Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Monarchist Profile: General Sir Guy Carleton

Although he is probably not as well known as he should be, Sir Guy Carleton was a major figure in the history of North America, the last commander of British forces during the American War for Independence and a pivotal leader in the early history of modern Canada. He was born on September 3, 1724 in Strabane, County Tyrone in Ireland to a Protestant military family that had been there since the Seventeenth Century. Orphaned at fourteen he had little formal education and along with three of his brothers entered the British army fairly early in life. He was seventeen when he was commissioned Ensign of the 25th Foot in 1742 and gained promotion to lieutenant in 1745. According to some accounts he befriended the young officer James Wolfe (who would die a glorious death in Quebec) at fought alongside him against the Jacobites at the battle of Culloden but this is not certain. We do know that in 1747 Carleton and his regiment were sent to Flanders during King George’s War where he fought against the French until a peace was negotiated.

As usual, peace brought cuts to the military and Carleton was frustrated that no promotions would be forthcoming in the new tranquil atmosphere. However, he had some good contacts and had done fairly well to distinguish himself and in 1751 was able to join the 1st Foot Guards where he was promoted to captain the following year. When the Duke of Richmond was in need of a guide to take him on a tour of the battlegrounds of the last war, Wolfe suggested his friend Carleton and the Duke chose him. Because of this, Carleton gained a powerful and well placed friend and patron who would be of great help to him in the advancement of his career. Carleton was a reasonable and practical man but not without his prejudices. During the French and Indian War his old friend General Wolfe recommended Carleton to serve as his Quarter-Master General but King George II at first refused to allow it as Carleton had previously made some rather unflattering statements about the quality of German soldiers, which the still quite German George II took great offense over. However, others prevailed upon the King to change his mind and Carleton went to America.

During the war Carleton, by then a lieutenant colonel, served with Wolfe in Quebec, keeping the British forces supplied and overseeing the placement of artillery and defensive works in his role as an engineer. He was not directly involved in the famous attack that cost Wolfe his life but won Canada for the British Crown. After returning to Britain, Colonel Carleton was dispatched with a force to capture the French island Belle Î le off the coast of Brittany. Carleton was wounded in the initial attack and unable to play any subsequent role in the battle, which was nonetheless a British victory. Once he was sufficiently recovered he was promoted to full colonel in 1762 and sent back to the American neighborhood to participate in the British invasion of Cuba. The battles for Havana again secured a decisive British victory but, again, Carleton was wounded while leading an attack on a Spanish outpost. By this time Carleton had made a solid military career for himself, nothing too spectacular but he had shown himself to be a brave and reliable officer. Considering that his accomplishments up to that point had been entirely military with no forays into politics it came as a surprise to some when he was appointed acting Lieutenant Governor and Administrator of Quebec in 1766. The appointment was likely due to the friendships Carleton had formed throughout his career, particularly that with the Duke of Richmond.

Not long after arriving in Canada, Carleton soon clashed with Governor James Murray over government reform issues. Carleton gained the support of the growing merchant class as a man they could work with and who would make common sense decisions. The biggest issue of contention was over officials charging fees for their services which Carleton opposed, preferring a regular salary instead. Nonetheless, when Murray resigned in 1768 Carleton succeeded him as Governor of Quebec and Captain-General of the British forces there. Carleton realized that to succeed in his position, and for British sovereignty over Canada to be secure and lasting, he would have to have the support of the local French elites and clergy. In the past, the British had been rather heavy-handed in their treatment of the French Canadians and the result was a great deal of lingering animosity and many leaving Canada (some of whom settled in south Louisiana). Carleton recommended a new approach, treating the French as partners rather than conquered enemies.

Carleton was promoted to major general and in 1774 the Quebec Act was passed based on his recommendations and it enacted many of the changes he had been lobbying for. These included allowing the French to maintain their own customs, recognizing their property rights, allowing full freedom of religion for Catholics and allowing Catholics to hold government positions (something forbidden in Britain) as well as making French law the basis for the legal system in Quebec. This greatly upset the Protestant colonies to the south (in what would become the United States) but it proved extremely beneficial for the peaceful development of Canada. When the American Revolution broke out the disgruntled colonials expected their new realm to include all of British North America but, because of Carleton and the reforms he pushed for, Canada remained loyal to the Crown. In fact, the Catholic clergy in Quebec went so far as to threaten anyone who would join the revolution or display disloyalty to the King with excommunication. Given what was said and done in the colonies to the south, they were confident that their rights would be much better protected by the King in London than by the Congress in Philadelphia.

Not long after the war broke out the colonial rebels launched a two-pronged invasion of Canada, one led by Richard Montgomery who had fought alongside Carleton in the British attack on Cuba. Canada had not been well defended to begin with and Carleton had been forced to dispatch two regiments to Boston when that port city was besieged. He was thus in an extremely vulnerable position when the Americans launched their offensive. He tried to make up for the loss by recruiting a French Canadian militia but was less than impressed with the results. They would not join the revolution but Britain was still not so loved that the public would rush to defend the empire. Nonetheless, Carleton made do with what he had. At first things went badly. Montreal fell to the Americans and Carleton himself only barely escaped being captured. However, despite outnumbering their enemies, by the time the Americans arrived at Quebec they were exhausted, hungry and freezing. During a howling snow storm on December 31, 1775 the Americans attacked but Carleton with his motley assortment of British troops and Canadian militia utterly smashed them. Montgomery was killed, Benedict Arnold was badly wounded and hundreds were taken prisoner. It was the first really disastrous defeat for the Americans in the war and ensured that throughout the rest of the conflict Canada would remain firmly in British hands.

The following year General Carleton launched a modest counter-offensive against the Americans, winning the battle of Trois-Rivieres in 1776 and the naval engagement at Valcour Island on Lake Champlain. Some still complained that he displayed a lack of aggression but he was honored with the Order of the Bath for his victories. He was extremely upset when he was passed over for command of the major offensive southward in favor of General John Burgoyne and requested that he be recalled but this was refused. As it happened, General Burgoyne rolled the dice and lost and was forced to surrender after the battle of Saratoga, the victory which encouraged the King of France to recognize the United States and join the war on their side. After General Howe was replaced by Sir Henry Clinton as supreme commander of Crown forces in America the focus of the war shifted to the southern colonies, leaving Carleton with relatively little to do. In 1781, after the disastrous defeat at Yorktown, General Clinton was recalled and Sir Guy Carleton became the last commander-in-chief of the British forces during the war.

By that time, of course, there was little to do but oversee the withdrawal of British troops once London recognized the independence of the American states. Carleton had moved to New York City when he received his promotion and was determined to carry on with the war in the best way he could. Once he learned that London had decided to throw in the towel he tried to resign but was persuaded to stay on to oversee the evacuation of British forces as well as the loyalists who would face persecution and the Blacks who had sided with the Crown who would be enslaved again if left behind. Once that job was done General Carleton did return to Britain where he argued in vain for the creation of a Governor-General of Canada (the post would be created in the future). He was ennobled in 1786 as Lord Dorchester and returned to America again as Governor of Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He retired to his estate in Hampshire ten years later and died on November 10, 1808. Though a dependable officer he was criticized for his slowness in the counter-offensive after the American attack on Quebec but General Carleton deserves great praise for his actions as governor which doubtless saved Canada from falling to the American republic by keeping the local population on the side of the Crown.

1 comment:

  1. The "founding fathers" and the rebels along with them, technically, violated Romans 13; yet, they claimed to be Christians. Never trust Freemasonry (majority of "founding fathers") or any other secret or discreet society since they always have insidious designs and schemes. I hate people, especially Christians, who say that God established the USA for a reason. I beg to differ because God only supports one form of government, i.e., monarchy and the will of the monarch. There is no evidence of God supporting democracy, republic, majority, minority, or will of the people. The American war of independence was a clear violation of Romans 13. God did not establish the USA, rebels violating God's Word established this nation. The "founding fathers" and the rebels just wanted power for themselves, which is the essence of democracies and republics--seeking financial gain and oppression of others.


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