‘Before’ continues (1763 – 1799)

[Note: developments in governance that affected Red River Settlement — or rather might have inspired the political stance of the people in the settlement who undertook the Resistance during 1869 – 1870 — are highlighted in blue.]


In the former New France, now a colony of expanded New England aka British North America:

Under The Royal Proclamation, 1763, the colony of Canada is renamed the Province of Quebec:

• ruled by a British governor/military officer ( General James Murray) appointed by the King, and a Council of British military officers and merchants.
• Canadiens are allowed to speak French and practice the Catholic religion, but Catholics are not allowed to work for the government.
• The government will promote English and Protestantism as the official language and religion of the colony.
• English Common Law and courts will replace the French civil code (a.k.a. the Coutume de Paris/Custom of Paris), except for laws on marriage and property.
• At some unspecified future date, when the colony’s population is large enough [and English enough], the people will be allowed elected representatives.

In recognition of the fighting power of First Nations peoples, large areas of lands in what had formerly been New France, as well as lands to the west of the original New England colonies aka the Thirteen Colonies, are reserved exclusively for First Nations. Settlers and fur traders are not to enter these lands without government permission.

Map showing boundaries after the Royal Proclamation of 1763


In the Province of Quebec:

Isaac Todd is among those who petition Governor and General James Murray to reduce restrictions on the fur trade.

Alexander Henry secures a licence to trade in the Lake Superior area.


Isaac Todd is a member of the grand jury for the District of Montreal. British merchants consider the Grand Jury is the only representative body in the colony. They use it as a forum, to criticize the policies of governors and to recommend political, economic, and social changes.


Isaac Todd signs a petition calling for an elective assembly.


In the Thirteen Colonies:

The authority of the Parliament of Great Britain to govern from overseas without North American residents having elected representatives in that Parliament is rejected. All royal officials are expelled.


In England:

In light of the problems with the Thirteen Colonies, the British decide to secure the loyalty of the Canadiens, by enacting the Quebec Act.

Clauses in the Act:

• acknowledge that Canadiens were not transforming into English-speaking Protestants;
• rectify administrative problems that had arisen in the province since 1763, by reinstating significant aspects of the previous French system.
• enlarge the boundaries of the Province of Quebec.

Map of the Province of Quebec, enlarged 1774

In the Province of Quebec:

Although the Quebec Act allowed Canadians to hold government offices, such positions were conferred by the governor. The Quebec Act did not create any elected assembly. The governor continued to hold the authority to rule the colony as he saw fit, though he could take advice from counsellors, who were appointed at his pleasure.

In the Thirteen Colonies:

Each colony has established a Provincial Congress, or an equivalent governmental institution, to govern itself within the British Empire.

The Quebec Act is listed among the “intolerable Acts” of Britain. The extension of the territory of Quebec causes anger because their own calls for expansion into the “Indian Territory” to their west had been disallowed. Anti-Catholic sentiment increases (Catholics are not allowed to practice their faith in the Thirteen Colonies).


In England:

Troops are sent to re-impose direct rule in the Thirteen Colonies

In the Thirteen Colonies:

The arrival of British troops touches off the American Revolutionary War /American War of Independence (1775 – 1783)

Representatives meet at the Second Continental Congress; the colonies have joined together as states under the Congress to defend their self-governance and to manage the armed conflict against the British.


The Congress issues the United States Declaration of Independence (Jul. 1776), rejecting the monarchy on behalf of the new sovereign/self-governing nation separate from the British Empire.


American victory brings War of Independence to a close (Oct.).


In England:

Treaty negotiations begin.

In the Province of Quebec:

Map of British North America after the Treaty of Paris, 1782

In the former Thirteen Colonies/The United States:

Approximately 6000 ‘Loyalists’ begin migrating north towards colonies that remain British, including to the Province of Quebec.


In England:

British claims to the Thirteen Colonies/United States are abandoned with the Treaty of Paris, 1783

In the Province of Quebec:

By the Treaty of Paris, 1783, fur traders out of Montreal lose Detroit on the western end of Lake Erie and Fort Michilimackinac (which was relocated to Mackinac Island in 1781). The British, however, do not relocate to St. Joseph Island, which is outside of U.S. territory, until 1796.


In The Province of Canada and the West extending to the North-West:

The North West Company, organized at Montreal; dominates the trade at Michilimackinac; trade rivalry with the HBC begins anew.


In the U.S.:

The United States Constitution is written during the Philadelphia Convention. The influence of the Haudenosaunee constitution [see “Chronology: Before (c. 1390 – 1763),” this site] is recognized by the U.S. Congress in 1988.


In France:

The French Revolution begins; monarchical rule and aristocratic privilege is rejected in favour of republican principles (the nation votes for political representatives).

Rights of Man France

“The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” approved by the National Constituent Assembly of France, 26 August 1789. [Source: Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Declaration_of_the_Rights_of_Man_and_of_the_Citizen_in_1789.jpg.


In England:

The Constitutional Act is passed, repealing parts of the Quebec Act and reorganizing British colonies in North America to keep them small and dependent. (Many members of Parliament in England believe that giving colonial legislatures too much power had given rise to a rebellious temperament that led to revolution in the Thirteen Colonies. British parliamentarians did not want that to happen again.

In the Province of Quebec:

The 50 articles of the Act are implemented to address:

• a considerable increase in the population (including thousands of incoming Loyalists);
• indecision and confusion in applying judicial laws, combined with newly arrived Loyalists’ protests over having to abide by the Custom of Paris;
calls from Loyalists for British-style representative government (meaning an elected House of Assembly);
• a desire to assimilate both the American and French peoples, so that the colonial systems under which they lived conformed more closely to the system in England, and the rights and privileges of British subjects in North America would become more uniform; and
• a desire in England to ease the burden on the imperial treasury by granting colonial assemblies the right to levy taxes to pay for local administration

The Province of Quebec is essentially divided into 2 separate colonies:

• the Province of Lower Canada (within present day Quebec — on the lower reaches of the St. Lawrence River), with:

· a population (aside from First Nations) numbering from 130,000–160,000;
· a Franco-phone majority
· coexistence of French civil law and English criminal law

• the Province of Upper Canada — up the river (within present-day Ontario), with:

· a population (aside from First Nations) numbering approximately 10,000;
· an Anglo-phone majority
· exclusively British laws.

Map of the Canadas that were created in 1791

Both Canadas are granted representative government, in that they are allowed an elected Legislative Assembly. Only men who owned substantial property and are not clergymen nor Jewish are allowed to vote.

This is not responsible government, because each province is given an appointed Legislative Council, and an appointed Executive Council.

The authority of governors is actually bolstered: Upper Canada is administered by a lieutenant governor appointed by the governor general, while Lower Canada is administered either by the governor general (who was a true representative of the imperial power) or his direct representative.

The powers of the elected Legislative Assemblies are limited by the appointed Legislative Councils whose members hold their positions for life and act together as an aristocratic body (similar to the House of Lords in England) devoted to the interests of the Crown. The Legislative Councils, Executive Councils, lieutenant governors, and the governor general all have the power to veto any legislation passed by the elected Legislative Assemblies.

In both Lower and Upper Canada, the governor has the power to appoint the speaker of the Legislative Assembly, to fix the time and place of elections, and to give or withhold assent to bills passed by the elected Legislative Assembly.


The 1st elections in Upper and Lower Canada’s histories are held.

In Lower Canada problems are  evident almost immediately: although 35 elected French Canadiens/Canadians hold the majority, a minority group of 15 English merchants (the British party, a.k.a. the Chateau Clique”) has the support of the governor, his lieutenant governor, and the appointed councils. Dissatisfaction with the system, along with a French vs. English cultural divide, deepen over the next fifty years.


In England:

Jay’s Treaty with the United States turns control of the Mackinac Strait over to the Americans.


In Europe:

The Napoleonic Wars begin: a series of wars are declared against Napoleon’s French Empire by opposing coalitions.


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