The Quebec Act and the Declaration of Independence
[W]here the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
- 2 Corinthians 3:17
Writing as I am on this day, July 3, 2022, it’s hard for my thoughts not to turn to Independence Day as Americans celebrate the 246th anniversary of the founding of the American nation.
I don’t remember a time when Independence Day was not one of my favorite days on the calendar. Growing up in the 1970s, I recall the focus on the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. I was ten years old at the time. Not old enough to understand or appreciate the full significance of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the Constitution, but old enough to realize that the acts and the words of the founding fathers had created a new nation committed to the protection of individual liberty to an extent never before accomplished.
One lesson about the formation of the United States that I did not learn until years later was just how much it depended upon the Protestant Reformation kicked off by Martin Luther over 250 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
This idea - the notion that the United States and the history of limited government and economic liberty historically, if not presently, enjoyed by its citizens is a by-product of the Reformation – would likely come as a surprise to many Americans today, even those who attend churches that claim to be Reformed.
Many Reformed men today mistakenly suppose that our liberties are traceable to pagan Greece and Rome. This problem, this tendency to look to Greece and Rome rather than the pages of Scripture has been with us for some time. To correct this misunderstanding, American Congregationalist minister E.C. Wines wrote his book The Hebrew Republic in which he argued, correctly, that the American republic did not find its origins in the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero, but in the pages of the Scriptures.
In a reprint edition of Wines’ 19th-century book, Louis F. DeBoer wrote in 1980,
That the civil polity that was the high water mark of Christian civilization and the Protestant Reformation has to go begging as a mendicant to the dregs of pagan Greece and Rome for its inspiration is truly a disgrace. Fortunately there is little substance to this myth.
The Hebrew Republic, Introduction
In his remarkable critique of the modern conservative movement, “Conservatism: An Autopsy,” John Robbins exposed conservatism for what it is, an anti-Christian political philosophy based upon natural law and other ideas not found in the Scriptures. Natural law, Robbins argues, “is an example of the unrighteous suppression of revealed truth.” Robbins continues, “Suffice it is say (sic) here that it was not the Roman Catholic tradition of natural law that was the genius of America, but the faith of its colonists-Calvinism. John Calvin, not Thomas Aquinas, was the virtual founder of America” (emphasis added).
“What,” you may ask, “has all this to do with the Quebec Act and the Declaration of Independence?” I’m glad you asked.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that when one people move to dissolve “the political bands which have connected them with another…a decent respect to the opinion of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
That certainly seems fair enough. If one is willing to take the drastic step of declaring independence from Great Britain, stating one’s reasons for doing so is hardly unreasonable. If it's right for you and me to explain why we're quitting our job, it hardly seems like much a stretch to do so in a matter as weighty as going to war to fight for one’s liberty.
In the Declaration, Jefferson lists twenty-two grievances in support of the decision to cut ties with Great Britain. If you were to ask Americans today what these grievances were, a good portion of the population likely couldn’t name one. Some of us could name a few. Probably the best known is Jefferson’s complaint about “Imposing taxes on us without our Consent.” Perhaps some would reference the objection to the quartering of troops in the homes of the colonists.
But the grievance I’d like to focus on today is Jefferson’s complaint against the King of England, “For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.”
It’s easy to overlook this grievance. After all, it’s not clear to those of us in 2022 what Jefferson is referring to when he writes about “abolishing the English Laws in a neighbouring Province.” What province is he talking about? Why would the colonists be concerned about the abolition of English laws? What laws replaced the English laws?
Taking these questions in order, first, the province Jefferson referenced was Quebec. In 1774, the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act which expanded the borders of Quebec all the way south to the Ohio River and all the way west to the Mississippi. As odd as this seems to me, this Act made the territory where I live and am writing this post part of Quebec.
So, why were the colonists concerned about the abolition of English laws and their replacement? Jefferson provides a hint but does not say so directly. The colonists were concerned that the Crown was trying to impose Roman Catholic rule on them. The thinking seemed to be if the Crown can impose Romanism or Roman Catholic law on Quebec, what would stop them from imposing it on us? John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote of the Act that it, “was dangerous to the Interest of the Protestant Religion and of these Colonies.”
There was a great deal of concern at the time of the American Revolution that there was a conspiracy to destroy the liberties of the colonists. Some may find it easy to dismiss this line of thinking as “mere conspiracy theory.” But given the extraordinary events that we see going on all around us in 2022, events that give all the evidence of a conspiracy – I’m speaking here in the first place of the so-called Covid pandemic and all its attendant tyranny from lockdowns to mask requirements to mandates to take a deadly “vaccine” to save us from a disease that is eminently survivable – such concerns cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Also, at the time of the American Revolution, there was a general understanding that the Pope was “that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition that exalteth himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God.” Put differently, the colonists’ eschatology was the classic Reformed eschatology known as Historicism. The colonists' understanding of the end times was not corrupted by Jesuit Preterism or Futurism as is the American Protestant church in 2022. As a result, they could clearly see the threat posed by the Quebec Act.
Jefferson wrote of the abolishment of the English laws in Quebec and the establishment of, “an Arbitrary government” there. This is to address our second and third questions. But first, one little aside.
Britain captured Quebec from France during the French and Indian War. On this day, July 3, one of the most critical early confrontations of this war took place in 1754. It is known as the Battle of Fort necessity or the Battle of Great Meadows and was George Washington’s first command as a young Colonel in the British army. From a personal standpoint, I’m honored to say that two of my ancestors fought under Colonel Washington that day, brothers William and Henry Bailey, two militiamen from Virginia who had fought alongside the regular British army under Washington’s command.
Returning to the consideration of our questions about the Quebec Act, the American colonists were concerned about it for several reasons. According to one article, “The Quebec Act: 1) extended the boundaries of Quebec’s borders south to the Ohio River and west to the Mississippi River; 2) recognized Roman Catholicism as Quebec’s official religion; 3) granted wide ranging powers to Canada’s appointed governors without any legislative oversight; and 4) re-instated French civil law, which did note use jury trials, in place of British law [which did use juries].”
Worth noting is that Jefferson’s concerns about “abolishing the free System of English Laws” and “establishing…Arbitrary government” came to the fore just recently in the showdown between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the truckers’ convoy. The recognition of Romanism as Quebec’s official religion cemented the Antichrist system of Roman Catholicism’s dominant position in the province. Both Pierre Trudeau and Justin Trudeau attended the same Jesuit-founded high school. And the arbitrary executive action Trudeau used to freeze the bank accounts of the truckers and the funds that were donated for their support is the very sort of ruthless and despotic action one would expect from a Jesuit-trained man. Further, Trudeau’s action was taken without any reference to the legislature, supporting concerns about point number 3 above.
The Quebec Act is sometimes considered to be one of the Intolerable Acts that played a major role in bringing on the American Revolution. Unlike today, the founding generation of Americans understood the threat that the Roman Catholic Church posed to their liberties and were not afraid to speak openly about it. Given the Protestant mindset of the American colonists, this was not surprising, neither was it, as some are tempted to say today, religious bigotry. Rome has been an enemy of political and economic liberty for over a millennium. Once you understand that Rome is the system of Antichrist, it is easy to spot the political tyranny and economic misery that flow from that evil system of thought. Not only were the colonists not wrong to be concerned about the Quebec Act, but Thomas Jefferson was also positively right to list it as one of the grievances against King George.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," wrote the Apostle Paul. As Americans, let us treasure all the more the economic and political liberty we still enjoy and stand firm to preserve and expand it in the face of growing tyranny from the enemies of liberty, both foreign and domestic.