Three cheers for Wolfe, one for Montcalm
September 13 of 1759 is a day to be… um… can we change the subject here? Like right now. You see, it was a pivotal victory for liberty in Canada, the preservation of a long heritage of freedom and its extension to people who have benefited immensely from its blessings. It was also significant to world history for evicting absolutism from North America.
Why aren’t we clapping? Oh yeah. That Quebec thing again. Because of course I’m talking about the victory on the Plains of Abraham, a brief affair in itself, about 15 minutes, in which a bold stroke by James Wolfe coupled with bad luck and dubious decisions by Montcalm ended a three-month siege with pivotal strategic consequences in the boringly named “Seven Years’ War.” It is a pity that Wolfe was killed securing this victory; he might well have gone on to further greatness had he lived. (Indeed one Col. William Howe, who distinguished himself by leading 24 volunteers up the slope to capture the only defenders in position on the Plains, later became commander in chief of British forces during the American Revolution.)
Now in fairness it should be said that Montcalm was an excellent general who had previously given the British fits including capturing Fort William Henry in 1757. I am sorry that he died of a wound incurred in the battle and I wish to give him full credit as a brave, intelligent man. But to give him his due does not require me to regret his defeat.
It was good for Canada and the world that Britain prevailed in the Seven Years’ War. It was even good for the inhabitants of New France, who escaped first French absolutism then the madness of the French Revolution. Quebec would not be the dynamic, prosperous, populous place it is today without the blessings of British liberty, as many Quebec statesmen understood in days of yore. That we should have sunk to the level that a francophone Canadian prime minister could regret not being there to awaken and warn Montcalm, and that reenactments of the battle on its 150th anniversary had to be cancelled, is a sign not of sophistication and sensitivity but of groveling witlessness.
Hooray for the Plains of Abraham and Wolfe the dauntless hero.