The Revolt of Pontiac and the American Invasion

The Militia and Fatigue Duties

This disastrous defeat called into doubt the defensibility of Canada in the event of another invasion. In the spring of 1777 Governor Carleton had proclaimed a Militia Act, the first since the French regime had ended. Generally speaking, the Act maintained the provisions that had been in force since 1669. All men aged 16 to 60 able to bear arms were to join the militia. Grouped into parish companies, they were required to take part in drill and civilian duties, including fatigue duties. Something new, however, was that English residents were now subject to the Act, though their obligations were in fact not entirely the same. The Canadians, moreover, complained that "the English residents and craftsmen, who are numerous enough in Canada," 47 were never called upon for the difficult construction and maintenance duties.

In March 1778 an incident in Mascouche aggravated this uneasiness: many militiamen "refused to obey their captain," who was described as "a drunk." Although it appeared relatively harmless on the surface, the matter grew in importance when the Montreal commander sent to the village a detachment of soldiers, "who pillaged nearly all the houses and raped several girls and women ... a terrible punishment that even barbarians do not practise among themselves." The news spread quickly throughout the countryside. Carleton did not intervene to punish those responsible, and many believed that he tacitly approved of such conduct. This event, added to the injustice of the fatigue duties, led to the Canadians becoming even more neutral. One of them noted, "How can they expect Canadians, after such harsh treatment, to take up arms on their behalf?" 48