- Historic Sites
For an American, there is an ironic clue to the history of our neighbor to the north; she became a nation because her people did not wish to be swallowed up by the United States Quant aux Canadiens français, ils ne voulaient pas seulement éviter être absorbés par les États-Unis; ils ne voulaient pas davantage être absorbés parleurs compatriotes “anglais”
December 1965 | Volume 17, Issue 1
“We came up here.” said a citixen of Ontario recently, “from New York State—after the war.” He was speaking of his eighteenth-century forebears, and the war lie meant was the American Revolution. His ancestors were a few among some 40,000 loyalists from the American colonies who (led to Canada rather than desert the British Crown. When it is recalled that the French population of Quebec in 1783 was perhaps 100,000, the impact of this aftermath of American independence can be guessed at. In the future, Canadian life would be increasingly dualized between the two cultures, French-speaking and English-speaking; and a fully unifying national formula is not yet in sight. About 10,000 United Empire Loyalists (as they were called) settled in western Quebec, and by iygi had made for themselves a community distinctive enough so that the British government divided the old province into Upper Canada and Lower Canada—so-called by reason of their positions on the St. Lawrence. Another 30,000 refugees from the Revolution found new homes in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and other immigrants from the United States continued to flow into Canada in large numbers until the War of 1812, supplemented by a smaller influx from Great Britain—notably Highland Scots, who soon turned into a sturdy merchant class. The huge Canadian West was still wilderness, known only by Indians and fur traders: but in the East, Canada had already taken substantially its present shape.
The War of 1812 seldom rates more than a paragraph in a history of Great Britain, and tends to be glossed over in American annals as a series ol brilliant—and lucky—sea victories against the might of the Royal Navy. But in Canadian history it was epochal, a struggle for survival in which the young and loosely knit country—still, of course, a British dependency—pulled itself together and heroically fought off American attempts at Invasion by land. Canadian heroism was enormously assisted by American bumbling. At Detroit, General William Hull allowed himself to be convinced that the British-Canadian force under General Isaac Brock was larger, and supported by many more bloodthirsty Indians, than it really was. Hull surrendered after a mere skirmish; and two months later Brock fought to Ins death successfully repulsing an American invasion at Queenston Heights, near Niagara. In Lower Canada, French-Canadian militia twice threw back feeble American attempts to capture Montreal. Aside from the emergence of American sea power, the most substantial gain for the United States, by the time the Treaty of Ghent ended the war in 1814, was the breaking up of the Indian confederacy under Tccumseh, which had threatened to severely impede settlement of the American Middle West. For British North America there was something less material but psychologically more important: the first shoots of a spirit of true nationhood, embracing both French speaking and English speaking Canada. Anti-Americanism was largely the basis for this, yet negotiations after the war began to define what would eventually become famous as the longest unfortified border in the world.