View Full Version : American revolution--why didn't present-day Canada rebel also?
Spectre of Pithecanthropus
04-07-2008, 05:09 PM
[Disclaimer -- I pretty much have to use the word America(n) to refer to just the U.S. and its predecessor Thirteen Colonies. It may not be strictly accurate, but any other way of expressing it would be just too unwieldy. Similarly, Canadian/Canada refers to that part of the world whether still colonial or independent]
I can't seem to find it anymore, but there was a thread not long ago which asked why Great Britain let Canada go. And one of the Canadian Dopers answered, "Because we asked nicely". That gave me a pretty good chuckle.
Now that I've been watching the HBO series on John Adams, I can't help but wonder why the Americans revolted but their neighbors to the north didn't. Were the Americans being more heavily taxed or otherwise unfairly treated by the King? Or were the Canadian provinces not yet sufficiently organized as political entities to participate?
04-07-2008, 05:40 PM
04-07-2008, 05:47 PM
A Canadoper can probably give a more detailed answer, but...
Upper Canada, what is now Ontario, was largely wilderness, and its inhabitants were either settlers trying to wrest a living from the wilderness, or trappers and traders. They had no issues with Britain. Quebec had just been "bought off" by the Quebec Act of 1771 (there were several Quebec Acts) which gave the habitants a lot more say than they had had under the French; they were quite happy to be under George III and Lord North. The Maritimes were isolated and basically had no major political burrs under their saddles; their opinion regarding the events of 1774-83 doesn't seem to have been discussed at any length in anything I've read.
By and large those who were in Canada when the Revolution broke out had no reason to rebel against the Crown, and other things holding their interest. As the war continued, Tories fled the 13 rebelling colonies and took refuge in Canada, becoming the United Empire Loyalists and bolstering the anti-Revolutionary stance.
There's no doubt more to it than that, but it's a quick "nutshell" answer someone can expand on.
04-07-2008, 05:53 PM
Here's what I remember from my high school history classes: When the Thirteen Colonies rebelled, Canada had been under British rule for just 13 years; the colonists were primarily French in origin, and didn't have any particular cultural affinity with their neighbours to the south. Moreover, the Quebec Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec_Act) had two years previously guaranteed the Canadiens the right to use the French civil law for civil matters, as well as guaranteeing free practice of the Catholic faith. In other words, the main grievances of the Canadiens had very recently been addressed, and so they were less likely to rebel.
04-07-2008, 09:32 PM
I have a book by historian Marcel Trudel in which one chapter discusses this question -- as well as the attempts by the Americans to invade Canada, and more precisely the double game played by France in this conflict -- but unfortunately I seem to have left it at my parents' place. So I'll go from memory.
Upper Canada, what is now Ontario, was largely wilderness, and its inhabitants were either settlers trying to wrest a living from the wilderness, or trappers and traders. They had no issues with Britain. Quebec had just been "bought off" by the Quebec Act of 1771 (there were several Quebec Acts) which gave the habitants a lot more say than they had had under the French; they were quite happy to be under George III and Lord North.
Some nitpicks: the Quebec Act was passed in 1774, and while there may have been other Quebec Acts, I can't name a single other; this one is by far the most well-known. Upper Canada didn't exist at the time, it was carved from Quebec in 1791 after Loyalists formerly from the United States had settled in what used to be wilderness. Following the Quebec Act, the borders of the Province of Quebec had been vastly extended to include a large part of what is today the American Midwest, which was the major grievance the Americans had against this Act. I won't say that the Canadiens had that many more rights under the Quebec Act than they had as a French colony -- this would wait until 1791, and didn't solve all their grievances either, as would be seen in 1837-1838 -- but it gave them enough to make rebellion less attractive. The Catholic Church was also against joining the American Revolution, as the Quebec Act had reestablished their privileges, and it had a lot of sway over the population.
This isn't to say that no Canadian went and joined the Continental Army. A fair number of them did, some remaining in the US after the war. But it wasn't enough to push the rebellion into Canada, even as the Americans were invading. The Americans appear to have been quite enthusiastic about the idea of including Canada into their country; we know they invaded in 1775 under generals Montgomery and Arnold, occupying Montreal and coming into view of Quebec City before having to retreat, but they were also planning other invasions as late as 1780 or 1781. France was in an odd position: they were supporting the American Revolution and so had to officially encourage the Canadians to rebel, but they knew that an independent United States could become a strong continental power, and were secretly hoping for Canada to remain British as a bulwark against American expansionism. They had their wish.
The Maritime provinces weren't part of Canada at the time. I don't know what their position was in this conflict. I know a fair number of Loyalists also moved there after the war, which also led to them being granted Houses of Assembly.
04-07-2008, 10:09 PM
The Americans appear to have been quite enthusiastic about the idea of including Canada into their country; we know they invaded in 1775 under generals Montgomery and Arnold, occupying Montreal and coming into view of Quebec City before having to retreat, but they were also planning other invasions as late as 1780 or 1781.And not just by force.
The Articles of Confederation, the first American Constitution, included a provision allowing Canada to join and become the 14th state. The could do this unilaterally; any other state would have had to apply to Congress and get approval before joining (as the other 37 eventually did).
This provision was not carried over into the current US Constitution; so nowadays Canada would have to ask Congress for permission to become a US State.
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