Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester, KB (Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ireland, September 3, 1722 – November 10, 1808 Stubbings, Maidenhead, Berkshire), known between 1776 and 1786 as Sir Guy Carleton, was an Irish-British soldier who twice served as Governor of the Province of Quebec, from 1768–1778 (concurrently serving as Governor General of British North America), and from 1785–1795. He commanded British troops in the American Revolutionary War. His younger brother was Thomas Carleton whose military and political career was interwoven with his elder brother’s.
In 1742, he was commissioned as an Ensign in the 25th Regiment of Foot and in which in 1745 he was made a lieutenant. In 1751 he joined the 1st Foot Guards as a Captain and in 1752 a Captain and in 1757 was made a lieutenant colonel. In 1758 he was made the lieutenant colonel of the newly formed 72nd Regiment of Foot.
He became a friend of James Wolfe.
Seven Years War
Brigadier general James Wolfe selected Carleton as his aide in the upcoming attack on Louisburg. King George II declined to make this appointment, possibly because of negative comments had made about the Hessian mercenaries. In December 1758 James Wolfe now a Major General was given command of the upcoming attack on Quebec and he selected Carleton as his quarter-master general. King George II refused to make this appointment also until Lord Ligonier talked to the king about the matter and the king changed his mind. When Lieutenant-Colonel Carleton arrived in Halifax he assumed command of six hundred grenadiers. He was with the British forces when they arrived at Quebec in June 1759. Carleton was responsible for the provisioning of the army and also acting as an engineer supervising the placement of cannon. Carleton received a head wound and he returned to England after the battle in October 1759.
On March 29, 1761, as the lieutenant colonel of 72nd Regiment of Foot he took part in the attack on Belle-Ile-en-mer, an island of the coast of the northern part of the Bay of Biscay, ten miles off the coast of France. Carleton led an attack on the French, but was seriously wounded and prevented from taking any further part in the fighting. After four weeks of fighting, the British captured the rest of the island.
He was made colonel in 1762 and took part in the British expedition against Cuba. On July 22, he was wounded leading an attack on a Spanish outpost.
In 1764 he transferred to the 93rd Regiment of Foot.
Governor of Quebec
On April 7, 1766, he was named acting Lieutenant Governor and Administrator of Quebec with James Murray officially in charge. He arrived in Quebec on September 22, 1766. Carleton had no experience in public affairs and his appointment is hard to explain. The Duke of Richmond had in 1766 been made Secretary of State for the North American colonies and fourteen years earlier Carleton had been the Duke’s tutor. The Duke was also the colonel of the 72nd Regiment of Foot while Carleton was its Lieutenant Colonel. He was also appointed commander-in-chief of all troops stationed in Quebec.
The government consisted of a Governor, a council, and an assembly. The governor could veto any action of the council, but also London had given Carleton instructions that all of this actions required the approval of the council.
The officials of the province at this time did not receive a salary and received their income through fees they charged for their services. Carleton tried to replace this system with a system in which the officials instead received a salary, but this position was never supported in London. When Carleton renounced his own fees, James Murray was furious.
After James Murray resigned his position, Carleton was appointed Captain General and Governor in Chief on April 12, 1768. Carleton took the oath of office on November 1, 1768. On August 9, 1770 he sailed for England for what he thought was for a few months. During his absence Hector Theophilus de Cramahé was the lieutenant governor of the province.
He married Maria Howard, daughter of the second Earl of Effingham, who was twenty-nine years his junior, on May 22, 1772. He was promoted to Major-General in May 25, 1772. The Quebec Act of 1774 was based upon Carleton’s recommendations. The French in Quebec approved of this act, while the English in Quebec were opposed. The Continental Congress sent letters to Montreal denouncing the act for being undemocratic and for making Catholicism legal. John Brown, an agent for the Boston Committee of Correspondence, arrived in Montreal to persuade the inhabitants to revolt.
Carleton arrived back in Quebec on September 18, 1774.
Carleton received notice of the start of the rebellion in May 1775, soon followed by the news of the rebel capture of Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga. He had previously sent two of his regiments to Boston and he had only about eight hundred regular soldiers left in Quebec. His attempts to raise a militia failed, as neither the French nor the English were willing to join. The Indians were willing to fight on the British side, and London wanted them to fight, but Carleton turned their offer down because he was worried about the Indians attacking non-combatants.
In 1775 he repelled the American attack on Quebec. Later, he drove the Americans past Trois-Rivières. In June 1776, he was appointed a Knight of the Bath. The next month he commanded British naval forces on the Richelieu River, culminating in the Battle of Valcour Island in October of that year against an American fleet led by General Benedict Arnold that featured galleys. The British, with a vastly superior fleet, were victorious, eliminating most of the American fleet. His brother, Thomas Carleton, and nephew, Christopher Carleton, both served on his staff during the campaign.
On July 1, 1777, Carleton resigned his post as Governor, but London required him to remain in his post until June 1778 when his replacement, Frederick Haldimand, had arrived. Carleton then left for England, where he had been appointed governor of Charlemont in Ireland. One of Haldimand’s first acts was to have Buck Island in the St. Lawrence River fortified and renamed Carleton Island. After the Battle of Yorktown and the capitulation of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781, Sir Guy Carleton was appointed Commander-in-Chief, North America on February 22, 1782, and he arrived in New York City on May 6, 1782, succeeding Sir Henry Clinton.
In August, Carleton was informed that Britain would grant the United States its independence. Carleton asked to be relieved from his command. With this news, there came an exodus of Loyalists from the Thirteen Colonies. Carleton did his best to have them resettled outside the United States. He also resettled former slaves against the objections of the Americans who wanted all former slaves returned. In all, he resettled about 30,000. On November 28, the evacuation ended, and Carleton returned to England.
In 1783, John Campbell of Strachur succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief, North America.
Quote: ‘Remain on duty until every man, woman and child who wanted to leave the United States is safely moved to British soil.’
After War Years
He recommended the creation of a position of Governor General of all the provinces in British North America. Instead he was appointed Governor-in-chief and positions as Governor of Quebec, Governor of New Brunswick, Governor of Nova Scotia, and Governor of Prince Edward Island. He arrived in Quebec on October 23, 1786. His position as Governor-in-chief was mostly ignored and he only was the governor of the other provinces while he was in them.
He was raised to the Peerage in August 1786 as Lord Dorchester, Baron of Dorchester in the County of Oxford.
The Constitutional Act of 1791 split Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada, with Sir Alured Clarke the lieutenant governor of Lower Canada and John Graves Simcoe the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. In August 1791 Carleton left for England and on February 7, 1792 took his seat in the House of Lords. He left for Canada again on August 18, 1793.
His replacement, Robert Prescott arrived in May 1796 and on July 9, 1796 Carleton sailed from Canada to England never to return.
He lived mostly at Greywell Hill, adjoining Nately Scures, in Hampshire and after about 1805 Stubbings House at Burchett’s Green, near Maidenhead, in Berkshire. On November 10, 1808, he died suddenly at Stubbings and was buried in Nately Scures parish church.
Carleton University in Ottawa
Dorchester Boulevard, a major thoroughfare in Montreal; and Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal.
rue Dorchester, a thoroughfare in Quebec City.
Carleton County, New Brunswick
Guysborough County, Nova Scotia.
Guy’s Restaurant in his birthplace of Strabane is also named after Guy Carleton. The restaurant was formerly known as the Carleton Club.
Lord Dorchester High School in Dorchester Ontario
Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa
Carleton Island near the Royal Military College of Canada. Ontario Governor John Graves Simcoe named the Wolfe island in General James Wolfe’s honour in 1792. The surrounding islands bear the names of Wolfe’s generals: Howe, Carleton, Amherst and Gage (now Simcoe).