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—Bargaining for a Load of Wood by Cornelius Krieghoff (1815 – 1872), 1860
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff

“After Canada was ceded to Britain in 1763, new British laws respected the private agreements and the property rights of francophone society, and the seigneurial system was maintained.” The Canadian Encyclopedia


In 1755, the British deported thousands of Acadians but, in 1874, nineteen years later, the Quebec Act made French-speaking Canadians full-fledged British subjects.

At first, there were difficult years on both sides. But, as stated in the Canadian Encyclopedia, after Canada was ceded to Britain in 1763, “new British laws respected the private agreements and the property rights of francophone society, and the seigneurial system was maintained.”[i] For details regarding this question, one can read Michel Brunet’s French Canada and the early decades of the British Rule (go to pages 3 and 4).

The Royal Proclamation and the Quebec Act

The ROYAL PROCLAMATION OF 1763 renamed Nouvelle-France the Province of Quebec, but made it rather small, which would no longer be the case in 1774. According to the Quebec Act, “which received royal assent 22 June 1774 and became effective 1 May 1775,”[ii] the Province of Quebec would “include Labrador, Ile d’Anticosti and Iles-de-la-Madeleine on the east, and the Indian territory south of the Great Lakes between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers on the west.” This enlarged Quebec would have an elected assembly and Catholics could be elected into office.

Sir Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester

The Quebec Act came into effect under General and Right Honourable Sir Guy Carleton 1st Baron Dorchester, KB [Order of Bath] (Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ireland, 3 September 1724 – 10 November 1808 Stubbings, Maidenhead, Berkshire), Governor of Quebec (1768–1778) and Governor General of the Canadas (1786–1796). But Guy Carleton opposed the Constitutional Act of 1991 that created two Canadas: Lower Canada and Upper Canada.

Lord Guy Carleton[iii] was largely responsible for the Quebec Act, which helped to preserve French laws and customs (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-2833). (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

I will discuss the Constitutional Act (1791), which Lord Dorchester opposed, in a later post. For the time being, it suffices to tell about the life of the Canadien after the Treaty of Paris. France could have kept New France but it preferred to keep sugar-rich Guadeloupe. However, the terms of the Treaty of Paris, which protected Quebec, were respected.

It has been said that it was in Britain’s best interest to give full citizenship to the Canadiens in a formal Act, the Quebec Act. Its thirteen colonies to the South were threatening to part company with England. Therefore, why alienate the French Canadians? Yet, it has also been said that Britain acted in the best interest of its new British subjects.

Cornelius Krieghoff

So, let us remember Cornelius Krieghoof’s quintessential Quebec: a snow land, un pays de neige: snow as a country.

Winter Landscape, c. 1889 (Photo credit: Art.com

Cornelius David Krieghoff (19 June 1815 – 8 March 1872) was born in Amsterdam and entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Germany, in c. 1830. He moved to New York in 1836 and enlisted in the US army the following year, 1837. In 1840, he deserted the US army and married Émilie Gauthier.  “They moved to Montreal, where he participated in the Salon de la Société des Artistes de Montréal. While in Montreal, he befriended the Mohawks living on the Kahnawake Indian Reservation and made many sketches of them from which he later produced oil paintings.”[iv]

In 1844, the Krieghoffs travelled to Paris and Krieghoof made copies of works located in the Louvre under the direction of Michel Martin Drolling (1789–1851).  Krieghoof was invited to participate in the first exhibition of the Toronto Society of Arts, held in 1847. So the Krieghoffs returned to Montreal in 1846 and moved to Quebec City in 1853. Krieghoff returned to Europe twice. He did so briefly, in 1854, and at greater length, from 1863 to 1868.

He then moved to Chicago to retire, and Chicago was his last destination. He died on 8 March 1872 at the age of 56 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. The Great Quebec Fire of 8 June 1881 destroyed many of his sketches, “then owned by John S. Budden, who had lived with the artist for thirteen years.” (Wikipedia). Cornelius Krieghoof is considered the finest Canadian artist of the nineteenth century. However, although called a Canadian, he could be labelled a Dutch master.

The Habitant and his Seigneur

Just below is a painting of habitants, the name given censitaires or tenants under the Seigneurial System, abolished in 1854. They had been called habitants since the seventeenth century. The word has now become pejorative.

Habitants, painting by Cornelius Krieghoff

Habitants, 1852 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two Major Themes

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia:

“Krieghoff early on established in his repertoire two major themes that he would revisit throughout his career and for which he is perhaps best known: rural francophones and aboriginals. His HABITANT scenes cover a range of situations: in some, for example, folk greet one another en route, play cards, race their sleds, fraternize at the local in, or attempt to settle a tract of un-arable land – granted to them by the government – in the hinterlands of Québec.”[v]

The hinterlands would be Maria Chapdelaine’s Peribonka: les pays d’en-haut (the countries above), a story told by Frenchman, Louis Hémon.  As for the aboriginals, when he served in the US army, Krieghoff was assigned for service in the Seminole Wars in Florida.  Krieghoff had made sketches of the Second Seminole War.  The Seminoles were Amerindians.

Wyandot hunter calling a moose, c. 1868 (print)

Track 25 Beethoven Rondo in C major C-Dur; ut majeur Op. 51.1, Louis Lortie
(please click on Track 25 to hear the music)
© Micheline Walker
[i] Jacques Mathieu, “The Seignorial System,” The Canadian Encyclopedia http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/seigneurial-system  
[ii] Nancy Brown Foulds, “Quebec Act,” The Canadian Encyclopedia
[iii] S. R. Mealing, “Guy Carleton,” The Canadian Encyclopedia  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/guy-carleton-1st-baron-dorchester 
[iv] “Cornelius Krieghoff,” Wikipedia
[v] Arlene Gehmacher, “Cornelius Krieghoff,” The Canadian Encyclopedia