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General Murray, 1759-1766

Both armies spent a terrible winter after the Battle of the Plains. There was better shelter for the French in Montreal than for the British among the ruins of Quebec. But in the matter of food the positions were reversed. Nevertheless the French gallantly refused the truce offered them by Murray, who had now succeeded Wolfe. They were determined to make a supreme effort to regain Quebec in the spring; and they were equally determined that the habitants should not be free to supply the British with provisions.

In spite of the state of war, however, the French and British officers, even as prisoners and captors, began to make friends. They had found each other foemen worthy of their steel. A distinguished French officer, the Comte de Malartic, writing to Levis, Montcalm's successor, said: 'I cannot speak too highly of General Murray, although he is our enemy.' Murray, on his part, was equally loud and generous in his praise of the French. The Canadian seigneurs found fellow-gentlemen among the British officers. The priests and nuns of Quebec found many fellow-Catholics among the Scottish and Irish troops, and nothing but courteous treatment from the soldiers of every rank and form of religion. Murray directed that 'the compliment of the hat' should be paid to all religious processions. The Ursuline nuns knitted long stockings for the bare-legged Highlanders when the winter came on, and presented each Scottish officer with an embroidered St Andrew's Cross on the 30th of November, St Andrew's Day. The whole garrison won the regard of the town by giving up part of their rations for the hungry poor; while the habitants from the surrounding country presently began to find out that the British were honest to deal with and most humane, though sternly just, as conquerors.

In the following April Levis made his desperate throw for victory; and actually did succeed in defeating Murray outside the walls of Quebec. But the British fleet came up in May; and that summer three British armies converged on Montreal, where the last doomed remnants of French power on the St Lawrence stood despairingly at bay. When Levis found his two thousand effective French regulars surrounded by eight times as many British troops he had no choice but to lay down the arms of France for ever. On the 8th of September 1760 his gallant little army was included in the Capitulation of Montreal, by which the whole of Canada passed into the possession of the British Crown.

Great Britain had a different general idea for each one of the four decades which immediately followed the conquest of Canada. In the sixties the general idea was to kill refractory old French ways with a double dose of new British liberty and kindness, so that Canada might gradually become the loyal fourteenth colony of the Empire in America. But the fates were against this benevolent scheme. The French Canadians were firmly wedded to their old ways of life, except in so far as the new liberty enabled them to throw off irksome duties and restraints, while the new English-speaking 'colonists' were so few, and mostly so bad, that they became the cause of endless discord where harmony was essential. In the seventies the idea was to restore the old French-Canadian life so as not only to make Canada proof against the disaffection of the Thirteen Colonies but also to make her a safe base of operations against rebellious Americans. In the eighties the great concern of the government was to make a harmonious whole out of two very widely differing parts--the long-settled French Canadians and the newly arrived United Empire Loyalists. In the nineties each of these parts was set to work out its own salvation under its own provincial constitution.

Carleton's is the only personality which links together all four decades--the would-be American sixties, the French-Canadian seventies, the Anglo-French-Canadian eighties, and the bi-constitutional nineties--though, as mentioned already, Murray ruled Canada for the first seven years, 1759-66.

James Murray, the first British governor of Canada, was a younger son of the fourth Lord Elibank. He was just over forty, warm-hearted and warm-tempered, an excellent French scholar, and every inch a soldier. He had been a witness for the defense of Mordaunt at the court-martial held to try the authors of the Rochefort fiasco in 1757. Wolfe, who was a witness on the other side, referred to him later on as 'my old antagonist Murray.' But Wolfe knew a good man when he saw one and gave his full confidence to his 'old antagonist' both at Louisbourg and Quebec. Murray was not born under a lucky star. He saw three defeats in three successive wars. He began his service with the abortive attack on pestilential Cartagena, where Wolfe's father was present as adjutant-general. In mid-career he lost the battle of Ste Foy.1 And his active military life ended with his surrender of Minorca in 1782. But he was greatly distinguished for honor and steadfastness on all occasions. An admiring contemporary described him as a model of all the military virtues except prudence. But he had more prudence and less genius than his admirer thought; and he showed a marked talent for general government. The problem before him was harder than his superiors could believe. He was expected to prepare for assimilation some sixty-five thousand 'new subjects' who were mostly alien in religion and wholly alien in every other way. But, for the moment, this proved the least of his many difficulties because no immediate results were required.

While the war went on in Europe Canada remained nominally a part of the enemy's dominions, and so, of course, was subject to military rule. Sir Jeffery Amherst, the British commander-in-chief in America, took up his headquarters in New York. Under him Murray commanded Canada from Quebec. Under Murray, Colonel Burton commanded the district of Three Rivers while General Gage commanded the district of Montreal, which then extended to the western wilds.2

Murray's first great trouble arose in 1761. It was caused by an outrageous War Office order that fourpence a day should be stopped from the soldiers to pay for the rations they had always got free. Such gross injustice, coming in time of war and applied to soldiers who richly deserved reward, made the veterans 'mad with rage.' Quebec promised to be the scene of a wild mutiny. Murray, like all his officers, thought the stoppage nothing short of robbery. But he threw himself into the breach. He assembled the officers and explained that they must die to the last man rather than allow the mutineers a free hand. He then held a general parade at which he ordered the troops to march between two flag-poles on pain of instant death, promising to kill with his own hands the first man who refused. He added that he was ready to hear and forward any well-founded complaint, but that, since insubordination had been openly threatened, he would insist on subordination being publicly shown. Then, amid tense silence, he gave the word of command Quick, March! while every officer felt his trigger. To the immense relief of all concerned the men stepped off, marched straight between the flags and back to quarters, tamed. The criminal War Office blunder was rectified and peace was restored in the ranks.

'Murray's Report' of 1762 gives us a good view of the Canada of that day and shows the attitude of the British towards their new possession. Canada had been conquered by Great Britain, with some help from the American colonies, for three main reasons: first, to strike a death-blow at French dominion in America; secondly, to increase the opportunities of British seaborne trade; and, thirdly, to enlarge the area available for British settlement. When Murray was instructed to prepare a report on Canada he had to keep all this in mind; for the government wished to satisfy the public both at home and in the colonies. He had to examine the military strength of the country and the disposition of its population in case of future wars with France. He had to satisfy the natural curiosity of men like the London merchants. And he had to show how and where English-speaking settlers could go in and make Canada not only a British possession but the fourteenth British colony in North America. Burton and Gage were also instructed to report about their own districts of Three Rivers and Montreal. The documents they prepared were tacked on to Murray's. By June 1762 the work was completed and sent on to Amherst, who sent it to England in ample time to be studied there before the opening of the impending negotiations for peace.

Murray was greatly concerned about the military strength of Quebec, then, as always, the key of Canada. Like the unfortunate Montcalm he found the walls of Quebec badly built, badly placed, and falling into ruins, and he thought they could not be defended by three thousand men against 'a well conducted Coup-de-main.' He proposed to crown Cape Diamond with a proper citadel, which would overawe the disaffected in Quebec itself and defend the place against an outside enemy long enough to let a British fleet come up to its relief. The rest of the country was defended by little garrisons at Three Rivers and Montreal as well as by several small detachments distributed among the trading-posts where the white men and the red met in the depths of the western wilderness.

The relations between the British garrison and the French Canadians were so excellent that what Gage reported from Montreal might be taken as equally true of the rest of the country: 'The Soldiers live peaceably with the Inhabitants and they reciprocally acquire an affection for each other.' The French Canadians numbered sixty-five thousand altogether, exclusive of the fur traders and coureurs de bois. Barely fifteen thousand lived in the three little towns of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers; while over fifty thousand lived in the country. Nearly all the officials had gone back to France. The three classes of greatest importance were the seigneurs, the clergy, and the habitants. The lawyers were not of much account; the petty commercial classes of less account still. The coureurs de bois and other fur traders formed an important link between the savage and the civilized life of the country.

Apart from furs the trade of Canada was contemptibly small in the eyes of men like the London merchants. But the opportunity of fostering all the fur trade that could be carried down the St Lawrence was very well worth while; and if there was no other existing trade worth capturing there seemed to be some kinds worth creating. Murray held out well-grounded hopes of the fisheries and forests. 'A Most immense Cod Fishery can be established in the River and Gulph of St Lawrence. A rich tract of country on the South Side of the Gulph will be settled and improved, and a port or ports furnished with every material requisite to repair ships.' He then went on to enumerate the other kinds of fishery, the abundance of whales, seals, and walruses in the Gulf, and of salmon up all the tributary rivers. Burton recommends immediate attention to the iron mines behind Three Rivers. All the governors expatiate on the vast amount of forest wealth and remind the home government that under the French regime the king, when making out patents for the seigneurs, reserved the right of taking wood for ship-building and fortifications from any of the seigneuries. Agriculture was found to be in a very backward state. The habitants would raise no more than they required for their own use and for a little local trade. But the fault was attributed to the gambling attractions of the fur trade, to the bad governmental system, and to the frequent interruptions of the corvee, a kind of forced labor which was meant to serve the public interest, but which Bigot and other thievish officials always turned to their own private advantage. On the whole, the reports were most encouraging in the prospects they held out to honest labor, trade, and government.

While Murray and his lieutenants had been collecting information for their reports the home government had been undergoing many changes for the worse. The master-statesman Pitt had gone out of power and the back-stairs politician Bute had come in. Pitt's 'bloody and expensive war'--the war that more than any other, laid the foundations of the present British Empire--was to be ended on any terms the country could be persuaded to bear. Thus the end of the Seven Years' War, or, as the British part of it was more correctly called, the 'Maritime War,' was no more glorious in statesmanship than its beginning had been in arms. But the spirit of its mighty heart still lived on in the Empire's grateful memories of Pitt and quickened the English-speaking world enough to prevent any really disgraceful surrender of the hard-won fruits of victory.

The Treaty of Paris, signed on the 10th of February 1763, and the king's proclamation, published in October, were duly followed by the inauguration of civil government in Canada. The incompetent Bute, anxious to get Pitt out of the way, tried to induce him to become the first British governor of the new colony. Even Bute probably never dared to hope that Pitt would actually go out to Canada. But he did hope to lower his prestige by making him the holder of a sinecure at home. However this may be, Pitt, mightiest of all parliamentary ministers of war, refused to be made either a jobber or an exile; whereupon Murray's position was changed from a military command into that of 'Governor and Captain-General.'

The changes which ensued in the laws of Canada were heartily welcomed so far as the adoption of the humaner criminal code of England was concerned. The new laws relating to debtor and creditor also gave general satisfaction, except, as we shall presently see, when they involved imprisonment for debt. But the tentative efforts to introduce English civil law side by side with the old French code resulted in great confusion and much discontent. The land laws had become so unworkable under this dual system that they had to be left as they were. A Court of Common Pleas was set up specially for the benefit of the French Canadians. If either party demanded a jury one had to be sworn in; and French Canadians were to be jurors on equal terms with 'the King's Old Subjects.' The Roman Catholic Church was to be completely tolerated but not in any way established. Lord Egremont, in giving the king's instructions to Murray, reminded him that the proviso in the Treaty of Paris as far as the Laws of Great Britain permit should govern his action whenever disputes arose. It must be remembered that the last Jacobite rising was then a comparatively recent affair, and that France was equally ready to upset either the Protestant succession in England or the British regime in Canada.

The Indians were also an object of special solicitude in the royal proclamation. 'The Indians who live under our Protection should not be molested in the possession of such parts of our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them.' The home government was far in advance of the American colonists in its humane attitude towards the Indians. The common American attitude then and long afterwards indeed, up to a time well within living memory--was that Indians were a kind of human vermin to be exterminated without mercy, unless, of course, more money was to be made out of them alive. The result was an endless struggle along the ever-receding frontier of the West. And just at this particular time the 'Conspiracy of Pontiac' had brought about something like a real war. The story of this great effort of the Indians to stem the encroachments of the exterminating colonists is told in another chronicle of the present Series.3 The French traders in the West undoubtedly had a hand in stirring up the Indians. Pontiac, a sort of Indian Napoleon, was undoubtedly cruel as well as crafty. And the Indians undoubtedly fought just as the ancestors of the French and British used to fight when they were at the corresponding stage of social evolution. But the mere fact that so many jealously distinct tribes united in this common cause proves how much they all must have suffered at the hands of the colonists.

While Pontiac's war continued in the West Murray had to deal with a political war in Canada which rose to its height in 1764. The king's proclamation of the previous October had 'given express Power to our Governor that, so soon as the state and circumstances of the said Colony will admit thereof, he shall call a General Assembly in such manner and form as is used in those Colonies and Provinces in America which are under our immediate government.' The intention of establishing parliamentary institutions was, therefore, perfectly clear. But it was equally clear that the introduction of such institutions was to depend on 'circumstances,' and it is well to remember here that these 'circumstances' were not held to warrant the opening of a Canadian parliament till 1792. Now, the military government had been a great success. There was every reason to suppose that civil government by a governor and council would be the next best thing. And it was quite certain that calling a 'General Assembly' at once would defeat the very ends which such bodies are designed to serve. More than ninety-nine per cent of the population were dead against an assembly which none of them understood and all distrusted. On the other hand, the clamorous minority of less than one per cent were in favor only of a parliament from which the majority should be rigorously excluded, even, if possible, as voters. The immense majority comprised the entire French-Canadian community. The absurdly small minority consisted mostly of Americanized camp-following traders, who, having come to fish in troubled waters, naturally wanted the laws made to suit poachers. The British garrison, the governing officials, and the very few other English-speaking people of a more enlightened class all looked down on the rancorous minority. The whole question resolved itself into this: should Canada be handed over to the licensed exploitation of a few hundred low-class camp-followers, who had done nothing to win her for the British Empire, who were despised by those who had, and who promised to be a dangerous thorn in the side of the new colony?

What this ridiculous minority of grab-alls really wanted was not a parliament but a rump. Many a representative assembly has ended in a rump, The grab-alls wished to begin with one and stop there. It might be supposed that such pretensions would defeat themselves. But there was a twofold difficulty in the way of getting the truth understood by the English-speaking public on both sides of the Atlantic. In the first place, the French Canadians were practically dumb to the outside world. In the second, the vociferous rumpites had the ear of some English and more American commercial people who were not anxious to understand; while the great mass of the general public were inclined to think, if they ever thought at all, that parliamentary government must mean more liberty for every one concerned.

A singularly apt commentary on the pretensions of the camp-followers is supplied by the famous, or infamous, 'Presentment of the Grand Jury of Quebec' in October 1764. The moving spirits of this precious jury were aspirants to membership in the strictly exclusive, rumpish little parliament of their own seeking. The signatures of the French-Canadian members were obtained by fraud, as was subsequently proved by a sworn official protestation. The first presentment tells its own tale, as it refers to the only courts in which French-Canadian lawyers were allowed to plead. 'The great number of inferior Courts are tiresome, litigious, and expensive to this poor Colony.' Then came a hit at the previous military rule--'That Decrees of the military Courts may be amended [after having been confirmed by legal ordinance] by allowing Appeals if the matter decided exceed Ten Pounds,' which would put it out of the reach of the 'inferior Courts' and into the clutches of 'the King's Old Subjects.' But the gist of it all was contained in the following: 'We represent that as the Grand Jury must be considered at present as the only Body representative of the Colony,... We propose that the Publick Accounts be laid before the Grand Jury at least twice a year.' That the grand jury was to be purged of all its French-Canadian members is evident from the addendum slipped in behind their backs. This addendum is a fine specimen of verbose invective against 'the Church of Rome,' the Pope, Bulls, Briefs, absolutions, etc., the empanelling 'en Grand and petty Jurys' of 'papist or popish Recusants Convict,' and so on.

The 'Presentment of the Grand Jury' was presently followed by The Humble Petition of Your Majesty's most faithful and loyal Subjects, British Merchants and Traders, in behalf of Themselves and their fellow Subjects, Inhabitants of Your Majesty's Province of Quebec. 'Their fellow Subjects' did not, of course, include any 'papist or popish Recusants Convict.' Among the 'Grievances and Distresses' enumerated were 'the oppressive and severely felt Military government,' the inability to 'reap the fruit of our Industry' under such a martinet as Murray, who, in one paragraph, is accused of 'suppressing dutiful Remonstrances in Silence' and, in the next, of 'treating them with a Rage and Rudeness of Language and Demeanor as dishonorable to the Trust he holds of Your Majesty as painful to Those who suffer from it.' Finally, the petitioners solemnly warn His Majesty that their 'Lives in the Province are so very unhappy that we must be under the Necessity of removing from it, unless timely prevented by a Removal of the present Governor.'

In forwarding this document Murray poured out the vials of his wrath on 'the Licentious Fanaticks Trading here,' while he boldly championed the cause of the French Canadians, 'a Race, who, could they be indulged with a few privileges which the Laws of England deny to Roman Catholics at home, would soon get the better of every National Antipathy to their Conquerors and become the most faithful and most useful set of Men in this American Empire.'

While these charges and counter-charges were crossing the Atlantic another, and much more violent, trouble came to a head. As there were no barracks in Canada billeting was a necessity. It was made as little burdensome as possible and the houses of magistrates were specially exempt. This, however, did not prevent the magistrates from baiting the military whenever they got the chance. Fines, imprisonments, and other sentences, out of all proportion to the offence committed, were heaped on every redcoat in much the same way as was then being practiced in Boston and other hotbeds of disaffection. The redcoats had done their work in ridding America of the old French menace. They were doing it now in ridding the colonies of the last serious menace from the Indians. And so the colonists, having no further use for them, began trying to make the land they had delivered too hot to hold them. There were, of course, exceptions; and the American colonists had some real as well as pretended grievances. But wantonly baiting the redcoats had already become a most discreditable general practice.

Montreal was most in touch with the disaffected people to the south. It also had a magistrate of the name of Walker, the most rancorous of all the disaffected magistrates in Canada. This Walker, well mated with an equally rancorous wife, was the same man who entertained Benjamin Franklin and the other commissioners sent by Congress into Canada in 1776, the year in which both the American Republic and a truly British Canada were born. He would not have been flattered could he have seen the entry Franklin made about him and his wife in a diary which is still extant. The gist of it was that wherever the Walkers might be they would soon set the place by the ears. Walker, of course, was foremost in the persecution of the redcoats; and he eagerly seized his opportunity when an officer was billeted in a house where a brother magistrate happened to be living as a lodger. Under such circumstances the magistrate could not claim exemption. But this made no difference either to him or to Walker. Captain Payne, the gentleman whose presence enraged these boors, was seized and thrown into gaol. The chief justice granted a writ of habeas corpus. But the mischief was done and resentment waxed high. The French-Canadian seigneurs sympathized with Payne, which added fuel to the magisterial flame; and Murray, scenting danger, summoned the whole bench down to Quebec.

But before this bench of bumbles started some masked men seized Walker in his own house and gave him a good sound thrashing. Unfortunately they spoilt the fair reprisal by cutting off his ear. That very night the news had run round Montreal and made a start for Boston and Quebec. Feeling ran high; and higher still when, a few weeks later, the civil magistrates vented their rage on several redcoats by imposing sentences exceeding even the utmost limits of their previous vindictive action. Montreal became panic-stricken lest the soldiers, baited past endurance, should break out in open violence. Murray drove up, post-haste, from Quebec, ordered the affected regiment to another station, reproved the offending magistrates, and re-established public confidence. Official and private rewards were offered to any witnesses who would identify Walker's assailants. But in vain. The smoldering fire burst out again under Carleton. But the mystery was never cleared up.

Things had now come to a crisis. The London merchants, knowing nothing about the internal affairs of Canada, backed the petition of the Quebec traders, who were quite unworthy of such support from men of real business probity and knowledge. The magisterial faction in Canada advertised their side of the case all over the colonies and in any sympathetic quarter they could find in England. The seigneurs sent home a warm defense of Murray; and Murray himself sent Cramahe, a very able Swiss officer in the British Army. The home government thus had plenty of contradictory evidence before it in 1765. The result was that Murray was called home in 1766, rather in a spirit of open-minded and sympathetic inquiry into his conduct than with any idea of censuring him. He never returned to Canada. But as he held the titular governorship for some time longer, and as he was afterwards employed in positions of great responsibility and trust, the verdict of the home authorities was clearly given in his favor.

The troublous year of 1764 saw another innovation almost as revolutionary, compared with the old regime, as the introduction of civil government itself. This was the issue of the first newspaper in Canada, where, indeed, it was also the first printed thing of any kind. Nova Scotia had produced an earlier paper, the Halifax Gazette, which lived an intermittent life from 1752 to 1800. But no press had ever been allowed in New France. The few documents that required printing had always been done in the mother country. Brown and Gilmore, two Philadelphians, were thus undertaking a pioneer business when they announced that 'Our Design is, in case we are fortunate enough to succeed, early in this spring to settle in this City [Quebec] in the capacity of Printers, and forthwith to publish a weekly newspaper in French and English.' The Quebec Gazette, which first appeared on the 21st of the following June, has continued to the present time, though it is now a daily and is known as the Quebec Chronicle. Centenarian papers are not common in any country; and those that have lived over a century and a half are very few indeed. So the Quebec Chronicle, which is the second surviving senior in America, is also among the great press seniors of the world.

The original number is one of the curiosities of journalism. The publishers felt tolerably sure of having what was then considered a good deal of recent news for their three hundred readers during the open season. But, knowing that the supply would be both short and stale in winter, they held out prospects of a Canadian Tatler or Spectator, without, however, being rash enough to promise a supply of Addisons and Steeles. Their announcement makes curious reading at the present day.

The Rigour of Winter preventing the arrival of ships from Europe, and in a great measure interrupting the ordinary intercourse with the Southern Provinces, it will be necessary, in a paper designed for General Perusal, and Publick Utility, to provide some things of general Entertainment, independent of foreign intelligence: we shall therefore, on such occasions, present our Readers with such Originals, both in Prose and Verse, as will please the FANCY and instruct the JUDGMENT. And here we beg leave to observe that we shall have nothing so much at heart as the support of VIRTUE and MORALITY and the noble cause of LIBERTY. The refined amusements of LITERATURE, and the pleasing veins of well pointed wit, shall also be considered as necessary to this collection; interspersed with chosen pieces, and curious essays, extracted from the most celebrated authors; So that, blending PHILOSOPHY with POLITICKS, HISTORY, &c., the youth of both sexes will be improved and persons of all ranks agreeably and usefully entertained. And upon the whole we will labor to attain to all the exactness that so much variety will permit, and give as much variety as will consist with a reasonable exactness. And as this part of our project cannot be carried into execution without the correspondence of the INGENIOUS, we shall take all opportunities of acknowledging our obligations, to those who take the trouble of furnishing any matter which shall tend to entertainment or instruction. Our Intentions to please the Whole, without offence to any Individual, will be better evinced by our practice, than by writing volumes on the subject. This one thing we beg may be believed, that PARTY PREJUDICE, or PRIVATE SCANDAL, will never find a place in this PAPER.


1 See The Winning of Canada, chap. viii. See also, for the best account of this battle and other events of the year between Wolfe's victory and the surrender of Montreal, The Fall of Canada, by George M. Wrong. Oxford, 1914.
2 See The War Chief of the Ottawa, chap. iii.
3 The War Chief of the Ottawa.


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

 

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