QUEBEC, the capital of the Canadian province of the same name, situated on the north bank of the river St Lawrence, at its junction with the St Charles, about 300 m. from the gulf of St Lawrence and 180 m. by river N.E. of Montreal, in 71° 12' 19". 5 W. and 46° 48' 17". 3 N. The origin of the name Quebec has been much disputed, but it is apparently the Algonkian word for a strait, or sudden narrowing, the river at its junction with the St Charles being about 2500 yds. wide, but narrowing opposite Cape Diamond to 1314.
Quebec is built on the northern extremity of an elevated tableland which forms the left bank of the St Lawrence for a distance of 8 m. The highest part of the headland is Cape Diamond, 333 ft. above the level of the water, and crowned by the citadel; towards the St Lawrence it presents a bold and precipitous front, while on the landward side and towards the St Charles the declivity is more sloping and gradual. The harbour of Quebec is spacious and deep enough to hold the largest ships, and, with the Louise basin and Lorne graving-dock, - the latter on the opposite shore at Levis, - forms one of the best harbours in America. It is usually open from the end of April to the middle of December, being closed by ice during the winter. The Louise basin consists of twin wetdocks and tidal harbours, with areas of 40 and 20 acres respectively, and a minimum depth of 26 ft. The harbour is protected towards the north-east by the island of Orleans, on either side of which there is an approach, though that to the north of the island is used only by small vessels. The spring tides rise and fall about 18 ft. Quebec is divided into upper and lower town, - access to the former being obtained by steep and winding streets, by several flights of narrow steps, or by an elevator. Much of the lower town still recalls the older portions of such French provincial towns as Rouen or St Malo. The streets, with one or two exceptions, are narrow and irregular; but it remains the principal business quarter of the city. In the upper town, where the streets are wider and well paved, are the better class of dwelling-houses and public buildings, most of the churches, the public walks and gardens, and many of the retail shops. To the west are the suburbs of St John and St Roch. The latter occupies the lower plain, and is of some commercial importance; the former is on the same level as the upper town. South-west of St John stretch the historic Plains of Abraham. On this battleground stands a simple column 40 ft. high, marking the spot where General Wolfe fell. It was erected in 1849 by the British army in Canada, to replace a monument erected in 1832 by the governor-general, Lord Aylmer, which had been broken and defaced by ruffians. Till 1908 the Plains were also disfigured by a gaol and a rifle factory, but these have been removed, and the battleground converted into a public park. In the governor's garden, which overlooks the St Lawrence, is a monument 65 ft. in height, erected in 1828 under the administration of Lord Dalhousie, dedicated to the memory of Wolfe and Montcalm. An iron pillar surmounted by a bronze statue, the gift of Prince Jerome Napoleon, stands on the Ste Foy road, and was erected in 1855-60 to commemorate the achievements of the British and French troops in the brilliant but fruitless French victory of April 28, 1760. The chief point of interest in the upper town is Dufferin Terrace, a magnificent promenade overlooking the St Lawrence, 1400 ft., long and 200 ft. above the level of the river. Part of this terrace occupies the site of the old Château St Louis, which was destroyed by fire in 1834. At the eastern end of the terrace stands a fine statue of Champlain, erected in 1898. Near by, and conspicuous from the river, is the Hotel Frontenac, erected by the Canadian Pacific railway on the model of an old French château. Nothing remains of the fortifications erected under the French regime. The present walls and the citadel, which covers an area of about 40 acres, were built in 1823-32 at a cost of over £7,000,000. Since then, several of the gates have been destroyed, and others rebuilt, but in other respects the walls are practically intact, and, though obsolete as fortifications, add greatly to the picturesque beauty of the city. Between 1865 and 1871' three forts were built on the Levis side of the river, but were neither manned nor armed. Quebec's natural position still makes it one of great military strength, though depending on naval control of the sea and of the gulf of St Lawrence.
Besides numerous Protestant churches, including a small Anglican cathedral, there is a Jewish synagogue; but the bulk of the population is Roman Catholic. The cathedral, founded in 1647, and enlarged at intervals, is a large but not very striking building in the upper town. It contains some good oil paintings and some much-prized relics, but is rather garish in its ornamentation. Of the numerous other churches, the most interesting is Notre Dame des Victoires, in the lower town, erected in 1688, and named in honour of the defeat of Phips in 1690 and the shipwreck of Sir Hovenden Walker in 1711. Laval University, which derives its name from Francois de Montmorency Laval, the first bishop of Quebec, who founded in 1663 a seminary for the training of priests, is under strict Roman Catholic control. It was instituted in 1852 by a royal charter from Queen Victoria and in 1876 received a charter from Pope Pius IX. The building is large and spacious, and the university includes faculties of theology, law, medicine and arts, a library of 125,000 volumes, a museum and a picture gallery. A large branch of the university has been established at Montreal, and has often, but vainly, sought permission to become an independent Catholic university. In connexion with Laval are the grand seminary founded in 1663, where theology is taught, and the minor seminary for literature and philosophy. Other Roman Catholic institutions are Laval Normal and Model School, the Ursuline Convent, the Convent of the Good Shepherd and several nunneries. The convent and church of the Ursulines, founded in 1641, contains nearly loo nuns and lay sisters, and nearly 600 pupils. It possesses some excellent paintings and a number of relics, among which is the skull of the French general, Montcalm. Morrin College, founded in 1859 by Dr Morrin, was for some years an efficient college in arts and theology, under Presbyterian control, but is now defunct. High schools for boys and girls and numerous academies are supported by the Protestants, under the dual system of education in the province. The Literary and Historical Society - the oldest chartered institution of the kind in Canada, founded by Lord Dalhousie in 1824 - the Canadian Institute, the Geographical Society, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Advocates' Library and the Parliamentary Library, have valuable collections of books, the latter containing 70,000 volumes, and numerous MSS. chiefly relating to the early history of the province. The principal benevolent institutions are the marine hospital, the Hotel Dieu, founded in 1639 by the duchess of Aiguillon, the general hospital (1693), the Jeffrey Hale Hospital, and the lunatic asylum at Beauport controlled by the Grey Nuns (sisters of charity). The provincial parliament buildings, erected in 1878-92, are situated in extensive grounds on Grande Allee. The main building is quadrangular in form, and is ornamented with numerous statues. The seat of the lieutenant-governor is at Spencerwood, a pleasant country estate outside the city. Other prominent buildings are the palace. of the Roman Catholic Archbishop, which adjoins Laval University, the court house, post office, custom house, city hall (1890-95) and masonic hall. Quebec is well lighted with gas and electric light, and has a system of electric tramcars, a plentiful supply of power being obtained from the Montmorency Falls (268 ft. in height), 6 m. N.E. The climate is severe, but bracing, the mean temperature in winter being io°, in summer 68°, and the mean of the year 39°. The main lines of the Grand Trunk, Canadian Pacific and Intercolonial railways are on the south bank of the St Lawrence, but branch lines connect the city with Montreal, and it is the headquarters of the Quebec and Lake St John, and various smaller railways. Steam ferries connect the city with Levis on the opposite bank, but the project of a bridge, though of great importance to the city, has been in various ways delayed. In August 1907 the portion completed fell into the St Lawrence.
The city returns three members to the Canadian House of Commons, and three to the Provincial House of Assembly. It is governed by a mayor and council of aldermen, who hold office for two years, and are usually re-elected, one mayor having held office for eleven successive years. Quebec is the seat of a Roman Catholic archbishop and of an Anglican bishop. Economically, Quebec was long the chief port of Canada. A series of strikes almost ruined its export trade, and numerous severe fires, of which that of 1845 was the chief, also lessened its importance. For many years the export trade passed almost entirely to Montreal, but the increasing size of seagoing vessels makes navigation above Quebec more and more difficult, especially for fast passenger steamships, and for such vessels Quebec is again becoming the terminus. Quebec's staple export is timber, the greater portion of which comes from the Ottawa and St Maurice districts. Formerly the rafts floating down the river were collected in the coves which extend along both sides of the river, above the city, and were fastened by booms along the banks. Now much of the timber is sent by rail. On the right bank of the stream, not far from Quebec, are extensive sawmills. Deals and square timber form the bulk of the export, but some furniture is also sent, and an increasing quantity of wheat is shipped. The building of wooden ships was formerly one of the chief industries of Quebec. The principal manufactures are iron castings, machinery, cutlery, nails, leather, rifles, gunpowder, musical instruments, boots and shoes, paper, india-rubber goods, ropes, tobacco, steel. The population increases but slowly, having risen from 59, 6 99 in 1871 to 68,840 in 1901; of these over 60,000 are French and Roman Catholic.
The first known white man to visit Quebec was Jacques Cartier, the French navigator, in 1535, who found on the site a large Indian village, called Stadacona. In July 1608 the present city was founded, and named by Champlain. Its growth was slow, and in 1629 it had but two permanently settled families, with a shifting population of monks, officials and fur traders. In that year it was captured by the English under Sir David Kirke (1597-1656; see H. Kirke, The First English Conquest of Canada, London, 1871,1871, reprinted 1908), but in 1632 it was restored to the French by the treaty of St Germain-en-Laye. In 1663 the colony of New France was created a royal province, and Quebec became the capital. In 1690 Sir William Phips, governor of Massachusetts, attempted to reconquer it with a fleet and army fitted out by New England, but was defeated by the French governor, Frontenac. In 1711 a great British expedition sent against it under Sir Hovenden Walker was shipwrecked in the gulf of St Lawrence, and the French held possession till 1759 (see below), when it was captured by the British troops on the 18th of September, five days after the battle of the Plains of Abraham; it was finally ceded to Great Britain by the treaty of Paris in 1763. In 1775 the American generals Montgomery and Benedict Arnold attacked the city, but Montgomery was killed (December 31, 1 775) and Arnold was compelled to retreat in the following spring.
In 1763-1841, in 1851-55, and in 1859-65 Quebec was the capital of Canada, and it is still its most historic and picturesque city.
See Quebec under Two Flags, by A. G. Doughty and N. E. Dionne (Quebec, 1903). Canada, an Encyclopaedia, by J. C. Hopkins (Toronto, 1898-1900), has a good account (vol. v. pp. 241-248).
(W. L. G.) Wolfe's Quebec Expedition, 1759. - Both in itself and also as the central incident of the British conquest of Canada, the taking of Quebec is one of the epics of modern military history. The American campaigns of the Seven Years' War, hitherto somewhat spasmodic, were, after Amherst's capture of Louisburg in 1758, co-ordinated and directed to a common end by that general, under whom James Wolfe, a young major-general of thirty-three years of age, was to command an expedition against Quebec from the lower St Lawrence, while Amherst himself led a force from New England by Lake Champlain on Montreal. Wolfe's column consisted of about 7000 troops, and was convoyed by a powerful fleet under Admiral Saunders. The expedition sailed 300 m. up the St Lawrence, disembarked on the Isle of Orleans and encamped facing the city. The defenders were commanded by Montcalm, a soldier whose character and abilities, like Wolfe's, need no comment here. The French were superior in numbers, though a considerable part of their force was irregular; but they had the defender's difficult task of being strong everywhere. Wolfe began the attack by seizing Point Levis, and thence bombarding Quebec. This, however, affected the main defences of the upper city but little, and they were moreover protected from closer attack by the St Lawrence and the St Charles. The third side of the triangle was the "plains of Abraham," to which it was thought there was no approach from the river. After wasting some weeks, therefore, Wolfe decided to cross the St Lawrence 7 m. below Quebec and to fight his way to the city by the St Charles side. But Montcalm's fortified posts spread out from Quebec through Beauport as far as the Montmorency, and this formidable obstacle checked the English advance at the outset. No artifice could lure the defenders away, and at last Wolfe attacked the line of the Montmorency and was repulsed with heavy loss (July 31). Wolfe's fragile health gave way under the disappointment, and despondency set in in the English camp. But as soon as the young leader had recovered a little, he summoned his brigadiers and worked out a plan for attacking by the upper waters and the heights of Abraham. Access to the heights could be obtained, it was found, by a tiny cove (Wolfe's cove), from which a steep footpath led to the summit. It was no place for artillery, and even for infantry the climb was long and exhausting, but the attempt was made. Considered as a way of taking Quebec, it was in the last degree a forlorn hope, but Wolfe, as a true soldier, felt the imperative necessity of preventing 'his opponent from sending reinforcements to the force opposing Amherst, and staked everything upon achieving this at least. " Happy if our efforts here," as he wrote, " can contribute to the success of His Majesty's arms in any other part of America." What with losses in action and by sickness, and detachments to guard the camps and batteries, only 3600 men could be spared for the attempt. These embarked on the warships on the evening of September 12, and sailed up stream. The watchful Montcalm sent a detachment to observe their movements, but the ships proceeded to a point well above the cove, luring the detachment out of the way. Then at 1 a.m. Wolfe, with half his force, dropped down stream in the boats of the squadron and landed. The path was guarded by a redoubt, but the light infantry which led the advance scarcely attempted to follow it, scrambling up the hillside wherever they could find a foothold. The garrison of the redoubt, startled by the unforeseen attack, abandoned the work, and by daylight Wolfe had assembled his 3600 men on the plains above the city. Montcalm meanwhile had been held in check by a demonstration of part of the fleet under Admiral Saunders on Beauport, but at last, realizing that the real attack was coming from the other flank, he hurried all the troops he could collect over the St Charles and drew them up on the plain, with their backs to the walls of the upper town. He took the offensive at once. He had plenty of militiamen and irregulars, and these rapidly drove the British light infantry on to their main body, which was threatened on both flanks. On so small a battlefield, the troops in Wolfe's line of battle quickly became aware that the enemy was attacking in superior force. But their leader steadied them by his personal example, and when the French came within close range one " perfect volley " from the whole line decided the battle. Then as the French stopped, with great gaps in their lines, Wolfe led on his men to complete the victory. He received two painful wounds and then a shot through the breast. His last order, one rare indeed in the annals of 18th-century fighting, was to send a force to the St Charles bridge to cut off the retreat of the French. Montcalm too was mortally wounded, and died next day. On the 18th of September Quebec surrendered.
- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.
This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2021 ITA all rights reserved.