CHAPTER V
AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE AND ITS AFTERMATH

THE Quebec Act scarcely affected the main course of events that led to the American Revolution, but it did contribute to the mounting bitterness that quickened the movement towards Independence. The boundary clause which extended Canadian territory down the Ohio Valley was the result of a long- considered policy aimed at restoring the old fur-trading 'Northwest' to its Montreal organizers and providing organized government for a territory that hitherto had lacked it. To sensitive American colonists, however, the clause was an attempt on the part of Britain to stop their westward expansion.

Similarly, they objected to having as their neighbour a colony which did not possess the sacrosanct popular assembly, and one in which Roman Catholicism had been re-established by law. "Nor can we suppress our astonishment," declared the Continental Congress of 1774, "that a British parliament should ever consent to establish in that country a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world."

In short, the Quebec Act was damned by American colonists as further evidence of British designs to smother colonial liberties, and it served to widen the breach which other and more substantial grievances had opened. But it would be a distortion of history to suggest that the colonies would have remained loyal had there been no such Act. The movement in favour of revolt had been gaining in momentum, and by 1774 it was already beyond the capacity of British statesmanship to control it. In the spring of 1775, the first blood was shed in a skirmish that was to set the whole Atlantic coast ablaze and lead to the dismemberment of the British Empire.

* * * * *

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