Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada (2007 translation)

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Declaration of Independence of Lower Canada



Photograph of Robert Nelson
Whereas the solemn pact made with the People of Lower Canada, as recorded in the Statute book of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in the 31st Chapter of the Acts passed in the 31st year of the reign of King George III, has been continuously violated by the British Government;

Whereas the same government has stepped on and usurped our rights, that it scorned and closed its ears at our addresses, petitions, protests and remonstrations against its unconstitutional and unjust intervention in our affairs; That it has used our incomes without the constitutional assent of the local Legislature, plundered our colonial treasury, ordered the arrest of several of our fellow-citizens, and their setting in chains; thrown in Armies of mercenaries in our country, which sowed alarm, fear and consternation, that the same army reddened our soil with the blood of a considerable number of our compatriots, burned our villages, profaned our temples, established in all the extent of the country, the most atrocious reign of terror;

Whereas we can no longer suffer these reiterated violations of our rights and patiently witness the insults and the multiplied and recent cruelties of the Government of Lower Canada,

We, in the name of the people of Lower Canada, acknowledging the decrees of the Divine Providence allowing us to overthrow a government abusing the object and the intention for which it was created, and allows us to chose the form of government most likely to establish justice, to ensure domestic peace, to provide for common defence, to promote the common good, and to guarantee to us and our posterity the benefits of civil and religious Liberty,

SOLEMNLY DECLARE:

  1. That beginning to this day, the People of Lower Canada is exonerated from any allegiance to Great Britain, and that the political connection between this power and Lower Canada ceases is now dissolved.
  2. That a republican form of government is more suitable for Lower Canada, which is, as of today, declared to be a Republic.
  3. That under the free government of Lower Canada, all citizens shall have the same rights; the Indians will cease to be subject to any kind of civil disqualification, and will enjoy the same rights as the other citizens of the state of Lower Canada.
  4. That any union between the Church and the State is declared abolished, and that every one has the right to freely practice the religion and the belief that his/her conscience dictates.
  5. That the feudal or seigneurial tenancy is, de facto, abolished, as though it had never existed in this country.
  6. That any person barring or who will bare arms, or who will furnish means to assist the people of Canada in its emancipation struggle is relieved of all debts real or presumed, toward the landlords, for obligations under the landlord terms hereby referred to.
  7. That the customary dower is, for the future, entirely abolished and prohibited.
  8. That the imprisonment for debts shall no longer exist, except in cases of obvious fraud which shall be specified is an Act of the Legislature of Lower Canada to this end.
  9. That the death penalty shall be pronounced in cases of murder only.
  10. That any mortgage on real estate will have to be special to be valid, will have to be registered in offices created to this end by an Act of the Legislature of Lower Canada.
  11. That there shall be full freedom of the Press in all matters and public affairs.
  12. That the trial by jury is guaranteed to the people of the State, in its most liberal extent in the criminal courts, and in the civil courts when involving a certain sum to be determined by the Legislature of the State of Lower Canada.
  13. That as a necessity and duty of the Government toward the people, public and general education shall be implemented and encouraged in a special manner, as soon as circumstances will allow it.
  14. That to assure honesty and elective liberty, elections shall be conducted using the ballot.
  15. That as soon as as circumstances will allow it, the People will choose Delegates following the current division of the country in the Cities, Burgs and Counties which will instate a Convention, or a Legislative Body, in order to establish a Constitution, according to the needs of the country, and shall comply to the dispositions of this Declaration, subject to future modifications following the will of the People.
  16. That all males above the age of twenty-one shall have the right to vote as well according to the rules stated above, for the election of the delegates referred to above.
  17. That all Crown lands, as well as those called clergy reserves, and those which are nominally under the possession of a certain company of speculators in England called the British American Land Company, become in full right, property of the State of Lower Canada, except those portions of the said lands that could be possessed by farmers who own them in good faith for which we guarantee titles under the terms of a law which will be passed in order to legalize the possession of such land lots, located in the Townships that are currently being farmed on.
  18. That we shall use the French and English languages in all public matters.

And for the support of this declaration, and the success of the Patriotic cause, that we support, we, trustful in the protection of the All Mighty and the justice of our conduct, engage by the present, mutually and solemnly together, our lives, our fortunes and our most sacred honour.

By order of the Provisional Government,

Robert Nelson, President
[February 28, 1838]


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Notes

The text was written in French by Robert Nelson while in exile in the United-States. The original French language text translated here is from the Proclamation de Robert Nelson, in L'Ami du peuple, February 20, 1839, as reproduced in George Aubin, Robert Nelson. Déclaration d'indépendance et autres écrits, Montréal, Comeau & Nadeau, 1998, 90 pages ISBN 2-922494-00-4

Article 16 reserves the right to vote to men above 21. In Lower Canada, women gained the ability to vote in 1791, lost it in 1849 and did not recover it until 1922 (federal elections) and 1940 (provincial elections)! Read on Québec women's struggle for political equality here.

See also