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Canada in the 18th Century; When the British colonized Canada and tore it into two!!

Canada in the 18th century witnessed many events; with all-out wars, treaties, etc. North America became a war zone between France and Great Britain, trying to seize the land, although this century began with a peace treaty.

In this article, you will read about the “War of Spanish Succession” and “Seven Years’ War”, their effect on Canada, about one of the dark periods in Canada’s history, the great expulsion, and about two opposing generals who are both now known as Canadian heroes and last, but not least, you will learn about the times when Canada was torn in half, divided in Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Stay tuned with us so we explain it all there is about Canada in the 18th century for you.

A century ago, Samuel de Champlain had made an alliance with a number of First Nations. This alliance resulted in Iroquoians’ hostility, and the wars began. After about 100 years of skirmishes, finally, in 1701, New France and 39 First Nations made a peace treaty called “Great Peace of Montreal”.

Fall of Port Royal in the 18th century

In 1701, the king of Spain, Charles II (Not to be mistaken with the English King, Charles II), passed away. He had no heir; so, his death triggered a war in Europe, called the “War of Spanish Succession”, to determine who would be the next king. The flames of war reached North America in 1702 and didn’t smother until 1713.

In 1710 The English besieged Port Royal, the capital of Acadia. Port Royal had seen so many battles in Canada in the 18th century, and in years before, once burnt down and built again, but this time changed its history for good. The siege went on for days, British attackers thrashed Port Royal with their artillery. The first attempt for negotiation wasn’t successful, but finally, on October 12th, The French surrendered.

The triumphant English let French soldiers leave the fort with their belongings, marching outside with their honor, and set to sail them back to France.

 The residents were allowed to stay in Port Royal for a limited time if they swore loyalty to the British Crown. During the next decade, many Acadian settlers left. With the help of their indigenous allies, the French tried many times to retake the fort, but each one ended with failure.

The French marched outside of Port Royal, a memory from Canada in the 18th century

The French marched outside of Port Royal

Treaty of Utrecht

A turning point for Canada in the 18th century was three years after the British conquered Port Royal, 1713, the war of Spanish succession was concluded by the “Treaty of Utrecht”. France surrendered peninsula Acadia (Parts or all of today’s Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) and Newfoundland to Great Britain. Still, the French kept their authority over Île Royale, Île Saint-Jean, and Louisiana, which became the destination for many French who refused to take the loyalty oath to the British Crown.

The British didn’t show interest in settling colonies across their gained lands in Canada in the 18th century until 1749. They founded “Halifax” and made it the capital of Nova Scotia (Meaning New Scotland. It was also the name of a short-lived British settlement in the 17th century). It acted as a strong foothold for the British in their new territories.

Regions France ceded to England

7 Years’ War and Great Expulsion

In 1713, after losing Acadia to the British, the French started building a fortress on Île Royale, named Louisburg after Louis XIV of France, to help them prevent any attack towards Quebec. Through the years, it became a vast fortress. It was once taken by the British in 1745, but the 1748 treaty returned it to the French at the cost of some land in Europe.

After Acadia fell into the British hand, the inhabitants were proposed to stay and hold their land on one term: An unconditional oath of loyalty and becoming British subjects. Most of those who didn’t accept this condition were forced to leave. They fled to the remaining French colonies in North America. However, several Acadians stayed without taking the oath and tried to help France recapture Acadia by aiding the support of Louisburg or even taking part in military operations. 

In 1755, the governor and Nova Scotia council issued an order, you could call this order as lamentable, and not only in Canada in the 18th century, but as a gloomy point in North America’s history generally.

The order was to exile all Acadians without any distinctions between the Acadians who helped the French or the ones who did not. Initially, they were banished to British colonies (Known as 13 colonies), and after 1758 the remainder of Acadians were exiled either to Britain or France. 11500 out of the 14100 Acadians were deported, many of them lost their lives due to the sinking ships and diseases, and the surviving ones either stayed at other French colonies or returned to Europe, mostly France. 

In 1756 the first global conflict started; The Seven Years’ War. In North America, it elevated the controversy between the British and the French colonies in Canada in the 18th century. 

In 1758 The British captured Louisbourg once again. They used it to their benefit; they launched their attack on Quebec from Louisburg in 1759.

To make sure the French could never take it back, British engineers systematically tore the fort down.

Reconstructed Louisbourg Fort

Fall of Quebec and Treaty of Paris; a turning point in the history of Canada in the 18th century

With the fall of the Louisbourg fort in 1758, not only the French lost their route of naval support for Quebec, but also the British gained their stepping stone to launch an attack on Quebec, which happened in 1759. After a siege of 3 months, the battle reached its climax; Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which occurred on lands originally owned by Abraham Martin, a farmer. 

The British won the battle and successfully captured Quebec and chased off the remaining French troops, but the commander of both armies, British General James Wolfe and French General Marquis de Montcalm lost their lives during the battle.

Wolfe and Montcalm statues at National Assembly building, Quebec

In 1760 the remainder of French troops attacked Quebec to recapture it. But they were not successful due to lack of supply and not enough firepower, especially artillery.  In the same year, the British conducted an offensive campaign against Montreal and seized it too.

Montreal was captured by the British in the same year

The Seven Years’ War saw its end with the “Treaty of Paris” (1763). France handed over all its North American colonies to Great Britain except the west part of Louisiana. With this treaty, France officially left Canada. This was when Canada was colonized by the British, and only the British.

Intending to govern Canada better, the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Quebec act of 1774. Some of the components of the act are:

  • The territory expansion: Parts of the Indian Reserve were added to the territory of the province.
  • It was permitted to have Catholic faith and practice it.
  • French civil law was restored, though it maintained British criminal law.

Reactions to this act were different; in Thirteen Colonies, this left the “Patriots” displeased enough to call it “Intolerable”. In 1775, A few months prior to “Independence Day”, the Continental Army (army of Thirteen Colonies) invaded Canada to capture Quebec. Their goal was to find French supporters while weakening Great Britain’s control over North America. The British army defeated the attackers and killed their leader, General Montgomery, successfully defending their territories.

Birth of the United States

4th July 1776, Thirteen Colonies declared independence; thus, the United States was born. Its effects reached Canada in the 18th century, and in the years to follow.  As a result, more than 40,000 “loyalists” (loyal people to the British Crown) with different origins and nationalities fled to Canada to settle in Nova Scotia and Quebec. The independence lit the fire of war in North America again. Until, in 1783, the Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the controversy, setting the boundaries between the United States and British North America.

Constitutional act of 1791; Canada is torn into two parts

As mentioned above, independence of the US from Great Britain had its effects on Canada in the 18th century. It did not take long for the Canadians to notice the effects. 

The immigration of Loyalists to Canada entered the country into a socially fractionalized state. English speaking, protestant British and French-speaking, Catholic French. In order to cope with the problem, the Parliament of Great Britain passed an act today known as the “Constitutional act of 1791”. It divided the province of Quebec into two parts, Upper Canada and Lower Canada, based on their location along the St. Lawrence River. Also, this act made the name “Canada” official. Before this act, Atlantic colonies and two Canadas were called “British North America”.

Lower Canada:

  • The eastern half of the Quebec province
  • Preserved French civil law
  • Catholic
  • Mostly French people

Canada was divided into Upper and Lower Canada

Upper Canada:

  • The western half of the Quebec province
  • Received English law
  • Protestant 
  • Mostly Loyalists

In 1792 the first election was held in Lower Canada, giving anyone with enough land, even women, the right to vote. This and the 1758 election in Halifax could be called the first steps towards democracy. 

In 1793, John Graves Simcoe, lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, engraved his name in the Canada’s history of slavery and eliminated slavery in the Britain Empire. Slavery became prohibited in Upper Canada and by 1833 in the whole Empire, making Canada a destination for the escaped slaves. 

Our last lines about Canada in the 18th century

And here end our summary of Canada in the 18th century, and we can say it ended well with the abolition of slavery, a proud moment for Canadians, one could say. But what fate holds destiny for Upper and Lower Canada? Of course, today there is no Upper or Lower Canada, but when they were merged again is the question, which is answered along with many other questions about Canada’s 19th century history in our next chapter.

Also if you are curious about other aspects of Canada, don’t forget to check our other articles regarding the Geography, Politics, Socio-cultural, and Economics of Canada.

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