About Canadian Confederation

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The Fathers of Confederation

The Fathers of Confederation by Robert Harris, 1884

Canadians have honoured Sir John A MacDonald for a very long time. However, statues of John A. MacDonald are being put in storage and one, perhaps more, has been vandalized. He was a father of Confederation, if not the Father of Confederation. So, what happened?

Macdonald, Sir John (NFB/National Archives of Canada) (Photo credit: Britannica)

First, as we have seen in earlier posts, when Canada grew westward, the White population settled on land they had appropriated from Amerindians on the basis of “conquest,” a disgraceful leftover from the “age of discovery.” Moreover, as we have also seen in earlier posts, Rupert’s Land, which Canada bought from the Hudson’s Bay Company, did not include settled land, such as the Red River Settlement, bought by the Earl of Selkirk, and lands inhabited by Amerindians.

Quebec

As for Quebec, it seems it was drawn into a Confederation that also excluded it. John A. Macdonald was an Orangeman, a fraternity that was inimical to Catholics and the French. The people of Quebec could not be educated in French outside Quebec. Waves of immigrants arrived who would live in provinces other than Quebec and be educated in English. We have already discussed the school question.

This situation prevailed until Lester B. Pearson, a Nobel Laureate and the Prime Minister of Canada, established the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism to investigate language grievances. Co-chairing the commission were Davidson Hunton and André Laurendeau. André Laurendeau died of an aneurysm on 1st June 1968. The work of the Commission culminated in the Official Languages Act which passed into law in 1969, a year after Pierre Elliott Trudeau was elected Prime Minister of Canada. (See Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, wiki2.org.)

However, recognition occurred 102 years after Confederation (1867) when English had become the language spoken outside Quebec. The French had been in North America since 1534.

Conclusion

In short, what of such concepts as nationhood and the rights afforded conquerors and, first and foremost, what of Canada’s Confederation? If Confederation demanded that the children of Francophones be educated in English, outside Quebec, their children were likely to be Anglophones. So, what of Quebec nationalism. Separatism is usually associated with Quebecers, but it isn’t altogether québécois. Not if the children of French Canadians had to be educated in English outside Quebec and not if immigrants to Canada were sent to English-speaking communities.

Sir George-Étienne Cartier was pleased that Quebec would remain Quebec. The population of Quebec would retain its “code civil,” its language, its religion, and its culture while belonging to a strong partnership. He may have been afraid.

However, Canada has a new constitution, the Constitution Act of 1982, which Quebec has not signed.

Love to everyone 💕

Sir Ernest MacMillan, Two Skteches on French Canadian Airs

© Micheline Walker
14 September 2020
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La Henriade

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Voltaire (portrait by Nicolas de Largillière, c. 1724)

The ostensible subject [of La Henriade] is the siege of Paris in 1589 by Henry III in concert with Henry of Navarre, soon to be Henry IV, but its themes are the twin evils of religious fanaticism and civil discord.

La Henriade, wiki2.org

I think the above captures the spirit of Voltaire’s La Henriade. But it also describes Voltaire who spent a lifetime combating fanaticism, injustice and superstitions. Our subject is New France in its earliest days. We wish to know what happened during the half century separating Cartier’s attempt to found a settlement and Dugua de Mons’ similar endeavour. This period has not been chronicled, but Huguenots had been involved in the fur trade. Our King is no longer François Ier, but Henri IV.

The contents of this post may seem repetitive, but they sum up Cartier’s era and Henri IV’s brief reign. More importantly, although New France has Huguenot roots, I am portraying a good king who was attempting to put away a divided Kingdom. He was assassinated in 1610.

Jacques Cartier

Many Huguenots (French Protestants) or former Huguenots, were the founders of what became Canada. Dugua de Mons converted to Catholicism in 1593, at approximately the same time Henri IV became a Catholic. As King of Navarre, he had been a Huguenot.

Charlesbourg-Royal

Nothing suggests that Jacques Cartier was a Huguenot, but he settled Charlesbourg-Royal in 1541, a settlement that ended in 1543. François Ier (Francis Ist), had commissioned Pierre de La Rocque, sieur de Roberval, known as Roberval, a nobleman, to build the first French settlement in North America, but Roberval did not set sail until 1542. Although sources differ, Charlesbourg-Royal was settled, almost undoubtedly, by Jacques Cartier, rather than Roberval.

Jacques Cartier left France in 1541, a year before Roberval sailed for the New World. Jacques Cartier met Roberval, near Newfoundland, but refused to turn around to assist Roberval, as the King had requested. Jacques Cartier was not a nobleman, but he is the explorer who discovered Canada and named it Canada, after Kanata, its Amerindian name.

Francis 1st, King of France, did not ask Jacques Cartier to build a settlement. As we know, the person he commissioned was Pierre de La Rocque, sieur de Roberval, a nobleman. This may have been an affront to Jacques Cartier who had discovered “Canada.” Jacques Cartier lost 35 men during the first winter he spent at Charlesbourg-Royal, pictured above. By 1543, the settlement was abandoned. Then came a seemingly inactive period spanning nearly a half-century, but was it?

Henri IV

The settlements that survive are Dugua de Mons’ Port-Royal and Quebec City. As a noted, Champlain founded Quebec City, as Dugua’s employee. In fact, he and Mathieu da Costa were Dugua’s employees. So, Mathieu da Costa, the first Black in Canada, may have co-founded Quebec City, as an employee of Dugua de Mons. Mathieu de Coste is also Canada’s first linguist and he died in the settlement he co-founded. He was a free Black.

Had he not been a fur-trader, it is very unlikely that Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit could have built a trading-post. The Huguenots had been fleeing the Wars of Religion. Henri IV reigned from 1589 to 14 May 1610, when he was assassinated, and events do not suggest that during his reign Henri IV encouraged the growth of Protestantism. As we know, he signed the Édit de Nantes promoting religions toleration.

at the end of the Wars of Religion, [Henri IV] abjured Protestantism and converted to Roman Catholicism (1593) in order to win Paris and reunify France. With the aid of such ministers as the Duc de Sully, he brought new prosperity to France.

Britannica
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-IV-king-of-France

When Henri IV died he had yet to finish unifying France and, given Richelieu’s concept of absolutism, Huguenots would have to convert. Richelieu’s notion of absolutism required that all French citizens practice the same religion. As conceived by Richelieu, absolutism consisted of one religion, one language, and one King. When the Siege of Larochelle began, so did the Anglo-French War of 1627-1629. England was defeated and the Edict of Nantes, revoked in 1685, unleashing a reign of terror a Voltaire could not accept.

Acadie had just begun, when Marc Lescarbot wrote and published his Histoire de la Nouvelle-France. He had been in Acadia for one year, 1607-1608. He also produced a play, le Théâtre de Neptune, in Port-Royal. His History of Nouvelle-France is not a bad history. On the contrary. It is a good story. But Nouvelle-France consisted of one settlement, or habitation: Port-Royal that was about to crumble to be reborn again. The picture above features Lescarbot reading his play. The artist is William Jefferys (photo-credit: wiki2.org).

Would there ever be a King of France so loved that a young Voltaire would praise him in long cantos, or “fictions” “drawn from the regions of the marvelous” (Voltaire, 1859)? There wouldn’t, except in “fictions.”

Sources and Resources


Musing on Champlain & New France (9 May 2012)
Wikipedia
The Encyclopædia Britannica
La Henriade is an Internet Archive publication
La Henriade is a Wikisource publication

Love to everyone 💕

© Micheline Walker
9 September 2020
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New France: Huguenot Roots

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Richelieu at the Siège de La Rochelle by Henri de la Motte

Not for more…

Not for more than half a century did France again show interest in these new lands.

(Britannica)


Paris vaut bien une messe. (Paris is well worth a Mass.)
Henri IV

Pierre Dugua de Mons, Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit and Samuel de Champlain did not travel to North America until 1599, and we have discovered that these men were Huguenots. Despite the Edict of Nantes, L’Édit de Nantes, an edict of toleration granted by Henri IV of France in 1598, Huguenots, French Protestants, could not escape persecution. Let us explain. Henri IV of France had been a Huguenot as King of Navarre. He converted to Catholicism to be crowned King of France. He is reported to have said that “Paris vaut bien une messe” (Paris is well worth a Mass). He was assassinated in 1610, and Huguenots were no longer safe in France.

The Siege of La Rochelle

The Siège de La Rochelle, which took place in 1627-1628, is abundant proof that Huguenots were endangered. According to Wikipedia, 22,000 citizens died of starvation at La Rochelle. La Rochelle had a population of 25,000. However, some escaped. Two or three of my Bourbeau ancestors hid in the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey, waiting to sail to New France. In 1627, the Catholic Company of One Hundred Associates would rule New France, but it did not persecute New France’s Huguenot population. Huguenots left New France or converted to Catholicism when the Edict of Nantes was revoked on 22 October 1685. They fled to the United States.

We have discovered that our men were Huguenots and that they could be persecuted in France, despite the Edict of Nantes. As noted above, L’Édit de Nantes was an edict of toleration signed by Henri IV. Yet, Henri IV, a beloved King, was assassinated by a victim of religious fanaticism.

Failed Settlements

It was thought that Jacques Cartier, who took possession of Canada in the name of the King of france and named it Canada, did not found a settlement. But he did. He founded Cap-Rouge near Quebec City. It was a failure, but the remains of the settlement have been rediscovered. It seems that Francis 1st did not know about this brief settlement.

In 1541, King Francis 1st commissioned Jean-François de La Rocque, sieur de Roberval, a nobleman, to establish a settlement in the land Cartier had discovered. Cartier would merely accompany Roberval to North-America. However, Cartier left in 1541 and arrived in North America on 23 August 1541, a year earlier than Roberval. He met Roberval, on 8 June 142, but did not accompany him as the King had requested.

The King had given Roberval two missions. He was to found a settlement and was also asked to convert Amerindians to Catholicism. Roberval could convert Amerindians into Catholics because he was a Protestant or had converted to Protestantism. The settlement he founded did not survive. So, Roberval returned to France. He was not chastised by the King, but he and other Huguenots were murdered leaving a meeting of Protestants.

The Wars of Religion

So, France’s bitter Wars of Religion all but prevented settling Acadie and Canada, New France’s two provinces. A few years ago, I contacted Britannica to say that Dugua de Mons was a Protestant and that he, not Champlain, was the father of Acadie. Could its scholars investigate? Britannica modified its entry and scholars went on to determine that Quebec City was founded by Champlain, but that he was Dugua’s employee.

Acadie fell to Britain in 1713, by virtue of the Treaty of Utrecht, but Acadians had not left. In 1755, a large number of Acadians, sources vary from 1,200 to 11,500, were forced into ships that went in different directions. Family members were separated and so were young couples who were engaged to be married.

Longfellow told that story in Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, an epic poem published in 1847. Acadians have transformed Longfellow’s Évangéline into Acadia’ heroine. Évangéline is alive. According to one’s sources, the name Acadie is derived from an Amerindian word, or from Arcadia.

Redeeming Myths

  • deported Acadians
  • Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow told not only Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie, but he also wrote about Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, a Protestant, who was French and an Abenaki Chief. Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie’s story was told by Longfellow in Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863). Castine, Maine was named after Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, baron de Saint-Castin. (See Castine, Maine, wiki2.org.)

Scholars have now established that Champlain settled Quebec City under the supervision of Dugua de Mons. New France would be a Catholic colony, but it has Huguenot roots.

RELATED ARTICLES

Love to everyone 💕

Lucie Therrien chante Au Chant de l’alouette


© Micheline Walker
5 September 2020
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The First French Settlement in the Americas

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Pierre Dugua de Mons

Henri IV of France

In 1599, Pierre Dugua de Mons, Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnenuit and Samuel de Champlain traveled to North America on behalf of Henri IV, King of France and Navarre, also called le bon roi (the good King). Henri IV wanted France to harvest the rich pelts it could find in Northeastern America. Henri also asked Du Gua de Mons to create a settlement in what are now the Maritime provinces of Canada. Officially, Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal) is the first French settlement in North America. It was settled in 1604, four years before Champlain settled Quebec City. However, to be precise, Tonnetuit’s trading post was the first French settlement in North America, and it was located in the present-day Québec, one of the two provinces of New France. The other was Acadie. Henri IV had been a Protestant, a Huguenot, and so were the above-mentioned explorers.  

Louis XIV in 1643, prior to becoming king, by Claude Deruet

Huguenots, a popular term used since 1560 to designate French Protestants, some of whom became involved in the Newfoundland fishery and Canadian fur trade, and in abortive colonization attempts in Canada (1541-42), Brazil (1555) and the Carolinas (1562-64).

Huguenots, The Canadian Encyclopedia

Champlain was a secretive Huguenot, but Pierre Dugua de Mon(t)s wasn’t. As for Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnetuit, his occupation, fur trading, was that of a Huguenot. So, if his trading post was the first French settlement in the Americas, the very first French settlement in the Americas was a Huguenot settlement. In fact, although Champlain did not reveal his religious affiliation, he founded Quebec-City in New France’s Huguenot times. But matters changed in 1627. New France was governed by the Company of One Hundred Associates and its first shareholder was Cardinal Richelieu.

More permanent was the fur-trade. The French in Canada tended to their thirty acres, but many had to go to the countries above, les pays d’en haut. They were voyageurs or coureurs des bois. Coureurs des bois did not have a licence, so if caught, the pelts they had harvested were confiscated.

I love Pierre Chauvin’s trading post. New France would have its legendary voyageurs. They would be Catholics. But Pierre Chauvin’s trading post was a Huguenot settlement.

When Pierre de Chauvin de Tonnentuit returned to France, he left sixteen (16) men at Tadoussac. It was a settlement. Only six (6) survived.

Love to everyone 💕

Lucie Therrien chante À Saint-Malo

© Micheline Walker
4 September 2020
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Blanche comme neige, cont’d

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Barns by A. Y. Jackson, 1926


I’ve published posts about or featuring Sir Ernest Macmillan. Sir Ernest MacMillan was, for decades, English Canada’s most prominent figure in the area of music.

Moving to Toronto

David and I had just moved to Toronto and we needed a home. While I was resting, David drove up and down the streets I liked. He saw a sign on a large tree and a lady standing by. She owned the house and she was Sir Ernest MacMillan’s niece. Yes, she would let me play the piano. I liked the little apartment very much. We moved to Walmsley Boulevard two weeks later. Andrea would be my best friend for nearly fifty years.

I have told this story, so let us hear Sir Ernest MacMillan’s “learned” version of the piece. It is learned because it has been composed and/or arranged. As interpreted by the McGariggle sisters, Blanche comme la neige belongs to folklore, or an “oral” tradition. It is as though it had yet to be composed. It is also somewhat naïve and forever renewed.

Let us return to our “learned” song. It was arranged, or composed, by Sir Ernest and is interpreted by Toronto’s Mendelssohn Choir, founded by Sir Ernest MacMillan (click on 2). We can classify this interpretation as “learned” because Sir Ernest set it to music. He also set to music “Notre Seigneur en pauvre,” a song I mentioned a few posts away. His Two Sketches on French Canadian Airs (click on 3) combines Blanche comme neige and Notre Seigneur en pauvre (Our Lord as a poor man). I do not know of a separate Notre Seigneur en pauvre. “À Saint-Malo,” French folklore, is number 4.

RELATED ARTICLES

Blanche comme neige (28 August 2020)
Angels and Archangels: Michael, Lucifer… (30 November 2014)
Sir Ernest Macmillan: a Testimonial (9 January 2012)
Two Sketches on French Canadian Airs

RELATED ARTICLES

Blanche comme neige (28 August 2020)
Angels and Archangels: Michael, Lucifer… (30 November 2014)
Sir Ernest Macmillan: a Testimonial (9 January 2012)

Love to everyone 💕

Two Sketches on French Canadian Airs

© Micheline Walker
30 August 2020
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Blanche comme neige

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Leonardo da Vinci

 

La belle s’est endormie sur un beau lit de roses
The beauty fell asleep on a beautiful bed of roses
La belle s’est endormie sur un beau lit de roses
The beauty fell asleep on a beautiful bed of roses
Blanche comme la neige belle comme le jour
White as snow, beautiful as [the] day
Ils sont trois capitaines qui vont lui faire l’amour
There are three captains who will make love with her


Le plus jeune des trois la prend par sa main blanche
The youngest of the three takes her by her white hand
Le plus jeune des trois la prend par sa main blanche
The youngest of the three takes her by her white hand
Montez, montez princesse dessus mon cheval gris
Climb, climb Princess on top of my gray horse
A Paris j’vous mène dans un fort beau logis
To Paris, I’m taking you, to a beautiful home

Finissant ce discours le capitaine rentre
As he stopped speaking, the captain comes in
Finissant ce discours le capitaine rentre
As he stopped speaking, the captain comes in
Mangez buvez la belle selon votre appétit
Eat and drink Beauty to your appetite
Avec un capitaine vous passerez la nuit
With a captain you will spend the night

Au milieu du repas la belle a [sic] tombé morte
In the middle of the meal, the beauty dropped dead

Au milieu du repas la belle a tombé morte
In the middle of the meal, the beauty dropped dead
Sonnez, sonnez les cloches, tambour au régiment   
Ring, ring the bells, beat the drums regiment
Ma maîtresse elle est morte à l’âge de quinze ans
My mistress she has died at the age of fifteen


Mais au bout de trois jours son père s’y promène
But at the end of three days her father walks by
Mais au bout de trois jours son père s’y promène
But at the end of three days her father walks by
Ouvrez, ouvrez ma tombe mon père si vous m’aimez
Open, open my coffin my father if you love me
Trois jours j’ai fait la morte pour mon honneur garder
For three days I’ve played dead, for my honor to keep


The translation above is mostly word for word, so one can understand the original French. It is a folk song and folk legend, from French Canada or France. It is only remotely related to Christmas, because Beauty is as white as snow.

Kate and Anna McGarrigle

Love to everyone 💕

 

French Cathedral, Quebec City, Mary M. Chaplin, 1839 – C856

© Micheline Walker
28 August 2020
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An Enigma

I have no way of reaching you and reading comments. The toolbar is on the right side hiding the button I hit to read your posts and your comments. I wrote a post on the Duplessis Children. It is in Word. My mouse has been mostly disabled. My computer will have to be repaired or replaced. It’s a mess.

Would that I could understand. I start writing using the Classic Editor, but I am writing using the Block Editor.

My very best regards,

Micheline

© Micheline Walker

La Revanche des berceaux, or the Revenge of the Cradle

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saint-matthew-guido-reni
Saint Matthew by Guido Reno

La Revanche des berceaux

One wonders how Québécois would survive after the arrival of United Empire Loyalists and the loss of deported Acadians. The English-speaking population of Canada constituted a majority. How would French-speaking Canadians survive? During a period of the history of Quebec, a high birth rate provided hope. Families could number from 18 to 24 children, most of whom survived childhood. It was said of women, that they had to have their “nombre.” his high birth rate was called la revanche des berceaux, the revenge of the cradle.

In short, women toiled against odds. They were pregnant for years while husbands made land, faire de la terre. The land did not always yield good crops. As well, people lived away from their village. They attended Mass every Sunday and socialized a little after mass, on the perron. Louis Hémon told this story in his novel entitled Maria Chapdelaine. After sending his manuscript to France, in 1913, he started to walk West, but he was hit by a train, at Chapleau, Ontario. He may have been trying to meet the French Counts of Saint-Hubert, Saskatchewan.

French aristocrats tried to move to Canada. It was not a very successful endeavour, but several members of the French-speaking population of Western Canada are not descendants of Quebecers. I met many of this branch of French-speaking Canadians. Some retired in Victoria and had a good relationship with the descendants of Québécois. I nearly married a descendant of this population, but he committed suicide. They bought a large number of houses that are now too expensive. We socialized considerably and we owned a tiny church and a hall. I play the organ, so every Sunday, I went to the 11 o’clock Mass and performed.

La Revanche des berceaux was successful.

It suggested that although Anglo-Canadians dominated Canada in the 19th century, the higher birth rate in Quebec promised that French-Canadians would resist British immigration and discrimination.

(See La Revanche des berceaux, wiki2.org.)

The irony is that these children had to leave Quebec because they could not earn a living.

The Ultramontane ideology encouraged poverty. Quebecers would start to live happily once they entered eternal life. Suffering now was seen as a sign of salvation. One paid for the original sin on earth, which was comforting. All human beings have to atone for the original sin: better on earth than after death. This view can also be called Jansenism.

Ultramontanism

Ultramontanism lessened the suffering of women who bore children incessantly. God would let them enter Paradise. However, when I was a child, women had a hysterectomy. It made them sterile. My mother did not undergo a hysterectomy until we moved away from Quebec. The dead children were used as guinea pigs. A cure was found for the family’s congenital blood disease. My mother’s legs had been ruined by varicose veins. However, she believed that not having children was sinful.

Refus global and the Asbestos Strike

A manifesto, Refus global, written in 1948, and a strike, the Asbestos Strike of 1949, would end the plight of workers. Maurice Duplessis tried every aberration to end the strike. Ultramontanism had died, but Maurice Duplessis feared socialism and, possibly, communism. Workers were not killed, but the repression caught the attention of Pierre Elliot Trudeau and colleagues. One of my uncles was shot at. His brother, also my uncle, was Quebec’s top civil servant. When Maurice Duplessis died, Quebec had long been ready for its Quiet Revolution which started in 1960. The Asbestos Strike made a famous victim, the bishop of Montreal. He opposed Duplessis and had to leave for Victoria, British Columbia. Monseigneur Joseph Charbonneau was a very good person.

Conclusion

In Maria Chapdelaine, Louis Hémon writes that Québec will carry on forever. That may not be.

© Micheline Walker
24 August 2020
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About the Seigneurial System, cont’d

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Manoir Dionne, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière

One could not divide the thirty acres between all male children. One male child was expected to become a priest, but other male children needed land and could not move to Ontario. After Confederation, the population of Canada, except Quebec, had to be English and Protestant. Orangists prevented French-speaking Canadians from settling elsewhere. They could no longer be educated in French. That was a disaster.

In order to earn a living, many Québécois moved North and cleared land. They had to “faire de la terre,” make land. Some tried to settle in or near Sudbury, Ontario. The school question surfaced. However, some went to Abitibi-Témiscamingue. This area was located in eastern Ontario, but it became part of Québec where the landless found land they could clear. The Church favoured “making land.” This is what le curé Labelle, an influential parish priest, suggested to the landless. It was the patriotic choice.

Exodus

When people are hungry, they look for a place where they can earn a living. Quebec had very few skilled businessmen. In the early days of the colony, New France had a business class consisting of Huguenots mainly. Champlain was a Huguenot. They left Quebec in 1685, when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes (1598). They had to leave New France because Cardinal Richelieu started building absolutism. In Richelieu’s opinion, the requirements for absolutism were one King, one language and one religion. He established la Compagnie des Cent-Associés, the Company of One Hundred Associates.

The Seigneurial System

The Seigneurial System had not been truly abolished in 1854. The habitants who had not bought their thirty acres had to pay rent à perpétuité, permanently. This was a form of slavery: debt bondage. In 1935, the Québec government created the Syndicat national du rachat des rentes seigneuriales, or SNRRS (National Commission for the Repurchase of Seigneurial Rentes). The SNRRS would pay the habitants‘ debt in part.

Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, the 14th Premier of Québec

Louis-Alexandre Taschereau is credited with helping eradicate the habitants‘ debt. Payments were required when Duplessis was premier of Quebec.

I will end this post as I have difficulty writing it.

Love to everyone 💕

Clarence Gagnon: Quebec and elsewhere

© Micheline Walker
22 August 2020
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About the Seigneurial System

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French Cathedral, Quebec City, Mary M. Chaplin, 1839 – C856

This is a picture of an old Quebec-City. It has its cathedral. Every little town in Quebec had a magnificent church. However, in the days of New France, the population lived mostly on each side of the St Lawrence River, on narrow but deep land tracts called Seigneuries. Quebec consisted of seigneuries, a feudal system. The Seigneur collected “rentes” (rent) and the Church, la dîme (tithe). There were three main cities: Québec, Trois-Rivières and Montréal, each located on the North bank of the St. Lawrence River. During the winter, one could travel on thick ice from one of the cities to another. One used a cart and horses. When summer came, boats could be used. However, there was a road, le chemin du Roy/Roi.

Long Tracts of Land
Manoir Dionne à Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

The Seigneurial system survived until 1854, but it had been established in 1627. This was a “peau de chagrin.” La Peau de chagrin (1831) is the title of a novel by Honoré de Balzac. The peau (skin) grows smaller and smaller and its owner runs out of luck.

Similarly, thirty acres grow smaller and smaller with each generation. The children have to find a job. When the system was abolished, censitaires were given a choice. They could purchase their thirty acres, or pay rent for life. Le Seigneur did not lose anything, but those who paid a rente were impoverished. The amount of money renters had to pay is enormous:

In 1928, an inquiry launched by the Bureau de la statistique du Québec (Statistics Québec) showed that rentes were still being collected in 190 seigneuries (for a total capital value of $3,577,573). The annual payments made by nearly 60,000 families amounted to more than $200,000.

(Canada. Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys / Library and Archives Canada / PA-020260)
1928

(Seigneurial System, The Canadian Encyclopedia)

When an « habitant » (usually a farmer) saw the priest arrive, he wanted to hide. He knew it was time to pay the tithe. The Church collected money at mass and through the tithe. Quebec literature tells this drama in Ringuet’s Trente arpents, but also in other novels. (See Canadiana.2, one of my pages.) The Internet kept my writings. Would you believe I have been an influencer?

Conclusion

On these words, I must leave. United Empire Loyalists were given plenty of land, while our little habitant could not survive on the ancestral acres. There was a huge exodus to the United States. One million French-speaking Canadians left Canada. My grandfather did. He did not speak French. His wife stayed in Canada, living next to the railroad. The men in the train threw what they could, so the one cast iron stove had something to burn.

Louis Hémon’s Maria Chapdelaine (1913) depicts the three choices of French Canadians. Go north and clear land, work as a king of voyageur, or move to the United States. My father could not remember his father. So, my mother found where he lived and we traveled to Massachusetts. The trip was a great success. We met a wonderful man and his wife and continued to go to Athol two or three times a year. We learned never to judge a man, unless we had walked in his moccasins.

My grandfather had seven cats and a large dog. He also had a cow and une basse-cour, a yard for the hens. He married the woman who sold him her property. She was in charge of the house.

À claire fontaine in an arrangement by Stephen Smith, sung by Musica Intima, Vancouver

© Micheline Walker
21 August 2020
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