The Idea of Continental Union: Agitation for the Annexation of Canada to the United States, 1849-1893

By Donald Frederic Warner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Movement for Continental Union
in 1849

The movement to join Canada to the United States actually preceded the Declaration of Independence. In the fall of 1775, with the issue of the siege of Boston swinging uncertainly, eleven hundred battle-experienced soldiers were detached from George Washington's army and sent north (with another force from New York) to add the "Fourteenth Colony" to the rebellion. That these troops were sorely needed in the primary campaign in Massachusetts indicates the importance which Americans attached to the possession of Quebec. They had learned well the lessons of their geography and their brief history. The settlements in the St. Lawrence Valley had been a constant threat to American security in the Anglo-French wars. In the hands of Great Britain, with her seapower, the dark menace of the north had increased. For Quebec was not only a base but a gate which opened into the vitals of the northern colonies. The Richelieu River, flowing into the St. Lawrence, led to Lake Champlain and the Hudson River valley, together constituting a lowland thrust through the Appalachians, whose ramparts elsewhere guarded the American colonies. If this vestibule fell into British hands, the colonies would be split and the Revolution perhaps doomed. Survival could depend upon plugging this vulnerable gap by seizing its northern entry, the St. Lawrence Valley. The invading American forces, however, broke themselves on the defenses of Quebec in 1775- 1776 partly because they failed to gain hoped-for support from the French, who were the overwhelming majority of the popula-

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