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By an unknown artist, James Murray was given to the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Our series of posts on Aubert de Gaspé’s Les Anciens Canadiens have reached an exciting point. France has been defeated, and the ruling families of Quebec are returning to France, but they must do so promptly.

After the sinking of l’Auguste, Governor James Murray gave the reprieve that had saved the d’Habervilles to all prominent French families. In fact, they would no longer be forced to return to France. Therefore, Quebec still had its seigneurs. Papineau was a seigneur, so was Aubert de Gaspé, and the Lotbinières, and others. They were Canada’s aristocrats, but their life in France could be humbler after a long absence. If they left in a hurry, their fate could be disastrous. However, while the Royal Proclamation of 1763 benefited Amerindians, George III of England demanded the assimilation of the French.

Québec in 1774 (Google)

The Royal Proclamation of 1763

  • Amerindians protected
  • James Murray does not enforce assimilation

The Royal Proclamation created the Province of Quebec. It gave the British monarch (the king or queen) the power to buy and sell land belonging to Indigenous people. It made sure that the British would have more power than the French. Also, it attempted to assimilate the French. Through assimilation, the British believed the French should lose their language, traditions, and religious beliefs so that they would become like them.

(See Royal Proclamation of 1763, The Canadian Encyclopedia)

In other words, under the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Amerindians were given a large reserve. This reserve was a wide and long strip of land west of the Thirteen Colonies. This region of North America had fallen to Britain, but it could not be home to the British living in the Thirteen Colonies. Although the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was the Amerindians’ Magna Carta, the citizens of the Thirteen Colonies looked upon George III’s document as an “intolerable act” on the part of Britain.

Moreover, while George III’s Proclamation of 1763 protected Amerindians, the French ran the risk of being assimilated, which takes us back to Les Anciens Canadiens. After the sinking of l’Auguste, not only did Governor James Murray postpone the departure of the d’Habervilles from New France, but he extended this reprieve to every prominent citizen of New France who, as noted above,,, could also remain in Canada. But more importantly, James Murray did not enforce assimilation.

His willingness to allow French law and custom in the courts further alienated the merchants and led to his recall in April 1766 and he left Canada in June. Though charges were dismissed, he did not return to Canada though he retained nominal governorship until April 1768.

(See James Murray, The Canadian Encyclopedia)

The Assembly

  • James Murray criticized
  • the Quebec Act of 1774

James Murray was criticized and recalled, but he completed his term in office, and, as noted in earlier posts, James Murray paved the way for Guy Carleton’s Quebec Act of 1774. The Quebec Act was a more “intolerable act” than the Royal Proclamation. It has also been viewed as somewhat flawed because it was negotiated with Seigneurs, the Clergy, and the bourgeois. “Habitants” were disappointed, but the French in Canada did not lose their language, religion, seigneurs, or Code Civil. The Quebec Act of 1774 is particularly significant because the French-speaking population of the former New France were granted the same rights as the Colony’s English-speaking citizens, which meant that, henceforth, they could run for office.

The Colony had yet to attract English-speaking immigrants. Canada was not an attractive destination. In 1970, Margaret Atwood published The Journals of Susanna Moodie, a book of poetry in which she tries to imagine writer Susanna Moodie’s feelings about life “in the Canada of her era.” At first, in 1774, Canadiens were the majority, but a Governor could form an assembly. Immigrants arrived: Scots who lost their homes and, soon, United Empire Loyalists. A blend, however, was initiated earlier, to which Les Anciens Canadiens is a testimonial. Although New France had fallen, Cameron of Lochiel remains a brother to Jules d’Haberville, and he helps him find his way in a new Canadian élite. Therefore, despite the fall of Nouvelle-France, Jules can enter a career. Furthermore, Jules has met and loves a young Englishwoman in his travels. The two will marry.

Lord Durham’s Report

Canadiens still faced obstacles. In his Report on the Rebellions of 1837-1838, Lord Durham wrote that the people of Quebec did not have a literature, nor did they have a history: “un peuple sans histoire ni littérature.” In response to John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham‘s demeaning remark, Canadiens created two literary movements: le Mouvement littéraire de Québec, the Literary Movement of Quebec, whose members congregated in poet Octave Crémazie‘s bookshop, and le Mouvement littéraire de Montréal, whose most prominent author would be poet Émile Nelligan. Aubert de Gaspé was a member of le mouvement littéraire de Québec. Les Anciens Canadiens was published in 1863. Les Anciens Canadiens is not the first novel published by a French Canadian. Phillipe-Ignace François Aubert de Gaspé, Aubert de Gaspé’s son, published L’Influence d’un livre in 1837. Aubert de Gaspé père worked with his son. So, L’Influence d’un livre may have been Philippe Aubert de Gaspé’s introduction to the world of letters. He was a born writer and his imprisonment had acquainted him with immense sorrow, but he wrote a fine novel at the age of 76.


Chapter XI/X of Les Anciens Canadiens, Légende de Madame d’Haberville (Madame d’Haberville’s Story), is the story of a mother who will not stop mourning the loss of her daughter. The little girl is burdened by buckets filled with her mother’s tears. She sees her child in a dream or vision. This inner tale may reflect the grief of realistic Canadiens. They had to go on and could because they had a “bon Anglais” in James Murray, the Scottish governor of Britain’s new Colony. James Murray commiserates when he listens to Monsieur de Saint-Luc’s account of the shipwreck of Augusta, an unfortunate accident. Henceforth, he will be a kinder governor.

Une grande pâleur se répandit sur tous les traits du général ; il fit apporter des rafraîchissements, traita monsieur de Lacorne avec les plus grands égards, et se fit raconter dans les plus minutieux détails le naufrage de l’Auguste. Ce n’était plus le même homme qui avait voué pour ainsi dire à la mort, avec tant d’insouciance, tous ces braves officiers, dont les uniformes lui portaient ombrage.

Les prévisions de M. de Lacorne se trouvèrent parfaitement justes ; le gouverneur Murray, considérablement radouci après la catastrophe de l’Auguste, traita les Canadiens avec plus de douceur, voire même avec plus d’égard, et tous ceux qui voulurent rester dans la colonie eurent la liberté de le faire. M. de Saint-Luc, surtout, dont il craignait peut-être les révélations, devint l’objet de ses prévenances, et n’eut qu’à se louer des bons procédés du gouverneur envers lui. Ce digne homme, qui comme tant d’autres, avait beaucoup souffert dans sa fortune, très considérable avant la cession du Canada, mit toute son énergie à réparer ses pertes en se livrant à des spéculations très avantageuses.

Les Anciens Canadiens (XV: pp. 364-365)

[General Murray turned as pale as death. He was no longer the same man who had carelessly consigned so many brave officers to their doom just because the sight of their uniforms displeased him. Presently he called for refreshments, and, treating Saint-Luc with the most profound consideration, he inquired of him the most entire particulars of the wreck.

What M. de Saint-Luc had foreseen presently came to pass. Thenceforward Governor Murray, conscience-stricken by the loss of the Auguste, became very lenient toward the Canadians. Those who wished to remain in the Colony were given liberty. M. de Saint-Luc, whose possible revelations he may have dreaded, became the particular object of his favour and found nothing to complain of in the governor’s attitude. He set his tremendous energies to the work of repairing his fortunes, and his efforts were crowned with well-merited success.]

Cameron of Lochiel (XIV: 226-228)


Sources and Resources

Wikipedia, The Canadian Encyclopedia, & Britannica
Les Anciens Canadiens (ebooksgratuits.com). FR
Cameron of Lochiel (Archive.org ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is a translator of Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts. EN


Love to everyone 💕

P.S. My last two posts were nearly erased. I’ve rebuilt both, hence the delay. I’ve added that once Louisbourg fell to Britain, on 26 July 1758, ships could go up the St. Lawrence River unhindered, which meant that Quebec could fail. It fell on 13 September 1759.

The French and Indian War (1754-1763)
Portrait of James Murray as a young man by Allan Ramsay, 1742. (Scottish National Portrait GalleryEdinburgh) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
4 August 2021