(A line by line historical analysis of the accusations of the Declaration of Independence.)
XX. For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies.
After the adoption of the Boston Port Bill, the bill for changing the government of Massachusetts, and the bill providing for the transportation of accused persons to England for trial, the British ministry were evidently alarmed at the fury of the whirlwind they themselves had raised; and they doubtless had a presentiment of the coming rebellion which their own cruel measures had engendered and ripened. They therefore thought it prudent to take steps in time to secure such a footing in America as should enable them to breast successfully the gathering storm. Accordingly a bill was introduced in the House of Lords in May, 1774, "for making more effectual provision for the government of the province of Quebec, in North America."
This bill proposed the establishment, in Canada, of a Legislative Council, invested with all powers, except that of levying taxes. It was provided that its members should be appointed by the crown, and continue in authority during its pleasure; that Canadian subjects, professing the Catholic faith, might be called to sit in the Council; that the Catholic clergy, with the exception of the regular orders, should be secured in their possessions and of their tithes, from all those who professed their religion; that the French laws, without jury, should be re-established, preserving, however, the English laws, with trial by jury, in criminal cases. It was also added, in order to furnish the ministers with a larger scope for their designs, that the limits of Canada should be extended, so as to embrace the territory situated between the lakes, and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.1
This was a liberal concession to the people of Canada, nearly all of whom were French, and but a small portion of them Protestants.2 The nobility and clergy had frequently complained of the curtailment of their privileges, and maintained that they were better off under the old French rule previous to 1763, than now. The measure proposed was well calculated to quiet all discontent in Canada, and make the people loyal. By such a result, a place would be secured in the immediate vicinity of the refractory Colonies, where troops and munitions of war might be landed, and an overwhelming force be concentrated, ready at a moment's warning to march into the territory of, and subdue, the rebellious Americans. This was doubtless the ulterior design of the ministry in offering these concessions, and the eagle vision of Colonel Barre plainly perceived it. In the debate on the bill, he remarked, "A very extraordinary indulgence is given to the inhabitants of this province, and one calculated to gain the hearts and affections of these people. To this I cannot object if it is to be applied to good purposes; but if you are about to raise a Popish army to serve in the Colonies, from this time all hope of peace in America will be destroyed."
The bill was so opposed to the religious and national prejudices of the great mass of the people of Great Britain, that it met with violent opposition both in and out of Parliament, yet it passed by a large majority, and on the twenty-first of June it became a law by receiving the royal signature.
1 Soon after the introduction of this bill, Thomas and John Penn, son and grandson of William Penn, put in a remonstrance against the boundary proposition, as it contemplated an encroachment upon their territory, they being the proprietaries of Pennsylvania, and the counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, in Delaware. Burke, also, who was then the agent for New York, contended against the boundary proposition, because it encroached upon the boundary line of that Colony.
2 General Carleton, then Governor of Canada, asserted, during his examination before Parliament, that there were then in that province only about three hundred and sixty Protestants, besides women and children; while there were one hundred and fifty thousand Roman Catholics.
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