A blupete Essay

French Regime In Canada, Part 5 to blupete's Essay
"The Canadian Constitution, A History Lesson"

Canada, in the beginning was not an English country: it was French. During the course of the first hundred and fifty years (1610-1760) of European occupation, the English and the French in North America sorted themselves out and settled into two distinct and separate areas. These two ancient enemies could not get along in America any better than they could get along in Europe: they were almost continually at one another's throats. The English -- whose population rose dramatically and always surpassed the French, by far -- had concentrated themselves along the eastern Atlantic seaboard, from French Acadia down through to Spanish Florida. The French presence was thin and far flung. During the 17th century and the first half of the 18th, the French -- though never in any great numbers -- had settled themselves in the northeast of America along the Atlantic coast (Acadia) and notably along the banks of the St. Lawrence River with the French North American capital being at Quebec. Beyond that, the French had established trading posts on various points in the Great Lakes, in the Ohio valley and down the Mississippi to its mouth, such that it effectively thwarted English aspirations to expand into the American west.

Unlike their English neighbors, the French inhabitants of New France were never represented in legislative assemblies. The North American French population was ruled by the king from France through his representatives, the governor and the intendant.3 As it was back home, in France, things were run on feudal principles and was under the rule of an absolute monarch right up to the populist revolution of the late 1700's.4 The point is, that liberty, in the early French Regime during which time France possessed her colonies in North America, for the common man, was not something that was highly valued by the rulers. Public meetings for any purpose were jealously restricted.

New France was to suffer under its medieval political system; whereas, New England, in its natural adoption of the English constitution was to prosper. Sir John George Bourinot made the comparison:

"Whilst the country remained in the possession of France, the inhabitants were never represented in legislative assemblies and never exercised any control over their purely local affairs by frequent town meetings. In this respect they occupied a position very different from that of the English colonists in America. The conspicuous features of the New England system of government were the extent of popular power and the almost entire independence of the parent state in matters of provincial interest and importance. All the freemen were accustomed to assemble regularly in township meetings, and take part in the debates and proceedings. The town, in fact, was "the political unit," and was accordingly represented in the legislature of the colony. Legislative assemblies, indeed, were the rule in all the old colonies of England on this continent - even in proprietary governments like that of Maryland. On the other hand, in the French colony, a legislative system was never enjoyed by the inhabitants."5

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