The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Use of Languages

In order to provide an administrative framework for the newly acquired territories in North America, the Parliament of Westminster adopted George III's Royal Proclamation on October 7, 1763. Like all English laws, the royal proclamation was passed and promulgated in English. The French version had no legal value; it was merely a text translated for francophones.

Map of the colonial distribution of north-east North America in 1763 The Royal Proclamation demarcated the boundaries of the new colony, the "Province of Québec":

Section I

The Government of Québec bounded on the Labrador Coast by the River St. John, and from thence by a Line drawn from the Head of that River through the Lake St. John, to the South end of the Lake Nipissim; from thence the said Line, crossing the River St. Lawrence, and the Lake Champlain, in 45 Degrees of North Latitude, passes along the High Lands which divide the Rivers that empty themselves into the said River St. Lawrence by the West End of the Island of Anticosti, terminates at the aforesaid River of St. John.

The borders of French Canada formerly extended from Acadia all the way to the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley. With the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the entire Great Lakes region was parcelled off and established as "Indian Territory." Although the British had "abandoned" the greater part of the conquered territory to the indigenous peoples, in actual fact it was because they could not ensure its defence. Better to temporarily leave territories they could not control to the indigenous peoples.

In any case, the colonial authorities were well aware that the situation was only temporary and that with the eventual immigration of English colonists, they could always dislodge allies who had become a nuisance. They also had to limit the westward expansion of the Thirteen American Colonies in order to encourage surplus populations to settle to the north in Québec and Nova Scotia (which at that time included New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).

The "Province" of Québec

The first English governor of the new "Province of Québec" was James Murray and, like everyone in that position, he spoke French well. Murray was to apply the British government's policy: turn Canada into a new colony by promoting English immigration and the assimilation of francophones, by establishing the official state religion—Anglicanism—and by introducing new political and administrative structures in keeping with British tradition. At the time, such a policy was considered quite normal, and the French, Spanish, and Portuguese were not loath to use it in their various colonies, albeit with some difficulty at times. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 made provisions for the governor to convene a general assembly of the people's representatives when circumstances allowed (which was never done).

British Linguistic Policy

As early as 1764, James Murray established the first judicial institutions and decreed that henceforth "all civil and criminal cases" would be judged "in accordance with the laws of England and with the edicts of this Province." In addition, every employee of the state had to swear the Test Oath. In order to hold public office within the English system, one first had to swear an oath in order to prove that one was a practising Anglican. The Test Oath included four oaths: allegiance to the British Crown; repudiation of (Catholic) James II, pretender to the throne of England; rejection of the authority of the Pope; and renunciation of the dogma of transubstantiation (the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ) in the celebration of mass. Although a Catholic might easily take the first two oaths, it was not the same for the other two, unless one could secure dispensations to permit the running of the country.

These measures were to automatically exclude almost all French Canadians (with the exception of a few protestant Huguenots who had stayed in the country) from public careers such as civil servants, clerks, lawyers, apothecaries, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, etc. According to the Attorney-General of the Province of Québec, Francis Maseres (descendant of a French Huguenot), the Canadians had to be assimilated:

It is a question of maintaining peace and harmony and of merging, so to speak, into a single one, two races which at the moment practise two different religions, speak languages which are reciprocally foreign, and are led by their instincts to utter different laws. The mass of inhabitants is comprised of Frenchmen originally from old France or of Canadians born in the colony, speaking the French language only, and making up a population estimated at ninety thousand souls or, as the French would have it from memory, at ten thousand heads of household. The remainder of the inhabitants is composed of natives of Great Britain or Ireland or of British possessions in North America, which at the moment reach the number of 600 souls. Nevertheless, if the province is managed in a manner pleasing to the inhabitants, this number will increase daily with the arrival of new colonists, who will come with the intention of taking up business or agriculture, so that in time it might become equal, even superior, to that of the French population.

The problem was that the much-desired English immigration did not occur (it happened only after 1783) because the new colonists made their way instead to Nova Scotia (formerly Acadia), while the francophone population was growing quickly as a result of a very high birth rate. From the beginning, the British authorities expected soldiers to settle in the "Province of Québec" in large numbers and eventually assimilate the French Canadian population. But that did not happen! Moreover, history shows that, on the contrary, an all-male occupation army generally brings about the disappearance of the conqueror's language because language is transmitted by the mother (hence "mother tongue"), and mothers speak the language of the conquered. This is how the Normans (formerly Vikings) lost their language when they invaded France. In the case of Canada, almost all members of the military returned home, with the exception of troops stationed in the country, although a few Canadian women did in fact marry English soldiers.

Inevitable Pragmatism

As to be expected, it proved impossible for James Murray to apply the letter of English civil law in the "Province of Québec." Everything went wrong! Even the fur trade—the most thriving sector of the economy—was collapsing because it was no longer possible to obtain enough pelts from supplies in the Great Lakes and from the North. The institution of English civil laws threatened the French language and undermined French Canadian society. The Test Oath had excluded francophones from the public service and subjugated them to the authority of a small protestant and English-speaking minority (Montrealers). The requirement to renounce the authority of the Pope made it impossible to name a successor to the Bishop of Québec (who had died in 1760), dooming the Catholic clergy to extinction since it could not ordain new priests.

The situation in the courts soon became ludicrous. The population was governed by laws of which it understood not a word and, at trial, judges and juries were far too few in number to make any sense of the testimony of French-speaking parties. As a result, Canadians systematically refused to have anything to do with the courts or the civil service, thus leaving the door wide open for anglophones to take the place of francophone in the fields of communication, trade, economics, industry, and administration.

Contrary to the expectations of the authorities, assimilating francophones proved impossible, the 500 or so English families being unable to assimilate the vast majority of the population. In addition, the francophone trappers ("coureurs de bois") scattered throughout the Great Lakes region remained beyond the reach of the authorities, who considered them a "pack of vagabonds without faith or law." What's more, the governor noticed that the New England colonists were showing their displeasure more and more aggressively and demanding radical change. The English colonists of the Thirteen Colonies were very disappointed at not being able to help themselves to the newly acquired territories, especially since they had hoped to expand westward. In fact, this is precisely what the British authorities did not want. Rather, they wanted surplus populations to settle to the north—in Québec and Nova Scotia—thus enabling the assimilation of His Majesty's "new subjects" (francophones). To agree for New England colonists to pursue their expansion west would be to concede that Canada would remain French indefinitely.

To make the Canadians a minority in their country, the British authorities had to be patient; Governor Murray understood this and showed tolerance. Ignoring London's initial orders, he allowed the Catholic hierarchy to fulfill its priestly duties, exempted from the Test Oath those Canadians he needed for public office, and authorized defendants to plead their case in French by means of pre-Conquest civil laws. Murray's successor, Governor Guy Carleton, continued to practise an equally conciliatory policy with respect to francophones and to seek their support, despite the indignation of the English population, comprised essentially of London merchants newly arrived in the "province."

Meanwhile, English merchants were beginning to run the colony's economy. In 1765, a petition addressed to the king by a group of such merchants demanded "the establishment of a House of Representatives in this Province as in all the other colonies" under British dominion. According to the petitioners, only "His Majesty's old subjects"—Britons established in Canada—would be eligible. After all, the colony of Nova Scotia had had its own assembly since 1758! However, Canadians, designated "His Majesty's new subjects," took little interest in these demands, which would have barred them from Parliament. In any case, British authorities refused the merchants' demands. Instead, British companies set up shop in the province and behaved like new masters. The French merchants had left the country or been driven into bankruptcy by the requirement under the laws of Great Britain that trade be carried out within British companies. Thus after 1763, English would progressively become the lingua franca of "universal civilization" in Montréal and Québec City. English did not replace French in the daily life of French-speaking Canadians, but the French language of Canada slowly began to absorb new words introduced by His Majesty's "old subjects" (the British).

The English Conquest also brought Canadians the printing press and newspapers, which had been outlawed under the old French regime, but now contributed to the spread of the written French language. American printers Brown and Gilmore arrived in Québec City in 1764 and published the first newspaper, the Gazette de Québec / The Québec Gazette, a four-page bilingual newspaper supported by 143 subscribers. More than ten years later in June 1778 in Montréal, Frenchman Fleury Mesplet would publish the forerunner to today's The Gazette: La Gazette littéraire pour la ville et district de Montréal. Furthermore, Governor Frederik Haldimand (1778–1784), a Swiss francophone (originally from the Vaud canton), founded the first public library in the country, which he set up in the former Episcopal Palace in Québec City, leased by the government; the library was bilingual.

Nova Scotia

By virtue of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Nova Scotia was an autonomous colony, but also included St. John's Island (later renamed Prince Edward Island) and Cape Breton Island, as well as today's New Brunswick:

Section IV

We have also, with the advice of our Privy Council. thought fit to annex the Islands of St. John's and Cape Breton, or Isle Royale, with the lesser Islands adjacent thereto, to our Government of Nova Scotia.

Overwhelmingly English-speaking since the departure of the Acadians, the colony had no trouble making English its only language. After 1760, the New England colonists had begun to make their way to Nova Scotia. They laid claim to the well-irrigated, fertile lands that once belonged to the Acadians, in particular those around Baie Française, which had come to be known as the Bay of Fundy. Numbering around 9,000 (but more probably 12,000), these immigrants radically changed the ethnic makeup of the Nova Scotian colony. For the first time since 1713, the colony was comprised of a British and Scottish majority that spoke English and practised the protestant religion (Anglicanism). Of course the colony of Nova Scotia did not have the same linguistic problems as the new "Province of Québec" with its strong French-speaking majority. If one could simply ignore the Acadians, perhaps it would be possible to do the same with French-speaking Canadians.

In 1764, the deported Acadians received the authorization to return to Nova Scotia on condition that they swear allegiance to Great Britain. Some Acadians returned from New England, notably from Georgia and South Carolina; others came from the province of Québec. At first they congregated around the towns of Yarmouth and Digby and continued to speak French. But by 1771, there were only 2,000 Acadians in Nova Scotia, less than one-fifth of the original population. A majority prior to 1755, they were now irremediably a minority. At the time, there was no question of linguistic rights. English was the only official language, although in private homes people continued to speak their mother tongues—English among the British, Scottish among the Scots, and French among the Acadians.

On St. John's Island immediately following the Conquest, 67 British landowners divided their territory into 67 municipalities of 20,000 acres each. They would always remain absentee landlords, only taking an interest in their land just long enough to collect rent money. As the colonists living on these properties were tenants only, there was little incentive to improve the land. In 1767, the city of Charlottetown was founded, named after Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III; Charlottetown would become the capital of the province of Prince Edward Island in 1769.

The Other Territories

If the Royal Proclamation of 1763 made no mention of cold and inhospitable Newfoundland, it was because the British government did nothing to promote either the populating or the colonization of the island. It considered it "a large English ship moored near the Grand Banks," intended only to facilitate fishing while at the same time protect the lucrative market controlled by British merchants. Overpopulation of the island might affect the profitability of this immense commercial enterprise. Nonetheless, in the years after 1760, between 8,000 and 9,000 people spent the winter in Newfoundland, and the population doubled during the summer. During the 18th century, the population remained concentrated between Bonavista and the Avalon Peninsula, that is to say where fishing was most plentiful. Although the English language of London became the medium of communication, the fishermen spoke the English of working-class southwest England, a far cry from London English.

Rupert's Land remained under the exclusive control of the Hudson's Bay Company, which had no settlement policy. The Royal Proclamation stipulated that the lands granted to the Indians should not include the "Territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company." The Hudson's Bay Company used English to communicate with the indigenous peoples or had recourse to French-speaking interpreters from the "pays d'en haut" (upper country).

Many of the provisions of the Royal Proclamation also affected indigenous peoples. It excluded not only the lands granted to the Hudson's Bay Company, but also the colonized regions of Québec, Newfoundland, Florida, and the 13 New England colonies. The Proclamation formally prohibited any potential buyer, other than the Crown, from purchasing lands belonging to indigenous peoples: "And We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of our Displeasure, all our loving Subjects from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands above reserved, without our especial leave and Licence for that Purpose first obtained." The peoples of the First Nations continued to use their ancestral languages in their respective communities.

Setbacks of the Conquest

Every victory comes with a cost, and the British Conquest of Canada was no exception. The setbacks of the Conquest were not linguistic, but rather economic and administrative; they would nonetheless have decisive consequences for the future of Canada.

Great Britain was forced to borrow enormous sums of money to pay for its costly military operations in North America. Since then, the national debt had doubled and was now 147 million pounds sterling, while taxes had risen by 20%. Certain English ministers were dumbfounded to learn that interest on the debt alone was costing the public treasury five million pounds a year, a huge amount for the time. The king and the government needed to find ways to collect higher revenues in America. Short of money, the British government decided unilaterally to have the Thirteen Colonies pay a part of its expenses through direct taxes on such goods as tea, wine, sugar, molasses, newspapers, etc. It seemed perfectly normal for the British government to make the colonies pay a portion of the expenses incurred on their behalf. However, the British colonies refused to lend a hand and reimburse the mother country's debts; they claimed that London had waged war out of personal interest, and that the conflict had nothing to do with them.

At the time, Great Britain had 17 colonies and one private territory (the "Indian Territory"): the Thirteen Colonies of New England, Newfoundland (and Labrador), Nova Scotia, the Province of Québec, and Florida. Yet of all these colonies, only those of New England, thanks to its larger population, could really contribute to repaying the British debt.

At the same time, the Thirteen Colonies saw little point in anteing up for this costly British military defence system, which they believed they no longer needed since the fall of New France. The New England colonists had been waiting for a British victory to finally pursue their westward expansion. But they had not reckoned with the policy of the new king, George III (whose reign had just begun in 1760). He had decided to closely administer the colonies of North America and call them to order. No sooner was he on the throne than George III made known his intention to strengthen royal prerogatives.

In the first place, rather than deal with the expansionist aspirations of its colonies, Great Britain set aside the "Indian Territory" for indigenous peoples and even prohibited colonists from settling there, entry to the territory being guarded by British garrisons. One can read in the Royal Proclamation of 1763,

And We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of our Displeasure, all our loving Subjects from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands above reserved, without our especial leave and Licence for that Purpose first obtained.

And We do further strictly enjoin and require all Persons whatever who have either wilfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any Lands within the Countries above described or upon any other Lands which, not having been having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such Settlements.

Thus, although Great Britain had increased its possessions on the North American continent, it had not altered the borders to the advantage of English colonists. Instead, it was openly showing opposition to its colonists' expansionist dreams. This was the first great disappointment after the Seven Years War!

The second disappointment concerned the Quartering Act of March 24, 1765, which ordered the colonial authorities to ensure housing for soldiers of the British Crown. The maintenance of the English army during peace time, around 10,000 men, on colonial territories provoked numerous recriminations, especially since the Quartering Act allowed for the requisition of private homes to house soldiers. The London Parliament also adopted the Money Act, the Stamp Act, the Sugar Act, etc., all designed to help eliminate the enormous debt accumulated during the Seven Years War. For example, the revenue from the Stamp Act (which stated that a revenue stamp must figure on a multitude of documents such as permits, contracts, insurance policies, newspapers, playing cards, etc.) was to finance a third of the cost of the army of 10,000 British soldiers that Prime Minister William Wyndham Grenville wanted to maintain in North America. Moreover, in order to demonstrate its firm intention to collect these taxes, the British government sent its own customs officers, protected by its army, with special powers such as the authorization to penetrate any locality (private or public) to verify goods and seize all those that would be deemed illegal. To do so, the customs officers were armed with permanent search warrants (Writs of Assistance). All of these taxes were added to the Currency Act of September 1, 1763, which formally prohibited the printing of paper money in the colonies and deprived them of liquid assets.

If these measures aroused deep resentment in Canada, they caused a profound anger among the colonies of New England. Twelve of the thirteen colonies (missing was Georgia) met at the Stamp Act Congress, while Benjamin Franklin defended the cause of the colonists in London. In the eyes of the New England colonists, these acts violated the right of British subjects not to be taxed without the consent of their representatives by virtue of the principle of No taxation without representation, because the colonies were not represented in British Parliament. These acts thus diminished the independence of their colonial assemblies and were the first stage of a "plot" aimed at depriving them of their freedoms. As if by chance, at the same time, the Gazette of Québec, the only newspaper in the province published in a bilingual edition, suddenly ceased publication. The Stamp Act provoked such discontent that the following year the British Parliament had to repeal the law (on May 1, 1766). In reality, Parliament had not revoked the Stamp Act because it agreed with the colonists, but because it was in no position to have it enforced by His Majesty's army.

In repealing the Stamp Act, the British government thought it wise to replace it with the Declaratory Act of March 18, 1766. With this act, Parliament gave itself complete power to legislate with regard to British possessions beyond the Atlantic and "to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever." In fact, the British Parliament took offence, and in no way accepted the colonialist argument that their assemblies were legitimate and representative. In May of 1766, the Gazette of Québec resumed publication.

In 1767, Great Britain imposed new taxes (glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea) with the Townshend Acts (named for the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Minister of Finance, Charles Townshend), which only served to fuel the fire. As most of the new taxes were used almost exclusively to pay the tax collectors' salaries and to ensure their security, rather than pay down the debt, the New England colonists decided to boycott goods exported by Great Britain and pay no more taxes until they had expressed their opinions on the question of the absence of colonial representation at the London Parliament. In 1770, London abolished taxes on all goods, with the exception of tea, but British soldiers were sent to Boston to protect the tax collectors. These measures were well received in America and calm was restored, which led one to believe that the point of view of the "patriots" had triumphed. However, the Tea Act of 1773 revived the dispute in all of New England and led to the final confrontation; by way of protest, the colonists stopped drinking tea. If the question of taxation had taught them anything, the events that were to follow led the colonists of New England to band together against the mother country, and especially against the King of England, George III, perceived at the time as a tyrant.