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Founding Modern Canada, 1786-1796

Carleton now enjoyed two years of uninterrupted peace at his country seat in England. His active career seemed to have closed at last. He had no taste for party politics. He was not anxious to fill any position of civil or military trust, even if it had been pressed upon him. And he had said farewell to America for good and all when he had left New York. Though as full of public spirit as before and only just turned sixty, he bid fair to spend the rest of his life as an English country gentleman. His young wife was well contented with her lot. His manly boys promised to become worthy followers of the noble profession of arms. And the overseeing of his little estate occupied his time very pleasantly indeed. Like most healthy Englishmen he was devoted to horses, and, unlike some others, he was very successful with his thoroughbreds.

He had first bought a place near Maidenhead, beside the Thames, which is nowhere lovelier than in that sylvan neighborhood. Then he bought the present family seat of Greywill Hill near the little village of Odiham in Hampshire. As an ex-governor and commander-in-chief, a county magnate, a personage of great importance to the Empire, and the one victorious British general in the unhappy American war, he had more than earned a peerage. But it was not till 1786, on the eve of his sixty-second birthday, and at a time when his services were urgently required again, that he received it. Needless to say this peerage had nothing whatever to do with his acceptance of another self-sacrificing duty. It was not given till several months after he had promised to return to Canada; and he would certainly have refused it if it had been held out to him as an inducement to go there. He became Baron Dorchester and was granted the not very extravagant addition to his income of a thousand pounds a year payable during four lives, his own, his wife's, and those of his two eldest sons. His elevation to the House of Lords met with the almost unanimous approval of his fellow-peers, in marked contrast to the open hostility they had shown towards his old enemy, Lord George Germain, when that vile wrecker had been 'kicked upstairs' among them. The Carleton motto, crest, and supporters are all most appropriate. The crest is a strong right arm with the hand clenched firmly on an arrow. The motto is Quondam his vicimus armis We used to conquer with these arms. The supporters are two beavers, typifying Canada, while their respective collars, one a naval the other a military coronet, show how her British life was won and saved and has been kept.

Carleton was a man of great reserve and self-control. But his kindly nature must have responded to the cordial welcome which he received on his return to Quebec in October 1786. It was not without reason that the people of Canada rejoiced to have him back as their leader. All that the Indians imagined the Great White Father to be towards themselves he was in reality towards both red man and white. Stern, when the occasion forced him to be stern, just in all his dealings between man and man, dignified and courteous in all his ways, a soldier through every inch of his stalwart six feet, he was a ruler with whom no one ever dreamt of taking liberties. But neither did any deserving one in trouble ever hesitate to lay the most confidential case before him in the full assurance that his head and heart were at the service of all committed to his care. And no other governor, before his time or since, ever inspired his followers with such a firm belief that all would turn out for the best so long as he was in command.

This power of inspiring confidence was now badly needed. Everything in Canada was still provisional. Owing to the war the Quebec Act of 1774 had never been thoroughly enforced. Then, when the war was over, the Loyalists arrived and completely changed the circumstances which the act had been designed to meet. The next constitution, the Canada Act of 1791, was of a very different character. During the seventeen years between these two constitutions all that could be done was to make the best of a very confusing state of flux. Not that the Quebec Act was a dead letter--far from it--but simply that it could not go beyond restoring the privileges of the French-Canadian priests and seigneurs within the area then effectively occupied by the French-Canadian race. Carleton, as we have seen, had faced its problem for the first four years. Haldimand had carried on the government under its provisions for the following six. Hamilton and Hope, successive lieutenant-governors, had bridged the two years between Haldimand's retirement and Carleton's second appointment. Now Carleton was to pick up the threads and make what he could of the tangled skein for the next five years. Haldimand had not been popular with either of the two chief parties into which the leading French Canadians were divided. The seigneurs had nothing like the same regard for a Swiss soldier of fortune that they had for aristocratic British commanders like Murray and Carleton. The clergy also preferred these Anglicans to such a strong Swiss Protestant. The habitants and agitators, who were far less favorable to the new regime, had passionately resented Haldimand's firmness at times of crisis. But, despite all this French-Canadian animus, he was not such an absolute martinet as some writers would have us think. The war with France and with the American Revolutionists required strong government in Canada; while the influx of Loyalists had introduced an entirely new set of most perplexing circumstances. On the whole, Haldimand had done very well in spite of many personal and public drawbacks; and it was through no special fault of his, nor yet of Hope's, that the threads which Carleton picked up formed such a perversely tangled skein.

The troubles that now dogged the great conciliator's every step were of all kinds--racial, religious, social, political, military, diplomatic, legal. The confusion resulting from the intermixture of French and English civil laws had become a great deal more confounded since he had left Canada eight years before. The old proportions of races and religions to each other had changed most disturbingly. The Loyalists were of quite a different social class from the English-speaking immigrants of earlier days. They wanted a parliament, public schools, and many other things new to the country; and they were the sort of people who had a right to have them. The problem of defense was always a vexed one with the inadequate military forces at hand and the insuperable difficulties concerning the militia. The British still held the Western forts pending the settlement of the frontier and the execution of the treaty of peace in full. This naturally annoyed the American government and gave Carleton endless trouble. But more serious still was the ceaseless western march of the American backwoodsmen, who were everywhere in conflict with the Indians. The Indians, in their turn, were confused between the British and Americans under the new conditions. They and their ever-receding rights and territories had not been mentioned in the treaty. But, seeing that they would be better off under British than under American rule, they were inclined to take sides accordingly. There were now no openly hostile sides to take. But, for all that, the British posts in the hinterland looked like weak little islands which might be suddenly engulfed in the sea of Indian troubles raging round them. Then, at the other end of the British line, there were the three maritime provinces to watch over. New Brunswick had been divided off from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had been taken from the direct supervision of the home authorities and placed under the command of the new governor at Quebec. Thus Carleton had to deal directly with everything that happened from the far West to Gaspe, while dealing indirectly with the three maritime provinces and all the troubles that proved too much for their own lieutenant-governors. There was no chance of concentrating on one thing at a time. Nothing would wait. The governor had to watch the writhing tangle as a whole during every minute he devoted to any one kinked and knotted thread.

Fortunately there were some good men in office on both sides of the Atlantic. Lords Sydney and Grenville, the two cabinet ministers with whom Carleton had most to do, were both sensible and sympathetic. Years afterwards Grenville, the favorite cousin of Pitt, became the colleague of Fox at the head of the celebrated 'Ministry of All the Talents.' Hope was an acceptable lieutenant-governor, and his successor, Sir Alured Clarke, was better still. Francois Bailly, the coadjutor Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec, who had gone to England as French tutor to Carleton's children, was a most enlightened cleric. So too was Charles Inglis, the Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia, appointed in 1787. He was the first Canadian bishop of the Anglican communion and his diocese comprised the whole of British North America. William Smith, the new chief justice, was as different from Carleton's last chief justice, Livius, as angels are from devils. Smith had been an excellent chief justice of his native New York in the old colonial days, and, like Inglis, was a very ardent Loyalist. He respected all reasonable French-Canadian peculiarities. But he favored the British-Constitutional way of 'broadening down from precedent to precedent' rather than the French way of referring to a supposedly infallible written regulation. We shall soon meet him as a far-seeing statesman. But he well deserves an honored place in Canadian history for his legal services alone. To him, more than to any other man, is due the nicely balanced adjustments which eventually harmonized the French and English codes into a body of laws adapted to the extraordinary circumstances of the province of Quebec.

Besides the committee on laws Carleton had nominated three other active committees of his council, one on police, another on education, and a third on trade and commerce. The police committee was of the usual kind and dealt with usual problems in the usual way. But the education committee brought out all the vexed questions of French and English, Protestant and Roman Catholic, progressive and reactionary. Strangely enough, the sharpest personal controversy was that between Hubert, the Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec, and his coadjutor Bailly. Hubert enumerated all the institutions already engaged in educational work and suggested that 'rest and be thankful' was the only proper attitude for the committee to assume. But Bailly very neatly pointed out that his respected superior's real opinions could not be those attributed to him over his own signature because they were at variance with the facts. Hubert had said that the cures were spreading education with most commendable zeal, had repudiated the base insinuation that only three or four people in each parish could read and write, and had wound up by thinking that while there was so much land to clear the farmers would do better to keep their sons at home than send them to a university, where they would be under professors so 'unprejudiced' as to have no definite views on religion. Bailly argued that the bishop could not mean what these words seemed to imply, as the logical conclusion would be to wait till Canada was cleared right up to the polar circle. In the end the committee made three very sanguine recommendations: a free common school in every parish, a secondary school in every town or district, and an absolutely non-sectarian central university. This educational ladder was never set up. There was nothing to support either end of it. The financial side was one difficulty. The Jesuits' estates were intended to be made over into educational endowments under government control. But Amherst's claim that they had been granted to him in 1760 was not settled for forty years; and by that time all chance of carrying out the committee's intentions was seen to be hopeless.

Commerce was another burning question and one of much more immediate concern. In 1791 the united populations of all the provinces amounted to only a quarter of a million, of whom at least one-half were French Canadians. Quebec and Montreal had barely ten thousand citizens apiece. But the commercial classes, mostly English-speaking, had greatly increased in numbers, ability, and social standing. The camp-following gangs of twenty years before had now either disappeared or sunk down to their appropriate level. So petitions from the 'British merchants' required and received much more consideration than formerly. The Loyalists had not yet had time to start in business. All their energies were needed in hewing out their future homes. But two parts of the American Republic, Vermont and Kentucky, were very anxious to do business with the British at any reasonable price. Some of their citizens were even ready for a change of allegiance if the terms were only good enough. Vermont wanted a 'free trade' outlet to the St Lawrence by way of the Richelieu. The rapids between St Johns and Chambly lay in British territory. But Vermont was ready to join in building a canal and would even become British to make sure. The old Green Mountain Boys had changed their tune. Ethan Allen himself had buried the hatchet and, like his brother, become Carleton's friendly correspondent. He frankly explained that what Vermonters really wanted was 'property not liberty' and added that they would stand no coercion from the American government. About the same time Kentucky was bent on getting an equally 'free trade' outlet to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi. The fact that France Spain, the British Empire, and the United States might all be involved in war over it did not trouble the conspirators in the least. The central authority of the new Republic was still weak. The individual states were still ready to fly asunder. Federal taxation was greatly feared. Anything that savored of federal interference with state rights was passionately resented. The general spirit of the westerners was that of the exploiting pioneer in a virgin wilderness--a law unto itself alone. There were various plans for opening the coveted Mississippi. One was to join Spain. Another was to seize New Orleans, turn out the French, and bring in the British. Then, to make the plot complete, the French minister to the United States was asking permission to make a tour through Canada at the very time when Carleton was sending home reams of documents bearing on the impending troubles. The letters exchanged on this subject are perfect models of politeness. But Carleton's answer was an emphatic No.

Foreign complications were thickening fast. The French Revolution had already begun, though its effect was not yet felt in Canada. The American government was anxiously watching its refractory states, while an anti-British political party was making headway in the South. As if this was not enough to engage whatever attention Carleton had to spare from the internal affairs of Canada, he suddenly heard that the Spaniards had been seizing British vessels trading to a British post on Vancouver Island. [Footnote: _See Pioneers of the Pacific Coast_ in this Series.] This Nootka Affair, which nearly brought on a war with Spain in 1790, was settled in London and Madrid. But the threat of war added to Carleton's anxieties.

Meanwhile the governor was busily employed with an immigration problem. It was desirable that the English-speaking immigrants should settle on the land with the least possible friction between them and the French Canadians. The French Canadians differed among themselves. But no such differences brought them any closer to their new neighbors on questions of land settlement. The French had granted lands in seigneuries. The British would hear of nothing but free and common socage. French farms were measured by the arpent and were staked out in long and narrow oblongs. British farms were measured by the acre and staked out 'on the square.' Language, laws, religion, manners and customs, ways of life, were also different. So there was hardly any intermixture of settlements. The French Canadians remained where they were. Most of the new Anglo-Canadians settled in the Maritime Provinces or moved west into what is now Ontario. A few settled in rural Quebec on lands outside the line of seigneuries. The Eastern Townships, that part of the province lying east of the Richelieu and nearest the American frontier, absorbed many English, Irish, and Scots, as well as a good many Americans who were attracted by cheap land. Ontario, or Upper Canada, received still more Americans, who were to be a thorn in the side of the British during the War of 1812.

But Carleton's work comprised much more than this. There were the Church of England, the Post Office, a refractory lieutenant-governor down in Prince Edward Island, two royal visitors, and many other distracting matters. The only Anglican see thus far established was at Halifax; but the bishop there had authority over the whole country and the government intended to establish the Church of England in Canada and endow it. The Presbyterians also petitioned for the establishment of the Scottish Church. The fortunes or misfortunes of the Clergy Reserves belong to another chapter of Canadian history. But the root of their good or evil was planted in the time of Carleton. The postal service was surrounded by enormous difficulties--the vast extent of wild country, the few towns, the long winters, the poverty of the people. The question of the winter port was even then a live one between St John and Halifax. Each of these towns asserted its advantages and promised twelve trips a year and connection with Quebec overland by means of walking postmen till a bush road should be cut from Quebec to the sea. In Prince Edward Island the old lieutenant-governor, Walter Patterson, declined to make way for the new one, Edmund Fanning. In the end Patterson gave up the contest. But the incident, trivial as it now appears, shows what a governor-general had to face in the early days when each province had queer little ways of its own. Patterson had no precise official reason. But he said he could not go home to answer charges he did not understand and leave an island which had been his very successful hobby for so many years! The people sided with him so vigorously that time had to be given them to cool down before the transfer could be peaceably effected.

A judge whose court is in perpetual session or a commander whose inadequate forces are continually surrounded by prospective enemies has little time for the amenities of purely social life. So Carleton generally left his young consort to rule the viceregal court at the Chateau St Louis with a perfect blend of London and Versailles. Two Princes of the Blood, however, demanded more than the usual attention from the governor. Prince William Henry, afterwards King William IV, was the first member of the Royal Family to set foot in the New World when he arrived in H.M.S. _Pegasus_ in 1787. He was the proverbial jolly Jack Tar, extremely affable to everybody; and he quickly won golden opinions from all who met him, except perhaps from Lady Dorchester and sundry would-be partners for his duty dances. Philippe Aubert de Gaspe and other privileged chroniclers record with slightly shocked delight how often he would break loose from Lady Dorchester's designing care, long before she thought it right for him to do so, and 'command' his partners for their pretty faces instead of by precedence. At Sorel the people were so carried away by their enthusiasm that they insisted on changing the name of their little town to William Henry. Happily this name never took root in public sentiment and the old one soon came back to stay.

The second member of the Royal Family to come to Canada was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III, father of Queen Victoria and grandfather of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who became the first royal governor-general in 1911, exactly a hundred and twenty years later. The Duke of Kent would have gladly returned to Quebec as governor-general, and the people would have gladly welcomed him. But he was not a favorite with the government at home, and so he never came. There was no doubt about his being a popular favorite in Quebec during the three years he spent there as colonel of the 7th Fusiliers. Nor has he been forgotten to the present day. Kent House is still the name of his quarters in the town as well as of his country residence at Montmorency Falls seven miles away, while the only new opening ever made in the walls is called Kent Gate.

The duke made fast friends with several of the seigneurial families, more especially with the de Salaberrys, whose manor-house at Beauport stood half-way between Montmorency and Quebec and not far from Montcalm's headquarters in 1759. The de Salaberrys were a military family. All the sons went into the Army and one became the hero of Chateauguay in the War of 1812. But the duke mixed freely with many other people than the local aristocracy. He was young, high-spirited, and loved adventure, as was proved by his subsequent gallantry at Martinique. He was also fond of driving round incognito, a habit which on at least one occasion obliged him to put his skill at boxing to good use. This was at Charlesbourg, a village near Quebec, where he was watching the fun at the first election ever held. Perhaps, from a meticulously constitutional point of view, the scene of a hotly contested election was not quite the place for Princes of the Blood. But, however that might be, when the duke saw two electors pummeling a third, who happened to be a friend of his, he dashed in to the rescue and floored both of them with a neatly planted right and left. One of these men, who lived to see King Edward VII arrive in 1860, as Prince of Wales, always took the greatest pride in telling successive generations of voters how Queen Victoria's father had knocked him down.

Like his brother before him the duke was very fond of dancing, and kept many a reluctant senior and many a tired-out chaperone up till all hours at the grand ball given in honor of his twenty-fourth birthday. Also like his brother he was inclined to reduce his duty dances to a minimum, much to Lady Dorchester's dismay. She had gone home with her husband for two years shortly after the duke's arrival. But she had seen enough of him, and was to see enough again on her return, to make her regret the good old times of more exacting ceremony. To her dying day, half a century later, she kept up a prodigious stateliness of manner. Before meals she expected the whole company to assemble and remain standing till she had made her royal progress through the room. She was a living anachronism for many years before her death, with her high-heeled, gold-buttoned, scarlet-colored shoes, her Marie-Antoinette _coiffure_ raised high above her head and interlaced with ribbons, her elaborately gorgeous dress, her intricate array of ornaments, and her long, jet-black, official-looking cane. But she was no anachronism to herself; for she still lived in the light of other days, in the fondly remembered times when, as the vice-reine of the Chateau St Louis, she helped her consort to settle nice points of etiquette and maintain a dignity befitting His Majesty's chosen representative. How did the seigneurs rank among themselves and with the leading English-speaking people? Who were to dance in the state minuet? Should dancing cease when the bishops came in, and for how long? Was that curtsy dropped quite low enough to her viceregal self, and did that _debutante_ offer her blushing cheek in quite the proper way to Carleton when he graciously gave her the presentation kiss? How immeasurably far away it all seems now, that stately little court where the echoes of a dead Versailles lived on for seven years after the fall of the Bastille! And yet there is still one citizen o Quebec whose early partners were chaperoned by ladies who had danced the minuet with Lord and Lady Dorchester.

The two royal visits were not without their political significance--using the word political in its larger meaning. But the three years between them--that is, 1788-89-90--formed the really pregnant time of constitutional development, when the Canada Act of 1791 was taking shape in the minds of its chief authors --Carleton and Smith in Canada, Grenville and Pitt in England. The Loyalists and the English-speaking merchants of Quebec and Montreal took good care to make themselves heard at every stage of the proceedings. Most French Canadians would have preferred to be left without the suspected blessings of a parliament. The clergy and seigneurs wished for a continuance of the Quebec Act, and the habitants wanted they knew not what, provided it would enable them to get more and give less. The English-speaking people, on the other hand, were all for a parliament. But they differed widely as to what kind of parliament would suit their purpose best. As a rule they acquiesced, with a more or less bad grace, in the necessity of admitting French Canadians on the same terms as themselves. If Canada, without the Maritime Provinces, should be taken as a whole then the French Canadians would only be in a moderate majority. If, however, two provinces, Upper Canada and Lower Canada, were to be erected, then the English-speaking minority in Lower Canada would be outvoted three or four to one.

There was a third alternative: no less than the establishment of a regular Dominion of British North America in 1790, a step which might have saved much trouble between that time and the Confederation of 1867. William Smith was its strongest advocate, Carleton its most cautious and judicious supporter. The chief justice was in favor of federating Upper and Lower Canada with the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland into a single dominion. Each of the six provinces would have its own parliament under a lieutenant-governor, while there would also be a central parliament under a governor-general. Carleton forwarded the suggestion to the home government; but he nowhere committed himself to any very definite scheme. His own preference was for keeping the existing province of Quebec a little longer, then dividing it, and afterwards drawing in the other provinces. The chief justice preferred to make a constitution. The governor preferred to let it grow. The home government's preference could not be stated better than in Grenville's dispatch to Carleton of the 20th of October 1789: 'The general object is to assimilate the constitution to that of Great Britain as nearly as the difference arising from the manners of the People and from the present situation of the Province will admit. ... Attention is due to the prejudices and habits of the French Inhabitants and every caution should be used to continue to them the enjoyment of those civil and religious Rights which were secured to them by the Capitulation or which have since been granted by the liberal and enlightened spirit of the British Government.' Except for its rather too self-righteous conclusion this confidential announcement really is an admirable statement of the 'liberal and enlightened' views which prevailed at Westminster.

The bill, postponed in 1790, was introduced by Pitt himself in the House of Commons on the 7th of March 1791. Sixteen days later Adam Lymburner, a representative merchant of Quebec, whom Carleton described as 'a quiet, decent man, not unfriendly to the administration,' pleaded for hours before the committee of the House of Commons against the division of the province. All the English-speaking minority in the prospective province of Lower Canada were afraid of being swamped by the French-Canadian vote, and so of being hampered in liberty and trade. The London merchants naturally backed Lymburner. Fox opposed the bill as not being liberal enough. Burke flared up into the speech which led to his final breach with Fox. Pitt, the pilot who was to weather far greater storms in the years to come, eventually got the bill through both Houses with substantial majorities. On the 14th of May it became law. Quebec and Ontario were parted for good, notwithstanding the legislative union of fifty years later.

The Canada Act, or, as it is better known, the Constitutional Act, cut off Upper Canada. Lower Canada was now the old Quebec reduced to its right size, endowed with clarified laws and a brand-new parliament, and made as acceptable as possible to the English-speaking minority without any injustice to the vastly greater French majority. Quebec, Three Rivers, Montreal, and Sorel got each two members in the new parliament, an allotment which ensured a certain representation of the 'British' merchants. The franchise was the same in both provinces: in the country parts a forty-shilling freehold or its equivalent, and in the towns either a five-pound annual ownership value or twice that for a tenant. The Crown gave up all taxation except commercial duties, which were to be applied solely for the benefit of the provinces. Lands outside the seigneuries were to be in free and common socage, while seigneurial tenure itself could be converted into freehold on petition. One-seventh of the Crown lands was reserved for the endowment of the Church of England. The Crown kept all rights of veto and appointment. The legislatures were small in membership. The Upper Houses could be made hereditary; though the actual tenure was never more than for life during good behavior. Carleton favored the hereditary principle whenever it could be applied with advantage. But he knew the ups and downs of colonial fortunes too well to believe that Canada was ready for any such experiment.

No one dreamt of having what is now known as responsible government, that is, an executive sitting in the legislature and responsible to the legislature for its acts. Nor was the greatest of all parliamentary powers--the power of the purse--given outright. This, however, was owing to simple force of circumstances and not to any desire of abridging the liberties of the people. The fact is that at this time eighty per cent of the total civil expenditure had to be paid by the home government. It is frequently ignored that the mother country paid most of Canada's bills till long after the War of 1812, that she paid nearly all the naval and military accounts for longer still, and that she has borne far more than her own share of the common defense down to the present day.

The new constitution came into force on the 26th of December 1791; and, for the first time, Upper and Lower Canada had the right to elect their own representatives. Assemblies, of course, were nothing new in British North America. Nova Scotia had an assembly in 1758, the year that Louisbourg was taken. Prince Edward Island had one in 1773, the year before the Quebec Act was passed. New Brunswick had one in 1786, the year Carleton began his second term. But assemblies still had all the charm of novelty in 'Canada proper.' Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that Upper Canada experienced more charm than novelty while Lower Canada experienced more novelty than charm. The Anglo-Canadians in all five provinces were used to parliaments in America. Their ancestors had been used to them for centuries in England. So the little parliament of Upper Canada at Newark passed as many bills in five weeks as that of Lower Canada passed in seven months. The fact that there were fifty members in the Assembly at Quebec, while there were only half as many in both chambers at Newark, doubtless had something to do with it. But the fact that the Quebec parliament was an innovation, while the one at Newark was a simple development, had very much more.

There is no need to follow the course of legislation in any of the five provinces. As most of the civil and practically all the naval and military expenditure had to be met by the Imperial Treasury, and as Canada was five parts and no whole from her own parliamentary point of view, the legislation required for a grand total of two hundred and fifty thousand people could not be of the national kind. But at Quebec the scene, the setting, and the unheard-of innovation itself all give a special interest to every detail of the opening ceremony on the 17th of December 1792.

Carleton was in England, so the Speech from the Throne was read by the lieutenant-governor, Major-General Sir Alured Clarke. Half of the Upper House and two-thirds of the Lower were French Canadians. A French-Canadian member was nominated for the speakership and elected unanimously. Both races were for the most part represented by members whose official title of 'Honorable Gentlemen' was not at all a misnomer. The French members of the Assembly were half distrustful both of it and of themselves. But they knew how to add grace and dignity to a very notable occasion. The old Bishop's Palace served as the Houses of Parliament and so continued for many years to come. It was a solid rather than a stately pile. But it stood on a commanding site at the head of Mountain Hill between the Grand Battery and the Chateau St Louis. Every one was in uniform or in what corresponded to court dress. Round the throne stood many officers in their red and gold, conspicuous among them the Duke of Kent. In front sat the Executive and Legislative Councilors, corresponding to the modern cabinet ministers and senators. Their roll, as well as the Assembly's, bore many names that recalled the glories of the old regime--St Ours, Longueuil, de Lanaudiere, Boucherville, de Salaberry, de Lotbiniere, and many more. The Council chamber was crowded in every part long before the governor arrived. 'The Ladies introduced into the House' were 'without Hat, Cloak, or Bonnet,' the 'Doorkeeper of His Majesty's Council' having taken good care to see them 'leave the same in the Great Committee Room previous to their Introduction.' 'The Ladies attached to His Excellency's Suite' were admitted 'within the railing or body of the House' and 'accommodated with the seats of the members as far as possible.' Outwardly it was all very much the same in principle as the opening of any other British parliament--the escort, guard, and band, the royal salute, the brilliant staff, the scarlet cloth of state, the few and quiet members of the Upper House, the many of the Lower, jostling each other to get a good place near Mr Speaker at the bar, the radiant ladies, the crowded galleries corniced with inquiring faces and craned necks, the Gentlemen Ushers and their quaint bows, the Speech from the Throne and the occasional lifting of His Excellency's hat, the retiring in full state; and then the ebbing away of all the sightseers, their eddying currents of packed humanity in the halls and passages, the porch, the door, the emptying street. But inwardly what a world of difference! For here was the first British parliament in which legislators of foreign birth and blood and language were shaping British laws as British subjects.

In September 1793 Carleton returned from his two years' absence and was welcomed more warmly than ever. Quebec blazed with illuminations. The streets swarmed with eager crowds. The first session of the first parliament had been better than any one had dared to hope for. There was a general tendency to give the new constitution a fair trial; and all classes looked to Carleton to make the harmony that had been attained both permanent and universal. Dr Jacob Mountain, first Anglican bishop of Quebec, also arrived shortly afterwards and was warmly greeted by the Roman Catholic prelate, who embraced him, saying, 'It's time you came to shepherd your own flock.' Mountain was statesman and churchman in one. He had been chosen by the elder Pitt to be the younger's tutor and then chosen by the younger to be his private secretary. The fact that the Anglican bishop of Quebec was then and for many years afterwards a sort of Canadian chaplain-general to the Imperial troops and that most of the leading officials and leading Loyalists belonged to the Church of England made him a personage of great importance. It was fortunate that, as in the case of Inglis down in Halifax, the choice could not have fallen on a better man or on one who knew better how to win the esteem of communions other than his own. This same year (1793) died William Smith, full of honors. But the next year his excellent successor arrived in the person of William Osgoode, the new chief justice, an eminent English lawyer who had served for two years as chief justice of Upper Canada and whose name is commemorated in Osgoode Hall, Toronto. He had come out on the distinct understanding that no fees were to be attached to his office, only a definite salary. This was a great triumph for Carleton, who certainly practiced what he preached.

So far, so good. But the third conspicuous new arrival, John Graves Simcoe, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, who had come out the year before, was a great deal less to Carleton's liking. Simcoe was a good officer who threw himself heart and soul into the work of settling the new province. He won the affectionate regard of his people and is gratefully remembered by their posterity. But he was too exclusively of his own province in his civil and military outlook and was disposed to ignore Carleton as his official chief. Moreover, he was appointed in spite of Carleton's strongly expressed preference for Sir John Johnson, who, to all appearances, was the very man for the post. Sir William Johnson, the first baronet, had been the great British leader of the Indians and a person of much consequence throughout America. His son John inherited many of his good qualities, thoroughly understood the West and its problems, was a devoted Loyalist all through the Revolution, when he raised the King's Royal Regiment of New York, and would have been second only to Carleton himself in the eyes of all Canadians, old and new. But the government thought his private interests too great for his public duty--an excellent general principle, though misapplied in this particular case. At any rate, Simcoe came instead, and the friction began at once. Simcoe's commission clearly made him subordinate to Carleton. Yet Simcoe made appointments without consulting his superior and argued the point after he had been brought to book. He communicated directly with the home government over his superior's head and was not rebuked by the minister to whom he wrote--Henry Dundas, afterwards first Viscount Melville. Dundas, indeed, was half inclined to snub Carleton. Simcoe desired to establish military posts wherever he thought they would best promote immediate settlement, a policy which would tend to sap both the government's resources and the self-reliance of the settlers. He also wished to fix the capital at London instead of York, now Toronto, and to make York instead of Kingston the naval base for Lake Ontario. Thus the friction continued. At length Carleton wrote to the Duke of Portland, Pitt's home secretary, saying: 'All command, civil and military, being thus disorganized and without remedy, your Grace will, I hope, excuse my anxiety for the arrival of any successor, who may have authority sufficient to restore order, lest these insubordinations should extend to mutiny among the troops and sedition among the people.' That was in November 1795. The government, however, took no decisive action, and next year both Carleton and Simcoe left Canada for ever.

When this unfortunate quarrel began (1793) Canada was in grave danger of being attacked by both the French and the American republics. The danger, however, had been greatly lessened by Jay's Treaty of 1794 and was to be still further lessened (1796) by the transfer of the Western Posts to the United States and by the presidential election which gave the Federal party a new lease of power, though no longer under Washington. Had Carleton remained in Canada these felicitous events would have offered him a unique opportunity of strengthening the friendly ties between the British and the Americans in a way which might have saved some trouble later on. But that was not to be.

To understand the dangers which threatened Canada during the last three years of Carleton's rule we must go back to February 1793, when revolutionary France declared war on England and there then began that titanic struggle which only ended twenty-two years later on the field of Waterloo. The Americans were divided into two parties, one disposed to be friendly towards Great Britain, the other unfriendly. The names these parties then bore must not be confused with those borne by their political offspring at the present day. The Federals, progenitors of the present Republicans, formed the friendly party under Washington, Hamilton, and Jay. The Republicans, progenitors of the present Democrats, formed the unfriendly party under Jefferson, Madison, and Randolph. The Federals were in power, the Republicans in opposition. When the Republicans got into power in 1801 under Jefferson they pursued their anti-British policy till they finally brought on the War of 1812 under the presidency of Madison. The strength of the peace party lay in the North; that of the war party lay in the South. The peaceful Federals, now that Independence had been gained, were in favor of meeting the amicable British government half-way. When Pitt came into power in 1783 he at once held out the olive branch. Now, ten years later, the more far-seeing statesmen on both sides were preparing to confirm the new friendship in the practical form of Jay's Treaty, which put the United States into what is at present known as a most-favored-nation position with regard to British trade and commerce. Moreover, Washington and his Northern Federals much preferred a British Canada to a French one, while Jefferson and the Southern Republicans thought any stick was good enough to beat the British dog with.

The Jeffersonians eagerly seized on the reports of a speech which Carleton made to the Miamis, who lived just south of Detroit, and used it to the utmost as a means of stirring up anti-British feeling. Carleton had said: 'You are witnesses that we have acted in the most peaceable manner and borne the language and conduct of the United States with patience. But I believe our patience is almost exhausted.' Applied to the vexed questions of the Western Posts, of the lawless ways of the exterminating American pioneers, and of the infinitely worse jobbing politicians behind them, this language was mildness itself. But in view of the high statesmanship of Washington and his government it was injudicious. All the same, Dundas, more especially because he was a cabinet minister, was even more injudicious when he adopted a tone of reproof towards Carleton, whose great services, past and present, entitled him to unusual respect and confidence. The negotiations for Jay's Treaty were then in progress in London, and Jefferson saw his chance of injuring both the American and British governments by magnifying Carleton's speech into an 'unwarrantable outrage.' He also hoped that an Indian war would upset the treaty and bring on a British war as well. And the prospect did look encouragingly black in the West, where the American general Wayne was ready waiting south of Lake Erie, while the trade in scalps was unusually brisk. Forty dollars was the regular market price for an ordinary Indian's scalp. But as much as a thousand was offered for Simon Girty's in the hope of getting that inconvenient British scout put quickly out of the way. Nearer home Jefferson and his band of demagogues had other arguments as well. The Federal North would suffer most by war, while the Republican South might use war as a means of repudiating all the debts she owed to Englishmen. This would have been a very different thing from the insolvency of the Continental Congress during the Revolution. It was dire want, not financial infamy, that made the Revolutionary paper money 'not worth a Continental.' But it would have been sheer theft for the Jeffersonian South to have made its honest obligations 'rotten as a Pennsylvanian bond.'

The wild French-Revolutionary rage that swept through the South now fanned the flame and made the sparks fly over into Canada. In April 1793 a fiery Red Republican, named Genet, landed at Charleston as French minister to the United States and made a triumphal progress to Philadelphia. Nobody bothered about the fundamental differences between the French and American revolutions. France and England were going to war and that was enough. Genet was one of those 'impossibles' whom revolutions throw into ridiculous power. When he began his campaign the Republican South was at his feet. Planters and legislators donned caps of liberty and danced themselves so crazy over the rights of abstract man that they had no enthusiasm left for such concrete instances as Loyalists, Englishmen, and their own plantation slaves. Then Genet made his next step in the new diplomacy by fitting out French privateers in American harbors and seizing British vessels in American waters. This brought Washington down on him at once. Then he lost his head completely, abused everybody, including Jefferson, and retired from public life as an American citizen, being afraid to go home.

Genet's absurd career was short, but very meteoric while it lasted, and full of anti-British mischief-making. His agents were everywhere; and his successor, Adet, carried on the underground agitation with equal zeal and more astuteness. Vermont offered an excellent base of operations. Finding that its British proclivities had not produced the Chambly canal for its trade with the St Lawrence, it had become more violently anti-British than ever before and even proposed taking Canada single-handed. This time its new policy remained at fever heat for over three years and only cooled down when a British man-of-war captured the incongruously named _Olive Branch_, in which Ira Allen was trying to run the blockade from Ostend with twenty thousand muskets and other arms which he represented as being solely for the annual drill of the Vermont militia. Thus Carleton had to watch the raging South, the dangerous West, and bellicose Vermont, all together, besides taking whatever measures he could against the swarms of secret enemies within the gates. The American immigrants who wanted 'property not liberty' were ready enough for a change of flag whenever it suited them. But they were few compared with the mass of French Canadians who were being stirred into disaffection. The seigneurs, the clergy, and the very few enlightened people of other classes had no desire for being conquered by a regicide France or an obliterating American Republic. But many of the habitants and of the uneducated in the towns lent a willing ear to those who promised them all kinds of liberty and property put together.

The danger was all the greater because it was no longer one foreigner intriguing against another, as in 1775, but French against British and class against class. Some of the appeals were still ridiculous. The habitants found themselves credited with an unslakable thirst for higher education. They were promised 'free' maritime intercommunication between the Old World and the New, a wonderful extension of representative institutions, and much more to the same effect, universal revolutionary brotherhood included. But when Frenchmen came promising fleets and armies, when these emissaries were backed by French Canadians who had left home for good reasons after the troubles of 1775, and when the habitants were positively assured by all these credible witnesses that France and the United States were going to drive the British out of Canada and make a heaven on earth for all who would turn against Carleton, then there really was something that sensible men could believe. Everything for nothing--or next to nothing. Only turn against the British and the rest would be easy. No more tithes to the cures, no more seigneurial dues, no more taxes to a government which put half the money in its own pocket and sent the other half to the king, who spent it buying palaces and crowns.

'Nothing is too absurd for them to believe, wrote Carleton, who felt all the old troubles of 1775 coming back in a greatly aggravated form. He lost no time in vain regrets, however, but got a militia bill through parliament, improved the defenses of Quebec, and issued a proclamation enjoining all good subjects to find out, report, and seize every sedition-monger they could lay their hands on. An attempt to embody two thousand militiamen by ballot was a dead failure. The few English-speaking militiamen required came forward 'with alacrity.' The habitants hung back or broke into riotous mobs. The ordinary habitant could hardly be blamed. He saw little difference between one kind of English-speaking people and another. So he naturally thought it best to be on the side of the prospective winners, especially when they persuaded him that he would get back everything taken from him by 'the infamous Quebec Act.' There really was no way whatever of getting him to see the truth under these circumstances. The mere fact that his condition had improved so much under British rule made him all the readier to cry for the Franco-American moon. Things presently went from bad to worse. A glowing, bombastic address from 'The Free French to their Canadian Brothers' (who of course were 'slaves') was even read out at more than one church door. Then the Quebec Assembly unanimously passed an Alien Act in May 1794, and suspected characters began to find that two could play at the game. This stringent act was not passed a day too soon. By its provisions the Habeas Corpus Act could be suspended or suppressed and the strongest measures taken against sedition in every form. Monk, the attorney-general, reported that 'It is astonishing to find the same savagery exhibited here as in France.' The habitants and lower class of townsfolk had beers well worked up 'to follow France and the United States by destroying a throne which was the seat of hypocrisy, imposture, despotism, greed, cruelty' and all the other deadly sins. The first step was to be the assassination of all obnoxious officials and leading British patriots the minute the promised invasion began to prove successful.

No war came. And, as we have seen already, Carleton's last year, 1796, was more peaceful than his first. But even then the external dangers made the governor-general's post a very trying one, especially when internal troubles were equally rife. Thus Carleton never enjoyed a single day without its anxious moments till, old and growing weary, though devoted as ever, he finally left Quebec on the 9th of July. This was the second occasion on which he had been forced to resign by unfair treatment at the hands of those who should have been his best support. It was infinitely worse the first time, when he was stabbed in the back by that shameless political assassin, Lord George Germain. But the second was also inexcusable because there could be no doubt whatever as to which of the incompatibles should have left his post--the replaceable Simcoe or the irreplaceable Carleton. Yet as H.M.S. _Active_ rounded Point Levy, and the great stronghold of Quebec faded from his view, Carleton had at least the satisfaction of knowing that he had been the principal savior of one British Canada and the principal founder of another.


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Chronicles of Canada, The Father of British Canada, A Chronicle of Carleton, 1915

 

Chronicles of Canada


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