The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

Mobilization in Lower Canada

Political Strife Replaced by Fear of Invasion

Map of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States

Caption: Map of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States

At the same time, the political situation in Lower Canada worsened under the administration of Governor James Henry Craig, an effective soldier but a clumsy politician. In 1810, with the intent of frustrating the Opposition, he shut down the newspaper Le Canadien and imprisoned its publisher. Following close on the heels of the cancellation of the militia officers' commissions for several members of the Opposition sitting in the House of Assembly, this plunged Lower Canada into political crisis - because the Opposition consisted essentially of French Canadians, while most of Craig's supporters were Anglophones. The rivalry between the two ethnic groups threatened to degenerate into a confrontation.

In 1811 London recalled Craig and replaced him with a Swiss officer who spoke French, Sir George Prevost. Politically astute and an excellent administrator, Prevost was to clean up the mess and prepare for an imminent conflict with the United States. Thanks to his conciliatory manner, Prevost soon rallied the Opposition. He realized that both French and English Canadians feared an American invasion more than anything. Indeed talk in Washington was far from reassuring: the War Hawks group, which had the approval of President James Madison and held the high ground, wanted to mobilize 50,000 militiamen to invade Canada, something they said would be easy to accomplish. The acquisition of Canada "will be a mere matter of marching," 61 stated former President Thomas Jefferson, convinced that the people would be unable to fend off soldiers bearing the star-spangled banner of freedom.

Additional Images

Sir James Henry Craig, Governor General of Canada from 1807 to 1811