics of British North America which had seen the major boundary disputes with the United States settled (except the boundary with Alaska) (see Rush-Bagot Treaty, Treaty of 1818, Webster-Ashburton Treaty, Oregon Treaty), thus easing tensions which for most of the first half of the 19th century had Americans threatening war or retaliation.

The Union Act of 1840 was ultimately unsuccessful, and led to calls for a greater political union in the 1850s and 1860s. Support for independence was strengthened by events such as the Battle of Ridgeway, a 1866 invasion into Ontario by some 1500 Irish nationalists which was repulsed largely by local militia.

Western Colonies and American trade

With the signing of the Treaty of Washington in 1846, the United States agreed to establish its northern border with western British North America along the 49th parallel. By 1857, Americans and British were beginning to respond to rumours of gold in the Thompson River area. Almost overnight, some ten to twenty thousand men moved into the region around present-day Yale, British Columbia, sparking the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Governor James Douglas was suddenly faced with having to exert British authority over a largely alien population. In order to normalize its jurisdiction, and undercut any Hudsons's Bay Company claims to the resource wealth of the mainland, the crown colony of British Columbia was established August 2, 1858. In 1866, it was united with the Colony of Vancouver Island into the United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.

By 1854, most border questions were settled, and the Governor General of British North America, James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, signed a significant trade agreement with the United States on behalf of the colonies. This agreement endured for ten years until the American government abrogated it in 1865.

By the mid 1850s, politicians in the Province of Canada began to contemplate western expansion. They questioned the Hudson's Bay Company's tenure of Rupert's Land and the Arctic territories, and launched a series of exploring expeditions to familiarize themselves and the Canadian population with the geography and climate of the region.


See also

*Simon James Dawson

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