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The Life of General The Hon. James Murray
Chapter XIII. The Military Government of Quebec, 1761-62


In the chapters which follow concerning the commencement of British Government in Canada, I aim at tracing its evolution from the terms of the capitulation at Montreal to the passing of the Quebec Act some fourteen years later. For much of the failure and confusion during these years General Murray has received unmerited censure, but I hope to make it clear that his efforts were thwarted and rendered ineffective by the same inept administrators who caused the loss of the American colonies. This latter subject has little to do with this volume, but it will be of interest to show how the neglect of the principles of common sense and even common honesty regarding Canada had their reflections in the treatment of the settled colonies.

In a recently published work Murray is accused of having unreasonably refused to call together an elected assembly in Quebec ; of having treated the British traders with contempt; by some complex process of reasoning he is even accused of giving a " main and immediate cause to the revolutionary war," by not bringing this same assembly of British traders into being ! Yet in the same work we are told that but for Murray these British traders would have had free rein for their evil natures to oppress the Canadians.* Diversity of opinion such as this may well make the general reader wonder what is the truth, and this I hope to show by such references to the letters and other documents of the period as will enable judgment to be given.

The arrangements for the government of Canada made by Amherst pending formal orders from England were to maintain the separate Governments of Three Rivers and Montreal distinct from that of Quebec, as had been the case under the French regime. The first-named was placed in charge of Colonel Burton, who had been Murray's second in command; the Montreal province being handed to Brig.-Gen. (rage. Of the former, it may be said en passant that Murray had a high opinion. I really have a friendship for him," he wrote to Amherst a little later.

The French civil officers were discharged—a measure which was probably instigated by the notorious want of honesty with which at that time they conducted their duties. Amherst ordained that government by martial law should replace the civil law until such time as the King's pleasure should be notified.

Certain steps in the direction of administration had already been taken by Murray in the appointment, on November 12, 17j9, of a Chief Judge in the Province of Quebec—Colonel John Young, assisted by "some of the best men I could find in the place"—and in the following January (1760) he had appointed a French Canadian, M. Jacques Allier, to execute the office of "Civil and Criminal" Judge in the parishes on the south bank of the river ifrom Berthier to Kamouraska, and for the maintenance "of the police and good order in the said parishes." The judgments were, however, subject to appeal before Colonel Young.

On October 31 (1760) Murray issued a general proclamation of the regulations for the dispensing of justice. This document exhibits, in a great degree, the intention of granting equal rights to all subjects of the King, whether new or old. I quote the preamble below:

"By His Excellency, Mr. James Murray, Governor of Quebec, etc.

"Our chief object having been, in the Government which it has pleased His Majesty to entrust to us, to ensure the administration of justice to his new subjects, Canadian as well as French, settled in the town and neighbourhood of this Government, we have likewise thought it necessary to establish the form of procedure; to fix the day of our audiences, as well as those of our military council, which we have established in this town: to the end that every one may conform to it, in the causes that they may require to have judged in our Courts, or such as we may think necessary to send to the said council. "Here follows ten Articles, detailing the procedure".

The tenth Article of the proclamation was as follows, and was based on Amherst's "Placard," dated at Montreal October 22, 1760:

"Disputes that the inhabitants of the district may have among themselves with respect to enclosures, damages, or other provisional cases, of which we authorise the commandant of the troops to take cognisance in each locality + and try summarily, reserving appeals to the military council if the case pertains thereto and there is reason for it."

Thus, though martial law was the general basis for final decision, it will be seen that the existing French civil law was also recognised to deal with cases not referred to the military council.

The governors were likewise authorised to sign commissions to all vacant posts in the militia, and reinstate those who had enjoyed those posts under the French king.

This latter privilege, as well as a reversion to administration of justice by the militia captains of the parishes, may have been a measure of doubtful advantage, for Murray describes these gentlemen very scathingly in a letter quoted below: but at all events it was a useful preliminary to settle men's minds to the new order without too great a disruption of long-established habits, and, no doubt, care was taken to appoint men of the most trustworthy nature that could be found.

Trade under Amherst's proclamation was "to be free to every one without duty, but merchants will be obliged to take out passports (licenses) from the governors, which will be furnished them gratis."

To Pitt, Murray wrote at this time (October 22) his first "civil," as I may call it, despatch:

"Hitherto," he says, "I have given you an account of the affairs of this country in my military capacity ; now that His Majesty has the quiet possession of it, I imagine it will not be disagreeable to know what I have learnt of it in other respects."

What Murray had "learnt" he embodied in a long and very interesting report, from which I make the following extracts:

"The French inhabitants of Canada, the year before the breaking out of the present war, amounted to about 80,000, including the forty companies of the Troupes de Colonie.

"To a man they are husbandmen, and require little assistance from artificers."

The women wove the material and turned it into garments. The system of tenure involved military service.

"The men capable of war are divided into companies of one hundred each, and all orders, civil or military, relative to ye inhabitants, are directed to the captains of those companies who are not chose from a superiority of parts, circumstances, or knowledge, but from a depravity of heart, which will not hesitate implicitly to execute the commands of an oppressive governor."

The ignorance of the people, and the power of the priesthood over them, is referred to, and the absence of a class capable of assuming the lead.

"The River St. Lawrence is the finest in the universe; the navigation is easy and now well known. Its banks produce hemp, flax, tar, pitch, masts, ships' timber, and iron enough to supply all Europe. The tide rises thirty feet, and docks may be made at small expense everywhere. That ships may winter here with as much safety as in any harbour in Holland is not to be denied."

A formidable fleet might be built, he says, without the knowledge of the European powers.

Great stress is laid on the possibilities of the fisheries and the advantage of making every Canadian a fisherman and a sailor. It is clear that Murray held the view that England's future was on the sea. He goes on:

"Had the French promoted this branch (the fisheries) with as much eagerness as they grasped at the insignificant fur trade, how formidable might their colony have proved to us. . . .

"As it is doubtful with me what will be the fate of this colony at the Peace, I apprehend it is not my duty to point out to the inhabitants the natural advantages of their country and to put them on improvements ; but I am to do everything in my power to convince them how happy they would be under the influence of British laws, and therefore nothing shall be wanting in me to exert that justice and humanity which I hope will ever continue to characterise the British Government."

By this means he hoped to extinguish the prejudices of the Canadians, and cultivate connections which might be useful in case of another war— all of which was eminently sound and far-seeing.

The greater part of this document, which, it must be remembered, was written after a short experience, shows a remarkable insight into the conditions of the country, though it must be admitted that to refer to the people as being without natural leaders was perhaps an error which had undesirable consequences. The seigneurs, or overlords, were, in fact, leaders, not always of a good kind, who it would have been an advantage to cultivate and improve, and Murray, writing at a later date, said: "They (the peasants) have been accustomed to obey and respect their noblesse." It is true, however, that the policy of the French Government had been to obliterate individuality. Colbert, himself a son of the people, Minister of the Grande Monarque, who declared "I'etat e'est moi,'" had written:

"Rarely, or, to speak more correctly, never, give a corporate form to the inhabitants of Canada. You should even, as the colony strengthens, suppress gradually the office of Syndic, who presents petitions in the name of the inhabitants; for it is well that each should speak for himself, and no one for all."

This was written to Frontenac in 1673, but it became the settled policy, and perhaps something more might have been done by the first British Governor to eradicate it, and to have brought the seigneurs more into touch with the administration during this period of martial law and before the commencement of civil administration, when he was obliged to follow the orders received from England.

In any action to develop the colony or to improve the status of the people, Murray was greatly hampered by the uncertainty whether the British Government intended to retain possession at the forthcoming peace. This has already been alluded to, and, quoting from Justin Windsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, I may add:

"As soon as Quebec had surrendered there grew a party in England who put Canada as a light weight in the scales, in comparison with Guadaloupe, in balancing the territorial claims to be settled in defining the terms of a peace."

And a number of pamphlets, which are referred to in his work, were issued arguing the matter pro and con, some of them being of a quality which gave them importance.

In this connection, however, there was another view of the case which did not fail to strike so thoughtful an observer as Murray—the effect on the American colonies which would arise from the absence of danger from their French neighbours. These colonies, continually harassed by the French claims to exclude them from any westward progress, and with their borders constantly open to attack, were very much more dependent on support from home than the same colonies relieved of all fear of aggression and rapidly developing the independence of attitude, which was their inheritance. Montcalm had foreseen this in the previous year; the loss of French Canada had seemed to him inevitable, arising from "an evil administration and an insatiable desire to rob the King" (Journal of Montcalm), and he wrote:

"But in this I console myself that the loss of this colony, this defeat, will one day be of more service to my country than a victory. . . . The English must breathe the air of freedom, and these Americans more so, and the children of these are not degenerated from the Republican principles of their parents. Their maxim is to obey as little as possible, and when their interests are touched they will revolt."

Murray had expressed much the same view, writing to Amherst in November (1759):

"How formidable it (the colony) might be made under any other government than that of Monsieur Vaudreuil. En bonne Politique it should, perhaps, be destroyed; but there may be reasons why it should remain, as it is a guarantee for the good behaviour of its neighbouring colonics."

These views had, as we know now, solid foundation, and they will be referred to again; in the meantime, if questions of policy prevented all the steps which suggested themselves being taken, there was much to be done to maintain even the existence of the population of the Quebec province. We know that the stern measures adopted by Wolfe had resulted in the destruction of many of the parishes on the south and north shores east of Quebec, and though Murray's action had been more clement, still much material damage had been done by the armies, both of friend and foe, on the country immediately surrounding the capital and for some distance up the river ; but the principal causes which tended to ruin the people were, in the first place, the exactions of the French commissaries, who, though most punctilious in making paper payment for everything "borrowed," and exacting receipts therefor, had nevertheless not only drained the country, but had left only paper money in the hands of the habitants, which had no value when the French Government was swept away; and in the second place, the absence of the able-bodied men on military service almost continually for three years had caused a shortage of cultivation and of food stuffs, which threatened to produce dire results among the unfortunate people.

In his early letters this .state of destitution was often referred to by Murray. Writing to Andierst on New Year's day, 17G1, he says:

"I formerly hinted at the miserable state of His Majesty's Canadian subjects of the Quebec province. To describe it is really beyond my power, and to think of it is shocking to humanity. It has afforded the King's British subjects an opportunity of exerting that benevolence and charity inseparable from the sentiments which the freedom of our laws of Church and State must ever inspire. The merchants and officers have made a collection of five hundred pounds Halifax money, and the soldiers insist on giving one day's provisions in a month for the support of the indigent; without these aids, many must have perished, and still I fear a famine unless a supply of corn is sent from Montreal or the British provinces."

The new Governor showed a broad-minded tolerance in regard to the religion of the country, which was much to his credit, in an age when such tolerance was very rare. Possibly the years spent in Ireland opened his eyes to the futility of forcing men to adopt a form of worship foreign to their instincts. Possibly in his own early days he had heard something of the disasters brought about by the endeavour to bring men to everlasting peace by the method of interminable war—perhaps it was merely that he had seen many countries and had the breadth of view which men acquire when they are brought in contact with all shades of thought; whatever the reason, Murray was persona grata with the people, and long after his departure he continued to receive annual greetings from his friend, the Abbess of the Ursulines; he was also on the best of terms with the Lady Superior of the Augustine Convent, and the ladies of the Hotel Dieu— who retain more than one record of his generosity and thoughtfulness. To the priesthood, and especially the Jesuits, he was less complaisant, for he found or suspected not a few cases of trafficking with the enemy, and he was obliged to adopt severe measures; but where he found the village cures minded their proper business, he was always ready to protect them. I have already mentioned the circumstances of his sending a donation towards the restoration of the church of Ste. Foy, ami when I visited that place in October, 1915. the cure. Abbe H. Scott, assured me that Murray's memory was still green among the French Canadians.

Very possibly his action in these very matters of religion laid the foundation of the bond; but there were other and perhaps more potent reasons for the affection with which they regarded him, and this was his determination to see that His Majesty's Canadian subjects should receive equal treatment and justice with the British who flocked to his province. But for Murray's conscientious stand these British traders would have made a very strong bid to oust the habitants from what little was left to them. Early in January, 1761, he wrote to Amherst concerning the brutalities and many shocking things committed by the crews of the vessels trading to Quebec, both to Indians and Canadians, and hinted that the sailors of His Majesty's ships were not innocent of similar practices. He begged that a manifesto should be issued by the commander-in-chief on the subject.

In the meantime a commission as Military Governor of the town of Quebec and its dependencies had arrived, dated at Saville House, October 27, 1700, and signed by W. Pitt. This document became of some importance later on, when the delay in the settlement of regular government of the new colony took place, which will presently be adverted to. The commission ran as follows :

"... We reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, courage, and experience in military affairs do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be Governor of our town of Quebec, and of all the lines, fortifications, and dependencies of the government of Quebec . . . and We strictly charge all our officers and soldiers who are now or hereafter shall be in the said town, lines, fortifications, and dependencies, and all other our ministers, officers, and loving subjects whom it may concern, to obey you as our Governor thereof.

"And you are to observe and follow all such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from Us according to the rules of war."

This commission was clearly a military command, and when reference is made to the uncertainty regarding the powers of the commander-in-chief in America, it will be well to remember it.

The old French custom of homage for the retention of fiefs and seigneuries, fines on alienation upon all exchanges of inheritance among the inhabitants, were continued. In a letter dated March 25, Amherst informed Murray that he had been acquainted by Mr. Gage "of the King's rights in such matters," but Murray, to whom the name of Gage was rather as a red rag to a bull, hastened to reply:

"The discovery which Mr. Gage acquaints you he has made of the King's rights in Canada he had from me. . . . I have asserted the King's rights in every respect. Little arises from the sales of fiefs, or from exchanges of inheritance, for in the present situation of this country there are neither buyers nor sellers."

In all this there is nothing to show that under the French regime any question had arisen in regard to direct taxation for the benefit of the Mother Country. It cannot be doubted that the fact does not indicate that hesitation would have arisen to employ such a measure, but in the then circumstances it was no doubt rightly assumed that the possible revenue would be small.

I have given this brief sketch of the early stages of the administration of the new province, partly because some of the actions taken bore fruit of great import ance, but principally to bring into prominence at the outset the qualifications for government which Murray possessed. We have seen him hitherto as a soldier, prompt, severe on occasion, farseeing in his estimates of the situation, self-reliant, yet cautious in the execution of intentions decided upon. We have now a new aspect, an administrator, seeking to rehabilitate a ruined province, determined that it shall pay its way, yet not rushing hot-headed into extortion as a means of achieving this end—seeking rather a broad basis of increasing the wealth of the individual in order, in due time, to bring in a quota to the treasury.

For the rest, the winter of 1760-61 passed happily. "Everybody, British and Canadians, are in perfect harmony and good humour."

"Hitherto there has not, this winter, the least sign of scurvy appeared among the troops, and I believe we shall be convinced by experience that good lodging, warm clothing, and proper nourishment, will prevent the havock of that disorder in the most malignant climates."

To Pitt he wrote :

"The inhabitants, enjoying the justice and freedom of a British Government, want nothing but that plenty which the ravages of war has deprived them of, to make them entirely happy."

News of the death of King George II., "which happened on October 21 (1760) in a sudden manner," was received in Quebec on January 26 (1761) via New York—a lapse of time which gives one to think on the inconveniences of the period. The new King was proclaimed in Quebec on January 27.

In March Murray heard that the 40th Regiment, which he had hoped for, had been given to Colonel Armiger. He is evidently a little hurt, but writes:

"1 am not disappointed; soldiers of fortune should be impatient of nothing but disgrace. While the King approves of my services and you, my commander-in-chief, are satisfied with my conduct, I am very happy and doubts (sic) not of being remembered in due time."

In May (1761), writing to Pitt, Murray gives indication of any field of energy; in which he accomplished a great deal during his governorship, viz. the survey of Canada.

The line map which is preserved in the British Museum, and known as the King's map, or the Murray map, no doubt had its commencement at this time:

"The bearer will deliver to you a copy of the survey of Canada as far as we have yet been able to make it. The w hole will be finished by the beginning of August, and I have undertaken to make myself master of the River Chaudiere and the communication with our Kennebec River, and likewise the River St. John, which empties itself into the Bay of Fundy, and communicates with the St. Lawrence by a few easy portages (carrying places from one water to another), so happen what will we never again can be at a loss how to attack and conquer this country in one campaign."

A letter from Amherst at this period (May, 1701) shows the value he placed on Murray's services:

"Wherever it may be my lot to serve, if there is any real service, I shall wish to have you with me, and you may depend on it, as far as the service will permit it, I shall contrive it may be so. From present appearances I see no real service likely to fall to my share, and no place where you can so essentially serve your King in as by a continuance of your zeal and activity, and prudent conduct, in doing everything that may tend to the defence and protection and care of the very important Government of Quebec, which will so much the more require your presence, as such a number of troops are being withdrawn from it."

At home the trend of politics calls for some mention, inasmuch as changes in the Ministry and the Court occurred which were to affect affairs in Canada. A letter from Amherst, dated New York, December 5, 1701, gives the "news":

"Lord Egremont writes me on October 9 that the King has been pleased to grant Mr. Pitt's request to retire from business and to appoint his lordship (Egremont) to be Secretary of State for the southern department. Mr. Pitt has resigned the seals ; his reason for this measure is said to be difference of opinion with the King's other ministers as to the immediate necessity of a Spanish war. which he thinks unavoidable. He goes out in good humour, and is to be handsomely rewarded. This reward appears to be a peerage to his son, and £3000 a year pension to himself and his son for both their lives."

The accuracy of Pitt's diagnosis of the situation was speedily made manifest, and before the end of the year the Spanish Court had curtly dismissed the British Ambassador, Lord Bristol, and acknowledged the so-called "family compact," whereby the courts of Madrid and Versailles agreed to regard the enemies of the one to be common to both.

So far as we are concerned, the Spanish war, which was formally declared in January, 1762, has little in it of immediate interest, except that in the subsequent expeditions against Martinique and the Havannah Murray found a fresh source of annoyance . a being retained in his Governorship while laurels were a-gathering. But the resignation of Pitt and the rise in the King's favour of Lord Bute were events of far-reaching importance, the effects of which soon made their appearance. For several years the country was a prey to ambitious politicians and to kaleidoscopic changes of policy. The Royal authority, by supporting one or other of the rival factions, made the confusion worse confounded, and no Ministry was formed of sufficient strength to enable continuity of intention to be maintained. We in our day are inclined to grumble at adhesive ministries which cling to power with limpet-like tenacity, but, at least, we are fortunate in avoiding that near balance of strength in rival parties which from 1761 to 1760 prevented any semblance of continuous government. Perhaps the essential difference in the political fabric of those days as compared with ours was that then a great speaker could influence a decision in the House; to-day the greatest speech, and the most cogent arguments, may produce some evanescent effect on the country, but in a House shackled by what we call "party discipline," none at all.

During these years the seeds were sown which resulted in the loss of the American colonies, and had effects on Murray and his government of Canada which will appear. When in 1766 Pitt returned to power as Earl of Chatham, it was too late to counteract the indecision of the preceding years, nor was he physically capable of then saving the situation. "The evils," he wrote, "are, I fear, incurable. Faction shakes and corruption saps the country to its foundations."

The Government at home were fully awake to the necessity for closely examining the value of the new territories in America. Whether to be retained or not, it was desirable to form a just estimate of their value, in order that the bargaining, which the approaching termination of the war was sure to bring with it, might be conducted on sure grounds. In this view Lord Egremont called for reports from the Governors of the three provinces of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers, of the general conditions of their respective charges. Murray's report is dated June 5. 1763, and is a very instructive document, to which he evidently gave great care. It is published in full in Documents relating to the Constitutional History of Canada (Sessional Paper No. 18 of the Canadian Archives, 1907, by Professor Shortt and Dr. Doughty), and it is unnecessary to reprint it here.

The military section of the report contained a strong recommendation for the building of a citadel on Cape Diamond, advice which was neglected at the time with serious results during the revolution. The civil section, which occupies the greater part, supplies many interesting details of the French governmental system and the customs of land tenure. The administration of justice was described, and in view of the complications caused by retaining the French system in conjunction with the English system, Murray recommended " a short and well digested code " to supersede the existing practice. Another case in which his advice was neglected with serious consequences. Trade and the expenses of government were dealt with in great detail

For future development Murray's views were comprehensive ; the fostering of husbandry, and the abolition of those "inconveniences," such as monopolies and frequent military service, and the wastage of war which "they have much more severely felt from their pretended friends than from their declared enemies," he expected would in three or four years ensure not only abundance of home supply but " even to export if a market can be found" (my italics)—a remark which reads curiously to-day, when the great granary of Western Canada is a reservoir which maintains the level of the world's prices. Minerals, the fisheries, timber, flax, and hemp, all fell within his consideration, and given that no settlement unsuitable to the population would be concluded, he says:

"Convinced that this is not to be their case, and that a free exercise of their religion will be continued to them once Canada is irrecoverably ceded by a peace, the people will soon become faithful and good subjects to His Majesty, and the country they inhabit will in a short time prove a rich and most useful colony to Great Britain."

These are golden words, amply justified to-day, and if Murray's claim to a niche in the temple of fame rested on no other basis, the effect which this report of his had on the decision to retain Canada as an integral part of the British Empire would alone give him a title to remembrance.

In another letter, direct to Lord Egremont (June 7, 1702), he gave a clear indication of his views, which it is greatly to be regretted were not accepted. After saying the question of the details of the new Government was " too nice a subject for me to undertake, and I have left the same to the determination of my superiors," he adds : " One thing only I shall observe, that the people here do not yet seem ripe for such a government as prevails in our other colonies." The sequel will show how correctly he gauged the situation.

Letters from Amherst in March and April of 1762 told of the employment of Monckton, and, temporarily, of Burton, on service in the Spanish war, and Murray was not best pleased at being left out. Amherst did his best to console him by pointing out that his present duties did not admit of his being spared. These letters also mention that Barre, whom we last met as Wolfe's confidant during the Quebec campaign, was now an "oracle" in the Government at home. He was already Member of Parliament for Chipping Wycombe, and had made that violent attack on Pitt which Walpole, in his Memoirs, describes as carried out by "the bravo selected by Shelburne."

Barre, however, was no bravo, and the term was not well selected. He could attack in the open, and was a master of invective, and if he was a bad enemy to make he certainly could be a firm friend. To Murray he stood more in the former capacity, for Murray had, in his view, opposed his idol, Wolfe. Lord Shelburne, too, who was now a power in the new Ministry (that of Lord Bute), and soon to have immediate control of American affairs, was greatly influenced by Barre's opinions. The rise of Barre to power was almost dramatic in its suddenness. In 1759 he was but a lieutenant of the 32nd Foot; in 1761 he was Lieut.-Colonel of the 106th Regiment (The Black Musqueteers), and in 1763 he was Adjutant-General of the Forces and Governor of Stirling Castle! Thus the inner working of the Colonial Office was little likely to be sympathetic with Murray's views, and a good deal of the mischief that followed must, I am afraid, be put down to the "New Oracle," Colonel Barre.

Notwithstanding Macaulay's judgment, there is, I think, more to connect Isaac Sam with the "Junius" letters than was advanced in favour of Sir Philip Francis. See an article by the present, writer in Blackwood's Magazine of January, 1917.


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