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Aboriginals
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Aboriginals: Treaties & Relations
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Pionniers et Immigrants
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Painting: The coming of the Loyalists, 1783 - NAC/ANC C-000168
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1774 - 1791: Revolutionary Changes

The Québec Act, 1774, brought some measure of peace to the province - although British merchants kept campaigning for English law and an elected Assembly. These campaigns might have been ignored if it were not for the event that rocked the continent: the American Revolution. The United Empire Loyalists that poured into Québec following this event changed the politics of the province forever.

Topics in this section:

The Québec Act, 1774
Continued Protests
The American Revolution
The United Empire Loyalists
Carleton's Challenge
The Move to Representative Government


Map of Eastern North America, 1774
Eastern North America, 1774

The Québec Act, 1774
The Québec Act, along with the instructions given to Governor Carleton, marked a new beginning. Among other things, these documents:

  • Expanded the boundaries of Québec, particularly to the south.

  • Allowed free practice of Catholic faith in Québec.

  • Replaced the oath to Elizabeth I and her heirs (with references to Protestant faith) with one to George III (and no reference to Protestant faith).

  • Allowed the practice of civil law to continue.

It did not call for an assembly, allowing the governor to continue ruling with his council.

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The Québec Act, 1774 (bilingual)

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Instructions to Governor Carleton, 1775

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Continued Protests
The Québec Act satisfied the Canadian inhabitants of Québec, and some of the demands of the British merchants, but did not lead to representative government. In the Thirteen Colonies, however, the Québec Act was quickly denounced as one of the "Intolerable Acts," objecting to the limits it set on westward expansion. British merchants in Québec continued to demand representative government through a House of Assembly.

Drawing : Boston Tea Party
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The American Revolution
The United States declared independence on July 4, 1776. The American Continental Congress attempted to convince Canadians to join them in a poorly-worded letter, but French Canadians chose to stay neutral. This was attributed in part to the Québec Act, 1774, which protected the Catholic faith and the social hierarchy - something they doubted that Americans would do.

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Haldimand to Germain, 25th October, 1780
(Governor believes that the Québec Act kept French Canadians from joining Revolution.)

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Nova Scotia and Île St-Jean (later Prince Edward Island) remained loyal for their own reasons: most of their population was newly arrived from Britain, and Halifax was a naval base. It was officially prohibited to settle on Newfoundland; those that stayed illegally were to far from the Revolution or the sentiment of the Americans to consider joining.

To learn more about the effect of the American Revolution on British North America:

Watercolour: A View of the City of Montreal, 1784 - NAC/ANC C-002002
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The United Empire Loyalists
When hostilities ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, both Nova Scotia and Québec suddenly became refuges for thousands of citizens of the Thirteen Colonies that had remained loyal the Crown.

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Treaty of Paris, 1783
(Treaty ends American Revolution.)

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These new settlers, the United Empire Loyalists, brought with them expectations for representative government that gave new strength to the demands made earlier by British merchants.

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Petition for a House of Assembly, 1784

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Plan for a House of Assembly, 1784

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Objections to a House of Assembly, 1784

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Carleton's Challenge
Carleton, now Lord Dorchester, returned as governor in 1786, with the knowledge that changes would have to be made to satisfy the Loyalists. However, he felt that Canadians were still too politically naïve for representative government.

Watercolour: Encampment of the Loyalists at Johnstown, 1784 - NAC/ANC C-002001
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The Move to Representative Government and a Divided Province
It was soon realized that a new constitution would be needed to settle these problems, as well as other unstated ones:

  • The British government hoped to reduce expenses by giving colonial assemblies the power of taxation.

  • It was thought important to strengthen the ties between the provinces and Britain by correcting the weaknesses of earlier constitutions.

As the loyalists had settled mostly west of the French Canadian centres of population (in what is now Ontario) the British government decided - against Carleton's wishes - to divide the province. This was seen as the best way to satisfy the interests of both the Loyalists and the Canadians.

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Sydney to Dorchester: 3d Sept., 1788
(Sydney asks Dorchester for a full account of Canadian issues.)

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Dorchester to Sydney, November 8, 1788
(Dorchester does not believe that an Assembly is practical.)

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Grenville to Dorchester , 20th Octr, 1789
(Include the first draft for a new constitution.)

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