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Translation of M. Pelissier' s Letter



Forges of St˙ Maurice, January 8, 1776.

SIR: In December last, General Montgomery acquainted me of his intention of calling an Assembly in this Colony, to the end that Deputies might be chosen to join the Continental Congress. He engaged me to use my endeavours to accomplish this affair, but not finding it then practicable, I went to the camp to confer with him on the proper measures to be taken hereafter for that purpose.

From the informations he had received, and those I had obtained, we were both of opinion that this Convention ought not to be attempted till after the reduction of Quebeck, as the Royalists, who were numerous in the towns of Montreal and Three-Rivers, were continually intimidating the people with supposed consequences, and giving them odious and contemptible ideas of the American Confederation.

This brave General, impatient to forward the designs of the Congress, resolved to remove all difficulties and obstacles, by a bold stroke, in assaulting the City of Quebeck. He did not succeed, and had the misfortune there to finish his days. He fell much regretted by all those who were persuaded that noble and generous motives alone, had determined him to engage in the service of his country.

This repulse has, in no wise, altered the good dispositions of the friends of America here, though they are a very small number, but it has made the Royalists more audacious than ever, particularly those who are in the pay of the Government. They already cry victory; but, I flatter myself, they are grossly mistaken, for, if Quebeck is attacked according to the rules of art, on the side of the Palace-Gate, no season, in my opinion, can prevent the city' s being taken in a few days.

I imagine, that, if the Congress continues to afford us its generous assistance, and the above methodical plan is put in execution, that city must soon be taken. The Royalists will then be confounded, the just will prevail over the unjust, and the timid Canadians will be encouraged and emboldened to join in preparations for opposing the Parliamentary forces which may arrive this year, with a design to execute the resolutions taken long since, to reduce


to a state of servitude all the inhabitants of North-America.

I cannot but observe, upon this head, that were the Ministry determined to abolish the privileges of Massachusetts-Bay, they endeavoured to save appearances, at least, by creating a cause of quarrel, in imposing a duty upon tea; but they fancied they might enslave the Canadians without so much ceremony; they even presumed they could persuade us it was for our good, and that we owed them, for so much kindness, everlasting gratitude. I own they must have had a wretched opinion of us, to think of thus treating us. It was the height of contempt, but they were mistaken.

When, in 1765, General Murray, under the specious pretence of forming an Assembly of Representatives, who should all be Canadians, intended to re-establish the Government on the same footing it had been under France, it was easy to conclude it a plan of the Ministry, and that the promises made us, and which had been confirmed by the King' s Proclamation in 1763, were no longer to be considered as binding. General Murray, not being able to carry this plan into execution, was removed. Ministry substituted General Carleton, who, in the same views, sounded the sentiments of the Canadians, and omitted nothing to persuade them that their ancient laws, customs, and usages, would be most suitable and convenient for them; but having met with opposition among those who knew the difference between liberty and despotism, he no longer communicated with, or took into his confidence, any but some Canadian officers and the clergy. In them he found all he wanted; that is to say, courtiers, who, pleased with the hope of seeing a return of the times in which they might domineer over the people, served him in every thing he desired, and, in consequence, addressed a petition to the King, in the name of all the inhabitants of the Province of Quebeck, to have the wise British Constitution withdrawn; which, In effect, was asking chains for their fellow-citizens;

It ought not to be supposed that the Canadians, in general, were so base. Some flatterers, and some ignorant people, bigoted to ancient customs, signed this shamful petition, without being authorized by any but themselves, to the number of sixty-five only.

It was upon this bespoken petition that the Ministry, who had their views in obtaining it, seized with eagerness the opportunity of establishing arbitrary power in this country, by the Quebeck Act. All the good people of this Province would have found themselves subjected to it, if the neighbouring Colonies had not pitied their unhappy fate, and lent their assistance to throw off the odious yote; for which we ought to be forever grateful. But it cannot, and ought not to be concealed, that this good disposition, and these good sentiments, may be corrupted in some, if the précaution is not taken of purging the Colony of all those flatterers who receive pay from the Government. It may be considered ascertain, that if they are suffered to remain here, they will work a division that may be prejudicial to all the United Colonies. They are already doing it, by insinuating to the people that a large army will be here next Spring from Old England, and that, being guilty of rebellion, they will have no other resource than joining that army to obtain their pardon, without which, their houses will be pillaged and burnt, and themselves punished with death. Such are the discourses daily held to a people naturally too credulous. If this evil is not soon cut up by the roots, it may become incurable; for impressions of this nature, become, in time, like the prejudices of infancy, very difficult to remove. Besides, by the abusive and contumelious epithets they make use of, in speaking of our good neighbours, who come to succour us, they endeavour to render them, together with liberty itself, contemptible in the eyes of the Canadians. These base practices cannot but produce a bad effect; and are so much the more dangerous and serious, as, upon the precautions to be taken with regard to them, depends greatly the preservation of the Province.

If, as it may be presumed, no agreement should take place between the Colonies and Britain, before the Spring, it is probable she will send a force into the river St˙ Lawrence, for the purpose of penetrating the other Colonies by the aid of the Canadians, brought again under her yoke through menaces or promises, it seems to me that, to render


such an expedition fruitless, there are two principal means which deserve particular attention. The first would be to support and retain the Canadians; the second, to hinder the fleet coming up the river, or passing above Quebeck.

The circumstances necessary for retaining and supporting the Canadians, are:

First. That proper precautions be taken for securing the persons salaried here by Government, the other Royalists, and particularly all the military.

Second. Although it is reasonable that the Canadians should pay their proportion of the charges of the war, I imagine it would be proper to delay levying it for some time, as this people, having never been accustomed to pay any tax but by way of duties on importation and exportation, would fancy they had been deceived, and that they were conquered merely to be taxed, and made to pay all the expense of this war, as the Royalists endeavoured to persuade them.

Third. That they may not be alarmed, it is necessary to leave them in possession of their bishops, their priests, and the free exercise of their religion. It is true, that some of the curates have made publick prayers, during nine days, that God would exterminate the troops that our good neighbours have kindly sent to assist us; but prudence requires that no notice should be taken of that conduct.

As to the measures to be taken few hindering a fleet' s passing above Quebeck, it seems to me that the most expedient for persons, who, jealous of their liberty, ought not to risk too much upon the chance of a battle, would be to burn it.

If I have taken the liberty to communicate to you my sentiments thus on the attack of Quebeck and defence of the Colony, it is, because, persuaded as I am of the justice of the cause of America, no one desires more than myself to see her succeed in her most laudable enterprise.

I shall esteem myself very happy, if my reflections may occasion the use of some means that may turn to her advantage.

I have the honour to be, with perfect consideration, sir, your most humble and obedient servant,

Director of the Iron Works.
Near the Three-Rivers.

To the Honourable John Hancock, Esq.