Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Lord Dorchester
Chapter I - Retrospect

BEFORE introducing to the reader the soldier-statesman who is the subject of this memoir, it seems advisable to give a short sketch of existing conditions in the country which he was called upon to govern. Indeed it is. almost necessary thus to prepare the ground for the advent of our proconsul, so that the reader may properly understand the kind of furrow he had to break. One may affirm too with perfect safety that the great lull which fell upon Canada at the close of the stir and turmoil of the Seven Years' War and the downfall of French power on the St. Lawrence, presents few attractions to the mind of a reader exhilarated by the glamour of those dramatic incidents. Most of us, on closing that page of history which influenced the future of two hemispheres far more than Waterloo, have felt little inclination to concern ourselves with the immediate fortunes of a few thousand war-sick and isolated French-Canadians. The historical student has turned more readily to the greater problems that so soon began to agitate the people of those British provinces after their safety had been secured by the fleets and armies of the mother country. Most people have a vague, but sufficiently accurate notion, that the French-Canadians were left practically undisturbed in their laws and religion, and that to this wise and benevolent policy they responded with a due measure of loyalty and affection. But it is necessary here to be a little more precise and to indicate some of those complications inevitable to such new conditions, and the difficulties which beset the administrators of the conquered province from its first occupation.

Canada had been surrendered to Amherst by L£vis on the fall of Montreal in 1760. But the war with France in Europe was only closed by the peace of two years later, when the colony was formally ceded to the British Crown. Throughout this interval Canada was under a purely military rule, administered by a governor in Quebec with others nominally subordinate to him at Three Rivers and Montreal respectively. The chief authority, however, still lay with the commander-in-chief at New York, a position retained by Amherst. But for all practical purposes General Murray may be regarded as administrator of Canada until the peace as he was also its first actual governor subsequently to it. Murray had been one of Wolfe's three brigadiers at the Battle of the Plains. He had remained in command at Quebec and ably defended it against the French throughout the following winter. He was a good soldier and well versed in the military and civil conditions of North America, and withal an able, sensible and extremely just man with a good knowledge of the French language.

These three years of military rule were, of course,' regarded as a mere temporary expedient. No one knew positively whether Canada would be retained or restored at the treaty which would follow the approaching peace. The country was then regarded by British colonists as of no value for agricultural settlement, while its commercial statistics were contemptible. Its importance seemed mainly strategic; it was a foothold whence the dreaded power of France might menace the western continent: However, there were a few, how few must always be the marvel of us moderns, who saw the handwriting on the wall and who understood the temper of the average American colonist: his intense localism and aloofness from the political and social atmosphere of the mother country, his growing impatience of every form of restriction—and some were really galling, originating outside his own provincial legislature. A few prescient Englishmen, and more Frenchmen, displayed an indifference to the possession of Canada for the same reason, but from opposite motives. With the French power firmly seated on the St. Lawrence, it is safe to say that no thoughts of independence would have germinated to the south of it. But these warning voices were scarcely heard at the time—significant though they are to read of nowadays in the light of our later knowledge.

Murray's temporary government had been merciful and successful within its limitations. Both he and his officers won by degrees the hearts and the confidence of their late antagonists. They administered the law fairly and justly and did everything in their power to mitigate those sufferings, inevitable at the close of a devastating war, which in this case had been aggravated by the monstrous frauds and corruption of Bigot and his_gang. Even the British soldier out of his poor pittance was not backward with such assistance as he was able to offer. When an order had gone out, however, in the autumn of 1761 to the garrisons in North America that the soldier was to pay four pence a day for his rations, hitherto provided by government, a serious mutiny broke out in Quebec. Fearful of the contagion spreading to other garrisons, Murray and his officers threw themselves into the breach with fine coolness and daring, and at the imminent peril of their lives, quashed a rising among these veteran troops, who as contemporary accounts tell us, were "mad with rage" at what they deemed a gross injustice. This intervention elicited the special gratitude of the king.

At this time too the great Indian rising known as "Pontiac's War" broke out. All the western Indians who had been actively or passively attached to the French went on the war-path. The old French forts from Michilimackinac in the far north-west to the Ohio valley, now mainly occupied by small British garrisons, had been treacherously attacked and most of them had fallen. There had been much massacre and bloodshed. The frontiers of the middle provinces were threatened as they had been threatened after" Braddock's defeat. Pontiac was an able and crafty leader of his race and had opened the war at Detroit, the defence of which important post by Major Gladwin is a memorable episode in North American history.

The French traders and settlers round these remote posts had no doubt some hand in fomenting discontent. The commanding influence and tact of Sir William Johnson succeeded in quieting the serious discontent of the Six Nations whose territory lay between the settlements and the West. If they had risen the situation would have been serious indeed. Their grievances were genuine enough, for^ the land greed of the British colonists, from highest to lowest, led to the most unscrupulous and dishonest methods of acquiring patents to Indian lands, the most flagrant among which being that of plying the Indians with liquor and securing their signatures to deeds when drunk. The provinces were loud in their claims to manage their own Indian affairs so long as it was a matter of mere land grabbing, but when the vengeance this awakened threatened their frontiers they called to the Crown to protect them and grudged every shilling and every man they were asked to contribute. Pontiac's War, however, had been mainly instigated by the French influence in the western country and had been further encouraged by the lack of friendly recognition and attention which the Indian's dignity required as part of the price of his friendship.

The war lasted for three years and occupied several British regiments, but was indifferently supported by the colonists whom it chiefly concerned. The gallant Swiss colonel, Bouquet, of the 60th was its guiding spirit. His masterly marches through the Alleghany forests on the track of the unfortunate Braddock and the heroic Forbes, and yet a hundred miles deeper into the wilderness than they, his hotly fought and successful actions with outnumbering Indian warriors on their^own grounds, are among the best performances of a British officer and British regulars in the American wars. The war was not finished till 1765. But when Bouquet had done with them the western Indians from Michilimackinac to the Mississippi had no longer any shadow of a doubt but that King George, and not King Louis, was now their father. Colonial legislatures passed eloquent addresses of thanks to the soldier, the gentleman, and the scholar who had delivered them from their terrible foes. And they might well have included Johnson in their eulogies, for his ceaseless efforts had alone prevented four thousand Iroquois warriors from joining in the fray. Bouquet was made a brigadier, but that was the limit of recognition a grateful king and government accorded him. Though only forty-six his health would seem to have been undermined, and death closed his honourable life in the years of his last and most important service. He died at his new command in Florida and added another grave to those of the " unremembered dead" whose services England overlooked then and has long forgotten, because they were given not in the glare of the footlights but on the remote and unfamiliar stages where the work of empire has been so largely done. Students, however, have not forgotten Bouquet, for many volumes of papers connected with his long service in America lie ready to their hand in the British Museum. He bequeathed them to his friend and executor, General Haldi-mand, another Swiss officer of the same famous corps, who has himself contributed almost as voluminously to the contemporary literature of the period. It is surely a curious reflection that to the, literary zeal and foresight of these two loyal, foreign-born officers, we are indebted for the largest mass of contemporary evidence left by any persons connected with this period in North America.

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 decided the retention of Canada by Great Britain, and it was immediately followed at the close of the same year by a proclamation of George III regarding his new governments in North America. We are only here concerned with that of Quebec, which excluding Nova Scotia and of course Newfoundland, covered the whole of what was then regarded as Canada. In the far north the Hudson's Bay Company, then as for a century later, held its solitary reign. Concerning the title to the territory now roughly occupied by the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, though the latter was still a wilderness, there was no doubt. But it is easy to forget that after the cession of Canada the whole of the western country from Lake Erie southward behind the Alleghanies and as far as the New Orleans settlements up the Mississippi, ceded by the same treaty to Spain, was included in the king's new province. French settlement then extended no farther westward than the Island of Montreal. Modern Ontario and the vast west behind and to the south of it was occupied by the Indian nations, and thinly sprinkled with fortified trading-posts whose French defenders were now displaced by British garrisons.

The new ordinance confirmed the French inhabitants, or "new subjects" as they were called, in the full exercise of their religion as already promised at the surrender. It directed the substitution of the English criminal code for the more merciless French usages, an innovation already practically made and gladly accepted by the mass of the French inhabitants. In the matter of the civil code the proclamation was more vague, directing that English law should be followed so far as was compatible with the nature and customs of the people. This tentative clause was probably wise and even inevitable, but it gave rise to much of the misunderstanding and confusion with which the earlier governors had to grapple. The proclamation 8 went on to invite English-speaking people, or the "king's old subjects," to make their home in his new dominion, promising them, when the time should be ripe, all the benefits and blessings of British institutions and representative government. The French population at this time numbered nearly ninety thousand. The English for a long time scarcely exceeded four hundred, entirely con- ^ fined to the two small cities of Quebec and Montreal, which contained between them a population of some seventeen-thousand souls. The English settlers were mainly composed of traders and miscellaneous people of lower degree, with a few disbanded soldiers and half:pay officers, who had followed the army. The majority were from the American colonies, and their numerical insignificance did not prevent them from at once endeavouring to establish the axiom that the country was to be administered entirely by themselves, and mainly in their own interests.

Murray was now appointed governor and captain^ general of Canada. During his military governorship he had already experienced much trouble from the overweening pretensions of this small faction. He was now, like his successors, to experience much more. This difficulty will be so prominent in these pages that it will be enough to say here that it was aggravated by the fact of the British residents' being, upon the whole, inferior representatives of their nation, while among the mass of unlettered and reactionary French-Canadians there were several hundred persons of the seigniorial class, men, generally speaking, of polite manners and sufficient education, and accustomed to the respect accorded to a more or less exclusive caste. Murray and his officers had not unnaturally established good relations with the leading representatives of this small noblesse, while with those not immediately in contact with him, as well as with the religious bodies and the peasantry the former had earned a general reputation for kindness, justice and integrity of purpose. In spite of the soreness of recent defeat with its attendant suffering, British rule was perhaps never quite so popular as in the days when Murray, who had won the confidence of the French-Canadians during his military dictatorship, retained it through the thornier period which distinguished the inauguration of civil government.

The number of the Canadian noblesse who returned to France has been frequently exaggerated. It seems to have been well under three hundred, including women and children, and many of these were actually officers serving in the French army, who followed their regiments. Amherst at the sur-^ render in 1760 had granted religious freedom, but refused French law, and had allowed eighteen months for all those unwilling to accept such terms to wind up their affairs and return to France.

The question of civil law is dry enough in the narration but it was of prodigious importance to a reactionary population wedded to immemorial custom. No wonder royal proclamations were timid of definition. But the general construction put upon the ordinance by the English authorities at Quebec was that of an English code. It was soon found, however, that to disturb the French laws of land tenure and inheritance, with which the whole seigniorial system of the province was bound up, was to invite-chaos. Still more, any attempt at innovation was ignored. So the government was virtually compelled to acquiesce in the old custom so far as these more vital matters were concerned.

It is possible that there may be readers who need reminding that the land system of Lower Canada was of a quasi-feudal nature ; that the country was partitioned into large estates held of the French Crown by a resident noblesse created during the past century and a half for this specific purpose. These seigniories were occupied by the peasantry or habitants at trifling rents, with the reservation of mill privileges and the payment of certain dues to the lord on sales or succession, and other transactions common to feudal or manorial custom. The seigniors held their estates rather in the sense of trustees for the people than as military fiefs. Though they had been the natural leaders of the militia of the colonies, the " militia captains " responsible for the force were specially selected persons in various districts, seigniorial rank not of necessity carrying military rank.

If the noblesse bore a partial resemblance, as (Vo was inevitable, to that of older countries, the peasantry, on the other hand, were more independent and well-to-do than those of France, as testified by a score of contemporary writers. A considerable fraction of the population were occupied as coureurs de bois in the fur trade, but the majority lived under the conditions here briefly indicated, along the banks of the St. Lawrence from Montreal to Gaspé. Those seigniors who had sufficient means, however, seem like their bigger prototypes in France, and with better reason, to /Have spent much of their time at one or other of the two cities, while many of them in the late regime had held offices of various kinds in Quebec or Montreal, which added to their income.

Inadequate as is this slight sketch of a wide and complex subject it describes the situation sufficiently to give the reader some notion how widely different were the ideas of French and English colonists on the subject of land tenure. The latter, then as now, accustomed to acquire as much land in actual freehold as he had money to pay for, to buy and sell, barter or exchange it at a moment's notice, was confronted on coming to Canada, particularly if he came from the colonies, with a system that seemed to his restless and irreverent and material soul, barbarous and mediaeval. From his office or shop in Quebec he clamoured for an application of the English land laws, not because he wanted to become a land owner, but because as a true Briton, made still more opinionative perhaps by the intolerant freedom of New England, he thought the French laws ridiculous and suggestive of tyranny, just as he considered Roman Catholics as outside the pale of human justice.

But all attempts to enforce English civil law in matters connected with property rebounded from the adamantine walls by which French cus-. toms were encircled, leaving scarcely any impression. Murray with his broad sympathies and sound sense soon discouraged the attempt and a little later it was formally abandoned. Two civil officers were sent out from England, a chief-justice and an attorney-general, to inaugurate and supervise one of the most complicated judicial problems that the wit of man could have been asked to solve. They were hopeless failures, neither of them knowing any French or any law, and they were in due course dismissed. As regards the general government, Murray had been empowered by royal instruction to nominate a council of eight members authorized to make laws and ordinances. This he had done, including in the number one French-Canadian. The new courts were formally established in 1764. There was a court of king's bench holding its sessions at ^ Quebec twice a year for trying civil and criminal cases according to English law,—with an appeal to the governor in council in amounts over three hundred pounds and to the king in amounts over five hundred pounds. There was a court of common pleas, holding bi-annual sessions, to determine according to equity, having regard to English laws, and to try cases above the value of ten pounds. Trial by jury might be resorted to if demanded by either party, and there were to be no religious ^disqualifications. Lastly justices of the peace were appointed throughout the various districts of the province.

The French in spite of their confidence in Murray were greatly perturbed at the prospect of a change to laws they knew nothing of, administered in the courts in a language they did not understand and by people who did not understand theirs. Not one in fifty could read or write and their very ignorance made them the more fearful. The attitude of the handful of British who had come among them was not of a kind to win their hearts, or wean them from their old customs. Murray describes them in one letter to the home government as " men of mean education, either young or inexperienced, or older men who had failed elsewhere," in another as "licentious fanatics." One might suspect even this shrewd soldier of over-heated language if Carleton had not in his turn treated his British-Canadian subjects to somewhat similar flowers of speech in his confidential despatches.

Here is the first presentment of the grand jury, the spokesmen of the handful of " licentious fanatics " who had come in to make money and regenerate Canada at the same time, and the reader may gather something of their point of view. They called for the better observance of the Sabbath Day and declaimed against the ordinary festivities of the Roman Catholic country they had transferred themselves to. They furthermore put it on record that a learned clergy was required to preach the Gospel in French and English. They demanded that no ordinance should be passed by the governor in council without consultation with themselves, land that the public accounts should be laid before them twice a year. They also represented the ordinances of the governor in council creating courts of judicature in the provinces as unconstitutional. Having hit at the government they then fired a shaft at the army, declaring it unfitting that its officers should exercise any judicial authority. Finally they protested against-Roman Catholics sitting on juries in their own law courts, as it was "in flagrant violation of our most sacred laws and liberties and tending to the entire subversion of the Protestant religion," etc., etc. They also referred to Canada, which was as old as Virginia, as "an infant colony." This piece of presumption on the part of a quarter sessions grand jury in hectoring and reprimanding the king's governor and council, accompanied by pretensions to represent the colony, took away the breath of the presiding justices, who snubbed them soundly on every point. As for Murray he was justly enraged at this irregular attack on his administration. Henserit home despatches giving the names of the signatories who represented, he declared, about two hundred of their race and faith in Quebec and Montreal, not ten of whom were freeholders, and who aspired to absolute dominion over eighty thousand of "the king's new subjects. Moreover, six French-Canadian grand jurors who understood no English had been fraudulently induced to join in the presentment and now petitioned the king stating in what manner they had been deceived. The result of all this was a royal reprimand to these intolerant busybodies and a further announcement of His Majesty's intentions to see complete justice done in every way to his new French subjects.

Murray now thought it advisable to send a representative to Eondon to explain the situation to the British government, and accordingly selected Cramah£, the most efficient member of the council —a Swiss by birth but an officer in the British army by profession. The British merchants countered this by despatchfng one of their own number to propagate their version of Canadian affairs in London. The British community slowly increased to between four and five hundred. They gathered all the trade of the colony into their hands, the French showing little aptitude for it, but being persons for the most part of little or no capital and not many scruples, such impetus to business as they created was qualified by the friction they stirred up; for they seem to have spared no pains in letting the French know their opinion of their customs, habits and religion, and on the other hand to have taken little trouble to acquire the language of the country.  A they traded their relations with the military were quite as unfortunate, imbibed apparently from the American colonies where the troops who protected the country in time of war were flouted in peace as the pestilent minions of autocratic rule.

No barracks had as yet been built in Canada and billeting was an unfortunate necessity. The British merchants, and from example many of the urban French inhabitants, adopted such a bitter attitude towards the army that the resentment of the soldiers was very naturally aroused and a good deal of unpleasantness evoked. The magistrates were drawn mainly from the small British civilian class who^ were deeply imbued with the new spirit of anti-military republicanism born of the removal of the French terror from their borders. They passed severe sentences on the little frolics of exuberant privates, and this with an unctuous malevolence that was doubtless galling to the men whose devotion alone had made a career in Canada possible for these eighteenth century Bumbles. The officers shared in an odium quite unmerited in their case and not merely resented by themselves but by the better class among the French, with whom they seem to have been distinctly popular. The British community > then went so far as to forward a petition to the Crown for Murray's recall, signed by twenty-one persons. In this precious document they declared that they had submitted patiently to arbitrary military rule where they had expected to enjoy the blessings of British liberty, which in plain English meant a monopoly of authority over their French fellow-subjects and a legislative assembly chosen from themselves alone. A somewhat characteristic complaint against the much harassed governor was his remissness in attending church. This petition was supported by the London merchants for whom they acted as principals or agents, and whose knowledge of the complexities of the situation must have been even less than that of their present day descendants, which is saying much. A counter petition was promptly forwarded by the French seigniors defending Murray in eloquent language, describing him as the victim of a cabal, expressing the highest esteem for his justice and his good qualities, and praying for his retention. The friction with the military gave rise to a regrettable incident in Montreal at the close of 1764, which caused much heat and excitement throughout the colony, and as its effects lasted long after Carleton had assumed the governorship a brief outline of it seems necessary here.

It so happened that one Walker, a leading trader and magistrate in Montreal, English by birth, but Bostonian by recent habitation, had been extremely forward in securing the severe sentences passed upon the soldiers. He was a notoriously sour and bad-tempered person and deeply imbued with those feelings of dislike towards everything monarchical or military then gathering strength in the province he had come from. The trouble arose out of a billeting order in the execution of which a certain Captain Fraser had assigned another officer, Captain Payne, to rooms in the house of a French-Canadian, which he himself had just vacated. In this house it so happened there lodged a magistrate, on which account the owner claimed exemption; but Fraser argued that the exemption applied only to the actual houses of magistrates, not to those where they happened to be lodging. Captain Payne, however, positively declined to move, upon which a warrant was issued against him, and on his proving obdurate he was summoned before the magistrates and promptly committed to gaol. After lying there for some days he applied to the chief-justice of the province for a habeas corpus and was set at liberty. But the resentment felt by the garrison at what was conceived to be an outrage and an insult was prodigious. Fraser wrote to Murray that unless these magistrates were deposed he would himself resign. The justices, however, showing no signs of contrition, but rather the reverse, the garrison lodged a formal complaint. Feeling ran very high and Murray summoned the magistrates concerned to wait on him at Quebec ; but before they could start an event occurred which brought matters to a crisis and wrought up the whole colony to a high pitch of excitement.

Walker was the most active of the offending magistrates, and a plot was hatched by persons unknown to punish him. One night, while at supper with his wife, a number of masked men entered his house and assaulted him in most ferocious fashion, among other deeds cutting off a piece of his ear. The incident was of course serious, but the stir it created through the colony was out of all proportion, for it seemed certain that it must have been the work of some members of the garrison, and the faction opposed to them had an extraordinary opportunity for vindicating their treasured prejudices. All contemporary accounts declare that a panic seized the colony, and that every one expected to be robbed and murdered in his bed. When a soldier entered a shop we are told he had a pistol presented at his head until he completed his purchase. Even the French-Canadians, mostly neutral in these quarrels, took alarm. The noise of it reached England and the Crown offered a reward of a hundred guineas with a free pardon for any information leading to the conviction of the offenders. The victim himself offered a like sum for the discovery of the de-spoiler of his ear, while the inhabitants of Montreal offered another three hundred pounds. These large rewards were absolutely without effect, and it was not till two years afterwards, soon after Carleton's arrival, that anything transpired and a greater stir than ever was created of which we shall hear in due course. These events took place at the close of 1764.

In that year the governorship of Montreal and Three Rivers had been abolished. Haldimand held office at the latter place and Burton at Montreal, where he had given, and continued to giver Murray some trouble by refusing to recognize his authority. Indeed Murray appears to have regarded the disturbances there as partly due to lack of a firm hand.

A few weeks after the Walker outrage there was more friction than ever between the troops and the magistrates. A number of men of the 28th were committed to gaol with vindictive harshness, and feeling ran so high that a mutiny was feared and Burton deemed it necessary to acquaint Murray. Upon this the latter at once proceeded to Montreal, and affirmed that he found the inhabitants in fear of their lives and that a guard was mounted nightly at Walker's door. He spent some weeks in the town endeavouring to restore confidence and harmony and in prosecuting inquiries into the Walker mystery, which proved, as already intimated, fruitless. Before leaving he made arrangements for substituting another regiment for the 28th, which was already under marching orders.

The question of their religion, now that all hope of restoration to France was over, gave the French-Canadians many tremors and the British government much concern. Throughout the British colonies the liberal policy of the Crown in this particular had been freely censured, and it became one of the leading grievances in their indictment of the mother country when the colonies began to formulate them. The government, however, stood firm on this point. There were many difficulties connected with its actual settlement. By the terms of surrender in 1760 free exercise of religion was granted "till the king's pleasure should be known." The king's pleasure was of course expressed in the treaty of three years later, and ordained that his new Roman Catholic subjects might profess the worship of their religion according to the rights of the Romish Church " so "far as the laws of Great Britain permitted," a concession, however, which scandalized the British colonies and yet did not fully ease the minds of the indulged Canadians. Clericalism was a weighty force in the life of French Canada and the last sentence seems to have frightened its leaders. Moreover there were some practical difficulties. There had been no bishop, for instance, in the country since the surrender. An unqualified refusal had been given by the Crown to any further introduction of priests from France, for it was an obvious inference that they would strive to maintain the bonds of sentiment between the mother country and its lost colony, and in case of war would be dangerous agents. There now seemed to the Canadians some fear of their supply of priests running out, and Murray reported that it was the rising generation whose souls they were mainly anxious about. The leading ecclesiastics of Quebec petitioned the Crown, suggesting that priests should be introduced from other countries than France, or that a bishop should be elected by themselves. After much discussion the latter suggestion was adopted and Monseigneur Briand was selected by the British government from three or four> candidates, and was consecrated in Paris. He arrived about the time of Murray's departure in 1766.

The Jesuits too about this time were expelled from France, and the few that were in Canada as j well as their considerable property became the subject of much controversy. Another trouble arose from the fact that a great deal of the old paper money issued by the French in the late war was still held in Canada, and though its redemption was a condition of the treaty the French government had, shuffled a good deal in the matter and had caused the Canadians much anxiety and some loss. The English traders in Canada made considerable profits in buying up this paper from those who were forced to sell, though Murray did his best to prevent such sacrifices by opening an office for registrating the notes. The total amount of this paper in circulation was seventeen million livres.

The discontent of the British community with Murray found expression from time to time in letters of complaint to prominent persons in England which, added to the disturbance in Montreal, prompted the home government to summon him to " London in an inquiring rather than a censorious mood, so far as one may learn. He arrived in the summer of 1766, leaving Colonel Irving, the senior member of the council, as his deputy. As it happened he never returned though he retained his governorship for some time longer.

After reaching London Murray published in August a written report addressed to Lord Shelburne. As an account of the colony by the man who had been responsible for its government for six years and who had on the whole acted with judgment and wisdom, a brief summary of his picture of it will be no bad introduction to the advent of his successor.

After an exact enumeration of the statistics of the country as to land, population, live stock and so forth, which having been collected by himself shows much praiseworthy assiduity, he treats of the British Protestant population, most of whom were "followers of the army, of mean education, or soldiers disbanded at its reduction. All have their fortunes to make and I hear few of them are solicitous about the means where the end can be obtained; in general the most immoral collection of men I ever knew and of course little calculated to make the new subjects enamoured with our laws, religion and customs, far less adapted to enforce these laws and to govern."

The Canadians on the other hand, the report declares, had been accustomed to arbitrary and military government, and were a frugal and industrious, moral race of men who from the mild treatment they received from the king's officers who ruled the country from the surrender of the colony 24

till the treaty of 1763, when civil government was declared, had greatly got the better of the natural antipathy they had to their conquerors. Murray here describes the numerous noblesse themselves much on the antiquity of their iammt3, their own military glory and that of their ancestors, and though not rich, nevertheless in a situation, in a country of abundance where money is scarce and luxury unknown, to support their dignity. Their tenantry who pay only an annual quit rent of a dollar for a hundred acres are at their ease and comfortable. They had been accustomed to respect and obey their noblesse, their tenancies being in the feudal manner."

They had shared with the officers the dangers of the battlefield, and their natural affections had increased in proportion to the calamities overtaking both in the conquest of the country. As they had been taught to respect their superiors, Murray tells us, they were shocked at the insults which their noblesse and the king's officers had received from the English traders and lawyers since civil government was instituted. It was natural to suppose them jealous of their religion, for it had been the policy of the French government to keep them in a state of extreme ignorance. Few could read, and printing had not been permitted. Their veneration for the priesthood was in proportion to their ignorance. The clergy were illiterate and of mean birth, and now that fresh recruits from France were forbidden

aJ^C Murray considered that the order would gradually sink in quality provided they were not exposed to persecution. He disclaims there having been any remarkable disorders in the colony, the Walker outrage excepted, the full details of which "horrid affair" he had already laid before the king's servants. Disorders and divisions, from the nature of things, could not have been avoided in attempting to establish a civil government under the instructions sent him. Magistrates were to be made and juries to be composed from "four hundred and fifty contemptible traders and settlers." It was easy to conceive how the narrow ideas and ignorance of such men must offend any soldiers, more especially those of an army who had so long governed them and knew the meanness from which they had been elevated. It would have been unreasonable to suppose that such men would not have been intoxicated with the unexpected power put into their hands and not been eager to show how amply they possessed it. As there were no barracks in the country the quartering of troops furnished perpetual opportunity for displaying their importance and rancour. The Canadian noblesse were hated because their birth and behaviour entitled them to respect, and the peasants were abhorred because they were saved from the oppression they were threatened with. This Murray declares was amply proved by the presentments of the grand jury.

Another misfortune was the improper choice and the number of the civil officers sent over from England which increased the disquietude of the colony. Instead of appointing men of genius and untainted' morals, men of the reverse stamp were appointed to the most important offices, under whom it was impossible to give a proper impression of the dignity of government. As an example, the judge selected to conciliate the minds of eighty-five thousand foreigners to the laws and government of Great Britain had been taken from a gaol and was entirely ignorant of the civil law and the language of the country. The attorney-general in the matter of language had been no better qualified. Such offices as secretary of the province, registrar, clerk of the council, commissioner of stores and provost marshal had been given by patent to men of influence my England who let them out to the highest bidders, men ignorant even of the language of the country. No salary being annexed to these places the holders were dependent on fees which Murray was ordered to assess in amount equal to those of the " richest ancient colonies." The rapacity of these men was severely felt by the poor Canadians, but they patiently submitted to it. Though urged to resistance by some of the contumacious traders from New York they cheerfully obeyed the Stamp Act in hopes that their good behaviour would recommend them to the favour and protection of their sovereign.

Murray concludes his report by saying that he glories in having been accused of warmth and firmness in protecting the king's Canadian subjects and of doing the utmost in his power to gain for his royal master the affections of that brave, hardy people whose emigration, if ever it should happen, would be an irreparable loss to the empire and to prevent which he would cheerfully submit to greater calumnies and indignities, if greater could be devised than those he has already undergone.

Murray now disappears from these pages. Whether his language was too warm or not must be inferred from the experiences on which his more distinguished successor is about to enter. As the first governor of Canada the verdict of history is distinctly in Murray's favour. As a brave and faithful soldier his heroic though unsuccessful defence of Minorca a few years later was a fitting climax to his successful defence of Quebec at a much more vital moment.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus