Answer to A Warning to Belfast
Letter to the Editor
Sir, — I have read with much interest Professor Goldwin Smith's letter entitled "A Warning to Belfast" which appeared in a recent issue of The Times. Having lately returned from Canada after a residence there of 15 years, I know something of the country and am able to bear witness to the truth of every statement made regarding the French population of the province of Quebec by the learned Professor in his letter. There is a remarkable similarity in character and habits between the French of Quebec and the Celtic Irish. Both are alike bigoted Roman Catholics and are equally ignorant, superstitious, and priest-ridden. They are both alike aggressive in their temper and are similarly animated by hostility to England and hatred to Protestantism. Both are clannish in their habits and have a similarly low standard of comfort. Both races possess extraordinary fecundity and multiply more rapidly than the Anglo-Saxons. Like the Irish of the colonies and the United States, the French-Canadians are inveterate politicians and office-seekers, and are utterly unscrupulous as to the means by which they may obtain power or place. Even in their virtues they are alike, in the gaiety of their temper and their love of music, song, and dance. Such being the similarity of the two races, we are perfectly justified in looking to Quebec, as it is under French-Canadian rule, for a counterpart of what Ireland would be under Home Rule. The priest there is supreme, the education and intelligence of the masses at the lowest notch, and the Protestant element in the population, as Professor Goldwin Smith says, is being rapidly eliminated. In any rural district in Quebec, where the Protestants are in a minority, they speedily discover that they cannot continue to live there. The public schools are under the control of the majority, who are themselves the slaves of the priests, and are so conducted that it is impossible for Protestants to send their children to them. They must either support separate schools or, if unable, because too few, to do that, must go without schools. The local taxation is also controlled by the majority, and the Protestant minority finds itself taxed without having any voice in the matter or control of the money. In order to assist in the good work of getting rid of the Protestant element in the population the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec, which is very wealthy, has established a fund from which advances are made to French-Canadians who purchase the lands of their Protestant neighbours. If a French-Canadian who proposes to buy the farm of a Protestant has one-fourth or even less than one-fourth of the price, he will get the remaining three-fourths of the money or more from the fund in question through his parish priest. The Church then takes a lien on the farm for the repayment of the advance with interest. The piece of land thus purchased at once becomes tributary to the parish priest in the matter of tithes, and its new owners is doubly the slave of the Church — first for conscience' sake; secondly as its debtor. He is, in truth, a veritable serf till the money he borrowed has been paid back; and as its serf must vote as the Church directs. Protestants, on their part, when they find themselves surrounded and outnumbered by uncongenial and often unfriendly neighbours, are willing enough to sell and go West, generally to Uncle Sam's domains. Thus the process of getting rid of the Protestant and Anglo-Saxon element in the rural population of Quebec proceeds from year to year with accelerated speed; and the final consummation, the total extirpation of Protestantism in all the country districts of the province, cannot now be long delayed. It cannot, of course, be so easily expelled from Montreal and other commercial and manufacturing centres, but even in them it will be difficult for it to hold its own where the rural districts have all been thoroughly Romanized.
Would not a similar state of things be established in Ireland under Home Rule? Would not the Roman Catholic priests be the true rulers of the land, no matter who might be its nominal ones? Would not the Protestant element in the population of the rural districts here where they were in a minority be soon made as uncomfortable as the rural Protestants of Quebec are to-day under similar circumstances, and, like them, be compelled to emigrate? And with them would surely go the prosperity of Ulster and Belfast, its capital. With the Protestant gone or almost gone from Ireland, where would England's security be for the permanency of her power here? One wonders at the infatuation of Mr. Gladstone and those English and Scotch Protestant Liberals who follow him in his suicidal policy. They would promote Liberalism by making Ultramontanism paramount in Ireland, and strengthen England by making her bitterest enemies — the bitter enemies of Protestantism — its exclusive owners and rulers. History can have but one judgement for such conduct, that it is treason alike to England, to Protestantism, and to true Liberalism.
Samuel Clarke, C.E.
- A Warning to Belfast, the original text to which this letter is referring.
This is a letter to the editor of The Times newspaper of London (October 8, 1888, p.13), from The Times Digital Archive available at the Gales Databases website, in turn available with a membership of the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec.
|This text is in the public domain worldwide either because its author died at least 100 years ago or because it was published by a public body. Translations published later may still be copyrighted.|