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 December 2008 - Nr. 12

The best of Seasons from Echo Germanica

No matter where we’re from, our life today reflects what took root during George III’s reign. The Dorchester Proclamation created the first land districts with the first land registration process for an orderly growth of good municipal government that followed in Upper Canada. The Dorchester Proclamation reflects an important milestone in Canadian history and reminds Canadians today of the democracy we have built with "peace, order and good government" reflecting values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

Sir Guy CarletonGuy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester was army officer and colonial administrator, born September 3, 1724 in Strabane, Ireland and served under King George the Third. The Dorchester Proclamation of 1788 illuminates an important chapter of Canadian history that is aimed to build a society that would be democratic and orderly within the ambit of Crown and Empire. The arrival of several thousand families that came to settle in the western part of the colony of Quebec, later to be known as Upper Canada, then Canada West and today as Ontario contributed to a strong foundation for the future of the Province. These settlers were discharged British and German servicemen, civilians and refugees of the American Revolution and their presence presented immense challenges for the improvement of economic and social conditions of a country that had settled its borders five years earlier with the United States in 1783.

Outfitting Loyalist refugees was only one of Carleton’s supply problems. He had been in New York City scarcely two months when he was forced to declare his own war on corruption within the military. The famine that started in 1788 and ended in 1790 made supply problems even worse. To inject new vitality into the economy and initiating far reaching constitutional and political changes, Guy Carlton wanted the help and cooperation of the German settlers who then made up 70% of the population of what is today’s Western Ontario. The people of German heritage, same as their counterpart in the US are the great silent majority; they were the first to oppose slavery and became part of Canada. Quebec then would be divided into two provinces "Lower Proclamation by King George the ThirdCanada" for the Canadian, "Upper Canada" for the British colonists. With each group thus assured of its not being dominated by the other, both would be granted assemblies, which would be able to impose taxes.

On July 24, 1788, Governor General Lord Dorchester by proclamation issued from Castle of St. Luis in the City of Quebec divided the Canada’s into four Districts, namely: Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nassau and The four districts carved in teak on the front page of the Harmonie Club's paperHesse.

The German names of the four districts newly created through this Proclamation of 1788 were chosen to honour the Royal Family as well as to please the high presence of German colonists. The sister of George III, Augusta, was the Duchess of Brunswick-Lunenburg, his queen was Charlotte Sophia of Strelitz; among his ancestors was a countess of Nassau, his aunt Mary was the Countess of Map of the four districts of 1788Hesse-Cassel. The border lines were to serve the initial administrative needs of the growing government and provided a form of municipal government for the appointment of magistrates and the operation of courts. The presence of these German names then was not unusual. Earlier in 1670 King Charles II named Rupert’s Land a vast track of land surrounding the Hudson Bay Region with 3.9 million square kilometres in honour of Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the king’s cousin. After the arrival of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe, the names were changed in 1792 to Eastern, Midland, Home and Western District with more changes to adapt to a growing population.

Our civility, freedom and relative prosperity emerged from these roots, remarkably strengthened by all who have come since. Which, when one thinks of the challenges others face and the opportunities we share in Canada, there is actually quite a lot for Canadians to celebrate the 1788 Dorchester Proclamation for centuries to come.

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Dictionary of Canadian Biography- Vol.V - 1801-1820 University of Toronto Press
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United Empire Loyalists in the Niagara Peninsula, Sixth Annual Niagara Peninsula Historic Conference
Brock University 1984 , St. Catharines, Ontario
German Canadian Yearbook Volume .I, p.279, New Canadian Publications, Toronto, Historical Society of Mecklenburg Upper Canada , text of Lord Dorchester’s Proclamation with artistic reproduction by A.K. Ebsen
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Kirby, William: the Annals of Niagara, p.69 Niagara Falls Lundy’s Lane Historical Society, 1896p,74, p.75
Eduard Hegel Geschichte des Erzbistums Koeln II 1, Koeln 1995


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