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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter XIV. The English Military Government


FOR ten years after the cession of Canada to England, the government of the colony was necessarily a purely military despotism. The first arrangement of any regular governmental machiner was made by General Amherst, who divided Canada into three departments, following the old division of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers, in each of which martial law was to be in force, . under the direction of General Murray at Quebec, General Gage at Montreal, and Colonel Benton at Three Rivers. Murray instituted a council composed of seven of his officers, which sat twice a week, and took cognizance of the more important civil and criminal cases. But in all, he reserved to himself the decision, without appeal. Gage, with yet more regard to the rights of the conquered French Canadians, established live justice courts, composed of former officers of the French Canadian militia, reserving a right of appeal to himself. This military administration of justice does not seem to have been, in practice, offensive ; but to the naturally susceptible feelings of the conquered race it seemed an intolerable tyranny, and rather than appear before such tribunals, litigants generally settled their differences by refering them to the arbitration of the parish cure or notary. For some time, the hope was cherished that France would make yet another effort to regain her greatest colony. It was now seen that such hopes were vain, indeed. The court was only too glad to get rid of a source of constant expenditure. Madame de Pompadour made ban mot$ about the King having only lost a few acres of snow. The rising spirit of republicanism rejoiced at the capture of Quebec as a victory of freedom over despotism. There was a considerable emigration from Canada to France during the years following the Conquest. Many Canadians obtained high offices at Court, and were in favour with Napoleon, and even with the Republicans of 1702. Those who resolved, come what would, to remain in Canada, sent envoys to London to represent their interests at Court. George III. was

struck with the beauty of the wife of one of their delegates, the Chevalier de Lew, and said, "If all Canadian ladies resembled her, we may indeed vaunt of our beautiful conquest! "

In October, 1763, the King, by an edict never confirmed by the English Par'iament, and, therefore, not constitutionally binding, set aside the old French law, always hitherto in force, and put in place of if the law of England. This was from every point of view impolitic and tyrannical; and in depriving the French colonists of the jurisprudence to which they were accustomed, the royal decree did not give them in exchange the rights of British subjects, since it declared that representative assemblies for Canada should be held only when circumstances allowed. In November, 1766, Murray was appointed Governor-General, and in accordance with orders, convened a council, which, in concert with himself, was to exercise all executive and legislative functions. It consisted of the chief military governors, with eight of the leading colonists nominated by himself. In this council there was but one French Canadian. In consequence of this highhanded treatment, there was much irritation among the Canadians, who did not consider that the Treaty of Paris had been carried out. To give them some measure of relief, Murray issued a proclamation to the effect that in all questions relating to landed property and inheritance the old French laws and customs should be the standard. For General Murray, though stern, was just, and was by no means willing to see the brave inhabitants of the conquered province trampled under the feet of the adventurers. Camp-followers and hangers-on of great men now swarmed into Canada, and, on the ground of being English-born and Protestants, tried to engross all preferment and power. These men, at first, carried everything before them. They tried to do what the Family Compact, in after years, succeeded in doing. They had, for a time, the ear of England, where they could always appeal to the rooted prejudices of race and religion, and they might have succeeded in making Canada another Ireland, had not the trumpet blast of American Revolution awoke the muddle-headed King and his Councillors to the necessity of keeping the faith pledged to the Canadians at the Treaty of Paris. For the present, the British Protestant clique had enough to procure the recall of Murray, whom they charged with autocratic military rule. Their real reason for hating him was the justice of his rule, which they construed into partiality to the French Canadians-It is curious to record how these men, themselves the most unscrupulous of oppressors, posed as advocates of the rights of Britons, and demanded an elective Assembly in place of military rule. They wished for an Assembly to which none but their own clique could be elected, and it is certain that French Canada m those days of anarchy fared far better under military rule, which, if at times despotic, was for the most part well-intended, and often conciliatory.

In 1763, a plot, surpassing m the magnitude of if scope any other ever known in Indian annals, was framed, under the instigation of certain French ex-officials, by an Ottawa chief named Pontiac. Believing, on the assurance of the French who made him their tool, that the King of France would send another army to Canada and expel the English, Pontiac matured a complicated and far-reaching plan to seize on the fifteen military posts from Niagara to Fake Michigan. The basis of operation was, as usual in Indian warfare, treachery and surprise. Pontiac, with a number of his warriors with muskets whose barrels had been cut short to admit of being concealed under the blankets of the Indians, was to gain friendly admission to the fort at Detroit, to overpower the sentries when once inside the gate, and admit a host of warriors who would be in readiness without. But an Ottawa girl was the mistress of the commandant, and put him on his guard. Besides Detroit, the forts of Niagara and Pittsburg were able to repel Pontiac's attacks. The other forts were surprised, and all the horrors of torturing and scalping were wreaked on the hapless women and children who were captured and deceived into surrender. One lady, the wife of an officer, after being struck in the face by an Indian, with the reeking scalp just torn from her husband's head, managed to escape in the confusion. She returned at night to her ruined home, and contrived, unaided, to bury her husband's body, after which she made her way to a place of safety. It is humiliating to think that General Bradstreet, when, in 1764, he arrived with a relieving force, condescended to make peace with Pontiac. The wretch was killed soon afterwards, while drunk or asleep, by the knife of an Indian as treacherous as himself. In our day, a brilliant American historian has thought it worth his while to record, in two volumes of high-sounding rhetoric the life of this execrable savage.

Sir Guy Carleton was appointed to the Government of Canada in 1766, and, act ng under the instructions he had received from the home authorities, considerably relaxed the stringency of military rule. He also obtained a number of reports on various subjects connected with the French Canadians, and these being translated to the Home Government, were carefully examined and commented on by the Law Officers of the Crown; the result of which was the banning of a law which passed the British Parliament, and is known as the Quebec Act. This Act provided that the French law, consisting of the "Custom of Paris" and the edicts of the Canadian Intendants, should decide all but criminal cases; that the French language should be used in the courts of law; that there should be complete civil equality between the French and English ; and that legislative power, with the exception of taxation, which was reserved for the crown, should be vested in a council in concert with the governors, by whom members were to be chosen. The Quebec Act was a crushing blow to the schemes of those who sought to erect a British-born and Protestant oligarchy. Many of these men were so angry that they became, sympathizers with the revolutionary measures already maturing in the thirteen colonies. But this most righteous law secured the adherence to Britain, in the struggle that ensued, of the Canadian priests and seigneurs, and, through them, of well nigh the whole French Canadian people.


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