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Ontario - British Colonization

One hundred and fify years of conflict between the French and English culminated in The Seven Years War from 1756 to 1763 and the British conquest of Canada.

In the year 1754 the French-First peoples were expelling British colonists from the Ohio Valley. By 1755 Britain and France were sending thousands of troops and militia to North America to fortify their positions. The following year, tensions spread to Europe and both France and Britain officially declared war. The Seven Years' War was the first global conflict ever. Fighting began in North America and spread around the world. Fighting ended in 1763 when France and Britain signed the Treaty of Paris making Britain victorious and the world’s leading colonial power.

While France had looked upon the New World as merely hunting and fishing grounds the British cleared land for agriculture and established populated and thriving communities. In 1758 the British marched on Fort Frontenac with Fort Niagara falling to the British the following year. In 1759 Quebec, the heart of New France, fell to the British under Gen. Wolfe at The Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Canada was now under British rule, however it wasn’t until many years later that Ontario would see an influx of settlers from Britian. Ontario remained largely made up of french fur traders, trappers, settlers and aboriginal people. The year 1775 was the beginning of the American Revolution, which saw many Americans, still wishing to remain loyal to the British Crown, making the perilous journey to Canada. These people were called United Empire Loyalists. One such person was John Butler, who led a group of Loyalists to Canada at the beginning of the revolution. The governor of Canada, Sir Guy Carleton stationed Butler at Fort Niagara. It was his task to keep the Six Nation Iroquois amicable towards Britain. In 1778 Butler recruited a group of Loyalists who would become known as Butler’s Rangers. The Rangers were relentless in their harassment of the American colonists in the Niagara Region. By 1784, many more Loyalists had made the trek from the United States and took up residence close to the Rangers barracks. This small settlement would be first known as Newark, and eventually Niagara-on-the-Lake. Due mainly to the efforts of John Butler and the Butler Rangers they were able to gain the loyalty of the Six Nations People, who in turn helped secure the position of the British Crown in Upper Canada.

At the end of the war the Americans laid claim to all the lands belonging to the Six Nations. Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader who was educated by the English, appealed to Britain, and they did not hesitate to repay this most revered leader. In 1784, Governor Haldimand, the new governor of the British colony of Quebec purchased land along both sides of the Grand River, from Lake Erie in the south all the way to the rivers source, apx 290 km to the north and offered it to Brant, and his following of about 5,000 Mohawks. After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, and the birth of the United States, an enormous influx of British loyalists came to southern Ontario to join a small group that had already taken up settlement. Britain saw the benefits that so many English settlers would make to this fledgling new nation. These settlers were mainly farmers, tradesmen, and ex-soldiers, and were fiercely loyal to the Crown. In 1783 George III announced that all Loyalists should be given land. They were also given provisions for the first year when families would not have been able to live off their crops.

The Loyalists, although loyal to the Crown accepted and liked the American style of politics of representative government. The Loyalists also held land under the British system known as free and common socage. This meant that they owned the land free and clear. The French settlers in Quebec still used the French Seigneurial system of land ownership which paid rent to a landowner or seigneur. In 1791 the British parliament passed the Canada Act splitting the colony into Upper Canada ( Ontario) and Lower Canada ( Quebec). This now meant there were two distinct colonies side by side with two very different methods of governing.


Mohawk leader Joseph Brant


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