Quebec, province, Canada: Early History
Since many continental explorations began in the region, Quebec has been called the cradle of Canada. In 1534, Jacques Cartier planted a cross on the Gaspé and the following year he sailed up the St. Lawrence. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain built a trading post on the site of the present-day Quebec city, and from this and subsequent settlements Catholic missionaries, explorers, and fur traders penetrated the North American continent. The activities of private fur-trading companies ended, for a time, in 1663 when Louis XIV made the region, then known as New France, a royal colony and chose Jean Baptiste Talon to be intendant, or administrator.
The long struggle to protect the colony and the fur trade from the Iroquois (other tribes were allies of the French) and the British was effectively lost in 1759, when the British defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham (see Abraham, Plains of). By the Treaty of Paris of 1763, Great Britain acquired New France. In an attempt to conciliate the French inhabitants, the British passed the Quebec Act of 1774, under which the colony was allowed to continue its semifeudal system of land tenure and to retain its language, religion, legal system, and customs.
After the American Revolution, many British Loyalists came to settle in Quebec. By the Constitutional Act of 1791 the British separated the area west of the Ottawa River and created the colony of Upper Canada (now Ontario) there. Quebec became known as Lower Canada, and in 1791 the first elective assembly was introduced.
The resentment of leaders of the French community toward the British precipitated a revolt in 1837 led by Louis Papineau. Although the rebellion was crushed, the disturbances in Upper and Lower Canada caused the British to send the Earl of Durham (see Durham, John George Lambton, 1st earl of) to study conditions in the British North American colonies. His report led ultimately to internal self-government and the creation of the Canadian confederation. Upper and Lower Canada were reunited in 1841, and Quebec became known as Canada East. Responsible (elected) government was granted in 1849.
Sections in this article:
- Twentieth-Century Economic and Political Developments
- Confederation and the French-English Question
- Early History
- History and Politics
- Economy and Higher Education
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