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Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester

Carleton, Guy, 1st Baron Dorchester, 1724–1808, governor of Quebec and British commander during the American Revolution. He began his service in America in 1758 and distinguished himself in the French and Indian War. After 1766, as lieutenant governor, acting governor, and governor of Quebec, he proved to be a very able administrator. He fostered the Quebec Act of 1774, which brought about better relations between the British and the French Canadians. The loyalty of the French Canadians to the British in the American Revolution was at least partly the result of the act. On the other hand, it infuriated the colonists in the present United States and helped bring on revolution. When Thomas Gage resigned as commander in chief of British forces in America, the command was divided—Sir Guy Carleton had command in Canada, and Sir William Howe had command farther south. When the American Revolutionaries launched their Quebec campaign, Carleton had few men and was forced to abandon Montreal, which fell to the forces under Richard Montgomery. Withdrawing to Quebec, Carleton repelled (Dec. 31, 1775) an attack led by Montgomery and Benedict Arnold and withstood a long winter siege. British reinforcements in the spring enabled him to push the American forces out of Canada to Crown Point, which he took in the autumn of 1776. Disagreements with the British colonial secretary, Lord George Germain, led to his being replaced as commander by Gen. John Burgoyne in 1777. Carleton resigned as governor and left Canada in 1778, when he was succeeded by Sir Frederick Haldimand. In Feb., 1782, after the Yorktown campaign had already effectively ended the American Revolution, Carleton replaced Sir Henry Clinton as commander in chief of the British forces. His delicate task was to suspend hostilities, withdraw the forces from the New York and Vermont frontiers, and protect the Loyalists—both those who were emigrating to Canada and those who were attempting to reestablish themselves in their old homes. He was again governor of Quebec from 1786 to 1796. High-principled and able, Carleton was perhaps the most admirable British colonial commander in America in his time.

See biography by A. G. Bradley (new ed. 1926, repr. 1966).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Canadian History: Biographies


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