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Topic: The American Revolution: Why Did Quebec and Nova Scotia Refused to Join
In this research paper I will investigate in the reasons why Nova Scotia and Quebec refused to join the American Revolution of 1774-1791, consequences of their refusal as well as possible outcomes and what could have been if they had joined the struggle for independence. I will also describe events that were taking place during the period and express my own opinion regarding those events.
2. Canada and American Revolution
British armies captured Quebec in 1759 and in 1760 they captured Montreal and the territories that before were French colonies of Canada became occupied and governed by the foreign country. For the next three years, Canadian people were hoping that the situation that happened would be eventually changed and Canada would become again French, but events that took place on the 10th of February, 1763 showed that the situation would not be changing. At that day, France admitted its defeat in the Seven Years’ War and the Treaty of Paris was signed, in accordance with which Britain received control over Canada. Even though that period was very successful for British Empire, Britain experienced the financial crisis after the war and the government was looking for the ways to raise the money. Finally government made the decision to raise money in North America by establishing direct taxes on tea and newspapers. That action aroused the wave of indignation among Canadian and British merchants, as well as in British colonies in America. As the tension in North America grew bigger and bigger, British government envisioned Canadians to be their allies in the maturing conflict of interests.
During that period of time, Canada was governed by the British- James Murray, who was doing everything to establish good relationships with Canadian people. He was not executing orders from British government about imposing of English civil law, provided religious communities of Canada with subsidiaries and supported the appointment of the Bishop of Quebec, while government of Britain was not very much trusting Roman Catholic Church.
Britain wanted to strengthen its positions in Canada. Guy Carleton, being the Murray’s successor, promoted the pass of the Quebec Act in 1774, which guaranteed tolerance for Roman Catholics in Canada. Since then, they were able to open government offices and sit on the legislative council. French language, civil law and seigniorial tenure were recognized by British governors, and Canadian territories were expanded westward.
Americans were not very happy with the Quebec Act, with tolerant attitudes to the Roman Catholic Church and with newly acquired Canadian territories, they were dreaming about to have for themselves.
Later on, in 1774, Quebec delegates were invited to participate in Continental Congress, as Americans were looking forward Canadian support in the rebellion they were preparing. That invitation was translated in French and sent to Thomas Walker, Montreal opponent of the Quebec Act, and the pamphlets were widely distributed and produced sympathy to the situation in America. In 1775, April, 15 the American Revolution began. In three weeks Americans succeeded in capturing of Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point on the Lake Champlain, which cleared the way for capturing Canada.
American leaders were still hoping that Canadians would join them and to turn the invasion into the liberation war. George Washington, who commanded the army, hoped that Quebec invasion would secure the northern flank against the intervention of British troops. On the other side of the rebellion, Carleton, the British governor, was certain in the support of Canada, as he thought that Quebec Act had already provided him with necessary back-up. He took such necessary steps, as provisions with weapons and uniforms to the Canadian army, and was waiting for support. But when the American troops invaded Canada, both sides were disappointed, as one part of Canadians supported British side and the other- American, but the situation appeared even worse- the majority of them remained neutral.
On November, 15 Americans reached Quebec, and the territory that was controlled by Britain was significantly reduced, but Americans didn’t know yet that it was their last successes. Quebec fortifications were very strong to hold off the American army, which haven’t prepared the large enough cannon to ruin the walls of the city. American conquests were successful, but meaningless, as Britain still controlled the sea. Without the St. Lawrence River blockade, British side was able to supply necessary amount of food and reinforcements to Quebec. After some time, Americans were starting to experience hunger and cold, while the garrison was well-equipped with all necessary staff for the winter. The strategy of the British side here was absolutely passive – no open confrontation with the invaders and keeping army inside Quebec walls.
At night December 30-31, 1775, American side decided to act actively and attacked the garrison. As a result of the battle, Montgomery, who was leading the American army, was killed; this led to the panic in the troops. The battle was ended with the surrender of the American side. American army, suffering from hunger, cold and diseases left Canada and up to the end of the revolution kept away from it.
So, invasion of Canada by American army in 1775-1776 became the most important event in the history of Canada. If American part won the battle and captured Quebec, there is a strong likelihood that Canada be the part of the United States nowadays.6 The defeat of Americans laid the foundation for the development of Canada into independent country. After the end of the revolution and signing of the second Treaty of Paris in 1783, United States turned out all British Loyalists from its lands, and they moved to Canada.
Subsequently those loyalists changed Canada, by adding English language to the population and favoring the adoption of the Constitutional Act (1791), according to which Canada was divided into two provinces- Upper Canada and Lower Canada, each had an elected assembly and had the right to appoint legislative Council. In such a manner, American Revolution forced loyalists to move to Canada and introduce fundamental changes to the Canadian’s lifestyle, institutions, and provinces.
3. Nova Scotia and American Revolution
The case with Nova Scotia is not that simple, as it was with Canada and Quebec. If Quebec refused to join the Revolution as its people were looking into the future and envisioned that they had more opportunities to become independent under British, as Britain was showing its loyalty to Canada, then reasons for Nova Scotia refusal were more complicated and had deeper roots. A significant part of the Nova Scotia’s population came from New England (about 20 000 people).And therefore many people from New England had strong economic and family connections in Nova Scotia. The decision to keep neutrality during the revolution was influenced by several factors. The first factor had geographical nature, and was about the fact that settlements were spread throughout the peninsula and set serious barriers to communication for the population. 7Another influential factor was that British military was present in Halifax and provided rough control. And finally the main reason for keeping away from the revolutionary actions was the ideological, political, and religious Nova Scotia transformation. In 1760-1791 Great Awakening was taking place in Nova Scotia, which can be also called the Great Religious Revival.
Returning to the geographical nature of the colony, I would like to mention the fact that geographical distance left no choice to the people of Nova Scotia other then to remain neutral. Lack of communication would simply not allow them to react adequately and timely to happening events. The sea was the only connection between settlements. Brebner in 1937 wrote (22): “There simply could not have been an integral Nova Scotia”. 8As only integral Nova Scotia could contribute to the American War of Independence.
Presence of British troops evoked fear in those, who wanted to join the American struggle for independence, making almost impossible active participation in the revolutionary events. Halifax was the most important naval base in the colony, and even in the whole North America. People of Nova Scotia were used to think about Halifax as about British naval and envisioned it as the military threat. So, if Anglo-American controversies would lead to open opposition, Halifax would have become military and naval threat, and those who were supporting revolution should escape.
Britain also totally controlled social and political life of the colony. Halifax merchants had a tight control over the elected assembly of the colony. Taking into consideration the fact that the ideology of the revolution was mainly concentrated around the ideas of patriotism and freedom, which were developed and discussed during special meetings, such meetings were prohibited in Nova Scotia by the Governor Legge, who was very much threatened with the rebellion taking place and who tried to push the revolution and its ideas aside Nova Scotia. So, people of Nova Scotia were not able to contribute to the ideology of the revolution.
Speaking about the main reason for keeping neutrality during American Revolution, the Great Awakening, it is necessary to mention Henry Alline, evangelical preacher, who was the spiritual father and the leader of the happening awakening. People of Nova Scotia turned to look for answers for their questions about the revolution and problems that were bothering them not from political figures, but from religious ones.
Henry Alline was born in Rhode Island and belonged to Congregational Church. At age of 28 he began his career as the preacher and was moving from town to town delivering his ideas and preaching in rural communities. Even though the settlements in Nova Scotia were very much divided, they were gradually becoming more united with his efforts. And step by step religion became the main topic discussed in each town of Nova Scotia.
This is how Stewart in 1982 (44-52) in his published documents related to the Great Awakening in Nova Scotia provided the evidence of the newly established situation and the way people reacted to the speeches of Henry Alline: “And the religious influence that accompanied his preaching in different places, was said to be very great; and by some, was called a great Reformation! It was so represented concerning Argyle and Liverpool, the latter of which towns so generally embraced Mr. Alline’s preaching, that they forsook their own Minister, Rev. Mr. Israel Cheever.
…The sound of Mr. Alline’s wonderful reformation at Liverpool and Argyle, and other places, quickly reached Yarmouth, and excited warm attention among Mr. Scott’s people, and fully determined their minds not to neglect a second opportunity for having the benefit of Mr. Alline’s preaching among them.
…he preached much in the night as well as in the day time. And a considerable number were religiously impressed and became very zealous and fervent. With much zeal and confidence, they asserted that he was sent of God, and that his works were a full proof and evidence of it.”
In 1783 Alline reached the peak of his popularity among the population of Nova Scotia and was the only spiritual leader during that major religious revival. His messages to people were assertive, confident, and optimistic- they were just what were needed in the critical situation people of Nova Scotia appeared to be. He was strongly against the war and called the war the sad consequence of the man’s fall.
American wave of republican ideology had almost no effect on Nova Scotia, because of the lack of communication. And so, people appeared to know not very much about what was actually happening in the south.
So, to summarize ideas about Nova Scotia’s neutrality, I wanted to say that there were few explanations. It is obvious that the geographical position of the colony left people a little bit isolated from other towns. It is also obvious that British army in Halifax was a significant threat for any attempt to support the revolution. But these factors were not the only one that contributed to Nova Scotia’s decision not to participate in revolutionary actions. It is impossible to overestimate the influence that Henry Alline had upon the minds of Nova Scotia people being their spiritual father. Alline supported confused people in the hard situation when they were forced to keep away from the revolution and remedied the situation with a speeches love and hope that had deep influence upon people, as well as proposed the new sense of identity and purpose to them. The religious awakening proposed a new social and political identity for the Nova Scotia people. People received inspiration to fight British regime and fulfill their new purpose. So, the Great Awakening in Nova Scotia became the main influential factor that made people to remain neutral in the American struggle for independence.
Quebec and Nova Scotia refused to participate in the American Revolution in 1774-1791. Each colony had its own reasons for that. Quebec was willing to get freedom and become an independent unit, as if American part succeeded in capturing Quebec, Canada could be the part of the United States at the present moment and could forget about gaining independence for a long time. Adoption of the Quebec also had the great influence.
British Loyalists that were forced to move from America, subsequently changed Canada, by adding English language to the population and adopting Constitutional Act, which divided Canada into two provinces- Upper Canada and Lower Canada, and established elected assembly.
In case with Nova Scotia, the situation was a little bit more complicated. There appeared to be three reasons for keeping neutrality in the revolution. The first is the religious Great Awakening, lead by Henry Alline, the influential preacher. The second reason was geographical position with separated settlements, which set barriers to communication. And the third reason was the fear of British military in Halifax and its tight control.