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The Province of Quebec in 1774

The Quebec Act of 1774 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 14 Geo. III c. 83) setting procedures of governance in the Province of Quebec. The principal components of the act were:

  • The province's territory was expanded to take over part of the Indian Reserve, including much of what is now southern Ontario, plus Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota.
  • The oath of allegiance was replaced with one that no longer made reference to the Protestant faith.
  • It guaranteed free practice of the Catholic faith.
  • It restored the use of the French civil law for private matters while maintaining the use of the English common law for public administration, including criminal prosecution.

The Act had wide-ranging effects, in Quebec itself, as well as in the Thirteen Colonies. In Quebec, English-speaking immigrants from Britain and the southern colonies objected to a variety of its provisions, which they saw as a removal of certain political freedoms. French-speaking Canadians varied in their reaction; the land-owning seigneurs and clergy were generally happy with its provisions.

In the Thirteen Colonies, the Act, which had been passed in the same session of Parliament as a number of other acts designed as punishment for the Boston Tea Party and other protests, was joined to those acts as one of the Intolerable Acts. The provisions of the Quebec Act were seen as a new model for British colonial administration, which would strip the colonies of their elected assemblies, and promote the Roman Catholic faith in preference to widely-held Protestant beliefs. It also limited opportunities for colonies to expand on their western frontiers, by granting most of the Ohio Country to the province of Quebec.

Contents

Background

After the Seven Years' War, a victorious Great Britain and a defeated France formalized the peace with the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Under the terms of the treaty, the Kingdom of France ceded New France to Britain, choosing instead to keep the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique for their valuable sugar production. New France was considered less valuable, as its only significant commercial product at the time was beaver pelts. The territory found along the St. Lawrence River, called Canada by the French, was renamed Quebec by the British, after its capital city. Non-military administration of the territories acquired by the British in the war was defined in the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Under the terms of the peace treaty, Canadians who did not choose to leave became British subjects. In order for them to serve in public offices, they were required to swear an oath to the King that contained specific provisions rejecting the Catholic faith. Since many of the predominantly Roman Catholic Canadians were unwilling to take such an oath, this effectively prevented large numbers of French-speaking Canadians from participating in the local governments.

With unrest growing in the colonies to the south, which would one day grow into the American Revolution, the British were worried that the French Canadians might also support the growing rebellion. At that time, French Canadians formed the vast majority of the population of the province of Quebec (more than 99%) and British immigration was not going well. To secure the allegiance of the approximately 70,000 French Canadians to the British crown, first Governor James Murray and later Governor Guy Carleton promoted the need for change. There was also a need to compromise between the conflicting demands of the French-speaking subjects and those of newly arrived British subjects. These efforts by the colonial governors eventually resulted in enactment of the Quebec Act of 1774.

Effects on the Province of Quebec

Constitution of the Province of Quebec, 1775
  • Territory: The boundaries of the province were defined by the Act. In addition to the territory of the French province of Canada, the borders were expanded to include land that is now southern Ontario, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota. This increased the size of the province threefold over the size of the French province.
  • Religion: The Act allowed public office holders to practice the Roman Catholic faith, by replacing the oath sworn by officials from one to Elizabeth I and her heirs with one to George III that had no reference to the Protestant faith. This enabled, for the first time, French Canadians to legally participate in the affairs of the provincial government without formally renouncing their faith. It also reestablished the collection of tithes, which had been stopped under the previous administrative rules, and it allowed Jesuit priests to return to the province.
  • Structure of government: The Act defined the structure of the provincial government. The governor was to be appointed by the Crown, and he was to govern with the assistance of a legislative council; there were no provisions for an elected legislative assembly.[1]
  • Law: The traditional French system of private law was restored for use in civil matters. British forms of justice were to be applied for criminal cases.
  • Land use: The system of seigneuries as a means of distributing land and managing its use was restored. This was the system by which the French had administered the province; the British had instituted a Township system of land management in 1763.[2]
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Participation of the Canadiens

The internal communications of the British colonial government at Quebec suggest a relative failure of the purpose of the Quebec Act. On 4 February 1775 Governor Guy Carleton wrote to General Thomas Gage that he believed the Canadians to be generally happy with the act, yet he also added:

[...] I must not however conceal from Your Excellency, that the Gentry, well disposed, and heartily desirous as they are, to serve the Crown, and to serve it with Zeal, when formed into regular Corps, do not relish commanding a bare Militia, they never were used to that Service under the French Government, (and perhaps for good Reasons) besides the sudden Dismission of the Canadian Regiment raised in 1764, without Gratuity or Recompence to Offices, who engaged in our Service almost immediately after the Cession of the Country, of taking any Notice of them since, tho' they all expected half pay, is still uppermost in their Thoughts, and not likely to encourage their engaging a second Time in the same Way; as to the Habitants or Peasantry, ever since the Civil Authority has been introduced into the Province, the Government of it has hung so loose, and retained so little Power, they have in a Manner emancipated themselves, and it will require Time, and discreet Management likewise, to recall them to their ancient Habits of Obedience and Discipline; considering all the new Ideas they have been acquiring for these ten years past, can it be thought they will be pleased at being suddenly, and without Preparation embodied into a Militia, and marched from their Families, Lands, and Habitations to remote Provinces, and all the Horrors of War, which they have already experienced; It would give appearance of Truth to the Language of our Sons of Sedition, at this very Moment busily employed instilling into their Minds, that the Act was passed merely to serve the present Purposes of Government, and in the full Intention of ruling over them with all the Despotism of their ancient Masters.[3]

In the same communication, Carleton observed that the Act was not a permanent solution:

[...] It may be further observed, that the Act is no more than the Foundation of future Establishments; that the new Commissions and Instructions, expected out, are not yet arrived, and that the Dissolution of the present Constitution, if it deserves the Name, and Establishment of the new one, are still at some Distance;[4]

About 4 months later, Carleton's apprehensions regarding the ability of the Canadian noblesse (nobility) and clergy to rule over the people are proved right. On June 7, after having received word of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, as well as the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Benedict Arnold's subsequent raid on Fort Saint-Jean, he wrote to Colonial Secretary Dartmouth:

My Lord! The 19th of last Month in the Evening, I received Intelligence from General Gage by Sea of the Rebels having commenced Hostilities in the Province of the Massachusetts, and Requesting I would send the 7th Regiment with some Companies of Canadians and Indians to Crown Point, in order to make a Diversion, and favour his Operations. [...][5]

The little Force we have in the Province was immediately set in Motion, and ordered to assemble at or near St. John's; The Noblesse of this Neighbourhood were called upon to collect their Inhabitants, in order to defend themselves, the Savages of those Parts likewise had the same orders; but tho' the Gentlemen testified great Zeal, neither their Entreaties or their Example could prevail upon the People; a few of the Gentry, consisting principally of the Youth, residing in this Place, and its Neighbourhood, formed a small Corps of Volunteers under the Command of Mr. Samuel Mackay, and took Post at St. John's; the Indians shewed as much Backwardness as the Canadian Peasantry. [...] [6]

Less than a month later, on 28 June 1775, Chief Justice William Hey wrote to the Lord Chancellor from Quebec:

[...] What will be your Lordships astonishment when I tell you that an act passed for the express purpose of gratifying the Canadians & which was supposed to comprehend all that they either wished or wanted is become the first object of their discontent & dislike. English officers to command them in time of war, & English Laws to govern them in time of Peace, is the general wish. the former they know to be impossible (at least at present) & by the latter if I understand them right, they mean no Laws & no Government whatsoever - in the mean time it may be truly said that Gen. Carleton had taken an ill measure of the influence of the seigneurs & Clergy over the lower order of people whose Principle of conduct founded in fear & the sharpness of authority over them now no longer exercised, is unrestrained, & breaks out in every shape of contempt or detestation of those whom they used to behold with terror & who gave them I believe too many occasions to express it. And the on their parts have been and are too much elated with the advantages they supposed they should derive from the restoration of their old Privileges & customs, & indulged themselves in a way of thinking & talking that gave very just offence, as well to their own People as to the English merchants.[7]

On 21 September 1775, Lieutenant-Governor Cramahé, who governed at Quebec while Carleton was in Montreal, wrote to Dartmouth on the failure to rally the people after word arrived of the impending invasion from the colonies to the south:

My Lord ! I am sorry to transmit to Your Lordship the disagreeable account of a disagreeable Business, some time in the Beginning of this Month, upon news of the Rebel Army approaching, General Carleton set out for Montreal in great Haste; the 7th instant the Rebels landed in the Woods near St. John's, and beat back to their Boats by a Party of Savages incamped at that Place; in this Action the Savages behaved with great Spirit and Resolution, and had they remained firm to our Interests, probably the Province would have been safe for this Year, but finding the Canadians in General averse to the taking up Arms for the Defence of their Country, they withdrew, and made their Peace. After their Defeat the Rebels retired to the Isle aux Noix, where they continued till lately, sending out some Parties, and many Emissaries, to debauch the Minds of the Canadians and Indians, in which they have proved too successful, and for which they were too well prepared by the Cabals and Intrigues of these two last years; We knew of their being reinforced, and very considerably, I suppose, as they appeared in Numbers near St. John's last Sunday Evening; where or when they landed, or the Particulars since, we have but very imperfect Accounts of, all Communications with the Forts of St. John's and Chambli, being, as far as I can find, entirely cut off. No Means have been left untried to bring the Canadian Peasantry to a Sense of their Duty, and engage them to take up arms in Defence of the Province, but all to no Purpose. The Justice must be done to the Gentry, Clergy, and most of the Bourgeoisie, that they have shewen the greatest Zeal and Fidelity to the King's Service, and exerted their best endeavours to reclaim their infatuated Countrymen; [...][8]

Effect on the Thirteen Colonies

While the Quebec Act did much to secure the allegiance of the Canadians to Britain, it had other unforeseen consequences. It was termed one of the Intolerable Acts by the American colonists, and contributed to the political disagreements of the American Revolution.

American colonists had concerns with the provisions of the act. The extension of the province's territory to include the Ohio Country, combined with its religious provisions, meant that residents of that territory, which already had some settlers from Virginia and other colonies, were free to profess the Roman Catholic faith.[citation needed] Land development companies had already been formed to drive out the Native inhabitants and exploit the territory. Many of the leaders of the American Revolution, including George Washington and Daniel Boone, were wealthy land speculators who had much to gain by establishing a new government that would not be bound by British treaties with the Indians, such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763, that recognized Indian rights to these lands.[9] The predominantly Protestant Americans denounced the Act for promoting the growth of what they termed "papism", and for cutting back on their freedom and traditional rights. In particular, the colonial governments of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia were angered by the unilateral assignment of the Ohio lands to Quebec, which had been granted them in their royal charters.

Langston (2006) looked at press reaction in New England. Some colonial editors explained their views on how it reorganized Canadian governance, explaining how they felt it established direct rule by the Crown and limiting the reach of English law to criminal jurisprudence. Isaiah Thomas of the Massachusetts Spy drew links between the Quebec Act and legislation circumscribing American liberties, such as the Tea Act and the Coercive Acts. Editors shaped public opinion by writing editorials and reprinting opposition letters from both sides of the Atlantic. The First Continental Congress, which met from 5 September to 26 October 1774, addressed the inhabitants of Quebec, warning them of the perils of the increasingly arbitrary, tyrannical, and oppressive nature of British government.

The Act was never enforced outside Quebec. Its main significance in the Thirteen Colonies was that it angered the rebels, weakened the Crown's supporters (Loyalists) there, and helped to accelerate the confrontation that became the American Revolution (Miller 1943). The Act is listed as one of the rebels' grievances in the Declaration of Independence. The First Continental Congress petitioned Parliament to repeal the Intolerable Acts, which Parliament declined to do. Instead, in February 1775 Parliament passed the Conciliatory Resolution in an attempt to curry favor with the angry colonists. This was too little, too late, as the war broke out before news of its passage could reach the colonies.[10]

The Act was effectively superseded by the Constitutional Act of 1791, which partitioned Quebec into two new provinces, Upper and Lower Canada.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The appointed council was temporary, and composed of residents of the Province. Article XII, providing for an appointed Legislative Council, was repealed by the Constitutional Act of 1791. (See full text of act here.)
  2. ^ Maddock, Brian; History & Citizenship Education 3
  3. ^ Shortt 1918, p. 660
  4. ^ Shortt 1918, p. 661
  5. ^ Shortt 1918, p. 663
  6. ^ Shortt 1918, p. 665
  7. ^ Shortt 1918, p. 670
  8. ^ Shortt 1918, p. 667
  9. ^ http://www.wvculture.org/hiStory/indland.html
  10. ^ Alden, John R (1969). A history of the American Revolution. Knopf. pp. 164–170. ISBN 0-306-80366-6. 

References

  • Cavendish, Henry (1839). Debates of the House of Commons in the Year 1774 on the Bill for Making More Effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec: Drawn Up from the Notes of the Henry Cavendish, Member for Lostwithiel, London: Ridgway, 303 p. (online)
  • Langston, Paul. "'Tyrant and Oppressor!' Colonial Press Reaction to the Quebec Act. Historical Journal of Massachusetts 2006 34(1): 1-17. Issn: 0276-8313
  • Lawson, Philip. "'Sapped by Corruption': British Governance of Quebec and the Breakdown of Anglo-American Relations on the Eve of Revolution." Canadian Review of American Studies 1991 22(3): 301-323. Issn: 0007-7720 Full text: online in Ebsco
  • Miller, John C.; Origins of the American Revolution 1943. online version
  • Shortt, Adam; Doughty, Arthur G. (1918). Documents relating to the constitutional history of Canada 1759-1791 (2nd ed.). http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/ItemRecord/9_03425?id=&Language=en. 

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
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From Wikisource

The Quebec Act, 1774
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Quebec Act.

Source: Anno regni Georgii III, regis Magnæ Britanniæ, Franciæ, & Hiberniæ, decimo quarto at the Parliament begun and holden at Westminster, the tenth day of May, anno domini, 1768, in the eighth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c., and from thence continued, by several prorogations, to the thirteenth day of January, 1774, being the Seventh Session of the Thirteenth Parliament of Great Britain. Quebec : Printed by William Brown ..., 1774.


14 George III, c. 83 (U.K.)


An Act for making more effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec in North America.


[Assented to 7th October, 1774.]

Preamble.
Whereas His Majesty, by His Royal Proclamation bearing Date the seventh Day of October, in the Third Year of His Reign, thought fit to declare the Provisions which had been made in respect to certain Countries, Territories, and Islands in America, ceded to His Majesty by the definitive Treaty of Peace, concluded at Paris on the Tenth Day of February, One thousand seven hundred and sixty-three: And whereas, by the Arrangements made by the said Royal Proclamation a very large Extent of Country, within which there were several Colonies and Settlements of the Subjects of France, who claimed to remain therein under the Faith of the said Treaty, was left, without any Provision being made for the Administration of Civil Government therein; and certain Parts of the Territory of Canada, where sedentary Fisheries had been established and carried on by the Subjects of France, Inhabitants of the said Province of Canada under Grants and Concessions from the Government thereof, were annexed to the Government of Newfoundland, and thereby subjected to Regulations inconsistent with the Nature of such Fisheries: May it therefore please your most Excellent Majesty that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same,
The Territories, Islands, and Countries in North America belonging to Great Britain
That all the Territories, Islands, and Countries in North America, belonging to the Crown of Great Britain, bounded on the South by a Line from the Bay of Chaleurs, along the High Lands which divide the Rivers that empty themselves into the River Saint Lawrence from those which fall into the Sea, to a Point in Forty-five Degrees of Northern Latitude, on the Eastern Bank of the River Connecticut, keeping the same Latitude directly West, through the Lake Champlain, until, in the same Latitude, it meets the River Saint Lawrence; from thence up the Eastern Bank of the said River to the Lake Ontario; thence through the Lake Ontario, and the River commonly call Niagara; and thence along by the Eastern and South-eastern Bank of Lake Erie, following the said Bank, until the same shall be intersected by the Northern Boundary, granted by the Charter of the Province of Pennsylvania, in case the same shall be so intersected: and from thence along the said Northern and Western Boundaries of the said Province, until the said Western Boundary strike the Ohio: But in case the said Bank of the said Lake shall not be found to be so intersected, then following the said Bank until it shall arrive at that Point of the said Bank which shall be nearest to the North-western Angle of the said Province of Pensylvania, and thence by a right Line, to the said North-western Angle of the said Province; and thence along the Western Boundary of the said Province, until it strike the River Ohio; and along the Bank of the said River, Westward, to the Banks of the Mississippi, and Northward to the Southern Boundary of the Territory granted to the Merchants Adventurers of England, trading to Hudson's Bay; and also all such Territories, Islands, and Countries, which have, since the tenth of February, One thousand seven hundred and sixty-three, been made Part of the Government of Newfoundland,
annexed to the Province of Quebec.
be, and they are hereby, during His Majesty's Pleasure, annexed to, and made Part and Parcel of, the Province of Quebec, as created and established by the said Royal Proclamation of the seventh of October, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-three.
Not to affect the Boundaries of any other Colony;
Provided always, That nothing herein contained, relative to the Boundary of the Province of Quebec, shall in anywise affect the Boundaries of any other Colony.
Nor to make void other Rights formerly granted.
Provided always, and be it enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to make void, or to vary or alter any Right, Title, or Possession, derived under any Grant, Conveyance, or otherwise nowsoever, of or to any Lands within the said Province, or the Provinces thereto adjoining; but that the same shall remain and be in Force, and have Effect, as if this Act had never been made.
Former Provinsions made for the Province to be null and void after May 1, 1775.
And whereas the Provisions, made by the said Proclamation, in respect to the Civil Government of the said Province of Quebec, and the Powers and Authorities given to the Governor and other Civil Officers of the said Province, by the Grants and Commissions issued in consequence thereof, have been found, upon Experience, to be inapplicable to the State and Circumstances of the said Province, the Inhabitants whereof amounted, at the Conquest, to above sixty-five thousand Persons professing the Religion of the Church of Rome, and enjoying an established Form of Constitution and System of Laws, by which their Persons and Property had been protected, governed, and ordered, for a long Series of Years, from the first Establishment of the said Province of Canada; be it therefore further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the said Proclamation, so far as the same relates to the said Province of Quebec, and the Commission under the Authority whereof the Government of the said Province is at present administered, and all and every the Ordinance and Ordinances made by the Governor and Council of Quebec for the Time being, relative to the Civil Government and Administration of Justice in the said Province, and all Commissions to Judges and other Officers thereof, be, and the same are hereby revoked, annulled, and made void, from and after the first Day of May, One thousand seven hundred and seventy-five.
Inhabitants of Quebec may profess the Romiso Religion, subject to the Kings Supremacy, as by Acts Bliss.
And, for the more perfect Security and Ease of the Minds of the Inhabitants of the said Province, it is hereby declared, That His Majesty's Subjects, professing the Religion of the Church of Rome of and in the said Province of Quebec, may have, hold, and enjoy, the free Exercise of the Religion of the Church of Rome, subject to the King's Supremacy, declared and established by an Act, made in the first Year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, over all the Dominions and Countries which then did, or thereafter should belong, to the Imperial Crown of this Realm;
and the Clergymen enjoy their accustomed Dues.
and that the Clergy of the said Church may hold, receive, and enjoy, their accustomed Dues and Rights, with respect to such Persons only as shall profess the said Religion.
Provision may be made by His Majesty for the Support of the Protestant Clergy.
Provided nevertheless, That it shall be lawful for His Majesty, His Heirs or Successors, to make such Provision out of the rest of the said accustomed Dues and Rights, for the Encouragement of the Protestant Religion, and for the Maintenance and Support of a Protestant Clergy within the said Province, as he or they shall, from Time to Time think necessary and expedient.
No Person professing the Romiso Religion obliged to take the Oath of 1 Eliz;
Provided always, and be it enacted, That no Person professing the Religion of the Church of Rome, and residing in the said Province, shall be obliged to take the Oath required by the said Statute passed in the first Year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, or any other Oaths substituted by any other Act in the Place thereof;
but to take, before the Governor, &c. the following Oath.
but that every such Person who, by the said Statute, is required to take the Oath therein mentioned, shall be obliged, and is hereby required, to take and subscribe the following Oath before the Governor, or such other Person in such Court of Record as His Majesty shall appoint, who are hereby authorized to administer the same; videlicet,
The Oath.
I A.B., do sincerely promise and swear, That I will be faithful, and bear true Allegiance to His Majesty King George, and him will defend to the utmost of my Power, against all traitorous Conspiracies, and Attempts whatsoever, which shall be made against His Person, Crown, and Dignity; and I will do my utmost Endeavor to disclose and make known to His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, all Treasons, and traitorous Conspiracies, and Attempts, which I shall know to be against him, or any of them; and all this I do swear without any Equivocation, mental Evasion, or secret Reservation, and renouncing all Pardons and Dispensations from any Power or Person whomsoever to the contrary.

So help me GOD.

Persons refusing the Oath be subject to Penalties by Act 1 Eliz.
And every such Person, who shall neglect or refuse to take the said Oath before mentioned, shall incur and be liable to the same Penalties, Forfeitures, Disabilities, and Incapacities, as he would have incurred and been liable to for neglecting or refusing to take the Oath required by the said Statute passed in the First Year of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth.
His Majesties Canadian Subjects (religious Orders excepted) may hold all their Possessions, etc.
And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all His Majesty's Canadian Subjects within the Province of Quebec, the religious orders and Communities only excepted, may also hold and enjoy their Property and Possessions, together with all Customs and Usages relative thereto, and all other their Civil Rights, in as large, ample, and beneficial Manner, as if the said Proclamation, Commissions, Ordinances, and other Acts and Instruments had not been made, and as may consist with their Allegiance to His Majesty, and Subjection to the Crown and Parliament of Great Britain;
and in Matters of Controversy, Resort be had to the Laws of Canada for the Decision.
and that in all Matters of Controversy, relative to Property and Civil Rights, Resort shall be had to the Laws of Canada, as the Rule for the Decision of the same; and all Causes that shall hereafter be instituted in any of the Courts of Justice, to be appointed within and for the said Province by His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, shall, with respect to such Property and Rights, be determined agreeably to the said Laws and Customs of Canada, until they shall be varied or altered by any Ordinances that shall, from Time to Time, be passed in the said Province by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Commander in Chief, for the Time being, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Legislative Council of the same, to be appointed in Manner herein-after mentioned.
Not to extend to Lands granted by His Majesty in common Soccage.
Provided always, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to any Lands that have been granted by His Majesty, or shall hereafter be granted by His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, to be holden in free and common Soccage.
Owners of Goods may alienate the same by Will, &c.
Provided also, That it shall and may be lawful to and for every Person that is Owner of any Lands, Goods, or Credits, in the said Province, and that has a Right to alienate the said Lands, Goods, or Credits, in His or her Lifetime, by Deed of Sale, Gift, or otherwise, to devise or bequeath the same at his or her Death, by his or her last Will and Testament; any Law, Usage, or Custom, heretofore or now prevailing in the Province, to the contrary hereof in any-wise notwithstanding;
if executed according to the Laws of Canada
such Will being executed either according to the Laws of Canada, or according to the Forms prescribed by the Laws of England.
Criminal Law of England to be continued in the Province.
And whereas the Certainty and Lenity of the Criminal Law of England, and the Benefits and Advantages resulting from the Use of it, have been sensibly felt by the Inhabitants, from an Experience of more than nine Years, during which it has been uniformly administered; be it therefore further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the same shall continue to be administered, and shall be observed as Law in the Province of Quebec, as well in the Description and Quality of the Offence as in the Method of Prosecution and Trial; and the Punishments and Forfeitures thereby inflicted to the Exclusion of every other Rule of Criminal Law, or Mode of Proceeding thereon, which did or might prevail in the said Province before the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-four; any Thing in this Act to the contrary thereof in any respect notwithstanding; subject nevertheless to such Alterations and Amendments as the Governor, Lieutenant-governor, or Commander in Chief for the Time being, by and with the Advice and Consent of the legislative Council of the said Province, hereafter to be appointed, shall, from Time to Time, cause to be made therein, in Manner hereinafter directed.
His Majesty may appoint a Council for the affairs of Province;
And whereas it may be necessary to ordain many Regulations for the future Welfare and good Government of the Province of Quebec, the Occasions of which cannot now be foreseen, nor, without much Delay and Inconvenience, be provided for, without intrusting that Authority, for a certain Time, and under proper Restrictions, to Persons resident there, and whereas it is at present inexpedient to call an Assembly: be it therefore enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful for His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, by Warrant under His or Their Signet or Sign Manual, and with the Advice of the Privy Council, to constitute and appoint a Council for the Affairs of the Province of Quebec, to consist of such Persons resident there, not exceeding twenty-three, nor less than seventeen, as His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, shall be pleased to appoint, and, upon the Death, Removal, or Absence of any of the Members of the said Council, in like Manner to constitute and appoint such and so many other Person or Persons as shall be necessary to supply the Vacancy or Vacancies; which Council, so appointed and nominated, or the major Part thereof,
which council may make Ordinances, with the Consent of the Governor.
shall have Power and Authority to make Ordinances for the Peace, Welfare, and good Government, of the said Province, with the Consent of His Majesty's Governor, or, in His Absence, of the Lieutenant-governor, or Commander in Chief for the Time being. [Repealed by The Constituional Act, 1791]
The Council are not impowered to lay Taxes.
Provided always, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend to authorize or impower the said legislative Council to lay any Taxes or Duties within the said Province, such Rates and Taxes only excepted as the Inhabitants of any Town or District within the said Province may be authorized by the said Council to assess, levy, and apply, within the said Town or District,
Public Roads or Buildings excepted.
for the Purpose of making Roads, erecting and repairing publick Buildings, or for any other Purpose respecting the local Convenience and Oeconomy of such Town or District.
Ordinances made to be laid before His Majesty for His Approbation.
Provided also, and be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That every Ordinance so to be made, shall, within six Months, be transmitted by the Governor, or, in His Absence, by the Lieutenant-governor, or Commander in Chief for the Time being, and laid before His Majesty for His Royal Approbation; and if His Majesty shall think fit to disallow thereof, the same shall cease and be void from the Time that His Majesty's Order in Council thereupon shall be promulgated at Quebec.
Ordinances touching religion not to be in Force without His Majesty's Approbation.
Provided also, That no Ordinance touching Religion, or by which any Punishment may be inflicted greater than Fine or Imprisonment for three Months, shall be of any Force or Effect, until the same shall have received His Majesty's Approbation.
When ordinances are to be passed by His Majesty.
Provided also, That no Ordinance shall be passed at any Meeting of the Council where less than a Majority of the whole Council is present, or at any Time except between the First Day of January and the First Day of May, unless upon some urgent Occasion, in which Case every Member thereof resident at Quebec, or within Fifty Miles thereof, shall be personally summoned by the Governor, or, in His absence, by the Lieutenant-governor, or Commander in Chief for the Time being, to attend the same.
Nothing to hinder His Majesty to continue Courts of Criminal, Civil, and Ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to prevent or hinder His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, by His or Their Letters Patent under the Great Seal of Great Britain, from erecting, constituting, and appointing, such Courts of Criminal, Civil, and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction within and for the said Province of Quebec, and appointing, from Time to Time, the Judges and Officers thereof, as His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, shall think necessary and proper for the Circumstances of the said Province.
All Acts formerly made are hereby inforced within the Province.
Provided always, and it is hereby enacted, That nothing in this Act contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to repeal or make void, within the said Province of Quebec, any Act or Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain heretofore made, for prohibiting, restraining, or regulating, the Trade or Commerce of His Majesty's Colonies and Plantations in America; but that all and every the said Acts, and also all Acts of Parliament heretofore made concerning or respecting the said Colonies and Plantations, shall be, and are hereby declared to be, in Force, within the said Province of Quebec, and every Part thereof.


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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

QUEBEC ACT, the title usually given to a bill introduced into the House of Lords on May 2, 1 774, entitled " An Act for making more Effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec, in North America." It passed the House of Lords on May 17, was discussed in the Commons from May 26 to June 13, and finally passed with some amendments. These were accepted by the Lords, in spite of the opposition of Lord Chatham, and the bill received the royal assent on June 22. The debates in the House of Commons are not found in the Parliamentary History, but were published separately by J. Wright in 1839. The speech of Lord Chatham is given in the Chatham Correspondence (iv. 351-353).

By this act the boundaries of the Canadian province of Quebec were extended so as to include much of the country between the Ohio and the Mississippi. The French inhabitants of the province were granted the liberty to profess " the religion of the Church of Rome ";"; the French civil law was established, though in criminal law the English code was introduced. Government was vested in a governor and council, a representative assembly not being granted till the Constitutional Act of 1791.

The granting of part of the Western territory to Quebec, and the recognition of the Roman Catholic religion, greatly angered the American colonies. On the other hand, it did much to keep the French Canadians from joining the Americans in the coming struggle. The act is still looked back to by the French in Canada as their great charter of liberty.


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