Canada under British Rule covers the first 400 years of Canadian history, from the French discovery in the early 16th century until the establishing of the Confederation in 19th century. This book serves as an excelent
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I devote the first chapter of this short history to a brief review of the colonisation of the valley of the St. Lawrence by the French, and of their political and social conditions at the Conquest, so that a reader may be able to compare their weak and impoverished state under the repressive dominion of France with the prosperous and influential position they eventually attained under the liberal methods of British rule. In the succeeding chapters I have dwelt on those important events which have had the largest influence on the political development of the several provinces as British possessions.
We have, first, the Quebec Act, which gave permanent guarantees for the establishment of the Church of Rome and the maintenance of the language and civil law of France in her old colony. Next, we read of the coming of the United Empire Loyalists, and the consequent establishment of British institutions on a stable basis of loyal devotion to the parent state. Then ensued the war of 1812, to bind the provinces more closely to Great Britain, and create that national spirit which is the natural outcome of patriotic endeavour and individual self-sacrifice. Then followed for several decades a persistent popular struggle for larger political liberty, which was not successful until British statesmen awoke at last from their indifference, on the outbreak of a rebellion in the Canadas, and recognised the necessity of adopting a more liberal policy towards their North American dependencies. The union of the Canadas was succeeded by the concession of responsible government and the complete acknowledgment of the rights of the colonists to manage their provincial affairs without the constant interference of British officials. With this extension of political privileges, the people became still more ambitious, and established a confederation, which has not only had the effect of supplying a remarkable stimulus to their political, social and material development, but has given greater security to British interests on the continent of North America. At particular points of the historical narrative I have dwelt for a space on economic, social, and intellectual conditions, so that the reader may intelligently follow every phase to the development of the people from the close of the French régime to the beginning of the twentieth century In my summary of the most important political events for the last twenty-five years, I have avoided all comment on matters which are "as yet"—to quote the language of the epilogue to Mr. Green's "Short History"—"too near to us to admit of a cool and purely historical treatment." The closing chapter is a short review of the relations between Canada and the United States since the treaty of 1783—so conducive to international disputes concerning boundaries and fishing rights—until the present time, when the Alaskan and other international controversies are demanding adjustment.
I have thought, too, that it would be useful to students of political institutions to give in the appendix comparisons between the leading provisions of the federal systems of the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia. I must add that, in the revision of the historical narrative, I have been much aided by the judicious criticism and apt suggestions of the Editor of the Series, Dr. Prothero.
HOUSE OF COMMONS, OTTAWA, CANADA. 1st October, 1900
Though the principal object of this book is to review the political, economic and social progress of the provinces of Canada under British rule, yet it would be necessarily imperfect, and even unintelligible in certain important respects, were I to ignore the deeply interesting history of the sixteen hundred thousand French Canadians, about thirty per cent of the total population of the Dominion. To apply to Canada an aphorism of Carlyle, "The present is the living sum-total of the whole past"; the sum-total not simply of the hundred and thirty years that have elapsed since the commencement of British dominion, but primarily of the century and a half that began with the coming of Champlain to the heights of Quebec and ended with the death of Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham. The soldiers and sailors, the missionaries and pioneers of France, speak to us in eloquent tones, whether we linger in summer time on the shores of the noble gulf which washes the eastern portals of Canada; whether we ascend the St. Lawrence River and follow the route taken by the explorers, who discovered the great lakes, and gave to the world a knowledge of the West and the Mississippi, whether we walk on the grassy mounds that recall the ruins of the formidable fortress of Louisbourg, which once defended the eastern entrance to the St. Lawrence; whether we linger on the rocks of the ancient city of Quebec with its many memorials of the French régime; whether we travel over the rich prairies with their sluggish, tortuous rivers, and memories of the French Canadians who first found their way to that illimitable region. In fact, Canada has a rich heritage of associations that connect us with some of the most momentous epochs of the world's history. The victories of Louisbourg and Quebec belong to the same series of brilliant events that recall the famous names of Chatham, Clive, and Wolfe, and that gave to England a mighty empire in Asia and America. Wolfe's signal victory on the heights of the ancient capital was the prelude to the great drama of the American revolution. Freed from the fear of France, the people of the Thirteen Colonies, so long hemmed in between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian range, found full expression for their love of local self-government when England asserted her imperial supremacy. After a struggle of a few years they succeeded in laying the foundation of the remarkable federal republic, which now embraces forty-five states with a population of already seventy-five millions of souls, which owes its national stability and prosperity to the energy and enterprise of the Anglo-Norman race and the dominant influence of the common law, and the parliamentary institutions of England. At the same time, the American Revolution had an immediate and powerful effect upon the future of the communities that still remained in the possession of England after the acknowledgement of the independence of her old colonies. It drove to Canada a large body of men and women, who remained faithful to the crown and empire and became founders of provinces which are now comprised in a Dominion extending for over three thousand miles to the north and east of the federal republic.
The short review of the French régime, with which I am about to commence this history of Canada, will not give any evidence of political, economic, or intellectual development under the influence of French dominion, but it is interesting to the student of comparative politics on account of the comparisons which it enables us to make between the absolutism of old France which crushed every semblance of independent thought and action, and the political freedom which has been a consequence of the supremacy of England in the province once occupied by her ancient rival. It is quite true, as Professor Freeman has said, that in Canada, which is pre-eminently English in the development of its political institutions, French Canada is still "a distinct and visible element, which is not English,—an element older than anything English in the land,—and which shows no sign of being likely to be assimilated by anything English." As this book will show, though a hundred and forty years have nearly passed since the signing of the treaty of Paris, many of the institutions which the French Canadians inherited from France have become permanently established in the country, and we see constantly in the various political systems given to Canada from time to time—notably in the constitution of the federal union—the impress of these institutions and the influence of the people of the French section. Still, while the French Canadians by their adherence to their language, civil law and religion are decidedly "a distinct and visible element which is not English"—an element kept apart from the English by positive legal and constitutional guarantees or barriers of separation,—we shall see that it is the influence and operation of English institutions, which have made their province one of the most contented communities of the world. While their old institutions are inseparably associated with the social and spiritual conditions of their daily lives, it is after all their political constitution, which derives its strength from English, principles, that has made the French Canadians a free, self-governing people and developed the best elements of their character to a degree which was never possible under the depressing and enfeebling conditions of the French régime.
Much learning has been devoted to the elucidation of the Icelandic Sagas, or vague accounts of voyages which Bjorne Heriulfson and Lief Ericsson, sons of the first Norse settlers of Greenland, are supposed to have made at the end of the tenth century, to the eastern parts of what is now British North America, and, in the opinion of some writers, even as far as the shores of New England. It is just possible that such voyages were made, and that Norsemen were the first Europeans who saw the eastern shores of Canada. It is quite certain, however, that no permanent settlements were made by the Norsemen in any part of these countries; and their voyages do not appear to have been known to Columbus or other maritime adventurers of later times, when the veil of mystery was at last lifted from the western limits of what was so long truly described as the "sea of darkness." While the subject is undoubtedly full of interest, it is at the same time as illusive as the fata morgana, or the lakes and rivers that are created by the mists of a summer's eve on the great prairies of the Canadian west.
Five centuries later than the Norse voyagers, there appeared on the great field of western exploration an Italian sailor, Giovanni Caboto, through whose agency England took the first step in the direction of that remarkable maritime enterprise which, in later centuries, was to be the admiration and envy of all other nations. John Cabot was a Genoese by birth and a Venetian citizen by adoption, who came during the last decade of the fifteenth century, to the historic town of Bristol. Eventually he obtain from Henry VII letters-patent, granting to himself and his three sons, Louis, Sebastian, and Sancio, the right, "at their own cost and charges, to seek out and discover unknown lands," and to acquire for England the dominion over the countries they might discover. Early in May, 1497, John Cabot sailed from Bristol in "The Matthew," manned by English sailors. In all probability he was accompanied by Sebastian, then about 21 years of age, who, in later times, through the credulity of his friends and his own garrulity and vanity, took that place in the estimation of the world which his father now rightly fills. Some time toward the end of June, they made a land-fall on the north-eastern coast of North America. The actual site of the land-fall will always be a matter of controversy unless some document is found among musty archives of Europe to solve the question to the satisfaction of the disputants, who wax hot over the claims of a point near Cape Chidley on the coast of Labrador, of Bonavista, on the east shore of Newfoundland, of Cape North, or some other point, on the island of Cape Breton. Another expedition left Bristol in 1498, but while it is now generally believed that Cabot coasted the shores of North America from Labrador or Cape Breton as far as Cape Hatteras, we have no details of this famous voyage, and are even ignorant of the date when the fleet returned to England.
The Portuguese, Gaspar and Miguel Cortereal, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, were lost somewhere on the coast of Labrador or Newfoundland, but not before they gave to their country a claim to new lands. The Basques and Bretons, always noted for their love of the sea, frequented the same prolific waters and some of the latter gave a name to the picturesque island of Cape Breton. Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine by birth, who had for years led a roving life on the sea, sailed in 1524 along the coasts of Nova Scotia and the present United States and gave a shadowy claim of first discovery of a great region to France under whose authority he sailed. Ten years later Jacques Cartier of St. Malo was authorised by Francis I to undertake a voyage to these new lands, but he did not venture beyond the Gulf of St. Lawrence, though he took possession of the picturesque Gaspé peninsula in the name of his royal master. In 1535 he made a second voyage, whose results were most important for France and the world at large. The great river of Canada was then discovered by the enterprising Breton, who established a post for some months at Stadacona, now Quebec, and also visited the Indian village of Hochelaga on the island of Montreal. Here he gave the appropriate name of Mount Royal to the beautiful height which dominates the picturesque country where enterprise has, in the course of centuries, built a noble city. Hochelaga was probably inhabited by Indians of the Huron-Iroquois family, who appear, from the best evidence before us, to have been dwelling at that time on the banks of the St. Lawrence, whilst the Algonquins, who took their place in later times, were living to the north of the river.
The name of Canada—obviously the Huron-Iroquois word for Kannata, a town—began to take a place on the maps soon after Cartier's voyages. It appears from his Bref Récit to have been applied at the time of his visit, to a kingdom, or district, extending from Ile-aux-Coudres, which he named on account of its hazel-nuts, on the lower St. Lawrence, to the Kingdom of Ochelay, west of Stadacona; east of Canada was Saguenay, and west of Ochelay was Hochelaga, to which the other communities were tributary. After a winter of much misery Cartier left Stadacona in the spring of 1536, and sailed into the Atlantic by the passage between Cape Breton and Newfoundland, now appropriately called Cabot's Straits on modern maps. He gave to France a positive claim to a great region, whose illimitable wealth and possibilities were never fully appreciated by the king and the people of France even in the later times of her dominion. Francis, in 1540, gave a commission to Jean François de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval, to act as his viceroy and lieutenant-general in the country discovered by Cartier, who was elevated to the position of captain general and master pilot of the new expedition. As the Viceroy was unable to complete his arrangements by 1541, Cartier was obliged to sail in advance, and again passed a winter on the St. Lawrence, not at Stadacona but at Cap Rouge, a few miles to the west, where he built a post which he named Charlesbourg-Royal. He appears to have returned to France some time during the summer of 1542, while Roberval was on his way to the St. Lawrence. Roberval found his way without his master pilot to Charlesbourg-Royal, which he renamed France-Roy, and where he erected buildings of a very substantial character in the hope of establishing a permanent settlement. His selection of colonists—chiefly taken from jails and purlieus of towns—was most unhappy, and after a bitter experience he returned to France, probably in the autumn of 1543, and disappeared from Canadian history.
From the date of Cartier's last voyage until the beginning of the seventeenth century, a period of nearly sixty years, nothing was done to settle the lands of the new continent. Fishermen alone continued to frequent the great gulf, which was called for years the "Square gulf" or "Golfo quadrado," or "Quarré," on some European maps, until it assumed, by the end of the sixteenth century, the name it now bears. The name Saint-Laurens was first given by Cartier to the harbour known as Sainte-Geneviève (or sometimes Pillage Bay), on the northern shore of Canada, and gradually extended to the gulf and river. The name of Labrador, which was soon established on all maps, had its origin in the fact that Gaspar Cortereal brought back with him a number of natives who were considered to be "admirably calculated for labour."
In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the English began to take a prominent part in that maritime enterprise which was to lead to such remarkable results in the course of three centuries. The names of the ambitious navigators, Frobisher and Davis, are connected with those arctic waters where so much money, energy, and heroism have been expended down to the present time. Under the influence of the great Ralegh, whose fertile imagination was conceiving plans of colonization in America, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, his brother-in-law, took possession of Newfoundland on a hill overlooking the harbour of St. John's. English enterprise, however, did not extend for many years to any other part of North Eastern America than Newfoundland, which is styled Baccalaos on the Hakluyt map of 1597, though the present name appeared from a very early date in English statutes and records. The island, however, for a century and longer, was practically little more than "a great ship moored near the banks during the fishing season, for the convenience of English fishermen," while English colonizing enterprise found a deeper interest in Virginia with its more favourable climate and southern products. It was England's great rival, France, that was the pioneer at the beginning of the seventeenth century in the work of exploring, and settling the countries now comprised within the Dominion of Canada.
France first attempted to settle the indefinite region, long known as La Cadie or Acadie1. The Sieur de Monts, Samuel Champlain, and the Baron de Poutrincourt were the pioneers in the exploration of this country. Their first post was erected on Dochet Island, within the mouth of the St. Croix River, the present boundary between the state of Maine and the province of New Brunswick; but this spot was very soon found unsuitable, and the hopes of the pioneers were immediately turned towards the beautiful basin, which was first named Port Royal by Champlain. The Baron de Poutrincourt obtained a grant of land around this basin, and determined to make his home in so beautiful a spot. De Monts, whose charter was revoked in 1607, gave up the project of colonizing Acadia, whose history from that time is associated for years with the misfortunes of the Biencourts, the family name of Baron de Poutrincourt; but the hopes of this adventurous nobleman were never realized. In 1613 an English expedition from Virginia, under the command of Captain Argall, destroyed the struggling settlement at Fort Royal, and also prevented the establishment of a Jesuit mission on the island of Monts-Déserts, which owes its name to Champlain. Acadia had henceforth a checquered history, chiefly noted for feuds between rival French leaders and for the efforts of the people of New England to obtain possession of Acadia. Port Royal was captured in 1710 by General Nicholson, at the head of an expedition composed of an English fleet and the militia of New England. Then it received the name of Annapolis Royal in honour of Queen Anne, and was formally ceded with all of Acadia "according to its ancient limits" to England by the treaty of Utrecht.
It was not in Acadia, but in the valley of the St. Lawrence, that France made her great effort to establish her dominion in North America. Samuel Champlain, the most famous man in the history of French Canada, laid the foundation of the present city of Quebec in the month of June, 1608, or three years after the removal of the little Acadian colony from St. Croix Island to the basin of the Annapolis. The name Quebec is now generally admitted to be an adaptation of an Indian word, meaning a contraction of the river or strait, a distinguishing feature of the St. Lawrence at this important point. The first buildings were constructed by Champlain on a relatively level piece of ground, now occupied by a market-house and close to a famous old church erected in the days of Frontenac, in commemoration of the victorious repulse of the New England expedition led by Phipps. For twenty-seven years Champlain struggled against constantly accumulating difficulties to establish a colony on the St. Lawrence. He won the confidence of the Algonquin and Huron tubes of Canada, who then lived on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, and in the vicinity of Georgian Bay. Recognizing the necessity of an alliance with the Canadian Indians, who controlled all the principal avenues to the great fur-bearing regions, he led two expeditions, composed of Frenchmen, Hurons, and Algonquins, against the Iroquois or Confederacy of the Five Nations2—the Mohawks, the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas—who inhabited the fertile country stretching from the Genesee to the Hudson River in the present state of New York. Champlain consequently excited against his own people the inveterate hostility of the bravest, cruellest and ablest Indians with whom Europeans have ever come in contact in America. Champlain probably had no other alternative open to him than to become the active ally of the Canadian Indians, on whose goodwill and friendship he was forced to rely; but it is also quite probable that he altogether underrated the ability and bravery of the Iroquois who, in later years, so often threatened the security of Canada, and more than once brought the infant colony to the very verge of ruin.
It was during Champlain's administration of affairs that the Company of the Hundred Associates was formed under the auspices of Cardinal Richelieu, with the express object of colonizing Canada and developing the fur-trade and other commercial enterprises on as large a scale as possible. The Company had ill-fortune from the outset. The first expedition it sent to the St. Lawrence was captured by a fleet commanded by David Kirk, a gentleman of Derbyshire, who in the following year also took Quebec, and carried Champlain and his followers to England. The English were already attempting settlements on the shores of Massachusetts Bay; and the poet and courtier, Sir William Alexander, afterwards known as the Earl of Stirling, obtained from the King of England all French Acadia, which he named Nova Scotia and offered to settlers in baronial giants. A Scotch colony was actually established for a short time at Port Royal under the auspices of Alexander, but in 1632, by the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye, both Acadia and Canada were restored to France. Champlain returned to Quebec, but the Company of the Hundred Associates had been severely crippled by the ill-luck which attended its first venture, and was able to do very little for the struggling colony during the three remaining years of Champlain's life.
The Recollets or Franciscans, who had first come to the country in 1615, now disappeared, and the Jesuits assumed full control in the wide field of effort that Canada offered to the missionary. The Jesuits had, in fact, made their appearance in Canada as early as 1625, or fourteen years after two priests of their order, Ennemond Massé and Pierre Biard, had gone to Acadia to labour among the Micmacs or Souriquois. During the greater part of the seventeenth century, intrepid Jesuit priests are associated with some of the most heroic incidents of Canadian history.
When Champlain died, on Christmas-day, 1635, the French population of Canada did not exceed 150 souls, all dependent on the fur-trade. Canada so far showed none of the elements of prosperity; it was not a colony of settlers but of fur-traders. Still Champlain, by his indomitable will, gave to France a footing in America which she was to retain for a century and a quarter after his death. His courage amid the difficulties that surrounded him, his fidelity to his church and country, his ability to understand the Indian character, his pure unselfishness, are among the remarkable qualities of a man who stands foremost among the pioneers of European civilization in America.
From the day of Champlain's death until the arrival of the Marquis de Tracy, in 1665, Canada was often in a most dangerous and pitiable position. That period of thirty years was, however, also distinguished by the foundation of those great religious communities which have always exercised such an important influence upon the conditions of life throughout French Canada. In 1652 Montreal was founded under the name of Ville-Marie by Paul Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, and a number of other religious enthusiasts. In 1659, the Abbé de Montigny, better known to Canadians as Monseigneur de Laval, the first Roman Catholic bishop, arrived in the colony and assumed charge of ecclesiastical affairs under the titular name of Bishop of Petraea. Probably no single man has ever exercised such powerful and lasting influence on Canadian institutions as that famous divine. Possessed of great tenacity of purpose, most ascetic in his habits, regardless of all worldly considerations, always working for the welfare and extension of his church, Bishop Laval was eminently fitted to give it that predominance in civil as well as religious affairs which it so long possessed in Canada.
While the Church of Rome was perfecting its organization throughout Canada, the Iroquois were constantly making raids upon the unprotected settlements, especially in the vicinity of Montreal. The Hurons in the Georgian Bay district were eventually driven from their comfortable villages, and now the only remnants of a powerful nation are to be found in the community of mixed blood at Lorette, near Quebec, or on the banks of the Detroit River, where they are known as Wyandots. The Jesuit mission of Sainte-Marie in their country was broken up, and Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant suffered torture and death.
Such was the pitiable condition of things in 1663, when Louis XIV made of Canada a royal government. At this time the total population of the province did not exceed 2500 souls, grouped chiefly in and around Quebec, Three Rivers and Montreal. In 1665 the Marquis de Tracy and Governor de Courcelles, with a brilliant retinue of officers and a regiment of soldiers, arrived in the colony, and brought with them conditions of peace and prosperity. A small stream of immigration flowed steadily into the country for some years, as a result of the new policy adopted by the French government. The Mohawks, the most daring and dangerous nation of the Iroquois confederacy, were humbled by Tracy in 1667, and forced to sue for peace. Under the influence of Talon, the ablest intendant who ever administered Canadian affairs, the country enjoyed a moderate degree of prosperity, although trade continued entirely dependent on the orders and regulations of the King and his officials.
Among the ablest governors of Canada was undoubtedly Louis de la Buade, Count de Frontenac, who administered public affairs from 1672-1687 and from 1689-1698. He was certainly impatient, choleric and selfish whenever his pecuniary interests were concerned; but, despite his faults of character, he was a brave soldier, dignified and courteous on important occasions, a close student of the character of the Indians, always ready when the necessity arose to adapt himself to their foibles and at the same time able to win their confidence. He found Canada weak, and left it a power in the affairs of America. He infused his own never-failing confidence into the hearts of the struggling colonists on the St. Lawrence, repulsed Sir William Phipps and his New England expedition when they attacked Quebec in 1690, wisely erected a fort on Lake Ontario as a fur-trading post and a bulwark against the Iroquois, encouraged the fur-trade, and stimulated exploration in the west and in the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi. The settlements of New England trembled at his name, and its annals contain many a painful story of the misery inflicted by his cruel bands of Frenchmen and Indians.
Despite all the efforts of the French government for some years, the total immigration from 1663 until 1713, when the great war between France and the Grand Alliance came to an end by the treaty of Utrecht, did not exceed 6000 souls, and the whole population of the province in that year was only 20,000, a small number for a century of colonization. For some years after the formation of the royal government, a large number of marriageable women were brought to the country under the auspices of the religious communities, and marriages and births were encouraged by exhortations and bounties. A considerable number of the officers and soldiers of the Carignan-Salières regiment, who followed the Marquis de Tracy into Canada, were induced to remain and settle new seigniories, chiefly in palisaded villages in the Richelieu district for purposes of defence against Iroquois expeditions. Despite all the paternal efforts of the government to stimulate the growth of a large population, the natural increase was small during the seventeenth century. The disturbing influence, no doubt, was the fur-trade, which allured so many young men into the wilderness, made them unfit for a steady life, and destroyed their domestic habits. The emigrants from France came chiefly from Anjou, Saintonge, Paris and its suburbs, Normandy, Poitou, Beauce, Perche, and Picardy. The Carignan-Salières regiment brought men from all parts of the parent state. It does not appear that any number of persons ever came from Brittany. The larger proportion of the settlers were natives of the north-western provinces of France, especially from Perche and Normandy, and formed an excellent stock on which to build up a thrifty, moral people. The seigniorial tenure of French Canada was an adaptation of the feudal system of France to the conditions of a new country, and was calculated in some respects to stimulate settlement. Ambitious persons of limited means were able to form a class of colonial noblesse. But unless the seignior cleared a certain portion of his grant within a limited time, he would forfeit it all. The conditions by which the censitaires or tenants of the seigniorial domain held their grants of land were by no means burdensome, but they signified a dependency of tenure inconsistent with the free nature of American life. A large portion of the best lands of French Canada were granted under this seigniorial system to men whose names frequently occur in the records of the colony down to the present day: Rimouski, Bic and Métis, Kamouraska, Nicolet, Verchères, Lotbinière, Berthier, Beloeil, Rouville, Juliette, Terrebonne, Champlain, Sillery, Beaupré, Bellechasse, Portneuf, Chambly, Sorel, Longueuil, Boucherville, Chateauguay, Lachine, are memorials of the seigniorial grants of the seventeenth century.
The whole population of the Acadian Peninsula in 1710-13, was not more than 1500 souls, nearly all descendants of the people brought to the country by Poutrincourt and his successors Razilly and Charnisay. At no time did the French government interest itself in immigration to neglected Acadia. Of the total population, nearly 1000 persons were settled in the beautiful country which the industry and ingenuity of the Acadian peasants, in the course of many years, reclaimed from the restless tides of the Bay of Fundy at Grand Pré and Minas. The remaining settlements were at Beau Bassin, Annapolis, Piziquit (now Windsor), Cobequit (now Truro), and Cape Sable. Some small settlements were also founded on the banks of the St. John River and on the eastern bays of the present province of New Brunswick.
The hope of finding a short route to the rich lands of Asia by the St. Lawrence River and its tributary lakes and streams, influenced French voyagers and explorers well into the middle of the eighteenth century. When Cartier stood on Mount Royal and saw the waters of the Ottawa there must have flashed across his mind the thought that perhaps by this river would be found that passage to the western sea of which he and other sailors often dreamed both in earlier and later times. L'Escarbot tells us that Champlain in his western explorations always hoped to reach Asia by a Canadian route. He was able, however, long before his death to make valuable contributions to the geography of Canada. He was the first Frenchman to ascend the River of the Iroquois, now the Richelieu, and to see the beautiful lake which still bears his name. In 1615 he found his way to Georgian Bay by the route of the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, Lake Nipissing and French River. Here he visited the Huron villages which were situated in the district now known as Simcoe county in the province of Ontario. Father le Caron, a Recollet, had preceded the French explorer, and was performing missionary duties among the Indians, who probably numbered 20,000 in all. This brave priest was the pioneer of an army of faithful missionaries—mostly of a different order—who lived for years among the Indians, suffered torture and death, and connected their names not only with the martyrs of their faith but also with the explorers of this continent. From this time forward we find the trader and the priest advancing in the wilderness; sometimes one is first, sometimes the other.
Champlain accompanied his Indian allies on an expedition against the Onondagas, one of the five nations who occupied the country immediately to the south of the upper St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. The party reached Lake Ontario by the system of inland navigation which stretches from Lake Simcoe to the Bay of Quinté. The Onondagas repulsed the Canadian allies who returned to their settlements, where Champlain remained during the winter of 1616. It was during this expedition, which did much to weaken Champlain's prestige among the Indians, that Étienne Brulé an interpreter, was sent to the Andastes, who were then living about the headwaters of the Susquehanna, with the hope of bringing them to the support of the Canadian savages. He was not seen again until 1618, when he returned to Canada with a story, doubtless correct, of having found himself on the shores of a great lake where there were mines of copper, probably Lake Superior.
With the new era of peace that followed the coming of the Viceroy Tracy in 1665, and the establishment of a royal government, a fresh impulse was given to exploration and mission work in the west. Priests, fur-traders, gentlemen-adventurers, coureurs de bois, now appeared frequently on the lakes and rivers of the west, and gave in the course of years a vast region to the dominion of France. As early as 1665 Father Allouez established a mission at La Pointe, the modern Ashland, on the shores of Lake Superior. In 1668 one of the most interesting persons who ever appeared in early Canada, the missionary and explorer, Father Marquette, founded the mission of Sainte-Marie on the southern side of the Sault, which may be considered the oldest settlement of the north-west, as it alone has a continuous history to the present time.
In the record of those times we see strikingly displayed certain propensities of the Canadian people which seriously interfered with the settlement and industry of the country. The fur-trade had far more attractions for the young and adventurous than the regular and active life of farming on the seigniories. The French immigrant as well as the native Canadian adapted himself to the conditions of Indian life. Wherever the Indian tribes were camped in the forest or by the river, and the fur-trade could be prosecuted to the best advantage, we see the coureurs de bois, not the least picturesque figures of these grand woods, then in the primeval sublimity of their solitude and vastness. Despite the vices and weaknesses of a large proportion of this class, not a few were most useful in the work of exploration and exercised a great influence among the Indians of the West. But for these forest-rangers the Michigan region would have fallen into the possession of the English who were always intriguing with the Iroquois and endeavouring to obtain a share of the fur-trade of the west. Joliet, the companion of Marquette, in his ever-memorable voyage to the Mississippi, was a type of the best class of the Canadian fur-trader.
In 1671 Sieur St. Lusson took formal possession of the Sault and the adjacent country in the name of Louis XIV. In 1673 Fort Frontenac was built at Cataraqui, now Kingston, as a barrier to the aggressive movements of the Iroquois and an entrepôt for the fur-trade on Lake Ontario. In the same year Joliet and Marquette solved a part of the problem which had so long perplexed the explorers of the West. The trader and priest reached the Mississippi by the way of Green Bay, the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. They went down the Mississippi as far as the Arkansas. Though they were still many hundreds of miles from the mouth of the river, they grasped the fact that it must reach, not the western ocean, but the southern gulf first discovered by the Spaniards. Marquette died not long afterwards, worn out by his labours in the wilderness, and was buried beneath the little chapel at St. Ignace. Joliet's name henceforth disappears from the annals of the West.
Réné Robert Cavelier, better known as the Sieur de la Salle, completed the work commenced by the trader and missionary. In 1666 he obtained a grant of land at the head of the rapids above Montreal by the side of that beautiful expanse of the St. Lawrence, still called Lachine, a name first given in derisive allusion to his hope of finding a short route to China. In 1679 he saw the Niagara Falls for the first time, and the earliest sketch is to be found in La Nouvelle Découverte written or compiled by that garrulous, vain, and often mendacious Recollet Friar, Louis Hennepin, who accompanied La Salle on this expedition. In the winter of 1681-82 this famous explorer reached the Mississippi, and for weeks followed its course through the novel and wondrous scenery of a southern land. On the 9th of April, 1682, at a point just above the mouth of the great river, La Salle took formal possession of the Mississippi valley in the name of Louis XIV, with the same imposing ceremonies that distinguished the claim asserted by St. Lusson at the Sault in the lake region. By the irony of fate, La Salle failed to discover the mouth of the river when he came direct from France to the Gulf of Mexico in 1685, but landed somewhere on Matagorda Bay on the Texan coast, where he built a fort for temporary protection. Finding his position untenable, he decided in 1687 to make an effort to reach the Illinois country, but when he had been a few days on this perilous journey he was treacherously murdered by some of his companions near the southern branch of Trinity River. His body was left to the beasts and birds of prey. Two of the murderers were themselves killed by their accomplices, none of whom appear ever to have been brought to justice for their participation in a crime by which France lost one of the bravest and ablest men who ever struggled for her dominion in North America.
Some years later the famous Canadians, Iberville and Bienville, founded a colony in the great valley, known by the name of Louisiana, which was first given to it by La Salle himself. By the possession of the Sault, Mackinac, and Detroit, the French were for many years supreme on the lakes, and had full control of Indian trade. The Iroquois and their English friends were effectively shut out of the west by the French posts and settlements which followed the explorations of Joliet, La Salle, Du Luth, and other adventurers. Plans continued to be formed for reaching the Western or Pacific ocean even in the middle of the eighteenth century. The Jesuit Charlevoix, the historian of New France, was sent out to Canada by the French government to enquire into the feasibility of a route which Frenchmen always hoped for. Nothing definite came out of this mission, but the Jesuit was soon followed by an enterprising native of Three Rivers, Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, generally called the Sieur de la Verendrye, who with his sons ventured into the region now known as the province of Manitoba and the north-west territory of Canada. He built several forts, including one on the site of the city of Winnipeg. Two of his sons are believed to have reached the Big Horn Range, an "outlying buttress" of the Rocky Mountains, in 1743, and to have taken possession of what is now territory of the United States. The youngest son, Chevalier de la Verendrye, who was the first to see the Rocky Mountains, subsequently discovered the Saskatchewan (Poskoiac) and even ascended it as far as the forks—the furthest western limits so far touched by a white man in America. A few years later, in 1751, M. de Niverville, under the orders of M. de St. Pierre, then acting in the interest of the infamous Intendant Bigot, who coveted the western fur-trade, reached the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains and built a fort on the Saskatchewan not far from the present town of Calgary.
We have now followed the paths of French adventurers for nearly a century and a half, from the day Champlain landed on the rocks of Quebec until the Verendryes traversed the prairies and plains of the North-west. French explorers had discovered the three great waterways of this continent—the Mississippi, which pours its enormous volume of water, drawn from hundreds of tributaries, into a southern gulf; the St. Lawrence, which bears the tribute of the great lakes to the Atlantic Ocean; the Winnipeg, with its connecting rivers and lakes which stretch from the Rocky Mountains to the dreary Arctic sea. La Verendrye was the first Frenchman who stood on the height of land or elevated plateau of the continent, almost within sight of the sources of those great rivers which flow, after devious courses, north, south and east. It has been well said that if three men should ascend these three waterways to their farthest sources, they would find themselves in the heart of North America; and, so to speak, within a stone's throw of one another. Nearly all the vast territory, through which these great waterways flow, then belonged to France, so far as exploration, discovery and partial occupation gave her a right to exercise dominion. Only in the great North, where summer is a season of a very few weeks, where icebergs bar the way for many months, where the fur-trade and the whale-fishery alone offered an incentive to capital and enterprise, had England a right to an indefinite dominion. Here a "Company of Gentlemen-Adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay" occupied some fortified stations which, during the seventeenth century, had been seized by the daring French-Canadian corsair, Iberville, who ranks with the famous Englishman, Drake. On the Atlantic coast the prosperous English colonies occupied a narrow range of country bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Alleghanies. It was only in the middle of the eighteenth century—nearly three-quarters of a century after Joliet's and La Salle's explorations, and even later than the date at which Frenchmen had followed the Saskatchewan to the Rocky Mountains—that some enterprising Virginians and Pennsylvanians worked their way into the beautiful country watered by the affluents of the Ohio. New France may be said to have extended at that time from Cape Breton or Isle Royale west to the Rocky Mountains, and from the basin of the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
After the treaty of Utrecht, France recognized the mistake she had made in giving up Acadia, and devoted her attention to the island of Cape Breton, or Isle Royale, on whose southeastern coast soon rose the fortifications of Louisbourg. In the course of years this fortress became a menace to English interests in Acadia and New England. In 1745 the town was taken by a force of New England volunteers, led by General Pepperrell, a discreet and able colonist, and a small English squadron under the command of Commodore, afterwards Admiral, Warren, both of whom were rewarded by the British government for their distinguished services on this memorable occasion. France, however, appreciated the importance of Isle Royale, and obtained its restoration in exchange for Madras which at that time was the most important British settlement in the East Indies. England then decided to strengthen herself in Acadia, where France retained her hold of the French Acadian population through the secret influence of her emissaries, chiefly missionaries, and accordingly established a town on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, ever since known as Halifax, in honour of a prominent statesman of those times. The French settlers, who by the middle of the eighteenth century numbered 12,000, a thrifty, industrious and simple-minded people, easily influenced by French agents, called themselves "Neutrals," and could not be forced to take the unqualified oath of allegiance which was demanded of them by the authorities of Halifax. The English Government was now determined to act with firmness in a province where British interests had been so long neglected, and where the French inhabitants had in the course of forty years shown no disposition to consider themselves British subjects and discharge their obligations to the British Crown. France had raised the contention that the Acadia ceded to England by the treaty of Utrecht comprised only the present province of Nova Scotia, and indeed only a portion of that peninsula according to some French authorities. Commissioners were appointed by the two Powers to settle the question of boundaries—of the meaning of "Acadie, with its ancient boundaries"—but their negotiations came to naught and the issue was only settled by the arbitrament of war. The French built the forts of Beauséjour and Gaspereau—the latter a mere palisade—on the Isthmus of Chignecto, which became the rendezvous of the French Acadians, whom the former persuaded by promises or threats to join their fortunes. In 1755 a force of English and Colonial troops, under the command of Colonels Moncton, Winslow and Scott, captured these forts, and this success was followed by the banishment of the Acadian French. This cruel act of Governor Lawrence and the English authorities at Halifax was no doubt largely influenced by the sentiment of leading men in New England, who were apprehensive of the neighbourhood of so large a number of an alien people, who could not be induced to prove their loyalty to Great Britain, and might, in case of continued French successes in America, become open and dangerous foes. But while there are writers who defend this sad incident of American history on the ground of stern national necessity at a critical period in the affairs of the continent, all humanity that listens to the dictates of the heart and tender feeling will ever deplore the exile of those hapless people.
Previous to the expulsion of the Acadians from their pleasant homes on the meadows of Grand Pré and Minas, England sustained a severe defeat in the valley of the Ohio, which created much alarm throughout the English colonies, and probably had some influence on the fortunes of those people. France had formally taken possession of the Ohio country and established forts in 1753 on French Creek, at its junction with the Alleghany, and also at the forks of the Ohio. Adventurous British pioneers were at last commencing to cross the Alleghanies, and a company had been formed with the express intention of stimulating settlement in the valley. George Washington, at the head of a small Colonial force, was defeated in his attempt to drive the French from the Ohio; and the English Government was compelled to send out a large body of regular troops under the command of General Braddock, who met defeat and death on the banks of the Monongahela, General Johnson, on the other hand, defeated a force of French regulars, Canadian Militia and Indians, under General Dieskau, at the southern end of Lake George.
In 1756 war was publicly proclaimed between France and England, although, as we have just seen, it had already broken out many months previously in the forests of America. During the first two years of the war the English forces sustained several disasters through the incompetency of the English commanders on land and sea. The French in Canada were now led by the Marquis de Montcalm, distinguished both as a soldier of great ability and as a man of varied intellectual accomplishments. In the early part of the Canadian campaign he was most fortunate. Fort William Henry, at the foot of Lake George, and Fort Oswego, on the south side of Lake Ontario, were captured, but his signal victory at the former place was sullied by the massacre of defenceless men, women and children by his Indian allies, although it is now admitted by all impartial writers that he did his utmost to prevent so sad a sequel to his triumph. The English Commander-in-Chief, Lord Loudoun, assembled a large military force at Halifax in 1757 for the purpose of making a descent on Louisbourg; but he returned to New York without accomplishing anything, when he heard of the disastrous affair of William Henry, for which he was largely responsible on account of having failed to give sufficient support to the defenders of the fort. Admiral Holbourne sailed to Louisbourg, but he did not succeed in coming to an engagement with the French fleet then anchored in the harbour, and the only result of his expedition was the loss of several of his ships on the reefs of that foggy, rocky coast.
In 1758 Pitt determined to enter on a vigorous campaign against France in Europe and America. For America he chose Amherst, Boscawen, Howe, Forbes, Wolfe, Lawrence and Whitman. Abercromby was unfortunately allowed to remain in place of Loudoun, but it was expected by Pitt and others that Lord Howe, one of the best soldiers in the British army, would make up for the military weakness of that commander. Louisbourg, Fort Duquesne, and the forts on Lake George, were the immediate objects of attack. Abercromby at the head of a large force failed ignominiously in his assault on Ticonderoga, and Lord Howe was one of the first to fall in that unhappy and ill-managed battle. Amherst and Boscawen, on the other hand, took Louisbourg, where Wolfe displayed great energy and contributed largely to the success of the enterprise. Forbes was able to occupy the important fort at the forks of the Ohio, now Pittsburg, which gave to the English control of the beautiful country to the west of the Alleghanies. Fort Frontenac was taken by Bradstreet, and Prince Edward Island, then called Isle St. Jean, was occupied by an English force as the necessary consequence of the fall of the Cape Breton fortress. The nation felt that its confidence in Pitt was fully justified, and that the power of France in America was soon to be effectually broken.
In 1759 and 1760 Pitt's designs were crowned with signal success. Wolfe proved at Quebec that the statesman had not overestimated his value as a soldier and leader. Wolfe was supported by Brigadiers Moncton, Townshend, Murray, and Guy Carleton—the latter a distinguished figure in the later annals of Canada. The fleet was commanded by Admirals Saunders, Durell and Holmes, all of whom rendered most effective service. The English occupied the Island of Orleans and the heights of Lévis, from which they were able to keep up a most destructive fire on the capital. The whole effective force under Wolfe did not reach 9000 men, or 5000 less than the regular and Colonial army under Montcalm, whose lines extended behind batteries and earthworks from the St. Charles River, which washes the base of the rocky heights of the town, as far as the falls of Montmorency. The French held an impregnable position which their general decided to maintain at all hazards, despite the constant efforts of Wolfe for weeks to force him to the issue of battle. Above the city for many miles there were steep heights, believed to be unapproachable, and guarded at all important points by detachments of soldiery. Wolfe failed in an attempt which he made at Beauport to force Montcalm from his defences, and suffered a considerable loss through the rashness of his grenadiers. He then resolved on a bold stroke which succeeded by its very audacity in deceiving his opponent, and giving the victory to the English. A rugged and dangerous path was used at night up those very heights which, Montcalm confidently believed, "a hundred men could easily defend against the whole British army." On the morning of the 13th September, 1759, Wolfe marshalled an army of four thousand five hundred men on the Plains of Abraham where he was soon face to face with the French army. Montcalm had lost no time in accepting the challenge of the English, in the hope that his superior numbers would make up for their inferiority in discipline and equipment compared with the smaller English force. His expectations were never realized. In a few minutes the French fell in hundreds before the steady deadly fire of the English lines, and Montcalm was forced to retreat precipitately with the beaten remnant of his army. Wolfe received several wounds, and died on the battlefield, but not before he was conscious of his victory. "God be praised," were his dying words, "I now die in peace." His brave adversary was mortally wounded while seeking the protection of Quebec, and was buried in a cavity which a shell had made in the floor of the chapel of the Ursuline Convent. A few days later Quebec capitulated. Wolfe's body was taken to England, where it was received with all the honours due to his great achievement. General Murray was left in command at Quebec, and was defeated in the following spring by Lévis in the battle of St. Foye, which raised the hopes of the French until the appearance of English ships in the river relieved the beleaguered garrison and decided for ever the fate of Quebec. A few weeks later Montreal capitulated to Amherst, whose extreme caution throughout the campaign was in remarkable contrast with the dash and energy of the hero of Quebec. The war in Canada was now at an end, and in 1763 the treaty of Paris closed the interesting chapter of French dominion on the banks of the St. Lawrence and in the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi.
France and England entered on the struggle for dominion in America about the same time, but long before the conquest of Canada the communities founded by the latter had exhibited a vigour and vitality which were never shown in the development of the relatively poor and struggling colonies of Canada and Louisiana. The total population of New France in 1759—that is, of all the French possessions in North America—did not exceed 70,000 souls, of whom 60,000 were inhabitants of the country of the St. Lawrence, chiefly of the Montreal and Quebec districts. France had a few struggling villages and posts in the very "garden of the North-west," as the Illinois country has been aptly called; but the total population of New France from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico did not exceed 10,000 souls, the greater number of whom dwelt on the lower banks of the Mississippi. At this time the British colonies in America, pent up between the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian mountains, had a population twenty times larger than that of Canada and Louisiana combined, and there was not any comparison whatever between these French and British colonies with respect to trade, wealth or any of the essentials of prosperity.
Under the system of government established by Louis XIV, under the advice of Colbert, the governor and intendant of Canada were, to all intents and purposes in point of authority, the same officials who presided over the affairs of a province of France. In Canada, as in France, governors-general had only such powers as were expressly given them by the king, who, jealous of all authority in others, kept them rigidly in check. In those days the king was supreme; "I am the state," said Louis Quatorze in the arrogance of his power; and it is thus easy to understand that there could be no such free government or representative institutions in Canada as were enjoyed from the very commencement of their history by the old English colonies.
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