BECK index

Canada under the British 1763-1817

by Sanderson Beck

British Canada during Revolution 1763-83
British North America 1783-1812
Canada in War and Peace 1812-17

British Canada during Revolution 1763-83

English, French, and Indian Wars 1754-63

The French colony that had been called Canada was conquered by the British military and was bankrupt as the currency of the card money from the King of France became worthless. French merchants were also hampered by the British laws of trade and navigation that became effective after the peace. In the treaty signed in February 1763 New France was ceded to the British as far west as the Mississippi, and the western portion beyond that river was transferred to Spain. France no longer had any colony in the North American mainland. The rebellion led by the Ottawa’s Chief Pontiac was defeated by Col. Henry Bouquet’s victory at Bushy Run on August 6, 1763 that relieved the garrison at Fort Pitt. On October 7 King George III proclaimed how the new conquests were to be governed. Vacant lands in Quebec and the Floridas were offered to ex-soldiers and to other British subjects on easy terms. Settlement was forbidden west of the heads of the rivers that flowed into the Atlantic Ocean in order to preserve the hunting grounds of the Indians. The French Catholics could not serve in the colonial assembly.

James Murray had been military governor 1760-64, and he became the first governor of Quebec for the British. He was obligated to follow English law that established the Anglican Church and disqualified Roman Catholics from serving in government. The British replaced the Canadian official class, and the Anglo-Americans dominated the commercial class. The inhabitants of Canada were free to emigrate for eighteen months after the peace treaty. Historians estimate that about 2,000 native Canadians left during that period. After military law ended on August 10, 1764, Murray issued an ordinance that established two central courts, the King’s Bench for major cases and appeals and the Common Pleas for the Canadians. Catholics were allowed to serve on juries and could plead cases in the Court of Common Pleas. An ordinance on September 17 abolished the Three Rivers District, leaving Quebec and Montreal. When the Catholic priests elected Grand Vicar Montgolfier of Montreal as bishop, Murray favored the pliable Grand Vicar Jean-Olivier Briand of Quebec who was consecrated in Paris in March 1766, the year he was unofficially approved by the British government. Briand reached Quebec on June 28, the day Murray sailed. Murray tried to resolve conflicts between the French Catholic majority and the British subjects in Quebec. Those favoring the British got him recalled in 1765, and he was replaced by Guy Carleton who arrived on September 23, 1766 and took the oath the next day. That year law officers in England decided that the Catholics of Quebec were no longer subject to the disabilities of those in the United Kingdom. Also in 1766 the Montreal fur trade began expanding when French Canadians moved past Lake Winnipeg. On April 15, 1768 a British ordinance opened up trade with the Indians.

Governor Carleton supported the leaders of the community including the clergy and seigniors. He made concessions to the Canadians so that they would become willing British subjects. In 1766 Francis Maseres was appointed Attorney General of Quebec, and he supported the authority of the imperial parliament to decide matters of religion, law, and revenue. Maseres submitted his report to Carleton on February 27, 1769, and he also approved of the policy of assimilation put forward by the Board of Trade in its report in July. Carleton became Governor-in-chief on October 25; but he was concerned about the assimilation and returned to England in 1770 and stayed there until 1774. Carleton told the Council that he would not go by class distinctions but rather he would distinguish between good and bad men. The Swiss Protestant Hector Theophile Cramahé was appointed Lieutenant Governor. A few weeks after Carleton left, Cramahé forwarded him a petition from the French Canadians asking that the laws and customs affecting their property be restored. William Knox became Under-secretary to the new Secretary of State for America in 1768, and he supported Carleton’s ideas of British power in America. Knox promoted the annexation of the Indian territory to Quebec that eventually became law in 1773. Off the Nova Scotia peninsula the Island of St. John became a colony in 1769 and had an assembly by 1773.

Between 1769 and 1772 Samuel Hearne traveled to the mouth of the Coppermine River on the Coronation Gulf of the Arctic Ocean to investigate the mines. In 1774 he established Fort Cumberland on the Saskatchewan River for the Hudson’s Bay Company. William Pink of that company had explored the upper Churchill and from York Factory by 1768. Joseph Frobisher of Montreal camped at Portage du Traite between Saskatchewan and Churchill, and with his brother Thomas and Alexander Henry from New Jersey they moved into the Churchill country by 1776. Two years later Peter Pond made it to Clearwater and the Athabaska.

The Quebec Act was passed on June 18, 1774 and changed the 1763 policy and gave the governor and his appointed council full authority in Quebec. Roman Catholics were allowed to hold office by taking a special oath, not the one of the Test Act, and the Catholic Church was even permitted to collect tithes. The property rights of the seigniors were confirmed along with French civil law, but criminal law was still British. A council was established that could legislate, but it could only tax for public buildings and roads. The boundaries of Quebec were extended to include much of what had been New France and the region between the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers where the fur traders of Montreal were still dominant. This new colony was given a governor and an appointed council. The Quebec Act went into operation on May 1, 1775.

Some Halifax merchants tried to support the American rebellion by boycotting the East India Company’s tea in the summer of 1774. Carleton returned to Canada on September 18. On April 26, 1775 Governor Carleton issued a proclamation appointing six judges of the courts established by the Quebec Act, but he had less than 800 regular troops in Quebec and not one armed ship. Martial law was proclaimed in June.

Naval Captain Hugh Palliser had become Governor of the New Foundland fisheries in 1764; but not until 1775 were his recommendations implemented in Palliser’s Act to exclude New Englanders from the fishery by a system of bounties and penalties that required fishermen to return to England.

In Philadelphia those at the Continental Congress objected to the Quebec Act and criticized the Canadians’ religion for subverting liberty. In September 1774 they approved an address to the inhabitants of Canada urging them to join the other colonies in demanding just reforms of the government, and they invited them to choose delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia that would start in May 1775. They also invited the Canadians to join their confederation, and they promised they would consider the violations of the Canadians’ rights as if they were their own. The Americans also joined together to stop imports from Britain and Ireland after December 1 and exports to those kingdoms and the West Indies after September 10, 1775.

Governor Carleton got few soldiers from the inhabitants, and a few hundred Canadians joined the invading Americans. On May 10, 1775 the Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen and men from Massachusetts and Connecticut led by Benedict Arnold seized the forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point on Lake Champlain without resistance. Four days later Arnold and fifty men briefly took over St. John on the border. On June 27 Congress authorized General Philip Schuyler to invade Canada. He arrived with 1,200 troops at Fort Ticonderoga on September 4, and on the 16th General Richard Montgomery led the attack on Fort Saint-Jean. On September 25 Ethan Allen on his own initiative with 80 Canadians and 30 Americans led an attack on Montreal, but 500 British regulars defeated them and captured 39 men including Allen who was imprisoned in England.

Montgomery’s forces captured Montreal on November 13. Six days later the British fleet surrendered while Carleton escaped to Quebec. Most of the Canadians with the Americans deserted during the winter. About a thousand Americans besieged Quebec in early December. Montgomery and Arnold launched an attack during a snowstorm on December 31, but Carleton’s forces held them off with a few hundred men. Montgomery and several of his officers were killed, and about 400 attackers were captured. Arnold held on in Quebec and went to Montreal in February. In March reinforcements increased his army to nearly 3,000 men, though almost a quarter were unfit because of smallpox and other diseases. Generals Wooster and Thomas arrived at Quebec City in April with less than 2,000 men with many suffering from smallpox.

Those speaking English in Canada were generally opposed to the American revolution, and an agent from Congress reported that there was no prospect of Canada sending any delegates to the Continental Congress. Nova Scotia decided to remain neutral. A merchant oligarchy dominated the Council and the Assembly at Halifax. About 10,000 British reinforcements arrived in May 1776. Carleton ordered Burgoyne and his 4,000 troops to attack the retreating Americans, and on June 15 General Arnold abandoned Montreal. The American army retreated to Crown Point by early July. The American invaders had been driven out of Canada. Americans led by Jonathan Eddy fared even worse in Nova Scotia as their attempt to take Fort Cumberland failed in November 1776. Washington realized that the British Navy was too strong for them to bring a sufficient force to Nova Scotia. Those in Nova Scotia and Acadia tended to remain neutral.

Carleton governed with the advice of his privy council that included Lt. Governor Hector Cramahé, Hugh Finlay, Thomas Dunn, John Collins, and Adam Mabane until the Legislative Council met again in Quebec in January 1777. The French party dominated for the next twelve years and was led by Mabane.

The Canadian strategy was to have the army of 6,840 men led by General John Burgoyne advance by Lake Champlain to Albany and try to contact the army of General William Howe in order to divide the American rebels in New York where many were loyal to the British. However, Howe went to Philadelphia instead. Lt. Col. Barry St. Leger led Indians from the Mohawk Valley and Loyalists supported by William Johnson’s son John and nephew Guy, John Butler, and the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. They organized the King’s Royal Regiment of New York that was called Butler’s Rangers. Of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederation only the Oneidas and Tuscaroras sided with the American revolutionaries. De Lancey’s Volunteers and the New Jersey Volunteers called Skinner’s Greens also supported the Canadians. St. Leger’s forces defeated the American militia at Oriskany but could not capture Fort Schuyler (Stanwix) and retreated. Loyalists tended to be conservatives or pacifist Quakers and Mennonites.

Burgoyne and his army took over abandoned Fort Edward on July 31, 1777. The luxurious ways of “General Johnny” Burgoyne with female followers and inadequate scouting weakened his army. They were defeated at Stillwater on September 19, and his army of 5,791 men surrendered at Saratoga on October 17. This defeat proved to be a turning point in the war as the Americans gained France as an ally. However, it helped preserve Canada because neither France nor the United States would let the other take over Canada. The British burned Fort Ticonderoga before they abandoned it in November. The Marquis de Lafayette proposed the conquest of Canada, but Congress rejected the plan in January 1779. Washington’s plans to invade Canada in 1780 and 1781 were vetoed by the French. A civil war was fought in New York from 1778 to 1782, and similar fighting went on along the Ohio River. Virginians led by George Rogers Clark captured Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River on July 4, 1778, and ten days later a few men garrisoned Fort Sackville at Vincennes in the Illinois country. Detroit’s Lt. Governor Henry Hamilton seized Fort Sackville on December 17 for the British, but on February 25, 1779 Clark took it back and captured Hamilton. The British regained Kaskaskia before the war ended. Spain declared war against Britain on June 16, 1779 and attacked St. Louis.

Traders in Montreal joined together to form the North West Company in 1779 though they were not able to achieve a monopoly in that region. The Legislative Council met in April 1778, and Chief Justice Peter Livius asked Governor Carleton for instructions; but when Livius favored Richard Dobie, one of Montreal’s traders opposed to Carleton, the Governor dismissed the Chief Justice on May 8. No successor was appointed for eight years.

Captain James Cook sailed through the Bering Strait to explore the polar ice pack in 1778. One of his men, John Ledyard from Connecticut, met Russian fur traders on Unalaska Island and bought furs from the natives at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. Ledyard left Cook’s ship at Long Island, New York in December 1782 to publish his journal and promote the North Pacific fur trade.

George Germain was Secretary of State for the Colonies 1775-82. Carleton could not get along with him and resigned on June 27, 1778. Germain appointed General Frederick Haldimand to be Governor General of Canada on September 19, 1777, but he did not arrive at Quebec until June 30, 1778 to succeed the recalled Carleton. Haldimand helped the Loyalist refugees from the American war settle in New Brunswick and Ontario. Also in 1778 the British Parliament resolved never again to tax its colonies. They would have to elect legislatures to tax themselves. Count d’Estaing commanded the French fleet, and in October he issued a proclamation that was widely distributed in Canada appealing to the French. Mabane’s French party did not liberalize the laws, and the French dominated Canada. Haldimand sided with them against the mercantile minority until he returned to England in the summer of 1784. On October 25 of that year Governor Haldimand proclaimed that Mohawks and others from the Six Nations of the Iroquois who had fought for the British were to be given land between the Ontario, Erie, and Huron lakes.

The American negotiators Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and John Adams wanted to resume trade with Britain and made peace without their French ally. The British negotiator Shelburne wanted reconciliation and a commercial treaty. In the treaty signed on September 3, 1783 the British ceded the Ohio valley to the Americans. They also gave the Americans fishing rights off Nova Scotia and New Foundland with the use of unsettled land to dry and cure their fish. However, mercantilists in England managed to block the commercial aspects, and American citizens were given no commercial privileges in the British empire. The United States was supposed to recognize the rights of the Loyalists to return or receive compensation for their property, but only South Carolina made an effort to avoid the persecution that occurred in the other states. Most of the 32,000 Loyalists moved to Nova Scotia by sea, and 8,000 went to Quebec by land. About 12,000 Loyalists dominated the north shore of the Bay of Fundy. About 6,000 Loyalists from New York settled along the St. Lawrence and Niagara rivers. The most prominent Loyalist was Chief Justice William Smith of New York.

British North America 1783-1812

The land north of Fundy was separated from Nova Scotia in 1784 as the province of New Brunswick, and Cape Breton Island became a province until it was re-united with Nova Scotia in 1820. Some Loyalists moved through the Upper St. Lawrence valley along the north shore of Lake Ontario and into the Ottawa valley which was part of Quebec until 1791 and eventually became the province of Ontario in 1867. In 1791 New Foundland got a permanent court of justice under Chief Justice John Reeves.

Governor Haldimand sued the financial agent John Cochrane and won, angering the English party. In 1784 they managed to get the Legislative Council to pass an ordinance for the right of habeas corpus, ending the reactionary regime. Haldimand left Canada in November and was replaced by Lt. Governor Henry Hamilton. He recognized the right of the merchants to have jury trials, and the civil code was reformed. However, after the mercantile party agitated for an assembly, Hamilton was recalled in 1785. Carleton became Baron Dorchester in 1786 and was sent as Governor-in-chief of British North America with his advisor William Smith as Chief Justice of Quebec. Smith believed that monarchical and aristocratic elements should balance out the democratic in the constitutions of the colonies. This made Smith an enemy of the French party, and the aging Dorchester could do little. In 1787 Charles Inglis became the first Anglican Bishop of Nova Scotia. By that year the North West Company was dominating trade in the northwest.

In 1788 King’s College was founded in Windsor, Nova Scotia. It was endowed by an Act the next year and opened in 1790. The University of King’s College became the first university in Canada to be given a Royal Charter by George III in 1802. The University of New Brunswick had begun in 1785 but did not receive a royal charter until 1827. McGill University started in 1801 and got its Royal Charter in 1821.

In 1789 William Grenville replaced Sydney as Home Secretary and drafted a new policy for Quebec in October. He hoped to assimilate the Canadians into British constitutional government by strengthening the governor’s prerogatives and distinguishing the legislative council from the executive council. He wanted the colony to have a legislative assembly. Representative government would mean that French civil law would prevail in one province while British common law was instituted in the other. The British cabinet accepted Grenville’s plan for Canada’s government in 1790, and in 1791 the British Parliament passed the Constitutional Act which took effect on December 26. The new Canada would be divided by the Ottawa River with the French Canadians in the eastern part called Lower Canada and the British Canadians in the western part called Upper Canada.

The colonies of Lower and Upper Canada and Nova Scotia wanted to supply the British West Indies with fish, flour, and lumber for rum, sugar, and molasses, and only gradually were these opened up to American shipping. Newfoundland also exported fish, and shipbuilding as well as lumber prospered in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Closing of the Baltic in 1807 stimulated shipbuilding in Canada, and Britain increased its tariffs on timber. Cape Breton Island had an appointed council. In the north Rupert’s Land was under a charter company.

Montreal traders explored new territories. Scottish Alexander Mackenzie and Peter Pond stayed a winter on Lake Athabaska in 1787, and two years later Mackenzie for the North West Company went down the river named after him, reaching the delta on July 10. In 1793 Mackenzie ascended the Peace River, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and descended on the upper Fraser. After encountering hostile Indians he went west by land to the Pacific Ocean, becoming the first man known to have crossed the North American continent north of Mexico. The narrow mouth of the Columbia River was discovered by the American captain Robert Gray in 1792. From that year to 1794 Captain George Vancouver explored the west coast north from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In 1793 the Hudson’s Bay Company sent traders by the Albany and Winnipeg rivers to the Assiniboine River. The American expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis on May 14, 1804 and reached the mouth of the Columbia River on November 15, 1805. In 1808 Simon Fraser descended to the Pacific on the river named after him. David Thompson found his way through the passes of the Rockies north to the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan. When he finally made it to the mouth of the Columbia in 1811, he found that John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company had already arrived by sea.

The war that began in 1793 between England  and revolutionary France made the issues of neutral rights and deserters from the Royal Navy critical until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815. The British ships often seized American sailors wrongly believing they were British deserters. In 1794 the British Foreign Secretary William Grenville negotiated a treaty with John Jay of the United States to arrange commerce with neutral rights. The British promised to evacuate their western posts by June 1, 1796. They provided for common navigation on the Mississippi, and the Americans agreed not to interfere with the Canadian fur trade in American territory. The Jay Treaty called for using judicial procedures in international affairs. After the War of 1812 ended in 1814, Canadian-American relations have been peaceful for two centuries.

Nova Scotia was governed by John Wentworth from 1792 to 1808. He was a Loyalist from New Hampshire with conservative policies, helping the oligarchs to benefit from the war. They were challenged somewhat by the naval official Cottnam Tonge from 1797 until 1807 when Governor Wentworth dismissed him and refused to accept him as Speaker. Thomas Carleton governed the island of St. John with the Loyalist cabal. James Glenie was in the Assembly 1789-1805 and criticized the oligarchy that endowed its members with Crown land. St. John became Prince Edward Island in 1799, and it gained farmers as did Cape Breton.

In 1792 Lower Canada had 145,000 French with only 10,000 English. In the elected Legislative Assembly that first met on December 17 the French Canadians outnumbered the English 34-16, but the English still had majorities by 9-7 in the Legislative Council and 5-4 in the Executive Council. J. A. Panet of Quebec was the first Speaker of the House, and King George III appointed Chief Justice Smith as the Speaker of the Legislative Council. The first parliament went on until October 15 and passed major legislation. They canceled the ancient laws of Canada, but they affirmed that no existing contract would be affected by the change. All future conflicts were to be solved by the laws of England with British rules of evidence. They protected ecclesiastical rights and maintenance of the poor. Jury trials were instituted, and they passed a law for recovering small debts. They provided funds for a courthouse and a jail in each of the four districts. The second parliament in 1793 prohibited the introduction of any more Negro slaves. In the first two years the new government had revenues of £12,664 or $61,648, but they spent about $125,000 with the imperial government providing the balance. In 1795 they spent £24,711 but took in only £10,425.

The Canadian Henri Meziere worked for the French envoy Edmond Genet and wrote the pamphlet Les Français libres a leurs frères les Canadiens to urge Canadians to become free. When the Assembly passed a militia act in 1794, riots broke out. The Alien and Sedition Act passed on May 31, 1794 authorized arrests, and an act imposed a corvée in 1796. In January 1797 a British ship captured the French ship, ironically called The Olive Branch, carrying 20,000 weapons, artillery, and ammunition for Vermont. Genet sent into Quebec agents who were arrested and tried. David MacLane organized an attempt to seize the citadel at Quebec by drugging the garrison, but he was arrested on May 10 and was hanged on July 21. Also that year a French squadron appeared off the Atlantic coast.

Bishop Jean François Hubert distributed circulars urging loyalty to the British Crown. The election of the second Assembly in 1797 increased the French majority. Governor-in-chief Dorchester was succeeded by General Robert Prescott on April 27, 1797, and he made sure the English majority continued in the councils. They were notoriously called the “Chateau clique” and made large grants of unalienated Crown land to themselves and their friends from those outside the seigneurial limits that were surveyed about 1791. They were east of Montreal and Richelieu and became known as the Eastern Townships. Loyalists settled there after 1783, and after 1791 New Englanders and New Yorkers began squatting there. None of them were granted to Canadians.

In 1793 Jacob Mountain became the first Anglican bishop of Quebec, and he promoted education for the young. Father Cazot was the last Jesuit in Canada, and he died in 1800. The Crown took over their property, and the Governor proposed using the annual income for education. In 1801 the Royal Institute for the Advancement of Learning was founded by Lt. Governor Robert Shore Milnes (1799-1805) and Bishop Mountain. Milnes wrote a report on conditions in Canada in 1800 for King George and estimated the population of Lower Canada to be 160,000 with about 38,000 militia. In 1801 the Treaty of Amiens diminished the war tensions. In 1805 Mountain formally challenged the Roman Catholic Church as the established church of Lower Canada, but the controversy faded away without a change. The English newspaper the Quebec Mercury, which started in 1805, and the bilingual Montreal Gazette, which began in 1785, criticized the French party for its policy on taxes. The lawyers Pierre Bédard, Jean Thomas Taschereau, and Joseph Louis Borgia founded the French-language newspaper, Le Canadien in 1806. In 1808 they argued that the Governor’s advisors should be held accountable for their acts.

Governor General James Henry Craig (1807-11) was in the English party and instilled military discipline. The Jewish merchant, Ezekiel Hart, was elected from Three Rivers; but the majority rejected him for refusing to take the oath. They also opposed letting Judge P. A. de Bonne sit in the Assembly because it would affect his impartiality. The governing elite resented this, and it was an issue in the election of 1808 when Craig cancelled the military commissions of the owners of Le Canadien. After the new Assembly expelled Hart and Judge Bonne, Craig prorogued them in 1809. When they persisted the next year, he dissolved the Assembly. Then on March 17, 1810 he seized the press of Le Canadien, put the printer in jail, and suspended the mail. The military patrolled Quebec, and Bédard, Taschereau, and François-Xavier Blanchet were imprisoned without trial on the 19th. Laforce, Pierre Papineau, and Corbeil were also arrested in Montreal. Bédard and Blanchet were re-elected in 1810, and the Assembly had similar representation. Craig wanted to end representative government and sent his secretary H. W. Ryland to England to request revocation of the Constitutional Act. The British government declined to do that or to put the Catholic Bishop of Quebec under the Anglican. The population of Lower Canada reached 330,000 by 1812. Le Spectateur Canadien was published in Montreal starting on June 1, 1813.

Upper Canada was the first inland British colony, and settlements reached hundreds of miles from Quebec. The population increased from 14,000 in 1791 to 90,000 in 1812. Grenville appointed Col. John Graves Simcoe the first Lt. Governor of Upper Canada, and he served 1791-96. His official family included Loyalists and officeholders who were granted public lands in what was called the Family Compact. The first popularly elected Assembly in Canada met at Newark (Niagara) on September 17, 1792 with John Macdonnell of Glengary as the first Speaker of the House. The English and Loyalists dominated the Assembly. The next April the first newspaper appeared as the Upper Canada Gazette and was the official newspaper of the government. Simcoe encouraged veteran Loyalists to pioneer new institutions, and he organized the Queen’s Rangers to build roads. New settlers who took the loyalty oath could get free land. A Loyalist would get 200 acres, but ex-officers could claim up to 5,000 acres. Toronto was renamed York and became the capital in 1794. Simcoe opposed slavery and declared that he would not agree to a dishonest policy between Africans, Americans, and Europeans. No slave could be brought into the province, and no slave contract could extend more than nine years.

Simcoe was succeeded by Peter Russell 1796-99 and Peter Hunter 1799-1805. During this era the British officials and American land speculators gained the best tracts of land. Lt. Governor Francis Gore (1806-11) managed the colonial bureaucracy, though he was criticized by the Irish immigrants William Weeks, William Willocks, Joseph Willocks, and Robert Thorpe. Willocks started The Upper Canada Guardian or Freeman’s Journal in August 1807. More immigrants came to Upper Canada from the United States, and they were usually not political. Quakers and Mennonites were exempted from military service. The Canadian government continued to make annual gifts to the tribes even though most lived on American land.

The Judicature Act of 1803 helped the Montreal traders by giving the Canadian courts jurisdiction over the Indian territory. The Montreal fur trade prospered from 1796 to 1808. After a naval incident in 1807 the peaceful policies of President Jefferson prevented a war between the United States and the British. General Isaac Brock became Lt. Governor of Upper Canada in October 1811 with military and civil authority.

Canada in War and Peace 1812-17

The United States declared war on the British in June 1812, and many Americans hoped to liberate the Canadians from British rule. The fur traders from Montreal hoped to win back the Michigan and Wisconsin region for British sovereignty. British North America had less than a half million people and 6,000 regular British troops while the United States had about 7.75 million people. However, the British Royal Navy had nearly 700 warships on the high seas.

Before Governor Brock closed the session of the legislature on May 19, they authorized £12,000 for the militia, £20,000 for the needs of the time, and £30,000 for the Governor to use if war began against the United States. On June 24 Quebec and Upper Canada learned that the United States had declared war and they ordered American citizens to leave the city of Quebec by July 1 and the district by the 3rd.  They placed an embargo on all ships leaving the province until July 16 and called the legislature to meet on that day. The next day the British with a few regulars and about 500 Canadians and Indians captured Michilimackinac at the northern tip of Michigan. The Upper Canada Assembly met at York on July 27, and Brock organized the Canadian war effort and asked for more funding.

General Brock brought 300 British reinforcements to Fort Malden on August 13, and he cleverly fooled the American commander William Hull into believing that 5,000 Indians were coming to fight for Chief Tecumseh. Hull had issued an appeal from Detroit to the inhabitants of Canada, but he ordered Fort Dearborn at Chicago abandoned. The Americans who left on August 15 were attacked by 500 Potawatomis, and many were killed. The next day Brock led his force of 730 British soldiers across the river to attack Fort Detroit, and they were supported by 600 Indians under Tecumseh. After seven Americans were killed, Hull surrendered the fort at Detroit and the Michigan territory, giving up about 1,600 Ohio militia, 582 regulars, 2,500 arms, 33 cannons, much ammunition, and £30,000 worth of supplies. Brock paroled the Ohio militia but kept the regulars prisoners in Canada. The Americans did not have enough popular support in New England to attack Montreal, and General Dearborn had divided his army.

In December 1812 the Loyal and Patriotic Society was formed for clothing and other needs for the soldiers and aid for their families in distress. During the war they included widows and orphans of those killed. Money was raised in England, Jamaica, Nova Scotia, and Canada that came to about £17,000.

In the Niagara campaign of 1813 the Americans outnumbered the British forces by about three to one. After Brock was killed in the Battle of Queenston Heights on October 13, he was succeeded in command by the Loyalist Roger Sheaffe; but George Prevost became Governor General of all Canada. He met with Lower Canada’s Assembly on December 29 and persuaded them to appropriate £15,000 to equip the militia and £25,000 for general expenses. Prevost had governed Nova Scotia 1808-11 and was Governor General 1812-15 and commander-in-chief during most of the war. They lacked warships at first, but both sides built ships as fast as they could.

When Americans attacked the Canadian capital at York on April 27, 1813, Sheaffe’s forces were outnumbered and, after destroying the fort and a ship, retreated to Kingston. In the next three days the Americans carried away supplies and about £2,000  from the Treasury, and they burned the public buildings with their records. On May 27 the Americans captured Fort George which was abandoned by the outnumbered British after 52 were killed, 306 were wounded or deserted, and 276 were captured.

In 1813 the American Navy led by Commodore Oliver Perry won victories and took over Lake Erie. The Americans also defeated the British in Lake Champlain and pushed them back to the east end of Lake Ontario, but they could not block the St. Lawrence route to Montreal.

American forces in the west led by General William Henry Harrison defeated the Indian confederation led by Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet, but Tecumseh was killed in the Battle of the Thames on October 5. The Americans regained Michigan and took over enough of the peninsula to trade for Wisconsin. The war in the western peninsula became a civil war, and in early 1814 the Upper Canadian militia captured settlers fighting for the Americans and executed eight for treason. The Assembly led by James Stuart impeached Chief Justice Jonathan Sewell. Canadian merchants profited from increased military contracts and the illicit trade with New England.

The British occupied Maine in early 1814. Many were killed during the Niagara campaign. The Americans captured Fort Erie on July 3. Neither side won at Lundy’s Lane on July 25 when losses on both sides were fairly even and totaled 1,731 killed, wounded, captured, and missing. The British Army besieged Fort Erie from August 4 to September 27. The Americans had to retreat from Canada, and they destroyed Fort Erie before evacuating it on November 5. The defeat of Napoleon in Europe made many British soldiers available, and the Americans were fortunate to get a peace treaty signed in Ghent on December 24. The boundaries of 1783 were kept in place as the Americans regained Maine and the country of the Upper Lakes. The United States might have been able to conquer Canada by land; but the powerful British Royal Navy deterred this because they could easily blockade the American coasts. Thus a peaceful co-existence was established that has lasted two centuries between the North American neighbors.

Governor General Prevost left Quebec on April 3, 1815 and was replaced temporarily by Gordon Drummond. Trade relations between Canada and the United States were resumed, and on May 9 an order established two ports of entry into Lower Canada at St. John’s on the Richelieu and at Coteau landing above the rapids of the St. Lawrence. Drummond’s proclamation offered a pardon to all deserters in the United States who returned to their regiments before July 7. A circular was sent to commissioners on October 14 empowering them to administer the oath of allegiance to all those coming into the province from the United States. Drummond opened the provincial legislature on January 26, 1816, and he asked for renewal of the militia act and the alien act. Common schools were established. The legislature was prorogued before the act regulating trade with the United States could be renewed; but on March 28 Drummond regulated the trade with a proclamation. Lt. Governor Francis Gore ruled Upper Canada again 1815-17; but after the Assembly challenged his ban on land grants to American refugees, he prorogued them.

On June 19, 1816 a council included the Hurons, Ottawas, Chippewas, Pottawatomies, Shawnees, Kickapoos, and Munsies, and many complained that they were not allowed to return to their hunting grounds after the war. John Coape Sherbrooke was appointed Governor General of British North America and arrived in Quebec on July 11. Louis-Joseph Papineau was unanimously elected speaker when the Assembly met on January 15, 1817. They authorized £49,716 to relieve the distress in the lower parishes. Effort was made to assist emigration from Great Britain, and many poor people came from England, Scotland, and Ireland.

In the northwest by 1808 Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk, had sponsored a colony of Highland and Irish settlers on the Red River at Assiniboia that he got from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Starting in 1811 Selkirk sent out Scottish settlers and refugee Swiss mercenaries, but on January 8, 1814 Miles Macdonell, the first governor of the Selkirk settlement, provoked conflict over the pemmican trade by prohibiting exports for one year. In the summer of 1817 Selkirk provided laws that accepted English and French fur traders and their Indian wives. In September 1818 he was charged at Sandwich with breaking into and stealing property from Fort William. After the court adjourned, he left the provinces.

John Adams had first proposed disarming the Great Lakes region in 1782, and John Jay brought it up again at London in 1794. When John Quincy Adams was ambassador to London, he favored this and suggested on March 21, 1817 that only vessels be maintained that were necessary for the collection of revenue. Finally the Rush-Bagot Treaty was signed in Washington in April 1817 and banned warships from the Great Lakes after it was ratified by the United States Senate on April 16, 1818.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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Mexico and the Caribbean 1744-1817
English and French Conflict in America 1744-54
English, French, and Indian Wars 1754-63
American Resistance to British Taxes 1763-75
American War of Independence
Confederation and a Constitution 1784-89
Federalist United States 1789-1801
Jeffersonian Democracy 1801-1809
Madison and the War of 1812
Canada under the British 1763-1817
Summary and Evaluation of American Revolutions 1744-1817

World Chronology
Chronology of America to 1817

BECK index