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CHAPTER V

THE WAR OF 1812

 

EVER since the Constitutional Act of 1791 went into force there had been a determined agitation in the provinces of British North America, and especially in the Canadas, for a greater measure of responsible government, and, misled by this, the United States politicians in 1812 supposed that Canadians desired separation from Britain. No sooner, however, did news reach the Canadas that the United States had declared war than, in. both provinces, the agitation ceased and French Canadian and British .Canadian prepared to take the field against a common foe.

There was never any question of the attitude of the colonists of British stock, whether in Lower or Upper Canada, towards the impending war. Most of them were United Empire Loyalists; not a few had fought to keep the British flag flying over the old colonies in America and when that cause was lost had come to Canada to hew from the forest new homes for themselves under the Union Jack. Of the remainder, a goodly portion were discharged British soldiers or their descendants. But there was not the same certainty as to the attitude of the French Canadians. Blood is thicker than water, and, although the excesses of the French Revolution had sent a thrill of horror through the hearts of the God-fearing French-Canadian peasantry, news of the British reverses during the long years of the Napoleonic struggle in Europe were not always received with regret. Some French Canadians, it is true, had fought valiantly in the British Navy and Army against the mere patrie but strong pressure was needed to bring the two races in Canada together and create a true national sentiment. This pressure was supplied in the declaration of war by the United States.

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