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Treaty of Paris in 1763


St. Lawrence valley
St. Lawrence valley

By the Treaty of Paris in 1763, New France with its 65,000 settlers (except western Louisiana) was ceded to Britain. At that point, what is now Canada comprised the British colonies of Québec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Rupert’s Land. Québec was the new name for the colony of Canada, which had reached from Labrador to Missouri but was now reduced to the lower St. Lawrence valley. Nova Scotia comprised all of what had been Acadia and Île Royale, and Newfoundland included Labrador. Rupert’s Land, which was the name for the Hudson Bay drainage area, continued to be a monopoly of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

King George III of Britain sought to pacify Pontiac’s allies with his Royal Proclamation of 1763, which recognized indigenous sovereignty with certain qualifications. It committed Britain to negotiating treaties with the indigenous peoples to acquire land before allowing settlers to move in. The land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, including Canada outside the lower St. Lawrence valley, was set aside as a reserve, the so-called Lands Reserved for the Indians. This angered people in the 13 colonies, who felt they were being deprived of rights to western land that had been given or implied in their original colonial charters.

When Britain conquered New France, it expected to impose British institutions, including a colonial assembly that would be open only to Protestants. Military governors James Murray and Guy Carleton found that policy unworkable. In 1774 by the Québec Act, Britain agreed to preserve a regime with no elective institutions. The Québec Act entrenched the old French civil law and the seignorial system of landholding and officially recognized the Roman Catholic Church, including its right to impose tithes.

By shoring up the society of French Québec, the Québec Act helped reconcile its key leaders—the church and the seigneurs—to British rule. The Québec Act also restored to Québec the land between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, which had been included in the lands reserved for the Indians. This helped preserve Montréal’s fur trade and encouraged the indigenous nations to form alliances with the British.

All of the northern colonies were theoretically under the authority of Britain’s governor-general at Québec City, but in practice there were few links among them. Each colony continued to develop in isolation from the others. In Newfoundland, English and Irish settlements had been growing during the 18th century. By the end of the century, Newfoundlanders, rather than fishing fleets from England, caught most of the cod that was exported to Europe and the Caribbean. Newfoundland was not entirely British after 1763, however; France kept fishing rights on the north and west coasts and acquired the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon as a base for its fishing fleets. Nova Scotia attracted only a few settlers from New England and Britain, but its capital, Halifax, became important as a military base and seaport.

Halifax was the site of the first newspaper in what is now Canada (1752) and of the first elected assembly (1758). After 1770 migration from the highlands of Scotland produced a substantial Gaelic-speaking minority in Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island (called Saint John’s Island until 1799) became a separate colony in 1769.

In Québec the population grew, commerce expanded, rural villages developed, and prosperity increased, but French-speaking society, particularly rural society, continued largely unchanged from the days of French rule. The world of most French colonists continued to center on the farm and the parish. There were few schools, and most of the colonists were unable to read and write. Rural prosperity aided the seigneurs, who for the first time could hope to live as country gentlemen on the dues paid by the habitants. The English-speaking population, most of whom were involved in trade, government, or the garrisons, lived mainly in the towns. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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