Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Canadian Cocked Hammer that Triggered the American Revolution

Many Americans, quite rightly, consider the cause of the Revolution in America to be “Taxation without Representation”, and the often repressive legal policies of the Crown in England. However, and perhaps forgotten, is the fact that Americans in the early 1770’s enjoyed the lowest taxes of any of the English colonies, even counting the English subjects in Britain itself. It was the example of the Highlander Rebellions in Scotland, who faced far more severe problems with England, that got the illustrious leaders of this fledging nation to think of freedom from the yoke of English control.

But it was the Quebec Act, that greatly expanded the limits of that province, including all of Labrador to the east all the way west to the junction of Ohio and the Mississippi, that inflamed the American colonial settlers, prosperous land owners and farmers in America. Oh yes, the Boston Tea Party is fondly remembered as the signal for the colonists to rebel and take the day’s philosophical, rebellious writings to heart. It is only natural that a new nation would view this event, even in its day considered by most of the Colonial rebels as an act of useless vandalism committed by jokers in Indian costumes, later as a heroic act for the history books that triggered the later actions that resulted in ultimate victory. Even us Canadians ignore the fact that our Confederation came about by brawling, drunken Scotsmen intent on stopping the Northern Civil War Generals from invading our southern territories destined for annexation into the United States. We were just lucky that a half soused John A. MacDonald and his co-horts appealed to Queen Victoria who was still under the heady influence of her radical, idealistic husband, Albert and a council still stinging under recently losing many of its colonies. As a result of all these unlikely elements, Canada became the first nation in the world to still enjoy the comfort of being under the Commonwealth and Britain's protection, but still have the right to self-government, a radically new and experimental idea. But of course, in writing Canadian history, these rather embarrassing facts are often ignored.

The Quebec Act was in direct contradiction to the recently rejected bill in America to expand westward. The British found it expedient, especially after the intense French Indian Wars twenty years earlier as well as the lucrative fur trade, that prompted the act. The fur trade was a boon for the Crown, and they wanted to keep it and expand, with the help of the Quebec, Metis and the Indian trappers who were threatening to join the Rebels in America. So the Americans were naturally angry, thinking “Why do the French Canadiens get more land to roam and settle, who are natural enemies of the English, and not us?” The reasoning, of course was that this whole great sweep of British imperial territory could be more securely dealt with from a renewed and expanded Quebec base. It would now include inland country where French/Indian ties still clearly mattered, brought about by the strong bond of the French-Indian wars. Also, the fur trade would not endanger Indian land rights, so important with the natives threatening to join the Americans in their fight for Independence. In fact, the Colonists were counting on the Indians joining in the fight, ignoring the fact that their desire to spread west into Indian territory completely defeated any desire the natives may have had to join them. It came as a complete shock to the rebel armies that the Indians, at the last moment, decided on joining the English, based on the promises of land restrictions to the settlers. The British had also realized that American colonial desires to settle on native lands might only let loose new frontier bloodshed, and were determined errant settlers would be routed out immediately if any broke the law, which many were already doing, and established homesteads where they weren’t supposed to be.

The Act of 1774 became the trigger, the last, very large straw in a series of "Intolerable Acts" that led to armed rebellion against Britain. The colonists saw the West they had fought for but then been kept from occupying, now brazenly transferred to the keeping of Quebec, a French and Catholic province sitting north of them and still under "despotic" rule.

It was, indeed, this very policy that triggers my hero in the romance novel to help in the struggle and the repelling of British forces at Lexington and Concord, the initial outbreak of the war. Initially he had been reluctant to join in the fight, fearing reprisal from the Crown. I wanted Colton Rolfe to have real, concrete reasons to risk everything he held dear, instead of philosophical, idealistic reasons that many associate with so-called heroes. Colton is anything but idealistic. It was the hunger to expand his plantation lands, resting on the eastern most borders of Crown land designated as Indian land that prompted his reluctant participation. He had the attitude widely shared by most of the Thirteen Colonies, self-interested they may have been, who looked upon the Americas as naturally destined to them through their hard work and sheer will power of the last hundred and fifty years of extensive settlement, which in their view Britain had no part in. Bitter emotions and events now surged to open war in 1775, as it did for Colton and his neighbours, between rebel patriots and the colonial supporters of Imperial English Authority. It took a year before the leading rebel leaders of America issued its resounding Declaration of Independence, but then it took that long to become organized..

Canadian and American history have continually been intertwined before and since, though seldom with more telling effect than the cocked hammer of the Quebec Act and the resulting American Revolution.

Stay tuned for more interesting background about our thoughtful romance novel, “No Gentlemen is He”, as well as fascinating, perhaps little known facts of the link between the American Revolution and the sometimes unwitting role Canada played in it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I doubt if my ancestors who fought in the Revolution were exactly idealistic about it.