The Conquest Official and Countervailing Powers in British Rule
Worksheet 5 The Struggle for North America
The Seven Years War (1756-1763) was the last French-British struggle in North America. At first, the French had some victories. In 1758, the British captured several French forts. In September 1759 the fortress at Quebec fell after a short siege. Montreal surrendered in 1760. At the Treaty of Paris (1763) France gave up all her territory in North America, except the islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon.
The British were successful for several reasons. One main factor was their sea power. The large British navy made it easier to move armies and keep them supplied. France was more interested in the war in Europe. Few troops were sent to America. Usually they were short of supplies. In addition, the prosperous American colonies could supply men and supplies to the British armies. In New France, a series of poor harvests led to a shortage of food. The French forces were outnumbered. About 20,000 French soldiers had to face almost 100,000 troops under British command.
In September 1760, the French forces defending the small town of Quebec capitulated (gave up without fighting) to the British attackers. An agreement was made between the two sides. It was written in a document called the Articles of Capitulation. The militia could return to their homes. No one would be deported. No one would have his property taken from him. The people would be allowed to remain Roman Catholics. Nuns could stay, but Jesuit priests would have to leave. The people would become British subjects.
The war between Britain and France continued in Europe till late in 1762. During this time, a military government was set up to keep order in New France until a peace treaty was signed. The British brought in food from New England to prevent starvation. French laws and customs were allowed to continue.
Only a few people returned to France. They mostly belonged to the elite. They included colonial administrators, nobles, army officers, and merchants. Most Canadiens stayed. Some hoped to become part of the French empire again once the war was over.
The Royal Proclamation
In October 1763, an official announcement called the Royal Proclamation was issued. It created the Province of Quebec. Its territory was much smaller than the former New France. All the land to the west was called ‘Indian Territories.’ This area was to be reserved for the fur trade. No one was to be allowed to settle there.
The Royal Proclamation set up a civilian government to replace the military government. A governor was to be named by the king. The governor would choose a council to help him rule the colony. English criminal and civil laws were to apply.
Structure of government set up by the Royal Proclamation
The Royal Proclamation made other changes for the people of the new Province of Quebec. The aim of the Royal Proclamation was to assimilate French-speaking Canadiens and make them British. The laws of England (Test Act) specifically prohibited Roman Catholics from holding public office on the council. This kept Canadiens out of the administration. No new Roman Catholic bishop would be allowed in the colony. Protestant churches and schools were to be encouraged. Unused land was to be divided into townships according to the British system (rather than seigneuries like in the French system). English-speaking settlers were to be encouraged to come to the colony.
The British conquest had several important results: