Manifesto of the St. John the Baptiste Society of Quebec for a National Convention of French Canadians in Quebec City on June 24, 1880
The St. John the Baptiste Society of Quebec is preparing to celebrate our national holiday, next June 24, with an unaccustomed splendour. Yielding to the desire expressed by a great number of its most devoted members, the Society has taken steps to carry out a project which, for a long time, has been the subject of our discussions: that of uniting here in Quebec City a Convention of all the French-Canadian national societies, dispersed not only in the Province of Quebec, and all the Dominion of Canada, but as far as the most distant parts of the United States.
The administration committee of the St. John the Baptiste Society of Quebec, believes its must attract the attention of all our fellow-citizens of French origin on the importance and the need for such a demonstration, and on the high considerations which must commit us to endeavour to make it a success. Let us first point out the origin of our society, and the objective of its founders.
It was in 1834, at the highest moment in the struggle our fathers were putting up to conquer for us the benefits of responsible government, and our legitimate share of influence in policy making, the distribution of public money and employments, struggle which was to end in the events of 1837-1838. Never before had we needed more union and concord, and never also was it more required of us to show that we had on our side both the law and the number. It is at this critical time in our history that our compatriots, inspired by the memories of the French dominion and the merry traditions of St. John the Baptiste Day, celebrated in the past by our forefathers, chose, in a common agreement, Saint John the Baptiste as our patron, and celebrated for the first time in Montreal, on June 24, 1834, the feast of St. John the Baptiste. From this day one can say that St. John the Baptiste was publicly recognized as the patron of our nationality, and of this day also goes back the foundation of our national society.
To unite the French Canadians in order to give them the strength needed to defend and promote their dearest interests, such was the patriotic thought which determined the establishment of the St. John the Baptiste Society, in Montreal, in 1834, in Quebec in 1842, and everywhere it was established since.
To convince us of this, it is sufficient to read the second article of the constitution of the St. John the Baptiste Society of Quebec.
The goal of the St. John the Baptiste Society is, by means of a regular and permanent organization:
To unite the Canadians of all ranks;
To have them meet together, better know each other, and by this appreciate each other more and more;
To promote, by all the legal and legitimate means, the national, scientific, industrial and social interests of the mass of the population of the country in general, and of this city in particular ......
To engage, finally, those who will be a part of it, to mutually practise all that confraternity, philanthropy and national honour prescribe to the children of the same fatherland.
As can be seen, the plan of the founders of the St. John the Baptiste Society, however simple it may appear to be, is susceptible of splendid developments; also, without ever ceasing to be, for all our compatriots, a rallying point, our Society has exerted its influence and its activity in the most different forms and in the most varied spheres. But almost always it has hold on to the honour of manifesting its existence and its vitality each year by celebrating, on June 24, the feast of its glorious patron, by more or less enthusiastic displays, but which never failed to have repercussions. Like all human institutions, the St. John the Baptiste Society had its good days and its bad days; but it triumphed over difficulties and obstacles, and those who were faithful to it, in its tests as in its more beautiful triumphs, nobly proved the utility of its mission. No! the St. John the Baptiste Society was not an ephemeral enterprise inspired by yesterday's events to ward off the eventualities of tomorrow.
No such things entered the thoughts of the founders of this patriotic association. On the contrary, they laid down their work on broad and solid bases; and as far as one looks in the future, one cannot not see that their successors will soon be able to entirely carry out the plans of their precursors. In working to achieve the goal suggested, they will never have to complain that the work to be achieved does not offer enough tasks to their activity and their zeal.
And what better argument could we bring in the support of our thesis than this irresistible momentum with which our entire people aligned under the banners of the St. John the Baptiste Society, everywhere they were raised? As of its origin our Society, so to speak, seized the masses and kept among them a popularity that nothing could shatter. If sometimes it has met with indifference in certain parts, it always had the people as a devoted partisan, people who has been the faithful guard of the language, and the traditions, which are preserved and transmitted better than elsewhere around the humblest dwellings.
It is why the feast of June 24 became, in the mind our population, one of these solemnities which mark the passing of time and which one feels it is a pleasure, a duty, an an honour to celebrate. Everywhere a more or less numerous group of French Canadians is found, — almost always have we seen the formation of a St. John the Baptiste Society based on our model, and June 24 celebrated as a national holiday.
But the works of the St. John the Baptiste Society should not be be confused with the annual celebration of June 24, which is done under its auspices, and which is but the external demonstration of its existence. The end which the St. John the Baptiste Society works for does not only consist in parading in the streets, with more or less of pump, huge crowds that will form in procession, and, to the sound of merry brass bands, standards and banners deployed, will devote themselves to noisy demonstrations of their patriotism, only to satisfy their personal vanity or their national pride. For true patriots, this feast has a very different significance.