This weeks' thoughts: Canada - the 14th state?

I begin what will be a multipart column this week by posing the rhetorical question above. Almost from the very beginning of settlement in the New World, we below the 49th parallel have had a rather parochial attitude regarding our neighbors to the north. At best we pretend that Canada is merely an extension of the United States; at our worst, we try to invade and conquer the country!

As I scanned the newspaper a few weeks ago, I couldn't believe what I read. Pending U.S. legislation would clamp down on the current free access along the U.S./Canada border. The rationale was that in tightening our southern border with Mexico, equal standards should be applied to Canada. I suspect that the outcry over this proposal dies out the further you get from the border. After all, what does Mr. and Mrs. America really know about Canada anyway?

Before the Revolution, Canada was largely populated by French Canadians, a people who had found themselves with a new master after the Seven Year's War. Most Americans (well, truly, they weren't calling themselves that yet)thought these French would eagerly rise up and throw out the British, if only they had a little prompting. A military campaign to annex Canada was launched; two forces would invade and eventually encircle Quebec. At least, that was the plan...

The invaders hadn't factored in two important variables: the harsh winters up north, and the relative indifference of the French Canadians. Francophones had received fair treatment from the Crown; the Quebec Act supported their rights to religious freedom. What could the wild Puritan Yankees offer them that they didn't already have?

Despite the lack of a native uprising, the Americans plowed on. Montreal fell, then the continentals were outside the walls of Quebec. Hungry, freezing, they desperately attacked the fortified city. General Richard Montgomery fell from a cannon blast; Benedict Arnold was wounded in the leg; Daniel Morgan, John Lamb, and others were captured. Deprived of leadership, the army retreated, and Canada survived it's first American invasion.

Next: the War of 1812

send any comments to the scribe.
Copyright Greg Ketcham 1997