Dalhousie Law Journal


Francophone, British subjects, Quebec Act, legal history, France, England, Assembly, equality


This paper examines information available to Francophone persons regarding their rights as British subjects prior to the adoption of the Quebec Act of 1774, as well as the use they made of these concepts. The bilingual Quebec Gazette reported on legal developments in France, England, and the American colonies, including challenges to the traditional vision of governmental authority. It discussed the right to be taxed by elected representatives and the conflicts between the metropolis and the colonies. Debates about these issues are thought to have appeared in Quebec only after the beginning of the American Revolution, but they circulated earlier Educated members of the Francophone elite sought more specific information about the new legal system. Many of them were eager to obtain an Assembly if Catholics could sit in it. This was considered one of their rights as British subjects, together with the continuation of property rights guaranteed by the Capitulation of 1760 and, by extension, inheritance, and matrimonial laws. In the end, requests for an assembly were shelved in order to obtain religious equality. Thus, British officials were free to declare that Canadians had no interest in such an institution, creating a lasting and misleading impression.

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