La Saint-Jean-Baptiste & Canada Day


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William Lyon Mackenzie’s house on Bond Street in downtown Toronto.

Canada’s National Holiday

On Wednesday, July 1st, Canadians celebrated their National Holiday. As for the citizens of Quebec, they celebrated their National Holiday on 24 June which is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, the former Saint-Jean. The date on which Saint-Jean-Baptiste is celebrated is on or near the summer solstice or Midsummer Day, the longest day of the year. This year, the summer solstice occurred on the 22 June.

Midsummer Dance by Anders Zorn, 1897 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Midsummer Dance by Anders Zorn, 1897 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for Canada Day, it is celebrated on the anniversary of Confederation, the day Canada became a Dominion of Great Britain: 1st July 1867. I have written posts telling the story of Confederation and have listed them at the foot of this post.

Although the people of Quebec do not celebrate Canada day, the province of Quebec was one of the four initial signatories of the British North America Act. Quebec’s Premier was George-Étienne Cartier, named after George III, hence the English spelling of George, i.e. no final ‘s’. The other three provinces to join Confederation on 1st July 1867 were Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The Discrepancy: Quebec and Ottawa

As you know, a large number of Québécois are nationalists and many advocate the separation, to a lesser or greater extent, of the Province of Quebec from the remainder of Canada. This explains why Quebec, one of the first four signatories of the British North America Act, does not observe Canada Day.

It could be argued that the province of Quebec was Lower Canada risen from its ashes, land apportioned by Britain itself, under the terms of the Constitutional Act of 1791, to the descendants of the citizens of New France defeated by British forces on 13 September 1759 at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.* The battle had claimed the life of both its commanding officers: Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, aged 47, and  General James Wolfe, aged 32, but it had lasted a mere fifteen minutes. 

*The Battle of the Plains of Abraham is thus called, i.e. Abraham, because it was fought on land belonging to Abraham Martin.  

The Greater Loss to Quebecers 

  • 1759, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham
  • 1840, the union of Upper and Lower Canada

Of the two, first, the loss of Lower Canada’s motherland, ceded to Britain in 1763, and, second, the Act of Union of 1841 which followed the Rebellions of 1837-1838, the greater loss may well be the loss of Lower Canada. One cannot know the fate awaiting Nouvelle-France had France won the Seven Years’ War (1856-1763), called the French and Indian War in North America. Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, France chose to keep its sugar-rich Caribbean colonies, as well as the islands of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland. 

However, Quebec had been granted a period of grace after the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763. The citizens of the former New France knew they had become a colony of Britain, but they had yet to feel the full impact of their condition as British subjects.

A Reprieve

  • the Treaty of Paris
  • the Quebec Act of 1774
  • the Constitutional Act of 1791
  • betrayal

There had been a reprieve. First, France negotiated the cession of Nouvelle-France. Britain would not deprive its new subjects of their language, their religion, their property and their seigneuries. It didn’t. Second, by virtue of the Quebec Act of 1774, the citizens of the former New France had become full-fledged citizens of a British Canada. Third, less than two decades after the Quebec Act of 1774, 17 years to be precise, the Constitutional Act of 1791 had divided the vast province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada.

Whatever its purpose, the Constitutional Act of 1791 created Lower Canada and, in the eyes of Canadiens, Lower Canada was their country, or terroir, which they were now losing. Therefore, if one takes into account the loss of Lower Canada and the determination to assimilate Canadiens, the Act of Union of 1841 was betrayal on the part of Britain, not Upper Canada.

(Courtesy The Canadian Encyclopedia)
(Charles William Jefferys)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia [2])

Twin Rebellions

  • similar motivation
  • Mackenzie and Papineau as allies
  • patriots and  patriotes

The Rebellions of 1837 and 1838 occurred in both Canadas: Upper and Lower Canada. These could be perceived as twin rebellions orchestrated by Louis-Joseph Papineau (7 Oct 1786 – 25 Sept 1871), in Lower Canada, and William Lyon Mackenzie (12 March 1795 [Scotland]-28 August 1864 [Toronto]), in Upper Canada.

However, Papineau and William Lyon Mackenzie were not fighting against one another. Both Papineau and Mackenzie were “patriots” and allies. Their common  motivation was to be granted a responsible government and, consequently, greater democracy.

Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the citizens of Upper Canada were English-speaking Canadians living on British soil. As for the citizens of Lower Canada, they were a conquered people, former French subjects, living on British soil and realizing that they had been conquered. Not all of Lower Canada’s rebels were Canadiens. One was Dr Wolfred Nelson (10 July 1791 – 17 June 1863), a patriote and a future Mayor of Montreal.[1]

The majority however were descendants of the citizens of a defeated Nouvelle-France. In short, the rebels of Upper Canada differed from the rebels of Lower Canada. The patriots and the patriotes were not on an equal footing, so it is somewhat difficult to speak of the rebellions as twin rebellions. They weren’t, at least not entirely and not according to a reality of the mind.

The Rebellions in Lower Canada

  • different intensity
  • repressive measures, harsher

There were two rebellions in Lower Canada. The first took place in 1837 and the second, in 1838. The rebellions in Lower Canada were more intensive than their equivalent in Upper Canada.[2] There were six battles in Lower Canada. Repressive measures were therefore much harsher:

“[b]etween the two uprisings [in Lower Canada], 99 captured militants were condemned to death but only 12 went to the gallows, while 58 were transported to the penal colony of Australia. In total the six battles of both campaigns left 325 dead, 27 of them soldiers and the rest rebels. Thirteen men were executed (one by the rebels), one was murdered, one committed suicide, and two prisoners were shot.” (Peter Buckner, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)

Most importantly, as we will see below, Lord Durham had recommended the assimilation of Canadiens, which was devastating to the people of Lower Canada. In Upper Canada, three men were hanged and William Lyon Mackenzie fled to the United States. He lived in New York until he was pardoned in 1849. Louis-Joseph Papineau also fled to the United States and then sailed to France. As for Dr Wolfred Nelson, he was unable to flee and was exiled to Bermuda. It was a brief period of exile.


Clearly, for the former citizens of Lower Canada, the Act of Union of 1840-1841 was dispossession. During the years that preceded the Rebellions, it had occurred to Louis-Joseph Papineau, the leader of the Parti canadien, that Lower Canada should seek independence from Britain. Britain had helped itself to the vaults of its North American colony, Upper and Lower Canada. But although Nouvelle-France had been ceded to Britain, by virtue of the Constitutional Act of 1791, Lower Canada belonged to Britain’s French-speaking subjects. 

Lord Durham

Lord Durham (Courtesy The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Lord Durham’s Report

  • an ethnic conflict
  • a United Province of Canada
  • the assimilation of French-speaking Canadians
  • a responsible government
  • Tocqueville: a nation

It should be pointed out that  in the Report John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham  submitted after he investigated the rebellions in the two Canadas, he concluded that the Rebellions were an ethnic conflict, which is not altogether true nor altogether false. The rebellions were a quest for responsible government which Lord Durham himself proposed in his Report. The motivation was the same in  both Canadas: responsible government.

However, in his Report, Lord Durham proposed the Union of both Canadas, but he also recommended the assimilation of French-speaking Canadians whom he viewed as a people possessing “neither a  history nor a literature.” Never were French-speaking Canadians so offended! The Act of Union of 1841 created a United Province of Canada.

Moreover, the United Province of Canada was created, the land apportioned English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians made French-speaking Canadians a minority. It should also be noted that the United Province of Canada  was not granted a responsible government, which had been one of Lord Durham’s recommendations.

The time had come for both Canadas, now united, to be mostly self-governed. During a trip to Lower Canada, Alexis de Tocqueville noticed and noted that the French in Lower Canada had become what I would call a nation, but a conquered nation that had yet to enter the Industrial Age and whose people had not acquired the skills they required to leave their farms, or thirty acres, trente arpents, the acreage provided to the settlers of Nouvelle-France.

Alexis de Tocqueville in Lower Canada

  • a nation, but a nation conquered

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville (29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859) and Gustave de Beaumont (16 February 1802 – 30 March 1866) took a little time off from their duties in the United States, to visit the inhabitants of France’s former colony, believing they had become British, which was not the case. Their language, religion, land and seigneuries had not been not been taken away from French-speaking Canadians. They were  a nation, albeit a conquered nation.

Canadiens wanted news of “la vieille France,” old France, but there was no “vieille France,” not after the French Revolution. What was left of vieille France, Tocqueville and Beaumont found in Lower Canada. According to Tocqueville, the villain in the loss of New France was Louis XV of France. Louis XV had abandoned France’s colony in North America.

It is astonishing that, in 1831, a few years before the Rebellions and during a brief visit to Lower Canada, Tocqueville should express the opinion that the “greatest and most irreversible misfortune that can befall a people is to be conquered:”

Je n’ai jamais été plus convaincu qu’en sortant [de ce tribunal] que le plus grand et le plus irrémédiable malheur pour un peuple c’est d’être conquis.


The above is significant. In the wake of the Acte d’Union, Antoine Gérin-Lajoie‘s wrote his plaintive “Un Canadien errant,” dated 1842. Moreover, as mentioned above, French-speaking Canadians had begun creating a “literary homeland,” (la Patrie littéraire) the name given to the  period of French-Canadian literature during which  a substantial number of historical and literary works were written. French-speaking Canadiens had set about proving Lord Durham wrong, which they would do successfully.


Baldwin and Lafontaine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert Baldwyn and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine

  • Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine

Matters would nevertheless be redressed. In 1842, shortly after the Act of Union was passed (1840-1841) Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine (4 October 1807 – 26 February 1864) was elected Joint Prime Minister of the United Province of Canada, a position he shared with Robert Baldwin whose jurisdiction was the western portion of the United Province of Canada. The assimilation of Britain’s French-speaking subjects  was killed in the egg.  Finally, although it would not happen immediately, the Baldwin-LaFontaine team would achieve the objective pursued by the rebels of 1837 and 1838, responsible government, which meant greater democracy.

LaFontaine resigned one year after his appointment as Prime Minister because Britain was not delivering on responsible government. However, in 1848, James Bruce, the 8th Earl of Elgin, who had been named governor general of the United Province of Canada in 1846, asked Lafontaine (also spelled LaFontaine) to form a responsible government.

“LaFontaine thus became the first prime minister of Canada in the modern sense of the term. During this second administration, he demonstrated the achievement of responsible government by the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill, despite fierce opposition and violent demonstrations. His ministry also passed an Amnesty Act to forgive the 1837-38 rebels, secularized King’s College into the University of Toronto, incorporated many French Canadian colleges, established Université Laval, adopted important railway legislation and reformed municipal and judicial institutions.” (Sir Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)


So a mere twenty-six (26) years after passage of the Act of Union, Quebec, under the leadership of George-Étienne Cartier, entered Confederation. Sir George-Étienne Cartier asked that Quebec retain its recently-acquired Code civil and that primary education remain compulsory. These requests were granted.

Confederation had the immense benefit of returning to Canadiens their former Lower Canada. They regained a territory or patrimoine (a homeland), however mythical. And they have bestowed on their patrimoine its National Day, la Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

At the last meeting of the Liberal Party of Quebec, Premier Dr Philippe Couillard, stated that Quebec was a patrimoine to Québécois and Canada, their country.

My kindest regards to all you and apologies for being away from my computer and late in every way. Yesterday was Independence Day. Belated wishes to my American readers. Next, I will write about an award.



[1] See Lower Canada Rebellion, Wikipedia.
[2] Ibid.

Canada’s National Anthems


© Micheline Walker
5 July 2015
(revised 6 July 2015)

Marie: the Words to a Love Song


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Dancer with Rose by Marie Laurencin (Photo credit:

I have translated “Marie,” mostly literally, a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire (26 August 1880 – 9 November 1918) set to music by singer-songwriter Léo Ferré. Marie is Marie Laurencin (31 October 1883 – 8 June 1956), an “avant-garde” artist and advocate of Cubism, but not a follower of the movement. However, she was a moderniste. Marie’s paintings are relatively easy to identify. Her style is quite unique.

Marie Laurencin was acquainted with a large number of artists, literary figures, and persons associated with Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes, one of whom was a young Pablo Picasso. She also attended the salons of wealthy United States expatriates who made Paris their base and helped propel to fame and sometimes to wealth artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque.

Wealthy American Gertrude Stein and her companion, Alice B. Toklas, had a salon at 27, rue de Fleurus. Other American expatriates and salonnières were Claribel and Etta Cone. Marie Laurencin knew famed lesbian writer Natalie Clifford Barney, who had a salon, 20, rue Jacob, and died in Paris. Many American mécènes (patrons) left their Paris quarters when World War II broke out, dooming Jews, homosexuals and those who were “different.”

Celebrated artist Marie Laurencin was very different. Marie was married to German Baron Otto von Waëtjen from 1814 until 1820, but she was romantically involved with revered and now legendary poet Guillaume Apollinaire, born Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki. Apollinaire was wounded during World War I and died two years later. He was a victim of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, a flu akin to the Swine flu of 1976, but as merciless as the plague.



1) Vous y dansiez petite fille
Y danserez-vous mère-grand
C’est la maclotte qui sautille (maclotte is a old dance)
Toutes les cloches sonneront
Quand donc reviendrez-vous Marie

This is where you danced as a little girl/ Will you dance there as a grandmother/
This is maclotte (an old dance) hopping about/ All the bells will ring/
So when will you come back Marie

2) Les masques sont silencieux
Et la musique est si lointaine
Qu’elle semble venir des cieux
Oui je veux vous aimer mais vous aimer à peine
Et mon mal est délicieux

The masks are silent/ And the music so distant/
That it seems descended from heaven/ Yes I want to love you, but love you barely/
And my disease is delicious

3) Les brebis s’en vont dans la neige (s’en aller = to go away) 
Flocons de laine et ceux d’argent
Des soldats passent et que n’ai-je
Un cœur à moi ce cœur changeant
Changeant et puis encor que sais-je

Sheep wade away in the snow/ Wool flakes and those of silver/
Soldiers pass by and would that I hadA heart of my own, this changing heart/
Changing and then also what do I know

4) Sais-je où s’en iront tes cheveux
Crépus comme mer qui moutonne (from mouton: lamb)
Sais-je où s’en iront tes cheveux
Et tes mains feuilles de l’automne
Que jonchent aussi nos aveux

Do I know where your hair will go/ Frizzy like the foaming sea/
Do I know where your hair will go/ And your hands the leaves of autumn/
Also strewn with our avowals

5) Je passais au bord de la Seine
Un livre ancien sous le bras
Le fleuve est pareil à ma peine
Il s’écoule et ne tarit pas
Quand donc finira la semaine (return to [1])

I was walking along the Seine/ An old book under my arm/
The river is like my pain/ It flows and does not end/
So when will the week be done
(return to [1])

Short comments and Notes

  • In the fourth stanza, I used the word “foaming” to translate moutonner (from sheep, un mouton). (4)
  • In the third stanza, I made the sheep “wade away” in the snow. In the French song, they are simply going away: s’en aller). (3)
  • The imagery used by Apollinaire includes the sheep’s fur and hair: animal, human.
  • The imagery also includes the masques (2), as in a masquerade ball and the commedia dell’arte.   
  • In fact, Marie Laurencin’s “Dancer,” shown above, is dressed like Harlequin, a masque and a stock character in the commedia dell’arte.
  • The word snow (neige) takes us to François Villon‘s “neige d’antan” (Ballade du temps jadis) (3) and to Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Where are the snows of yesteryear?”
  • However, the first character Apollinaire introduces is a little girl, petite fille, who will be mère-grand (as mère-grand in The Little Red Riding Hood). (Time passes.) 
  • In Marie Laurencin’s painting, the dancer carries a rose. Roses die, so let us seize the day. The poem therefore contains a carpe diem (Pierre de Ronsard‘s Hélène): “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” (petite fille/mère grand)
  • We have colours, that of the sheep and of the snow: white, but also silver or grey (grey hair).
  • We hear bells. (1)
  • There is an allusion to soldiers. Apollinaire had been a soldier.
  • In the fifth stanza, the poet introduces himself: “Je”. He is walking by the Seine which flows unendingly. (5)
  • Marie is an anagram of aimer: to love.


This is a rich poem one wishes to explore further, but…

I thank you for your kind words. They’ve helped. My university and the insurance company played with my life and it has been extremely painful. So I am pleased I have my WordPress colleagues and send all of you my love.

With my kindest regards.  

Léo Ferré sings “Marie,” by Guillaume Apollinaire,

Fille au chapeau bleu et noir, vers 1950

Fille au chapeau bleu et noir, vers 1950

© Micheline Walker
28 June 2015


She is back…


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Marie Laurencin, August 1923

Marie Laurencin, August 1923 (Photo credit:

She is posting again…

the house
the vilain
the expert

Various circumstances, illness and a dysfunctional computer mostly, but also memories of the days, better days, when I lived in a blue house, have kept me away for a few days. My blue house is on the market and on my mind and in my hearth.

I cannot afford it at its current price but will try to buy it back. I lost it because an insurance company employee did not tell me that my application for permanent disability benefits had not been approved. Selling the house was conditional upon my application for permanent disability benefits being approved. One does not relocate if granted a temporary leave.

The Independent Medical Examiner to whom she referred me, asked her, in writing, to tell me not to relocate as he believed I would be able to resume my career after an indefinite leave of absence. He wrote that I should not make any important decision for six months. Adjustments would have to be made to my programme-load. But, on the basis of past accomplishments, he was certain I would be able to return to work. He was right.

Photo credit: Page Marie Laurencin

The Scenario

no sabbatical leave
new courses

When requested to prepare two new courses, I had to abandon a sabbatical leave I was devoting to my long-awaited book on Molière in order to prepare two new courses, one of which was Animals in Literature. I could not refuse assignments because the Chair of my department was prone to anger. I once fainted in his office and landed on the back of my head. No, I would not have survived Chernobyl!

What is very strange is that I still like him, but he will no longer serve as Chair of a department, which is a blessing for everyone. There is no advantage to being Chair, financial or otherwise, at least not where I worked.

I was also the person who had to create a multi-media lab component for a language course. It was not upgraded during my sabbatical and I was not told. I upgraded it when I returned to work, which is why I fell ill. Every lecture of my course on Animals in Literature was prepared, but it had been a huge effort. I had no energy left for extra work. I should have asked for that component of the course to be cancelled until the following academic year and assigned to someone else.

The Illness

the illness
the ‘arrangement’

At any rate, when suddenly I lost the ability to look after myself properly, the biggest challenge is brushing one’s teeth, my doctors requested I leave the classroom immediately. I phoned the Dean, who was at a complete loss, and I presented a doctor’s note to the effect that I was sick. My doctor’s note was not taken seriously. As a result, my students no longer had a teacher. The secretary of the Department remarked that I could still walk and that I should “negotiate an arrangement” with the Chair.

I therefore “negotiated an arrangement” with the Chair. For two weeks I would continue to teach Animals in Literature. During that time, he would teach my two other courses, provided I graded the students’ last quiz and all their assignments. He also asked me to return to work in time to prepare the students for their final examination, which I would also have to grade, etc.

Under the circumstances, I did not have to “negotiate an arrangement.” However, my Chair is not entirely to blame because the Dean would not let him hire a replacement.

Fille au chapeau bleu et noir, vers 1950

Fille au chapeau bleu et noir, vers 1950

The Punishment

When my case manager learned I had finished my teaching assignment for the year, she rushed to judgment. I had been on a sabbatical, which she probably viewed as a holiday, and could not prepare a new course! My application was fraudulent. She didn’t know that I was granted a sabbatical to write my book, at long last. Sabbaticals are seldom granted for the preparation of new courses.

To punish me, she did not relay the doctor’s message to me. As I wrote above, the IME had specified that I was too sick to make serious decisions for at least six months. The sale of the house was conditional upon my application for permanent disability benefits being approved. When it sold, my blue house was not for sale.

I am unlikely ever to recover fully from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My fatigue is due to a cerebral blood flow problem triggered by a flu I caught in 1976. But I have worked despite this problem. It meant reorganizing my life and eliminating outings in the evening.

At any rate, I lost my house and now, several years later, my share, one ninth of the small building I live in, is for sale. My co-owners will not create a reserve fund for the upkeep of the building, which is a major problem and a deterrent for persons who would otherwise be interested in buying. One never knows when the next bill will land at one’s door. Others may enjoy this form of gambling, but I would not have survived Chernobyl.

I chose the apartment, but my family bought it on my behalf. The notary they hired did not tell me there was no reserve fund. Moreover, I had requested, in writing, that the apartment and building be examined by a certified inspector. I am not blaming anyone. It would not help.

The rest I will not tell. The above, however, happens in several teaching institutions. One simply works a person out of his or her position. In fact, I told this story in an earlier post, but differently.


I do not think I will be returning to blue house, but I will have tried. If I can’t purchase my blue house back, it may be easier to forget.

There is more to say about Gabriel Franchère. When the Astorians travelled away from Fort Astoria, they named Mount St Helens. It was then an active volcano, but no one ever suspected the tragic events of 18 May 1980. At 8 hours 32, it exploded and then “imploded,” sort of. The mountain folded in.

I apologize for my tardiness and send my kindest regards.


I will try to find the words to “Marie.”

Léo Ferré sings “Marie,” a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire (26 August 1880 – 9 November 1918)

Vase de fleurs, 1950

© Micheline Walker
26 June 2015

Vase de fleurs, Marie Laurencin,
vers 1950
Page Marie Laurencin

Gabriel Franchère, a Hero to Americans


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Fort George (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

On Gabriel Franchère

In 1846, Gabriel Franchère (1786 – 1863), a humble and probably “submissive” Canadien from Montreal was praised by American Senator Thomas H. Benton and spoken of as a “gentleman of Montreal,” with whom Senator Benton had “the pleasure to be personally acquainted.”

“In 1846, when the boundary question (that of the Oregon Territory in particular) was at its height, the Hon. THOMAS H. BENTON delivered in the United States Senate a decisive speech, of which the following is an extract:

‘Now for the proof of all I have said. I happen to have in my possession the book of all others, which gives the fullest and most authentic details on all the points I have mentioned—a book written at a time, and under circumstances, when the author, himself a British subject and familiar on the Columbia) had no more idea that the British would lay claim to that river, than Mr. Harmon, the American writer whom I quoted, ever thought of our claiming New Caledonia [British Columbia]. It is the work of Mr. FRANCHERE, a gentleman of Montreal, with whom I have the pleasure to be personally acquainted, and one of those employed by Mr. ASTOR in founding his colony. He was at the founding of ASTORIA, at its sale to the Northwest Company, saw the place seized as a British conquest, and continued there after its seizure. He wrote in French: his work has not been done into English, though it well deserves it; and I read from the French text. He gives a brief and true account of the discovery of the Columbia.’” [EBook #15911][1]

∗ I have underlined certain portions of my quotations. The authors I am quoting did not. They, however, used capital letters.

Moreover, J. V. Huntington, the translator and editor of Franchère’s account of his sea voyage from New York to the short-lived Fort Astoria, preferred Franchère’s Relation, published in French in 1820, to Washington Irving’s Astoria, based on Franchère’s French-language Relation. Astoria was published in 1836 and it is a Project Gutenberg publication [EBook #1371]. J. V. Huntington writes that:

“[w]ithout disparagement to Mr. IRVING’S literary, fame, I may venture to say that I found in his work inaccuracies, misstatements (unintentional of course), and a want of chronological order, which struck forcibly one so familiar with the events themselves. I thought I could show—or rather that my simple narration, of itself, plainly discovered—that some of the young men embarked in that expedition (which founded our Pacific empire), did not merit the ridicule and contempt which Captain THORN attempted to throw upon them, and which perhaps, through the genius of Mr. IRVING, might otherwise remain as a lasting stigma on their characters.”[EBook #15911][2]

Franchère’s Claim to Fame: his Book

Had Franchère not written an accurate narrative of the Tonquin‘s journey to the northwest coast of the current United States, and of events related to this sea expedition, such as the incident at the Falkland Islands and the demise of the Tonquin, I doubt that future generations would remember Gabriel Franchère. He was a simple clerk but a witness and his book, the proof. He told Astoria.[3]

In many footnotes, the editor of a reprint of Ross’s Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River, 1810-1813 (London, 1849) refers his readers to Gabriel Franchère’s 1820 Relation.

Moreover, although Franchère seems to have emerged from the annals of history recently, he is a familiar figure to readers of Grace Lee Nute’s The Voyageur, published in 1931.

The Many Stories

War of 1812
American Expansionism
Fur trade

Given its many links: the War of 1812American Expansionism, ethnography, Gabriel Franchère’s Relation d’un voyage à la côte du Nord-Ouest de l’Amérique septentrionale dans les années 1810, 11, 12, 13 et 14 is a book that is difficult to overlook. It is moreover a fine narrative and could be considered both a récit de voyage (a traveler’s tale) and, to a certain extent, a coming-of-age story.[4] Gabriel Franchère was not in his teens, but he was young, 24, and he had never left home or met so evil a man as Captain Jonathan Thorn.

Franchère’s récit is linked to many events, but let us situate his narrative in its immediate context: the fur trade and, specifically, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company. Franchère (Internet Archives) wrote about:

  1. the Tonquin sailing from New York to the Columbia River (Chapters I to VI);
  2. the incident at the Falkland Islands (pp. 47-49);
  3. the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) (beginning p. 54);
  4. the Sandwich Islanders taken aboard (p. 84);
  5. the deadly Columbia Bar (beginning p. 88)
  6. the naming of Mount St. Helens (p. 109);
  7. the arrival of David Thomson (p. 120);
  8. rumours of the demise of the Tonquin (p. 124);
  9. the arrival of the overland Astorians (p. 144);
  10. the account of Captain Black claiming Fort Astoria for Britain (beginning p. 166); (12 December 1813)
  11. the departure from Fort George (p. 263); (4 April 1814)
  12. an account of the Astorians’ trip north.
Gabriel Franchère

Gabriel Franchère (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Main Story

Yet the main story could be the story of Gabriel Franchère himself who, in the eyes of Senator Thomas H. Benton, was a “gentleman of Montreal” and a hero to Americans.

On 12 December 1813, the Canadien clerk (un commis) did see Captain Black of the Racoon (or Raccoon) claim Fort Astoria for Britain and rename it Fort George, in honour of George III, the reigning British monarch. Yet, Gabriel Franchère is an unlikely hero to Americans and, truth be told, an unlikely hero. He was a clerk, not a partner and, as a Canadien, he was a British subject. However, he was a witness to history and told the tale.

In a post about voyageurs, I quoted Ramsay Crooks, John Jacob Astor’s successor. In his opinion, Congress “had to make an exception in the case of voyageurs when passing a law excluding all foreigners from the American fur trade,” which is how, i.e. almost accidentally, Gabriel Franchère became an American. According to Ramsay Crooks:

“tis only in the Canadian we find that temper of mind, to render him patient docile and preserving. in [sic] short they are a people harmless in themselves whose habits of submission fit them peculiarly for our business and if guided as it is my wish they should be, will never give just cause of alarm to the Government of the Union[.][5]

Be that as it may, J. V. Huntington, Gabriel Franchère’s translator and editor, tried “[t]o preserve in the translation the Defoe-like [Robinson Crusoe] simplicity of the original narrative of the young French Canadian.”

Gabriel Franchère’s Relation was published in his life time, in 1820, but it was not republished in Quebec until 2002. Gabriel Franchère may have been an unlikely American, but he retired in Minnesota, USA, because of the Treaty of 1818, or accidentally (again).

It so happens that under the terms of the Treaty of 1818, the 49th parallel would be the boundary between Canada and the United States, which meant that territory that was American became Canadian, and territory that was Canadian ended up “south of the border.” (See Treaty of Ghent and Treaty of 1818, Wikipedia.)

The map below can be enlarged by clicking on the image.


Treaty of 1818: the Boundary between Canada and the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grace Lee Nute writes that:

“[t]he Astorians have been famous in American history for over a century. Ramsay Crooks, W. P. Hunt, Robert McLellan, Gabriel Franchere, and the two Stuarts, Robert and David—who does not know of their heroic adventures in crossing the great West and navigating around the Horn to found near the mouth of the Columbia an American trading post named in honor of the master spirit of the enterprise, John Jacob Astor?”[6]


Sources and Ressources

  • Gabriel Franchère and J. V. Huntington, Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814; or, the First American Settlement on the Pacific, Project Gutenberg [EBook #15911] EN
  • Gabriel Franchère and J. V. Huntington, Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814; or, the First American  Settlement on the Pacific (Internet Archives) EN
  • Gabriel Franchère, Relation d’un voyage à la côte du Nord-Ouest de l’Amérique septentrionale dans les années 1810, 11, 12, 13 et 14 (Montréal : C. B. Pasteur, 1820) (Internet Archives) FR
  • Washington Irving’s Astoria, Project Gutenberg [EBook #1371] EN
  • Ross’s Adventures of the First Setters on the Oregon or Columbia River, 1810-1813 (London, 1849) (Internet Archives) EN

With my kindest regards.

[1] Gabriel Franchère and J. V. Huntington, translator and editor, Preface to the second edition of a Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1810, 1811, 1813 and 1814, or the First American Settlement on the Pacific (New York, 1854).

[2] Ibid.

[3] See They had Witnesses To Prove It (

[4] This may also be the case with Alexander Ross‘ narrative. Ross’s Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River, 1810-1813 (London, 1849). (Reprint, Carlisle, Massachusetts: Applewood Books).

[5] See John Jacob Astor & the Voyager as Settler and Explorer (

[6] Grace Lee Nute, The Voyageur (St. Paul: Reprint Edition Minnesota Historical Society, 1955), p. 173. 

Gabriel Franchère (en français)

Eyewitness to Astoria by Rex Ziak

David Thomson

David Thomson

© Micheline Walker
20 June 2015

The Versatile Blogger Award


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a.  Thank you dear Kitty

I wish to thank Petrel41, dearkitty1.wordpress, for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. It is a privilege. I have nominated 15 bloggers, but had to replace one nomination. My nominee had an award-free weblog.


b. Link to my blog


c. My Nominees

  1. JustJan
    Staycation, Atlanta, Georgia
  2. Paul Militaru
  3. Ina Vukic
  4. ReadinPleasure
  5. Aquileana
    La Audacia de Aquiles
  6. JaneHanna
    Sketching::Drawing from Observation
  7. tkmorin
    Bite Size Canada
  8. Ricercare
  9. Dom DIFrancesco: the Poetic Musings of Dom DIFrancesco
    Black and Write
  10. Jo-Ann Chateau
    League of Bloggers for a Better World
  11. ksbeth
    I didn’t have my glasses on
  12. TheCrazyBagLady, Istanbul
  13. Unclerave’s Wordy Weblog
  14. GP Cox
    Pacific Paratrooper
  15. Bercianlangran
    Viajes al fondo del alsa

d. About myself

1. I truly loved my profession, university teaching, despite the following:

2. My employers limited my ability to further my research by giving me new courses to teach. (I didn’t like it.)

3. However, I had the ability to learn a discipline in very little time. In order to do so, I would call on the world’s foremost experts for guidance. (They liked it.)

4. Music and the fine arts have been my best refuge.

5. In 1976, I caught a virus and never fully recovered. In order to remain a university teacher, I had to limit my social life drastically.

6. I simply love sharing coffee or a fine meal with a good friend, or good friends.

7. I have read a large number of books.

e. My Answers

1. In which city, town or village (except where you live), anywhere in the world, would you like to live?

Paris, France

2. In which city, town or village (except where you live), anywhere in the world, would you never like to live?

Suburbia, anywhere.

3. Which screen do you watch more: computer screen or TV screen?

The computer screen.

4. Do you watch sports on TV?

I don’t.

5. If yes, what is your favourite sport on TV?

6. What is your favourite kind of music?

“Classical” music, but not exclusively.

7. What is your best experience so far in 2015?

Not having to leave my apartment on the coldest days of the past winter.

f. My Questions

1. During which period of the day do you work best?

2. Do you have a pet and which kind?

3. What is your best source of energy?

4. Have you ever made a truly catastrophic decision?

5. What is your very first memory?

6. What do you like best about yourself?

7. Do you have a refuge?


The Rules

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. (a)
  • Include a link to their blog. (b)
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award with links to their blogs. (c)
  • Finally, post 7 things about yourself. (d)
  • (Answer the questions from the person who nominates you, (e) and then ask 7 of your own.) (f)
  • Also remember to add the Versatile Blogger image to your post.

About The Rules

  • You need not thank me or show a link to my weblog.
  • If you do not have the time to follow all the rules and nominate WordPress colleagues for a versatile blogger award, accept this nomination as a sign of appreciation. Simply show that you were nominated. Thank you.


With kindest regards.

versatile-bloggerMicheline Walker
17 June 2015

The “Canadianism” of Philippe Couillard, Premier of Quebec


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Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard speaks to delegates during the Quebec Liberal Party convention in Montreal, Sunday, June 14, 2015. Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS

I am posting an article by Don MacPherson of the Montreal Gazette. It is an accurate résumé of Premier Couillard’s address to delegates. Mr MacPherson’s article should be posted.


By the way, I’m still working on my next post: nominations for the Versatile Blogger award.

Paul Robeson sings Antoine Gérin-Lajoie‘s Un Canadien errant. The first half of Mr Robeson‘s interpretation is in English. He then sings Un Canadien errant in very clear French. I have used this video before, but I feel it should be heard again.

Paul Robeson sings Un Canadien errant

The Canada Act, 1982
The Canada Act, 1982

© Micheline Walker
16 June 2015

Son et Image


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Three Seated Figures by Maxine Noel (Photo credit:

A busy day

This is a very busy day. So allow me to post an image and music by Maurice Ravel. I have featured Ginette Neveu (11 August 1919 – 28 October 1949) in an earlier post. She was a famous virtuoso violinist who died in a plane crash at the age of 30.

With kind regards.

Ginette Neveu plays Ravel‘s Tzigane


© Micheline Walker
15 June 2015

Quebec’s Liberal Party Convention


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Black Hills Woman by Maxine Noel (Photo credit:

My readers from France love Maxine Noel’s art. I think her art is exquisite and others share that opinion.


Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard waves to the crowd at the Quebec Liberal Party convention in Montreal on Saturday. Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS

I apologize for not posting sooner. Quebec’s Liberal Party held its convention in Montreal and I was a delegate. Premier Philippe Couillard addressed us. He was reassuring. As you know, he and members of National Assembly have made cuts that many oppose. In the 60s and early 70s, Quebec leaders promised a welfare state.

Access to a free education is an admirable goal, but for this goal to be achieved, the government needs taxpayers. Separatism and terrorism caused many to leave Quebec and the money used to cover the costs of a welfare state is collected through taxation. If people leave, the number of taxpayers is reduced.

Moreover, several workers insist on being paid on a cash basis, nothing is deducted from their income. Tax evasion also precludes a welfare state. It isn’t an option. Why should people who pay their taxes support those who are able to conceal more substantial earnings? I am not discussing the wages of cleaning ladies.


  • young Liberals given a stronger voice

We were amending the constitution. It was a long process. Therefore, I will mention only one topic. It was decided that young Liberals would be given a stronger voice in the Party.

I was a witness to the student strikes of 2012 and felt reticence supporting this amendment. In 2012, students were willing to break the law and they did break the law so their tuition fees would not be raised.

Young Liberals may well be better young citizens than other young citizens, but that is not necessarily the case. Many were brought up at the same time as the students who created mayhem in 2012. In fact, many were brought up in the same milieu.

However, I recognize that they are the future. Let them see the bills and let them also see whether or not they have the money to pay these bills.

We escaped a reenactment of the 2012 student strikes this spring. Students started to demonstrate, but injunctions were issued and the Quebec government decided it would not fund an extra semester if students had not completed their term. The 2012 strike cost millions of dollars.

Security: Staggering

At any rate, what I had witnessed here in Sherbrooke when Liberals last met was a mere sample of what I saw in Montreal. There was a large number of armed policemen and plainclothes security agents. I saw security personnel carrying machine guns. These were in bags, but the bags nevertheless concealed machine guns. One could tell by the shape. As for the delegates, all of us were meticulously screened. There was violence when members of the Liberal Party met in Victoriaville in May 2012.


Cutbacks are painful, but the government has to operate with the money it levies through taxation. Quebec’s prosperity is not endangered. It has untapped natural resources that should allow it to bounce back in the not-too-distant future. Despite cutbacks, we still enjoy universal healthcare and tuition fees will not be out of reach.

Reculer pour mieux sauter

However, there are times when one has to step back in order to get a better start (jump): reculer pour mieux sauter. The debt was too heavy.

This post is a Canadiana post, but it belongs to a subcategory: Quebec. The first in this series was Austerity in Quebec. It will appear on a Canadiana page.

There is more to tell about Gabriel Franchère. Moreover, I must report that I was nominated from the “Versatile Blogger” award by Petrel41: Dear Kitty1. WordPress.

I thank our colleague most sincerely. My next post will be devoted to this nomination.



Three Seated Figures by Maxine Noel (

With kindest regards

Daniel Barenboim plays Mendelssohn Songs Without Words Op.30 no.1 in E flat Major

eda8975682d6d1f11b74766ef96bb6d0© Micheline Walker
14 June 2015

Petrel41’s Gravatar

Franchère’s Narrative of a Voyage (Part Two)


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(Photo credit:

The above is a depiction, by Mark Myers, of the Tonquin, a 290-ton bark, une barque, used by John Jacob Astor‘s ill-fated Pacific Fur Company. John Jacob Astor bought the Tonquin on 23 August 1810 from Fanning and Coles. (See The Tonquin, Wikipedia).

Although Alexander Ross described the sinking of the Tonquin, he was not aboard the ship when it was attacked by Nootka Amerindians at Clayoquot Sound, in June 1811. It seems an Astorian left aboard the ship blew it up. As the story was conveyed to Alexander Ross, “one hundred and seventy-five Amerindians perished[.]” (Ross reprint, p. 170.) Alexander Ross writes that Captain Thorn’s temper “was cruel and over-bearing,—and his fate verifies the sacred decrees, that ‘he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy.’” (Ross reprint, p. 171.) According to Ross’ report, not only had Captain Thorn (8 January 1779 – 15 June 1811) insulted the Amerindians, but he had also detained two chiefs.

On the 12th Day of December

Young Alexander Ross had remained at Fort Astoria when the Tonquin set sail to the north, its crew and passengers hoping to collect precious pelts. However, on 12 December 1813, he witnessed Fort Astoria’s “death-warrant:”

“On the 12th Day of December [1813], the death-warrant of short-lived Astoria was signed.” (Ross reprint, p. 250.)

On that day, Captain Black, who arrived on the Racoon, took possession of Fort Astoria and renamed it Fort George, in honour of his “Britannic Majesty” George III. However, men employed by the Montreal-based North West Company had preceded Captain Black by more than a year, nearly two. The soon-to-be Fort George had already become the property of the North West Company. Captain Black acted graciously, but there was no reward for him and his men at Fort George.

Let us now trace our way back to the beginning of Gabriel Franchère’s Narrative, a year before the Tonquin’s demise on the west coast of Vancouver island, at Clayoquot Sound, but also, a year before, to her losses at the entrance to the Columbia River.

Franchère’s Story Begins …

The Pacific Fur Company (est. 24 June 1810)
Gabriel Franchère
Voyageurs to New York

Gabriel Franchère (3 Nov. 1786 in Montreal – d. 12 April 1863 in St Paul, Minn.) was entrusted by John Jacob Astor to take voyageurs to the Columbia River and the Oregon Country. He is the author of a Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814; or, the First American Settlement on the Pacific. Born in Quebec, he was the son of Gabriel Franchère, merchant, and Félicité Morin (Miron, Marin). Franchère joined the Pacific Fur Company, founded on 24 June 1810, as a clerk.

Franchère travelled down Lake Champlain in a canoe. There must have been some portage, but, by and large, rivers were found all the way to Long Island. The canoe was in fact put on a wagon (une charette) and the voyageurs went down the Hudson River. (Gabriel Franchère’s Narrative, 24-25)

Gabriel Franchère

Franchère takes Astorians from New York to the Oregon Country
Narratives of the Voyage

As John Jacob Astor’s employee, Gabriel Franchère is remembered for his taking Canadiens voyageurs around Cape Horn and up to Fort Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, today’s Astoria, Oregon (US).

But more importantly, Franchère kept notes on the Astor Expedition and, as mentioned above, he wrote a narrative of his epic journey, which was used by Washington Irving, the author of Astoria (1836), a book commissioned by John Jacob Astor. However, Franchère’s book has now been recognized as a very fine and accurate account of the Astor Expedition. It is a good book, reflecting uncommon understanding and sensitivity on the part of its author.

Aboard the Tonquin

Aboard the Tonquin when she left New York on 8 September, 1810, were partners Duncan McDougall, Robert Stuart and his uncle David Stuart, and Alexander MacKay, who took along his 13-year son, Alexander Ross (9 May 1783 – 23 Oct. 1856), not a partner (See Alexander MacKay, Wikipedia.) Alexander MacKay co-founded Fort Astoria. Also aboard were 12 clerks and 13 Canadian voyageurs, plus four tradesmen: Augustus Roussel, a blacksmith; Johann Koaster, a carpenter; Job Aitkem, a boat builder; and George Bell, a cooper. (See Tonquin, Wikipedia.)

The Falkland Islands

Stopover: fresh water
Captain Thorn’s callousness

I should include the ship’s crew and captain Jonathan Thorn (8 January 1779 – 15 June 1811) who was nearly shot to death by Robert Stuart when he set sail off the Falkland Islands, leaving behind Robert’s uncle, David Stuart, and 8 men (See Robert Stuart, Wikipedia.) Gabriel Franchère and other Astorians were nearly abandoned. In his Narrative, Gabriel Franchère writes that “nothing could excuse the act of cruelty and barbarity of which he was guilty.” (Franchère’s Narrative, pp. 48-49.)

Until it reached Fort Astoria, the story of the Tonquin is, by virtue of its subject-matter, an extraordinary story, but not a tragedy, except for Jonathan Thorn’s callous behaviour. The ship stopped at the uninhabited Falkland Islands because it needed small repairs and because its crew and passengers were nearly out of fresh water. However, had it not been for Robert Stuart, Jonathan Thorn would have caused the death of David Stuart and 8 men, one of whom was Franchère. In one description of Captain Thorn, Franchère states that:

“[h]is haughty manners, his rough and overbearing disposition, had lost him the affection of most of the crew and all the passengers.” (Franchère’s Narrative, pp. 48-49.)

Naukane, by Paul Kane

Naukane, by Paul Kane, 1847 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hawaiian Islands, or  Sandwich Islands

Hawaiian Islands (formerly, the Sandwich Islands)

The Tonquin also stopped in the Hawaiian Islands, then called the “Sandwich Islands” and “Karakakooa.” It took aboard Naukane (ca. 1779 – 2 February 1850), the son of high chief Tamanawa. At Oahu, 20 men, called kanakas, were also taken aboard and placed under the care of Naukane (ca. 1779 – 2 February 1850). Other explorers had stopped at the Sandwich Islands. Captain James Cook was murdered on one of the Islands, in 1779.

Naukane’s name was changed to John or George Cox(e). Naukane sailed to England twice. In 1812, he travelled to Britain on the ship Isaac Todd. Later, in 1823, King Kamehameha II, of Hawaii, and Naukane were both sent to England to meet George IV, who ascended to the throne when George III grew mentally incapable of functioning as King of the United Kingdom.

After the demise of the Pacific Fur Company, in late 1813, Naukane returned to Hawaii. However, he would journey back to the Pacific Northwest and join the North West Company, as would Alexander Ross. He married a very young Aboriginal woman and lived at Kanaka, near Fort Vancouver. He died at Fort Vancouver. (See Naukane, Wikipedia.)

The Tonquin at the Columbia Bar,

The Tonquin at the Columbia Bar  (Photo credit: Internet Archives)


Astoria, as it was in 1813 (Photo credit: Internet Archives)

The Tonquin’s Sorry Fate

The Columbia Bar
Men died

There are two endings to the story of the Tonquin. When the boat arrived at the entrance of the Columbia River, it faced a deadly obstacle: the Columbia bar, known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. Three boats were dispatched on successive days to find an entrance to the Columbia River. This search claimed some eight lives, including the life of one the kanakas.

Astorians began building Fort Astoria, but the Tonquin sailed north to her death at Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. By leaving Fort Astoria, Captain Thorn had also imperiled the men he left behind. They could no longer escape, which meant that they were at the mercy of Amerindians and facing difficult circumstances. The characteristics that make Oregon a fine destination, its gigantic trees in particular, were a nightmare to men building a fort. How could such trees be felled?

You know the rest of the story. Insulted and otherwise provoked by Jonathan Thorn, the Nootka Amerindians retaliated.


As written above, Fort Astoria was renamed Fort George after the War of 1812, when Captain Black, aboard the Racoon, claimed Fort Astoria for George III. A few months later, on 4 April 1814, Gabriel Franchère and other Astorians (Internet Archives, p. 263), left Fort George.

“We quitted Fort George (or Astoria if you please) on Monday morning, the 4th of April, 1814, in ten canoes, five of which were bark and five of cedar wood, carrying each seven men and crew, and two passengers, in all ninety persons, and all well armed.” (Narrative, p. 263)

Gabriel Franchère returned to Montreal. As noted above, Alexander Ross joined the North West Company and then the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), when the North West Company was merged with the HBC, in 1821. Ross married an Okanagan Amerindian princess and eventually settled in the Earl of Selkirk‘s Red River Colony, present-day Winnipeg. His descendants are Métis.

The Astor Expedition was not a complete failure. The Oregon Trail was traced, giving settlers a road to follow as they travelled west of the former Louisiana. The Oregon Trail allowed them to circumvent impassable terrain: a terrifying mountain range.

As for Franchère’s Narrative, it is, as I wrote above, a fine book written by a fine man. It stands on its own merit. What Franchère wrote about Captain Jonathan Thorn corroborates Alexander Ross’ description.

As he concludes his narrative, Gabriel Franchère points out that Irving did not give a completely accurate account of Astoria.

Washington Irving was a writer of fiction. It is therefore unlikely that he conveyed the real truth about Astoria. The truth he conveyed would be “poetical.” It may in fact resemble the truth about the demise of the Tonquin. 

The truth about the Tonquin’s final moments is not the truth an eye-witness would tell, yet we know that Ross’ account reveals a more profound truth, which is that Captain Thorn’s death,

“verifies the sacred decrees, that ‘he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy.’” (Ross reprint, p. 171)

With kindest regards.


Sources and Resources

  • Washington Irving, Astoria, Gutenberg [EBook #1371]
  • Gabriel Franchère and J. V. Huntington, Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast, Gutenberg [EBook #15911] EN
  • Gabriel Franchère and J. V. Huntington, Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America in the Years 1811,1812,1813, and 1814; or, the First American Settlement on the Pacific, Internet Archives EN
  • Gabriel Franchère, Relation d’un voyage à la côte Nord-Ouest de l’Amérique septentrionale dans les années 1810, 11, 12, 13 et 14 (Montréal : C.B. Pasteur, 1820) (Internet Archives) FR
  • Ross, Alexander: Ross’s Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River, 1810-1813 (Internet Archives) EN
  • Alexander Ross, Ross’s Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River, 1810-1813 (London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1849 [Reprint Carlisle Massachusetts: Applewood Books]). 

The Tonquin Ship

The Tonquin Ship

© Micheline Walker
10 June 2015

Gabriel Franchère’s Narrative of a Voyage (Part One)


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Buffalo Bulls Fighting by Paul Kane

Paul Kane, 1846, watercolour on paper. Kane visited the West when the bison were still numerous (courtesy Stark Foundation, Orange, Texas)

(Photo and caption credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Progress Report

At the moment, I am at the mouth of the Columbia River, aboard the Tonquin, when the War of 1812 broke out, ending John Jacob Astor‘s dream of a monopoly on the fur trade in North America.  John Jacob Astor (17 July 1763 – 29 March 1848), had just founded the Pacific Fur Company (PFC). The demise of the Tonquin, a bark, at the Clayoquot Sound, was a factor in the collapse of the Pacific Fur Company. Chief Wickaninnish and members of his tribe, murdered most of the Tonquin’s crew.

At Fort Astoria, in the Oregon country, nearly everyone was British. Fort Astoria quickly became Fort George. The Montreal-based North West Company, rivals to the Hudson’s Bay Company, bought the Pacific Fur Company‘s assets.

Gabriel Franchère

Gabriel Franchère (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

I am reading online publications of Gabriel Franchère‘s narrative of the journey that took him from New York to short-lived Fort Astoria, as well as my own copies of such works as Alexander Ross’s account of his adventures in the Oregon country.

Gabriel Franchère, a clerk, was one of John Jacob Astor’s most trusted employees who, as it turns out, would become an author. Franchère wrote a detailed Relation, a narrative, of the trip that took him and all men aboard the Tonquin, from partners in the Company to the lowliest employees, from New York to Fort Astoria, around Cape Horn.

In 1836, John Jacob would commission famed author Washington Irving (3 April 1783 – 28 November 1859; Rip van Winkle) to write Astoria. Consequently, Franchère’s narrative was requisitioned. Gabriel Franchère was a mere clerk.

In Franchère’s Narrative, translated and edited by J. V. Huntington, Aboriginals are often referred to as “barbarians” and “savages,” but Franchère observed that it was best to treat them as equals and thereby avoid hostility. I don’t know what led Chief Wickaninnish to murder most of the crew of the Tonquin.

A Honeymoon 

Coincidentally, my husband and I spent our honeymoon at Wickaninnish Inn, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in the area where the Tonquin was destroyed. The food was extraordinary and we were in the company of celebrities who flew to the Inn regularly to “get away from it all.” At the time, there was no road to Wickaninnish Inn. We had Long Beach all to ourselves. Emily Carr had lived in that area. So we visited and worshipped.

Haida Totems by Emily Carr

Haida Totems by Emily Carr (Photo Credit: Google Images)

When we returned to Vancouver, I took a course on textile and was taught the Haida people‘s techniques for spinning, dyeing, and weaving wool. I still have wool I spun decades ago, but I gave my artwork. I believe it was destroyed, which could be what it deserved. 

The years I spent on the west coast were my happiest.

Sources and Resources

With kindest regards

I am  inserting a brief video on Emily Carr (The Canadian Encyclopedia). Simply click on the link below and use the arrows to see the video:

Emily Carr (click)

I am also inserting, once again, Canada’s National Film Board‘s documentary on Paul Kane. It is a 1972 production by Gerard Budner (1972: 14 min 28 s.). It cannot be embedded, but one is a mere click away, below: (click)


Boat Encampment, Sketch made by Paul Kane on the Columbia River, BC, c. 1846, watercolour. (Courtesy Stark Foundation, Orange, Texas). (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

© Micheline Walker
6 June 2015


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