« PreviousContinue »
withstand any powerfully organized force. In this crisis Canada was more indebted to the current of events which, in the view of congress, made an invasion by French troops inexpedient, and without this aid no invasion was possible, than to her own power of resistance, or to the foresight exercised in the mother country for her defence. It was not the sense of the strength of the province or lukewarmness in the sentiment which had dictated Montgomery's expedition that deterred congress from the attempt, for Canada continued to be a coveted possession. Until 1780, the project was warmly entertained, and an influential party in congress ardently desired that the attempt should be made, if it were only to wipe out the memory of 1776.
In 1780, Hazen, accompanied by four Indians and some French Canadians, traced a line from the settlements of Vermont to the Saint Francis, with the view of determining the line by which an expedition could most favourably enter the province. They were accompanied by one Traversy, an active French Canadian agent of congress. Several attempts had been made to arrest this man in his frequent visits to his family, for his intrigues were known, but those who sympathised with his opinions made the capture impossible. The subordinate agents, concealed by their obscurity, thus received continued incentives to activity, and they kept the country in a state of agitation by their prognostications of an immediate attack.
D'Estaing's proclamation had been issued from Boston in November, 1778, and in no long time it was known throughout Canada. It was addressed purely to French feeling, and its effect penetrated within every household. It mysteriously appeared on the doors of the parish churches, almost simultaneously, shewing the sentiment with which it was welcomed.
Affixed to the church at Saint Ours, it was brought by the curé, M. Porlier, to the officer commanding at Sorel. It was the only report of the character made, notwithstanding the extent of the dissemination. Neither ecclesiastic nor seigneur considered it a duty to convey information on the subject to 1780]
THE FRENCH CANADIAN.
the government. The feeling awakened throughout Canada by d'Estaing's appeal was a strong desire to be re-united to France. I have alluded to the effect of this paper on the British provinces in revolt ; how the abler leaders of congress, awakened by Washington's prudence and foresight, looked upon this appeal with suspicion ; and I have expressed the opinion how wisely Washington judged, for the sentiment called forth in Canada was purely the re-awakening of the ancient traditions of the people, and in no way were they friendly to congress.
Nearly twenty years had passed since the French Canadians had become British subjects. The 60,000 of the population had increased one-third or more in number. At the period of the conquest they lived in poverty, many in privation. They were without schools ; without education. There was no printing press in the country. All the instruction which the habitants received was with regard to the duties of their religion. There was no outer world to them. The general population had lived in hopeless obscurity, subjected to military service and the constant corvée. They had no knowledge of political liberty, and had no aspirations for its possession.
In the intervening period the French Canadian cultivateur had become a different man. He had learned the blessing of political freedom. His time had been his own; there was no exaction of military service; when he laboured for the government, he was paid for the work he performed. He had become prosperous and rich, and had attained to a better condition in every circumstance of his life. He was better housed, better fed, and better dressed. The letters of the Brunswick troops sent to Germany establish the well-being and the comfort under which the French Canadian then lived. The fact is also shewn by the improvement visible in the churches, many having been repaired and rebuilt, and others newly constructed. French Canadian life had assumed a new character. The observance of their customs was continued without restraint; their laws had been maintained by the British government against all opposition, and it had not been slight; their religion was fully recognized to the extent that it was binding on those who professed it. No people were ever more considerately treated, or more fully enjoyed the protection of a beneficent government. There was no ground of discontent or even of complaint ; for the majority had increased in wealth and consideration, and were enjoying a condition of ease and comfort unknown to their ancestors under French rule, with the depressing influences which attended it.
* [Vol. VI., p. 331.]
In the invasion of 1776, the most devoted loyalists had been the clergy and seigneurs ; in 1780 this feeling, if it at all existed, was torpid and chilled by the hope of being re-allied to France. Prominent among the clergy who testified that they were alienated from British interest, and who became active assertors of French sympathies, was one de La Valinière. He was French by birth, and had arrived in the province only in 1776. He had been admitted as a member of the seminary of Saint Sulpice, and was subsequently appointed to one of the best cures in its gift. He made himself so conspicuous in his furtherance of the French cause, in openly advocating some measure being taken to aid in an invasion, that the ecclesiastics of the seminary considered themselves compromised by his conduct, and brought the matter to the notice of the bishop. The bishop removed him from his cure to one where he would be less mischievous; at the same time, to one less lucrative. The proceeding so exasperated de La Valinière that he openly quarrelled with the bishop, and threatened to sue him in a court of law. He is described as being “fiery, factious and turbulent, in no way deficient in point of wit or parts."
To prevent the mischief arising from his agitation, de La Valiniere was arrested, with the consent of the bishop, and sent to England by one of the vessels then leaving. It was thought that this step would lead such of the clergy as partook of his opinions to be more circumspect. From the time of the knowledge of the French alliance, and the active form it pre1780]
LA FAYETTE'S APPEAL.
sented, a change had taken place in the feeling of many of the body, and by their influence it was communicated with more or less force to the whole French Canadian population." Haldimand recommended that de La Valinière should not be permitted to return to France, but that he should be kept in seclusion in some remote part and be well treated, as he would seek every opportunity to serve France and act injuriously to British interests. +
Simultaneously with the proclamation of d'Estaing, La Fayette issued an appeal nominally addressed to the Indians. It was generally disseminated I in Canada, and its effect upon French Canadian feeling was admittedly disquieting. S It was a strong appeal to French traditional sentiment, as applicable to the Canadians as to the Indians, although covertly expressed. Their fathers had been told by the French on leaving Canada that they would again re-appear to make war on their enemies; they would remember the promise made to join them against the English ; a promise coined from the mint of La Fayette's fancy for the occasion. The French were now keeping their word; the Indians were to keep theirs. The English had enveloped them in falsehood as with a fog, so that they could not see what was true. The French had at this time approached so near to them that they could not fail to recognize their fathers.
La Fayette then commenced coolly to relate, that the con
* Haldimand to Germain, 25th October, 1781. “ However sensible I am of the good conduct of the clergy in general during the invasion of the Province in the year 1775, I am well aware that since France was known to take part in the contest, and since the address of count d'Estaing and a letter of monsieur de la Fayette to the Canadians and Indians have been circulated in the Province, many of the Priests have changed their opinions, and in case of another Invasion, would, I am afraid, adopt another system of conduct." [Can. Arch., Q. 17.1, p. 195.]
+ The fate of de La Valinière was unfortunate. We learn from a letter from lord Hervey to Germain (Can. Arch., Q. 17, p. 80, 17th March, 1780] that when on board the “ Lenox" at Cork, he was attacked by fever. On the arrival of the ship at Portsmouth he was taken to the hospital, where he died.
The proclamation of d'Estaing was dated the 30th November. The address of La Fayette the 18th of December, 1778 ; both from Boston.
$ [Can. Arch., Q. 17, p. 175. Haldimand to Germain.]
gress troops had taken Philadelphia, that they had beaten the English at Monmouth, that the French fleet had put the English fleet to flight, and that they had captured several frigates and all sorts of ships.
The French king had entered into a treaty with the Americans; he had sent his fleet to their aid, and an ambassador to represent him at Philadelphia ; that the king desired to join Canada to the thirteen states, and had promised succour to the Canadians.
The French flag had triumphed in the British channel.
He had heard that they were attached to the English, and that they had been deceived by falsehood. They had now to return to their ancient feeling to give aid to France, and remain the friends of their father the king. *
This address was rapidly distributed throughout Canada and in the west, especially in the country of the Illinois and of the Miamis. It found its way at the same time to the neighbourhood of Detroit. The promised appearance of the French operated on the sentiment of many of the tribes, so that they refused to join in expeditions when their service was called for. With the hope of increased presents and greater consideration, they anxiously looked for the re-establishment of French power, and a large majority would have joined a French detachment immediately it appeared.
This changed feeling of the Indians led Haldimand to look with great suspicion on the greater demand for passes to carry on the Indian trade. At this date the agents of congress were exceedingly busy; many were known, for they had become prominent from their activity. Vanity, and a sense of personal importance in several cases, led to a display of their sentiment, and disclosed their co-operation in the intrigues into which they had entered. The fact must be remembered in the examination of the arraignment of Haldimand for his arrest of the few active partisans of congress who obtained notoriety by their conduct. It is a matter hereafter to be specially considered. Many of the minor agents
* (18th December, 1778. Can. Arch., Q. 161, p. 105.]