||The Quebec Act
This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 4 Battle for a Continent
Backgrounder and Activity
This activity focuses on the three chapters of Episode 4 entitled "Battle for a Continent," "The World Turned Upside Down" and "The Quebec Act."
These video excerpts chronicle the aftermath of the Seven Years War and its impact on the 70,000 French colonists now subject to British rule. In the dozen years that followed, the British granted a series of crucial accommodations which guaranteed that the Canadiens would retain their identity while they attempted to come to terms with the conquest. Ironically, as Britain's American colonies moved toward open rebellion, the "new subjects" began to appear as Britain's best hope for maintaining a presence in the New World.
The Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Year War (1756-1763) was signed by France and Britain in 1763. New France was ceded to Britain. The Royal Proclamation governed the life of people inhabiting the former colony, now the Province of Quebec, a territory reduced to a strip of land along the St. Lawrence. The Canadiens were barred from holding an administrative position unless they took an Oath of Allegiance and renounced the Catholic faith.
In 1774, with revolution looming among the American colonies, Sir Guy Carleton, the Governor of the new Province of Quebec, urged the British parliament to pass political reforms to deal more fairly with the French Catholics of his colony. The Quebec Act expanded the Province of Quebec eastward to Labrador and southwest to Mississippi. A governor and an appointed council would administer the colony. There was no provision for an elected assembly. The Quebec Act also guaranteed French civil law, the seigneurial system, and the freedom to express the Roman Catholic faith. The Oath of Allegiance was replaced by a weaker declaration.
American reaction was hostile. American colonists were furious to learn that the province of Quebec would continue without an elected assembly for its English speaking population. They were equally upset at the tolerance bestowed upon the Catholic faith, which was seen as a force hostile to American liberty. Lastly, and most significantly, Americans were enraged that the Quebec Act placed the coveted Indian Territory west of the Appalachians under the jurisdiction of the Quebec government. Most Americans felt this land to be their birthright, and now it would be off limits. The Americans called the Quebec Act the Intolerable Act. The dissatisfaction it raised would lead to the American Revolution two years later.
Activity: The King Has Spoken
Have students role-play a petition to the British King following the conquest of Quebec as he attempts to decide what to do with the French colony in North America. You can assume the role of king, while students role-play these characters:
- Governor Guy Carleton
- François Baby, Quebec merchant
- Bishop of Quebec
- a French seigneur
- two habitants (husband and wife)
- a native person (i.e. Pontiac)
- a French trapper
- a British merchant from Quebec, such as Thomas Walker
- Benjamin Franklin
- an English Protestant moving to Quebec
Have each character make a presentation outlining what he or she believes should happen to Quebec. The king, with the aid of his advisors, will draw up an Act outlining the new borders of the province, the structure of the new government, the rights of the new subjects, and new rules governing fur trade and commerce.