French Canadian Ingratitude and Disloyalty

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French Canadian Ingratitude and Disloyalty
September 15, 1860 (date of reprint)

Transcripted by Benoît Rheault from:

The New York Times (reprint of Times editorial)

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

There is a peculiar aspect of English colonization in which it is not frequently regarded. India is not a colony at all, but, properly speaking, a subject Empire. Australia has nothing in it of a subject Empire, but is a colony settled purely by persons of the same race and living under the same laws as ourselves. But there is yet another type of colony, of which the Mauritius, the Cape Colony, and Canada are specimens. Here the English are the conquering race, and another people of the same European family sit down close behind them. In no case has it been found that those who colonized the land before us were able to compete successfully with the English settler. We have asserted the superiority as much in the arts of industry as in arms; and, with the single exception of the vast territories which now form the United States, have never lost by violence a colony which we have once obtained. We may say more. We believe that we have, upon the whole, treated the European races that fell under our power with a mildness and a justice quite unexampled in the history of conquering States.

We cannot select a better instance than is afforded at this moment by the colony of Lower Canada. We have held that province now exactly a hundred years. It was acquired by conquest, and consequently the Crown had the power, by virtue of its prerogative, of making whatever changes it thought fit in the laws and the constitution of the territory. We found it, like all the other possessions of France, under an absolute Government, with laws and customs in many respects very dissimilar from our own, strongly attached to the Roman Catholic religion, and with little disposition to adopt any improvement, either in legislation or administration. If we have erred in our treatment of this foreign population, it has been on the side of mildness and indulgence. They have long possessed representative institutions equal to our own, complete freedom of the Press and personal security from arrests and domiciliary visits, and therefore enormously superior to anything that they enjoyed since their separation. The desolating whirlwind of the Revolution has swept over France, and levelled with the dust not only the castle of the nobleman, but those splendid religious establishments, the monuments of the piety and benevolence of former ages. So effectually have the laws and customs of the ancient régime been swept away, that it is a matter of considerable antiquarian research to reproduce the state of society and law which existed under Louis XIV. and his two successors; indeed, if any one wants to form an idea of old France, he must not look to the France of to-day, which dates everything from the Assembly of the States-General, but he must cross the Atlantic, and contemplate the manner in which these things are preserved in Lower Canada, like a fly in amber. We have been so anxious not to wound the prejudices of our fellow-subjects of the French race that we have forborne from forcing upon them the improvements in their laws which seem necessary, but which they regard with aversion. We have allowed their feudal tenures to die out quietly; we have respected their language so much that in a colony, a majority of the inhabitants of which are of the English race, we suffer both languages to be spoken and the statutes to be promulgated both in English and French. Let any one visit Quebec, and he will find it filled with convents and religious establishments, which have been protected under the rule of Protestant England from the fate which has overtaken the religious foundations of Roman Catholic France. In our hands the Roman Catholic Church has lost nothing; her rights, her privileges, her dignities, her property, are entire. We have carried our anxiety to please so far that each province possesses not only its separate laws and language, but distinct law officers and courts of justice. In fact, we are unable to point out any single grievance under which Lower Canada can even pretend that she suffers, unless it be that she now remains, as she was a hundred years ago, a dependency of the British crown. Some three-and-twenty years ago Lower Canada rose in rebellion. The outbreak was easily quelled, and the offenders, upon the whole, were treated with clemency. If Lower Canada still remains French in feelings and institutions, it is because she has had the support of Great Britain. Had she been left to herself, she could scarcely have failed to be absorbed either by the English colonies on her west of the United States on her south.

If we were, then, to select any country on the face of the earth which has more reason than another to feel grateful to Great Britain for uniform care, kindness and consideration, the country we should select would be Lower Canada. Confiding in the good feeling which we are conscious we deserve, the Queen has sent her heir-apparent of the Crown of the British Empire to honor with his presence the inauguration of a magnificent bridge, constructed almost entirely with British capital — not the least of the many advantages which Lower Canada has reaped from her connection with Great Britain — by which the capital of the French province will be brought into communication with the trade of the United States. It was not unreasonable to suppose that such a compliment, shown to a people whose good we will have done so much to conciliate, would call forth corresponding expressions of loyalty and affection. We do not say that this will not be the case, but we confess that it is with great regret we have read certain proceedings in the Town Council of Montreal, which we publish elsewhere, and which clearly show that amid the populace and a portion of the municipality of that city very different sentiments prevail. The occasion for the demonstration to which we allude was a proposition which was brought before the City Council of Montreal for altering the name of a square from Commissioner-square to Victoria-square. This opportunity was taken by certain members of the Council, vigorously seconded by the cheers of the audience, to level the vilest abuse against the English, to denounce their tyranny and oppression, and to declare that enough honor had been done to the name of Victoria without giving it to one of their squares. Another grievance was that a monument had been erected to Lord Nelson in the square that bears the name of Jacques Cartier, the original founder of Canada, and loud declarations were made that the descendants of the greatest nation on the globe would never be put down by the English, the accursed race, or by the Irish vagabonds who were vomited on their shores.

It certainly will be very much to be regretted if the same mob which thirteen years ago burned down the Parliament House of Montreal * should, under such leaders as the men who got up this scene, do anything to mar the unanimity of loyalty and good feeling with which we not unreasonably hoped that the visit of the Prince of Wales to the city of Montreal would have been received. But further than the opportunity which a perhaps too generous confidence has given for such a demonstration, the matter is not of the slightest moment. We are by long experience hardened to any amount of ingratitude. We have protected some nations in their own country, and they turn upon us with the most furious and unprovoked hatred. We have made our own island an asylum for all the fugitives and oppressed of the earth, and what reward have we ever received except the bitterest hatred and animosity? When we consider the feelings with which England is regard by the senior, and we may add by the junior branch of the Bourbons, we have no reason to be surprised at this outbreak of impotent malignity and ingratitude on the part of a portion of the habitans of Canada. We pampered our Indian army; and it rose in unprovoked and murderous insurrection. We have striven to conciliate the Ionian Islands, and they suspend their debates for the purpose of giving utterance to the hatred with which they repay our benefits. We fought for Spain, and she denies our services, insults our religion and repudiates her debts. Why, then, should we be surprised that this little people, whose very existence is owing to our kindness, our forbearance, and our protection, should, in its turn, lift its unarmed heel against us. It is the privilege of a great country to confer many benefits, but he who confers many benefits must expect a corresponding amount of ingratitude and hatred.

See also

  • French Canadianism, an article in which the New York Times' states its reaction to this editorial.


*: Those who burned the parliament were not French Canadians but rather English Canadians angry at a bill drafted to financially redress some of the wrongs inflicted upon innocent citizens during the Patriotes Rebellion.

1. This is a letter from The Times newspaper of London as reprinted by The New York Times (September 15, 1860, p.1), available at the New York Times archives.

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