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The French-Canadian; a sketch of his more prominent characteristics online

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and in freeing them from the despotism of an
avaricious and ruthless oligarchy, she can de-
pend upon the sons of Canada, the King's
loyal Canadian subjects, to flock to her stan-
dard, to enroll themselves under her banner.
Ay, they are ready to come, they have already
come, alike from the peaceful farm and from
the great centres of trade and commerce, from
lands that are laved by the waves of the Pacific,
from their scattered homes on the treeless
prairie, from the shores of Superior and
Huron, Krie and Ontario, and all along the
banks of the St. L,awrence ; from the bound-
less forests where are heard the reverberations
of the axe that is swung by the stalwart wood-
man, from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and
lonely Labrador , those rugged lands ' that see
the Atlantic wave their morn restore ' known
no longer as Frenchmen or Englishmen, Irish-
men or Scotchmen, Welshmen or Manxmen,
but proud to be known henceforth and forever
as Canadians. We know that this is the name
you have long loved and honoured, we know
you belong to the same race as those brave



men and women whose arduous toils and in-
cessant labours have done so much for the
civilization and development of Canada almost
from the time when Car tier, of unfading
memory, first ' reared the Cross and Crown on
Hochelaga's height ' in the presence of his
faithful companions and a number of ' the
Algonquin braves '; but, see here, from this
time forth we also claim to be known as Can-
adians." And to do our French-Canadian breth-
ren justice, they never question our not al-
together disinterested claim to be called
Canadians and instead of saying ; ' ' What
we have we' 11 hold ' ' they with their kindly
spirit and uniform courtesy, open wide their
arms to welcome us into the great Canadian



What has been said in the last chapter about
the French-Canadian's patrial name naturally
leads us to speak of his love for the land of his
birth, and also to show that this love for Can-
ada does not interfere with, but helps to
strengthen, his loyalty to Britain.

That he should love Canada is not a matter
of surprise ; nay, considering his origin and
temperament, it would be a marvel were it
otherwise. Never can he forget that the land
was discovered by the adventurous Commodore
of St. Malo, the brave and intrepid Cartier ;
and everywhere, whether in town or country,
he finds something to remind him that his an-
cestors were its first European colonists. In
the provincial capital, old Quebec, he here
and there finds himself in a street so nar-
row and irregular, and bearing such marks of
time, that it must have been laid out, one
would say, before ever Scottish Kelt and Eng-



HON. L. T. BRODEUR. I,I<.B., K.C., M.P.,



lish Saxon had made their prowess felt on the
Plains of Abraham. On this side and on that
he sees houses of such strange construction,
such pointed gables, such steep roofs, such
odd-looking windows, and altogether with an
appearance so quaint, that they take him back
almost to the time when the city was founded
by Samuel de Champlain, some seventy years
or so after Francis the First of old France ap-
pointed Jean Frangois de la Roque the first
Viceroy of the territories then comprised under
the names of Canada, Hochelaga, and Sague-
nay. All along the banks of the St. Lawrence
he sees handsome villas, picturesque villages,
and stately cities, almost all of which present
features which tell him in no uncertain tones
that the land of his sires was the first to
bless the country with the religion symbolized
by " the fleur-de-lis and Cross," with the ad-
vanced civilization of the most polite people in
Europe, with their arts and sciences, their en-
terprise and valour. Why, the very names
that daily sound in his ears, the names that
are met with here and there from Fort St.
John to old Frontenac, and much more fre-
quently from Frontenac to Notre Dame


Mountains, are enough, by their associations,
to make him love Canada with an intensity
unknown, and perhaps impossible, to the more
phlegmatic Saxon.

But it is not alone, not even chiefly, because
of associations with the past that he loves the
land of his nativity. No, he loves the very
land itself ; nor is it any wonder, for where
can one find another land of equal grandeur
and beauty ? Oh ! Canada possesses many a
sublime feature and many a lovely scene with
which her children are familiar, and which go
far to justify them in their fond belief that
their native country, which they love so well,
is unsurpassed, if not unequalled, by any other
on the continent. Leaving behind us the
beauties of the Pacific coat, crossing the
mighty mountains of the west and its bound-
less prairies ; passing by the expansive lakes
towards the north, the rugged hills and the
picturesque dales ; with the sound of Niagara
thundering in our ears, and the prismatic
colours of its beautiful bow shining in our
eyes, we sail down the majestic river and find
ourselves on the broad bosom of Ontario.
Gliding through the Lake of a Thousand


Isles, shooting through the Rapids of Machine,
catching a sight of the historic Mount Royal,
and continuing our course over the broad ex-
panse of the splendid river we find ourselves
in the very heart of the province which is
peculiarly the French-Canadian's own where
his own laws prevail, his own language is
spoken, his own religion is protected and as
we gaze upon its many beauties we cannot
wonder that he loves it with all the ardour
and devotion of his affectionate and patriotic
race. L,et us attempt some sort of description
of one or two of those beauties, and then cease
to wonder if, indeed, ever we have wondered
at the French-Canadian's patriotism.

Only a few miles from the provincial capital
we come to the Falls of Montmorenci, that
beautiful cataract with its milk-white waters
glistening in the sunlight as they gracefully
fall over the towering precipice to find their
way to the arms of the mighty St. I/awrence
so that both of them together may seek a home
in the ocean. Though they fall from a much
greater height than those of Niagara, yet,
owing to the comparative smallness of the
stream, the cataract, whilst very charming,


cannot be said to be sublime. The stupendous
volume of water which is ever rolling over
Niagara's heights, and tossing, foaming, and
seething in the river below, fills the mind with
awe, almost with dread ; the picturesque
stream which falls over the heights of Mont-
morenci affords us pleasure and delight.
Niagara is the Homer of waterfalls, their
Ossian ; Montmorenci, their Virgil, their
Wordsworth. Montmorenci is their Pope ;
Niagara their Milton. Grandeur and sub-
limity are the characteristics of the one ; grace
and beauty, those of the other.

We roam through the delightful little park,
close by the Falls of Montmorenci, where the
art of the landscape gardener, supplementing
the beauties so lavishly bestowed by Nature's
generous hand, has called into existence a
terrestrial paradise ' ' for talking age and whis-
pering lovers made ' ' ; and now and then we
catch a glimpse of the wondrous river whose
mighty current gives ' ' its freshness for a
hundred leagues to ocean's briny wave." The
sweet music of the falling waters, the vesper
hymn of the feathered songsters of the grove,
and the soft sighing of the zephyrs through


"the murmuring pines and the hemlocks,"
form a concert more entrancing than the tones
of the harp of Orpheus. All too soon, we
fancy, does the setting sun waft his good-
night kiss to the beautiful Falls as they blush
beneath his ardent gaze ; and as we reluctantly
leave the lovely place, we feel that we are bid-
ding farewell to a scene that will always afford
us happy remembrances, for "a thing of
beauty is a joy forever." But just then an-
other charm presents itself, and we understand
something of what Longfellow must have felt
when he wrote the beautiful lines,

" Silently, one by one,
In the infinite meadows of heaven blossom the lovely

The forget-me-nots of the angels."

But delightful as are the Falls of Montmor-
enci and their surroundings, there is a much
greater variety of scenery in the more exten-
sive prospect which greets the vision as one
stands on that commanding height known as
Dufferin Terrace, just outside the citadel walls
and close by Governor's Gardens -a terrace
which is named after the most clever, elo-
quent and popular statesman that England


ever sent out to be the Governor- General of
Canada, the late Marquis of Dufferin, whose
recent death is lamented wherever the Eng-
lish language is spoken, the greatest British
diplomatist of the nineteenth century, one of a
bright and glorious band of statesmen and
warriors for whom England is indebted to the
sister isle. The scene which presents itself to
view from this magnificent promenade pos-
sesses many a feature here a beauty and
there a sublimity, here a graceful charm and
there a rugged picturesqueness perhaps un-
rivalled, certainly unsurpassed, by any other
landscape on the continent. There, almost
directly before the beholder, the delightful
Island of Orleans, clad in emerald green,
seems to repose in the embrace of the arms of
the parted river. With its shady groves and
purling brooks, its gentle undulations and ro-
mantic dells, the song of the birds amid the
branches of the trees and the ripple of the
waters as they gently lave its romantic shores
indented here and there with many a dear
little cove the isle is simply a land of en-
chantment. How happy are those citizens
who here seek a calm and cool retreat, during






the heat of summer, from the glare and dust
of the city, and from the worries and weari-
ness of the cares of business !

At no great distance the peaceful St. Charles
slowly winds along its sinuous course through
a vale of wondrous beauty and fertility ; and
we think, as we gaze on the lovely scene be-
fore us, of what the poet says of another val-
ley, not more beautiful :

' ' Oh ! sweet is the vale where the Mohawk glides,
On its winding way to the sea."

Here we catch a glimpse of some quiet ham-
let, the tin-covered spire of its modest church
glittering in the brilliant sunlight ; there we
see the simple dwelling of the Canadian farmer
peeping out from beneath the wide-spreading
branches of the umbrageous maple, and we
almost fancy that there comes to us, wafted on
the air, the sweet perfume of the woodbine
and honeysuckle with which its porch is em-
bowered. Surely it is a very fairyland of
beauty, a land which the French-Canadian
loves in the very depths of his heart with a
love jjno less passionate and absorbing than
that which their fathers felt for la belle France,
alike when defeated at Agincourt and when


victorious at Patay. In the distance the
Laurentian Mountains tower towards the sky,
clear and distinct in the brightness of noon-
day, but impressing us with that feeling of
solemnity produced by the sublime as they
darken beneath the shades of evening. We
almost fancy we can see the broad expanse of
L,ake St. John, or hear the sullen roar of the
Saguenay as it madly rushes between rugged
and precipitous banks of stupendous height
dashing, tumbling, struggling, tossing, foam-
ing, roaring, raging, raving, until at length it
mingles its tumultuous waters with those of
the greater but less turbulent St. I/awrence.

As we still stand upon Dufferin Terrace,
and feast our enraptured eyes upon the inspir-
ing scene, we cannot wonder that the French
Canadian loves his native land ; and we are
convinced that throughout the whole Domin-
ion no man of another nationality can be
found who loves Canada with a deeper affec-
tion, or would defend her against invasion
with a better will or greater bravery.

But it must not be supposed that his love
for his country impairs his loyalty to Britain ;
nay, but the contrary, for his love for Canada


binds him closely to that power from which
she has received so many benefits, which has
conferred upon her so many privileges, and
which affords her so many advantages. Yet
it is sometimes said, and oftener hinted, that
he is not true to the Empire. There cannot be
a doubt that many of those by whom this charge
is preferred are honest and conscientious men ;
but, still, they would hardly make such an
accusation if they had had, and had used, op-
portunities of forming a deliberate and well-
matured judgment upon the matter from their
own experience or even from their own obser-
vation. As for the others, those who from
some sinister motive or other unworthy influ-
ence scatter broadcast this accusation of dis-
loyalty, well, they are not particularly noted
for their charity, their magnanimity, their
high ideals of honour, or even for their dis-
criminating sense of the claims of common
justice. But even supposing them to be right
in their opinion, supposing their charge to be
true, they even such people as they might
be expected to know that constantly taunting
men with being disloyal is not the best way to
make them loyal. But would these accusers


of the brethren be pleased to see the French-
Canadian's loyalty proved beyond question?
Would it give them any satisfaction ? Nay,
would they not feel chagrined and mortified ?
One can hardly avoid the belief that they must
be under some malign influence which blinds
them to other people's virtues, some influence
of, let us say, antipathy to people because of
their race, their creed, or their politics an
antipathy which should never be allowed to
prejudice any man, which cannot prejudice
any true man, who desires to take a broad and
intelligent view of any class of his fellow-citi-
zens. At any rate, the writer has no hesita-
tion in saying that his experience warrants
him in coming to the conclusion that the
charge of disloyalty brought against the
French-Canadian, no matter by whom, rests
generally upon no better foundation than im-
perfect information, partial knowledge, unfor-
tunate misapprehension, groundless suspicion,
or unreasonable prejudice. He has lived
amongst the people of Quebec, has met them
in almost every relation of life, and has been
honoured by many of them with what he may
call their confidential intimacy ; and he feels


free to say and he says it gladly that the
better he has known them, the stronger has
become his conviction that no more baseless
notion can be entertained by anyone than that
the French-Canadian is dissatisfied with Bri-
tish institutions or disloyal to British connec-

But was there not some talk about estab-
lishing a French-Canadian republic somewhere
in the north-east part of the Dominion ? Yes,
there was some little talk of that sort ; but,
almost wholly, it was nothing more than the
wild vapouring, the senseless swaggering, of a
few noisy and irresponsible nobodies, receiving
no support, no encouragement, no sympathy
from any man of light and leading or from any
influential business man throughout the whole
province. But what about the movement,
some few years ago, in favour of annexation
to the United States? There was no such
movement ; there was nothing more than
some foolish chatter which, so far from being
taken seriously by any one, served but to ex-
cite the ridicule of almost every person of
prominence in the country. But wait a mo-
ment, good Ontario brother ; just be kind


enough to answer a question in return for the
two or three you have asked. Was there not
in your own loyal province quite as much talk
as in Quebec about this same annexation ?
How many years have elapsed since it was ad-
vocated somewhat covertly at first, but more
openly afterwards in one of the leading daily
papers published in Toronto, the loyal city
par excellence 1 ! Well, are the people of the
Upper Province therefore disloyal ? ' ' Those
who live in glass houses should not throw

It may be relied upon that the true French-
Canadian, the man that loves his creed and his
language, his race and his country, will be
amongst the last to advocate either the estab-
lishment of a republic in Canada or absorption
into the incomparably greater republic that
was set up to the south of us during the last
quarter of the eighteenth century. Yes. he
will be the last man to do anything of that sort.
He knows too well, and prizes too highly, the
advantages he enjoys under England' s benign
sway to desire any change by which he would
become the subject of another power. He has
learned to appreciate his present position too

HON. E. J. FL.YNN, Uv.D., K.C.,





highly to wish to transfer his allegiance to an-
other government ay, though it were even
the Republic of France. He is not oblivious
of the treatment meted out to his Church after
the disastrous campaign of 1870 had brought
to an end the Empire of the Third Napoleon,
when the unbelieving iconoclasts ' ' brake down
all the carved work thereof with axes and
hammers ; ' ' and he remembers that the ven-
erable head of that Church, he who claims to
sit in the Chair of Peter, declared, not so many
years ago, that in no non-Catholic country,
and in but few that were Catholic, did his
people receive such kind and magnanimous
treatment as in Protestant Kngland. Nay,
was it not but yesterday that the French-Can-
adian saw thousands of his co-religionists,
religieux and retigieuse, practically expelled from
France by the passing of the Associations Bill,
but welcomed into British Territory, there
finding an asylum, and there permitted to
carry on those good works of piety and charity
to which they believed themselves called, and
there protected from persecution, and there
receiving at least passive encouragement to
carry out their vocation ; and all this, too,


when, strange to say, they would not be per-
mitted to settle in the Isle of Jersey, which is
inhabited by people of their own race, and
where their own language is spoken ! Time
was, indeed, when no such magnanimity on
the part of England seemed possible ; but
those old days not good old days, but bad old
days are now, let us hope, gone by for ever.
Why, remembering such generous conduct on
the part of England to those poor exiles from
France, to accuse the French-Canadian, the
man who loves his Church as he does, of being
disloyal to Britain is to accuse him of the
vilest treachery and the blackest ingratitude !
True, he clings jealously and tenaciously to
certain privileges peculiar to his people, privi-
leges which he has enjoyed by right of treaty
almost ever since the French monarch ceased to
guide the destinies of Canada, and which, to
some extent, differentiate his position from Lhat
of the other inhabitants of the Dominion, thus,
one would suppose at the first blush, tending
to retard what may be called the unification of
the Canadian people. But why does he hold
fast to those privileges ? Not altogether, per-
haps not even chiefly, for his own sake, and


certainly not because he has any pleasure in
knowing that a line of demarcation a line
that is barely visible, almost only imaginary
is thus drawn between himself and his fel-
low-Canadians of other nationalities. No ;
but because he believes that any attempt to
take those privileges away, to take them away
even by constitutional methods, would be one
of the surest ways of stirring up racial strife,
and would thus interfere with that steady,
gradual, and natural process of unification
which has been going on so satisfactorily ever
since the union of the several provinces into
the one great confederacy of which we are all
so proud to-day. Nor is he altogether blind
to the fact that the abrogation of those privi-
leges would afford an excuse to certain wicked
and restless spirits whether of French or of
some other origin, with which every civilized
land is cursed, those who stupidly imagine
they have nothing to lose and everything to
gain by upsetting the lawfully constituted
authorities under which they live for foment-
ing rebellion, and thus putting back indefi-
nitely, if not making impossible for ever, the
development of Canada by an enlightened and


prosperous people, under British auspices, into
one of the noblest nations the world has ever

It is also true that he does not appear to
take very kindly to what is called Imperial
Federation. Well, the truth is that this,
whether looked at from the racial or the politi-
cal standpoint, is by no means a party ques-
tion in the Lower Province ; and, indeed, the
same thing may be said of every other province
in the Dominion. Men of both races in Que-
bec, and men on both sides of politics from the
Atlantic to the Pacific, are undoubtedly in
favour of it so far as they understand what it
implies, or what they suppose it implies ; and
men of both races in Quebec, and men on both
sides of politics from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, if not positively opposed to it, look
upon it rather askance. Hence a man's stand
as to Imperial Federation, whether favourable
to it or otherwise, has nothing whatever to do
with his appreciation of British institutions or
with his loyalty to the Empire. Fortunate,
too, that it is so ; for up to a comparatively
short time ago this question was regarded by
a good many as a sort of harmless craze with


which some well-meaning people had become
afflicted, or at best as being but academical,
and even now it is not within the range of
practical politics, but is, so to speak, only in
the air, dim, shadowy, and indefinite.

Now, the French-Canadian is naturally, al-
most instinctively, conservative in his notions;
and consequently he is very shy of trying new
methods in any department of life, even the
simplest. Much more shy is he, then, of trying
untried methods in such an important matter
as the government of the country. He is a
firm believer in the wise old saw, ' ' I^et well
enough alone," as well as in the doctrine of
the honest, old-fashioned Tories that a change
which is plainly unnecessary is of necessity a
change for the worse. He is quite satisfied
that Canada is doing admirably under her
present autonomous system of government,
and so he looks with some suspicion upon any
serious modification of that system no matter
by whom proposed. He is therefore quite
content to leave the present satisfactory state
of things just as it is, trusting (and not with-
out reason) that should any important change
in our autonomy become plainly necessary,


or even unquestionably desirable, it will be
effected quietly and peaceably without a
wrench or a jar by the good sense and the
patriotism of the vast majority of the inhabi-
tants of every nationality in the Dominion.
Meantime, it may be relied upon that if such
change or modification involve Imperial Feder-
ation no man will welcome it more heartily
than he, or support it more loyally.

No one, then, need entertain any apprehen-
sion of the French-Canadian's appreciation of
British connection or of his loyalty to the
Throne of England. From the day when
Canada was ceded to England up to the present
year of grace he has proved his loyalty over
and over again whenever the occasion presented
itself. Toward the end of the eighteenth cen-
tury he, a British colonial subject of foreign
extraction, successfully resisted British colon-
ial subjects of English extraction, who, having
revolted from the Mother-land, tried to force

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Online LibraryByron NicholsonThe French-Canadian; a sketch of his more prominent characteristics → online text (page 2 of 7)