Tag Archives: 1763

‘Tis Money Rules the World Now …

Canadian money

Canadian money (Photo credit: KittyCanuck)

One of the big events in Britain in 1965 was the decision to change the system of currency from the complicated pounds, shillings and pence, to the decimal system.  Canada might have been stuck with pounds, shillings and pence in the 1850s if it had not been for a hard battle by Finance Minister Hincks and others.

When the United States adopted the decimal system in 1808, Canada tried unsuccessfully to do the same.  Britain wanted to keep Canada in the “sterling bloc,” using its currency.  Various measures were passed by the Parliament of Canada after the Act of Union in 1840 but were disallowed by the British Government.  Finally a compromise was reached on August 30, 1851, but it was not until January 1, 1858, that the decimal system of currency became effective.  Problems were created  when New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined Canada in 1867, and other provinces after that.

Some unusual forms of currencies were used in Canada over the years.  Even playing cards (see my April 18 post: Playing Cards Become Money?!).  when Britain took Canada from France in 1763, there were 800,000 livres of unredeemed paper money in circulation, and many people were big losers.

Then Spanish silver dollars gained wide acceptance, many of them coming into circulation through illicit trade.  These dollars had different values in different places.  In New York a dollar would be worth eight shillings, but only five in Halifax.   In Quebec silver dollars were called “Halifax currency”, while Montreal called them “York currency.”  One problem was to get metal coins small enough to make change.  merchants used to curt the Spanish dollars into smaller pieces known as “four bits”, and “two bits”, expressions still (though, admittedly not widely) in use not that long ago, meaning 50 or 25 cents.

Currency complications continued as late as 1881, as new provinces joined Confederation.  Their currencies were taken out of circulation gradually and redeemed.  Even in the 1920s, a paper bill, known as a “shin-plaster” (worth 25 cents, was often seen.

” ‘Tis money rules the world now,
It’s rank and education,
It’s power and knowledge, sense and worth,
And pious reputation.
Get cash, and ‘gainst all human ills,
You’re armed and you’re defended,
For in it even here on earth,
All heaven is comprehended.”

“Halifax Currency”

Term used for the Spanish silver dollar rated at five shillings of about twenty cents each in Nova Scotia. It was used from 1750 until 1751.

“York Currency”

The Spanish reale in terms of the New York price of twelve and one-half cents was used in Ontario, and thus was distinguished from the Halifax shilling of about twenty cents. It was used between 1800 and 1850.

Too many men salt away money in the brine of other people’s tears.
–  BOB EDWARDS, 1917


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The Magnificent Fiasco!

Boreal forest on Anticosti Island

Boreal forest on Anticosti Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Britain might have captured Canada from France in 1711 instead of 1763 if it had not been for the amazing foul-up of an expedition under Sir Hovenden Walker.  The leadership of the strongest military force that had ever sailed from Britain was incredible.  Sir Hovenden Walker was an Admiral of the Royal Navy, but there is no record of how he obtained that rank.  His second-in-command was General Jack Hill, who would be called a playboy today.  He was appointed because his sister, Abigail Hill, was Lady of the Queen’s Bedchamber.

The Walker-Hill expedition totalled 9 warships, more than 60 transports, and 12,000 troops, many of whom were highly trained soldiers who had fought under Marlborough.  It looked as though the final hour had come for France in North America.

The fleet sailed from Nantucket on July 30, 1711.  One of the British ships captured a French ship in the St. Lawrence.  Its captain was a French officer, Paradis, who knew the river well and accepted a bribe to pilot the fleet up the St. Lawrence.  On August 22, while near Anticosti Island, Admiral Walker believed they were sailing near the south shore.  Although the captain of the flagship reported that land had been sighted (the river is 112 km (70 miles) wide at that point), Walker’s argument persisted; they were near the south shore.  He ordered the fleet to stop for the night, with bows pointing north.  Then he went to bed.

Before he fell asleep, an officer came into his cabin and reported that there were breakers on all sides.  Walker ordered him out.  Soon the officer returned and urged the Admiral to look for himself.  Walker appeared in  dressing gown and slippers, and called the pilot Paradis.  It was soon established that the fleet was off the north shore, in treacherous water near Sept-Iles.  The warships were saved, but 10 transport and service ships were wrecked.  About 500 men were rescued, but after a conference with General Hill, Walker decided to return to Britain.  There were still 50 ships and 11,000 men available to fight!

Walker was dismissed from the service on half-pay, while General Hill went back to being a “man about town.”  The incident is known in Canadian history as “the magnificent fiasco.”


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Divided by lottery

English: Prince Edward Island, farmland

Prince Edward Island, farmland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are often suggestions that hospitals, Medicare, and other public services in Canada should be financed by Federal lotteries, as they are in Ireland (Eire) and other countries. There are a number of precedents for public lotteries in Canada. Many of the United Empire Loyalists drew their holdings from a hat, as did the early settlers of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and Edmonton, Alberta.

The most spectacular lottery for land was in Prince Edward Island and it took place in London, England, on July 23, 1767. The results were not satisfactory because many of the people who received holdings in Prince Edward Island never went there. One of its worst problem for years was “absentee” landlords. If it had not been for the lottery, however, Prince Edward Island might have been a feudal kingdom, ruled by lords, with its people living little better than serfs.

When Prince Edward Island was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. It was placed under Nova Scotia. The Earl of Egmont, First Lord of the Admiralty, asked King George III to grant him the island forever! He proposed to be the “Lord Paramount” while under him there would be 40 “Capital Lords,” 400 “Lords of the Manor,” and 800 “freeholders.” The lords would have castles, surrounded by moats, and the castles would be armed with cannons, capable of firing four pound balls. If there was any danger, the castle being attacked would fire its cannon; this would be heard by the next castle which would also fire, and so on around the island until everyone had been alerted. The Earl of Egmont claimed that the entire island could be armed in fifteen minutes!

King George referred the matter to the Board of Trade and Plantations, which turned down Egmont’s request as being adverse to the principles of settlement in the other colonies. Instead, it was decided to hold the lottery and divide Prince Edward Island among people who had claims for military or other public service. One of the lucky winners of the lottery, Captain Walter Patterson, became the first governor.

If you want to read more about this, there are a few sites I recommend: There’s Island Imagined, and the University of Prince Edward Island.


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Quiet Until Napoleon

Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland

Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Newfoundland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Little noticed and seldom visited are the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off Burin Peninsula, south-west Newfoundland.  They are all that is left of the vast possessions France once held in North America.

France seemed glad to get rid of Canada through the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763, but she kept St. Pierre and Miquelon as bases for French fishing vessels.  fishing rights along the coasts were probably the most valuable thing Canada had to offer in those days.  Britain agreed to France’s retaining St. Pierre and Miquelon, provided they would be used only as fishing bases.  No fort could be built, and the police force was never to exceed fifty men.

France put the Baron de l’Espérance in charge of the islands on July 14, 1763.  Although many Acadians had drifted back to Canada after the expulsion of 1755, some of them refused to become British subjects.  The Baron de l’Espérance gave them land in St. Pierre-Miquelon, and hoped they would become good settlers.

This was a mistake.  The Acadians were farmers and the soil of the island was unsuitable for agriculture.  Many of them were so unhappy that they were taken to France.  They were unhappy in France too, and decided that the barren soil of St. Pierre-Miquelon was preferable to the tyranny and oppression in France in 1768.  So back they came!  A large number made a living by fishing and not farming.  Smuggling was a profitable sideline. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Admiral Montague, Governor of Newfoundland, evacuated nearly 2,000 inhabitants of St. Pierre-Miquelon and sent them to France.  Most of them returned at the end of the war and there was quiet until Britain became involved in war again with Napoleon and the French Revolution.

Landscape of Miquelon.

Landscape of Miquelon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were even problems during World War II when France was governed by Vichy.  It was always possible to Germany would take over France completely, and that St. Pierre-Miquelon could be used as bases for submarines or spies.  The inhabitants were allowed to stay on the islands, but a proposal to build a powerful radio station was cancelled.

Gradually, St Pierre-Miquelon, through their direct link with old and new France, are becoming increasingly attractive to tourists.  the tourist trade will probably become the island’s most important source of revenue. To learn more about St. Pierre and Miquelon, I have a few places to suggest: a good place to start is at St. Pierre et Miquelon Tourism where they have lots in information and photos. I also suggest viewing a video on YouTube. It’ll give you a very good idea, I think, of what it is like there!


Posted by on July 14, 2013 in On This Day


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Pontiac Plays Deadly Game of Lacrosse!

Pontiac (Indian chief)

Pontiac (Indian chief) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the World Series, Stanley Cup, and football playoffs, sport commentators often describe a certain game as being “crucial.”

Perhaps the most crucial game ever played in Canada was one of lacrosse, which took place on June 4, 1763 at Michilimackinac.

Indian Chief Pontiac had vowed to wipe the British off the face of the earth. Many tribes resented Britain’s taking over Canada from France by the Treaty of Paris in 1763 — many of them had never even seen British redcoats until after the fall of Montreal, when General Amherst sent troops to take over Detroit and Michilimackinac.  (Michilimackinac was an important fort at the junction of Lakes Huron and Michigan.  It has been pre-serviced as a historic site near on the longest bridges in the world.)

June 4 was the birthday of King George III, and the Indians arranged to play a game of Lacrosse outside the fort.  A great many female Indians who were there as spectators were hiding tomahawks and knives under their blankets. The gate of the fort was open and nearly all the members of the garrison were watching the game.  The Indians worked the play closer and closer to the gate, and suddenly took their weapons from them and began the massacre.

The troops were taken completely by surprise, probably not having heard about Pontiac’s treachery at Detroit on May 7.  While some of the Indians killed the soldiers outside the gate, others dashed inside and massacred the people there.  Few escaped.

It was part of what the distinguished historian, Francis Parkman called, “the conspiracy of Pontiac.”  Before it was brought under control, 2,000 British, including women and children, were killed along the frontier. Britain  decided to send an army to North America to protect the colonies.  The catch was that King George and his ministers demanded that the  colonists should bear the cost!  This led to the imposition of the Stamp Act, the duty on tea and other forms of taxation.  The American Revolutionary War was the result.

Britain put down the Indians for the time being, but lost the United States! The game of lacrosse at Michilimackinac was certainly more “crucial” than any game in the Stanley Cup or World Series!

Want to read more about this event?  I have a few recommendations for you. A good place to begin is My, and then What is the Ojibwe Warrior all About?. Then there’s Serpents of the Sky, and then finally, Preppies vs. Indians on an old American playing field for a very interesting article.


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Pontiac plans Massacre!

No authentic images of Chief Pontiac are known...

No authentic images of Chief Pontiac are known to exist. Dowd (2002), p. 6 This artistic interpretation was painted by John Mix Stanley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sitting Bull was dangerous, as recounted in yesterday’s story, but an Indian Chief who did far more real damage was Pontiac in 1768.  Before his uprising was brought under control, more than 2,000 British, including women and children, had been killed.

Many Indians in what is now western Ontario did not like Britain’s taking Canada from France.  When the red-coated soldiers occupied the French forts at Detroit and Michilimackinac, between Lakes Huron and Michigan, they were led to believe that the King of France would soon drive them out again.

Pontiac was chief of the Ottawas who lived near Detroit.  At a secret meeting he vowed to drive the British “off the face of the earth.”  Fortunately, Major Gladwyn, who was in charge of the fort at Detroit, was told of Pontiac’s boast.

Pontiac, professing undying friendship for the British, asked for a peace conference.  He and 300 followers arrived at Detroit on May 7, 1763, and were received in the fort.  Pontiac’s followers included a number of women who concealed weapons under their blankets.

The custom was that in a conference of this kind, the Indian chief would offer the white leader a belt of wampum.  Pontiac had arranged that when he stood up to offer the belt, the Indians would grab their concealed weapons and begin the massacre.

However, Gladwyn was ready for the masquerade.  He pretended to go along with the peace conference, but took obvious precautions to deal with any trouble that might occur.  When Pontiac looked around he saw that an uprising would have had no chance to succeed.  He gave no signal.

The conference proceeded as though it were genuine, and the Indians left with promises of goodwill and other friendly meetings in the future.  Soon after they were out of the fort they surrounded it and kept it under siege for more than a year until British reinforcements arrived.  This was only one of a number of manoeuvres organized by the wily Pontiac.

If you think Pontiac is interesting and want to learn more, I have a few sites to suggest.  For instance, a good place to look would be Galafilm‘s Chiefs, Government of Michigan‘s Department of Natural Resources, American’s, and I also suggest visiting Loon Lake Elementary School.  You might also want to read American Indians will meet to honor Chief Pontiac (


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The Day Louisiana Was Sold To The U.S.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One story that isn’t well-known is that Napoleon planned to recapture Canada for France.  He made himself dictator of France in 1799, on the pretext of “saving the Revolution,” but then went on to conquer most of Europe.

Napoleon’s plan to recapture Canada was inspired by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who in 1793 became the first man to cross the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Mackenzie wrote a book about his trip which Napoleon had translated into French to help him plan his campaign.

His first step was to regain Louisiana.  France had owned the Mississippi Valley all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but had handed over this territory to Spain before signing the Treaty of Paris in 1763 so that Britain would not acquire it.

In 1800, Napoleon regained Louisiana from Spain as part of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso.  He planned to move his troops up the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.  In order to do this, he sent a large navy and army to recapture the former French colony of Haiti, which had been lost in a rebellion led by a mighty black warrior, Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture.

Le général Toussaint Louverture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was to be the base for the attack up the Mississippi, led by Napoleon’s favourite general, Count Bernadotte. His campaign was defeated by the same elements that beat the Scotsmen who wanted to set up a colony in Panama and make it New Scotland.  The natives and the mosquitoes were too fierce.    They killed 60,000 French troops in two years!

In the meantime, the British fleet had moved powerful units to the West Indies, and Napoleon knew that it would be too risky to try to move an army to the mouth of the Mississippi.  He abandoned the plan to recapture Canada, and sold Louisiana on April 30, 1803, to the United States for $27 million between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains. Spain still retained claims on the Pacific coast as far north as Oregon, which had an important bearing on the future development of British Columbia.

Want to read more about what became known as the Louisiana Purchase? I suggest National Archives & Records Administration for the transcripts, and a site I just found is that you just have to check out! Oh, and don’t forget Wikipedia


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