Petition from the French Inhabitants to the King on the Subject of the Administration of Justice

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Petition from the French Inhabitants to the King on the Subject of the Administration of Justice
January 7, 1765

Translated in 2007 by Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote from "Pétition des habitants français au roi au sujet de l'administration de la justice", found in Documents relating to the constitutional history of Canada, 1759-1791, Part I, pages 223-226. An alternative translation, maybe better than this one, is given on pages 227-229.

To the King

The true glory of a conquering king is to grant the vanquished the same happiness and the same peace in their religion and in the possession of their properties, which they enjoyed before their defeat: we have enjoyed this peace even during the war, it has increased since the arrival of the peace. And here is how it was granted to us. Attached to our religion, we have sworn at the foot of the sanctuary an inviolable fidelity to Your Majesty, we have never deviated from it, and again we swear to never deviate from it, were we to become thereafter as unhappy as we had been happy in the past; but how could we not be happy, after the testimonies of paternal kindness which Your Majesty has ensured us, that we would never be disturbed in the exercise of our religion.

It appeared to us by the way in which justice had been rendered to us up until now, that the intention of Your Majesty was, for the customs of our fathers to be followed, as it was before the Conquest of Canada, and that they be followed in the future, inasmuch as it be not contrary to the laws of England and the common good.

Mr Murray, appointed Governor of the Province of Quebec to the satisfaction of all inhabitants, had rendered up until now at the head of a military council all the justice we could have expected from the most enlightened law people; things could not have been different; disinterestedness and equity were at the basis of their rulings.

During four years we have enjoyed the greatest tranquillity; What upheaval comes to take it away from us? on behalf of four or five law people, whose character we respect, but who do not hear our language, and who would like that as soon as they have spoken, that we understand the constitutions that they have not yet explained us and to which we will always be ready to submit, when they are known to us; but how to know them, if they are not explained to us in our language?

From there, we witnessed with sadness our compatriots being imprisoned without being heard, and this, with considerable and ruinous expenses both for the debtor and the creditor; we saw all family matters, which were previously decided upon at little cost, decided by people who want to allot all cases to themselves, and who know neither our language nor our customs and with whom we can only speak to with Guineas in our hands.

We hope to prove Your Majesty with the most perfect submission what we have the honour of advancing.

Our Governor at the head of his council handed down an ordinance for the establishment of justice, by which we saw with pleasure, that to support us in deciding on our affairs of family and others, a lower justice would be established, where all the French to French cases would be decided; We saw that by another ordinance, to avoid lawsuits, the said cases would be decided without appeal, unless they were to be worth three hundred pounds.

Equal to the satisfaction felt at the sight of these wise decisions was the sorrow we felt at the sight of fifteen English jurors against seven jurors who are new subjects making the latter sign objections against these same rules in a language they did not hear; which can be proven by the protests and the signatures that they had given the day before for a petition which was strongly urging the Governor and council a meeting with their judge, given that their affairs suffered from it.

We saw with great bitterness in our hearts, that after all the evidence of Your Majesty's paternal tenderness for His newly sworn subjects, these same fifteen jurors supported by legal professionals proscribing us as incapable of holding any public function in our fatherland because of a difference of religion; since even surgeons and apothecaries (free functions in any country) are to be counted in.

Who are those who want to have us proscribed? Approximately thirty English merchants, fifteen of which at most are domiciled [in the province]. Who are the proscribed? Ten thousand household leaders, who breathe only for submission to the orders of Your Majesty, or those who represent Him, who do not know this alleged freedom that one wants to inspire, to oppose all the rules, which can be advantageous for them, and who have enough intelligence to know that private interests motivate them [the merchants] more than the public good.

Indeed, what would become of the general good of the colony, if those who make up the principal body of it, became but useless members by the difference of religion? What would become of justice if those who do not hear our language, nor our customs, became judges through the ministry of interpreters? What confusion? What mercenary expenses wouldn't result from it? from subjects protected by Your Majesty, we will become true slaves; a group of twenty people whom we do not hear, will become the Masters of our properties and our interests, and no longer will we enjoy the resource of these people of probity, to whom we had recourse for the arrangement of our family affairs, and whom by giving up on us, would force us to prefer the most ungrateful soil to this fertile one that we own.

It is not that we are not ready to subject ourselves with the most respectful obedience to all rules that will be made for the good and the advantage of the colony; but the favour that we ask, is that we be able to hear them: our governor and his council made us aware of those that were adopted, they are for the good of the colony, we have testified our gratitude for it; and one makes those who represent us sign that what we found to be good was evil!

To not abuse the precious time of Your Majesty, we finish by ensuring Him, that without having the experience of English constitutions, we have for four years tasted a gentle government, we would still taste it, if Messrs the English legal professionals had as much respect for the wise decisions of the governor and his council, as we do; if by new constitutions, that they want to introduce to render us their slaves, they did not seek to immediately change the order of justice and its administration, if they did not want to have us discuss our family rights in foreign languages, and by that, deprive us of the people enlightened in our customs, those who can hear us, accommodate us and render justice for cheap, by making efforts to prevent them from even advising their patriots because of a difference in religion, something which we can only see as the personal and sordid interest of those who suggested such principles.

We beg His Majesty with the most sincere and the most respectful submission to confirm the justice, which was established during the deliberation of the government and council for the French, as well as for legal professionals and all the various other professions, to keep the notaries and lawyers in their functions, to allow us to write on our family affairs in our language, and to follow our customs, as long as they will not be contrary to the general good of the colony, and that we have in our language a law and regulations promulgated by your majesty, to which we declare ourselves, with the most inviolable respect, the most faithful subjects.

1. Amiot - juror 34. L. Labroix (or Lauroix) 65. Lorrande du Perrin (or Duperrin)
2. Boreau - juror 35. Gueyraud 66. Laurain
3. Perrault Chs rege 36. Voyer (or Voyez) 67. Chrétien
4. Tachet - juror 37. F. Valin 68. P. Goyney
5. Charest - juror 38. Bellefaye (or Bellefincke) 69. Voyer (or Voyez)
6. Perrault - juror 39. Rey 70. Le Maître Lamorille
7. Boiret - superior priest of the seminary 40. Marchand 71. Franc Ruilly
8. Dumond - juror 41. J. Lemoyne 72. Jean Baptiste Dufour
9. Isel Becher - parish priest of Québec 42. Jean Amiot 73. Portneuf (or Borneuf)
10. Estesanne, eldest son 43. Bertran (ou rem) 74. L. D. Dinnire (or ere)
11. Conefroy 44. Gauvreau 75. Thomas Lec (or Lee)
12. Robins 45. Carpentier (or Charpeniser) 76. Soulard
13. Lefebure 46. Coocherar (or eer) 77. Parroix
14. Soupiran 47. Vallet 78. Riverin
15. Rousseau 48. Duttock 79. Liard, fils
16. Petrimouly 49. Meux Vrosseaux 80. Fs Dambourgès
17. Larocque 50. H. Parent 81. Messuegué
18. Launière 51. Ferrant 82. L. Dumas
19. Alexandre Picard 52. Boireux 83. Robins Fil
20. Ginnie 53. Dusseil (or Dufiel) 84. Redout
21. Boileau 54. H. Loret 85. Fromont
22. Delerenni 55. Berthelot (or elole) 86. Fl. Cuynet
23. Liard (or Lard) 56. Arnoux 87. Gigon
24. Dubarois (or Dubaril) - surgeon 57. Neuveux 88. Dennbefrire
25. Chartier de Lotbinière 58. Laroche 89. Paul Marchand
26. Asime 59. Th. Caroux 90. Duvonuray
27. F. Duval 60. Guichass 91. Sanguineer
28. Hec. Keez 61. Jacques Hervieux - Merchant in Montréal 92. Au. Bederd
29. Huquet 62. Guy of Montréal 93. Count Dupré l'aisne
30. Schindler 63. J. Ferroux 94. S. George Dupré - general of the Montreal militias
31. La Haurriong 64. S. Jt Meignot
32. Lerise
33. Panet


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