Definition of the Quebec Act
The Quebec Act of 1774 was a law passed by Parliament to replace the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and to keep the French-speaking people of the Province of Quebec from joining with the American colonies in resisting British policies.
The Quebec Act — Quick Facts
- Also Known As: The Quebec Act is also called the British North America Act.
- Royal Assent: King George III pronounced Royal Assent of the Quebec Act on June 22, 1774.
- Purpose: The purpose of the Quebec Act was to maintain the loyalty of the French-speaking people living in the Province of Quebec.
- Part Of: The Quebec Act was the last of the Coercive Acts, although it did not punish Boston like the other acts.
- When did Enforcement of the Act Start: The Quebec Act went into effect on May 1, 1775.
The Quebec Act — Key Details
- The long title — or official name — of the Quebec Act is “An Act for making more effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec in North America.”
- The act was created as a way to encourage the French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec to remain loyal to the Crown and to prevent them from joining the growing dissent in the American colonies and becoming the so-called Fourteenth Colony.
- Some historians recognize the Quebec Act as one of the Coercive Acts while others do not.
The Quebec Act — Interesting Facts
Pontiac’s War and the Proclamation of 1763
- After the French and Indian War, Britain, France, and Spain agreed to the Treaty of Paris. In the treaty, France ceded most of its territory in North America to Britain, including Quebec.
- In 1763, a loose coalition of Native American Indian tribes launched attacks on British forts in the Ohio Country.
- In an effort to appease the tribes, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains and established four new colonies, including the Province of Quebec.
- Under the Proclamation, English Common Law replaced French law. English law was anti-Catholic, due to centuries of conflict in Europe over religious differences.
- The French-speaking, Catholic inhabitants of Quebec were forced to take an Oath of Loyalty to the British Crown.
- In an effort to ensure the Province of Quebec would remain loyal to Britain and not fall in with the rebellious American Colonies, Governor James Murray developed plans for a way that would eventually be used by a group of British officials as the basis for the Quebec Act.
British Officials Responsible for the Quebec Act
The British officials who worked on the Quebec Act were:
- Alexander Wedderburn, the Solicitor General for England and Wales.
- Lord Dartmouth, the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
- Guy Carleton, the Governor of the Province of Quebec.
- William Hey, the Chief Justice of the Province of Quebec.
- Lord Hillsborough, the former Secretary of State for the Colonies.
- Lord Mansfield, Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench.
- Attorney General Edward Thurlow.
Legal Details About the Quebec Act
- It replaced the Proclamation of 1763.
- It restored French Civil Law in the Province of Quebec.
- British Criminal Law was retained in the Province.
- It allowed French Catholics in Quebec the freedom to practice Catholocism and give money — or tithes — to the Church.
- It extended the boundaries of the Province to include the Ohio Country, which included present-day Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.
- It also included the land that had been set aside by the Proclamation of 1763 as hunting grounds for the Native American Indian tribes.
English Speaking Inhabitants of Quebec Had Issues
- Prominent merchants in Montreal and Quebec City wanted to keep English Common Law.
- They wanted to have an elected legislative body made up of members of the English-speaking, Protestant inhabitants.
The Quebec Act Angers American Colonists
- Americans saw the act as favoring the French over British subjects in America. The pro-French and pro-Catholic provisions of the Quebec Act upset American colonists who were enemies of the French Canadians during the French and Indian War.
- Americans were kept from settling in the Ohio Country by the Proclamation of 1763. They viewed it as the government favoring the Native American Indian tribes.
- Although the Proclamation of 1763 was revoked, the expansion of the boundaries of Quebec was seen as the government favoring the French Catholics.
The Quebec Act and the Coercive Acts Contribute to the American Revolution
The Quebec Act was the last Coercive Act passed by Parliament. However, it was not in response to the Boston Tea Party. The four Coercive Acts, which were called the Intolerable Acts in America, aimed at punishing Boston were:
- The Boston Port Act
- The Massachusetts Government Act
- The Administration of Justice Act
- The Quartering Act of 1774
One other law passed that is often included in the Coercive Acts because it gave favor to the Province of Quebec and restricted the westward expansion of the American Colonies was the Quebec Act.