Canadians in 1812?
Canadians? Not yet, they were still "Canadiens".
Old post, for your consideration.
There's a great deal of confusion over the titles "Canadians" and "Americans" when the War of 1812 is discussed. It would appear that there's a tendency to apply the conditions and restrictions of the modern era, to circa 1800; unfortunately that is inappropriate.
First of all, today, the denomination "American", refers to a resident or native of the United States of America, and while that may not be strictly accurate, that's pretty much a given to all who would post here. But back in 1800 or so, the term "American" was much broader, applied to native-born residents of the "Americas" of European stock, but distinctive from "Indians", for whom the denomination "American" had originally been applied to. The "Americas" referred to the "New World", and included the landmasses of North America, Central America, and South America, and the associated islands, such as the West Indies. Dealing just with those who spoke English, as opposed to Spanish or Portuguese, and were primarily of British stock or were under British domination, while the residents of the new United States were certainly "American", in the lexicon of the day, so were the residents of such diverse areas as Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Jamaica and Bermuda. I'll add, probably the most important to any discussion of the War of 1812, the even newer "Upper Canada", was as American as New York or Massachusetts - more later. Within the larger term "American" or "United States of America", many Americans more closely identified themselves with their home States or Colonies, in part some half a century later a Civil War would result from these distinctions for example it's well known that Robert E. Lee more closely identified himself as a "Virginian", as opposed to being foremost, an "American".
Likewise, today "Canadian" refers a native or inhabitant of Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia - simple. But circa 1800, the denomination "Canadian", as had been for close to 2 centuries, was still being applied to a descendant of New France, Canada itself originally being the area extending along the banks of the great "River Canada" i.e. the St. Lawrence, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and was largely synonymous with Quebec. While New France had been extended down into the Mississippi Basin, largely as an adjunct to the Fur Trade, after the Conquest, the British originally truncated their new French possessions into the Province of Quebec, which was limited to those areas of primary habitation along the St. Lawrence. But the "Intolerable" Quebec Act of 1 May 1775 enlarged the boundaries of the Province of Quebec to 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. Remember, by huge majority, Canadians of this period were Roman Catholic, and they spoke French,they were "Canadiens".
Now, let's deal with Upper Canada. After the American Revolution, the Province of Quebec was again restricted, some of the United Empire Loyalists i.e. "Americans", about 40,000-50,000 were first relocated to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick was separated from Nova Scotia in 1784 largely because Nova Scotia itself after the British seizure of French Acadia had been largely settled by New England Yankees who cared little for these Loyalists. Some 7,500 loyalists were later relocated to the "Upper Country", which referred to the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence. Upper Canada, came into existence when the British Parliament passed the Constitutional Act of 1791, separating the French speaking Roman Catholic Canadiens, from the newly settled mainly English speaking Protestant Americans, who cared little for each other for a variety of reasons, past history and religious intolerance being amongst the foremost. The Quebec Act had guaranteed Religious freedom for the colony's Canadien Roman Catholic majority, a return to French civil law and provided British criminal law - the new immigrants wanted none of it. Thus, the old Province of Quebec was split into Lower Canada in the East and Upper Canada in the West along the present-day Ontario-Quebec boundary. But Upper Canada soon became the fastest growing area of North America, the population increasing from about 10,000 with the newly arrived Loyalists, to some 100,000 by the time of the War of 1812. How and why?
The answer largely lies in Britain's choice for the Lt. Governorship of the new province - John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe arrived in 1792, he was well acquainted with the Americas having been the Commander of the Queen's Rangers in the American Revolution. While he abhorred the United States and democracy, he had developed a great appreciation for these Americans, and their aptitude as pioneers, and he deliberately sought them out, politics not withstanding. He began the policy of granting free land, and the temperate area encircled by the Great Lakes was some of the most fertile in North America, to American settlers, confident that they would become loyal settlers and aware that they were the main hope for rapid economic growth, and he envisioned the future centre of Upper Canadian trade in the interior of the continent. Lieing astride the route to the Ohio and West, the Americans willingly took his offer, and came in a flood. Simcoe left Upper Canada in 1796, to become governor of the Dominican Republic i.e. Santo Domingo, and would be assigned commander in chief for India before his death 1806, but he left a lasting legacy in Canada; the Americans continued to come to Upper Canada in droves.
So in brief, the Upper Canada that the US sought to conquer and absorb in 1812, was NOT peopled by "Canadians". Except for a few pockets, very few were Canadian i.e. Roman Catholic and spoke French, nor were they "Loyalists" from the United States, nor their progeny born after their arrival, both groups accounting for only some 20,000 people, largely in the area of the Eastern section of Lake Ontario, and the upper St. Lawrence. Of the remaining total population of 100,000 people, 4 of 5 i.e. 80% were recent immigrants from the new United States, mainly Methodists from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut, occupying the lake shores, Niagara and the Detroit areas; and despite no longer residing in the United States, they still considered themselves to be "Americans", their loyalties were ambiguous at best, but one thing can be certain, they did NOT consider themselves to be "Canadians". "Late Loyalists", was a term later applied to these people, but they were anything but, apart from an ambiguous oath of little worth, they had no loyalty to the British at all. An English speaking Canadian identity would be the result of the war, but a "Myth" of that war, not a consideration of it. A Canadian heroine of the war, Laura Secord was born in Massachusetts, she was not Canadian either, nor was Asa Danforth who built the first east-west thoroughfare in the Province - Massachusetts as well. Add to that the idea that "Canadian Militia" won the war - they didn't, the British Army with some militia support did, but it also has to be said that there were few units involved, actually formed from citizens who considered themselves foremost as Canadians. Brock had no illusions concerning the loyalty of his own "Upper Canadian" militias, some 60% American born, his brilliance early on to defy what many thought was inevitable defeat, the rapacious tactics of invading US irregulars more used to fighting Indians, did the rest to give these people a measure of backbone to resist their American, former brothers.
It this point it's important to note that any consideration given to the idea that Upper Canada could be seized and used as a bargaining chip for concessions on the high seas or on the "North West" Indian territory has to be tempered by the fact that the questionable loyalty of these people, perhaps "disloyalty" to the British is a better term, was a factor in the decision to move on Upper Canada in the first place, the area becoming part of the United States would remove any British support of the Indians, appeasing the War Hawks of the US west.
Lastly to clarify the waters even more, the much more ardent Colonial militia fencible units sent to the Canadas in defence, like the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, or the 104th New Brunswick Regt. of Foot, didn't consider themselves Canadian either, not being part of Canada at the time is a pretty obvious reason.
Two notable exceptions were the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencible Regt., formed from veterans of the Glengarry Fencibles, raised in the Highlands of Scotland, disbanded in 1804, members emigrating to Glengarry County, on the shores of the St. Lawrence, Upper Canada, they were both quite British, and Loyalist. And of course there was Canadian born, Col. Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry's, Provincial Corps. of Light Infantry, or "Canadian Voltigeurs", heroes of the Battle of Chateauguay. The capable de Salaberry, a true "Canadien" and British Army veteran of the wars against Napoleon, had worn the green jacket with red facings of the 60th Regiment of Foot - the "Royal Americans". These same Royal Americans would be the last British Regt. in Quebec, leaving the Quebec Citadel, on November 11th, 1871, two Canadian Militia units, representing French and English Canada respectively, the 9th Voltigeurs and the 8th Royal Rifles forming a guard of honour, and firing a final salute.
So, ultimately it can be said that while British arms in defense were largely responsible, Americans won the 1st Civil War, I mean the War of 1812, Americans who became, and whose descendents would remain, Canadian.
Last edited by Marmat; 15 Aug 12 at 13:33..