The Quebec Act 1774 (French: Acte de Québec), formally known as the British North America (Quebec) Act 1774, was an act of the Parliament of Great Britain (citation 14 Geo. III c. 83) setting procedures of governance in the Province of Quebec. The act’s principal components were:
- The province’s territory was expanded to take over part of the Indian Reserve, including much of what is now southern Ontario, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota.
- Reference to the Protestant faith was removed from the oath of allegiance.
- It guaranteed free practice of the Catholic faith.
- It restored the use of the French civil law for matters of private law, except that, in accordance with the English common law, it granted unlimited freedom of testation. It maintained English common law for matters of public law, including administrative appeals, court procedure, and criminal prosecution.
- It restored the Catholic Church’s right to impose tithes.
The act had wide-ranging effects, both in Quebec itself as well as in the Thirteen Colonies. In Quebec, English-speaking immigrants from the Thirteen Colonies objected to a variety of its provisions, which they saw as a removal of certain political freedoms. Canadiens varied in their reaction; the land-owning seigneurs and ecclesiastics for example were generally happy with its provisions.
In the Thirteen Colonies, the Quebec Act had been passed in the same session of Parliament as a number of other acts designed as punishment for the Boston Tea Party and other protests, which the American Patriots collectively termed the “Intolerable” or in England officially the “Coercive Acts”. The provisions of the Quebec Act were seen by the colonists as a new model for administration in the colonies, which would strip them of their self-elected assemblies. It appeared to void the land claims of the colonies by granting most of the Ohio Country to the province of Quebec. The Americans also interpreted the act as an “establishment” of Catholicism in the colony. Many Americans had participated in the French and Indian War, and they now saw the religious freedoms and land given to their former enemy as an affront.