Canada Early History II

By | December 25, 2021

As for the political constitution of the colony, the Quebec Act, constituted Canada in a single province with the name of Quebec and placed at the head of it a governor by royal appointment, created a council of no more than 23 and no less than 17 members, also appointed by the Crown, with the power to “make ordinances for the peace, well-being, and good government” of the province, and without the right to levy taxes, except those of a local nature, which were authorized for the construction of roads, buildings, etc., for profit of individual cities or districts. The ordinances of the council had to be presented to the private council within six months, without whose approval they became null and void; ordinances, moreover, concerning religion or imposing penalties greater than fines or three months in prison, they did not enter into force before the royal approval. On the whole, therefore, the measures of the Quebec Act, the wisest perhaps that could be taken at that time, were more favorable to the French-Canadian Catholic element than to the Protestant one. This explains how, if they succeeded a disappointment for the party that was agitated for predominantly sectarian purposes to obtain full parliamentary rights, they ensured the loyalty of the conquered population to the English government; which not only maintained its religion, but, while not obtaining a true representative assembly for its general interests, obtained that large local autonomy which France had always denied it. For Canada history, please check

No wonder, therefore, that the French-Canadian settlers not only turned deaf to the appeal of the neighboring English colonies for a common agitation against the Quebec Act; but, when the weapons of the insurgents invaded Canada, more than cold, they were hostile. Despite this, the American War of Independence exercised an indirect influence also on Canada: so much so that it can be said that a new period in the colonial history of this country began with it and for it, which from essentially French, as it was until the outbreak of this war, it begins to change into Anglo-French. First of all, there was a copious influx of Anglo-Saxon elements, with the loyalists taking refuge in Canada(as they were called) Americans, that is, English colonists who did not want to follow the American colonies that had risen in the struggle against the motherland. It is estimated that the first movement of loyalists, during and immediately after the American war of independence, amounted to about 45,000 individuals, which in 1806 were already from 70 to 80,000, distinguished, they and their children, by way of national honor, with the letters “UE” (United Empire), for an Order in Council English of 1789, and rewarded with a free concession of land at the rate of 200 acres (80 hectares) for each child of one or the other sex. Especially the present province of Ontario or Upper Canada, a territory not yet colonized before the English conquest, welcomed these loyalists together with other Anglo-Gasson immigrants: and it owed its rapid development to them. It so happened that, no longer offering even the British North American colonies, for many years after the revolution and independence, a field favorable to capital, to enterprise, to British emigration, Canada came for the moment to take the place of they in this regard: so that from less than 65,000 residents, as it had at the time of the English conquest, it had already passed in 1814 to over 400,000, mostly English.

The effects of this process of Anglicization did not take long to manifest. The newcomers of England, no less than the American loyalists, carried with them a civil and religious conception too different from that of the French-Canadians, to be able to coexist politically with them, and were imbued with a spirit of political freedom and local autonomy. too alive to be able to adapt to the institutions in force in the country; hence their daily more insistent and energetic demands for the revocation of the Quebec Act and the creation of two separate provinces, as the two races were materially as well as morally separate. The English government, after some hesitation, ended up proposing to the parliament, which approved it in 1791, the Canada Act, inspired in order to assimilate the constitution of the country, inhabited mainly by Anglo-Saxons, to the English one, as the Quebec Act of 1774 had tried to keep the French-Canadian country, compatibly with British political needs, its own constitution.

Under this Canada Act, the country was divided into two parts, the one to the east of the Ottawa River, called Lower Canada, and the one to the west, called Upper Canada. ; the first inhabited almost exclusively by the French, the second by the English. The government of each province consisted of an Executive Council and a Governor, appointed by the King, together with a legislative power of which the upper house, called the Legislative Council, was appointed by the Crown, and the lower, called the Representative Assembly, elected by the popular suffrage on such a broad basis that it can be considered practically universal. This law, although badly received by the Protestant minority of Quebec, was probably at that time the wisest of solutions: for it the province of Ontario could peacefully repeal the ancient laws of Canada, and that of Quebec, on the other hand, maintain (together with the official equality between the two languages) the ancient customs. However, this does not mean that, democratic as it was in form, the new administration was more accountable to the Canadian people than before: only the London Colonial Office had authority over the colony’s executive power; while on the other hand, in the legislative field, the Legislative Council, also nominated by the Crown, could still keep the Colonial Assembly in check, rejecting its deliberations.

Canada Early History II