Historical Documents

of the United States of America

The Letter To The Inhabitants Of The Province Of Canada ~ 1776

Passed 24 January 1776


     In an attempt to convince the French inhabitants of the province of Quebec that they should join with the other British Colonies to her south, the Continental Army was directed northwestward from the Massachusetts-Bay Colony toward Quebec City. Apparently, the delegates meeting in the Second Continental Congress felt that if Canada did not willingly join with the other British Colonies, they would take military control of her and 'convince' her to become the fourteenth of the United Colonies. Army units led by Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold headed toward Quebec City. The invasion lasted from June 1775 through mid-October 1776 in a series of skirmishes and battles,. The invasion of Quebec by the American armies was ultimately repulsed by the British under Sir Guy Carleton.
     Coincident with the Continental Army's march on Quebec City, the Second Continental Congress delegates sent an address to the people of Quebec to explain their actions and intentions in invading that colony. The Letter was drafted by a committee composed of William Livingston, Thomas Lynch and James Wilson, and approved by the Congress on 24 January 1776. It was then translated into French and sent to Quebec.


     Our former address to you pointed out our rights grievances, and the means we have in our power, which we are authorized by the British Constitution to use, in the maintenance of the former, and to obtain a redress of the latter.
     We have also shown you, that your liberty, your honor and your happiness are essentially and necessarily connected with the unhappy contest, which we have been forced into for the defence of our dearest privileges.
     We see with inexpressible joy the favourable manner in which you have received the just and equitable remonstrances of your friends and countrymen, who have no other views than those of strengthening and establishing the cause of liberty. The services you have already rendered the common cause deserve our acknowledgments, and we feel the just obligation your conduct has imposed on us to make our services reciprocal.
     The best of causes are subject to vicissitudes, and disappointments have ever been inevitable. Such is the lot of human nature. But generous souls, enlightened and warmed with the sacred fire of liberty become more resolute, as difficulties increase, and surmount with irresistible ardor every obstacle that stands between them and the favorite object of their wishes.
     We will never abandon you to the unrelenting fury of your and our enemies. Two battalions have already received orders to march to Canada, a part of which are now on their route. Six additional battalions are raising in the United States for the same service and will receive orders to proceed to your province as soon as possible. The whole of these troops will probably arrive in Canada before the ministerial army under General Carlton can receive any succours. Exclusive of the forces before mentioned, we have directed, that measures be immediately taken to embody two regiments in your country. Your assistance in the support and preservation of American liberty affords us the most sensible satisfaction and we flatter ourselves that you will seize with zeal and eagerness the favourable moment to co-operate in the success of so glorious an enterprize. And if more considerable forces should become requisite, they shall not fail being sent.
     At this period you must be convinced that nothing is so essential to guard our interests and liberty, as efficacious measures to combine our mutual forces, in order that by such a Union of succour and counsils, we may be able to baffle the endeavours of an enemy, who, to weaken, may attempt to divide us. To this effect we advise and exhort you to establish associations in your different parishes of the same nature with those, which have proved so salutary to the United Colonies; to elect deputies to form a provincial Assembly, and that said assembly be instructed to appoint delegates to represent them in this Congress. We flatter ourselves with the prospect of the happy moment, when the standard of tyranny shall no longer appear in this land, and we live in full hopes that it will never hereafter find shelter in North America.
     Signed in the name and by order of Congress, JOHN HANCOCK, president. Philadelphia, January 24, 1776.
From Journals Of The Continental Congress 1774-1789, Volume IV, 1906, Government Printing Office, Pages 85-86.
Report Of The Committee Of Correspondence Who Conferred With A Gentleman From Canada ~ 1776

Read 14 February 1776


     On February 12, 1776 it was noted that a gentleman had arrived from Canada, and the Committee of Correspondence was directed to meet with him and then submit a report to the Congress. Following is a transcript of the Committee's report.


     The Committee of secret Correspondence report that they have conferred with the Person just arriv'd from Canada, and find that he was furnish'd with a Passport from Gen. Wooster, containing Orders for his Travelling at the Publick Expence; with another Pass from Gen. Schyler to the same Purpose, and one from the Committee of Kingston, who sent a Guide with him hither. That he has been engag'd in the American Service ever since the Appearance of our Forces in that Country, of which he is a Native; and being as he says well acquainted with the Sentiments and way of Thinking of his Countrymen, his Intention in undertaking this Journey was to give the Congress a true Information on that Subject. He says that when the Canadians first heard of the Dispute they were generally on the American side; but that by the Influence of the Clergy and the Noblese, who have been continually preaching and persuading them against us, they are now brought into a State of Suspence or Uncertainty which Side to follow. That Papers printed by the Tories at New York haver been read to them by the Priests, assuring them that our Design was to deprive them of their Religion and well as their Possessions. That the Letters we have address'd to them have made little Impression, the common People being generally unable to read, and the Priests and Gentry who read them to others, explain them in such a Manner as best answers their own purpose of prejudicing the People against us. That he therefore thinks it would be of great Service if some Persons from the Congress were {to appear in} sent to Canada, to explain viva voce to the People there the Nature of our Dispute with England, which they do not well understand, and to satisfy the Gentry and Clergy that we have no Intention against their Interests, but mean to {leave} put Canada in full Possession of Liberty, desiring only their Friendship and Union with us as good Neighbours and Brethren. That the Clergy and Gentry might, he thinks, by this means be brought over, and would be follow'd by all Canada. And unless some such Measure is taken, he is of Opinion our Affairs there will meet with continual Difficulty and Obstruction.
     He left Montreal the 20th past; says our Troops continued to invest Quebec; that he had heard of no Sally made by the Garrison; but was inform'd by an Ecclesiastick who came out of that Town 15 Days before, that the Inhabitants were in great Distress for Fewel, and reduc'd to one Fire for 6 or 7 Families. That Flesh and Flour was also scarce; but they had plenty of Corn, whichg not having Means to grindf they boil'd to subsist on. That on his Route he met several Parties of our Reinforcements marching towards Canada. That Lake Champlain is frozen and passable, but Lake George not yet. He adds that there is great Jealousy in Canada, of our Paper Money.
     He offers to carry safely any Despatches the Congress may have to send into that Country.
From Journals Of The Continental Congress 1774-1789, Volume IV, 1906, Government Printing Office, Pages 148-149.
Instructions And Commission To The Commissioners Appointed To Go To Canada ~ 1776

Passed 20 March 1776


     Acting upon the suggestion made by the gentleman from Canada, that they should send someone, or a group, to Canada to get the message corrected, a delegation was appointed. The delegation consisted of: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll. They were then given the instructions transcribed below.
     The commissioners traveled to Quebec City and remained there through mid-April. On Monday, 22 April 1776, the delegates meeting in the Second Continental Congress resolved: "That the commissioners of Congress in Canada be requested to return to Congress..."


     You are, with all convenient despatch, to repair to Canada, and make known to the people of that country, the wishes and intentions of the Congress with respect to them.
     Represent to them, that the arms of the United Colonies, having been carried into that province for the purpose of frustrating the designs of the British court against our common liberties, we expect not only to defeat the hostile machinations of Governor Carleton against us, but that we shall put it into the power of our Canadian brethren, to pursue such measures for securing their own freedom and happiness, as a generous love of liberty and sound policy shall dictate to them.
     Inform them, that in our judgment, their interests and ours are inseparably united; That it is impossible we can be reduced to a servile submission to Great Britain without their sharing our fate: And, on the other hand, if we shall obtain, as we doubt not we shall, a full establishment of our rights, it depends wholly on their choice, whether they will participate with us in those blessings, or still remain subject to every act of tyranny, which British Ministers shall please to exercise over them. Urge all such arguments as your prudence shall suggest, to enforce our opinion concerning the mutual interest of the two countries, and to convince them of the impossibility of the war being concluded to the disadvantage of these colonies, if we wisely and vigorously co-operate with each other.
     To convince them of the uprightness of our intentions towards them, you are to declare, that it is our inclination, that the people of Canada may set up such a form of government, as will be most likely, in their judgment, to produce their happiness: And you are, in the strongest terms, to assure them, that it is our earnest desire to adopt them into our union, as a sister colony, and to secure the same general system of mild and equal laws for them and for ourselves, with only such local differences as may be agreeable to each colony respectively.
     Assure the people of Canada, that we have no apprehension that the French will take any part with Great Britain; but that it is their interest, and we have reason to believe their inclination, to cultivate a friendly intercourse with these colonies.
     You are from this, and such other reasons as may appear most proper, to urge the necessity the people are under of immediately taking some decisive step, to put themselves under the protection of the United Colonies. For expediting such a measure, you are to explain to them our method of collecting the sense of the people, and conducting our affairs regularly by committees of observation and inspection in the several districts, and by conventions and committees of safety in the several colonies. Recommend these modes to them. Explain to them the nature and principles of Government among freemen; developing, in contrast to those, the base, cruel, and insidious designs involved in the late act of parliament, for making a more effectual provision for the government of the province of Quebec. Endeavour to stimulate them by motives of glory as well as interest, to assume a part in a contest, by which they must be deeply affected; And to aspire to a portion of that power, by which they are ruled; and not to remain the mere spoils and prey of conquerors and lords.
     You are further to declare, that we hold sacred the rights of conscience, and may promise to the whole people, solemnly in our name, the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion; and, to the clergy, the full, perfect, and peaceable possession and enjoyment of all their estates; that the government of everything relating to their religion and clergy, shall be left entirely in the hands of the good people of that province, and such legislature as they shall constitute; Provided, however, that all other denominations of Christians be equally entitled to hold offices, and enjoy civil privileges, and the free exercise of their religion, and be totally exempt from the payment of any tythes or taxes for the support of any religion.
     Inform them, that you are vested, by this Congress, with full powers to effect these purposes; and therefore, press them to have a complete representation of the people assembled in convention, with all possible expedition, to deliberate concerning the establishment of a form of government, and a union with the United Colonies. As to the terms of the union, insist on the propriety of their being similar to those on which the other colonies unite. Should they object to this, report to this Congress those objections, and the terms on which alone they will come into our Union. Should they agree to our terms, you are to promise, in the names of the United Colonies, that we will defend and protect the people of Canada against all enemies, in the same manner as we will defend and protect any of the United Colonies.
     You are to establish a free press, and to give directions for the frequent publication of such pieces as may be of service to the cause of the United Colonies.
     You are to settle all disputes between the Canadians and the continental troops, and to make such regulations relating thereto, as you shall judge proper.
     You are to make strict and impartial enquiry into the cause of the imprisonment of Colonel Du Fee, Lieutenant Colonel Nefeu, Major St. George Du Pres, and Major Gray, officers of the militia, and of John Frazer, Esqr late a judge of the police at Montreal, and take such orders concerning them as you shall judge most proper.
     In reforming any abuses you may observe in Canada, establishing and enforcing regulations for preservation of peace and good order there, and composing differences between the troops of the United Colonies and the Canadians, all officers and soldiers are required to yield obedience to you; and, to enforce the decisions that you or any two of you may make, you are empowered to suspend any military officer from the exercise of his commission, till the pleasure of the Congress shall be known, if you, or any two of you, shall think it expedient.
     You are also empowered to sit and vote as members of councils of war, in directing fortifications and defences to be made, or to be demolished, by land or by water; and to draw orders on the president for any sums of money, not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars in the whole, to defray the expense of the works.
     Lastly, you are by all the means you can use, to promote the execution of the resolutions now made, or hereafter to be made, in Congress.
     On motion made, Resolved, That the following additional Instructions be given to the commissioners aforesaid:
     You are empowered and directed to promote and encourage the trade of Canada with the Indian Nations, and to grant passports for the carrying it on as far as it may consist with the safety of the troops, and the publick good.
     You are also directed and authorized to assure the inhabitants of Canada, that their commerce with foreign nations shall, in all respects, be put upon an equal footing with, and encouraged and protected in the same manner, as the trade of the United Colonies.
     You are also directed to use every wise and prudent measure to introduce and give credit and circulation to the continental money in Canada.
     In case the former resolution of Congress respecting the English American troops in Canada, has not been carried into effect, you are directed to use your best endeavours for forming a battalion of the New York troops in that country, and to appoint the field and other officers out of the gentlemen who have continued there during the campaign, according to their respective ranks and merit. And, if it should be found impracticable, you are to direct such of them as are provided for in the four battalions now raising in New York, to repair to their respective corps. To enable you to carry this resolution into effect, you are furnished with blank commissions, signed by the president.
From Journals Of The Continental Congress 1774-1789, Volume IV, 1906, Government Printing Office, Pages 215-219.


     The commissioners going to Canada were given the following commission:


     The delegates of the United Colonies of New-Hampshire, &c. to Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. member of the royal Academy of sciences at Paris, F. R. S. &c. &c. one of the delegates of the colony of Pennsylvania; Samuel Chase, Esq.r one of the delegates of the colony of Maryland, and Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, in the said colony of Maryland, Esq.r greeting:
     Know ye, that we, reposing especial trust and confidence in your zeal, fidelity, abilities, and assiduity, do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you, or any two of you, commissioners for and on behalf of us, and all the people of the United Colonies, whom we represent, to promote, or to form an union between the said colonies and the people of Canada, according to the instructions herewith delivered you, and such as you may hereafter receive; and to execute all such matters and things as you are, or shall be directed by your said instructions. And we do require all officers, soldiers, and others, who may facilitate your negotiation, or promote the success thereof, to aid and assist you therein; and you are from time to time, to transmit and report your proceedings to Congress. This commission to continue in force until revoked by this or a future Congress.
     Dated at Philadelphia, this       day of       By order of Congress.
From Journals Of The Continental Congress 1774-1789, Volume IV, 1906, Government Printing Office, Page 219.