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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 Booknotes.org that you just have to check out! Oh, and don’t forget Wikipedia

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Jesuits Lose Estates!

Hierarchy of power under the Constitutional Ac...

Hierarchy of power under the Constitutional Act of 1791 (Upper and Lower Canada). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Constitutional Act in 1791 divided Quebec into two provinces, Upper and Lower Canada, each with its own Parliament.  For several years, this helped to bring about better  understanding between English and French-speaking Canadians.  When the new legislature of Lower Canada opened in 1792, one French member said as they lived under the best of kings, it was only courteous that English be the language used in the debates.  This wasn’t practical because few of the French members understood English.  Probably, few of the English members understood French.  In the end, both languages were adopted.

On the question of English being the “loyal” language, Chartier de Lotbinière said, “Remember the year 1775!  Those Canadians who spoke nothing but French showed their attachment to the sovereign … They helped to defend this province. You saw them join with faithful subjects of His Majesty and repel attacks on this city by people who spoke very good English.  It is not, you see, uniformity of language that makes people more faithful or more united.”

The trend toward better understanding was reversed after March 12, 1800, when estates formerly owned by the Jesuits were taken over by the government of Lower Canada.  The income from the land was to be used for educational purposes.  The English-speaking minorities in Quebec and Montreal were still powerful.  The Anglican Bishop Mountain insisted that schools with English Protestant teachers should be established in every parish so that the French-speaking children would gradually become Protestants.

When the bill was presented to the legislature, French-speaking members added paragraphs safeguarding church schools and making it necessary for the majority of people in any parish to vote in favour of having one of Bishop Mountain’s schools before it could be established.  The purpose of the bill was killed, but resentments which had died away were renewed.

For those of you who want to dig a little deeper into this, I suggest visiting Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online for more about Bishop Mountain; and again at Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online you can learn more about Charier Lotbinière; to learn about the Constitutional Act of 1791, suggest the Canadian Encyclopedia, and if you want to read the actual Act, you can read it Early Canadiana Online.

 

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Wright wasn’t Wrong

Portrait of Philemon Wright, a farmer and entr...

Portrait of Philemon , a farmer and entrepreneur who founded Wrightville, the first settlement in the National Capital Region of Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hon. Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior...

Hon. Clifford Sifton (Minister of the Interior) b. Mar. 10, 1861 – d. Apr. 17, 1929 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the years, there have been periods when Americans came to live in Canada than Canadians went to the United States. The first heavy influx of settlers from the United States was that of the United Empire Loyalists, who came to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Upper Canada after the American Revolutionary War.

Sir Clifford Sifton organized one of the most successful population drives in Canadian history when he was Minister of Immigration from 1896-1905. Although he persuaded people in many parts of the world to come to Canada, most of his settlers were from the United States and Britain.

One of the most successful settlers was Philemon Wright, one of the founders of Ottawa-Hull. Although he was a successful farmer in Massachusetts, he was attracted by offers of free land in Upper and Lower Canada, and spent several years exploring the possibilities. Finally, he decided that the area near Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa River offered the best opportunities. Huge pine trees grew there and by climbing them Wright could see the country for miles around.

On February 2, 1800, Wright left Woburn with twenty-five men to help him. They brought their wives and fifteen children and traveled in sleighs drawn by fourteen horses and eight oxen. The women and children slept in the sleighs while the men, after clearing the snow, wrapped themselves in blankets and lay on the ground.

The most difficult part of the journey along the frozen rivers was at the Long Sault rapids where Dollard Des Ormeaux and his colleagues had made their gallant stand against the Iroquois years before. A road had to be cut through the woods to get around the rapids.

The party arrived at Chaudiere Falls on March 17, and began clearing land right away. The first summer they reaped 1,000 bushels of potatoes and 40 bushels of wheat. In 1808, Wright was ready to ship his first boom of logs down the Ottawa River to the St. Lawrence. An industry that was to become the commercial backbone of Ottawa had started.

To learn more about Wright, a good place to start is Bytown.net .The site also includes an extensive list of books about the people and the area’s history. The site will keep you engaged!

 

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