Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
March 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Sir James Henry Craig


Craig, Sir James Henry (1748-1812), governor-in-chief of Canada (1807-11), was born in 1748 at Gibraltar, where his father was civil and military judge. He entered the British army in 1763 as an ensign in the 30th Regiment, and he served in America throughout the American Revolutionary War. He was wounded at the battle of Bunker's Hill, and was with Burgoyne at Saratoga. In 1795, with Major-General Alured Clarke, he effected the capture of the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope, and he administered the government of the colony until 1797. From 1797 to 1802 he commanded a division in India ; and in 1801 he was promoted to be lieutenant-general. From 1802 to 1805 he was in command of the Eastern district in England ; and from 1805 to 1806 he commanded an army in the Mediterranean theatre of operations. III-health having compelled his return to England, he was appointed in 1807 governor-in-chief of Canada, and he arrived in Quebec on October 18, 1807 .


His period of office in Canada has been described by French-Canadian writers as "a reign of terror". Influenced by the official oligarchy at Quebec, he came into conflict with the Assembly; and he imprisoned Pierre Bédard and others connected with the newly-founded French-Canadian journal Le Canadien. These arrests were, no doubt, illegal and arbitrary; but to describe them as part of a "reign of terror" is an abuse of language. A man of transparent simplicity and honesty, Craig was at the worst a governor who was misled by unwise counsellors; and he himself realized this before he left the country. During the whole of his term of office, moreover, he was a dying man; and his death occurred soon after his return to England in 1811, at London, on January 12, 1812. In 1797 he was created a K.C.B. Just before his death, he was promoted to be general. See E. A. Cruickshank, The administration of Sir James Craig (Trans. Roy. So c. Can., 1908).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. II, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 411p., pp. 143-144.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College