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Sir James Henry Craig

Portrait: Governor James Henry Craig.


Governor James Henry Craig.

(1748 - January 12, 1812)

Sir James Henry Craig was appointed the seventh Governor of Canada on August 29, 1807, and held the position until October 23, 1811. Craig arrived in Quebec in very difficult times. His arrival fostered hope among the English-speaking people of the colonists that a fully British political system would finally be established. Expectations were also high among the French Canadians who hoped the new governor would right the wrong that had been imposed upon them.

Craig's first interest proved to be in military matters, since war between England and the United States seemed imminent. Craig devoted considerable energy, time and money to improving relationships with the Aborinigal people and to repairing the province's fortifications, especially those in Québec City.

As early as 1808, problems arose in the House of Assembly. The House sought to discredit the legislative mandate of the magistrates by abolishing the right of judges to sit as members of the House. The debate grew bitter, and the newspapers, The Quebec Mercury and Le Canadien, took up sides. The French-Canadian electorate seethed with discontent. After being in session for only 36 days, the House of Assembly was dissolved by Craig.

At the opening of the 1810 session, England ordered Governor Craig to accept the will of the House of Assembly to exclude the magistrates. The House passed a law to that effect, but the Legislative Council amended it to be applicable only for the next general election. The House of Assembly stood its ground and expelled a member who was a judge.

Governor Craig prorogued Parliament and called an election, the third in 18 months. Also, in a bid to intimidate the public and its defenders, he had the presses of Le Canadien newspaper seized, and imprisoned its editor, Le François, and its three owners, Bédard, Taschereau and Blanchet.

During his stay in the colony, Governor Craig noted that the French Canadians were still completely French and that they considered themselves a separate nation. As a result, Craig worked towards assimilation and began a project to unite both Upper and Lower Canada.

American ambitions to invade Canada thwarted his efforts. He was replaced as governor in October 1811 by Sir  George Prevost. James Henry Craig died in January 1812, having just been promoted to General.