Quebec Act

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The Quebec Act of 1774 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 14 Geo. III c. 83) setting procedures of governance in the Province of Quebec. The principal components of the act were:

  • The province's territory was expanded to take over part of the Indian Reserve, including much of what is now southern Ontario, plus Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota.
  • The oath of allegiance was replaced with one that no longer made reference to the Protestant faith.
  • It guaranteed free practice of the Catholic faith.
  • It restored the use of the French civil law for private matters while maintaining the use of the English common law for public administration, including criminal prosecution.

The Act had wide-ranging effects, in Quebec itself, as well as in the Thirteen Colonies. In Quebec, English-speaking immigrants from Britain and the southern colonies objected to a variety of its provisions, which they saw as a removal of certain political freedoms. French-speaking Canadians varied in their reaction; the land-owning seigneurs and clergy were generally happy with its provisions.

In the Thirteen Colonies, the Act, which had been passed in the same session of Parliament as a number of other acts designed as punishment for the Boston Tea Party and other protests, was joined to those acts as one of the Intolerable Acts. The provisions of the Quebec Act were seen as a new model for British colonial administration, which would strip the colonies of their elected assemblies, and promote the Roman Catholic faith in preference to widely-held Protestant beliefs. It also limited opportunities for colonies to expand on their western frontiers, by granting most of the Ohio Country to the province of Quebec.

Contents

Background

After the Seven Years' War, a victorious Great Britain and a defeated France formalized the peace with the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Under the terms of the treaty, the Kingdom of France ceded New France to Britain, choosing instead to keep the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique for their valuable sugar production. New France was considered less valuable, as its only significant commercial product at the time was beaver pelts. The territory found along the St. Lawrence River, called Canada by the French, was renamed Quebec by the British, after its capital city. Non-military administration of the territories acquired by the British in the war was defined in the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

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