Quebec in stories: on December 31, 1775, Quebec almost became an American state

Quebec in stories: on December 31, 1775, Quebec nearly became an American state

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To understand this amazing story, you have to go back in time to the end of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), the war that turned Canada into the British Empire. 

England, very indebted at the end of this conflict, chose to impose heavy taxes on the population of the Thirteen British colonies in America, which were, incidentally, the main beneficiaries of this victory over the French.

Obviously, since no one has been consulted on these new financial charges, protests are coming from all sides. 

Sensing the revolt brewing, the King of England George III and the British Parliament send armed troops to America to prevent a colonial revolt.

The anger of the colonials does not stop. 

They consider that these taxes are unjustified, mainly because they were voted by established politicians on the other side of the Atlantic, and not by representatives of the population of the American colonies. 

The American fury takes shape under the slogan: “No Taxation Without Representation”. 

Despite numerous petitions and large demonstrations, the British state persisted in taxing products such as sugar, tea or paper. 

It was in this most conflicting context that in 1773 , demonstrators throw crates of British tea into the sea. “The Boston Tea Party” will then become a strong symbol of the escalation of tensions between the colonies and the power in London. 

Boycott

Dissatisfied, the American colonists begin by boycotting British products. Then, they unite and organize to form a common front against their metropolis. They even circulate among us, in the Province of Quebec, political propaganda documents to convince us to join their cause. 

The American Congress addresses Canadians who live in the Saint- Laurent a first letter in the fall of 1774. 

In this missive, the American rebels deal with freedom, political equality and even allow themselves to give us a little lesson in democratic law 101.

These propaganda multiply. They invite us to weave real bonds of friendship, to collaborate with them in order to drive out the British and even to integrate their project of a new country. 

Although some Anglo-Saxon Montrealers show Enthusiasm about the intentions of the Americans, as a rule, these letters translated into French are received rather coldly by Canadians.

The insurrection took on a new form in the late spring of 1775, when the American Continental Army was raised. At the beginning of the summer of 1775, the Americans prepared their invasion of the province of Quebec, a territory that had become British after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. 

At the beginning of September, two contingents military advance towards the province. 

A first armed contingent heads towards Montreal via Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River; the second moves to Quebec City. In response to this threat of invasion, the British authorities enforced martial law in Montreal and Quebec and sought to raise a colonial militia. 

Call of the English

The Canadians did not really respond to the call of the English, probably because they considered that this conflict did not concern them. It is for them a war between Englishmen of different allegiances. 

With approximately 2,000 men, the American army took Fort Chambly on October 17, 1775. 

Two weeks later, it did it again at Saint-Jean. The army is advancing rapidly and closing in on Montreal. 

Inside the fortifications of Montreal, the Governor of the Province of Quebec, Guy Carleton, is well aware that he cannot stop the invasion with its handful of soldiers. 

He therefore signed the act of capitulation of the city and escaped by the river in a boat, dressed as a peasant, to thwart the American sentries, who multiplied from November. 

The British command abandons Montreal and withdraws behind the ramparts of Quebec City. 

This retreat is strategic: Carleton hopes for the arrival of reinforcements from the metropolis and hopes that the cold will slow down the American troops.  

Chateau Ramezay

On November 13, 1775, Montrealers saw American revolutionary troops parading through their streets. The brigadier general even made the Château Ramezay his headquarters. 

At the start of the occupation, most Montrealers supported the American cause, but the situation worsened after the general's departure for Quebec. American Richard Montgomery, November 28. 

He left some 200 soldiers in Montreal as well as a governor to manage the city, a certain Wooster, a very clumsy man, who quickly alienated sympathizers Montrealers. 

For example, Wooster forbade the celebration of midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1775, he constantly made arbitrary arrests, he forbade the Canadian fur trade. 

However, he tolerated, even encouraged , looting and abuses of all kinds by his troops. It is understandable that the Montreal population is less inclined to follow in Wooster's footsteps. 

The second American contingent, under the authority of Benedict Arnold, left Virginia and headed for Quebec City. After six weeks of a long march in rather difficult conditions, the soldiers of Arnold's army, suffering and exhausted, approach Quebec.

They had to cross swamps, carry heavy loads through mosquito-infested forests and enduring the damp cold of a North American winter. Many soldiers fell ill. 

Lévis

In 46 days, the troops have shrunk by half. Once at their destination, only 600 of the 1,200 soldiers remain. The survivors then settled in Lévis opposite Quebec and awaited the arrival of General Richard Montgomery's troops before attacking.  

Behind the wall of the fortifications of Quebec, the small garrison of 1600 men is preparing for the confrontation. 

The inhabitants of Quebec see, from the top of the fortifications of the city, the American soldiers taking position and hope to resist, to take advantage of the numerical inferiority of the enemy. 

The American assault against Quebec is given at 4 a.m., December 31, 1775, in the midst of a snowstorm. 

The Americans attacked from Upper and Lower Town at the same time, despite the storm… We had to act quickly, partly because the contract for several American militiamen ended at midnight that day. After midnight, many militiamen might simply stop fighting and return home. In the shadow of Cap Diamant, Canadian artillerymen open fire. 

In the Faubourg Saint-Roch, Benedict Arnold's troops engage in battle, but the fortifications prove too strong to be taken . 

In a few hours, Carleton's troops put more than 400 American militiamen out of action. 

There were even a good hundred American soldiers frozen dead in the snow, including the remains of General Montgomery. 

Philippe Aubert de Gaspé recounts in his memoirs that the remains of American General Montgomery were transported within the walls of Quebec. The corps remained there for more than 40 years, until it was repatriated to the United States in 1818.

The siege would still continue for some time thanks to the reinforcements that the Americans subsequently received.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, 70-year-old Benjamin Franklin and men with him are once again trying to convince Canadians to rally to their cause. 

However, the arrival of British ships in early May 1776 forced the final withdrawal of American troops from the Province of Quebec. 

Thus Quebec came close to become an American possession on the last day of the winter of 1775.

After the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, more than 80,000 Loyalists left the United States, nearly half of whom settled in the Maritimes and Quebec .