The United States, Great Britain, and British North America from the Revolution to the Establishment of Peace after the War of 1812

By A. L. Burt | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER IX
OSMOSIS

A REACTION similar to that which chemists call osmosis has been at work between the United States and British North America from the foundation of the Republic. In this early period it was much more evident in the old Province of Quebec, and the two Canadas into which it was divided in 1791, than it was in the Maritime Provinces even though most of their population had come from the old colonies. The pre-Revolutionary pioneers and the much larger number of Loyalist refugees who followed them at the end of the war had all come by sea, the only possible way. It cut them off from their old home, and it enabled the surviving colonial system to close in and raise a great barrier behind them.1 For all practical purposes, the Maritime Provinces were a group of islands out in the Atlantic. ' New England fishermen still haunted their shores; but these visitors' inclination to settle there was, if anything, even less than it had been. Occasionally they exceeded the bounds set by the peace treaty, but British fishing inspectors and customs collectors generally kept them at arm's length. The old Province of Quebec, even with its entirely different population, was not so severed. It could not be. The Revolution, in its very beginning, had thrust a fiery arm up into Canada and closed in upon the fortress of Quebec, while it had scarcely scratched the old Nova Scotia. Of course there were special reasons for the attempt to conquer the lower St. Lawrence Valley, but if there had been an equal urge to win the meager settlements on the northeast it would have made little difference. The Maritime Provinces, because they were maritime, were beyond the reach of a Revolutionary army. The St. Lawrence was not, for the great natural highway up the Hudson, over Lake Champlain, and down the Richelieu was too far removed from the range of British naval guns.

The outbreak of war between Britain and Revolutionary France loosed a French design to strike through the United States at British power in French Canada.2 It was part of the larger plan to enlist the American Republic in the French crusade for liberty, a plan which Citizen Genet, who arrived in 1793 as minister to the United States, believed he could carry out. He would launch the righteous hosts of America against the wicked enemy of liberty in the north, and at the same time he would rouse the slumbering French population to throw off the hated yoke of

____________________
1
See supra, Chapter IV.
2
Gustave Lanctot, Le Canada-Français et ses voisins du sud.

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