1774 Quebec Act
QUEBEC ACT. 20 May 1774. Although projected before the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor that provoked the imperial government to crack down on Massachusetts, the Quebec Act alarmed the colonies as much as did the so-called Intolerable Acts. By extending Canada's boundaries to the Ohio River, it removed from control of the established colonies some of the western territories claimed by Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia. By granting the French Canadians full enjoyment of their religion, it in effect established the Roman Catholic Church in Canada. By recognizing the mechanisms of land tenure that had been used under the French regime, it calmed Canadian nerves about the security of their property. By making the members of the royal council that governed the colony serve at the whim of the king, it strengthened the hand of the royal governor in dealing with the colony's legislature. All of these provisions were rooted in sound governmental reform for a conquered colony that had been under what amounted to military government since 1763. But in the context of the imperial crisis, each provision exacerbated an existing cause of controversy between the established colonies and the mother country. For most Canadians, the reestablishment of familiar customs and traditions made them less resentful of British rule, but because the act also favored the traditional sources of power in Canadian society, Canadians were not actively loyal to Britain so much as neutral when the American rebels invaded in the summer of 1775.
Knollenberg, Bernhard. Growth of the American Revolution, 1766–1775. Edited by Bernard W. Sheehan. Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 2002.
revised by Harold E. Selesky
Quebec Act, 1774
1774 Quebec Act, passed by the British Parliament to institute a permanent administration in Canada replacing the temporary government created at the time of the Proclamation of 1763. It gave the French Canadians complete religious freedom and restored the French form of civil law. The Thirteen Colonies considered this law one of the Intolerable Acts, for it nullified many of the Western claims of the coast colonies by extending the boundaries of the province of Quebec to the Ohio River on the south and to the Mississippi River on the west. The concessions in favor of Roman Catholicism also roused much resentment among Protestants in the Thirteen Colonies. Although it thus helped to bring on the American Revolution, the act, for which Sir Guy Carleton was largely responsible, was very influential in keeping Canada loyal to the crown during the Revolution. It was replaced by the Constitutional Act of 1791.
See studies by R. Coupland (1925) and H. B. Neatby (1972).
Richard C. Simmons