The Attempted Liberation of Canada

250 years ago this November, forces of the American revolution invaded Quebec to force it to become the fourteenth colony to revolt against the British.

On Sunday, November 12, 1775, the Americans, under the leadership of Major General Richard Montgomery landed on the Island of Montreal. Four delegates were chosen to represent the citizens of Montreal in order to meet with the General. He said he came as a friend in order to bring them independence and true liberty.

No doubt the delegates knew that General George Washington had reasoned the British would pose a threat to American independence and could very easily regain their thirteen colonies by launching attacks from Canada.

James McGillMontgomery told the delegates that they had four hours to draw up the terms of capitulation. The document was drawn up and twelve prominent Montreal citizens signed it, one of whom was James McGill (pictured here), founder of McGill University.

The reason the Americans eventually failed was the loyalty to the British of the French top clergy and the seigneurs. The British had given them the right to keep their religion and language in the Quebec Act of 1775, twelve years after their conquest of Canada.

This loyalty was in contrast to the position taken by the habitants and the lower clergy. They sympathized with the American revolutionaries and responded positively to their liberationist propaganda.

Source: The Fourteenth Colony, a series of four, half-hour television plays by Eric Koch and Jack Saywell, carried on the CBC in the early sixties.

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4 responses to “The Attempted Liberation of Canada

  1. David Schatzky

    Eric, thank you for this. Without your contribution I wonder how many others, like me, would not have known of this significant episode in our
    history.

  2. Imperialist aggression is usually accompanied by good intentions, France, with her “mission civilisatrice” was doing the countries she took over in the 19th century a big favour. Britain in the same period was offering the “lesser breeds with out the law” a chance — not then, of course, but eventually — to benefit from Magna Carta, habeas corpus, etc., and become fair-minded, law-abiding constitutional states just like Britain. And America in 1775 was going to ‘liberate’ Canada from British tyranny. Similarly, US President George III was going to ‘liberate’ Iraq and make it a democracy. Look what happened to that country and be glad General Montgomery failed before the walls of Quebec!

  3. Elisabeth Ecker

    Are there still copies of the programs available somewhere in the archives of the CBC? It would be interesting to see them.