Quebec Act

The Quebec Act of 1774 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 14 Geo.

III c. 83) setting procedures of governance in the Province of Quebec. The principal components of the act were:

* The province's territory was expanded to take over part of the Indian Reserve, including much of what is now southern Ontario, plus Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota.
* The oath of allegiance was replaced with one that no longer made reference to the Protestant faith.
* It guaranteed free practice of the Catholic faith.
* It restored the use of the French civil law for private matters while maintaining the use of the English common law for public administration, including criminal prosecution.

The Act had wide-ranging effects, in Quebec itself, as well as in the Thirteen Colonies. In Quebec, English-speaking migrants from Britain and the southern colonies objected to a variety of its provisions, which they saw as a removal of certain political freedoms. French-speaking Canadians varied in their reaction; the land-owning seigneurs and clergy were generally happy with its provisions.

In the Thirteen Colonies, the Act, which had been passed in the same session of Parliament as a number of other acts designed as punishment for the Boston Tea Party and other protests, was joined to those acts as one of the Intolerable Acts. The provisions of the Quebec Act were seen as a new model for British colonial administration, which would strip the colonies of their elected assemblies, and promote the Roman Catholic faith in preference to widely-held Protestant beliefs. It also limited opportunities for colonies to expand on their western frontiers, by granting most of the Ohio Country to the province of Quebec.

Quebec Act (An Act for making more effective Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec in North America) was a British statute which received royal assent 22 June 1774 and became effective 1 May 1775. The Act enlarged the boundaries of the PROVINCE OF QUEBEC to include Labrador, Ile d'Anticosti and Iles de la Madeleine on the east, and the Indian territory south of the Great Lakes between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers on the west. The colony was to be governed by a governor and 17 to 23 appointed councillors; an elected assembly was not provided. Religious freedom was guaranteed for the colony's Roman Catholic majority, and a simplified Test Oath, which omitted references to religion, enabled them to enter public office conscientiously (see CATHOLICISM). The Act established French civil law and British criminal law and provided for continued use of the SEIGNEURIAL SYSTEM.

The Quebec Act was framed largely by Gov Sir Guy CARLETON, although not all of his policies were incorporated into it. The Quebec Act has been interpreted in a number of ways. Some felt it was an attempt to rectify some of the problems created by the ROYAL PROCLAMATION OF 1763, which dramatically reduced the size of NEW FRANCE, provided an untouchable Indian territory out of the vast western interior and promised an elected assembly. Others felt it was an attempt to deal more fairly with the colony's French Catholics, perhaps with a view to ensuring their loyalty in the event of troubles with the American colonies, and it effectively guaranteed the survival of the ancien régime society in North America. Territorial expansion was a recognition of Montréal's role in the continental economy, and the Act returned to the Québec economy its traditional links with the fisheries and interior FUR TRADE.

American settlers were enraged when Québec acquired the Indian territory, which they perceived to be theirs by right; they considered the Quebec Act one of the "Intolerable Acts" which contributed to the outbreak of the AMERICAN REVOLUTION. Anglophone members of Québec's population, although pleased with the territorial expansion, were dissatisfied that an elected assembly was not provided for.

The Quebec Act became less effective when LOYALISTS began arriving in the colony after 1783. It was eventually replaced by the CONSTITUTIONAL ACT, 1791, which created UPPER CANADA and LOWER CANADA.