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Quebec Act

The Quebec Act of 1774 was an act by the British Parliament setting out procedures of governance in the area of Quebec. Americans considered it one of the Coercive Acts also known as the Intolerable Acts.

After the Seven Years' War, a victorious Great Britain achieved a peace agreement through the Treaty of Paris (1763). Under the terms of the treaty, the Kingdom of France chose to keep the islands of Guadeloupe for its valuable sugar crops instead of the strip of land France controlled along North America's St. Lawrence River known as Canada. After the conquest the British renamed this province Quebec, after its capital.

With unrest growing in the colonies to the south, which would one day grow into the American Revolution, the British were worried that the French Canadians might also support the growing rebellion. In order to secure the allegiance of the approximately 70,000 French Canadians to the British crown, first General James Murray and later General Guy Carleton promoted the need for action. This eventually resulted in the Quebec Act of 1774.

The act preserved a regime for the French area similar to that of France, where there were no elective governing institutions. The Quebec Act entrenched French language rights, the old French civil law and officially recognized the Roman Catholic Church, including its right to impose taxes; however, criminal law remained British and based on the common law. As well, the act changed the boundaries of Quebec by including some of the colonies to the south, where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers met, and lands to the north, between the Great Lakes and Rupert's Land.

Effect on the Americans

While it is historically unclear whether the Quebec Act did much to secure the allegiance of the French Canadians to the British, it had other more severe consequences. Its application in the south led to it being termed one of the Intolerable Acts by the American colonists, contributing to the open American Revolution to follow.

There were several American concerns with the provisions of the act. For one, it established the Roman Catholic church in the Ohio Country. Settlers from Virginia and other colonies were already entering that area. Land development companies had already been formed to exploit the territory. The colonies were still engaged in or had just finished their own struggles with an established Church, and now from their view, they had to deal with another, one of their most feared.

The act confirmed the Indian territory between the Appalachians and the Ohio country that had been established by the Proclamation of 1763. This showed them that Parliament still sought to cut off their plans for western expansion.

See also: Timeline of Quebec history - History of Canada