French Canadianism

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French Canadianism
September 15, 1860

Transcripted by Benoît Rheault from:

The New York Times



IMPORTANT NOTE: This article shows a number of incorrect and biased statements. It is displayed to give sense of the mindset of the time.

The London Times has given importance to a Montreal municipal dispute,—which only a local paper noticed at the time,—by making it the subject of a leading editorial, and an opportunity for denouncing French Canadian ingratitude. The Times enumerates the benefits that the French population of the Province have derived from British rule ; and they are so far correctly stated that there is probably no dependency of the British Crown more favored at the present day than that of Lower Canada. Every effort has been made to conciliate her people—their national prejudices have been respected, their language has been preserved, and their religion has been placed on a footing of perfect equality with that of the Episcopal establishment. If Lower Canada had remained a French colony, it could not have been as politically free as it is now ; if it had been absorbed by the United States, or by the English colonies that sweep around it, the anomaly of an unprogressive Province in the center of the North American Continent would not be witnesses, nor would a crop of ungenial prejudice be found flourishing in the midst of an Anglo-Saxon empire. In the nature of things French Lower Canadian influence ought long ago to have been swamped ; and it undoubtedly would have been swamped if it had not been for the protecting ægis of the British Rule. Many people, on both sides of the line, imagine that the policy of the British Government in this respect has not proved beneficial to the best interests of Canada, and was not adopted and pursued from purely unselfish motives. The French population in Canada—the most peaceful and contended probably in the world—were once goaded to rebellion, and American sympathy, then displayed in their behalf, opened the eyes of the Home Government to the danger of having a discontented colony lying within the very shadow of the great Republic. Ever since 1838, the fullest liberty has been granted to the French Canadians. They have been allowed and encouraged to retain a nationality of their own, and their religion, especially, has been fostered. They dislike, at present, no people more than they do the Americans. They detest our democratic institutions, and dread nothing so much as an influx of American ideas, which would soon overturn the little idols they have set up to worship.

The remarks of the Montreal Alderman which the Times makes the text of its indignation article, were utterly beneath contempt or notice. The man must have emerged from the dregs of society, if we are to judge him by the vulgarity of his language or the stupidity of his statements. The Times makes a great mistake in supposing that they are indorsed by any section of the French Canadian population. In cities like Quebec and Montreal, where society is mixed, and where most of the citizens of the citizens of French extraction are, so to speak, parvenus, and looked upon as such by their more aristocratic fellow-subjects of English birth, a great deal of jealousy exists. That jealousy would of course be embittered by such an event as the Royal visit, especially if more notice was taken of one party than the other. But it is quite absurd to regard such a feeling as evidence of disloyalty, or even of a passing dissatisfaction with British rule.

The Times makes another great mistake in supposing that such men as the French Alderman referred to were in any way connected with "the mob which thirteen years ago burned down the Parliament House of Montreal." The parties to that memorable riot were all Englishmen ; there was not a French Canadian engaged in it. No one, acquainted with the character of the French Canadians would ever give them credit for the commission of an act of such daring retribution. During a century of subjection to foreign rule, and two centuries of isolation from the parent country, they have lost many of those great qualities which distinguish the Frenchman of the present day. During the rebellion of 1838, the righteousness of which was fully recognized and admitted by the British Government when it heaped honors on the ringleaders, and recompensed them for their losses ; during that outbreak the flickering spirit of French-Canadian independence was trampled forever. The little energy the people displayed then they will never display again. When the day comes for Canada's separation from the British Crown, it will be effected, whether in peace or in war, by men of Anglo-Saxon descent. There is more danger to the integrity of the British-American Empire in the late Orange displays of Toronto and Kingston than in any quantity of such pettish tirades and vulgarities as those so bitterly denounced by the leading organ of English public opinion.

See also

Note

This is an article from The New York Times (September 15, 1860, p.4), available in the New York Times archives.


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