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Reflections for Independence Day

For most of us in the United States, the 4th of July consists of celebrations and lots of food. However, some veterans found themselves starving after serving the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. Would they recover?

A while ago, we shared a map of Benedict Arnold's path when he marched to Québec. Here is another map showing both Arnold's path and the rest of the Northern Army's trek through Québec, courtesy of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). Hopefully, the link will still be available if you click on it. BAnQ does an outstanding job with providing public domain maps from centuries ago.


We also discussed how some of the people of Québec chose to help the Patriots in the colonies, such as providing flour from the mills, much to the chagrin of the seigneurs who mostly allied themselves with the British. However, we did not discuss the plight of French Canadians and Acadians who agreed to help the Patriots, as discussed by Allan S. Everest in the 1976 publication, "Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution." Reportedly hundreds of residents in Canada, including Québec and Nova Scotia, followed leaders such as Brigadier General Moses Hazen, who offered the possibility of provisions and land based on the promises of the newly formed government of the American colonies. When the war was finished, Hazen reminded the government numerous times of its promise to veterans, but the American government chose to saddle the new state governments with the burden of buying the land, and those governments initially gave land only to American citizens. This meant that veterans from Canada were not eligible for the land they were promised.


Meanwhile, food rations were insufficient, as even Hazen himself was sometimes on the verge of starvation despite government promises. Somehow, the newly transplanted veterans and their families, particularly around Albany and Fishkill, New York, found ways to maintain their usual celebrations. Like many other cultures, the French Canadians and Acadians were known (and are still known) for making sure everyone has a good time! Still, how did they sustain themselves? At one point, the Secretary of the War Office, Joseph Carleton, discovered the destitute plight of the people in Fishkill. He tried to help them, including securing wood during the brutally cold winter. People like Hazen and Carleton were instrumental in helping them secure a better future. Even George Washington responded to the numerous pleas for help by forwarding their requests to the new Congress, indicating they were, "...unhappy persons, who placed confidence in those proclamations." Years later, Hazen's efforts, along with pleas from the Canadian officers and a few other caring souls, eventually led to land parcels and rations until June 1, 1786.


The following generation of French Canadian and Acadian descendants, along with others, were able to create thriving communities with comfortable homes and opportunities to take part in the beginning stages of a new democracy unknown anywhere else in the world. Would this new form of democracy have its challenges? Yes. Does it still have those challenges? Yes. Did previous generations rise to meet those challenges? Yes. Will the current generation rise to meet those challenges?


May God bless our military and veterans of the United States of America!


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