[Footnote 7: The Lake is no doubt Lake Nairne, the present Grand Lac.]
JOHN NAIRNE IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Nairne’s work among the French Canadians.—He becomes Major of the Royal Highland Emigrants.—Arnold’s march through the wilderness to Quebec.—Quebec during the Siege, 1775-76.—The habitants and the Americans.—Montgomery’s plans.—The assault on December 31st, 1775.—Malcolm Fraser gives the alarm in Quebec.—Montgomery’s death.—Arnold’s attack.—Nairne’s heroism.—Arnold’s failure.—The American fire-ship.—The arrival of a British fleet.—The retreat of the Americans.—Nairne’s later service in the War.—Isle aux Noix and Carleton Island.—Sir John Johnson and the desolation of New York.—Nairne and the American prisoners at Murray Bay.—Their escape and capture.—Nairne and the Loyalists.—The end of the War.—Nairne’s retirement to Murray Bay.
When war with the revolted colonies grew imminent, it was obvious that a man of Nairne’s experience in military matters would soon be needed. One aim of the government was to keep the French Canadians quiet by disarming their prejudices and impressing upon them their duty to George III. From Quebec, on July 13th, 1775, Nairne was given instructions to undertake this work for his district. Self-control and cool persuasiveness fitted him for his task, he was told; his work would be to visit all the parishes on the north shore, with the aim of winning the loyal support of the French Canadians during the coming struggle. Though fifteen years of tranquility under the mild British sway had made the habitants prosperous and averse to war, it was still possible to get from them useful military service, under the leadership of British officers. Nairne was to tell them that the Americans would borrow their dollars, take their provisions, pay for them only in worthless letters of credit upon the Congress, and even make free with their lands. He was to show, also, how bitterly the Protestant English colonies hated the Roman Catholic faith of the Canadians. A British fleet, he was to add, would soon arrive and, if the Canadians joined the revolt, the second British conquest would be shorter and not quite so gentle as the first; for “a fair and open enemy is a different thing from a rebel and a traitor.”
Fifteen years earlier the Canadians had borne a heavy part in defending their country against the British assailant; now they were to fight in his interests. Whenever possible Nairne was to employ the same old Captains of militia who had fought the battles of France against the British; he was to make a roll of those fit to bear arms, and to report the number of discharged soldiers in his district. To him were entrusted commissions for Captains whom he might select; the inferior officers he might also name. The Church aided his work as much as possible, the Vicar-General sending to the priests instructions to this effect.