British North America: 1763-1867

For the majority of civilians, the results of conquest and civil war include famine, disease, migration, refugees, and displaced persons. These words can be seen in newspaper headlines describing what’s happening around the world today.

However, such terrible challenges also marked this period of Canada’s history.

Canada – the former New France – was now under British rule, following the Seven Years War. But the 13 British colonies south of Canada’s border increasingly desired independence from the Crown. A revolt seemed inevitable.

The British feared losing power because they faced two potential conflicts: one with France in Europe and one with the 13 colonies.

In an effort to stop discontent from the 13 colonies spreading to the French-Canadians, the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act (1774). It declared that the French-speaking population could retain their language, their religion (Catholicism), and their social structure (the seigneurial system). However the Act also limited their political power; they would have neither an elected legislature nor a representative form of government.

This is an early example of the growing need for accommodation between the people of Quebec and the British Crown.

As the British tried to reconcile with the French-Canadians, they were also recruiting support south of the boarder. Their key allies included First Peoples, United Empire Loyalists, and Black Loyalists.

Most United Empire Loyalists descended from Scottish, English, Irish and German colonists. The Black Loyalists were made up of free citizens and enslaved persons. Many of these slaves had belonged to high profile Americans like George Washington.

The Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca Peoples were (and are) part of the Six Nations Alliance. They chose to fight together on the side of the British.

The British Empire, the Loyalists, and the First Peoples had a lot at stake. In the 13 colonies, the American Revolution actually meant civil war. The opponents of the Loyalists were called ‘rebels’. If the rebels won, it would mean a great loss for the British Empire, for the Loyalists, and also for the First Peoples that had land claims that were recognized by the British Crown.
Royal Ontario Museum
Historical Advisors: Alison Faulknor, The Dominion Institute; Nick Brune, author and history teacher

© 2006, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

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