What is the Quebec Act?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Quebec Act of 1774 is viewed in a number of different perspectives. To American colonists who were beginning to itch for Revolution, this Act falls under the province of a number of laws passed by England that were called the Intolerable Acts and ultimately led to some of the first revolutionary gestures of the colonists. In England and in parts of Canada, the Act at the time was viewed with greater favor, since it restored some inequities created by the 1763 Treaty of Paris, resulting from the British-French Seven Years War.

The Quebec Act was among the colonists' first acts of defiance leading up to the American Revolutionary War.
The Quebec Act was among the colonists' first acts of defiance leading up to the American Revolutionary War.

In the Treaty, French colonists who wanted to remain in Canada (now called Quebec by the British), had to swear allegiance to the British crown, and in order to serve in any political capacity, they had to renounce Catholicism. This greatly concerned the many French colonists who were predominantly Catholic, leading to an imbalance in power in most government positions. England clearly recognized the danger of maintaining this position as the colonists demanded greater rights, and there was imminent fear that former French citizens in Quebec would join in revolutionary efforts without more rights.

Thus in 1774, the Quebec Act changed some aspects of the way Quebec would be governed, and most importantly, it removed the requirement that government officials had to forswear Catholicism. Another provision of this Act really angered some of the members of the original 13 colonies, since it tripled the area of Quebec, so that it now included much of the Ohio River Valley, an area that had been looked upon by colonists as rightfully theirs. Quebec now included what would later be parts of the states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Other aspects of the Quebec Act were equally “intolerable” to those looking for more representative government. Government was by appointment and the Act didn’t have any provisions for establishing an elected group of lawmakers. It also restored the way land had been distributed under French rule. Primarily, these provisions were pleasing most to the richer members of Canadian society, but there also many citizens in Quebec (later Canada) who probably would have joined in American Revolutionary efforts without passage of the Act. On the other hand, the way Quebec would be governed frightened American colonists because it seemed to be a step backward in government without representation, and many believed it would become a model for government in all of the colonies.

The Quebec Act can be called short-lived, and Britain ultimately replaced it in 1791 with the Constitutional Act or the Canada Act. By this time, the area that was considered Canada had been reduced due to American success in the Revolutionary War. Much of the territories formerly considered part of Quebec were now part of the US. There were some interesting long-term effects of the Act in the US.

For instance, in the Ohio River Valley, and the parts of states formerly considered part of Quebec, there was a strong Catholic presence, which continues to this day. It was necessary for the US to make provisions in their constitution that would not discriminate based on religion, just as the Quebec Act had attempted to do. Non-discrimination against Catholics was still a relatively new concept in North America, but areas of the country where Catholics could live peaceably were certainly attractive to Catholic settlers.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


what were the consequences of the act?


This was really helpful for those looking for detail. But was this act successful, and how does it connect with the American revolution?


I really like this website. It gave me exactly what I was looking for. It has a lot of info and I like how it gives a lot of details.I was just looking for more of "why is this important to our history?"

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