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Majesty's subjects professing the religion of the Church of Rome, in the said province of Quebec, may have, hold and enjoy, the free exercise of their religion, subject to the King's supremacy, and that the clergy of the said church may hold, receive, and enjoy their accustomed dues and rights, with respect to such persons only as shall profess the said religion; and that it shall be lawful for his Majesty, his heirs or successors, to make such provision for the support of the Protestant clergy within the said province, as he or they shall from time to time think necessary and expedient." But by far the most important clause was that which, after reciting that the English laws which had prevailed there for ten years, administered and regulated under commissions to governors, had been found inapplicable to the state and circumstances of the country, enacted that from and after the 1st of May, 1775, the said English laws and practice of courts should be annulled. It is true that the criminal law of England was excepted, and that the system of torture which had been in previous existence was abolished for ever. During the time they were under French domination a person suspected of crime was seized, thrown into prison, and interrogated, without knowing the charge brought
against him, and without being confronted with his accuser. He was deprived of the assistance either of his friends, relations, or counsel. He was sworn to tell the truth, or rather to accuse himself, without any value being attached to his testimony. Questions were then artfully put, which are described as more difficult for innocence to unravel than vice to deny. The prisoner was never confronted with the person who had deposed against him, except at the moment before judgment was pronounced, or when the torture was applied, or at his execution, which judgment in capital cases was invariably followed by confiscation of property. This act also constituted a council with the power to make ordinances, conjointly with the governor, but not to impose taxes except for making roads. The ordinances were to be laid before his Majesty for allowance, and those touching religion not to be in force until formally approved of by the King.
This flagrant violation of the promises held out in the proclamation, and of the terms upon which the people of British origin had settled in the provinces, filled them with dismay. They felt that they had the wretched choice presented to them of abandoning their property and removing from the colony, or of remaining a miserable
minority, to be ruled and governed by foreigners, whose favour could only be conciliated by their forgetting their country, their language, and religion, as soon as possible, and becoming Frenchmen. They accordingly lost no time in forwarding petitions, in which they were joined by the merchants of London, interested in the North American trade, to the king and the two houses of parliament, expressive of their sense of the injury they had sustained, and of the misery likely to be entailed by this act upon the province, but no repeal was effected, and the act remained as it was passed.
Importunity often prevails against conviction, and the most noisy applicant is generally the first relieved, not because he is the most deserving, but because he is the most troublesome. The French Canadians appear to have been fully aware of this fact, and to have acted upon it; and the English finding their opponents first in the field, have been put on the defensive, and instead of seeking what was due to themselves, have been compelled to expostulate that too great a share has been given to their rivals. The advantage gained by this position, the former have constantly maintained and, it is a singular fact, that while the latter are the only aggrieved party in the country, the
former have forestalled the attention of the public, and engrossed the whole of its sympathy. Every page of this work will confirm and illustrate this extraordinary fact. The Quebec Act was obnoxious, not merely to the British party in Canada, but to the inhabitants of those colonies whose gallantry so materially contributed to its conquest. It has been the singular fate of this unfortunate bill to have excited two rebellions. It caused the cup of American grievance, which was already filled to the brim, to overflow into revolt, and has subsequently given rise to a train of events that have induced the very men that it was designed to conciliate, to follow the fatal example that had been set to them by their republican neighbours.
As soon as the struggle had ended in the old colonies, by their successful assertion of independence, a vast emigration of the loyalists took place into Canada, comprising a great number of persons of character and property; and these people, who had been accustomed to the exercise of the electoral privilege, united with those of their countrymen who had previously settled there in demanding a modification of the Quebec Act, and the establishment of a local legislature. The petitions of these people gave rise to the Act of the 31st Geo. 3, c. 31, commonly called the Constitutional Act, to which and to the Quebec Act, of the 14th of the same reign, c. 83, alluded to in my former letter, is to be attributed all the trouble experienced in governing Canada. In the fatal concessions to the Canadians contained in these Acts, is to be found the origin of that antiBritish feeling which, engendered by the powers conferred by those Acts, has increased with every exercise of those powers, until it has assumed the shape of concentrated hatred and