The Good Gentleman


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Job (David’s Common Place)



Paul Lemire consider aspects of Les Anciens Canadiens as “discordant.” Aubert de Gaspé‘s Anciens Canadiens tells “stories,” the first of which is La Corriveau. La Corriveau is described as a legend, but a real Marie-Josephte Corriveau was hanged on 18 April 1763, shortly after the Treaty of Paris was signed (10 February 1763). Therefore, the Corriveau’s demise happened after Arché visited the d’Haberville. In his Notes et avertissements to Les Anciens Canadiens (p. 318).[1] Paul Lemire sees the Corriveau episode as an anachronism, but anachronisms are paradox literature. As the author of a historical novel, Aubert de Gaspé depicts New France, but Aubert de Gaspé also knew the aftermath. By virtue of George III’s Royal Proclamation of 1763, Amerindians were protected, but the Royal Proclamation

introduced policies meant to assimilate the French population to British rule. These policies ultimately failed and were replaced by the Quebec Act of 1774.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763, The Canadian Encyclopedia.

The Good Gentleman

Although, Les Anciens Canadiens is a historical novel, it is also autobiographical. Le Bon Gentilhomme is monsieur d’Egmont, a Frenchman who carelessly loans money and endorses loans. In fact, he loaned money he did not have and found out was accused of défalcation, embezzlement and moved to Canada with his valet, André Francœur. The two live in a cottage on the Trois Saumons River. Jules visits with him before leaving for Europe to join the French military.

According to monsieur d’Egmont, Jules, a seigneur‘s son, resembles him. In Chapter Two, Jules d’Haberville gives money he does not have to a classmate named Dubuc who fears his father’s anger. Dubuc has kicked Jules, yet Jules does not want Dubuc to reimburse him. As for the money Jules gives Dubuc, it has been given to him by a woman who is grateful to the d’Haberville. It is this kind of behaviour that destroys monsieur d’Egmont’s life and he recognizes in Jules his blind generosity:

Je t’ai vu naître, d’Haberville ; j’ai suivi, d’un œil attentif, toutes les phases de ta jeune existence ; j’ai étudié avec soin ton caractère, et c’est ce qui me fait désirer l’entretien que nous avons aujourd’hui ; car jamais ressemblance n’a été plus parfaite qu’entre ton caractère et le mien.

Les Anciens Canadiens (X: p. 222)

I have watched you from child-hood up; I have studied your character minutely, and that is what has caused me to seek this conversation. Between your character and mine I have found the closest resemblance.

Cameron of Lochiel (IX: 142-143)

Le bon gentilhomme was born to a well-to-do family and received a fine education. He then entered a promising career. However, his generosity destroyed his life. He loaned money to anyone who asked and also endorsed loans. He also loaned money that was not his. So, he was accused of défalcation (embezzlement) and he was jailed.

Mes affaires privées étaient tellement mêlées avec celles de mon bureau que je fus assez longtemps sans
m’apercevoir de leur état alarmant. Lorsque je découvris la vérité, après un examen de mes comptes, je fus frappé comme d’un coup de foudre. Non seulement j’étais ruiné, mais aussi sous le poids d’une défalcation considérable !

Les Anciens Canadiens (X: p. 228 )

My private affairs were so mingled with those of my office that it was long before I discovered how deeply I was involved. The revelation came upon me like a thunderbolt. Not only was I ruined, but I was on the verge of a serious defalcation. 

Cameron of Lochiel (IX: 145-146)

So, Les Anciens Canadiens is both a historical and biographical novel. Jules gives money he does not have by borrowing it from Madeleine who is grateful do the d’Haberville. However, the d’Haberville provided help or “money” they could provide.

It took years for authorities to determine whether or not Aubert de Gaspé should be jailed. Meanwhile, he had found a refuge at his mother’s seigneurie. At that time, he had nine children. During his imprisonment, the family resided near Aubert de Gaspé’s prison. He was jailed from 29 May 1838 until 18 September 1841. (See Aubert de Gaspé, Dictionary of Canadian Biography)

The NoBle Savage

Monsieur d’Edmont would have liked to be able to earn the money he owed. This, in 19th-century France, was not possible. Nor was it possible in 19th-Lower Canada. Imprisonment tied his hands. Moreover, Aubert de Gaspé could see from his cell two of his children fall ill, and could not help.

To an Amerindian, earning money to pay one’s debts is acceptable. An Amerindian cannot hunt for beavers if he is incarcerated. He tells about an Amerindian who sees a large building in New York inside which Amerindians who have not paid a debt are confined.

Un Iroquois contemplait, il y a quelques années, à New-York, un vaste édifice d’assez sinistre apparence ; ses hauts murs, ses fenêtres grillées l’intriguaient beaucoup : c’était une prison. Arrive un magistrat.

Mais sauvages pas capables de prendre castors ici !

Les Anciens Canadiens (X: p. 232-233)

The Iroquois examined the structure with ever-increasing interest, walked around it, and asked to see the inside of this marvelous wigwam. The magistrate, who was himself a merchant, was glad to grant his request, in the hope of inspiring with wholesome dread the other savages, to whom this one would not fail to recount the effective and ingenious methods employed by the pale faces to make the red-skins pay their debts.

“The Iroquois went over the whole building with the minutest care, descended into the dungeons, tried the depth of the wells, listened attentively to the smallest sounds, and at last burst out laughing.

‘Why,’ exclaimed he, ‘no Indian could catch any beaver here.’

Cameron of Lochiel (IX: 148-149)

We meet the Noble Savage again in Chapter IX/X

Only one of monsieur d’Egmont’s debtors repays him, for which he is immensily grateful. Aubert de Gaspé was compassionate and understanding, in which he stood above others, but not above the law.


Aubert de Gaspé fictionalizes himself as Jules, Chapter II, and as the Good Gentleman in Chapter IX/X. Aubert de Gaspé graces a fall that leads to imprisonment with the naïve but morally correct and natural justice of the Noble Savage. Yet, both the good gentleman and Aubert de Gaspé break the law.

Mon frère pas capable de prendre castors, si le visage pâle lui ôte l’esprit, et lui lie les mains.

Les Anciens Canadiens (X: p. 234)

‘My brother can take no beaver if the pale face ties his hands.’ Why,’ exclaimed he, ‘no Indian could catch any beaver here.’

Cameron of Lochiel (IX: 148-149)

Lève la tête bien haut dans ta superbe, ô maître de la création ! tu en as le droit. Lève la tête altière vers le ciel, ô homme ! dont le cœur est aussi froid que l’or que tu palpes jour et nuit. Jette la boue à pleines mains à l’homme au cœur chaud, aux passions ardentes, au sang brûlant comme le vitriol, qui a failli dans sa jeunesse.
Lève la tête bien haut, orgueilleux Pharisien, et dis : Moi, je n’ai jamais failli.

Les Anciens Canadiens (X, p. 237-238)

Lift up your head in your pride, lord of creation! You have the right to do so. Lift your haughty head to heaven, O man whose heart is as cold as the gold you grasp at day and night! Heap your slanders with both hands on the man of eager heart, of ardent passions, of blood burning like fire, who has fallen in his youth! Hold high your head, proud Pharisee, and say,151 ‘As for me, I have never fallen!’

Cameron of Lochiel (XI: 150-151)

The image at the top of this post features Job, but The Woman caught in adultery and The Prodigal Son demonstrate the same charity. Le bon gentilhomme/Aubert the Gaspé may have fallen unconsciously, but he/they broke the law, just or unjust.


Sources and Ressources

Les Anciens Canadiens ( FR
Cameron of Lochiel ( ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Une Colonie féodale en Amérique: l’Acadie 1604 – 17 (Rameau, Google Books)
[1] Paul Lemire is the editor of my copy of Les Anciens Canadiens ([Montréal: Bibliothèque Québécoise, 1988] p. 318)


Love to everyone 💕

Battle of Quebec (Seven Years’ War)
Christ and the woman caught in adultery by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

© Micheline Walker
8 July 2021

Mary Simon, Canada’s Governor General


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© Provided by The Canadian Press

Mary Simon, 74, is Canada’s New Governor General.

‘She knows where she comes from’: Mary Simon seen as humble, professional leader (

Allow me to quote MSN (Microsoft News):

Mary has been a leader in the North for the last four decades. She served as president of Makivik Corp., the Nunavik land-claim body, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization. She was Canada’s first ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and also served as the country’s ambassador to Denmark.


Madame Simon is an Anglophone Inuit, and she has promised to learn French during her tenure as Governor General. But the truth is that Madame Simon has a mother tongue of her own, which she must keep. The era and mindset that led to the creation of Residential schools is a by-gone era, never to return.

I hope Madame Simon’s appointment will help consolidate the position of Amerindians in Canada. Europeans intruded on their land but if anyone belongs to a country, it is its indigenous population. Canadians must realize fully that Amerindians were its first inhabitants.

Simon is well known for her role in negotiating the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement between the Cree and Inuit of northern Quebec, the provincial government and Hydro-Quebec in 1975. The deal affirmed Inuit and Cree hunting and trapping rights in the area and established $225 million in compensation over 20 years in exchange for construction of hydroelectric dams.

© Sean Kilpatrick/Radio-Canada Mary Simon se tourne vers le premier ministre Justin Trudeau lors d’une annonce au Musée canadien de l’histoire à Gatineau, au Québec, le mardi 6 juillet 2021. Mme Simon été nommée gouverneure générale du Canada, la première personne autochtone à assumer ce rôle.

Canada’s new Governor General is married to Whit Fraser, a former CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) producer. They have three children.

Canadians are removing or vandalizing statues, including a statue of Queen Victoria and one of Elizabeth II. That is destruction and it will not help. Nor will it help to burn churches. Let us go forward together and make Canada a better country.

I wish Mary Simon a happy tenure as Governor General. Her appointment as Governor General is genuine progress. Mary Simon is a very accomplished person whose achievements have been recognized.


Aboriginals in North America (page)


Love to everyone 💕

© Micheline Walker
6 July 2021

July 1st: Confederation


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Amérindien et Habitant (


the remains of 182 children…

The remains of 182 children have been found in British Columbia. The school was a Catholic Residential School. A total of 1,148 bodies have been found during the month of June.

This is the message I received:

J’ai pensé que vous seriez intéressé par cet article que j’ai trouvé sur MSN : Une autre communauté autochtone de C.-B. dit avoir découvert des restes humains (

I added a Conclusion to my last post. It reads:

“The native depicted in the image at the top of this post does not look powerless. As for Benjamin West’s native, he is a ‘Noble savage.’ Did Canada need the Indian Act? Canada Day, a celebration of Confederation, is fast approaching. But Confederation led to the creation of Indian Reserves and Residential Schools. Moreover, Quebec became the only Canadian province where the language of instruction could be French or English. The British Empire was at its zenith.”

Imperialism is very much to blame. Cecil Rhodes wanted to paint the world red, the colour of the British Empire. So, I suspect the architects of Confederation also wished to paint Canada red. Besides, they feared Manifest Destiny, an American form of imperialism. Manifest Destiny alone invited the federation of Canadian provinces and the purchase of Rupert’s Land. Unfortunately, unity dictated uniformity. To this end, Amerindians were to be stripped of their identity. The events that followed Confederation were brutal and genocidal. The French could not leave Quebec. Why?

The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West, 1770
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I suspect more bodies will be found. However, the comforting thought is that other Canadians will help pull Amerindians out of this nightmare. They are in schock, but so are other Canadians. As you know, I have Amerindian ancestry. In the early years of New France’s history, its motherland was slow in sending women across the Atlantic. “Survival” is the keyword in Canadian literature, in both French and English. Margaret Atwood‘s book, entitled Survival (1972), is insightful and it has remained popular and informative reading.

We are returning to Les Anciens Canadiens where the myth of the Noble savage is well and alive. We will read The Good Gentleman, Chapter IX, Le Bon Gentilhomme, Chapitre X. In Les Anciens Canadiens, monsieur d’Egmont depicts Amerindians as more civilized than the white.


Sources and Resources

Les Anciens Canadiens ( FR
Cameron of Lochiel ( ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Une Colonie féodale en Amérique: l’Acadie 1604 – 17 (Rameau, Google Books)

Love to everyone 💕

Residential Schools (TRC means Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

Cecil Rhodes and the Cape-Cairo railway project. Rhodes aimed to “paint the map red” (red representing the British Empire).
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
30 June 2021

Canada’s Residential Schools


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Amérindien et Habitant (

The picture above is not related to Les Anciens Canadiens, except indirectly. Aubert de Gaspé refers to noble savages in his chapter entitled The Good Gentleman.

I published this photograph in a post about Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont‘s visit to Lower Canada (1831). We may be looking at an Amerindian selling fur to an habitant. Amerindians loved blankets and, as we can see, haut-de-forme (high) hats. These were made of beaver skin. In Nouvelle-France, Amerindians often wanted alcohol in exchange for their pelts, which quickly led to addiction. Amerindians could not tolerate alcohol. François de Laval (1623-1807), the Bishop of Quebec, threatened to excommunicate persons giving alcohol in return for pelts. This picture is entitled Habitant and Winter Sleigh, which suggests art produced after the “conquest.” Is our habitant holding a bottle?

Residential Schools for Amerindians

A few weeks ago, the remains of 215 Amerindian children were found outside a residential school (un pensionnat) in Kamloops, British Columbia. At Marieval Residential School, in Saskatchewan, 751 bodies have now been found in unmarked graves. These children cannot be identified. Canadians will continue to dig and investigate. Both the Kamloops and Marieval residential schools were operated by Catholic orders.

Canada: Remains of 215 children found buried near Kamloops Indian Residential School – CNN

‘We will not stop until we find all of our children’: Discovery of 751 unmarked graves only the beginning, say Saskatchewan Indigenous leaders | The Star

This happened at a time in history when Amerindians were not considered “civilized.” A Gradual Civilization Act was passed in 1857, but it was not active until the passage of the Indian Act in 1876. Would that we could say that viewing Amerindians as uncivilized has ended.


The native depicted in the image at the top of this post does not look powerless. As for Benjamin West’s native, he is a “Noble Savage.” Did Canada need the Indian Act? We are nearing Canada Day, a celebration of Confederation. But Confederation led to the creation of Indian Reserves and Residential Schools. Moreover, Quebec became the only Canadian province where the language of instruction could be French or English. The British Empire was at its zenith.


Love to everyone 💕

Marc-André Hamelin plays Mozart
The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
26 June 2021
updated 27 June 2021

The Strangest Things…



Un Ancien Canadien


My computer is doing very strange things. Yesterday, an unfinished post was published. I finished the post, but it went into drafts and had to be republished.

My computer has been attacked and still requires repairs.

I must attend to this.


Love to everyone 💕

The Order of Good Cheer


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L’Ordre de Bon Temps, 1606 par Charles William Jefferys (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To brighten the atmosphere and foster the esprit de corps amongst the sieur de Poutrincourt, lord of Port-Royal’s staff members, Samuel de Champlain had the idea to create “the order of Good-Cheer” during the winter 1606-1607. In turn, the members of the small elite of Port-Royal were to prepare a gastronomical meal for their fellow-members, with the fruit of their hunting and fishing in the rich Acadian natural environment plentiful with game and fish of various kinds. From time to time, the sagamo Membertou and its close relations were also invited to share the feast during which the person in charge of the eve entered ceremoniously in the main room of the Habitation wearing around his neck the collar of the Order that he would tend to the future host of the next evening. In the current rebuilt Habitation, today a national historical place of Canada, one can easily imagine the atmosphere of these evenings. The government of the province of Nova Scotia reestablished the order of the Good Cheer and it is possible to become join it.”
(H. P. Biggar in The Works of Samuel de Champlain)
(See Order of Good Cheer, Wikipedia)


The Order of Good Cheer

The Order of Good Cheer was founded by Champlain in 1606. Champlain thought that scurvy was caused by idleness. L’Ordre de Bon Temps was chartered by Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt et de Saint-Just and Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons. In its earliest days, Huguenots came to Acadie and then Quebec City, but mostly to Acadie. They were fishing and had been fishing for a long time off the coast of the current Maritime Provinces of Canada. Acadie was founded in 1604 by Dugua de Mons, four years before Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec city. L’Ordre de bon temps could not cure scurvy, but a happy social life lessens stress. But it may have created the “race” John Neilson (1776-1848), an acquaintance of Aubert de Gaspé (1786-1871), describes to Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859). John Neilson depicts The French in Canada as “remarquablement sociables,” which they had to be, among themselves, and, also, in their relationship with the British. They were a conquered nation.

In an earlier post, I compared a seigneur’s dining table to Carl Larsson‘s depiction of a Christmas dinner at his house. To be more accurate, the Order of Good Cheer is the ancestor to merriment in New France, both in Seigneuries and in the humbler homes of the habitants. In fact, it characterizes the behaviour of voyageurs. Voyageurs had to have a strong upper body and a good voice. They sang as they paddled their canoe. Dissatisfied with his American canoemen, John Jacob Astor asked that an exemption be made to the Embargo Act of 1807 so he could recruit Canadiens as canoemen for the American Fur Company and its subsidiary, the Pacific Fur Company. (See the Voyageurs Posts)

A Supper at the House of a French-Canadian Seigneur

After Dumais is rescued and a doctor has been sent for, everyone thanks providence and eight persons repair to the seigneur d’Haberville’s dining-room to eat supper. Traditionally, meals in Canada were le déjeuner (breakfast), le dîner (dinner) and le souper (supper). In Cameron of Lochiel (1905), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts uses the word supper to translate le souper. In earlier days, the people of Britain used the word supper, but in provinces outside Quebec, French-speaking Canadians may say dîner-souper because people could be confused.

Aubert de Gaspé describes une armoire, a large cabinet, containing blue dishes from Marseille. So, there is a degree of opulence on the shores of the St Lawrence.

Le couvert était mis dans une chambre basse, mais spacieuse, dont les meubles, sans annoncer le luxe, ne laissaient rien à désirer de ce que les Anglais appellent confort. (VI: p.110)
[The table was spread in a low but spacious room, whose furniture, though not luxurious, lacked nothing of what an Englishman calls comfort.] (V: 76-77)

By comparing the chambre basse to English comfort, one senses that Philippe Aubert de Gaspé is seeking validation. The novel is historical and, to a large extent, biographical. Historically, New France was defeated in 1759, but Aubert de Gaspé’s novel is part of a collective effort to rebuild New France, albeit in books. The French lived comfortably. In fact, Aubert de Gaspé is a descendant of Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye (1632-1702), reportedly the richest man in New France. Aubert de la Chesnaye owned several seigneuries and he was also a fur trader. Fur traders, called bourgeois, were mostly individuals who could afford to hire voyageurs.

Louis XIV did found the Compagnie des Indes occidentales in 1664. He wanted to take the fur trade away from bourgeois, many of whom were not French. The Company closed in 1674. It had lasted a mere ten years. (See Compagnie des Indes occidentales, Canadian Encyclopedia.) The Hudson’s Bay Company, a British company, was chartered in 1670. Fur trading is no longer its main mission, but it has yet to close. Fur trading was extremely lucrative, but the North West Company, headquartered in Montreal, was not established until 1779, after the conquest, by Scottish immigrants. It closed in 1821 when it was merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company. One would presume that Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye was a bourgeois fur trader.

As for the Seigneur d’Haberville (Aubert de Gaspé himself), the jewel of his manoir‘s dining-room is its armoire. The French in Nouvelle-France had armoires as did their European ancestors. In Les Anciens Canadiens, the D’Haberville’s armoire is also called a “sideboard” or buffet, a more common piece of furniture in the dining-room of other nations.

Un immense buffet, touchant presque au plafond, étalait, sur chacune des barres transversales dont il était amplement muni, un service en vaisselle bleue de Marseille semblant, par son épaisseur, jeter un défi à la maladresse des domestiques qui en auraient laissé tomber quelques pièces.(VI: pp. 110-111)
[A great sideboard, reaching almost to the ceiling, displayed on its many shelves a service of blue Marseilles china, of a thickness to defy the awkwardness of the servants.] (V: 76-77)

On a lower part of this side board, one finds a box (une cassette) filled with silverware.

Au-dessus de la partie inférieure de ce buffet, qui servait d’armoire, et que l’on pourrait appeler le rez-de-chaussée de ce solide édifice, projetait une tablette d’au moins un pied et demi de largeur, sur laquelle était une espèce de cassette, beaucoup plus haute que large, dont les petits compartiments, bordés de drap vert, étaient garnis de couteaux et de fourchettes à manches d’argent, à l’usage du dessert. (VI: p. 111)
[Over the lower part of this sideboard, which served the purpose of a cupboard and which might be called the ground floor of the structure, projected a shelf a foot and a half wide, on which stood a sort of tall narrow cabinet, whose drawers, lined with green cloth, held the silver spoons and forks.] (V: 76-77)

Later, Aubert de Gaspé mentions silver goblets.

Eight persons were at table, which is a small number. The French faced a major difficulty: finding supplies. As for the food, Brillat-Savarin would envy the pâté :

Ce pâté, qu’aurait envié Brillat-Savarin, était composé d’une dinde, de deux poulets, de deux perdrix, de deux pigeons, du râble et des cuisses de deux lièvres : le tout recouvert de bardes de lard gras. (VI: p. 113)
[This pasty, which would have aroused the envy of Brillat-Savarin, consisted of one turkey, two chickens, two partridges, two pigeons, the backs and thighs of two rabbits, all larded with slices of fat pork.] (V: 78-79)

Aubert de Gaspé was well informed. He had read the best authors. Each chapter of Les Anciens Canadiens begins with a learned quotation, Latin is used frequently and the Seigneur d’Haberville knows about Brillat-Savarin, the author of The Physiology of Taste (Physiologie du Goût). (See Brillat-Savarin, Wikipedia.) Every chapter of his book begins with a learned quotation from writers who are not necessarily French or French Canadians. Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) is quoted in chapter VI/V. Tennyson lived in the 19th century, which reveals that Les Anciens Canadiens was written in 1863.

A seigneur, le Seigneur de Beaumont will propose a toast to Arché.

Remplissez vos gobelets ; feu partout, s’écria M. de Beaumont : je vais porter une santé qui, j’en suis sûr, sera bien accueillie. (VI: p. 118)
[“Fill your glasses! Attention, everybody,” cried the Seigneur de Beaumont. “I am going to propose a health which will, I am very sure, be received with acclamation.”] (V: 80-81)

Monsieur de Beaumont praises Archie:

Votre conduite est au-dessus de tout éloge.(VI: p. 118)
[“What you have done is beyong all praise.”] (V: 81-82)

Of special interest to us, Scots in Canada, is a reference to the Scotch reel. (p. 126) In footnote 9, we learn that the Scots brought reels to Canada shortly after the conquest. This footnote refers to the past, but events in Les Anciens Canadiens occur from 1757 until the conquest.

Les scotch reels, que les habitants appellent cosreels, étaient, à ma connaissance, dansés dans les campagnes, il y a soixante et dix ans. Les montagnards écossais, passionnés pour la danse comme nos Canadiens, les avaient sans doute introduits peu de temps après la conquête. (VI: p. 146)
[Scottish reels, which habitants call cosreels, were, to my knowledge, danced in the countryside, seventy years ago. Scottish Highlanders, who were as fond of dancing as our Canadiens, had introduced the reels shortly after the conquest.]

THE Stranger

Chapter V/VI features a stranger who does not seem altogether human.

Une longue chevelure blonde lui flottait sur les épaules ; ses beaux yeux bleus avaient une douceur angélique, et toute sa figure, sans être positivement triste, était d’une mélancolie empreinte de compassion. Il portait une longue robe bleue nouée avec une ceinture. Larouche disait n’avoir jamais rien vu de si beau que cet étranger ; que la plus belle créature était laide en comparaison. (VI: p. 133)
[“This stranger was a tall, handsome man of about thirty. Long fair hair fell about his shoulders, his blue eyes were as sweet as an angel’s, and his countenance wore a sort of tender sadness. His dress was a long blue robe tied at the waist. Larouche said he had never seen any one so beautiful as this stranger, and that the loveliest woman was ugly in comparison.”] (V: 90-94)

David Larouche meets the stranger when he is taking his tithe to his parish priest. David, also called Davi, has so much to give that he needs a sled to carry his tithe. The stranger congratulates him, but David says there could have been more. If the weather had been better, his tithe would be larger.

The following year, he is carrying his thite because the bundle is so small. But the weather was as he wished, but too much so, as in the proverb.

– Jamais souhait ne vint plus à propos, répondit Larouche, car je crois que le diable est entré dans ma maison, où il tient son sabbat jour et nuit ; ma femme me dévore depuis le matin jusqu’au soir, mes enfants me boudent, quand ils ne font pas pis ; et tous mes voisins sont déchaînés contre moi. (VI: p. 136)
[“‘Never was wish more appropriate,’ answered Larouche, ‘for I believe the devil himself has got into my house, and is kicking up his pranks there day and night. My wife scolds me to death from morn till eve, my children sulk when they are not doing worse, and all my neighbors are set against me.'”] (V: 93-94)
(David Larouche)

The French in North America had to trust in Providence. Hostile Iroquois could kidnap children, but they could also listen to Dumais and release Arché. Moreover, colonies were at the mercy of victories and defeats between colonial powers.

This character, the stranger, is a bit of an archetype. He may be the stranger who comes to the door and whom one believes is Jesus. (Notre Seigneur en pauvre). Novelist Germaine Guèvremont introduces a stranger in her 1945 Le Survenant (The Outlander). (See RELATED ARTILES) This novel, a trilogy, was made into a very popular television serial and is the subject of two films. Aubert de Gaspé, however, depicts a stranger who can predict the future and, in 1757, the future is ominous. We are two years away from the conquest. Montcalm will lose the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13 September 1759.

Les Anciens Canadiens also has it sorceress, other than la Corriveau. When the sorceress sees Archie, she knows that he will harm the family.

Va-t’en ! va-t’en ! c’est toi qui amènes l’Anglais pour dévorer le Français ! (IX: p. 208)
[“Avaunt! Avaunt!” continued the witch with the same gestures, “you that are bringing the English to eat up the French.”] (VIII: 134)
(Marie, the sorceress)

Between Christmas and Lent

On the shores of the St Lawrence, there are very few stores. Preparing a meal is difficult. As well, habitants are scattered over a large territory. Consequently, there are good months and bad months. But winter comes bringing “lavish abundance.” Between Christmas time and Lent, there are gatherings and one feasts.

Nos habitants, dispersés à distance les uns des autres sur toute l’étendue de la Nouvelle-France, et partant privés de marchés, ne vivent, pendant le printemps, l’été et l’automne que de salaisons, pain et laitage (…)
Il se fait, en revanche, pendant l’hiver, une grande consommation de viandes fraîches de toutes espèces ; c’est bombance générale : l’hospitalité est poussée jusqu’à ses dernières limites, depuis Noël jusqu’au carême. C’est un va-et-vient de visites continuelles pendant ce temps. Quatre ou cinq carrioles contenant une douzaine de personnes arrivent ; on dételle aussitôt les voitures, après avoir prié les amis de se dégrayer (dégréer); la table se dresse, et, à l’expiration d’une heure tout au plus, cette même table est chargée de viandes fumantes. (VII: p.169)
[“Our habitants, scattered wide apart over all New France, and consequently deprived of markets during spring, summer, and autumn, live then on nothing but salt meat, bread, and milk, and, except in the infrequent case of a wedding, they rarely give a feast at either of those seasons. In winter, on the other hand, there is a lavish abundance of fresh meats of all kinds; there is a universal feasting, and hospitality is carried to an extreme from Christmas time to Lent; there is a perpetual interchange of visits. Four or five carrioles, containing a dozen people, drive up; the horses are unhitched, the visitors take off their wraps, the table is set, and in an hour or so it is loaded down with smoking dishes.”] (VI: 113-114)


Jules and Archie are about to leave for Europe. Archie will return as a British soldier and will set ablaze his friend’s manoir. But the Order of Good Cheer still inhabits the mind of a people who have otherwise lost everything. One rebuilds. Blanche will not marry Archie, but he will live nearby and never marry. A humbler manoir has been rebuilt and Aubert de Gaspé remembers the dinners of old. It seems a duty to share meals, not so lavish as before, but generous. The Order of Good Cheer, myrth, is a constant in the literature of the conquered Canadiens.

As Philippe Aubert de Gaspé chronicles the past, building a literary homeland, he also creates Cameron of Lochiel, an intriguing figure, bridging a past and a future.


Sources and Ressources

Les Anciens Canadiens ( FR
Cameron of Lochiel ( ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Une Colonie féodale en Amérique: l’Acadie 1604 – 17 (Rameau, Google Books)


Love to everyone 💕

Sir Ernest MacMillan’s Notre Seigneur en pauvre
Un Ancien Canadien

© Micheline Walker
19 June 2021

La Débâcle / The Debacle


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The Passing Storm, Saint-Ferréol by Cornelius Krieghoff,1854 (National Gallery of Canada)


We are skipping material we have already covered. We therefore skip La Corriveau. Our next big event is la débâcle, or the spring break-off of the ice on the St Lawrence. You will remember that the French built their seigneuries on the shores of the St Lawrence River which they used as a road in winter and in summer. During the winter, the ice on the St Lawrence could be very thick. One could cross the river in a horse and carriage, or a sleigh, un traîneau. The St Lawrence was Nouvelle-France’s highway. It took one from Quebec City to Trois-Rivières, and then to Montreal. Lots were narrow but they went back a considerable distance. When the water was frozen, the ice could support a large weight. When the river flowed, one used a boat, often a canoe.

José, a domestic, has driven to Quebec to pick up Jules and Arché, whom Jules’ father wants to meet. However, a huge noise is heard. The ice is breaking and Dumais breaks a leg. He cannot escape unassisted. Events in Les Anciens Canadiens occur on the shores of the St Lawrence River. When the Compagnie des Cent-Associés was formed in 1627, by Richelieu, it was given a mission. The people of New France were to harvest fur, Nouvelle-France’s gold. However, those who paddled canoes had to work under a bourgeois. In other words, voyageurs were hired (engagés). If not, they were called coureurs des bois and were fined if they were caught.

In the seventeenth century, Radisson went as far as the Hudson’s Bay and returned to the shores of the St Lawrence with a hundred canoes filled with precious pelts. Radisson was an explorer, not a voyageur. When he showed his pelts, he was treated like a coureur des bois and his pelts were confiscated. Miffed, he went to England and Prince Rupert sent a ship to the Hudson’s Bay. This led to the establishment, in 1670, of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Company owned Rupert’s Land which Canada would purchase when Confederation occurred, in 1867.

Dumais, who is caught in the ice, seems a Métis. There were métis. The French lived with Amerindians and they married Amerindians. Moreover, the notion of the noble savage originates, to a large extent, in the Jesuits’s Relations. The Jesuits realized that one could be a good person without being baptized. It was a shock for the Robes Noires and it led to the emergence of a character called the Noble Savage. Lahontan, a French aristocrat, wrote about the Noble Savage. He named him Adario. So, Dumais’s ancestors could include Amerindians. Although Amerindians would torture the whites, many were “nobles. But our Dumais, whatever his ancestry, is cought in the ice and would die, were it not for the skills of an athletic Scotsman, Arché. Arché saves Dumais life.

The Noble savage, in literature, an idealized concept of uncivilized man, who symbolizes the innate goodness of one not exposed to the corrupting influences of civilization.

Britannica [1]

La Débacle / the Debacle

Arché saves Dumais’ life

Dumais cannot help himself. He will die, but Arché proves a heroic Scot.

« Capitaine, je nage comme un poisson, j’ai l’haleine d’un amphibie ; le danger n’est pas pour moi, mais pour ce
malheureux, si je heurtais la glace en l’abordant. Arrêtez-moi d’abord à une douzaine de pieds de l’îlot, afin de mieux calculer la distance et d’amortir ensuite le choc : votre expérience fera le reste. Maintenant une corde forte, mais aussi
légère que possible, et un bon nœud de marin. »

Arché au capitaine Marcheterre (V: p. 97)
[“Captain, I am like a fish in the water; there is no danger for me, but for the poor fellow yonder, in case I should strike that block of ice too hard and dash it from its place. Stop me about a dozen feet above the island, that I may calculate the distance better and break the shock. Your own judgment will tell you what else to do. Now, for a strong rope, but as light as possible, and a good sailor’s knot.”]
Arché to captain Marcheterre (IV: 68-69)

Dumais, malgré son état de torpeur apparente, malgré son immobilité, n’avait pourtant rien perdu de tout ce qui se passait. Un rayon d’espoir, bien vite évanoui, avait lui au fond de son cœur déchiré par tant d’émotions sanglantes à la vue des premières tentatives de son libérateur, mais cette espérance s’était ravivée de nouveau en voyant le bond surhumain que fit de Locheill s’élançant de la cime du rocher. Celui-ci avait à peine, en effet, atteint la glace où il se cramponnait d’une seule main, pour dégager, de l’autre, le rouleau de corde qui l’enlaçait, que Dumais, lâchant le cèdre protecteur, prit un tel élan sur sa jambe unique, qu’il vint tomber dans les bras d’Arché.
(V: p. 102)
[Dumais, in spite of his apparent stupor, had lost nothing of what was passing. A ray of hope had struggled through his despair at sight of Lochiel’s tremendous leap from the summit of the rock. Scarcely had the latter, indeed, reached the edge of the ice, where he clung with one hand while loosening with the other the coil of rope, than Dumais, dropping his hold on the cedar, took such a leap upon his one uninjured leg that he fell into Archie’s very arms.]
(IV: 71-72)

Dumais is very thankful. How can Dumais repay? He will.

– Comment m’acquitter envers vous, dit-il, de ce que vous avez fait pour moi, pour ma pauvre femme et pour mes pauvres enfants !
Dumais à Arché (V: p. 106)
[“How can I ever repay you,” said he, “for all you have done for me, for my poor wife, and for my children?”]
Dumais to Arché (IV: 73-74)

Our noble Arché tells Dumais that he need simply recover.

En recouvrant promptement la santé, répondit gaiement de Locheill.
Arché à Dumais (V: p. 106)
[“By getting well again as soon as possible,” answered Lochiel gayly.] 
Arché to Dumais (IV: 74)

A Night Among the Savages

Dumais saves Arché’s life

Dumais will repay Arché. He will save him from being tortured by Amerindians. To Amerindians, Arché must be tortured. First, Dumais tells la Grand’ Loutre that Arché is not an Englishman. He is Scottish.

– Que mon frère écoute, dit Dumais, et qu’il fasse attention aux paroles du visage-pâle. Le prisonnier n’est pas Anglais, mais Écossais ; et les Écossais sont les sauvages des Anglais. Que mon frère regarde le vêtement du prisonnier, et il verra qu’il est presque semblable à celui du guerrier sauvage.
Dumais à la Grand’ Loutre (XIII: p. 291)
[“Let my brother heed my words,” said Dumais. “The prisoner is not an Englishman, but a Scotchman, and the Scotch are the savages of the English. Let my brother observe the prisoner’s clothing, and see how like it is to that of a savage warrior.”]
Dumais to Grand-Loutre (XII: 185-186)

Dumais then tells Grand-Loutre that the prisoner, Arché, is the one who saved Dumais’ life.

– Eh bien ! reprit Dumais en se levant et ôtant sa casquette, ton frère déclare, en présence du Grand-Esprit, que le prisonnier est le jeune Écossais qui lui a sauvé la vie !
Dumais à la Grand’Loutre (XIII: p. 302)
[“Very well!” replied Dumais, rising and taking off his cap, “thy brother swears in the presence of the Great Spirit that the prisoner is none other than the young Scotchman who saved his life!”] (XII: 192-193)


The novel is binary. In Chapter V (FR), Arché has saved Dumais’s life. In Chapter XIII (FR), Dumais saves Arché’s life. It is near-perfect symmetry. Moreover, we are witnesses to a friendly, brotherly, relationship between the French and New France’s natives. The French could not arrive in North America as conquerors. They were dying of scurvy. Nor could they harvest precious pelts, without a canoe and snow-shoes. As for Scottish explorers, they needed voyageurs and Amerindians. There is considerable truth to Montesquieu‘s théorie des climats.

Dumais’s comment according to which the Scots are the savages of the English is extremely funny. But Dumais must be understood. La Grand’Loutre would not hurt a person of is considered a savage by the English. Nor would he hurt a person who saved his “brother.” But one could say that Dumais is Les Anciens Canadiens‘ voyageur or Métis.


Sources and Ressources
Les Anciens Canadiens ( FR
Cameron of Lochiel ( ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN

[1] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Noble savage”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 Apr. 2019, Accessed 13 June 2021.

Cornelius Krieghoff (to Scottish music)
Aubert de Gaspé‘s manoir, restored (fr Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
13 June 2021

Jules d’Haberville & Cameron of Lochiel


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An incident in the rebellion of 1745David Morier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


In 2012, I wrote two posts about Aubert de Gaspé’s Les Anciens Canadiens. I mentioned Sir Charles G. D. Robert‘s first translation of Aubert de Gaspé’s novel, The Canadians of Old, published in 1890. In fact, I did not discover Sir Roberts’s second translation until I prepared my last post. As a university teacher of French, I taught Les Anciens Canadiens in French.

I have not read Sir Charles G. D. Roberts’s first translation, The Canadians of Old. It was published fifteen years before the publication of Cameron of Lochiel, in 1905. As Cameron of Lochiel, a mere title, Les Anciens Canadiens focuses on the fate of a conquered nation. The novel nevertheless provides a description of the life of a seigneur, of his seigneurie‘s habitants, of feasts celebrated on the shores of the St Lawrence River, as well as other relevant tableaux of Canadian society before 1759. Dinner at the seigneurie reminds me of Acadie’s L’Ordre de Bon Temps 1606. Jules d’Haberville’s father serves copious meals, and all rejoice.

As a depiction of Nouvelle-France, Les Anciens Canadiens is a very rich novel, but Aubert de Gaspé idealizes Nouvelle-France. Sr Roberts’s title, Cameron of Lochiel, legitimizes an idealized past

In the eyes of Aubert de Gaspé, the fall of New France to England is as large a loss as the fall of Scotland to England. Objectively, the fall of Scotland is the greater loss, but how else can Aubert de Gaspé express adequately the tragedy that has befallen his land than by evoking Scotland, the larger tragedy. France has gone and will not return. That is an emotional reality, or a reality of the mind, but it is a reality.

Arché de Locheill n’était âgé que de douze ans, en l’année 1745, lorsque son père joignit les étendards de ce jeune et infortuné prince qui, en vrai héros de roman, vint se jeter entre les bras de ses compatriotes écossais pour revendiquer par les armes une couronne à laquelle il devait renoncer pour toujours après le désastre de Culloden. (II: p. 22)
[When Archie was but twelve years old, in the year 1745, his father joined the standard of that unhappy young prince who, after the old romantic fashion, threw himself into the arms of his Scottish countrymen, and called upon them to win him back a crown which the bloody field of Culloden forced him to renounce forever.] (II: 20)

Scotland is the larger loss and, although Jules d’Haberville is as fine looking as Cameron of Lochiel, Archie is taller and, stronger than d’Haberville:

Le second, plus âgé de deux à trois ans, est d’une taille beaucoup plus forte et plus élevée. Ses beaux yeux bleus, ses cheveux blond châtain, son teint blanc et un peu coloré, quelques rares taches de rousseur sur le visage et sur les mains, son menton tant soit peu prononcé, accusent une origine étrangère ; c’est, en effet, Archibald Cameron of Locheill, c’est, en effet, Archibald Cameron of Locheill, vulgairement Arché de Locheill, jeune montagnard écossais qui a fait
ses études au collège des Jésuites de Québec. Comment, lui, étranger, se trouve-t-il dans une colonie française ? C’est ce que la suite apprendra.
(I. 15)
[His companion, who is older by two or three years, is much taller and more robust of frame. His fine blue eyes, his chestnut hair, his blonde and ruddy complexion with a few scattered freckles on face and hands, his slightly aggressive chin—all these reveal a foreign origin. This is Archibald Cameron of Lochiel, commonly known as Archie of Lochiel, a young Scotch Highlander who has been studying at the Jesuits’ College in Quebec. How is it that he, a stranger, finds himself in this remote French colony? We will let the sequel show.] (Foreword: 4)

Moreover, in 1757, France had not been defeated, so Archie is more sensitive than Jules d’Haberville:

– Oh ! Français ! légers Français ! aveugles Français ! il n’est pas surprenant que les Anglais se jouent de vous par-dessous la jambe, en politique !
– Il me semble, interrompit Jules, que les Écossais doivent en savoir quelque chose de la politique anglaise ! Le visage d’Arché prit tout à coup une expression de tristesse ; une grande pâleur se répandit sur ses nobles traits : c’était une corde bien sensible que son ami avait touchée. Jules s’en aperçut aussitôt, et lui dit :

– Pardon, mon frère, si je t’ai fait de la peine : je sais que ce sujet évoque chez toi de douloureux souvenirs. J’ai parlé, comme je le fais toujours, sans réfléchir. On blesse souvent, sans le vouloir, ceux que l’on aime le plus, par une repartie que l’on croit spirituelle. Mais, allons, vive la joie ! continue à déraisonner ; ça sera plus gai pour nous deux. (IV: p. 45)
[“Oh, you French, you frivolous French, you deluded French, no wonder the English catch you on the hip in diplomacy!”
“It would seem to me,” interrupted Jules, “that the Scotch ought to know something by this time about English diplomacy!”
Archie’s face saddened and grew pale; his friend had touched a sore spot. Jules perceived this at once and said:
“Forgive me, dear fellow, if I have hurt you. I know the subject is one that calls up painful memories. I spoke, as usual, without thinking. One often thoughtlessly wounds those one best loves by a retort which one may think very witty. But come, let us drink to a merry life! Go on with your remarkable reasoning; that will be pleasanter for both of us.”] (III: 48-49)

La Corriveau

In Chapter IV/III (EN), Jules d’Haberville tells the legend of La Corriveau, a murderess. It was one of my 2012 posts. The second post is a more general description of Les Anciens Canadiens. La Corriveau: a legend (1 April 2012)

go to → La Corriveau: a legend


Sources and Ressources
Les Anciens Canadiens ( FR
Cameron of Lochiel ( ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN


Love to everyone 💕

La Corriveau
The skeleton of La Corriveau, in her iron cage, terrifying a traveller, 1926 by Charles Walter Simpson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
12 June 2021

Les Anciens Canadiens/Cameron of Lochiel


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Cameron of Locheil by H. C. Edwards (EBook#53154)
Manoir de Philippe Aubert de Gaspé à Saint-Jean-Port-Joli (Patrimoine culturel du Québec)

Les Anciens Canadiens ( FR
Cameron of Lochiel ( ), Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN
Cameron of Lochiel is Gutenberg [EBook#53154], Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, translator. EN

Last weekend, I worked on Philippe-Joseph Aubert de Gaspé‘s Anciens Canadiens. The novel can be read online. It was translated twice by Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, an excellent Canadian writer, but Mr Roberts’s second and finer translation, published in 1905, is entitled Cameron of Lochiel [EN]. I had never looked for a translation of Les Anciens Canadiens [1] and this English title intrigued me. Upon due reflexion, the title Sir Roberts gave Les Anciens Canadiens seemed altogether legitimate. As the events of the Anciens Canadiens unfold, Jules d’Haberville becomes Cameron of Lochiel. Scotland fell to England at the Battle of Culloden (1746), which is discussed in Les Anciens Canadiens. As for New France, it will also fall to England, but it will have a glorious past.

After our friends complete their studies, Jules joins the French army and Arché, the British army. Archie serves in North America during the Seven Years’ War, called the French and Indian War. Ironically and tragically, Arché, a soldier, is ordered to set ablaze his friends’ manoir. Nouvelle-France is conquered by the British. Therefore, the defeat of Nouvelle-France mirrors the defeat of Scotland, a more important country, and, by the same token, it puts Jules and Arché / Archie on an equal footing. They are the two sides of the same coin. So, metaphorically, Jules has become Cameron of Lochiel. His country has been defeated and, despite the role Arché / Archie plays during the war, the friends are reunited. In 1759, the French in Canada fell to England as did the Scots, in 1746.

After the “conquest,” Blanche d’Haberville will not marry Roberts’s Cameron of Lochiel, whom she loves, but Jules will marry an Englishwoman, thereby giving himself a second and redeeming identity, an instance of the collaborator’s ideology. He is the conquered and the conqueror. As for Aubert de Gaspé, the author and a Seigneur, he will use Arché’s guided tour of a Seigneurie to consign New France to a réel absolu, that of fiction, the life and customs of anciens Canadiens. Jules familiarizes Arché with the life of a Seigneur and that of the inhabitants of a seigneurie, not to mention the life of New France’s humbler subjects and its Amerindians.

Missing are New France’s voyageurs, river drivers (draveurs), and bûcherons. Their life and their songs are chronicled elsewhere. Les Anciens Canadiens nevertheless memorializes and mythologizes the presence of the French in North America. France will live forever on the shores of the St Lawrence River because it is remembered, an anamnesis.

La Patrie littéraire

When John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham wrote his Report on the Rebellions of 1837-1838, he described the French in Canada as a people lacking a history and a literature: un peuple sans histoire ni littérature. The French set about proving him wrong. Two literary schools were instituted, one in Montreal and one in Quebec City. The people of New France quickly built a patrie littéraire,[2] a literary homeland.  

Our colleague Derrick J. Knight was correct in suggesting a link between the Scots and the French in Canada. Matters would change when Confederation occurred. However, the spirit of the Auld Alliance would persist. Our Scottish explorers worked at an early point after the Conquest of Canada, formalized by the Treaty of Paris,1763. The Battle of Culloden took place less than two decades before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, fought on 13 September 1759.

Canada’s bon Anglais is Scottish, he is both John Neilson and Cameron of Locheill. John Neilson stated that there could be a blend, un amalgame, of the two “races” in Canada, the French-speaking race, and the English-speaking race: the two sides of the same coin. There was an amalgame. Simon Fraser left Montreal accompanied by 19 voyageurs and 2 Amerindians. Explorers were guided by voyageurs and Amerindians whom they trusted.

Patriotism, devotion to the French-Canadian nationality, a just pride of race, and a loving memory for his people’s romantic and heroic past—these are the dominant chords which are struck throughout the story. Of special significance, therefore, are the words which are put in the mouth of the old seigneur as he bids his son a last farewell. The father has been almost ruined by the conquest. The son has left the French army and taken the oath of allegiance to the English crown. “Serve thy new sovereign,” says the dying soldier, “as faithfully as I have served the King of France; and may God bless thee, my dear son!”
Sir Charles G. D. Roberts’s Cameron of Lochiel (Preface)

An incident in the rebellion of 1745David Morier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Montcalm blessé à la bataille des plaines d’Abraham et ramené à Québec (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sources and Resources

[1] There are four: The Canadians of Old, Georgina Pennée (1864); Charles G. D. Roberts (1890), and Jane Brierley (1997). There are anonymous translations.
[2] Bourbeau-Walker, M. (2002). La patrie littéraire : errance et résistance.
Francophonies d’Amérique,(13), 47–65.

Love to everyone 💕

Philippe Aubert de Gaspé (1786-1871)
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

© Micheline Walker
9 Juin 2021

The Scots as Explorers


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Sir Alexander Mackenzie painted by Thomas Lawrence (c. 1800 – 1801), courtesy National Gallery of Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sir Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1820): first to cross North America north of Mexico on 22 July 1793.
Simon Fraser (1776-1862): first to go down the Fraser River, 1808. The Fraser River leads to the Pacific.
David Thompson (1770-1827): a cartographer (British).
Alexander MacKay (1770-1811): Alexander Mackenzie’s cousin. He died on 15 June 1811 (the Tonquin ).
Alexander Ross (1783-1856): Oregon Settlers. (Franchère’s voyageurs).
Gabriel Franchère (1786-1863): took voyageurs from New York to the mouth of the Columbia River (the Tonquin).
the Fraser River.
the Columbia River.
the Tonquin (1807-1811).

In my last post, I noted that voyageurs and Amerindians worked for explorers. When beavers were nearing extinction fur traders became explorers in the hope of finding precious pelts west of a formidable obstacle: the Rocky Mountains.

The first European to cross the continent

Alexander Mackenzie (1764-1820) was the first European to cross the North American continent north of Mexico. In 1788, the North West Company sent him to Lake Athabasca, in Northern Saskatchewan, where he was a founder of Fort Chipewyan. In 1789, he navigated the Mackenzie River, named after him, and reached the Arctic Ocean. Such was not his goal. He then turned around and travelled the Mackenzie River south, but he did not go as far as the Pacific Ocean. The Mackenzie River is extremely long. In 1793, Alexander Mackenzie again sought a passage to the Pacific. He was advised not to travel down the Fraser River, but to use instead the Bella Coola River, which took him to the Pacific Ocean. Alexander Mackenzie reached the Pacific on 22 July 1793. He did so 13 years before the Lewis and Clark expedition (see Alexander Mackenzie, Wikipedia). Alexander Mackenzie is the first person to cross the continent north of Mexico, but he was not alone. Alexander Mackenzie was

[a]ccompanied by two native guides (one named Cancre), his cousin, Alexander MacKay, six Canadian voyageurs (Joseph Landry, Charles Ducette, François Beaulieu, Baptiste Bisson, François Courtois, Jacques Beauchamp) and a dog simply referred to as “our dog”, Mackenzie left Fort Chipewyan, in Northern Saskatchewan, on 10 October 1792, and traveled via the Pine River to the Peace River. From there he traveled to a fork on the Peace River arriving 1 November where he and his cohorts built a fortification that they resided in over the winter. This later became known as Fort Fork.

See Alexander Mackenzie, Wikipedia

Had so shrewd an investor as John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) not suspected that there were pelts to harvest on the West Coast of the current United States, he would not have established the Pacific Fur Company (1810-1813), a subsidiary of the American Fur Company (1808). Nor would he have asked Gabriel Franchère (1786-1863) to recruit voyageurs in Quebec and to take them aboard the Tonquin around Cape Horn and past the Columbia Bar, called the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” Eight men died. The Tonquin left New York on 8 September 1810. It arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River on 22 March 1811. Aboard were Alexander MacKay and Alexander Ross. However, Fort Astoria would not survive because the United States was losing the War of 1812. John Jacob Astor sold the Pacific Fur Company to the North West Company and Fort Astoria was renamed Fort George. I have told the story of the Tonquin in earlier posts (see RELATED ARTICLES). Moreover, we have a page containing a list of posts on the voyageurs.

One may therefore suggest that it was in the best interest of the North West Company to ask Alexander Mackenzie to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean. However, Alexander MacKay had accompanied his cousin on his expedition west of the Rocky Mountains. After the demise of Fort Astoria, MacKay sailed north on the Tonquin and died (15 June 1811) when the ship was attacked by chief Wickaninnish and then blown apart by James Lewis, a clerk who was seriously wounded and could not escape.

Alexander Mackenzie was the first European to cross the continent north of Mexico, but, as we have seen, he was not alone. Moreover, in 1808, Simon Fraser would also reach the Pacific Ocean, or nearly so. Simon Fraser’s task, however, was to settle forts past the Rocky Mountains. He was a settler. Both Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser were Nor’Westers. The Hudson’s Bay Company played a lesser role in promoting the fur trade west of the Rockies.

Alexander Ross, who travelled on the Tonquin, can also be considered a settler. He helped Gabriel Franchère‘s stranded voyageurs settle in the Oregon Country. Many married Amerindian women. So did Alexander Ross. He married the daughter of an Okanagan Chief. Alexander Ross left precious accounts of his travels. Ross’s Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River, 1810-1813, written in 1849, chronicles life on the Tonquin and the settling of voyageurs in the Oregon Country. Alexander Ross was associated with the Pacific Fur Company, the North West Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, in that order.

The Oregon Country, however, was a disputed area. The British felt entitled to the territory down to the 42nd parallel. As for the United States, it claimed all territory extending north to the 54th parallel. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 settled matters. In other words, in New Caledonia, the future British Columbia, the border was defined several years after the War of 1812.

The Oregon Country: British and American Claims
Alexander Mackenzie, Simon Fraser & David Thomson (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Pre-1825 portrait of Simon Fraser (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Simon Fraser: twenty-four men in four canoes

Rivers (fleuves) flow into the sea. So, west coast rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. However, the Fraser River, is unnavigable. Simon Fraser and his crew canoed through turbulent and, all too often, narrow passages between mountain ranges. Portages were necessaries, but explorers and their crew had to walk down the side of mostly perpendicular cliffs. Simon Fraser knew about the rapids and also knew about the cliffs of the Fraser River. As well, hostile Amerindians lived along the Fraser River. Yet, on 28 May 1808, twenty-four men in four canoes left Fort George, settled by Simon Fraser. Simon Fraser lost one canoe and would have lost a man, had it not been for an agile native, Métis, or voyageur.

Alexander Mackenzie was the first to reach the Pacific Ocean by land. However, Simon Fraser (1764-1862), who canoed down the turbulent Fraser River in 1808, is not the lesser hero. On the contrary, he was the first to “establish permanent settlements in the area” (see Simon Fraser, Wikipedia). He secured Britain/Canada’s claim to territory north of the 49th parallel. Moreover, he provided proof that fur could be harvested west of the Rocky Mountains. Fraser sent a winter’s harvest of fur to Dunvegan (Alberta).

Just before leaving Rocky Mountain Portage, Fraser sent the winter’s harvest of furs to Dunvegan (Alta). It included 14 packs from Trout Lake – the first furs traded west of the mountains. Fraser was delighted with their quality. “The furs are really fine,” he noted in his journal. ” They were chiefly killed in the proper season and many of them are superior to any I have seen in Athabasca…

See Simon Fraser, The Dictionary of Canadian Biography


Scots were everywhere in the fur trade. But explorers did not acquire wealth. However, what is most significant is the blend of individuals who worked peacefully finding a passage by land to the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, they worked in teams and teams included Amerindians, Métis, and voyageurs. François Beaulieu II, a Métis and a Yellowknife chief. He was a guide to Alexander Mackenzie and, as we have seen, Alexander Mackenzie was accompanied by his cousin Alexander MacKay when he crossed the North American continent. When John Neilson had a conversation with Alexis de Tocqueville, he was mostly right. A blend of the two “races,” French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians, was possible. We have a bad Anglais in Jonathan Thorn, the Tonquin’s captain. He mistreated aboriginals who then killed nearly all the men aboard the Tonquin.

The Scots who came to Canada had fallen to England at the Battle of Culloden, in 1746. So had the French, in 1763, a mere 17 years later. Travel accounts, including L. R. Masson’s Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest (Volume II), an Internet Archive publication, name partners who are Scots, but have French and Amerindian friends, or interact with the French and the Amerindians. These are good years, if not a mythical past. Quebec’s music has Celtic roots and its literature features un bon Anglais who is a Scot. He is Les Anciens Canadiens‘s Archibald Cameron of Locheill, a Scot. Jules d’Haberville, a seigneur‘s son, befriends Arché, a Scot and a Catholic.

Next, we read Philippe Aubert de Gaspé‘s Les Anciens Canadiens (see Sources and Resources)


Sources and Resources


Love to everyone 💕

The Descent of the Fraser River, 1808, by C. W. Jefferys

© Micheline Walker
4 June 2021