Quebec 1837-1839
The Patriotes Rebellion

Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Lower Canada

Translated: for by Mitch Abidor.

Flag of the Patriotes

Written by Dr. Robert Nelson, who played a major role in the 1838 revolt, and whose flight after the crushing of the uprising caused much anger and, on the part of his comrade Charles Hindenlang, hatred, the Declaration was read before a crowd on November 4, 1838. Though he read it as President of the Republic of Lower Canada, the failure of the revolt left it a document of strictly historic interest.

Whereas the solemn compact made with the people of Lower Canada and registered in the book of statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the 31st chapter of the Acts passed in the 31st year of the reign of George III, has been continually violated by the British Government and our rights usurped; and whereas our humble petitions, addresses, protests, and complaints against this prejudicial and unconstitutional conduct have been in vain; and whereas the British government has disposed of our revenue without the constitutional consent of our local legislature, that it has pillaged our treasury, that it has arrested and imprisoned a great number of our fellow citizens, that it has spread throughout the country a mercenary army whose presence is accompanied by consternation and alarm, whose path has been reddened by the blood of our people, that has reduced our villages to ashes, profaned the temples, and spread terror and desolation throughout the land; and whereas we can no longer put up with the repeated violations of our most cherished rights or patiently bear the multiple outrages and cruelties of the government of Lower Canada; We, in the name of the people of Lower Canada, recognizing the decrees of Divine Providence that permit us to overthrow a government that has violated the object and the intention of its creation, and to choose the form of government that will re-establish the reign of justice, assure domestic tranquillity, assure the common defense, increase general well-being, and guarantee for ourselves and our posterity the advantages of civil and religious freedom;

Solemnly declare:

  1. That from this day forward the people of Lower Canada are absolved of all allegiance to Great Britain, and that all political ties between that power and Lower Canada have ceased as of this day;
  2. That Lower Canada shall take the form of a republican government and, as such, declare itself a Republic;
  3. That under the free Government of Lower Canada all citizens will have the same rights; the savages will cease being subjected to any form of civil disqualifications and will enjoy the same rights as the other citizens of the State of Lower Canada;
  4. That all ties between Church and State are declared abolished, and every person has the right to freely exercise the religion and the beliefs dictated to him by his conscience;
  5. That feudal and Seigneurial tenure are abolished in fact, as if they never existed in this country;
  6. That any person who bears or will bear arms, or will furnish the means of assistance to the Canadian People in its struggle for emancipation, is relieved of all debts or obligations, real or supposed, towards Seigneurs, and for arriérages [1] in virtue of Seigneurial laws that formerly existed.
  7. That the douaire coutoumier [2] is, in future, entirely abolished and prohibited;
  8. That imprisonment for debt will no longer exist, except in cases of obvious fraud, which will be specified in an act of the Legislature of Lower Canada to that effect;
  9. That the death penalty will be pronounced in cases of murder alone, and no other;
  10. That all mortgages on lands must be special and, in order to be valid, must be registered in Offices created to that effect by an act of the legislature of Lower Canada;
  11. That there will be full and entire freedom of the press in all public affairs and matters;
  12. That trial by jury is guaranteed to the People of the State in criminal trials to its most liberal extent, and in civil affairs to the sum of an amount to be determined by the legislature of the State of Lower Canada;
  13. That as a necessity and obligation of the Government towards the people, public and general education will be put in operation and encouraged in a special manner, as soon as circumstances permit;
  14. That in order to ensure the franchise and electoral freedom, all elections will be held in the form of a ballot;
  15. That as soon as circumstances permit, the People will choose its Delegates following the current division of the country in cities, towns and counties, which will constitute a Convention or Legislative body, in order to found and establish a constitution, according to the needs of the country and in conformity with the conditions of this Declaration, subject to modification according to the will of the people;
  16. That any male person over the age of 21 will have the right to vote as above mentioned, for the election of the above-named delegates;
  17. That those lands called Crown lands, as well as those called Reservations of the Clergy and those nominally in the possession of a certain company of speculators in England, called the “Company of the Lands of British North America” shall become by law the property of the State of Lower Canada, except for those portions of land that are in the possession of farmers who hold them in good faith, for which we guarantee the title in virtue of a law which will be passed in order to legalize the possession of such lots of land situated in the Townships which are now under cultivation;
  18. That French and English will be used in all public matters.

And for the support of this declaration, and the success of the Patriotic cause that we support, we, confident of the protection of the All-Powerful and of the justice of our line of conduct, engage by these present, mutually and solemnly the ones towards the others, our lives, our fortunes, and our most sacred honor.

By order of the Provisional Government

Robert Nelson

1. The amount due on the rent of a farm.

2. That which the husband assigns to the wife for her use should she survive him.