The Revolt of French Canada, 1800-1835: A Chapter of the History of the British Commonwealth

By Helen Taft Manning | Go to book overview
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XIII
Reaction in War

In the year 1804, when Great Britain embarked on her life and death struggle with Napoleon, there was probably no part of either hemisphere which gave the English cabinet less concern than the British North American provinces. The newly organized office of Secretary of State for War and the Colonies was devoting considerable time and attention to Ceylon and Trinidad, both recently acquired, and to plans for reconquering the Cape of Good Hope. But the Canadas and Nova Scotia had been entirely tranquil during the French Revolutionary War and no difficulties were anticipated in that quarter when hostilities were renewed. Very little attention had been devoted by anyone in England to the internal development of the Canadas since the first dispatches had been drawn up for the guidance of Colonel John Graves Simcoe as Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada between 1792 and 1795.

In one respect there was a marked change in ministerial thinking after, 1806. The comparative tranquility of British North America during the war with revolutionary France had been due to the fact that Great Britain and the United States had succeeded temporarily in composing their most serious differences, and that the wrath of the Americans had ultimately been directed more against the corrupt and unpredictable revolutionary government in Paris than against the ever unpopular policies of George III and his ministers. But after the British government had been pushed, by its desire to retaliate against the Berlin and Milan Decrees, into issuing Orders in Council which interfered in a new fashion with the trade of neutrals, the whole weight of popular displeasure in the United States was turned against their ancient foe and the danger of a second American war could never be wholly discounted.

War with the United States was the last thing England was seeking, and more attention was at first turned to keeping open the trade between the two countries than to preparing for active hostilities. The principal ports of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Bermuda were opened to American ships, in order to enable the New Englanders to defy Mr.

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