image

The Father of British Canada: a Chronicle of Carleton by William Wood, CHAPTER II. GENERAL MURRAY 1759-1766 (2)

The Indians were also an object of special solicitude in the royal proclamation.

'The Indians who live under our Protection should not be molested in the possession of such parts of our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them.' The home government was far in advance of the American colonists in its humane attitude towards the Indians. The common American attitude then and long afterwards —indeed, up to a time well within living memory—was that Indians were a kind of human vermin to be exterminated without mercy, unless, of course, more money was to be made out of them alive. The result was an endless struggle along the ever-receding frontier of the West. And just at this particular time the 'Conspiracy of Pontiac' had brought about something like a real war. The story of this great effort of the Indians to stem the encroachments of the exterminating colonists is told in another chronicle of the present Series. [Footnote: The War Chief of the Ottawas.] The French traders in the West undoubtedly had a hand in stirring up the Indians. Pontiac, a sort of Indian Napoleon, was undoubtedly cruel as well as crafty. And the Indians undoubtedly fought just as the ancestors of the French and British used to fight when they were at the corresponding stage of social evolution. But the mere fact that so many jealously distinct tribes united in this common cause proves how much they all must have suffered at the hands of the colonists.

While Pontiac’s war continued in the West Murray had to deal with a political war in Canada which rose to its height in 1764.

The king’s proclamation of the previous October had 'given express Power to our Governor that, so soon as the state and circumstances of the said Colony will admit thereof, he shall call a General Assembly in such manner and form as is used in those Colonies and Provinces in America which are under our immediate government.' The intention of establishing parliamentary institutions was, therefore, perfectly clear. But it was equally clear that the introduction of such institutions was to depend on 'circumstances,' and it is well to remember here that these 'circumstances' were not held to warrant the opening of a Canadian parliament till 1792. Now, the military government had been a great success. There was every reason to suppose that civil government by a governor and council would be the next best thing. And it was quite certain that calling a 'General Assembly' at once would defeat the very ends which such bodies are designed to serve. More than ninety-nine per cent of the population were dead against an assembly which none of them understood and all distrusted. On the other hand, the clamorous minority of less than one per cent were in favour only of a parliament from which the majority should be rigorously excluded, even, if possible, as voters. The immense majority comprised the entire French-Canadian community. The absurdly small minority consisted mostly of Americanized camp-following traders, who, having come to fish in troubled waters, naturally wanted the laws made to suit poachers. The British garrison, the governing officials, and the very few other English-speaking people of a more enlightened class all looked down on the rancorous minority. The whole question resolved itself into this: should Canada be handed over to the licensed exploitation of a few hundred low-class camp-followers, who had done nothing to win her for the British Empire, who were despised by those who had, and who promised to be a dangerous thorn in the side of the new colony?

What this ridiculous minority of grab-alls really wanted was not a parliament but a rump.

Many a representative assembly has ended in a rump, The grab-alls wished to begin with one and stop there. It might be supposed that such pretensions would defeat themselves. But there was a twofold difficulty in the way of getting the truth understood by the English-speaking public on both sides of the Atlantic. In the first place, the French Canadians were practically dumb to the outside world. In the second, the vociferous rumpites had the ear of some English and more American commercial people who were not anxious to understand; while the great mass of the general public were inclined to think, if they ever thought at all, that parliamentary government must mean more liberty for every one concerned.

A singularly apt commentary on the pretensions of the camp-followers is supplied by the famous, or infamous, 'Presentment of the Grand Jury of Quebec' in October 1764.

The moving spirits of this precious jury were aspirants to membership in the strictly exclusive, rumpish little parliament of their own seeking. The signatures of the French-Canadian members were obtained by fraud, as was subsequently proved by a sworn official protestation. The first presentment tells its own tale, as it refers to the only courts in which French-Canadian lawyers were allowed to plead. 'The great number of inferior Courts are tiresome, litigious, and expensive to this poor Colony.' Then came a hit at the previous military rule—'That Decrees of the military Courts may be amended [after having been confirmed by legal ordinance] by allowing Appeals if the matter decided exceed Ten Pounds,' which would put it out of the reach of the 'inferior Courts' and into the clutches of 'the King’s Old Subjects.' But the gist of it all was contained in the following: 'We represent that as the Grand Jury must be considered at present as the only Body representative of the Colony, … We propose that the Publick Accounts be laid before the Grand Jury at least twice a year.' That the grand jury was to be purged of all its French-Canadian members is evident from the addendum slipped in behind their backs. This addendum is a fine specimen of verbose invective against 'the Church of Rome,' the Pope, Bulls, Briefs, absolutions, etc., the empanelling 'en Grand and petty Jurys' of 'papist or popish Recusants Convict,' and so on.

The 'Presentment of the Grand Jury' was presently followed by  The Humble Petition of Your Majesty’s most faithful and loyal Subjects, British Merchants and Traders, in behalf of Themselves and their fellow Subjects, Inhabitants of Your Majesty’s Province of Quebec .

'Their fellow Subjects' did not, of course, include any 'papist or popish Recusants Convict.' Among the 'Grievances and Distresses' enumerated were 'the oppressive and severely felt Military government,' the inability to 'reap the fruit of our Industry' under such a martinet as Murray, who, in one paragraph, is accused of 'suppressing dutyfull Remonstrances in Silence' and, in the next, of 'treating them with a Rage and Rudeness of Language and Demeanor as dishonourable to the Trust he holds of Your Majesty as painfull to Those who suffer from it.' Finally, the petitioners solemnly warn His Majesty that their 'Lives in the Province are so very unhappy that we must be under the Necessity of removing from it, unless timely prevented by a Removal of the present Governor. '

In forwarding this document Murray poured out the vials of his wrath on 'the Licentious Fanaticks Trading here,' while he boldly championed the cause of the French Canadians, 'a Race, who, could they be indulged with a few priveledges which the Laws of England deny to Roman Catholicks at home, would soon get the better of every National Antipathy to their Conquerors and become the most faithful and most useful set of Men in this American Empire.

'

While these charges and counter-charges were crossing the Atlantic another, and much more violent, trouble came to a head.

As there were no barracks in Canada billeting was a necessity. It was made as little burdensome as possible and the houses of magistrates were specially exempt. This, however, did not prevent the magistrates from baiting the military whenever they got the chance. Fines, imprisonments, and other sentences, out of all proportion to the offence committed, were heaped on every redcoat in much the same way as was then being practised in Boston and other hotbeds of disaffection. The redcoats had done their work in ridding America of the old French menace. They were doing it now in ridding the colonies of the last serious menace from the Indians. And so the colonists, having no further use for them, began trying to make the land they had delivered too hot to hold them. There were, of course, exceptions; and the American colonists had some real as well as pretended grievances. But wantonly baiting the redcoats had already become a most discreditable general practice.

Montreal was most in touch with the disaffected people to the south.

It also had a magistrate of the name of Walker, the most rancorous of all the disaffected magistrates in Canada. This Walker, well mated with an equally rancorous wife, was the same man who entertained Benjamin Franklin and the other commissioners sent by Congress into Canada in 1776, the year in which both the American Republic and a truly British Canada were born. He would not have been flattered could he have seen the entry Franklin made about him and his wife in a diary which is still extant. The gist of it was that wherever the Walkers might be they would soon set the place by the ears. Walker, of course, was foremost in the persecution of the redcoats; and he eagerly seized his opportunity when an officer was billeted in a house where a brother magistrate happened to be living as a lodger. Under such circumstances the magistrate could not claim exemption. But this made no difference either to him or to Walker. Captain Payne, the gentleman whose presence enraged these boors, was seized and thrown into gaol. The chief justice granted a writ of habeas corpus. But the mischief was done and resentment waxed high. The French-Canadian seigneurs sympathized with Payne, which added fuel to the magisterial flame; and Murray, scenting danger, summoned the whole bench down to Quebec.

But before this bench of bumbles started some masked men seized Walker in his own house and gave him a good sound thrashing.

Unfortunately they spoilt the fair reprisal by cutting off his ear. That very night the news had run round Montreal and made a start for Boston and Quebec. Feeling ran high; and higher still when, a few weeks later, the civil magistrates vented their rage on several redcoats by imposing sentences exceeding even the utmost limits of their previous vindictive action. Montreal became panic-stricken lest the soldiers, baited past endurance, should break out in open violence. Murray drove up, post-haste, from Quebec, ordered the affected regiment to another station, reproved the offending magistrates, and re-established public confidence. Official and private rewards were offered to any witnesses who would identify Walker’s assailants. But in vain. The smouldering fire burst out again under Carleton. But the mystery was never cleared up.

Things had now come to a crisis.

The London merchants, knowing nothing about the internal affairs of Canada, backed the petition of the Quebec traders, who were quite unworthy of such support from men of real business probity and knowledge. The magisterial faction in Canada advertised their side of the case all over the colonies and in any sympathetic quarter they could find in England. The seigneurs sent home a warm defence of Murray; and Murray himself sent Cramahe, a very able Swiss officer in the British Army. The home government thus had plenty of contradictory evidence before it in 1765. The result was that Murray was called home in 1766, rather in a spirit of open-minded and sympathetic inquiry into his conduct than with any idea of censuring him. He never returned to Canada. But as he held the titular governorship for some time longer, and as he was afterwards employed in positions of great responsibility and trust, the verdict of the home authorities was clearly given in his favour.

The troublous year of 1764 saw another innovation almost as revolutionary, compared with the old regime, as the introduction of civil government itself.

This was the issue of the first newspaper in Canada, where, indeed, it was also the first printed thing of any kind. Nova Scotia had produced an earlier paper, the  Halifax Gazette , which lived an intermittent life from 1752 to 1800. But no press had ever been allowed in New France. The few documents that required printing had always been done in the mother country. Brown and Gilmore, two Philadelphians, were thus undertaking a pioneer business when they announced that 'Our Design is, in case we are fortunate enough to succeed, early in this spring to settle in this City [Quebec] in the capacity of Printers, and forthwith to publish a weekly newspaper in French and English.' The  Quebec Gazette , which first appeared on the 21st of the following June, has continued to the present time, though it is now a daily and is known as the  Quebec Chronicle . Centenarian papers are not common in any country; and those that have lived over a century and a half are very few indeed. So the  Quebec Chronicle , which is the second surviving senior in America, is also among the great press seniors of the world.

The original number is one of the curiosities of journalism.

The publishers felt tolerably sure of having what was then considered a good deal of recent news for their three hundred readers during the open season. But, knowing that the supply would be both short and stale in winter, they held out prospects of a Canadian  Tatler or  Spectator , without, however, being rash enough to promise a supply of Addisons and Steeles. Their announcement makes curious reading at the present day.

The Rigour of Winter preventing the arrival of ships from  Europe , and in a great measure interrupting the ordinary intercourse with the Southern Provinces, it will be necessary, in a paper designed for General Perusal, and Publick Utility, to provide some things of general Entertainment, independent of foreign intelligence: we shall therefore, on such occasions, present our Readers with such  Originals , both in  Prose and  Verse , as will please the FANCY and instruct the JUDGMENT.

And here we beg leave to observe that we shall have nothing so much at heart as the support of VIRTUE and MORALITY and the noble cause of LIBERTY. The refined amusements of LITERATURE, and the pleasing veins of well pointed wit, shall also be considered as necessary to this collection; interspersed with chosen pieces, and curious essays, extracted from the most celebrated authors; So that, blending PHILOSOPHY with POLITICKS, HISTORY, &c., the youth of both sexes will be improved and persons of all ranks agreeably and usefully entertained. And upon the whole we will labour to attain to all the exactness that so much variety will permit, and give as much variety as will consist with a reasonable exactness. And as this part of our project cannot be carried into execution without the correspondence of the INGENIOUS, we shall take all opportunities of acknowledging our obligations, to those who take the trouble of furnishing any matter which shall tend to entertainment or instruction. Our Intentions to please the  Whole , without offence to any  Individual , will be better evinced by our practice, than by writing volumes on the subject. This one thing we beg may be believed, that PARTY PREJUDICE, or PRIVATE SCANDAL, will never find a place in this PAPER.


Want to learn a language?


Learn from this text and thousands like it on LingQ.

  • A vast library of audio lessons, all with matching text
  • Revolutionary learning tools
  • A global, interactive learning community.

Language learning online @ LingQ

The Indians were also an object of special solicitude in the royal proclamation.

'The Indians who live under our Protection should not be molested in the possession of such parts of our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them.' The home government was far in advance of the American colonists in its humane attitude towards the Indians. The common American attitude then and long afterwards —indeed, up to a time well within living memory—was that Indians were a kind of human vermin to be exterminated without mercy, unless, of course, more money was to be made out of them alive. The result was an endless struggle along the ever-receding frontier of the West. And just at this particular time the 'Conspiracy of Pontiac' had brought about something like a real war. The story of this great effort of the Indians to stem the encroachments of the exterminating colonists is told in another chronicle of the present Series. [Footnote: The War Chief of the Ottawas.] The French traders in the West undoubtedly had a hand in stirring up the Indians. Pontiac, a sort of Indian Napoleon, was undoubtedly cruel as well as crafty. And the Indians undoubtedly fought just as the ancestors of the French and British used to fight when they were at the corresponding stage of social evolution. But the mere fact that so many jealously distinct tribes united in this common cause proves how much they all must have suffered at the hands of the colonists.

While Pontiac’s war continued in the West Murray had to deal with a political war in Canada which rose to its height in 1764.

The king’s proclamation of the previous October had 'given express Power to our Governor that, so soon as the state and circumstances of the said Colony will admit thereof, he shall call a General Assembly in such manner and form as is used in those Colonies and Provinces in America which are under our immediate government.' The intention of establishing parliamentary institutions was, therefore, perfectly clear. But it was equally clear that the introduction of such institutions was to depend on 'circumstances,' and it is well to remember here that these 'circumstances' were not held to warrant the opening of a Canadian parliament till 1792. Now, the military government had been a great success. There was every reason to suppose that civil government by a governor and council would be the next best thing. And it was quite certain that calling a 'General Assembly' at once would defeat the very ends which such bodies are designed to serve. More than ninety-nine per cent of the population were dead against an assembly which none of them understood and all distrusted. On the other hand, the clamorous minority of less than one per cent were in favour only of a parliament from which the majority should be rigorously excluded, even, if possible, as voters. The immense majority comprised the entire French-Canadian community. The absurdly small minority consisted mostly of Americanized camp-following traders, who, having come to fish in troubled waters, naturally wanted the laws made to suit poachers. The British garrison, the governing officials, and the very few other English-speaking people of a more enlightened class all looked down on the rancorous minority. The whole question resolved itself into this: should Canada be handed over to the licensed exploitation of a few hundred low-class camp-followers, who had done nothing to win her for the British Empire, who were despised by those who had, and who promised to be a dangerous thorn in the side of the new colony?

What this ridiculous minority of grab-alls really wanted was not a parliament but a rump.

Many a representative assembly has ended in a rump, The grab-alls wished to begin with one and stop there. It might be supposed that such pretensions would defeat themselves. But there was a twofold difficulty in the way of getting the truth understood by the English-speaking public on both sides of the Atlantic. In the first place, the French Canadians were practically dumb to the outside world. In the second, the vociferous rumpites had the ear of some English and more American commercial people who were not anxious to understand; while the great mass of the general public were inclined to think, if they ever thought at all, that parliamentary government must mean more liberty for every one concerned.

A singularly apt commentary on the pretensions of the camp-followers is supplied by the famous, or infamous, 'Presentment of the Grand Jury of Quebec' in October 1764.

The moving spirits of this precious jury were aspirants to membership in the strictly exclusive, rumpish little parliament of their own seeking. The signatures of the French-Canadian members were obtained by fraud, as was subsequently proved by a sworn official protestation. The first presentment tells its own tale, as it refers to the only courts in which French-Canadian lawyers were allowed to plead. 'The great number of inferior Courts are tiresome, litigious, and expensive to this poor Colony.' Then came a hit at the previous military rule—'That Decrees of the military Courts may be amended [after having been confirmed by legal ordinance] by allowing Appeals if the matter decided exceed Ten Pounds,' which would put it out of the reach of the 'inferior Courts' and into the clutches of 'the King’s Old Subjects.' But the gist of it all was contained in the following: 'We represent that as the Grand Jury must be considered at present as the only Body representative of the Colony, … We propose that the Publick Accounts be laid before the Grand Jury at least twice a year.' That the grand jury was to be purged of all its French-Canadian members is evident from the addendum slipped in behind their backs. This addendum is a fine specimen of verbose invective against 'the Church of Rome,' the Pope, Bulls, Briefs, absolutions, etc., the empanelling 'en Grand and petty Jurys' of 'papist or popish Recusants Convict,' and so on.

The 'Presentment of the Grand Jury' was presently followed by  The Humble Petition of Your Majesty’s most faithful and loyal Subjects, British Merchants and Traders, in behalf of Themselves and their fellow Subjects, Inhabitants of Your Majesty’s Province of Quebec .

'Their fellow Subjects' did not, of course, include any 'papist or popish Recusants Convict.' Among the 'Grievances and Distresses' enumerated were 'the oppressive and severely felt Military government,' the inability to 'reap the fruit of our Industry' under such a martinet as Murray, who, in one paragraph, is accused of 'suppressing dutyfull Remonstrances in Silence' and, in the next, of 'treating them with a Rage and Rudeness of Language and Demeanor as dishonourable to the Trust he holds of Your Majesty as painfull to Those who suffer from it.' Finally, the petitioners solemnly warn His Majesty that their 'Lives in the Province are so very unhappy that we must be under the Necessity of removing from it, unless timely prevented by a Removal of the present Governor. '

In forwarding this document Murray poured out the vials of his wrath on 'the Licentious Fanaticks Trading here,' while he boldly championed the cause of the French Canadians, 'a Race, who, could they be indulged with a few priveledges which the Laws of England deny to Roman Catholicks at home, would soon get the better of every National Antipathy to their Conquerors and become the most faithful and most useful set of Men in this American Empire.

'

While these charges and counter-charges were crossing the Atlantic another, and much more violent, trouble came to a head.

As there were no barracks in Canada billeting was a necessity. It was made as little burdensome as possible and the houses of magistrates were specially exempt. This, however, did not prevent the magistrates from baiting the military whenever they got the chance. Fines, imprisonments, and other sentences, out of all proportion to the offence committed, were heaped on every redcoat in much the same way as was then being practised in Boston and other hotbeds of disaffection. The redcoats had done their work in ridding America of the old French menace. They were doing it now in ridding the colonies of the last serious menace from the Indians. And so the colonists, having no further use for them, began trying to make the land they had delivered too hot to hold them. There were, of course, exceptions; and the American colonists had some real as well as pretended grievances. But wantonly baiting the redcoats had already become a most discreditable general practice.

Montreal was most in touch with the disaffected people to the south.

It also had a magistrate of the name of Walker, the most rancorous of all the disaffected magistrates in Canada. This Walker, well mated with an equally rancorous wife, was the same man who entertained Benjamin Franklin and the other commissioners sent by Congress into Canada in 1776, the year in which both the American Republic and a truly British Canada were born. He would not have been flattered could he have seen the entry Franklin made about him and his wife in a diary which is still extant. The gist of it was that wherever the Walkers might be they would soon set the place by the ears. Walker, of course, was foremost in the persecution of the redcoats; and he eagerly seized his opportunity when an officer was billeted in a house where a brother magistrate happened to be living as a lodger. Under such circumstances the magistrate could not claim exemption. But this made no difference either to him or to Walker. Captain Payne, the gentleman whose presence enraged these boors, was seized and thrown into gaol. The chief justice granted a writ of habeas corpus. But the mischief was done and resentment waxed high. The French-Canadian seigneurs sympathized with Payne, which added fuel to the magisterial flame; and Murray, scenting danger, summoned the whole bench down to Quebec.

But before this bench of bumbles started some masked men seized Walker in his own house and gave him a good sound thrashing.

Unfortunately they spoilt the fair reprisal by cutting off his ear. That very night the news had run round Montreal and made a start for Boston and Quebec. Feeling ran high; and higher still when, a few weeks later, the civil magistrates vented their rage on several redcoats by imposing sentences exceeding even the utmost limits of their previous vindictive action. Montreal became panic-stricken lest the soldiers, baited past endurance, should break out in open violence. Murray drove up, post-haste, from Quebec, ordered the affected regiment to another station, reproved the offending magistrates, and re-established public confidence. Official and private rewards were offered to any witnesses who would identify Walker’s assailants. But in vain. The smouldering fire burst out again under Carleton. But the mystery was never cleared up.

Things had now come to a crisis.

The London merchants, knowing nothing about the internal affairs of Canada, backed the petition of the Quebec traders, who were quite unworthy of such support from men of real business probity and knowledge. The magisterial faction in Canada advertised their side of the case all over the colonies and in any sympathetic quarter they could find in England. The seigneurs sent home a warm defence of Murray; and Murray himself sent Cramahe, a very able Swiss officer in the British Army. The home government thus had plenty of contradictory evidence before it in 1765. The result was that Murray was called home in 1766, rather in a spirit of open-minded and sympathetic inquiry into his conduct than with any idea of censuring him. He never returned to Canada. But as he held the titular governorship for some time longer, and as he was afterwards employed in positions of great responsibility and trust, the verdict of the home authorities was clearly given in his favour.

The troublous year of 1764 saw another innovation almost as revolutionary, compared with the old regime, as the introduction of civil government itself.

This was the issue of the first newspaper in Canada, where, indeed, it was also the first printed thing of any kind. Nova Scotia had produced an earlier paper, the  Halifax Gazette , which lived an intermittent life from 1752 to 1800. But no press had ever been allowed in New France. The few documents that required printing had always been done in the mother country. Brown and Gilmore, two Philadelphians, were thus undertaking a pioneer business when they announced that 'Our Design is, in case we are fortunate enough to succeed, early in this spring to settle in this City [Quebec] in the capacity of Printers, and forthwith to publish a weekly newspaper in French and English.' The  Quebec Gazette , which first appeared on the 21st of the following June, has continued to the present time, though it is now a daily and is known as the  Quebec Chronicle . Centenarian papers are not common in any country; and those that have lived over a century and a half are very few indeed. So the  Quebec Chronicle , which is the second surviving senior in America, is also among the great press seniors of the world.

The original number is one of the curiosities of journalism.

The publishers felt tolerably sure of having what was then considered a good deal of recent news for their three hundred readers during the open season. But, knowing that the supply would be both short and stale in winter, they held out prospects of a Canadian  Tatler or  Spectator , without, however, being rash enough to promise a supply of Addisons and Steeles. Their announcement makes curious reading at the present day.

The Rigour of Winter preventing the arrival of ships from  Europe , and in a great measure interrupting the ordinary intercourse with the Southern Provinces, it will be necessary, in a paper designed for General Perusal, and Publick Utility, to provide some things of general Entertainment, independent of foreign intelligence: we shall therefore, on such occasions, present our Readers with such  Originals , both in  Prose and  Verse , as will please the FANCY and instruct the JUDGMENT.

And here we beg leave to observe that we shall have nothing so much at heart as the support of VIRTUE and MORALITY and the noble cause of LIBERTY. The refined amusements of LITERATURE, and the pleasing veins of well pointed wit, shall also be considered as necessary to this collection; interspersed with chosen pieces, and curious essays, extracted from the most celebrated authors; So that, blending PHILOSOPHY with POLITICKS, HISTORY, &c., the youth of both sexes will be improved and persons of all ranks agreeably and usefully entertained. And upon the whole we will labour to attain to all the exactness that so much variety will permit, and give as much variety as will consist with a reasonable exactness. And as this part of our project cannot be carried into execution without the correspondence of the INGENIOUS, we shall take all opportunities of acknowledging our obligations, to those who take the trouble of furnishing any matter which shall tend to entertainment or instruction. Our Intentions to please the  Whole , without offence to any  Individual , will be better evinced by our practice, than by writing volumes on the subject. This one thing we beg may be believed, that PARTY PREJUDICE, or PRIVATE SCANDAL, will never find a place in this PAPER.

×

We use cookies to help make LingQ better. By visiting the site, you agree to our cookie policy.