THE HISTORY OF CANADA
|The United Empire Loyalists
When peace was established in 1783, many thousands of Loyalists, who were referred to as Tories by their fellow countrymen, left the newly created United States. They started their lives afresh under the British flag in Nova Scotia and in the unsettled lands above the St. Lawrence rapids and north of Lake Ontario.
This huge influx of settlers, who were known in Canada and England as the United Empire Loyalists, marked the first major wave of immigration by English-speaking settlers since the days of New France. Their arrival had two immediate consequences for the British colonies. Both the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia and the inland colony of Quebec had to be reorganized.
The previously unsettled forests to the west of the Bay of Fundy, once part of French Acadia, had been included in Nova Scotia. In 1784 this area was established as a separate colony known as New Brunswick. Cape Breton Island was simultaneously separated from Nova Scotia (a division that was ended in 1820). In all, some 35,000 Loyalist immigrants are believed to have settled in the Maritimes.
The settlement of the more inaccessible lands north and west of Lake Ontario and along the north shore of the upper St. Lawrence proceeded somewhat more slowly. About 5,000 Loyalists came to this area.
Upper and Lower Canada
It was clear that these United Empire Loyalists who had come to the western wilderness of what was still part of Quebec would not long be satisfied with the limited rights and French laws established by the Quebec Act. Accordingly, in 1791 the British Parliament enacted the Constitutional Act, whereby Quebec was split into the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Each of these was to be governed by a legislative council appointed for life and a legislative assembly elected by the people.
The right to be represented in a lawmaking assembly was something new for the French-speaking inhabitants of the lower province. Legislative assemblies had been in existence in Nova Scotia since 1758, in Prince Edward Island since 1773, and in New Brunswick since 1786. Representative government, however, was not responsible government, as was to be demonstrated before another 50 years had passed.
|Discovery of Canada|