The Question of Canada
The American War had severed the thirteen colonies from Great Britain, and they were thenceforth established as the United States. But Canada, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia remained under the British flag. In the United States there were great numbers of loyalists, known during the war as Tories, who refused entirely to acquiesce in sever­ance from the British Empire. They resented the republican government, which, in its turn, looked upon them as traitors to the national cause. Rather than accept the new conditions large numbers of these "United Empire Loyalists" left their property and their homes and migrated across the northern border, where they were welcomed by the British government, and were planted chiefly in Upper Canada and in New Brunswick. This immigration of a large British element changed the conditions of a colony which had hitherto been practically French in race, in tradition, and in custom, and Roman Catholic in religion.

The Canada Act
This led to the Canada Act of 1791, whereby Upper Canada or Ontario was made a separate colony. Lower Canada or Quebec retained its French characteristics,'while the consequent peculiarities of its government and administration were not applied to Ontario. Upper and Lower Canada had each its own governor and legislature, while each had its own tradition of hostility to the newly born republic on the south. But in each case the self-government of the colony was on the old lines; that is to say, the executive was in the hands of the governor and his council, who were free from control by the legislature just as the administration in England had been independent of parliamentary control before the revolution of 1688. The legislatures themselves consisted of two chambers, one elective, corresponding to the British House of Commons, the other nominated, corresponding to the British House of Peers. In due time, but not yet, the battle was to be fought out which ended in making the executive responsible to the legislature, or, in other words, establishing party government.

Captain Cook and Australia
These years witnessed also the first step to that expansion in another quarter of the globe which was to be Britain's compensation for the loss of the better half of North America. Although Spain had taken possession of the Philippines and the Dutch were in occupation of the great archi­pelago known as the Spice Islands, there had been no organised exploration, still less any settlement, in the Southern Pacific, until in 1768 Captain Cook began his series of voyages. Having surveyed the eastern coast of Australia, Cook, in 1770, proclaimed the British sovereignty of that region, to which he gave the name of New South Wales; but still the formal pro­clamation was not followed by effective occupation.

There was, in fact, no particular inclination to seek for colonial expansion, since it was now the general belief that colonies were merely a temporary acquisition, which in the course of time would naturally sever themselves from the empire. But it was very soon found that the loss of the American colonies had one decidedly embarrassing result For more than a century convicted criminals had been transported to those colonies to pay for their misdeeds by servitude. The government wanted some new region to which it could transport its convicts. In 1783 it was suggested that Cook's formal annexation of Australia, not yet made internationally effective by occupation, should be followed up by planting a convict settlement on the Australian coast. Accordingly in 1787 an expedition was despatched, carrying seven hundred and fifty convicts together with a detachment of marines, and Captain Philip as governor. In January 1788 the expedition landed at Botany Bay, though the settlement was immediately transferred to the more convenient position which was named Sydney after one of the Secretaries of State. Six days after the British occupation French ships appeared; it is possible that, if Captain Philip's arrival had been delayed for a week, France, not Britain, would have annexed Australia.

This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's point of view may not be currently accepted by modern historians, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.

Prehistory - Roman Britain - Dark Ages - Medieval Britain - The Tudor Era - The Stuarts - Georgian Britain - The Victorian Age