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Lord Dorchester
Chapter IV - Carleton's Marriage


ALMOST immediately on the passing of the Quebec Act Carleton sailed for Canada and landed on September 18th, 1774. During his long stay in England he had married the Lady Maria Howard, daughter of the Earl of Effingham, who with her two children born of the marriage accompanied her husband across the Atlantic. The lady was less than half Carleton's age, which was now forty-eight. A family tradition attributes the fact of Carleton's remaining so long unmarried to an early disappointment in a love affair with his cousin, Jane Carleton. The circumstances of his marriage were somewhat singular, and were given to me by the present representative of the family. Lord Howard of Effingham, then a widower, was a great personal friend of Carleton's, and of about the same age. On this account and also foreseeing for him a distinguished career, he cordially accepted his overtures for the hand of his eldest daughter, Lady Anne. She and her younger sister, Lady Maria, had seen a great deal of Sir Guy at their father's house, and doubtless regarded him as a benevolent uncle rather than a potential lover. In time, however, they became aware that other schemes were abroad, and on a certain occasion when Carleton arrived at the house and was closeted with his Lordship it seems to have been pretty well understood what he had come for. The two young ladies were sitting together in another apartment with a relative, a Miss Seymour, and when a message came to Lady Anne that her presence was required by her father its purport seems to have been well known. When this young lady returned to her friends her eyes were red from tears. The others, waiting impatiently for her news, were the more impatient as well as perplexed at her woe-begone appearance. "Your eyes would be red," she replied to their queries, "if you had just had to refuse the best man on earth."

"The more fool you," was the unsympathetic rejoinder of her younger sister, Lady Maria. "I only wish he had given me the chance."

It appears that Lady Anne was already in love with Carleton's nephew, whom she afterwards married and who served under his uncle in Canada.

There the matter rested for some months till Miss Seymour one day confided to Sir Guy what Lord Howard's younger daughter had remarked on hearing of his discomfiture. This so much interested the middle-aged lover, who, no doubt, had recovered from a perhaps not very violent passion, that in due course he presented himself as a suitor for the younger daughter, who proved herself as good as her word. Miss Seymour who lived to old age used to tell the story to members of the Dorchester family who only passed away in comparatively recent years.

Lady Maria was small and fair, .upright and extremely dignified, and was ceremonious to a degree that in her old age almost amounted to eccentricity. She had been brought up and educated at Versailles, which may be held to account for her partiality for the French at Quebec, and may possibly have influenced her husband in the same direction.

Soon after landing Carleton wrote to Dartmouth, now secretary, that he found the king's Canadian subjects impressed with the strongest sense of His Majesty's goodness towards them in the matter of the late bill, and manifesting a strong desire to show themselves not unworthy of the treatment accorded to them. Events to the south, however, which were destined in great measure to upset the governor's sanguine, and justifiably sanguine, expectations, were hurrying forward. For while he was still upon" the ocean the first congress had met at Philadelphia and formulated three petitions: one to the king, another to the, British public, and that other one to the Canadians already alluded to. Carleton had come back armed with definite machinery for the administration of a province which he had already handled successfully with inefficient weapons. For good or ill the new instrument had been moulded in almost exact accordance with his wishes. But a war cloud was now rising to the southward which was destined for the moment completely to obscure domestic matters of a peaceful kind. The role of wise but beneficent administrator was not yet to be that of Carleton, who was soon to find himself committed to a life and death struggle against desperate odds for the very possession of the colony.

Whatever the wisdom of the Quebec Act, as a j matter of domestic policy there is little doubt but that it saved Canada to the British Crown, or rather enabled a resolute commander to perform what at one time seemed a hopeless task. The French population as a whole, it is true, quite failed to justify the reasonable expectations formed of them. But had the Act been so framed that their grievances were real and appealed to their enlightened class, instead of being merely the groundless fears of a deluded peasantry, things would have been much worse even than they were, while a better spirit among the handful of Anglo-American traders would have been of small account amid the clash of arms.

Almost the first letters Carleton received after his return were from General Gage, at Boston, requesting him to despatch there the 10th and 52nd Regiments, a proceeding which left the governor with less than a thousand regulars in the colony. The French subjects, however, took the earliest opportunity of presenting addresses expressing satisfaction with the Act. Even the British pf Quebec, in part at least, followed suit, for partisan feeling was less bitter and pronounced there than in Montreal, whose population, by this time numerically equal to that of the capital, showed little but dissatisfaction. At Montreal meetings were held for the redress of* grievances; Walker, smarting with the memory of his recent injuries, being foremost among the firebrands, which included one Livingstone, of the famous New York family, who had settled in the neighbourhood as a merchant. Several of these malcontents came to Quebec, greatly to Carleton's disgust, and successfully stimulated the less active discontent of their co-religionists in that city. Letters of sympathy poured in from the colonies, brought in many cases by the hand of political agents who added their insidious eloquence to that ^ of the local orators. Town meetings were held after the New England fashion, while missions for fomenting discontent among the habitants were privately organized and conducted with much assiduity under the cloak of rural trade. Two clauses of the Quebec Act, well meant as they were, unfortunately lent themselves somewhat readily to misrepresentation; namely, the legalizing of the tithe or dime which u had continued by custom rather than law since the conquest, and the retention of the old French land laws which left to the seigniors such modified control of their estates as they had hitherto enjoyed.

The first could without serious mendacity be pressed home upon the habitants as a grievance. As to the other matter it was represented that the seigniors had now acquired more than their ancient rights and would revive the corvees and other obsolete privileges with more than' their former vigour. The agitators multiplied the salaries of the new officials for which the country was to be taxed by ten and sometimes twenty-fold, and went in and out of the thatched and whitewashed houses of the ^ peasantry under the pretense of trade, assuring the people that they would all be miserable slaves liable at any moment to be arrested under lettres de cachet, and that their only hope of salvation lay in allowing the American troops a peaceful entry into the country. The noblesse on account of their preserved prestige, the notaries who for every reason were attached to the French civil code, and most of the few French bourgeoisie were practically secured to the Crown. The clergy were even more attached to it by the late bill, and the priests, one need hardly say, were the most formidable factor whom the emissaries of sedition among their flocks had to encounter. Official Canada with Carleton at its head regarded them as a bulwark of security. It was no fault of theirs that they proved otherwise. The bounds of habitant credulity had not yet been fathomed by the new rulers.

By November the "ancient subjects" of Quebec had worked themselves, or been worked up, to the delivery of a petition against the new Act, and throughout the winter the propaganda of sedition in the country districts was conducted with unabated zeal and remarkable effect. Dark threats were sometimes thrown out by these emissaries of freedom against a rejection of their gospel, and as an alternative to embracing its blessings wholesale an army of fifty thousand men was to enter Canada and with fire and sword lay waste the parishes from Gaspd to Montreal.

The Act was to be put in force on May 1st, 1775. In January Carleton received a despatch enclosing instructions and commissions from Dartmouth, who hoped that a meeting of council might be held before the date of formal inauguration to settle the minor offices, leaving the judicial appointments and ecclesiastical affairs till the arrival of who was coming out, though for a short time only, as chief-justice. Carleton writes to his government that he has grave fears for the effect on the mind of the peasantry caused by sedition-mongers who are moving in such numbers and of set purpose among them. The gentry, he says, are ready enough to serve, but do not relish commanding a militia whose spirit has so obviously changed. As to the peasantry the government had no longer the same hold over them as formerly, the feudal and official influence being greatly weakened. To embody them suddenly and march them off as a militia, even if they would march, would give colour to the stories of impending impression so sedulously circulated by British-American intriguers.

The Act, Carleton intimates, was after all only a foundation for settlement; the whole system of government had to be cast in a new form.

On May 1st, the date of its inauguration, the kings bust in Montreal was daubed black and decorated with a necklace of potatoes, a cross and placard bearing the inscription, " Voila leEape du Canada et le sot Anglais". Large sums were offered ,'for the discovery of the culprit. The French upper class were especially indignant, one of them offering a hundred pounds for the arrest of the offender. Personal encounters arising from the incident took place in the streets. It was a strange situation. A clear majority of the British residents—of whom most, it must be remembered, were of American birth—were ripe for revolt; while every Frenchman wof the better class was eager to serve the king. The mass of the peasantry was supine, bewildered, suspicious, but so far as one may learn, determined at the moment to stand aloof or to assist the rebels.

During the month of May, 1775, news arrived in Canada that active hostilities had broken out, Ticonderoga and Crown Point, those ancient bases of attack on Canada, having been seized by the rebels, together with the armed craft on Lake Champlain. Carleton in reporting it to the home government had the melancholy consolation of referring to letters written by himself to Gage sometime before, in which he had urged the importance of securing these posts against all risk of surprise.

It was that rude but vigorous Vermonter, Ethan Allen, one need hardly remind the reader, who had accomplished this eminently serviceable but in no way perilous feat. Ticonderoga was garrisoned by an officer and about forty, men who were; scarcely alive to the serious state of affairs beyond the woods and waters to the southward. It was on the night of May 10th, that Allen with' two hundred and fifty men behind him demanded admission to the fort, stating that he had despatches for the commandant. The guard, all unsuspicious, and moreover acquainted with Allen, whose men were invisible, opened the gates, whereat the Vermonters rushed in and secured the soldiers in their beds. After this Crown Point, a few miles away and occupied by a sergeant with half a dozen men, was summoned and had no choice but to surrender. A large supply of cannon and ammunition was here obtained, and the forts were occupied by provincials. The only armed vessel on the lake was next seized and Benedict Arnold, making his first appearance at this early stage of the war with a colonel's commission, sailed the vessel up Lake Champlain with an accompanying flotilla of bateaux to Fort St. Johns on the Richelieu River, twenty miles above its outlet. The object of this visit was the capture of an armed sloop, which Arnold brought away, together with a dozen unsuspecting soldiers who occupied the fort.

Carleton was at Quebec when the news of these doings arrived at Montreal by the agency of Moses Hazen, who had been a distinguished partisan officer in the French wars and was now farming near St. Johns. The city was stirred to a high pitch of excitement. Colonel Templer of the 26th Regiment, to which the captured detachments of the lake forts belonged, was in command, and at once despatched Major Preston with one hundred and forty men of the same corps to St. Johns which was found deserted. Allen himself had occupied it in the interval, departing only on the approach of the British. But for the warning of a disaffected Montreal merchant, one Bindon, Allen and his men would probably have been cut off. By this same person Allen sent a request for five hundred pounds worth of provisions, ammunition and liquor to those "friendly to the cause" in the city. Bindon, moreover, would have led Preston's detachment into an ambush but for an accident, for which friendly intention the enraged soldiers in Montreal seized and would have hanged the unfortunate man had it not been for the interference of their officers.

Templer now called a general meeting, at which it was decided that volunteers should be raised in companies of thirty, six prominent Canadians undertaking their formation. Fifty French-Canadian enrolled themselves at once, and marched at Preston's request to St. Johns, which they proceeded to occupy. Carleton, when he received the news which affirmed that there were five hundred provincials on Lake Champlain, and one thousand five hundred on the way there, despatched every soldier from Quebec save a few recruits, sending them mainly to the chief point of danger and attack, St. Johns, a poor ill-defended fort, but in a sense the key of Canada. He himself then hurried to Montreal, and on June 7th did his official duty, and at the same time gave vent to his personal feelings in a letter to Dartmouth. After alluding to the events above narrated, he proceeded to say that although the noblesse were full of zeal, neither the peasantry nor Indians would come forward. The consternation was universal; the province was unprepared for attack or defence; and there were not six hundred rank and file along the whole course of the river, nor a single armed ship. The minds of the people were poisoned with lies, and, but for the few regular troops, three hundred rebels might have seized all the provisions and arms in the province and kept post at St Johns. Within the last few days, however, the Canadians and Indians had shown signs of returning to their senses. The gentry and clergy had been very useful, but both had lost much of their influence. He proposed to call out the militia, hut doubted if he could succeed in view of the seditious conduct of the British-American people in the province, for the Habeas Corpus Act and the\ English criminal laws were being used as arms, against the State. He expresses in this letter a natural longing at this moment for the powers possessed in Canada by the old governors, and finally encloses intercepted letters from Allen and Arnold to Walker and Morrison in Montreal and to the Indians at Caughnawaga.

Martial law was now proclaimed and the militia called out, a severe test on the allegiance of the reluctant habitant with the memory of the old French levies still tolerably fresh within him. But it was Carleton's only hope, though a slender one enough it may well have seemed, for the peasantry of the district had not responded to the less regular but urgent call of their seigniors and priests, and had sometimes refused with insolence. The proclamation of martial law was fiercely opposed by the British-Canadian Whigs, if I may so style them, with the argument that the Americans intended to let Canada severely alone so long as she remained neutral, but that every attempt to raise the militia would be taken as a threat to invade the northern provinces. This would have been plausible enough but for the fact that the Americans had secured, and were well aware of it, the inefficiency of the Canadian rank and file even as a defensive force and never took them into account at all as potential invaders. Furthermore the decision to invade Canada, arrived at in the summer of 1775, was with a view to prevent the colony from becoming the base of attack for a fresh British army, and the capture of Quebec, coupled with wholesale promises to the Canadian peasantry in their present condition, would have gone far towards achieving this result. Carleton at any rate had not the slightest doubt of their intentions and in his desperate straits had no time for the sophistries of village lawyers or partisan pamphleteers.

Apart from all other considerations a peremptory call to arms could not have been other than distasteful to a rural people who had experienced more than enough of fighting under their own monarch, when native resentment and race hatred had been a powerful stimulant. As a further deterrent the once hated Bastonnais were stumping through the parishes and protesting that the measure of ease and freedom the habitant now enjoyed was slavery compared to the Utopia they were longing to create on the banks of the St. Lawrence. How could the simplex Canadian peasant know that the only Utopia comprehended by the Bastonnais was one which meant the/7 probable destruction of all the traditions, prejudices and customs that rightly or wrongly he held dear ? It was in vain that the priests thundered from the pulpit, that the seigniors waved their swords and that Bishop Briand invoked their defence of their king and religion through the agency of every parish pulpit. A few meagre companies it is true were scraped together in the rural districts, but even these, for the most part, melted^away through individual or wholesale desertion. As a class the habitants turned a persistently deaf ear to priests, to seigniors, and to officials. After all, it was a good deal to ask of a peaceful farmer that he should leave his plough, his family and his home, and offer his breast to bullet and bayonet in a dispute he did not understand and the issue of which he might well believe would not materially affect him. Both sides were foreigners and heretics and it is not difficult to understand the sullen determination of the mass of Canadian peasantry to leave these, mad Britons to fight out their incomprehensible quarrel alone.

Carleton was under no delusions, as his frequent letters to Dartmouth at this period bear ample testimony. He had scarcely any troops and very little money and only hoped the habitants would prove nothing worse than neutral. The British in Montreal, as a body, refused point blank to serve. Hey, however, who had accompanied Carleton thither, harangued them in such scathing fashion that many were shamed into the king's service while a few were always staunch. Guy Johnson too, nephew of the redoubtable Sir William, arrived from the Mohawk country about this time with three hundred of the Six Nation Indians. The Caughnawagas in similar strength had also been attached, and a grand council was held at which their services were accepted on the condition that they were not to fire till first fired upon. The chief value of the Indians was for scouting purposes, and upon this service they were soon despatched with orders to watch the Americans at Ticonderoga.

In mid-July having done all that was humanly possible in Montreal and leaving Colonel Prescott in command, Carleton returned to Quebec. The Act had come into legal force on the first of May, but practically nothing had been yet done to get it into working order.

The notary Badeaux, who has written an account of the invasion, tells us that at Three Rivers the governor was entertained by Tonnancour, a wealthy Canadian trader, money-lender, landowner and militia colonel. Perceiving an armed Canadian promenading outside the window, Carleton inquired the cause and was told it was a guard of honour, whereupon he at once went out to the man and gave him a guinea as the first armed Canadian he had seen in the district. Tonnancour's son, it may be noted, raised a company in the locality and was very active in the British service. The same diarist tells us that most of the parishes in the Richelieu country showed a marked sympathy with the rebels. Some of them supplied a few men to the militia, while from others not a single combatant could be secured.

The feelings of Carleton as he sailed down the St. Lawrence to Quebec for the purpose of formally inaugurating a policy of which he had formed such high hopes may well claim our sympathy. The very people in whose interests he had so strenuously ^ exerted himself had now turned upon him, in a negative sense at least, and in some districts in an active one, and had succumbed to the crafty intrigue of those who had treated them with traditional contempt and to protect them against whom he had laboured amid much opposition. That this was mainly due to their unexampled credulity made the situation if anything perhaps more galling; for with such people the secret agitator is at a marked advantage over the highly placed proconsul, with whom truth and honour count for something, and with Carleton they counted for much. f On his arrival at Quebec Carleton encloses to the home government among other documents a fresh American address of sympathy to the Canadians, commencing with characteristic bombast: "The parent of the universe hath divided this earth among the children of men;" also a copy of a scrap of paper thrust under the doors of the habitants throughout the country,

i" Honi soit qui mal y pense A lui qui ne suivra le boil chemin. "Baston."

In truth a somewhat melancholy gathering must have been this opening of the first legislative council under the new Act on August 17th, 1775, with so obvious a possibility of its being the last.

Twenty-two members, including Cramahe as lieutenant-governor, met their chief on this depressing occasion. Eight of them were French-Canadians, for the oath of supremacy had been remitted in favour of an oath to which Roman Catholics could conscientiously subscribe. The oath of allegiance to the king was followed by a clause renouncing all " equivocable mental evasion or secret reservation." Hey, as before mentioned, was chief-justice and among the other councillors were Saint Luc de La Corne, de Contrecceur, Hugh Finlay, Drummond, Dr. Mabane, Pownall, Allsopp and John Fraser. But a very few days, however, were permitted to the peaceful labours of the council, for with the opening of September imminent dangers from outside banished all thought of internal legislation ; news arriving that the rebels, this time in much greater force, had crossed the border and were again on the Richelieu. Carleton at once hurried back to Montreal leaving Quebec of necessity as bare of troops as ever; but Quebec for the moment was regarded as secure from immediate danger. Instructions came from London too, about this time, which must have provoked the much harassed governor to a bitter smile. His Majesty, he was informed, relied on the zeal of his new Canadian subjects, and Carleton was authorized to raise a force of six thousand men, either to cooperate with Gage or to act independently, whichever course should seem advisable. Arms and^ money for half the number were already upon the sea. Whether it was a consolation to Carleton to learn that the court of Russia had evinced a practical sympathy for His Majesty's troubles in America, is problematical; but it was better hearing that a corps of twenty thousand infantry had been applied for, and that it was hoped to despatch a considerable number of them to Canada in the spring, for Carleton held that Canada offered the best vantage ground for overawing the provinces,—an opinion which the designs of congress amply confirmed.

The king and his government had all this time a pathetic, if most natural, reliance on their much indulged Canadian subjects. As they had not even yet realized the temper or attitude of their own people in North America the habitant may well have remained an inscrutable item in their imperial survey. Carleton had also secret intelligence emanating from Governor Tryon of New York that three thousand troops from the middle and southern colonies, to be joined by as many more from New England, were to muster at Ticonderoga. He accordingly sent an urgent application to Gage for a couple of regiments. The despatch arrived a few hours after Gage had sailed for England, but Sir William Howe, now filling his place, promptly ordered a battalion and two transports to Quebec. Graves was then in command of the fleet and appears to have been, in spirit at least, a survivor of the ante-Chatham period when the chief object of the two services was to thwart each other to the utmost of their power, for he refused the ships, under the plea that an October voyage to Quebec was too difficult and dangerous. This was altogether too much even for Howe, not himself distinguished for prompt action in this lamentable struggle. But he was powerless, and could only vent his indignation in a letter to Carleton and wish him well out of his scrape.

Carleton, though he saw nothing before him but ruin, had at least not lost the spirit which had early-marked him out as one of "Pitt's young men." He had now some seven hundred troops of all ranks at Fort St. Johns under Preston, including five hundred of the 7th and 26th Regiments, one hundred and twenty Canadian volunteers, mostly French gentlemen, and a few artillerymen. There were eighty regulars too at Chambly under Major Stopford, while besides the handful at Montreal there were one hundred men of the Royal Emigrants, largely recruited from the Highland soldiers who had settled after the peace on the northern frontier of New York and at Murray Bay on the lower St. Lawrence, and became afterwards the 84th Regiment. They were raised and commanded by McLean, an able and zealous officer who did yeoman's service throughout this whole campaign.


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