The Free French to their Canadian Brothers

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The Free French to their Canadian Brothers

Edmond-Charles Genêt, Ambassador of the French Republic in the United States

When we were groaning under an arbitrary government, when we could only feel sorry for your fate, regret the bonds that once linked us to you, and, while murmuring in secrecy on the treasons of which you had been the victims, when we did not dare more than you to raise up our heads curved under the yoke of servitude, a sterile indignation for the criminal behaviour of our kings towards you was the only homage we could pay you.

But today we are free, we have reclaimed our rights, our oppressors are punished, all the parts of our administration are regenerated, and strong of the justice of our cause, of our courage and of the immense means which we have prepared to embank all the tyrants of the world; it is finally in our capacity to avenge you and to render you as free as we are, as independent as your neighbours the Americans of the United States. Canadians, imitate their example and ours, the road has been drawn up for it, a magnanimous resolution can make you leave the state of abjection where you are plunged. It depends on you to reprint on your foreheads this first dignity that nature gave to man and that slavery had erased.

Man was born free. By which fate did he become the subject of his own brother? How did this strange upheaval of ideas, which made entire nations voluntarily subject themselves to remain the property of only one individual, take place? It is by the ignorance, the weakness, the pusillanimity of some, the ambition, the perfidy, the injustices, etc of others. But today when by the excesses of an unbearable domination, entire peoples, by rising up against their oppressors, have revealed the secret of their weakness and unveiled the iniquity of their means, how guilty are the nations which voluntarily remain in degrading irons and which, frightened by the sacrifice of a few moments of rest, devote themselves to a shameful inertia and voluntarily remain in servitude. Everything around you invites you to freedom; The country in which you live was conquered by your fathers. It owes its prosperity solely to their care and to yours, this land belongs to you, it must be independent.

Break away from a government which degenerates day by day and has become the cruelest enemy of peoples's freedom. Everywhere one finds traces of the despotism, the greed, the cruelties of the king of England. It is time to overthrow a throne onto which hypocrisy and imposture has been sitting for too a long time, that the vile courtiers who surrounded it be punished for their crimes or that dispersed all over the Earth the opprobrium of which they will be covered attests to the world, that a late but bright revenge has taken place in favour of humanity.

This necessary revolution, this inevitable punishment prepares quickly in England. Everyday the republican principles make sharp progress there and the number of the friends of liberty and France increases in a significant way; but do not wait the outcome of this event to reclaim your rights, work for yourselves, for your glory, do not fear anything of George III, of his soldiers, in too small a number to successfully oppose your value, his weak army is retained in England around him by the murmurs of the English, and by the immense preparations of France, which do not allow him to increase the number of your torturers. The moment is favourable, and the insurrection is for you the holiest of duties, so do not hesitate and remind the men who would be coward enough to refuse to give their arms and their weapons to such a generous endeavour the history of your misfortunes. The cruelties exerted by England to make you pass under her authority. The insults you were given by agents who fattened themselves out of your sweats. Point out the odious names of Murray and Haldimand; the victims of their ferocities. The obstacles that were put up to block your trade; the odious monopoly which irritates it and prevents it from increasing; the perilous trade missions which you undertake for the sole advantage of the English: Finally remind them that having been born French, you will always be envied and persecuted by the English kings, and that this title will be more than ever before a reason to exclude you from all employments.

Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen, 1789

Indeed, French people would treat their co-citizens as brothers and would be less worried to please the English despot than to render justice to the Canadians, they would not be so much concerned with contenting the kings, but rather their brothers: they would give up their places rather than making an injustice: they would prefer to pensions granted to them the sweet satisfaction to be loved and judged worthy of their origin. They would oppose a vigorous resistance to the arbitrary decrees of the court of London; of this perfidious court which granted Canada a shade of constitution only by fear that it would follow the virtuous example of France and America; that by shaking its yoke it would base its government on the imprescriptible rights of man.

Also, what advantages did you gain from the constitution that has been given to you, during the six months that your representatives have been assembled, did they ever give you any good law? Have they been able to correct any abuse? Did they have the power to free your trade from its obstacles? No, and why? Because all the means of corruption are secretly and publicly employed during your elections to tip the scale in favour of the English.

Canadians, you have in you all that can constitute your happiness, enlightened, hard working, courageous, friends of the justice, industrious, why would you need to entrust the responsibility to govern yourselves to a stupid tyrant, an idiotic king whose whims can block your deliberations and leave you without any law for many years. Is it not as ridiculous to entrust to such a man located on the other extremity of the globe the care to be responsible for your dearer interests, as to see a Canadian farmer positioning himself at the source of the Missouri to better manage his household.

Men have the right to govern themselves, laws must be the expression of the will of the people as manifested through the body of their representatives, no one has the right to oppose their execution, and yet we have dared to impose you an odious veto which the king of England reserved himself solely to prevent the destruction of abuses and paralyse your movements: here is the present that vile hired men dared to present you as a monument of benevolence from the English government. One very ingeniously compared the legislative power to the head of a man who conceives and the executive power to the arms of the same man who carries out the work. If his arms refuse to do what the head considered to be necessary to the wellbeing of the whole body, deprived of any help he becomes sick and he dies.

Canadians, it is time to leave the lethargic sleep in which you are plunged, arm yourselves, call to your help your friends the Indians, count on the support of your neighbours, and on that of the French. Swear to drop your weapons only when you are rid of your enemies, take the heaven and your conscience as witnesses of the equity of your resolutions and you will obtain what energetic men never claim in vain: freedom and independence.

Summary of the advantages which the Canadians can gain by freeing themselves from English domination.

  1. Canada will be a free and independent State.
  2. It will be able to form alliances with France and the United States.
  3. The Canadians will choice their government, they will appoint the members of the legislative and executive powers.
  4. The veto will be abolished.
  5. Every person who will have obtained the right of citizen of Canada will be eligible to all public functions.
  6. Corvées will be abolished.
  7. Trade will enjoy the widest liberty.
  8. There will no longer be privileged companies for fur trade; the new government will encourage it.
  9. Seigniorial duties will be abolished, the lot resale tax, mill duties, tolls, wood reserves, work for the landlord, etc., etc., will also be abolished.
  10. Will also be abolished hereditary titles, there will no longer be neither lords nor seigneurs nor nobles.
  11. All religious cults will be free. Catholic priests will be appointed by the people as in the time of the primitive Church and will enjoy a treatment adequate to their utility.
  12. The tithe will be abolished.
  13. Schools will be established in parishes and cities: there will be print shops, institutions of higher science, medicine, mathematics; Will be trained interpreters whom having been recognized as having good morals will be encouraged to civilize the wild nations and by this means extend trade with them.

Edmond-Charles Genêt,
Ambassador of the French Republic to the United States


  • Taken from the microfiche MIC/B524\35961, found in the Collection nationale of the Grande Bibliothèque in Montreal.

See also

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