Prelude to the Military Rule of 1760

The British quickly installed their generals James Murray, Ralph Burton, and Thomas Gage in the governments of Québec, Trois-Rivières and Montréal, respectively. During the ongoing military occupation of Canada, English general Jeffrey Amherst, successor to Wolfe, proceeded to organize a provisional administrative system; for as long as the Seven Years War continued in Europe, the fate of North America remained uncertain. Nevertheless, some 2,500 French soldiers and administrators immediately left the colony and returned to France; the following year, about a thousand other people anxious about the situation did the same.

Treaty of Paris (1763) and North America

With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, which officially put an end to the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) between France and Great Britain, New France (with the exception of Louisiana) officially became a British possession. The signatories of the Treaty were the Duke of Praslin for France and the Duke of Bedford for Great Britain. From its immense empire in North America, France now possessed only the tiny islands of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon south of Newfoundland. In the meantime, Louisiana had become a Spanish possession; in fact, on November 3, 1762, Spain had signed the Acte d'acceptation de la Louisiane par le roi d'Espagne at Fontainebleau.

In the Antilles, France lost Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago, as well as Guyana, but took over St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Maria-Galante, Desirade and Martinique. In India, France kept only five trading posts: Chandarnagar, Yanaon, Pondicherry, Karikal and Mahe, all of which it had been barred from fortifying. Great Britain got Minorca Island back and Spain recouped Cuba to compensate for losing Florida to Great Britain along with Canada. Finally, Great Britain obtained Senegal in Africa.

Archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Thus the Seven Years' War was especially devastating for France: its military prestige was compromised in Europe, its navy much weakened, and its finances ruined. France retained mere scraps of its colonial empire in the making, most of it passing entirely into the hands of Great Britain. Although France was losing its first great colonial empire, few people at the time cared. Yet, for some historians, the loss of New France was, in the annals of France, "the greatest French defeat of all times." By comparison, the defeats of Napoleon appear as negligible.

Cesar Gabriel de Choiseul, John Russel

Royal Proclamation of 1763 and language use

In order to provide an administrative framework for the newly acquired territories in North America, the Parliament of Westminster adopted George III's Royal Proclamation on October 7, 1763. Like all English laws, the royal proclamation was passed and promulgated in English. The French version had no legal value; it was merely a text translated for Francophones.

The Royal Proclamation demarcated the boundaries of the new colony, the "Province of Quebec":

Section 1

The Government of Quebec bounded on the Labrador Coast by the River St. John, and from thence by a Line drawn from the Head of that River through the Lake St. John, to the South end of the Lake Nipissim; from thence the said Line, crossing the River St. Lawrence, and the Lake Champlain, in 45 Degrees of North Latitude, passes along the High Lands which divide the Rivers that empty themselves into the said River St. Lawrence by the West End of the Island of Anticosti, terminates at the aforesaid River of St. John.

The borders of French Canada formerly extended from Acadia all the way to the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley. With the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the entire Great Lakes region was parcelled off and established as "Indian Territory." Although the British had "abandoned" the greater part of the conquered territory to the indigenous peoples, in actual fact it was because they could not ensure its defence. Better to temporarily leave territories they could not control to the indigenous peoples.

In any case, the colonial authorities were well aware that the situation was only temporary and that with the eventual immigration of English colonists, they could always dislodge allies who had become a nuisance. They also had to limit the westward expansion of the Thirteen American Colonies in order to encourage surplus populations to settle to the north in Quebec and Nova Scotia (which at that time included New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).

Quebec Act of 1774 and linguistic duality

In the face of ever-worsening difficulties within the English colonies of New England, the British government needed to take measures to prevent the spread of autonomist tendencies in its Northern colonies. But the governor of the "Province of Québec," Guy Carleton, an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, seemed to have no great confidence in Canadians, at least judging from these remarks: "I like to believe that, if we could count on the population, we could hold the place. But we have so many enemies among this foolish people deceived by traitors."

Despite his lukewarm enthusiasm, Governor Carleton recommended to London that it take steps to ensure the loyalty of Canadians in the event of a clash with the Thirteen Colonies. Thus political pragmatism prevailed, and Governor Carleton judged it preferable to back Canadians rather than English merchants. In certain respects, he even became sympathetic to the Canadians' cause. He eventually acquiesced to judicial affairs implicating Canadians being judged under French law and Catholics being allowed to hold official positions.

Guy Carlenton