Canada Early History I

By | December 25, 2021

The period of French colonization. – After the discovery of Giovanni Caboto, the Canadian regions became during the century. XVI object of travels and colonization attempts by the French. But the practical results were zero or almost zero, so that at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the claims of France on all that part of North America (which in the paper of the time was called Francesca or Canada or New France, and embraced much more than present-day Canada, that is, the whole territory between Spanish Florida and the far north), had no other correspondence in facts than the fishing of whales and cod in the northern waters and the trading of bear and beaver skins.

The first foundations of colonization were only laid in the seventeenth century, thanks to Samuele di Champlain. It was a rapid development, promoted by the great companies (the Company of New France and the Company of the West) and by the will of Richelieu first, then of Colbert. How it took place, what the actual results achieved by France, in this first colonial attempt, have already been said (see Anglo-Saxon America: History). Here it is enough to recall how the penetration was, after all, fictitious. The settlers were very few in number; The systems adopted by the French, both with the feudal regime of property, with the excessive power of the clergy, and with the complete lack of local administrative autonomy and political freedom, are contrary to the economic development of a new country. Brilliant in appearance, the French expansion lacked foundation; and it had to be fatally overwhelmed by the much more solid English colonies of North America, all the more so as the French power in Europe began, from the end of the century. XVII, to decline. Already at the beginning of the century. XVIII, the so-called “Queen Anne’s” war (1702-1713) gave England with the peace of Utrecht (1713) the island of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

The French defeat of September 13, 1759 in the Abraham plain under Quebec, by Wolfe on Montcalm, and the surrender of this city (which followed the year after that of Montreal) destroyed forever the French dream of an immense empire. North American: on 8 September 1760 the Marquis Vaudreil handed over Canada with all its dependencies to the British crown. The Peace of Paris of 1763 recognized Canada to England; while Louisiana, under whose name a much larger region than today was included, was ceded by France to Spain in 1769 to compensate it for the loss of Florida, and, returned to France in 1800, was sold to the United States three years later. For Canada 1997, please check

The political and economic – social evolution of Canada from the English conquest to the establishment of the Dominion (1760-1867). – The colony of Canada, when it fell into the hands of the English, had only a maximum of 65,000 residents, grouped in the current province of Quebec. The population, most of the farmers, lived poorly, hampered by excessive regulations, by arbitrary administration, by the bad regime of appropriation of uncultivated lands, by trade restrictions. The inheritance, which Voltaire fancifully defined as “few snows”, did not therefore seem too fat for England, not to mention the difficulties of a colonial domination already inhabited by the French. It was therefore a question of reconciling the security of the English Empire with freedom for the new subjects: a difficult problem, although many Canadian leaders had returned to Europe after the English conquest.

The first years of the new dominion (1760-64) go under the name of règne militaire ; but in reality, the government established there, although military, had nothing in common with martial law. Typical proof of this is the fact that printing was introduced just then in Canada. In August 1764, four years after the military conquest and eighteen months after the peace of Paris of 1763 which confirmed it, the English government issued the Proclamation in the colony, drawn up in the metropolis the previous year, in which the programmatic lines were drawn of the political and administrative rearrangement of Canada, and at the same time of the other dominions obtained in North America. This proclamation, while in its general lines heralded the establishment of a general assembly on the mold of that of the neighboring colonies and the creation of judicial courts, anticipated the prevalence of English law in the new political-legislative order to be given to the country. However, while it did not satisfy the French-Canadian majority of the population, due to the threats contained therein against its church and its law, it did not satisfy even the Protestant minority, that is the new English element immigrated there after the conquest and impatient to have suffered a representative assembly in which to prevail politically.

To get out of that state of provisionality and uncertainty, the English parliament, despite the strong opposition of the most intransigent Protestant element, approved the Quebec Act in 1774, with which the proclamation of 1763 and the measures adopted on the basis of it were revoked; the Catholic residents were allowed to profess their religion (with the simple reservation of the oath of fidelity) and the relative clergy to “maintain, receive and enjoy the customary rights” in comparison with the faithful (this was the first official recognition of the Catholic Church, in politically English, after the establishment of Protestantism in England); finally, Canadian subjects, “with the exception of religious orders and communities only”, were allowed to “maintain and enjoy their properties with all the customs and traditions related to them”, with the right to appeal, in the event of disputes, to local laws and the right, in testamentary matters, to follow Canadian or English law.

Canada Early History