Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester: Wikis


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Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester.

Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester, KB (Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ireland, September 3, 1724 – November 10, 1808 Stubbings, Maidenhead, Berkshire), known between 1776 and 1786 as Sir Guy Carleton, was an Irish-British soldier and administrator. He twice served as Governor of the Province of Quebec, from 1768 to 1778, concurrently serving as Governor General of British North America in that time, and from 1785 to 1795. He commanded British troops in the American War of Independence, first leading the defence of Quebec during the 1775 rebel invasion and the 1776 counteroffensive that drove the rebels from the province, and then in 1782 and 1783 as the commander-in-chief of all British forces in North America. The military and political career of his younger brother Thomas Carleton was interwoven with his own career.


Early career

Guy Carleton was born to a Protestant military family that had lived in Ireland since the 17th century, and was one of four brothers that served in the British military. In 1742, at the age of 17, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the 25th Regiment of Foot and in which in 1745 he was made a Lieutenant. He saw action in Flanders in the War of the Austrian Succession, at which time he became a friend of James Wolfe; he may also have served with Wolfe at the Battle of Culloden.[1]

In 1751 he joined the 1st Foot Guards as a Captain and in 1752 a Captain.

Seven Years War

In 1757 was made a Lieutenant Colonel and served as part of the Army of Observation designed to protect Hanover. The army was forced to retreat following the Battle of Hastenback and eventually concluced the Convention of Klosterzeven, taking them out of the war - after which Carleton returned to Britain. In 1758 he was made the Lieutenant Colonel of the newly formed 72nd Regiment of Foot.

Wolfe selected Carleton as his aide in the 1758 attack on Louisburg. King George II declined to make this appointment, possibly because of negative comments he made about the soldiers of Hanover during his service on the Continent. In December 1758 Wolfe, now a Major General was given command of the upcoming campaign against the city of Quebec, and he selected Carleton as his quarter-master general. King George refused to make this appointment also until Lord Ligonier talked to the king about the matter and the king changed his mind.[2] When Lieutenant-Colonel Carleton arrived in Halifax he assumed command of six hundred grenadiers. He was with the British forces when they arrived at Quebec in June 1759. Carleton was responsible for the provisioning of the army and also acting as an engineer supervising the placement of cannon. Carleton received a head wound during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and he returned to England after the battle in October 1759.

On March 29, 1761, as the lieutenant colonel of 72nd Regiment of Foot he took part in the attack on Belle-Ile-en-mer, an island of the coast of the northern part of the Bay of Biscay, ten miles off the coast of France. Carleton led an attack on the French, but was seriously wounded and prevented from taking any further part in the fighting. After four weeks of fighting, the British captured the rest of the island.

He was made colonel in 1762 and took part in the British expedition against Cuba, which also included Richard Montgomery, who went on to oppose him in 1775. On July 22, he was wounded leading an attack on a Spanish outpost.

In 1764 he transferred to the 93rd Regiment of Foot.

Governor of Quebec

Sir Guy Carleton

On April 7, 1766, he was named acting Lieutenant Governor and Administrator of Quebec with James Murray officially in charge. He arrived in Quebec on September 22, 1766. As Carleton had no experience in public affairs and came from a politically insignificant family his appointment is hard to explain and was possibly a surprise to him.[3] The Duke of Richmond had in 1766 been made Secretary of State for the North American colonies and fourteen years earlier Carleton had been the Duke's tutor. The Duke was also the colonel of the 72nd Regiment of Foot while Carleton was its Lieutenant Colonel. He was also appointed commander-in-chief of all troops stationed in Quebec.

The government consisted of a Governor, a council, and an assembly. The governor could veto any action of the council, but London had also given Carleton instructions that all of this actions required the approval of the council. Most officials of the province at this time did not receive a salary and received their income through fees they charged for their services. Carleton tried to replace this system with a system in which the officials instead received a salary, but this position was never supported in London. When Carleton renounced his own fees, Murray was furious.

After Murray resigned his position, Carleton was appointed Captain General and Governor in Chief on April 12, 1768. Carleton took the oath of office on November 1, 1768. On August 9, 1770 he sailed for England for what he thought was for a few months. During his absence Hector Theophilus de Cramahé, the lieutenant governor, ran the provincial government.

He married Maria Howard, daughter of the second Earl of Effingham, who was twenty-nine years his junior, on May 22, 1772. He was promoted to Major-General in May 25, 1772. The Quebec Act of 1774, which determined how the province was to be administered, was based upon Carleton's recommendations. Carleton arrived back in Quebec on September 18, 1774, and began implementing the provisions of the act. While the clergy and the seigneurs (landowners) were happy with provisions favorable to them, British merchants and migrants from the Thirteen Colonies were unhappy with a number of its provisions, which they saw as undemocratic and pro-Catholic. Many of the habitants were unhappy with the provisions reinstating the tithe, as well as seigneurial obligations like the corvée.

The First Continental Congress in late 1774 sent letters to Montreal denouncing the Quebec Act for being undemocratic and for promoting Catholicism by allowing Catholics to hold civil service positions, and reinstating the tithe. John Brown, an agent for the Boston Committee of Correspondence, arrived in Montreal in early 1775 as part of an effort to persuade the inhabitants to send delegates to the Second Continental Congress, scheduled to meet in May 1775. Carleton, while aware of this activity, did nothing to prevent it, beyond discouraging publication of the Congressional letter in the province's only newspaper.

American War of Independence


Defence of Canada

Carleton received notice of the start of the rebellion in May 1775, soon followed by the news of the rebel capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point, and the raid on Fort Saint-Jean. He had previously sent two of his regiments to Boston and he had only about eight hundred regular soldiers left in Quebec. His attempts to raise a militia met with limited success at first, as neither the French nor the English were willing to join. Area Indians were willing to fight on the British side, and London wanted them to fight, but Carleton turned their offer down because he was worried about the Indians attacking non-combatants.

Carleton directed the preparation of provincial defenses, which were focused on Fort Saint-Jean, during the summer of 1775. In September, the Continental Army began its invasion, besieging the fort. When it fell in November, Carleton was forced to flee from Montreal to Quebec City, only escaping capture by disguising himself as a commoner.

In December 1775 he directed the city's defenses in the Battle of Quebec and the ensuing siege, which was broken by the arrival of British troops in May 1776 under command of Allan Maclean who was appointed Second-in-Command. He then launched a counteroffensive against the rebels, which included repelling an attempted rebel attack on Trois-Rivières. In June 1776, he was appointed a Knight of the Bath. The next month he commanded British naval forces on the Richelieu River, culminating in the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in October 1776 against a rebel fleet led by General Benedict Arnold. The British, with a significantly superior fleet, won a decisive victory, destroying or capturing most of the rebel fleet, but the delay prevented Carleton from continuing on to capture Fort Ticonderoga that year. His brother, Thomas Carleton, and nephew, Christopher Carleton, both served on his staff during the campaign.

Late American War of Independence

On July 1, 1777, Carleton resigned his post as Governor, but London required him to remain in his post until June 1778 when his replacement, Frederick Haldimand, had arrived. Carleton then left for England, where he had been appointed governor of Charlemont in Ireland. One of Haldimand's first acts was to have Buck Island in the St. Lawrence River fortified and renamed Carleton Island. After the Battle of Yorktown and the capitulation of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781, Sir Guy Carleton was appointed Commander-in-Chief, North America on February 22, 1782, and he arrived in New York City on May 6 of that year, succeeding Sir Henry Clinton. According to the King, he was selected because of the respect he was held in the British army and because he was considered an honest man by parliament.[4]

In August, Carleton was informed that Britain would grant the United States its independence. Carleton asked to be relieved of his command. With this news, there came an exodus of Loyalists from the Thirteen Colonies. Carleton did his best to have them resettled outside the United States. He also resettled former slaves over the objections of the rebels who wanted all former slaves returned. In all, he resettled about 30,000. On November 28, the evacuation was finished, and Carleton returned to England.

In 1783, John Campbell of Strachur succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief, North America.

Quote: 'Remain on duty until every man, woman and child who wanted to leave the United States is safely moved to British soil.'

Post-war years

He recommended the creation of a position of Governor General of all the provinces in British North America. Instead he was appointed "Governor-in-chief", and also Governor of Quebec, Governor of New Brunswick, Governor of Nova Scotia, and Governor of Prince Edward Island. He arrived in Quebec on October 23, 1786. His position as Governor-in-chief was mostly ignored. His authority in any of the provinces other than Quebec was effective only while he was present in person.

He was raised to the Peerage in August 1786 as Lord Dorchester, Baron of Dorchester in the County of Oxford.

The Constitutional Act of 1791 split Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada. Sir Alured Clarke was named as the lieutenant governor of Lower Canada and John Graves Simcoe the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. In August 1791 Carleton left for Britain and on February 7, 1792 took his seat in the House of Lords. He left for Canada again on August 18, 1793.

His replacement, Robert Prescott arrived in May 1796. On July 9, 1796 Carleton sailed from Canada to Britain never to return.

In retirement he lived mostly at Greywell Hill, adjoining Nately Scures, in Hampshire. After about 1805 he moved to Stubbings House at Burchett's Green, near Maidenhead, in Berkshire. On November 10, 1808, he died suddenly at Stubbings. He was buried in the parish church of St Swithun's, Nately Scures.


See also


  1. ^ Wrong p.224
  2. ^ Nelson p.22
  3. ^ Wrong p.225
  4. ^ Nelson p.137
  5. ^


  • Reynolds, Paul R., Guy Carleton, A Biography, 1980, ISBN 0-7715-9300-7
  • Billias, George Athan,Editor, George Washington's Opponents, William Marrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1969, 103–135.
  • Nelson, Paul David. General Sir Guy Carleton, Lord Dorchester: Soldier-Statesman of Early British Canada. Associated University Presses, 2000.
  • Wrong, George M. Canada and the American Revolution. New York, 1968.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
James Murray
Governor of the Province of Quebec
Succeeded by
Sir Frederick Haldimand
Preceded by
Governor-General of The Canadas
Succeeded by
Robert Prescott
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Henry Clinton
Commander-in-Chief, North America
Succeeded by
John Campbell (of Strachur)
Peerage of Great Britain
Preceded by
New Creation
Baron Dorchester
Succeeded by
Arthur Carleton


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