Page images

the Governor-General's arrival there, and had created rather feelings of disgust at their evident injustice and illiberality, and the assumption displayed in them, than any sympathy with the sentiments they contained. Upon landing at Quebec on the 19th October, he found a very strong impression prevailing in his favour. The great bulk of the inhabitants were prepared to receive him not merely with the respect and honours usually paid to personages occupying so high a station as the representative of royalty, but with a spirit of cordial regard, and a sanguine anticipation of the future results of his policy.

The merchants especially, who form a considerable portion of the higher ranks in Quebec, felt no little pride in receiving a Governor-General who had himself been bred to business like their own. And they welcomed him with an address from their body, expressing this natural sentiment, and their high expectations of the results of his government, arising from their knowledge of his public character. Such a *; ment had never been paid to any preceding Governor. His first levee, at which this and other addresses were presented, was more numerously attended than on any previous occasion.

After a stay of a few days in the ancient castle of St Louis, he proceeded to Montreal, where, since the second rebellion, the seat of government had been fixed.

And here the real business of his administration commenced.


It does not fall within the scope of this work to go largely into Canadian affairs as connected with the subject of this memoir, yet his life was so remarkable and valuable in England, his administration so successful in Canada, the confusion which he there reduced to order was so chaotic, that this period of his history cannot be altogether omitted.

The country included within the limits of Upper and Lower Canada was ceded to Great Britain by the treaty of 1763, as the fruits of the victory gained by Wolfe on the plains of Abraham. At the date of the cession there was scarcely any settlement fifty miles above Montreal, and even from that point downwards the settlements were almost entirely confined to the banks of the St Lawrence and its tributary streams.

The country was governed and the lands held under the French law, known by the name of the Coutume de Paris—a system of which the remaining traces were effaced in Europe by the French revolution of 1790. By the terms of the . tulation of Quebec the inhabitants had been secured in the possession of their property and their privileges, and in the enjoyment of their religion, and immediately after the conclusion of peace a proclamation issued, promising the future establishment of a representative form of government, and in the interval guaranteeing to the King's new subjects the benefit of the laws of England. At this time the population of Canada did not exceed 70,000 souls; and during the years which immediately succeeded, while, in the absence of all legislation on the subject, the laws of England were in force by virtue of the royal proclamation, considerable progress was made towards the introduction of British customs and feelings. Nor were there any complaints at that time of the hardship of such a policy. On the contrary, the people, too happy to be relieved from the iron despotism of France, and grateful for the protection extended to their religion and property, appear to have been repared cheerfully to accept such modifications of their existing institutions as the British government might think necessary. Even until a comparatively recent period they continued to retain a lively sense of the contrast between the French and the British governments, and of the advan#. which they derived from their transfer in 1763 to the atter. In 1774 the government was placed on a more regular footing by the act of the 14th Geo. III, commonly called the Quebec Act, by which a council was appointed, possessing, with the governor, legislative powers in all matters except taxation. At the same time the most perfect toleration was secured to the Roman Catholic priesthood and laity; even the oaths of abjuration and supremacy being in their case replaced by a modified form of oath of allegiance. Had the act proceeded no further all would have been well: the amalgamation which had begun between the two races would have gone on without difficulty or interruption, and the institutions of the country and the feelings of the people would, without any severe shock, have been gradually anglicised. But about this date began the discussions with the American provinces; and British statesmen, frightened at the independent and democratic spirit which had there sprung up, seem to have considered it a wise policy at any price to raise an impassable barrier between the New England states and their neighbouring fellow-subjects of French origin. Accordingly the act of 1774, in addition to the provisions already noticed, re-established the French civil law in all the conceded parts of the province in which, since the treaty of Paris, it had been supposed that the English law prevailed. The English criminal law alone remained. The necessary effect was to arrest the tendency to assimilation which had begun to shew itself—to revive and perpetuate those French institutions which had preceded the conquest, but which had begun to disappear—and to turn back the sympathies of the Canadians from their fellow-subjects of English descent to their ancestral connections, subjects of the French crown. No surer way could have been found of preventing a community of feeling between Canada and the adjoining British colonies; but, although such a policy might have an ephemeral convenience, it contained within itself the seeds of permanent evils, the results of which we feel at the present day. The constitution of 1774 lasted 17 years; and during the revolutionary struggle, which occupied a large portion of that period, the French Canadians displayed an unflinching attachment to the British crown. But in 1791, still further to secure their attachment, and to leave them nothing to envy in the institutions of the revolted provinces, the imperial parliament consented, in deference to the applications of a portion of the inhabitants, principally the English merchants who had now settled in Quebec and Montreal, to confer on Canada a legislature, framed after its own likeness, and invested with its own attributes. In imitation of the parliament of Great Britain, the Canadian legislature was to consist of its representative assembly, elected by 40s. freeholders (tantamount almost to universal suffrage,) and its council, nominated by the crown; while, to draw still closer the resemblance between the latter body and the House of Lords, the seats in it were declared to be for life, and the crown was authorized to make them hereditary, and to annex to them hereditary titles. This authority, however, was never acted on. It is probable that the British government did not at first contemplate a division of the province, but merely an extension of the system established by the act of 1774. But such a scheme naturally created much alarm among the French Canadians; who in a memorial presented to the crown, and dated in December 1778, thus expressed their feelings:—“It is our religion, our laws relative to our property, and our personal surety in which we are most interested; and these we enjoy in the most ample manner by the Quebec bill. We are the more averse to an house of assembly, from the fatal consequences which will result from it. Can we, as Roman Catholics, hope to preserve for any length of time the same prerogatives as Protestant subjects in a house of representatives? and will there not come a time when the influence of the latter will overbalance that of our posterity? In this case should we and our posterity enjoy the same advantages which our present constitution secures to us? Again: have we not reason to dread lest we should soon see those taxes levied upon the estates which are at present actually levied upon articles of commerce, which the inhabitant pays indirectly it is true, but in proportion to what he consumes? Shall we not fear that we may one day see the seeds of dissension created by the assembly of representatives, and nourished by those intestine hatreds which the opposite interests of the old and new subjects will naturally give birth to ?” It was apparently to obviate these objections, some of which have been remarkably verified, and to conciliate all parties, that the division of the province was resorted to, the boundary being drawn at the point where the grants of the French crown, and consequently the French settlements, ceased. The country west of that point was to be governed exclusively by British laws and customs, and the lands held on the tenure of free and common soccage; the country to the east, as far as it had been already conceded, continuing to be held on the French tenure. Thus was apparently secured to each class of the King's subjects, within this portion of his dominions, the free and unrestricted enjoyment of its own eculiar laws, language, and religion. Plausible as were the arguments by which this arrange


ment was recommended, its defects did not escape the opposi-.

tion of that day. They pointed out the impossibility of excluding British settlers from the French portion of Canada, and its impolicy even if it were practicable. They predicted the war of races which must inevitably arise, and the sense of nationality which would be kept alive by the isolation of the French Canadians. Nor, as they observed, was the scheme even consistent with itself, for while professing to separate the French Canadians from their fellow-subjects of British origin, it also made provision for the future settlement of the latter within the French division of the province. In Upper Canada, the population at this time consisted principally of English families, who during the struggle for American independence had sided with the British government, and to whom, their estates having been confiscated by the victorious party, the British government had offered an


asylum in the newly created province. Martyrs of an unflinching loyalty, and of attachment to the British constitution in the country of their birth, these settlers naturally in their new abode, clung closer to the faith for which they had so long fought and suffered—while, being inconsiderable in numbers, and wholly occupied in repairing their recent losses, and struggling against the difficulties of a first settlement in a new country, they had neither time nor attention to devote to political contests. This state of things lasted without inconvenience until the commencement of the second American war in 1812. The inhabitants of both provinces flew to arms in defence of their country and institutions. The struggle was short, but in the course of it none displayed a more determined bravery or devotion, joined to a natural aptitude for military service, than the French Canadians. The proof of their courage and military skill is written in the battle of Chateauguay, while to the loyalty and courage of the Upper Canadians the heights of Queenstown bear imperishable testimony. But events were now occurring in Europe, the remote consequences of which affected most seriously the Canadian provinces, and which, while they have constituted in great measure the causes of their rapid advance, brought with them likewise those political contests in which they were ultimately embroiled. Hitherto the population was still small, and was in the course of augmentation only by its natural increase. So long as this was the case there was nothing in either province to alarm the older inhabitants, nor could the competition for place or power become very formidable. The rising generation were not likely to quarrel with the system under which they had been brought up ; or if a more turbulent and energetic individual at times arose, it was easy, by well-timed concession, to disarm his opposition, if not to secure his support. Even the struggle for official employment, which in a young country is commonly the source of the jealousies and dissensions which give rise to the earliest discontents, had hitherto been spared to Canada. The choice of the government had been necessarily confined in Lower Canada to the British inhabitants, who alone spoke the language and understood the constitution of the mother country, and in Upper Canada to the few leading families among the refugees from the United States. But when the peace of 1815 let loose those masses of population which had been tied up in the war, and still more when the commercial and agricultural crisis which followed forced many who had hitherto held respectable stations in the mother country to emigrate to her dependen


« PreviousContinue »