The Founding of Canada and The Scots

Started the Section on Canada with Scots in the Settlement and Development of Canada

by Sir Alexander Grant, M.D. and here is a wee bit from it...

CANADA is a large country and from the beginning its history is closely associated with Scotsmen. French and Scottish fishermen were making rich hauls off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador as early as 1506; and these fishermen, together with adventurers and fur traders pushed their way up the St. Lawrence to Quebec and Montreal. The ships that sailed from Gravesend for the Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson Bay invariably selected their crews from Scotland. Not only was General James Murray, the first British Governor of Quebec, a Scot, but he bravely received the keys of the city gates from the last French Commandant, Major de Ramezay, a Franco-Scot whose Château is one of the landmarks of Quebec. In fact, in those old days, the Scot played an important part, on both the French and the British side, in the history of the "Old Rock." The exploits of the Fraser Highlanders under General Wolfe, at Quebec in 1759, are known to all; and when General Wolfe came to Quebec, he found it garrisoned not oniy by many Franco-Scots, like de Ramezay, but as well by many Jacobites who had come over from Scotland after The Forty-five, to seek new fortune in Canada and to fight against the English further south.

Major de Ramezay was one of many descendants of those Scottish soldiers who crossed the Channel to fight in the French armies, and one of many of these hardy men of Norman and Scottish blood who came out to make a way for France in the new world; and who, with their descendants, were among the first to explore Canada and the Central West. Abraham Martin, of Scottish-French descent, was the first registered pilot of the St. Lawrence, in 1621. For him the Heights and Plains of Abraham were named. His daughter married Medard Chouart, who set out with Pierre Radisson in 1658 and with him was the first to reach the shores of Hudson Bay. Radisson, who was one of the founders of the Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson Bay (May 2, 1670), married a daughter of his associate, Sir John Kirke, a son of Sir David Kirke. Sir David Kirke was the son of a Scot married to a French woman. His father came as a Huguenot exile to England and was associated with Sir William Alexander in his project to colonise Nova Scotia. With the consent of King Charles I, he fitted out a fleet for his son, Sir David, who in 1628 captured seventeen of the eighteen ships sent out by Richelieu to dispute the English claim, seized the French post at Tadousac, and July 22, 1629, received the surrender of Champlain at Quebec. Sir David was afterward Governor of Newfoundland.

"The Mississippi Bubble," the great French colonization scheme, financed and exploited in Paris (1717-1720), by John Law of Lauriston, an Edinburgh jeweller, with its tragical collapse, sent many Scots into French Canada, exiles of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. These Scots settled chiefly in the St. Lawrence valley, intermarried with the French settlers and left a lasting impress upon the language and people of French Canada. We find a Charles Joseph Douglas, Comte et Seigneur de Montreal, a prisoner after Culloden; and Chevalier Johnstone, also a refugee after Culloden, mentions a French post at Sillery in command of another Douglas. Johnstone was the son of an Edinburgh merchant, a captain in the army of Prince Charles Edward Stewart, who escaped to Holland. entered the service of France, and sailed from Rochefort in 1748 with other Scottish exiles as French troops for Cape Breton Island. His diaries of the sieges of Louisbourg and Quebec are most interesting and valuable. How thoroughly these early Seots were absorbed, and yet how native traditions persisted is cited by John Murray Gibbon, who remarks that French Canadian villages, where little or no English is spoken, on gala occasions have been known to turn out in kilts led by bagpipes; he also refers to the astonishment of the early Highland soldiers and settlers at being addressed with Gaelic words by the Canadian French.

Simon Fraser raised the 78th Highlanders who distinguished themselves at the siege and capture of Louisbourg (June-July, 1758), at the battle of Montgomery (July 31, 1759), and at St. Foy, or Sillery (April 28, 1760). In the celebrated battle of the Plains, their loss in officers and men was serious. It was they who sealed the heights of Abraham and showed the path to victory, guided in this famous exploit by one Major Stobo, who in 1754 had been a war-prisoner in Quebec and with two other Scots made a daring escape to Louisbourg. During nearly six years of service in North America, Fraser’s Highlanders wore the kilt winter and summer—a health-producing garb constituting warm clothing, and as to influence, it is really remarkable the stimulus for good, for law and order, imparted by the costume of a real Highlander. One writer tells of how the winter following the fall of the city, when a number of the. Frasers were quartered at the Ursuline Convent, the kind-hearted nuns were so moved to pity by the bare legs of the Highlanders that they begged General Murray to be allowed to provide the poor fellows with raiment.

After 1763, Fraser’s Highlanders were disbanded and many settled in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. Notable among these settlements was that of Malcolm Fraser and Major Nairn at Murray Bay. It was from these soldier settlements that Colonel Allan Maclean, in 1775, raised his Royal Highland Emigrants, who garrisoned Quebec against invasion during the Ameri can War of the Revolution. However, all of these were not from disbanded British troops—Cameron, the Jacobite, for instance, who when offered pay for his services refused to accept it, saying: ‘‘I will help to defend the country from invaders, but I will not take service under the House of Hanover.’’ Quebec also received many Scots who came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists during and after the war with the American colonies.

You can read the rest of ths and other chapters at