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Quebec, March, 1807. There is a great deal of misapprehension in Britain relative to this country. It is naturally concluded that, in a British colony such as Canada, a conquered country, those who govern and who give law to it, would be Englishmen. This, however, is by no means the case; for though the governor and some of the council are English, the French Canadians are the majority in the house of assembly; and no law can pass, if they choose to prevent it. The English (supposing the governor to exert all the influence he possesses) cannot carry one single question; and the Canadians have been in the habit of shewing, in the most undisguised manner, the power of a majority, and a determination that no bill should pass contrary to their wishes. They carry things with a high hand; they seem to forget that the constitution under which they domineer over the English, was a free gift from Britain ; and that what an act of parliament gave, an act of parliament can
You will naturally imagine also, that in a British colony, the English language would be used in the house of assembly, public offices, and courts of justice. No such thing; the French language is universally used, and the record is kept in French and in English. The Canadians will not speak English ; and Englishmen are weak enough to indulge them so far as to speak French too, which is much to their disadvantage; for though they may speak French well enough to explain themselves in the ordinary affairs of life, they cannot, in debate, deliver themselves with that ease, and with the same effect as in their native language.
The Canadians find that they have got the whiphand of the English, and they seem resolved to keep it, without being at all delicate as to the means. I can give an instance:- Near the end of the session, many of the Canadians have obtained leave of absence, in order to return to their families
and occupations; so that it has happened that just so many were left as would make a quorum, of whom about half were English and half French. When the latter found that the English were likely to carry a question, a Canadian has been known to step outside the bar, and there stand while another told the house that they must adjourn for want of a quorum. The speaker did not think he had power to compel the member outside the bar to resume his place; and thus questions were put off till a decided majority of Canadians could attend.
A French newspaper, called Le Canadien, has lately been edited here : the evident intention of which is to raise the Canadian character, and detract from that of the English. It is natural enough for the Canadians to wish to appear in the most respectable light possible; but they should not attempt to do so by the means they are now following
I had heard much of Le Canadien, and I took it up with a curiosity much excited; but instead of finding something new,
I found the translation of a letter written by General Murray to the British government
forty years ago, in consequence of a quarrel between him and the British settlers, full of the most violent complaints against them. Let these matters be true or let them be false, why should they be brought forward now? It is evident that the Canadians wish to identify the character of the mercantile men of the present day with that of those who were here at the time General Murray wrote his letter. Let us suppose, (without, however, admitting the fact) that every thing General Murray said was true; that the English residents were at that time low bred and unprincipled, and that their conduct was such as might be expected from such people, both General Murray and the Canadians might feel it. It was a matter the Canadians had reason to regret and to complain of; but they might as well regret and complain of the conquest itself, for the one is a natural consequence of the other. What is the usual train of events upon a conquest ?
The old laws and regulations are overturned with the government that framed them. A military government at first takes place; its duration is in proportion to the nature, extent, and value of the colony. Respectable mercantile men look at the colony with an eye of suspicion ; they will not leave places where they are already established, and which they know; they will not trust themselves, their families and property, in a country newly conquered, and which may soon revert to the parent state. Time alone can give confidence to mercantile men, and bring to a conquered country men of capital. Although they will not go themselves, however, they will risk part of their property, and put it in charge of those who may be inclined to try the experiment. Such men remain in the country at all risks, and they are joined by a number of the followers of the army who are known to be characters not the most respectable in the world. Such are always the mercantile men of newly conquered countries.