Conquest

The Conquest (La Conquête) was a term used to designate the acquisition of Canada by Great Britain in the SEVEN YEARS' WAR and, by extension, the resulting changed conditions of life experienced by Canada's 60 000 to 70 000 French-speaking inhabitants and numerous native groups. Québec surrendered to British forces on 18 September 1759, a few days after the crucial Battle of the PLAINS OF ABRAHAM. French resistance ended a year later with the capitulation of Montréal. By the terms signed 8 September 1760, the British guaranteed the people of New France immunity from deportation or maltreatment; the right to depart for France with all their possessions; continued enjoyment of property rights; the right to carry on the fur trade on an equal basis with the English; and freedom of worship.

By the Treaty of PARIS, 10 February 1763, the French colony became a British possession. After the French Revolution (1789) many Canadians came to see the Conquest as a providential rescue from revolutionary chaos - an idea that was long influential. Later generations, viewing the past through the prism of their own political and constitutional preoccupations, also tended to see the conquest positively - not without reason - as leading to religious toleration and REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT. They were less welcoming of the ethnic dualism that was the inevitable result of the marriage of English government and immigration with an established French colony of settlement.

Some modern historians, such as Michel Brunet, have seen the Conquest as a disaster, drawing attention to the monopolization of the higher levels of government and business by English-speaking newcomers as evidence that the Conquest made French Canadians second-class subjects and, ultimately, an ethnic proletariat. Others, such as Fernand OUELLET, downplay harmful effects, pointing to fairly continuous development of economic foundations, of institutions and of culture, little affected by the event. For the native peoples, the end of Anglo-French hostility meant a fateful decline in their value as allies and warriors, making them increasingly irrelevant to white society.

The Conquest must always remain a subject of debate, interwoven with and inseparable as it is from other influences on Canadian development. Its influence is also evident in the AMERICAN REVOLUTION, which was possible only when the American colonies no longer needed British protection from French forces in North America.