1775-1781: Meanwhile in Canada & Other Quebec Curios

Part of “A Colony in Transition, 1763-1791”

While chaos erupted in the Thirteen Colonies, contrary to popular belief, things were happening in the Province of Quebec and environs. A young Alexander Mackenzie, the famous Canadian explorer, lived in New York with his father until the outbreak of the Revolution. Mackenzie’s family sent him to Montreal, of all places, to escape to safety due to his family’s loyalist tendencies. Quebec also had a new Governor, Sir Frederick Haldimand, in 1778, due to Guy Carleton’s departure back to his native England that same year. Haldimand was important for Quebec’s military strategy, building defences against another American invasion and permitting raids against the Americans, including the very successful Carleton’s Raid that happened on Lake Champlain near the shores Vermont and New York that destroyed four months’ worth of the Revolutionaries’ supplies. 1778 would also mark the first publication of a Montreal newspaper, a certain Gazette du Commerce et Littéraire pour la Ville et District de Montréal by one Fleury Mesplet, a person and a topic that we will return to in a later column. Haldimand would order Mesplet’s arrest in 1779 for sedition. By 1780, Quakers in the Thirteen Colonies would start a courageous movement that would grow into the Underground Railroad, the system that would help African-American slaves escape to Canada and free American states; the Province of Quebec, which would turn into Lower Canada after 1791, would be an important place of settlement.

While people in Quebec might only be able to wonder what was happening out west, there were also things happening in future provinces of Canada. Though British Columbia would only join the Canadian landscape as a province in confederation in 1871, Captain James Cook was already exploring the shores of Vancouver Island with his ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, in 1778. Known better as the man who could explore the Hawaiian Islands and circumnavigate New Zealand, Cook’s exploration of Vancouver Island was part of his third and final voyage in hopes of charting the western part of North America. Unfortunately, during this third voyage, the Hawaiians would kill Captain Cook in a violent confrontation between the Europeans and the Hawaiians that involved stolen boats. 1774 marked the year that Europeans created a fort in a piece territory that would become the province of Saskatchewan. This fort would be used by the Hudson’s Bay Company for trading with the indigenous people that lived in the area and as an administrative post and would continue a well-established commerce into the 1800s.

If you’re in the New England area for vacation, step back in time and visit the area covered by Carleton’s Raid by visiting the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Check out their website here.