Thursday, August 29, 2019

History of build that wall: Francophones in New England

19th century New Englanders torch a Catholic church in Bath, Maine
Franco-American historian David Vermette has a notable piece on the Smithsonian History website about the time when the invasion of French-Canadians from Quebec was seen as a dangerous threat to New England.

In 1892, the New York Times suggested that emigration from Qu├ębec was “part of a priestly scheme now fervently fostered in Canada for the purpose of bringing New-England under the control of the Roman Catholic faith. … This is the avowed purpose of the secret society to which every adult French Canadian belongs.”
The New York Times reported in 1881 that French-Canadian immigrants were “ignorant and unenterprising, subservient to the most bigoted class of Catholic priests in the world. … They care nothing for our free institutions, have no desire for civil or religious liberty or the benefits of education.”
In Canadian and Quebec historiography, the movement of some million francophones out of Quebec and into New England to rebuild the textile industry workforce after its Civil War collapse has mostly been recorded as a crisis for Quebec -- with the Catholic clergy being prime movers in colonization projects in the Saguenay, the Laurentians and other areas intended to prevent the draining away of francophones from Quebec.  Perspective is everything, I guess.

Vermette is the author of A Distinct Alien Race: The Untold Story of Franco-Americans. published by the Quebec (English-language) publisher Baraka Books.

Image: US National Gallery of Art, via Smithsonian History
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