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The Father of British Canada: a Chronicle of Carleton by William Wood, CHAPTER II. GENERAL MURRAY 1759-1766 (1)

 

Both armies spent a terrible winter after the Battle of the Plains.

There was better shelter for the French in Montreal than for the British among the ruins of Quebec. But in the matter of food the positions were reversed. Nevertheless the French gallantly refused the truce offered them by Murray, who had now succeeded Wolfe. They were determined to make a supreme effort to regain Quebec in the spring; and they were equally determined that the habitants should not be free to supply the British with provisions.

In spite of the state of war, however, the French and British officers, even as prisoners and captors, began to make friends.

They had found each other foemen worthy of their steel. A distinguished French officer, the Comte de Malartic, writing to Levis, Montcalm’s successor, said: 'I cannot speak too highly of General Murray, although he is our enemy.' Murray, on his part, was equally loud and generous in his praise of the French. The Canadian seigneurs found fellow-gentlemen among the British officers. The priests and nuns of Quebec found many fellow-Catholics among the Scottish and Irish troops, and nothing but courteous treatment from the soldiers of every rank and form of religion. Murray directed that 'the compliment of the hat' should be paid to all religious processions. The Ursuline nuns knitted long stockings for the bare-legged Highlanders when the winter came on, and presented each Scottish officer with an embroidered St Andrew’s Cross on the 30th of November, St Andrew’s Day. The whole garrison won the regard of the town by giving up part of their rations for the hungry poor; while the habitants from the surrounding country presently began to find out that the British were honest to deal with and most humane, though sternly just, as conquerors.

In the following April Levis made his desperate throw for victory; and actually did succeed in defeating Murray outside the walls of Quebec.

But the British fleet came up in May; and that summer three British armies converged on Montreal, where the last doomed remnants of French power on the St Lawrence stood despairingly at bay. When Levis found his two thousand effective French regulars surrounded by eight times as many British troops he had no choice but to lay down the arms of France for ever. On the 8th of September 1760 his gallant little army was included in the Capitulation of Montreal, by which the whole of Canada passed into the possession of the British Crown.

Great Britain had a different general idea for each one of the four decades which immediately followed the conquest of Canada.

In the sixties the general idea was to kill refractory old French ways with a double dose of new British liberty and kindness, so that Canada might gradually become the loyal fourteenth colony of the Empire in America. But the fates were against this benevolent scheme. The French Canadians were firmly wedded to their old ways of life, except in so far as the new liberty enabled them to throw off irksome duties and restraints, while the new English-speaking 'colonists' were so few, and mostly so bad, that they became the cause of endless discord where harmony was essential. In the seventies the idea was to restore the old French-Canadian life so as not only to make Canada proof against the disaffection of the Thirteen Colonies but also to make her a safe base of operations against rebellious Americans. In the eighties the great concern of the government was to make a harmonious whole out of two very widely differing parts—the long-settled French Canadians and the newly arrived United Empire Loyalists. In the nineties each of these parts was set to work out its own salvation under its own provincial constitution.

Carleton’s is the only personality which links together all four decades—the would-be American sixties, the French-Canadian seventies, the Anglo-French-Canadian eighties, and the bi-constitutional nineties—though, as mentioned already, Murray ruled Canada for the first seven years, 1759-66.

James Murray, the first British governor of Canada, was a younger son of the fourth Lord Elibank.

He was just over forty, warm-hearted and warm-tempered, an excellent French scholar, and every inch a soldier. He had been a witness for the defence of Mordaunt at the court-martial held to try the authors of the Rochefort fiasco in 1757. Wolfe, who was a witness on the other side, referred to him later on as 'my old antagonist Murray.' But Wolfe knew a good man when he saw one and gave his full confidence to his 'old antagonist' both at Louisbourg and Quebec. Murray was not born under a lucky star. He saw three defeats in three successive wars. He began his service with the abortive attack on pestilential Cartagena, where Wolfe’s father was present as adjutant-general. In mid-career he lost the battle of Ste Foy. [Footnote: See  The Winning of Canada , chap. viii. See also, for the best account of this battle and other events of the year between Wolfe’s victory and the surrender of Montreal,  The Fall of Canada , by George M. Wrong. Oxford, 1914.] And his active military life ended with his surrender of Minorca in 1782. But he was greatly distinguished for honour and steadfastness on all occasions. An admiring contemporary described him as a model of all the military virtues except prudence. But he had more prudence and less genius than his admirer thought; and he showed a marked talent for general government. The problem before him was harder than his superiors could believe. He was expected to prepare for assimilation some sixty-five thousand 'new subjects' who were mostly alien in religion and wholly alien in every other way. But, for the moment, this proved the least of his many difficulties because no immediate results were required.

While the war went on in Europe Canada remained nominally a part of the enemy’s dominions, and so, of course, was subject to military rule.

Sir Jeffery Amherst, the British commander-in-chief in America, took up his headquarters in New York. Under him Murray commanded Canada from Quebec. Under Murray, Colonel Burton commanded the district of Three Rivers while General Gage commanded the district of Montreal, which then extended to the western wilds. [Footnote: See  The War Chief of the Ottawas , chap. iii. ]

Murray’s first great trouble arose in 1761.

It was caused by an outrageous War Office order that fourpence a day should be stopped from the soldiers to pay for the rations they had always got free. Such gross injustice, coming in time of war and applied to soldiers who richly deserved reward, made the veterans 'mad with rage.' Quebec promised to be the scene of a wild mutiny. Murray, like all his officers, thought the stoppage nothing short of robbery. But he threw himself into the breach. He assembled the officers and explained that they must die to the last man rather than allow the mutineers a free hand. He then held a general parade at which he ordered the troops to march between two flag-poles on pain of instant death, promising to kill with his own hands the first man who refused. He added that he was ready to hear and forward any well-founded complaint, but that, since insubordination had been openly threatened, he would insist on subordination being publicly shown. Then, amid tense silence, he gave the word of command— Quick, March! —while every officer felt his trigger. To the immense relief of all concerned the men stepped off, marched straight between the flags and back to quarters, tamed. The criminal War Office blunder was rectified and peace was restored in the ranks.

'Murray’s Report' of 1762 gives us a good view of the Canada of that day and shows the attitude of the British towards their new possession.

Canada had been conquered by Great Britain, with some help from the American colonies, for three main reasons: first, to strike a death-blow at French dominion in America; secondly, to increase the opportunities of British seaborne trade; and, thirdly, to enlarge the area available for British settlement. When Murray was instructed to prepare a report on Canada he had to keep all this in mind; for the government wished to satisfy the public both at home and in the colonies. He had to examine the military strength of the country and the disposition of its population in case of future wars with France. He had to satisfy the natural curiosity of men like the London merchants. And he had to show how and where English-speaking settlers could go in and make Canada not only a British possession but the fourteenth British colony in North America. Burton and Gage were also instructed to report about their own districts of Three Rivers and Montreal. The documents they prepared were tacked on to Murray’s. By June 1762 the work was completed and sent on to Amherst, who sent it to England in ample time to be studied there before the opening of the impending negotiations for peace.

Murray was greatly concerned about the military strength of Quebec, then, as always, the key of Canada.

Like the unfortunate Montcalm he found the walls of Quebec badly built, badly placed, and falling into ruins, and he thought they could not be defended by three thousand men against 'a well conducted  Coup-de-main .' He proposed to crown Cape Diamond with a proper citadel, which would overawe the disaffected in Quebec itself and defend the place against an outside enemy long enough to let a British fleet come up to its relief. The rest of the country was defended by little garrisons at Three Rivers and Montreal as well as by several small detachments distributed among the trading-posts where the white men and the red met in the depths of the western wilderness.

The relations between the British garrison and the French Canadians were so excellent that what Gage reported from Montreal might be taken as equally true of the rest of the country: 'The Soldiers live peaceably with the Inhabitants and they reciprocally acquire an affection for each other.

' The French Canadians numbered sixty-five thousand altogether, exclusive of the fur traders and coureurs de bois. Barely fifteen thousand lived in the three little towns of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers; while over fifty thousand lived in the country. Nearly all the officials had gone back to France. The three classes of greatest importance were the seigneurs, the clergy, and the habitants. The lawyers were not of much account; the petty commercial classes of less account still. The coureurs de bois and other fur traders formed an important link between the savage and the civilized life of the country.

Apart from furs the trade of Canada was contemptibly small in the eyes of men like the London merchants.

But the opportunity of fostering all the fur trade that could be carried down the St Lawrence was very well worth while; and if there was no other existing trade worth capturing there seemed to be some kinds worth creating. Murray held out well-grounded hopes of the fisheries and forests. 'A Most immense Cod Fishery can be established in the River and Gulph of St Lawrence. A rich tract of country on the South Side of the Gulph will be settled and improved, and a port or ports furnished with every material requisite to repair ships.' He then went on to enumerate the other kinds of fishery, the abundance of whales, seals, and walruses in the Gulf, and of salmon up all the tributary rivers. Burton recommends immediate attention to the iron mines behind Three Rivers. All the governors expatiate on the vast amount of forest wealth and remind the home government that under the French regime the king, when making out patents for the seigneurs, reserved the right of taking wood for ship-building and fortifications from any of the seigneuries. Agriculture was found to be in a very backward state. The habitants would raise no more than they required for their own use and for a little local trade. But the fault was attributed to the gambling attractions of the fur trade, to the bad governmental system, and to the frequent interruptions of the  corvee , a kind of forced labour which was meant to serve the public interest, but which Bigot and other thievish officials always turned to their own private advantage. On the whole, the reports were most encouraging in the prospects they held out to honest labour, trade, and government.

While Murray and his lieutenants had been collecting information for their reports the home government had been undergoing many changes for the worse.

The master-statesman Pitt had gone out of power and the back-stairs politician Bute had come in. Pitt’s 'bloody and expensive war'—the war that more than any other, laid the foundations of the present British Empire—was to be ended on any terms the country could be persuaded to bear. Thus the end of the Seven Years' War, or, as the British part of it was more correctly called, the 'Maritime War,' was no more glorious in statesmanship than its beginning had been in arms. But the spirit of its mighty heart still lived on in the Empire’s grateful memories of Pitt and quickened the English-speaking world enough to prevent any really disgraceful surrender of the hard-won fruits of victory.

The Treaty of Paris, signed on the 10th of February 1763, and the king’s proclamation, published in October, were duly followed by the inauguration of civil government in Canada.

The incompetent Bute, anxious to get Pitt out of the way, tried to induce him to become the first British governor of the new colony. Even Bute probably never dared to hope that Pitt would actually go out to Canada. But he did hope to lower his prestige by making him the holder of a sinecure at home. However this may be, Pitt, mightiest of all parliamentary ministers of war, refused to be made either a jobber or an exile; whereupon Murray’s position was changed from a military command into that of 'Governor and Captain-General. '

The changes which ensued in the laws of Canada were heartily welcomed so far as the adoption of the humaner criminal code of England was concerned.

The new laws relating to debtor and creditor also gave general satisfaction, except, as we shall presently see, when they involved imprisonment for debt. But the tentative efforts to introduce English civil law side by side with the old French code resulted in great confusion and much discontent. The land laws had become so unworkable under this dual system that they had to be left as they were. A Court of Common Pleas was set up specially for the benefit of the French Canadians. If either party demanded a jury one had to be sworn in; and French Canadians were to be jurors on equal terms with 'the King’s Old Subjects.' The Roman Catholic Church was to be completely tolerated but not in any way established. Lord Egremont, in giving the king’s instructions to Murray, reminded him that the proviso in the Treaty of Paris— as far as the Laws of Great Britain permit —should govern his action whenever disputes arose. It must be remembered that the last Jacobite rising was then a comparatively recent affair, and that France was equally ready to upset either the Protestant succession in England or the British regime in Canada.


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Both armies spent a terrible winter after the Battle of the Plains.

There was better shelter for the French in Montreal than for the British among the ruins of Quebec. But in the matter of food the positions were reversed. Nevertheless the French gallantly refused the truce offered them by Murray, who had now succeeded Wolfe. They were determined to make a supreme effort to regain Quebec in the spring; and they were equally determined that the habitants should not be free to supply the British with provisions.

In spite of the state of war, however, the French and British officers, even as prisoners and captors, began to make friends.

They had found each other foemen worthy of their steel. A distinguished French officer, the Comte de Malartic, writing to Levis, Montcalm’s successor, said: 'I cannot speak too highly of General Murray, although he is our enemy.' Murray, on his part, was equally loud and generous in his praise of the French. The Canadian seigneurs found fellow-gentlemen among the British officers. The priests and nuns of Quebec found many fellow-Catholics among the Scottish and Irish troops, and nothing but courteous treatment from the soldiers of every rank and form of religion. Murray directed that 'the compliment of the hat' should be paid to all religious processions. The Ursuline nuns knitted long stockings for the bare-legged Highlanders when the winter came on, and presented each Scottish officer with an embroidered St Andrew’s Cross on the 30th of November, St Andrew’s Day. The whole garrison won the regard of the town by giving up part of their rations for the hungry poor; while the habitants from the surrounding country presently began to find out that the British were honest to deal with and most humane, though sternly just, as conquerors.

In the following April Levis made his desperate throw for victory; and actually did succeed in defeating Murray outside the walls of Quebec.

But the British fleet came up in May; and that summer three British armies converged on Montreal, where the last doomed remnants of French power on the St Lawrence stood despairingly at bay. When Levis found his two thousand effective French regulars surrounded by eight times as many British troops he had no choice but to lay down the arms of France for ever. On the 8th of September 1760 his gallant little army was included in the Capitulation of Montreal, by which the whole of Canada passed into the possession of the British Crown.

Great Britain had a different general idea for each one of the four decades which immediately followed the conquest of Canada.

In the sixties the general idea was to kill refractory old French ways with a double dose of new British liberty and kindness, so that Canada might gradually become the loyal fourteenth colony of the Empire in America. But the fates were against this benevolent scheme. The French Canadians were firmly wedded to their old ways of life, except in so far as the new liberty enabled them to throw off irksome duties and restraints, while the new English-speaking 'colonists' were so few, and mostly so bad, that they became the cause of endless discord where harmony was essential. In the seventies the idea was to restore the old French-Canadian life so as not only to make Canada proof against the disaffection of the Thirteen Colonies but also to make her a safe base of operations against rebellious Americans. In the eighties the great concern of the government was to make a harmonious whole out of two very widely differing parts—the long-settled French Canadians and the newly arrived United Empire Loyalists. In the nineties each of these parts was set to work out its own salvation under its own provincial constitution.

Carleton’s is the only personality which links together all four decades—the would-be American sixties, the French-Canadian seventies, the Anglo-French-Canadian eighties, and the bi-constitutional nineties—though, as mentioned already, Murray ruled Canada for the first seven years, 1759-66.

James Murray, the first British governor of Canada, was a younger son of the fourth Lord Elibank.

He was just over forty, warm-hearted and warm-tempered, an excellent French scholar, and every inch a soldier. He had been a witness for the defence of Mordaunt at the court-martial held to try the authors of the Rochefort fiasco in 1757. Wolfe, who was a witness on the other side, referred to him later on as 'my old antagonist Murray.' But Wolfe knew a good man when he saw one and gave his full confidence to his 'old antagonist' both at Louisbourg and Quebec. Murray was not born under a lucky star. He saw three defeats in three successive wars. He began his service with the abortive attack on pestilential Cartagena, where Wolfe’s father was present as adjutant-general. In mid-career he lost the battle of Ste Foy. [Footnote: See  The Winning of Canada , chap. viii. See also, for the best account of this battle and other events of the year between Wolfe’s victory and the surrender of Montreal,  The Fall of Canada , by George M. Wrong. Oxford, 1914.] And his active military life ended with his surrender of Minorca in 1782. But he was greatly distinguished for honour and steadfastness on all occasions. An admiring contemporary described him as a model of all the military virtues except prudence. But he had more prudence and less genius than his admirer thought; and he showed a marked talent for general government. The problem before him was harder than his superiors could believe. He was expected to prepare for assimilation some sixty-five thousand 'new subjects' who were mostly alien in religion and wholly alien in every other way. But, for the moment, this proved the least of his many difficulties because no immediate results were required.

While the war went on in Europe Canada remained nominally a part of the enemy’s dominions, and so, of course, was subject to military rule.

Sir Jeffery Amherst, the British commander-in-chief in America, took up his headquarters in New York. Under him Murray commanded Canada from Quebec. Under Murray, Colonel Burton commanded the district of Three Rivers while General Gage commanded the district of Montreal, which then extended to the western wilds. [Footnote: See  The War Chief of the Ottawas , chap. iii. ]

Murray’s first great trouble arose in 1761.

It was caused by an outrageous War Office order that fourpence a day should be stopped from the soldiers to pay for the rations they had always got free. Such gross injustice, coming in time of war and applied to soldiers who richly deserved reward, made the veterans 'mad with rage.' Quebec promised to be the scene of a wild mutiny. Murray, like all his officers, thought the stoppage nothing short of robbery. But he threw himself into the breach. He assembled the officers and explained that they must die to the last man rather than allow the mutineers a free hand. He then held a general parade at which he ordered the troops to march between two flag-poles on pain of instant death, promising to kill with his own hands the first man who refused. He added that he was ready to hear and forward any well-founded complaint, but that, since insubordination had been openly threatened, he would insist on subordination being publicly shown. Then, amid tense silence, he gave the word of command— Quick, March! —while every officer felt his trigger. To the immense relief of all concerned the men stepped off, marched straight between the flags and back to quarters, tamed. The criminal War Office blunder was rectified and peace was restored in the ranks.

'Murray’s Report' of 1762 gives us a good view of the Canada of that day and shows the attitude of the British towards their new possession.

Canada had been conquered by Great Britain, with some help from the American colonies, for three main reasons: first, to strike a death-blow at French dominion in America; secondly, to increase the opportunities of British seaborne trade; and, thirdly, to enlarge the area available for British settlement. When Murray was instructed to prepare a report on Canada he had to keep all this in mind; for the government wished to satisfy the public both at home and in the colonies. He had to examine the military strength of the country and the disposition of its population in case of future wars with France. He had to satisfy the natural curiosity of men like the London merchants. And he had to show how and where English-speaking settlers could go in and make Canada not only a British possession but the fourteenth British colony in North America. Burton and Gage were also instructed to report about their own districts of Three Rivers and Montreal. The documents they prepared were tacked on to Murray’s. By June 1762 the work was completed and sent on to Amherst, who sent it to England in ample time to be studied there before the opening of the impending negotiations for peace.

Murray was greatly concerned about the military strength of Quebec, then, as always, the key of Canada.

Like the unfortunate Montcalm he found the walls of Quebec badly built, badly placed, and falling into ruins, and he thought they could not be defended by three thousand men against 'a well conducted  Coup-de-main .' He proposed to crown Cape Diamond with a proper citadel, which would overawe the disaffected in Quebec itself and defend the place against an outside enemy long enough to let a British fleet come up to its relief. The rest of the country was defended by little garrisons at Three Rivers and Montreal as well as by several small detachments distributed among the trading-posts where the white men and the red met in the depths of the western wilderness.

The relations between the British garrison and the French Canadians were so excellent that what Gage reported from Montreal might be taken as equally true of the rest of the country: 'The Soldiers live peaceably with the Inhabitants and they reciprocally acquire an affection for each other.

' The French Canadians numbered sixty-five thousand altogether, exclusive of the fur traders and coureurs de bois. Barely fifteen thousand lived in the three little towns of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers; while over fifty thousand lived in the country. Nearly all the officials had gone back to France. The three classes of greatest importance were the seigneurs, the clergy, and the habitants. The lawyers were not of much account; the petty commercial classes of less account still. The coureurs de bois and other fur traders formed an important link between the savage and the civilized life of the country.

Apart from furs the trade of Canada was contemptibly small in the eyes of men like the London merchants.

But the opportunity of fostering all the fur trade that could be carried down the St Lawrence was very well worth while; and if there was no other existing trade worth capturing there seemed to be some kinds worth creating. Murray held out well-grounded hopes of the fisheries and forests. 'A Most immense Cod Fishery can be established in the River and Gulph of St Lawrence. A rich tract of country on the South Side of the Gulph will be settled and improved, and a port or ports furnished with every material requisite to repair ships.' He then went on to enumerate the other kinds of fishery, the abundance of whales, seals, and walruses in the Gulf, and of salmon up all the tributary rivers. Burton recommends immediate attention to the iron mines behind Three Rivers. All the governors expatiate on the vast amount of forest wealth and remind the home government that under the French regime the king, when making out patents for the seigneurs, reserved the right of taking wood for ship-building and fortifications from any of the seigneuries. Agriculture was found to be in a very backward state. The habitants would raise no more than they required for their own use and for a little local trade. But the fault was attributed to the gambling attractions of the fur trade, to the bad governmental system, and to the frequent interruptions of the  corvee , a kind of forced labour which was meant to serve the public interest, but which Bigot and other thievish officials always turned to their own private advantage. On the whole, the reports were most encouraging in the prospects they held out to honest labour, trade, and government.

While Murray and his lieutenants had been collecting information for their reports the home government had been undergoing many changes for the worse.

The master-statesman Pitt had gone out of power and the back-stairs politician Bute had come in. Pitt’s 'bloody and expensive war'—the war that more than any other, laid the foundations of the present British Empire—was to be ended on any terms the country could be persuaded to bear. Thus the end of the Seven Years' War, or, as the British part of it was more correctly called, the 'Maritime War,' was no more glorious in statesmanship than its beginning had been in arms. But the spirit of its mighty heart still lived on in the Empire’s grateful memories of Pitt and quickened the English-speaking world enough to prevent any really disgraceful surrender of the hard-won fruits of victory.

The Treaty of Paris, signed on the 10th of February 1763, and the king’s proclamation, published in October, were duly followed by the inauguration of civil government in Canada.

The incompetent Bute, anxious to get Pitt out of the way, tried to induce him to become the first British governor of the new colony. Even Bute probably never dared to hope that Pitt would actually go out to Canada. But he did hope to lower his prestige by making him the holder of a sinecure at home. However this may be, Pitt, mightiest of all parliamentary ministers of war, refused to be made either a jobber or an exile; whereupon Murray’s position was changed from a military command into that of 'Governor and Captain-General. '

The changes which ensued in the laws of Canada were heartily welcomed so far as the adoption of the humaner criminal code of England was concerned.

The new laws relating to debtor and creditor also gave general satisfaction, except, as we shall presently see, when they involved imprisonment for debt. But the tentative efforts to introduce English civil law side by side with the old French code resulted in great confusion and much discontent. The land laws had become so unworkable under this dual system that they had to be left as they were. A Court of Common Pleas was set up specially for the benefit of the French Canadians. If either party demanded a jury one had to be sworn in; and French Canadians were to be jurors on equal terms with 'the King’s Old Subjects.' The Roman Catholic Church was to be completely tolerated but not in any way established. Lord Egremont, in giving the king’s instructions to Murray, reminded him that the proviso in the Treaty of Paris— as far as the Laws of Great Britain permit —should govern his action whenever disputes arose. It must be remembered that the last Jacobite rising was then a comparatively recent affair, and that France was equally ready to upset either the Protestant succession in England or the British regime in Canada.

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