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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XVII.—The Revolutionary War—To 1784


Causes of the American Revolution-The Stamp Duties—The "Boston Tea Party"—1773. Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill -American Invasion op Canada—Montgomery occupies Montreal—Ineffective Siege of Quebec—Death of Montgomery—Defeat of Arnold —1775. American Invasion Repulsed—Declaration of Independence—1776. Burgoyne's Advance from Canada and Surrender at Saratoga—1777. Governor Carleton resigns-Is succeeded by General Haldimand—1779. Recognition of American Independence —The Peace of Versailles makes the Great Lakes the Western Boundary of Canada—The United Empire Loyalists seek homes in the British Provinces—1783.

The general policy of Great Britain toward her American colonies was one of commercial repression. American merchants were precluded by law the direct importation of sugar, tea, spices, cotton, and similar foreign products. These were obliged first to be shipped to Great Britain, and then to be re-shipped to America at greatly increased cost and delay. The colonial traders largely disregarded this prohibition, and grew rich by smuggling, which acquired in time a sort of toleration. With the growth of American commerce, imperial jealousy was aroused, and the colonial vessels were seized and the contraband goods confiscated by British ships or customs officers. The manufacture of certain articles, as wool and iron, was also, in defiance, it was felt, of natural rights, prohibited in the colonies. The oligarchical power of the crown officials, and the offensive assumptions of the church established by law, also gave deep offence to the democratic communities of the American colonies.

In order to meet the colonial military expenditure, a stamp duty was imposed on all legal documents. The colonists denied the right of the Imperial Parliament to impose taxes without their, consent. The Stamp Act was repealed in a year, but the obnoxious principle of taxation without representation was maintained by a light duty on tea and some other articles. The colonists refused to receive the taxed commodities, and a party of men disguised as Indians threw into Boston harbour (December 16th, 1773) the tea on board the East India vessels, amounting to three hundred and forty chests. Parliament, incensed at this "flat rebellion," closed the port of Boston, and, against the protest and warning of some of England's greatest statesmen, sent troops to enforce submission.

A Continental Congress was assembled at Philadelphia (September, 1774), which, though seeking to avert Independence, petitioned the King, but in vain, for the continuance of the colonial liberties. At Concord and Lexington (April 19th, 1775) occurred the collision between the armed colonists and the soldiers of the King which precipitated the War of Independence, and the loss to Great Britain of her American colonies. From the mountains of Vermont to the everglades of Georgia, a patriotic enthusiasm burst forth. A continental army was organized. General Gage was besieged in Boston. Canada and Nova Scotia were invited to join the revolt; Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen, with a handful of m6n, seized Ticonderoga and Crown Point, At Bunker Hill (June 17th, 1775) the colonial volunteers proved their ability to cope with the veteran troops of England. Five hundred of the former and a thousand of the latter lay dead or wounded on the fatal slope.

In the month of September, a colonial force of a thousand men, under General Schuyler,, advanced by way of Lake Champlain against Montreal; and another, under Colonel Arnold, by way of the Kennebec and Chaudiere, against Quebec. While Schuyler was held in check at Fort St. John on the Richelieu, Colonel Ethan Allen, with some three hundred men, attacked Montreal. He was defeated #and taken prisoner, and sent in irons to England. Colonel Richard Montgomery, a brave and generous Irish gentleman, had succeeded to Schuyler's command. He vigorously urged the siege of Forts St. John and Chambly, and having compelled their surrender, pressed on to Montreal, which he occupied. Carleton resolved to concentrate his forces at Quebec, which was now menaced by Colonel Arnold.

That officer, with a thousand men, had toiled up the swift current of the Kennebec, and transported his boats and stores through the tangled and rugged wilderness to the St. Lawrence. The sufferings of his troops through hunger, cold, fatigue and exposure were excessive. They were reduced to eat the flesh of dogs, and even to gnaw the leather of their cartouch boxes and shoes. Although enfeebled by sickness and exhaustion, they crossed the river, climbed the cliff by Wolfe's path, and appeared before the walls. Failing to surprise the town, and despairing—with his footsore and ragged regiments, with no artillery, and with only five rounds of ammunition—of taking it by assault, Arnold retired to Pointe aux Trembles, to await a junction with Montgomery.

On the 4th of December, the united forces, amounting to two thousand men, advanced on Quebec. Carleton had assembled an equal number, among whom were five hundred French-Canadians, prepared to fight side by side with their former conquerors in defence of the British flag. For nearly a month the invaders encamped in the snow before the impregnable ramparts. Biting frost, the fire of the garrison, pleurisy and the small-pox did their fatal work. On the last day of the year a double assault was made on the Lower Town. At four o'clock in the morning, in a blinding snow-storm, Montgomery, with three hundred men, crept along the narrow pass between Cape Diamond and the river. As the forlorn hope made a dash for the gate, a volley of grape swept through their ranks. Montgomery, with two of his officers and ten men, were slain, and the deepening snow wrapped them in its icy shroud.

On the other side of the town, Arnold, with six hundred men, attacked and carried the first barriers. They pressed on, and many entered the town through the embrasures of a battery, and waged a stubborn street fight, amid the storm and darkness. With the dawn of morning they found themselves surrounded by an overwhelming force, and exposed to a withering fire from the houses. They therefore surrendered at discretion to the number of four hundred men.

Arnold continued to maintain an ineffective siege, his command daily wasting away with small-pox, cold and hunger. In the spring, Carleton assailed his lines with a thousand men, and raised the siege, capturing a number of prisoners and a large quantity of stores. In May and June, being reinforced by General Burgoyne with ten thousand men, he pursued the retreating foe. The Americans abandoned successively Three rivers, Sorel and Montreal, and retired to Crown Point and Ticonderoga. In a severe engagement near Crown Point (October 19th), Arnold was badly beaten.

Meanwhile the revolted colonies had thrown off their allegiance to the mother country by the celebrated Declaration of Independence, which was solemnly adopted by the Continental Congress, July 4th, 1776. The British had already been obliged to evacuate Boston. They were also repulsed in an attack on Charleston. In July, Lord Howe gained an important victory at Long Island, and took possession of New York, driving Washington across the Delaware. The latter, however, gained a brilliant victory at Trenton and another at Princeton, which left the result of the campaign in favour of the revolted colonists.

Notwithstanding the protests of Lord Chatham and Lord North against the war, the King and his ministers persisted in their policy of coercion. The following spring, General Ujj Burgoyne, who had been appointed to the supreme military command, set out from Canada with nine thousand men to invade New York state, effect a junction with General Gage at Albany, and sever the American confederacy by holding the Hudson River. He captured Ticonderoga, and advanced to Fort Edward. The New England and New York militia swarmed around the invading army, cut off its supplies, and attacked its detached forces with fatal success. Burgoyne was defeated at Stillwater, on the Hudson, and soon afterwards, being completely surrounded, surrendered, with six thousand men, to General Gates at Saratoga. This surrender led to the recognition of American independence by the French, and to their vigorous assistance of the revolt by money, arms, ships, and volunteers. The occupation of Philadelphia by the British, and the defeat of the Americans at Brandy wine and Germantown were, however, disheartening blows to the young republic.

Governor Carleton, indignant .at the military promotion of General Burgoyne over his own head, resigned his commission, and was succeeded in office by General Haldimand. A Swiss by birth and a strict martinet in discipline, the stern military government of the latter was a cause of much dissatisfaction. The Revolutionary War continued with varying fortune to drag its weary length. The genius and moral dignity of Washington sustained the courage of his countrymen under repeated disaster and defeat, and commanded the admiration and respect even of his enemies. The last great act of this stormy drama was the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, with seven thousand troops, at York-town, Virginia, October 19th, 1781. The treaty of peace was signed at Versailles, September 3rd, 1783. By its terms Canada was despoiled of the magnificent region lying between the Mississippi and the Ohio, and was divided from .the new nation designated the United States by the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence, the watershed between the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic, and the St. Croix River. The latter-mentioned portion of this boundary was sufficiently vague to give rise to serious international disputes at a subsequent period.

A considerable number of the American colonists had remained faithful to the mother country.. Their condition during and after the war was exceedingly painful. They were exposed to suspicion and insult, and sometimes to wanton outrage and spoliation. Their zeal for the unity of the empire won for them the name of United Empire Loyalists, or, more briefly, U. E. Loyalists. The British Government made liberal provision for their domiciliation in Nova Scotia and Canada. The close of the war was followed by an exodus of these faithful men and their families, who, from their loyalty to their king and the institutions of their fatherland^ abandoned their homes and property, often large estates, to encounter the discomforts of new settlements, or the perils of the pathless wilderness. These exiles for conscience' sake came chiefly from New England and New* York state, but a considerable number came from the Middle and Southern states of the Union. Many settled near Halifax and on the Bay of Fundy. A large number established themselves on the St. John River, and founded the town of St. John—long called Parrtown from the name of the Governor of Nova Scotia. These sought a division of the province, and a separate legislature was granted and the Province of New Brunswick was created. Cape Breton was also made a separate government.

What is now the Province of Ontario was then almost a wilderness. At the close of the war it became the home of about ten thousand U. E. Loyalists. Each adult received a free grant of two hundred acres of land, as did also each child, even those born after immigration, on their coming of age. The Government also assisted with food, clothing, and implements those loyal exiles who had lost all on their expatriation. They settled chiefly along the Upper St. Lawrence, around the beautiful Bay of Quinte, and on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. Other settlements were made on the Niagara and Detroit rivers. Liberal land grants were also given to immigrants from Great Britain. Many disbanded soldiers, militia and half-pay officers took up land, and in course of time not a few immigrants from the United States. The wilderness soon began to give place to smiling farms, thriving settlements, and waving fields of grain; and zealous missionaries threaded the forest in order to minister to the scattered settlers the rites of religion.


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