Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Carleton, Guy (1724-1808)

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CARLETON, GUY, first Lord Dorchester (1724–1808), governor of Quebec, was the third son of Christopher Carleton of Newry, county Down, and his wife, Catherine, daughter of Henry Ball of county Donegal. He was born at Strabane 3 Sept. 1724. The father died when Guy was about fourteen, and the mother afterwards married the Rev. Thomas Skelton of Newry. According to Samuel Burdy, the biographer of Philip Skelton, 'Sir Guy's eminence in the world was owing in a great degree … to the care which his stepfather, Thomas Skelton, took of his education' (Complete Works of Rev. P. Skelton, 1824, pp. 30-31). On 21 May 1742 he was appointed ensign in the Earl of Rothes's regiment (afterwards the 25th foot), and obtained his promotion as lieutenant in the some regiment on 1 May 1745). Changing his regiment he became lieutenant of the 1st foot guards on 22 July 1751, and was appointed captain-lieutenant and lieutenant-colonel 18 June 1757. In June and July 1758 he took part in the siege of Louisburg, under General Amherst, and on 24 Aug. was made lieutenant-colonel of the 72nd foot. On 30 Dec. in the same year he was appointed quartermaster-general and colonel in America. He was wounded at the capture of Quebec, 13 Sept. 1759, when in command of the corps of grenadiers. In 1761 he acted as brigadier-general under General Hodgson at the siege of Belleisle, and was wounded in the attack on Port Andro, 8 April. He was raised to the rank of colonel in the army 19 Feb. 1762, and in the some year served under Lord Albemarle in the siege of the Havannah, where he greatly distinguished himself, and was wounded in a sortie on 22 July. Carleton was appointed lieutenant-governor of Quebec 24 Sept. 1766, and in the following year the government of the colony devolved on him in consequence of General Murray having to proceed to England. In 1770, having obtained leave of absence, Carleton came to England. He was appointed colonel of the 47th foot 2 April 1772, and raised to the rank of major-general on 25 May following. In June 1774 he was examined before the House of Commons regarding the Quebec bill, which, after considerable opposition, became law in the same session. This act, which it it is said was suggested by Carleton himself, established a legislative council, allowed the Roman catholics the free exercise of their religion, and re-established the authority of the old French laws in civil cases, while it introduced the English law in criminal proceedings. In the latter end of the year Carleton returned to Canada, where he was warmly welcomed back by the catholic bishop and clergy of the province, and on 10 Jan. 1775 was appointed governor of Quebec. On the recall of Gage the command of the army in America was divided, and assigned in Canada to Carleton, and in the old colonies to Howe. At an early stage of the war the Congress, being apprehensive of an attack by Carleton on their north-west frontier, determined on the invasion of Canada, and on 10 Sept. 1775 the American troops effected a landing at St. John's. Carleton, however, who had no army and had endeavoured in vain to raise the peasantry, was defeated by Colonel Warner in an attempt to relieve the garrison, and compelled to retire. On 3 Nov. St. John's capitulated to General Montgomery, who on the 12th entered Montreal. Carleton narrowly escaped being captured. Disguised as a fisherman he passed through the enemy's craft in a whaleboat and arrived at Quebec on the 19th. The fortifications of the town had been greatly neglected, and the garrison did not consist of above eleven thousand men, few of whom were regulars. In spite of these obstacles and the lukewarmness of the British settlers who were displeased with the new constitution, Carleton, having ordered all persons who would not join in resistance to the enemy to leave, soon put the city into a state of defence. An attempt by Colonel Arnold to take it by surprise having failed, Montgomery joined forces with the latter, and on 5 Dec. summoned Carleton to surrender. The governor refused to have any correspondence with the American commander. After laying siege to the city for nearly a month, the Americans attempted to take it by storm on 31 Dec. 1775, but were repulsed, Montgomery being killed and Arnold wounded. The siege was continued until the beginning of May 1776, when, upon the arrival of a British squadron, Carleton sallied out and put the already retreating enemy to rout with the loss of their artillery and baggage. By the end of the month Carleton had gathered a force of thirteen thousand men, and accordingly assumed the offensive. The Americans gradually retired before him, and by 18 June had evacuated Canada and established themselves at Crown Point. After waiting until October for boats to cross Lake Champlain, Carleton went in pursuit of the Americans, and two naval engagements were fought on the lake on the 11th and 13th. The result of the first conflict was somewhat doubtful, but on the second occasion Carleton gained a complete victory and took possession of Crown Point, where he remained until 3 Nov., when, giving up the idea of besieging Ticonderoga, he returned to St. John s and sent his army into winter quarters. In reward for his brilliant services in the defence of Quebec he was nominated a knight of the Bath, 6 July 1776, and a special warrant was issued allowing him to wear the ensigns without being invested in the usual manner. In 1777 an expedition from Canada, intended to co-operate with the principal British force in America, was resolved on, and on 6 May Burgoyne arrived at Quebec to take the command. Carleton, who had for some time been unable to get on amicably with Lord George Germaine, at once demanded his own recall on the ground that he had been treated with injustice. On 29 Aug. he was raised to the rank of lieutenant-general, and in the same year was appointed governor of Charlemont in Ireland, a post which he retained during the remainder of his life. In May 1778, without assigning any reason, he dismissed Peter Livius from his post of chief justice of Quebec. At the end of July he left Canada for England, and was succeeded by Lieutenant-general Haldimand as governor of Quebec. He declined to appear before the privy council in defence of his dismissal of Livius, who was restored to his office by an order dated 25 March 1779. On 19 May following he was installed K.B. at Westminster, and on 23 Feb. 1782 was appointed to succeed Sir Henry Clinton as commander-in-chief in America. He arrived at New York with his commission on 5 May, and desired that all hostilities should be stayed. By a consistent policy of clemency he did much to conciliate the Americans. He remained in New York for some time after the treaty of peace had been signed, and finally evacuated the city on 25 Nov. 1783 and returned to England. A pension of 1,000l. a year was granted him by parliament for his life and the lives of his wife and two elder sons, and on 11 April 1786 he was again appointed governor of Quebec. As a reward for his long services he was also created Baron Dorchester on 21 Aug. in the same year. He arrived at Quebec to take charge of the government on 23 Oct., and was cordially welcomed by the inhabitants, with whom he was highly popular. One of his first measures was to assemble the legislative council, whom he directed to make a thorough investigation into the condition of the provinces. In 1791 an act of parliament—which had been prepared by William Grenville, and revised by Dorchester—was passed. By the provisions of this act (31 Geo. Ill, c. 31) Canada was divided into two provinces, viz. Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Quebec), and a similar constitution was given to each. Dorchester was absent from Canada from 17 Aug. 1791 to 24 Sept. 1793, during which time the government of the provinces devolved on Major-general Alured Clarke, the lieutenant-governor. Dorchester took his final departure from Quebec on 9 July 1796, and was succeeded by Major-general Prescott. The Active, in which he embarked with his family, was wrecked on Anticosti. No lives were lost, and on 19 Sept. they reached Portsmouth in H.M.S. Dover without any further mishap. On 16 July 1790 he was appointed colonel of the 15th dragoons, and on 12 Oct. 1793 raised to the rank of a general in the army. On 18 March 1801 he became colonel of the 27th dragoons, from which regiment he was transferred on 14 Aug. 1802 to the command of the 4th dragoons. After his return from England he lived in retirement first at Kempshot, near Basingstoke, and afterwards at Stubbings, near Maidenhead, where he died suddenly on 10 Nov. 1808. Dorchester, though a severe disciplinarian, was a man of humane conduct and of sound common sense. His kind treatment of the Canadian people, and of the American prisoners during the war, did him infinite credit, as well as his attempts to check the excesses of the Indians employed by the government against the colonists.

He married, on 22 May 1772, Lady Maria, the third daughter of Thomas, second earl of Effingham, by whom he had nine sons and two daughters. His widow survived him for many years, and died on 14 March 1836, aged 82. He was succeeded in the title by his grandson, Arthur, the only son of Christopher, his third son. The present and fourth baron is also a grandson of the first peer, being the eldest son of Richard, the youngest of the nine sons. The Royal Institution possesses a large number of manuscripts which formerly belonged to Maurice Morgan, Dorchester's secretary during the last years of the American war. These consist solely of American official documents. In the British Museum, among the Add. MSS., some of his correspondence while governor of Quebec will be found.

[Collins's Peerage of England (1812), viii. 113-18; Chalmers's Biog. Dict. (1813), viii. 257-60; Morgan's Sketches of Celebrated Canadians (1862), pp. 81-4; Macmullen's History of Canada (1868); Bancroft's History of the United States (1876), vols. iii-vi.; Holmes's Annals of America (1829), vol. ii.; Mahon's History of England (1854),vols. vi. and vii.; Annual Register, 1808, chron. pp. 149-52; Sir H. Cavendish's Debates of the House of Commons in the year 1774 (1839); London Gazettes; Army Lists; Add. MSS. 21678, 21697-700, 21707, 21734, 21781, 21806-8.]

G. F. R. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.55
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
94 ii 25 Carleton, Guy, 1st Lord Dorchester: for in the same year read next year
11 f.e. after elder sons insert In 1782-3 he was colonel of the 84th foot
95 i 11 f.e. for Morgan read Morgann