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Lord Dorchester
Chapter II - The New Governor

GUY CARLETON was the third son of Christopher Carleton a landowner near Newry, County Down in Ireland and was born in 1724. The family came originally from Cumberland and were essentially, therefore, members of that Ulster plantation settled by emigrants from Scotland and the English border. The Carletons in short belonged to that virile Scotch-Irish stock which has given Great Britain so many great captains of war and industry, to the United States such a host of hardy settlers and able citizens, and to Canada a proportionately valuable contribution. Both these types of Anglo-Irishmen have in truth produced an extraordinary roll of distinguished men, and I shall hope to show in these pages that Carleton is not unworthy to rank among them.

His father died when he was fourteen and his mother (formerly a Miss Ball, of County Donegal) r soon afterwards married the Rev. Thomas Skelton of Newry. To this gentleman's influence and care has been attributed no small share in moulding the qualities that made Carleton what he afterwards became.

On May 21st, 1742, he was commissioned an ensign in Lord Rothe's regiment/afterwards the 25th Foot. Promotion at first came slowly and nine years later, at the age of twenty-seven, he was only a lieutenant in the Foot-Guards, while his friend Wolfe, three years his junior, had been a captain at twenty. By 1757, however, Carleton had made up for lost time and was a lieutenant-colonel commanding the 72nd Regiment. Wolfe first mentions him in 1752 as "my friend Carleton" from whom he had just received an English news-budget at Paris, and a few days afterwards speaks of him again, alluding with gratification to his appointment as military preceptor to the young Duke of Richmond on a tour among the fortified towns of the Low Countries. Wolfe it seems could have had the appointment for himself, but confides to his mother that not thinking himself quite equal to it he had immediately recommended Carleton of whom, besides his great personal liking, he had professionally a high opinion. This from the almost hypercritical hero of Quebec is a significant tribute to his friend's qualities both of head and heart.

To Wolfe's busy and facile pen too, we are indebted for the fact that the "patron" at this time of Guy Carleton and his brother, who was also in the army, .was William Conolly of Stratton Hall, Staffordshire. This gentleman was of powerful Irish connection and died in 1754, an event which Wolfe alludes to as "a deadly blow to the Carletons." Both their fortunes, however, survived it bravely. When Wolfe was appointed a brigadier under Amherst for the Louisbourg expedition, both he and his chief were anxious to take Guy Carleton, by this time a lieutenant-colonel, with them; but the king refused and sent him to the British legion serving under Prince Ferdinand in Germany. Wolfe was very wroth. "It is a public loss," he wrote. "The king has refused Carleton leave to go, to my very great grief and disappointment and with circumstances extremely unpleasant to him." Carleton it appears had spoken disparagingly of the Hanoverian troops, a mortal offence in King George's eyes. In the next year when Wolfe was appointed to the chief command against Quebec, occurred the somewhat well-known incident when he sent up Carleton's name to the king as a member of his staff, and His Majesty, still unforgiving, drew his pen through it. Wolfe would not be denied, and Pitt in full sympathy with his disappointment sent the commander-in-chief, Ligonier, back to the presence to press Carleton's appointment, but the king remained firm. So did Wolfe, and begged that it should be represented to His Majesty that a general who was to be held responsible for a difficult undertaking should at least have the choice of his coadjutors. At a third appeal urged in this form the king relented, and Carleton went out as quartermaster-general. We have Wolfe's own words that he relied chiefly on his friend to supply the lack of ability among his engineers.

During the siege Carleton was sent up the river in command of a force to Pointe-aux-Trembles where he landed, searched the country for provisions and brought off some prisoners. Later on, before the final operations, he was entrusted with the difficult task of drawing off the troops from the camp at Montmorency. In the battle on the Plains of Abraham he led a regiment of grenadiers and was wounded, though not seriously. Returning to Europe he took part, in 1761, in the attack on Port Andro and was wounded again. In the following year he became a full colonel and at the siege of Havana served under Albemarle with much distinction, being once more wounded in a sortie. We know nothing more of Carleton but these bare facts till he was appointed to succeed Murray at Quebec. To deal impersonally with the incidents in which he figured before he began the work by virtue of which his name lives, would be futile and prodigal of space which should be better employed. Hitherto he had been the resolute and efficient agent of other men's tactics. In future he was to be his own master as well as oftentimes his own agent. Till 1766 and his forty-second year it had been his business to obey. For the rest of his long life when in active service it was his lot to command and nearly always, whether in peace or war, to command under circumstances of exceptional difficulty.

Carleton arrived in Quebec on September 22nd, 1766, and was sworn in the following day. Murray retained the governorship-in-chief for nearly three more years and his successor was in actual fact his^ deputy. But this arrangement may be left out of sight for all practical purposes. The holding of a colonial governorship in those times had no necessary connection with its duties and responsibilities. Many of these officers in North American provinces were and had been deputies, while the shadowy figures of their titular chiefs have no place in the local story. Colonel Irving had of course been merely a temporary administrator during the short interval between Murray and Carleton. The latter received three simultaneous addresses from the council, the magistrates, and the traders of both nationalities, all couched in cordial and respectful language. To these he returned suitable replies, declaring among other things that he intended to make no distinction between classes, but only between the worthy and the unworthy.

I have already described the discontent existing among all parties, and during Irving's brief administration expectancy of changes to come, had increased the general anxiety. Carleton wrote home to his government that he was favourably impressed with the good sense of the reception addresses. He notes, however, that these separate addresses were due to the fact of the people, from mutual jealousies, being unable to act together. The effect of the Stamp Act, too, was already visible in Canada, for he writes that there had been some objections to the addresses on that account and many bloody noses. He found enough friction also in the matter of the Indian trade at the western posts to call for judicial treatment. One of his earliest experiences was characteristic. He had ventured to consult privately two or three of his council on some matter in which they had special experience; whereupon the remainder sent him a remonstrance against so unconstitutional a proceeding. Carleton snubbed them very severely, replying that in any matter where the formal consent of the council was not required, he should consult whom he chose, not merely such members as were best qualified to give advice on the subject in hand but any persons outside whose opinion might be considered of value. "The movers of this protest," he says, "are Mabane, who was a surgeon's mate in the army, Murray, a strolling player, and Mounier, the solitary French-Canadian member, an honest trader who will sign anything his friends ask him to." What made the rebuff more direct was the fact that Colonel Irving had signed the protest, at the same time excusing the governor to his friends on the plea that his action had been merely an accident. Carleton replied that it was nothing of the kind, and that he intended always to consult such men as he could find of good sense, candour and impartial justice, and who preferred their duty to the king and the tranquillity of his subjects to unjustifiable attachments, party zeal and selfish, mercenary laws. If strict impartiality was quite possible at that epoch in Quebec those possessing it must have begun to suspect that they had a governor after their own heart.

In November the Jesuits, thinking that Murray had gone beyond the king's wishes in refusing their reinstatement, petitioned the Crown, de Glassion, superior in Quebec, forwarding the address through Carleton. It set forth that the order was established in Canada by the benevolence of French kings; that its chief purposes were: firstly, the instruction of Indians in the knowledge of God, and secondly, the education of youth; and that they had been unable since the siege of Quebec to carry on their work from want of teachers and buildings, such of the latter as were left to them being occupied as storehouses or officers' quarters. They prayed that Murray's order against their receiving either European or Canadian students be revoked, and that their buildings be restored with indemnification for damage.

In the same month the new governor gave an unmistakable instance of the singlemindedness and high sense of honour which distinguished him throughout life in relinquishing by proclamation all the fees and perquisites attached to his office. Carleton was not a rich man, and no sort of stigma had ever attached to what were legalized payments. Indeed Murray took some offence, for he regarded Carleton's action as reflecting in some sort on himself, an intention which Sir Guy hastened to repudiate. He informed his government that he thought it unbecoming in the governor of a distant province to receive such emoluments. The province he said had been impoverished by the war, the frauds of Bigot and the retreat of many of the richest families, so that the imposition was burdensome. "There is a certain appearance of dirt, a sort of meanness in exacting fees on every occasion. I think it necessary for the king's service that his representative at least should be thought unsullied." He thought the fees for higher licences should be increased for the good of the people, and he would apply the surplus for the relief of the distressed noblesse who had hitherto depended largely on the French Crown.

At this same time too, in Carleton's first autumn, the Walker affair of two years before, which still remained a mystery, broke out again, as a witness had come forward to swear to the persons who had assaulted the much hated magistrate. He was in truth a lame sort of pillar on which to rest a case—a discharged soldier of the 28th Regiment, named M'Govoch. This man lodged information against the following gentlemen for participation in the outrage: Saint Luc de La Corne, a well-known French officer, Captain Disney of the 44th, Captain Campbell of the 27th and Captain Fraser, who, it will be remembered, was the indignant paymaster, and a Mr. Joseph Howard. All these persons were arrested in their beds in Montreal and taken to Quebec, Walker objecting to their being bailed since he declared that his life would be in danger. Carleton must have been at some disadvantage in dealing with an affair which had been wholly outside his personal knowledge, though there had been much talk about it two years before in London The Walker view of it seemed at that distance the only possible one to take, besides which the plaintiff had friends there to suppress his own extravagances of temper and pretention, and to represent him as a normal sort of person, and the victim of unprovoked aggression. Carleton's new chief-justice was Hey, an able and sensible man to judge from his writings, and he was distinctly prejudiced against Walker. Maseres, the attorney-general, had an opposite bias, from the fact that as a French Hugue? not of a family driven from France in a former generation he was a bitter opponent of everything connected with popery, and in this business a somewhat aggressive Protestant was ranged against sol-, diers who were at this time in general sympathy with the Canadian noblesse, one of whom indeed was actually a prisoner. Maseres it may be notea was a fellow of Clare, Cambridge, and had achieved considerable academic distinction. Walker was backed by a strong and trenchant letter from Conway who had been a secretary of state in the preceding March.

The prisoners were now thrown into the common jail, and were refused bail in spite of urgent petitions signed by influential people of all kinds, members of the council, leading French-Canadians, and of course the British officers. They were soon afterwards, however, sent back to Montreal and some improvement in their comfort was eventually made. Walker wished the trial to be deferred, presumably that the prisoners' discomfort might be prolonged. i Hey consented, but in such case would admit the prisoners to bail. This action not commending itself to Walker the trial proceeded. On the first case, that of Lieutenant Evans, being thrown out by the grand jury, Walker let loose the vials of his wrath in court, which did not increase the public sympathy for him. Masures prosecuted for the Crown and made some unsuccessful efforts to reconstitute the grand jury upon ancient statutes, which the chief-justice pronounced to be doubtful and odious. In short the grand jury, eight of whom were of the French-Canadian noblesse, threw out the bills against all but Disney who was now a major. This officer was tried in March, and after a hearing of eight hours and the examination of many witnesses was "most honourably acquitted" having proved an alibi, the jury taking no more than the time occupied in reading out the notes of the depositions to come to that verdict. M'Govoch, the discharged soldier and chief witness for the prosecution, contradicted himself so deplorably under examination that the grand jury presented him for perjury, and he was sent to prison. There really appears from the voluminous correspondence on the subject to have been something like collusion between this man and Walker, or as Hey puts it in a lengthy report, Walker's animus against the military caste had caused him to forget caution in the kind of character whose assistance, as a witness, he called in. One indirect result of the trial was the dismissal by Carleton of Colonel Irving and Mabane from the council. Before the Walker trial they had headed a miscellaneously organized crowd of petitioners on behalf of the prisoners, a proceeding which Carleton objected to in their capacity of councillors. So ended this mysterious and quite remarkable affair. One grudges the time occupied in going through the papers relating to it only to come to the same conclusion as all other chroniclers of the period, namely, that though there must have been many people at the time who knew or suspected the truth, it is absolutely hidden from any later student of the voluminous literature relating to it. It cannot be ignored, however, in the incidents of Carleton's period since it shook Canada from end to end, and it is not wholly waste of time in the retrospect for it exhibits the curious cleavages that just then existed in Canadian society.

The chief domestic question of the colony continues to be its legal code, or rather lack of one. Against the English criminal law there had never been a murmur save from a few seigniors who /thought it over lenient. In the civil code, besides their general aversion to it, the feudal prejudices of all the upper class caused them to cavil at habitants being elevated to the dignity of jurymen. It is supposed that these latter took as yet very little interest in the matter, beyond the dull, latent suspicion of change natural to a class politically and intellectually dumb. The discussions and disagreements lay between the few hundred British and French traders and Canadian seigniors, notaries and doctors. It is difficult to say how much of English civil law was forced upon the French-Canadians, but speaking P generally the struggle to do so was gradually abandoned, sometimes from weariness, sometimes by special ordinance. One trouble in regard to land laws was that when it suited the interests of a French-Canadian to be guided by English custom he followed it even after its nominal abandonment, and there were often persons who adopted such means only in order to shirk the more beneficent clauses in the French code. Seigniors for instance would make terms more advantageous for themselves than their own laws had allowed, or tenants would build wretched houses on smaller areas of land than was permitted by Canadian custom. In the conveyance of land also, fines and dues were shirked on the pretext of this otherwise ignored English code.

The French chafed at the delays and the costs of the new courts, their own system having been quicker and cheaper. The grievance was recognized and^more "frequent sittings were given; French lawyers were admitted to plead and in their own language." The salaries too seemed extravagant to the French, accustomed to a perennial scarcity of money. The ordinances regulating the courts having been published in English, the fact that the English language as well as law was generally unintelligible made the hostility to the latter stronger from this very ignorance, while the arrogance of the small English community bred an unceasing dislike of the British law simply because it was British. Carleton himself believed in the English criminal and French civil law in their respective entirety, but sense to set up his own views on codes and statutes against those of professional jurists. He ordered his attorney-general, Maseres, to draw up a full report, although it was felt that this honest and able man was hampered by his immovable prejudices. He made four suggestions to Carle-V ton. The first was to draw up an entirely fresh code;> though the technical difficulties, Maseres declared, were immense, and the erudition required would involve the services of the highest lawyers of France. The plan, however, would have the advantage of terminating that constant reference to old French precedents which kept alive the reverence for everything emanating from France. The second plan was that of Carleton's—to retain the French civil law and abolish the criminal code, which included questions by torture, breaking on the wheel, and such like barbarities, and to introduce the habeas corpus. The third choice was to make English law universal, retaining only some of the ancient customs which were harmless; and the fourth was practically the same, only stipulating that the reservations in the way of French law should be distinctly tabulated. These last two schemes would have satisfied the English community, but the French seemed to fear the lack of accuracy and finality about any interference with their own civil code, though they might have accepted a new Canadian one if the difficulties of creating it had not been thought by the attorney-general to be insuperable.

The validity of Murray's proclamation of 1762 ordaining that English law was to be followed with certain vague reservations, was being questioned on the grounds that it emanated solely from the king and had not the consent of the two Houses of parliament. In short something like chaos pervaded the whole legal machinery of Canada at this time, and compromise was made more difficult by the irritation between the French and British parties in the two cities. The British ministry was very anxious to find a via media, and in June 1767, Shelburne wrote very strongly to that effect to Carleton, and in December acquaints him that Mr. Maurice Morgan had been Canada to study the legal situation, with J the assistance of the chief-justice of the colony and other "well instructed persons." The upshot of all this was much consultation in 1769 between the legal authorities of the colony, Carleton, and the home government, with a view to some definite codification of Canadian laws. It would weary the reader for little purpose to relate the divergent views of the various prominent persons concerned in these transactions which were ultimately welded into the Quebec Act of 1774, a period we have not yet-reached. A letter from Carleton to Shelburne under date November 25th, 1767, partly explains his personal adherence to an undiluted French civil code, and makes it quite evident that he did not anticipate any numerical increase in the British population of the province. Ontario, it must be remembered, was still an unconsidered wilderness and the American revolution, with its resulting flood of United Empire Loyalists, as yet in the lap of the future. At the same time Carleton was prepared to apply his views to a country whose western limits were/ ill-defined and vast, and which virtually included what is now known as the middle west of the United States, and this must be accounted against him and those who thought with him.

The letter alluded to is written in reply to a notification of the British government that the civil constitution of Quebec was a matter of immediate concern to them, and it gives a brief sketch of the province as seen by Carleton. The town of Quebec, he declares, is the only post in the province with any claim to be called a fortified place, for the flimsy wall about Montreal, even were it not falling to ruins, could only turn musketry. As for Quebec it would be a good camp for ten or twelve battalions. Its front is fortified by a bastioned rampart faced with masonry, built for the most part upon a rock without ditch or outworks; its profile slight for a fortress, though substantial for an encampment; its parapet in very bad order. The flanks and rear in 1759 were closed partly by a thin wall, the rest by great stakes now carried away on rollers. With a number of men sufficient for this post, their flanks and rear might be secured and so guarded as to induce an enemy to form his attack in front; but in proportion as the numbers fall short the danger increases of being stormed with little ceremony, especially when this line is open in many places as at present. Carleton goes on to say that the total number of troops now with him is sixteen hundred and that the king's old subjects, i.e., the British, if collected from the rest of the province into Quebec might amount to four hundred. With two months' hard labour they might then place the town in a proper state of defence and he would then have just about one third of the number requisite for defending it. In view of a war with France, Carleton points out that the king's new subjects could put into the field eighteen thousand men well able to carry arms, about half of whom had already served with as much valour, more zeal, and more military knowledge for American purposes than the regular troops of France who acted with them. As the common people are greatly influenced by their seigniors he encloses a list of the noblesse of Canada, showing with tolerable exactness their age, rank, and present place of abode, together with such natives of France as had served in the colonial troops so early in life as to give them knowledge of the country. This list mentions over a hundred officers all ready to be sent back in case of war\ to a country with which they are intimately acquainted, and who may with the assistance of regular troops stir up a people accustomed to pay them implicit obedience. " On the other hand," he continues, "there are only some seventy of these officers in Canada who have been in the French service, but not one of them has been given commissions in King George's service, nor is any substantial inducement held out to them to support the king's government. These gentlemen it must be remembered have lost their employments by becoming his subjects, and as they are not bound by any offices of trust or profit we should only deceive ourselves by supposing they would be active in defence of a people who had deprived them of their honours, privileges, profits and laws, and in their stead have introduced much expense, chicanery and confusion, with a deluge of new laws unknown and unpublished. While, therefore, matters continue in their present state, the most we can hope for from the gentlemen who remain in the province, is a passive neutrality on all occasions, with a respectful submission to government. This they almost to a man have persevered in since my arrival, notwithstanding that much pains have been taken to engage them in parties by a few whose duty and whose office should have taught them better." The French minister, Carleton continues, seems to have foreseen this disposition and to have done his best to attract them to France where they would be useful in any war with England. All these officers were assigned quarters in Touraine. They received, so long as they remained there, full pay upon a recently increased scale, and this was offered, together with arrears, to any of those remaining in Canada who might choose to return to France.

Having given the disproportionate strength of His Majesty's old and new subjects in Canada, Carleton proceeds to indulge in prophetic utterances. "There is not the least probability" he continues, "that this superiority of numbers will diminish; on the contrary it will increase and strengthen daily. The Europeans who emigrate will never prefer the long inhospitable winter of Canada to the more cheerful climate and more fruitful soil of His Majesty's southern provinces. The few subjects at present in this province are mostly here by accident, and are either disbanded officers, soldiers, or followers of the army who, not knowing how to dispose of themselves elsewhere, settled where they were left at the reduction, or else they are adventurers in trade, or such as could not remain at home who set out to mend their fortunes at the opening of this new channel for commerce. But experience has taught almost all of them that this trade requires a strict frugality, which they are all strangers to, or to which they will not submit. So that many have left the province and I greatly fear many more, for the same reasons, will follow their example in a few years. But while this severe climate arid the poverty of the country discourages all but the natives, its healthfulness is such that these multiply daily, so that barring a catastrophe shocking to think of, this country to the end of time must be peopled by the Canadian race, who already have taken such firm root that any new stock transplanted will be totally and imperceptibly hid amongst them, except in the towns of Quebec and Montreal." Of all the Canada that then existed and that Carleton knew, his forecast was a sufficiently accurate one. This illuminating letter winds up with military suggestions for the defence of Canada, and the building of a proper citadel in Quebec, proposed plans for which Carleton encloses. His list of the Canadian noblesse gives one hundred and twenty-six heads of families, or independent bachelors resident in the colony, three fourths of whom are in the district of Montreal, and seventy-nine resident in France as officers.

Many private individuals among the English population of Canada were in the habit of communicating their views on the state of the colony to the home government, and a favourite burden of their theme was the dark plots they believed the French population to be engaged in for overthrowing British authority and regaining the country for France. Carleton seems to have thought it worth while to allay the anxiety thus created in the minds of the government by one very full letter on this subject which was transmitted in 1768. In this he says that since his arrival he has not been able to discover any signs of such secret assemblies, nor could he believe that the chiefs of their own free notion in time of peace would dare to assemble in any numbers to consult and resolve on a revolt, nor was it credible that any assembly of military men should be so ignorant as to fancy they could defend themselves by only a few fireships against any future attack from Great Britain after the experience of '59. Nevertheless it seemed to Carleton that in spite of their "decent and respectful obedience to the king's government hitherto, there was no doubt of their secret and natural affection for France, an affection that would continue so long as they were excluded from all appointments in the British service and they were certain of being reinstated at to French dominion; for it was ment they chiefly supported themselves ana xneir families."

Considering the vexations in the matter of fees and the frequent litigation that the Canadians had been put to, and that their British rulers had never taken a single step to gain one man in the province by making it his private interest to remain the king's subject, Carleton owns that the fact of his never\ having^discovered any treasonable correspondence was not proof sufficient that none existed; but if so, probably very few were entrusted with the secret. A false report had been sent over secretly to France in the previous year that the king of England intended raising a regiment of his new subjects, and on its being echoed back to Canada most of the seigniors in the province had applied to Carleton, to admit them into the king's service, assuring him that they would take every opportunity of testifying their zeal and gratitude for "so great a mark of favour and tenderness extended not only to them but to their posterity." "When I further consider," wrote Carleton, "that the king's dominion here is maintained by a few troops, necessarily dispersed,^ without a place of security for their magazines, for their arms or themselves, amidst a numerous military people, the gentlemen all officers, poor without hopes that they or their descendants will be admitted into the service of their present sovereign, I can have no doubt but that France as soon as determined to begin a war, will attempt to regain Canada should it be intended only to make a diversion, while it may reasonably be undertaken with little hazard should it fail, and when so much may be gained should it succeed."

Carleton evidently thought it possible, though r;ix years were to pass before the Declaration of Independence, that the American colonies would attempt to support their views by armed force, and thus wrote to Lord Hillsborough. In such case France would probably come to their assistance, when Canada would be the principal scene, so Carleton imagined, of the critical struggle, and Canada in the hands of France would be no longer, as of old, the enemy of the British provinces but their ally and protector. Carleton could not then ealize how anxious, and rightly anxious, the Americans would be to give France no excuse for re-occupying her ancient territory. He pointed out the disadvantage Canada as a British province would be under in such an eventuality, unless they did something practical to win the allegiance of the French-Canadians. On the other hand he indicated how ardently Canada might permanently support British interests on the American continent, in view of the fact that she was not united in any common principle with the other provinces in their already budding opposition to the supreme government. Carleton indeed is repeatedly admonishing the home government to the effect that one of these alternatives is necessary for the security of the colony in the course of a war which he already foresees—either a great force of troops or some method of attaching the population to the Crown. How true was his foreboding and how consistent his application of the latter principle is a matter of history and common knowledge. In all this secret correspondence both Hillsborough and the king himself cordially approved of Carleton's recommendations and regarded them as "of the" utmost use in assisting those plans now under deliberation on the propriety and necessity of extending to that brave and faithful people a reasonable participation in those establishments which are to form the bases of the future government of the province of Quebec." But Hillsborough feared that the clamours and prejudices which attacked every measure, however judicious, would make the question of military service a difficult one, though personally he quite agreed that the experiment should be tried.

Maurice Morgan was all this time investigating the legal difficulties of the colony with the assistance of Maseres and others. Carleton viewed with concern the abuses that were inevitable to the situation and set himself to cure some that were not so. Among the last were the scandalous methods pursued by many justices of the peace to excite litigation among the people for the sake of the fees accruing/ to themselves. Those who prospered in business could not spare the time to sit in court, while such as "from accidents or ill-judged undertakings j became bankrupts sought to repair their broken fortunes at the expense of the people." These precious justices employed bailiffs of doubtful character, disbanded French soldiers or deserters, and virtually entered into collusion with them, dispersing them throughout the parishes armed with blank citations. Their role was to promote factious litigation and to catch at every little feud or dissension among the people, and encourage suits in cases which might easily be amicably settled were the parties left to themselves. The unfortunate habitants were then mulcted in costs far beyond the value of the often trifling sums they were incited to sue for; with ruin as the result in innumerable cases. Carleton declared "there was not a Protestant butcher or publican that became bankrupt who did not apply to be made a justice. They cantoned themselves upon the country and many of them rode the people with despotic sway, imposed fines which they turned to their own profit, and in a manner regarded themselves as the legislators of the province. Three or four hundred families have been turned out of their houses, land sold for not one eighth of its value, debtors ruined and debts still undischarged, fees absorbing everything." Carleton himself ordered the release of a number of imprisoned debtors whose liabilities averaged about two pounds apiece! In one of the many tours he took through the country the outcry of the people concerning these abuses was general and bitter.

Imprisonment for debt was a new experience to\ the habitants. A respected and venerable French captain of militia wrote a letter to Carleton setting forth the situation in simple but trenchant terms. "Every day may be seen only suit upon suit for nothing; for twenty or thirty score suits are entered which usually amount up to forty, fifty or sixty livres, owing to the multitude of expenses heaped on these poor people by bailiffs appointed by the authority of the justices of the peace. These bailiffs are instigators of unjust suits. They entice the poor people who know nothing of the matter to get suits against each other. These writs the bailiffs carry in blank, which require only the addition of the name of the plaintiff and defendant and the date of appearance. I send one as a curiosity for your Excellency to judge by of it. It often happens that a single person has several citations to answer at different courts on the same day, and this being impossible he is condemned by default. Thereupon the bailiffs seize, carry off and sell everything these poor men may be possessed of. Frequently when these alleged bailiffs go to make a seizure should there be no one in the house and the doors locked they break open the door to get in; and these manifold robberies reduce the poor peasant to the lowest beggary. If the goods seized and carried off are not sufficient to discharge the multitude of costs laid on y for the travelling costs of the bailiffs and otherwise, a warrant of imprisonment is obtained, and thus after having been robbed of all they have and possess in the world, their furniture as well as their cattle, these persons are finally laid hold of as a guarantee, that the tyranny may be complete. I should never finish were I to attempt giving the whole story of the sad situation in which these poor people are placed, who are very tractable and whom I have guided for the space of twenty-five years' as captain and very often as judge."

This was no highly coloured picture. The report of the government committee on the administration of justice, prepared for the Crown and issued in September 1769, and approved by Carleton and his council, amply endorses the French captain's evidence, quoting among other instances one where the expense of collecting a debt of eleven livres amounted to eighty! It is not surprising that the blessings of English civil law as administered by the British community from Quebec and Montreal were not wholly appreciated by the French-Canadians, to the infinite prejudice of many undoubted benefits of British rule. As a remedy to this iniquitous state of things Carleton caused a fresh ordinance to be passed and approved by the king early in 1770, the object of which was to give cheap and honest justice in all such cases. The power of the magistrates in suits affecting personal and real property was withdrawn or curtailed.

Something similar to the "Homestead Exemption Act" now in use in the United States was enacted, protecting the peasant against seizure of certain necessaries of life and industry, and no execution was to be issued for sums of less than twelve pounds against land or houses. Proper courts were instituted for all these transactions. The^ ordinance created a great^outcry among British traders and a deputation waited upon Carleton presenting a long table of objections. But Carleton stood firm in the fact that more respectable and industrious peasants had been ruined by this chicanery than there were British residents in the whole of Canada. The outraged magistrates, among whom Carleton admitted were some most worthy men, made a violent struggle for the repeal of the ordinances, and issued handbills calling a meeting of the people to discuss grievances, importuning and even insulting some French-Canadians because they would not join them.

The agitation for a House of Assembly that had been so lively in Murray's time was less pronounced under Carleton, but it never wholly ceased. In 1768 a petition in favour of it was taken round for signature, but the French seigniors, in spite of some plausible modifications of the Protestant monopoly, were wholly against it, while the habitant had as yet not the faintest perception of its meaning. Carleton's views on the subject may be inferred from his frequently written opinions of the men who would comprise such a parliament, and need no further definition. Even if this fraction of the population had been of a good representative type in breeding and education, the absurdity of their attempt to impose their will on the colony would seem obvious enough. Nor again, to take a lower motive, could any colonial governor with ordinary official interest have been anxious to reproduce on Canadian soil the wranglings that distinguished the capital of nearly every American province at that moment. Carleton, however, conscious of his own integrity, his knowledge of men and keen desire to be just and impartial, could scarcely have regarded the agitation of the British handful in Canada for such monopoly without contempt. He was always courteous, however, even to those who he had reason to think ill deserved courtesy, and we find few complaints of the snubs which the hotter-headed Murray administered to his tormentors.

Morgan and Maséres sailed for England in 1770, about the same time, with full reports on the state of the province. Both men were to prove useful in drafting the new constitution which was to be considered at some length in London.

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