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Canada in 1775


Québec City in 18th
Québec City in 18th

Removal of the French threat, which eliminated the need for British military protection, encouraged the 13 colonies to grow away from their ties to Britain. Barely 15 years after the conquest of New France, these colonies took up armed resistance to British rule, and the American Revolution began. In 1775 American forces harassed Nova Scotia and invaded Québec. They did not win the support of the Nova Scotians, who still depended on British connections. The Americans seized Montréal and besieged Québec City in the winter of 1775 to 1776, but they found little support, and British forces drove them out early in 1776. For the rest of the war, Britain used the forts and seaports of the northern colonies as springboards for its campaigns against the Americans.

The American Revolution created not one but two new nations in North America. When the independence of the United States of America was confirmed in 1783, the northern part of British North America, the future Canada, was left to the British Empire.

The British were immediately confronted with a dramatic increase in population. Some 40,000 Loyalists—people from 13 colonies who were loyal to Britain—came as refugees during and immediately after the revolution (see United Empire Loyalists). Others, called late Loyalists, arrived in subsequent years. Some of the Loyalists were former members of the urban elite of the 13 colonies, but most were ordinary farmers or townspeople. A tenth of the Loyalists in Atlantic Canada were blacks, mostly escaped slaves who had joined the British cause. Part of the Iroquois confederacy that had allied itself with Britain also joined the migration. Thayendanegea, or Joseph Brant, founded an Iroquois community on the Grand River north of Lake Erie.

Britain supported Loyalist refugees for several years and provided them with generous land grants in British North America. Almost overnight, Loyalists tripled the population of Nova Scotia. Their arrival caused two new colonies to be carved out of Nova Scotia: New Brunswick and Cape Breton Island (reunited with Nova Scotia in 1820).

In Québec, which received about 10,000 Loyalists, Governor Frederick Haldimand decreed that the English-speaking newcomers should not be merged into the French communities. At his direction, most Loyalists in Québec migrated in 1784 to new settlements on the upper St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, creating the nucleus of the future Ontario.

Loyalist leaders soon joined British merchants of Québec City and Montréal in agitating against the Québec Act. It did not provide the British legal institutions, legislatures, and systems of land tenure that the Loyalists and others of British background expected. In response, in 1791 Britain divided Québec into two colonies, Lower and Upper Canada, and gave a new constitution to each.

In mostly French Lower Canada, French civil law, the rights of the Catholic Church, and seignorial land tenure were preserved. In mostly English Upper Canada, Protestant churches, particularly the Church of England, were favored, and English laws and land tenure were installed. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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