Why didn’t Canada join the colonies in the American Revolutionary War?

When the American colonies rose against the crown in the late 18th century, Canadians did not rally to the cause of independence. Historian Julian Humphrys explains why…

Why did Canada not join the colonies in the American Revolutionary War? (Photo by Francis G. Mayer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

At the time of the American Revolutionary War, ‘Canada’ was not a single country but regions, two of the most powerful of which were Nova Scotia and former French colony of Quebec. Given that half the population of Nova Scotia were New Englanders, you might have thought that they would have eagerly supported the American rebels, and some did head south, but in the end, Nova Scotia’s isolation and large British military presence ensured it remained loyal to the Crown.

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Similarly, it could be thought that the French Canadians of Quebec would have jumped at the chance of getting back at their English masters. But Parliament’s Quebec Act of 1774 had guaranteed their language, right to practice Roman Catholicism and French civil law, and this was in marked contrast to the rebels who had denounced the Act and its provisions.

For the French Canadians, it was largely a case of ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know’ and the majority stayed out of the conflict altogether.

An attempt in late 1775 by the American rebels to capture Quebec ended in defeat and, the following year, a bid to persuade its inhabitants to rally to the cause of independence was an abject failure.

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, historian and author Julian Humphrys.

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This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine