The Quebec Act
On the heels of the Coercive Acts, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, a well-intentioned measure designed to afford greater rights to the French inhabitants of Canada, which had come under British rule through the Treaty of Paris in 1763. In the succeeding years, British efforts to incorporate Quebec into the empire had been a notable failure.
The law provided the following:
- a new governor and council were to be appointed to govern affairs in Quebec
- the French civil code was officially recognized for use in Quebec, but English law would continue to prevail in criminal matters
- recognition was also given to the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec; this was an important gesture because Catholics were previously ineligible for public office, but now could qualify by taking an oath of loyalty to Britain
- the administrative boundaries of Quebec were extended south to the Ohio and west to the Mississippi rivers; this last-minute provision was an admission that the Proclamation Line of 1763, and Indian policy in general, had been a massive failure.
The Quebec Act was not part of Lord North’s punitive program, but many Americans missed the distinction and regarded the law as simply another "Intolerable Act." Opposition formed in a number of quarters. Colonies with western land claims
were firmly cut off from what they hoped would be future development and wealth. Strong protests arose in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia. Individual land speculators and investment companies also had their dreams dashed, and added their voices to the clamor.
Issues beyond money were at stake as well. Some critics of British policy noted that any semblance of democratic government was being denied to Quebec. All legislation was the responsibility of the governor and council; no representative assembly existed. Few American colonists actually cared about democracy for the French-speaking Canadians, but feared that the absence of representative assemblies might be a trend that would touch them in the future.
Other American opposition to the Quebec Act stemmed from a deep-seated hatred of the French. Colonists a decade earlier had celebrated the demise of the French Empire, but now feared that it was making a comeback. Similar feelings about the Catholic Church sparked dread in the hearts of Protestant Americans.
The fear of a resurgent Roman Catholic France in North America was one of the prime reasons that early in the War for Independence, the Americans would invade
Quebec in an effort to end the threat once and for all.
See timeline of the American Revolution