King James I granted the first constitution of Virginia in a charter to Sir Thomas Gates andothers on April 10, 1606,
so King George III granted, in English and French, the firstconstitution of Canada by royal proclamation of October 7, 1763.
These original constitutionsof Virginia and Canada vested powers in governors, legislatures, and courts of justice to ruleuprightly in the name of the Crown.With the fall of New France, British soldiers and civilians were obliged to deal with theCatholic Church, which was the only indigenous authority then capable of helping them inmaintaining civilized order after the departure of French troops and magistrates. Even if not setforth in a formal concordat, a tacit understanding was reached between the British Crown andthe Catholic Church, which in substance was that the church would encourage loyalty to theKing in exchange for very significant concessions, including the benefits of Britishparliamentary government, also acceptance of French language, civil law, and culture, andrespect for the religious rights of the people. It was a fabulously successful understanding.The legal marks of this tacit agreement are found, for instance, in the provision of theroyal proclamation of 1763 whereby the King paid his troops with land so they could settle inQuebec and become husbands of the daughters of New France.
And in the fifth section of theStatute of 14 George III, Chapter 83 (1774), it was declared “That his Majesty’s subjects,professing the religion of the Church of Rome of and in the said Province of Quebec, may have,hold, and enjoy the free exercise of religion of the Church of Rome, subject to the King’ssupremacy.”
It is, therefore, not surprising that, within a few generations of the conquest,many French-speaking, Catholic families in Quebec had fine old English, Scottish, and Irishnames, as has been frequent ever since up to the present day. In our time, Quebec has been richin political leaders with such names as Claude Ryan and Pierre Marc Johnson.3