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History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter XV. The American Revolution as it affected Canada


AT the commencement of the struggle between Great Britain and the American colonies, Congress sent broadcast over Canada printed documents dwelling on the advantages of independence, and urging the conquered race to assert their rights. These representations had some weight at first, and with a few; but the wiser among the French colonists were of opinion that they had nothing to gain by alliance with those New England colonies, who were Puritans, and opponents of their religion, and who a few years back had been the worst enemies of their race. Franklin was sent by Congress to try his powers of persuasion; but the Canadians remembered how, fifteen years before, he had been foremost in urging the British to conquer their country, and the philosopher's mission proved a failure.

In the autumn of 1775, Congress and General Washington, at the instance of General Montgomery, resolved on the invasion of Canada. Montgomery, with three thousand men, besieged and took the forts of Cnambly and St. John. A detachment of his army, a hundred and ten strong, under Colonel Ethan Allen, attempted to seize Montreal, bv aid of sympathizers within the city; but Allen and his force were surrounded and made prisoners by three hundred Canadian militia tinder Major Carden, who met them at Longue Pointe. Allen was sent in irons to England. A second expedition of a thousand men marched from Maine, under Colonel Benedict Arnold, the Judas of the War of Independence. After enduring great hardships, they arrived at Point Levis, but, not having canoes to cross the St. Lawrence, and Colonel Maclean being well on his guard at Quebec, a surprise was impracticable, and Arnold waited at Pointc-aux-Tremhles. Meanwhile, Carleton, hearing that Quebec was threatened, at once repaired thither. Montreal, being thus left without defence, was immediately occupied by Montgomery—a fact which sober 7 history must set down as no valid ground for boasting. From Montre d Montgomery marched east, to unite his force to that of Arnold, for an attack on Quebec.

Meanwhile, Carleton made great efforts to strengthen the defences of Quebec. The population in 1775 amounted to 5.000. The garrison numbered 1,800, of who in 500 were French Canadian militia. The fortifications had been, to a great extent, rebuilt since the war of the Conquest, and additional artillery had been provided, both on the landward side and toward the St. Lawrence. The Lower Town was defended by batteries at the centre, and by barricades masking artillery. At the approach to the Upper Town, on Champlain street, a masked battery of seven cannon commanded the entire street. When Montgomery arrived, the Americans proceeded to invest the city, making their headquarters at Sainte Foye. It was impossible, without artillery adequate to the purpose, to attempt a regular siege. Montgomery's object seems rather to have been to watch his opportunity to capture the place by a sudden dash, when the garrison was of their guard. There is no doubt that he expected support from American sympathizers within the city. A considerable force of Canadians had joined him-men who had been alienated by Carleton's injudicious attempt to force the Canadian militia to take up arms. But, as the seigneurs, without exception, adhered to England, these men had to be officered by American Colonel Livingstone. Montgomery had met with a number of successes since he had invaded Canada ; but these were either against such forts like Chambly, guarded by an insufficient force, or against more important places, such as Montreal and Three Rivers, which he found altogether undefended, and occupied without any opposition. A successful attack on Ouebec, even with a sufficient force, required—what Montgomery did not seem to possess—genuine military skill. "A competent general would have perceived that the American force was not sufficient to justify the attempt Montgomery's men, ragged and ill fed, were unaccustomed to the rigour of a winter like ours; they were also decimated by an outbreak of the most malignant form of small-pox. For the sick there was no hospital accommodation whatever. They were also almost altogether unprovided, with funds. The Canadians, who had lost heavily by an inconvertible paper currency, issued by Bigot during the war, would have nothing to do with the paper money issued by Congress. It is true that several of the Montreal English traders had undertaken to deal with Congress, as representatives of Canada; but these men belonged to the clique already described as being so justly odious to the French Canadians, and had, of course, no influence whatever. Add to this, that the French who had sided

with the Americans soon found that they were treated as an inferior race their opinions never being asked. They foresaw that, if the Americans conquered Canada, they would be, in every respect, worse off than under British rule. The ragged and unsoldier-like appearance of Montgomery's levies, too, could not but excite the contempt of those who, in the British and French armaments, were well accustomed to the pomp and circumstance of war.

Montgomery decided on attempting to carry Quebec by escalade, on the night of December 31st. The weather was suitable for his purpose: neither moon nor stars shone through the darkness; a boisterous wind would serve to prevent the movements of the attacking force from being noticed. But several days before this, Carleton had been warned by deserters that a night attack was in contemplation, and was well on his guard. The cannon on the ramparts and barricades were kept ready loaded, and the sentries warned to give the alarm at any sign of an enemy's approach. Montgomery sent two detachments to make a feint of attacking St. John's Gate and the Citadel, in order to divert Carleton's attention from his own movement. Arnold, with 450 men, was to enter the Lower Town from the suburb of St. Roche, and take the battery at the Sault au Matelot. He himself leading the strongest column, would carry the barricade of the Pres de Ville, and march by Champlain Street to the Upper Town. At 4 a.m., January 1st, 1776, his troops were ready, but the signals agreed on, two rockets, answered by others from the other columns, were of course seen by Carieton's sentries, who at once gave the alarm. Montgomery's column had to move along a narrow path between the cliff and the strand, encumbered with ice-blocks and snow. However, they reached Pres de Ville in good order, and succeeded iiy passing the outer barricade. But as the column approached the next barricade a battery of seven cannon confronted it, manned by fifty men under Capta.11 Chabot. Montgomery rushed forward, followed by the men of his column, when the battery opening fire, discharged a storm of grape shot through their ranks. Montgomery fell dead with his two aides-de-camp, and many others. The rest turned and ran away, not caring to face a second salute from the battery. Arnold, as he approached the outer barricade of the Sault au Matelot Street, was severely wounded in the leg by a ball, and had to be carried back to his camp. This column was efficiently led by a Captain Major, who succeeded in passing the outer barrier, but the inner barricade was so admirably defended by a party of French Canadians, under Captain Dumas, that he could make no further Way, and Carleton having sent round a strong force to attack the Americans in the rear, they were caught as in a trap, and obliged to surrender. Carleton then stormed the battery at St. Roche. The British general did himself honour by burying the remains of the brave but rash Montgomery with full military obsequies.

The American forces continued to invest Quebec, but removed to a distance of several miles. They tried to bombard the city from Point Levis, but failed, not having artillery of sufficient range. Carleton, with somewhat of excessive caution, did not take the field against them till the arrival of reinforcements from England, when he marched with a thousand men and six field-pieces, and defeated the Americans, who ran, leaving their stores, artillery and baggage, with the sick and wounded, 'n the hands of the British. But Congress did not relax in its efforts to hold the ground which Montgomery had won in Canada. They sent reinforcements both to Montreal and to General Sullivan, who was in command the Richelieu district, so that the Americans in Canada amounted to 5,400 men. But Carleton had been largely reinforced from England, especially by a corps of German mercenaries whose hereditary prince had sold them to George III., and who after the war made very useful settlers in Upper Canada. He took the field against Sullivan, defeated the American force, taking a number of prisoners, and finally drove the invaders from Canada by the fall of 1776. Elsewhere during this war the English arms were not as successful as in Canada. But the record of their reverses, and of the triumphs of the Americans when fighting on their own soil, does not belong to Canadian history. Peace was made, and the independence of the United States recognized by the Treaty of Paris, in 1763.

Thus did the most momentous event in the annals of the civilized world, since the Reformation and the discovery of America, rivet the attachment of conquered New France to her British masters. In the American Revolution, as in the European Revolution, which was its afterbirth, New France had neither part nor lot. The peasantry, the soldier settlers of Montcalm and his predecessors, hated the Puritan enemy of New York and New England far more than the subjects of King George. The landed proprietors and the priests scented in the new revolutionary gospel all that resulted therefrom in the Terror of 1793. Unlike the France of those days, New France was an island stranded by the wreck of the Middle Ages on the shores of North America. There were but two classes, the nobles—with whom we count the priests—and the peasants. There was no tiers etat. There were no newspapers. Means of education were scant and sparse.


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