by Kate Cleary







Over 500,000 French Canadian immigrants and their families lived in New England around the turn of the 20th century.  While great in number, French Canadian communities were often indicted as "clannish" and "isolated."   The French Canadians' resistance to Americanization was problematic to many, including the author of this 1892 editorial in The New York Times. 

It has been hoped heretofore that the free pressure of American life upon our foreign population was sufficient to change all newcomers, no matter what might have been their previous affiliations, into interested and enthusiastic Americans in the course of one or two generations, but when an immigration like that of the French-Canadians in New England takes possession of the centers of population and has the power to crowd out the less productive race in the struggle for the survival of the fittest, the free actions of American institutions is not strong enough to counteract these designs, and it is only by national legislation that the difficulty can be reached.[1]


 The author of this piece was not alone in this sentiment.  In fact, myriad articles and statements expressing similar views testify to umbrage for the Franco-American community by portions of the dominant Yankee population.  While an anti-immigrant rhetoric is partially responsible for such literature, there is little doubt that a philosophy known as survivance was significant in the in the hostile tone taken in some Yankee discussions on the Franco-American population.  Survivance, a philosophy that at one point preached resistance to any sort of assimilation, is an important component to the seclusion of many Franco-American communities in New England. 

            This paper seeks to understand survivance, the call to maintain traditional French-Canadian customs.   In gaining an understanding of survivance in New England, one must first become acquainted with the environment in which the philosophy was born. One must next become familiar with the move of the philosophy from its place of birth, Canada, to New England.  Comparing the differences in the philosophy in Canada and New England will provide insight into the debates surrounding it.  Finally, the essay will inquire about the relevance of survivance in a modern context.

 Part one of this essay focuses on the early history of Quebec[2] and the significant social, political, and economic developments in the French colony prior to its acquisition by the English in 1763.  Events in this history serve as the base for grievances adopted by the French Canadians after the signing of the Treaty of Paris.  Events of Quebec's period of French-rule are essential to the philosophy known as survivance, which French Canadian communities claimed after they became English subjects.  Part two of this essay focuses on the history of Quebec after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in which Francophone inhabitants of Quebec became increasingly familiar with the subjugation that comes with being a conquered people.  The English presence in the cities of Quebec and Montreal as well as the Eastern Townships affected the daily lives of the French Canadians.  In fact, everything from the structure of property rights to the language spoken at public forums was in some way altered. 

The threat to the French Canadian way of life was great.  The institutions and language that wove the fabric of the French Canadian way of life were changed rapidly.  That rapid change was the result of the conquest, by which English institutions replaced those of the French.   This set of circumstances led to a situation where many French Canadians, while the majority in Quebec, were left with a struggle to preserve the institutions and the ways of life that were distinctly French.  This struggle became a philosophy known as survivance whose basic principles were later adopted by the Franco-American inhabitants of New England.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia states "Survivance : preservation  of religion, language, and customs : had become an obsession with the French Canadians as a result of their struggle --to maintain their identity under British rule."  The "obsession" was carried into New England and then changed from an attempt to maintain identity under British rule to an attempt to fend off assimilation into American life.  The call to fend off assimilation was made as French Canadian immigrants poured into New England from 1860 to 1930.   This mass migration was the result of widespread poverty.  The causes of that poverty are revealed when one investigates the economic trends in Quebec's agricultural industry. 

Part three of this essay focuses on the economic trends in the agricultural industry in Quebec, which left farmers unable to acquire necessary land to cultivate. Exacerbating the land shortage was the drastic increase in population.  Also important to the equation was an inability to obtain the credit necessary to keep farms running.  The practice of sending young men off the farm and into the work force to bring in income to keep farms afloat was not uncommon.  In fact, it was partially responsible for the seasonal migration patterns that eventually laid the framework for the migration of families, rather than individuals, who made New England their permanent home.  Whereas part three of the essay focuses on the reasons for the migration, part four focuses on the migration itself.   Part five examines life in New England by looking at labor, education, religious institutions, newspapers, credit unions, banks and social life. When discussing labor, the essay focuses almost exclusively on factory work.  Although only one of many employment fields with a French Canadian presence, factory work was the source of labor for many.   Part six of the essay considers life in New England while looking more closely at survivance and the debates surrounding the philosophy.  These debates shed light on questions about what degree of assimilation should take place in order to aid in the community's development.  Along the same vein, the debates ask questions about what degree of assimilation would deprive the community of the elements that made it a community.  Part seven investigates survivance in a modern context and asks what relevance, if any, it has in New England today.  The essay will conclude that the philosophy, while relevant in pockets of the Franco-American population today, was largely defeated by the forces of Americanization and assimilation.  Important to note is that the essay does not attempt to understand how that defeat took place.  In fact, the essay does not account for the years 1930-2004 because its intention is merely to trace the roots of survivance in New England by looking at the early history and then question its relevance today.  Those roots are traced back to Quebec before the Treaty of Paris. 

                        Part 1. Quebec Before The Treaty of Paris

In order to grasp the Franco-American philosophy of survivance that took shape in New England in the beginning of the twentieth century, one must first gain an understanding of the history of the forefathers and foremothers of those who migrated to New England.  This section of the essay will focus on the early history of the Quebecois in preparation for an understanding survivance in New England.  However brief, this portion of the essay will give the reader insight into life in Quebec before the Treaty of Paris, with which the French government relinquished power over Quebec to the English. Important to the understanding of early Quebec is a history of the area's first French settlement. 

Samuel de Champlain, hailed as "The Father of New France," first explored St. Lawrence region in 1603.  On his third voyage to the region in 1608, Champlain set up the permanent settlement of Quebec under the sponsorship of a French fur trading company.  Champlain's journals allow the reader insight into the first French settlement in that region.

From the island of Orleans to Quebec is one league, and I arrived there on July third (1608).  On

Arrival I looked for a place suitable for our settlement, but I could not find any more suitable or better situated than the point of Quebec, so called by the natives, which was covered with nut-trees.  I at once employed a part for our workmen in cutting them down to make site for our settlement, another part in sawing planks, another in digging the cellar and making ditches, and another in going to Tadoussac with the pinnace to fetch our effects--I continued the construction of our quarters, which contained three main buildings of two stories--.Near Quebec there is a little river (St. Charles), which comes from a lake in the interior, distant six or seven leagues from our settlement. --Whilst the carpenters, sawyers, and other workemen were busy at our quarters, I set all the rest to work clearing the land about our settlement.


His writings also give insight into the native people and the difficulty of surviving. 


Meanwhile many of the natives had encamped near us, who used to fish for eels, which began to come about September 15 and finish on October 15.  During this time the natives all live upon this manna and dry some for the winter to last till the month of February, when the snow is two and a half or even three feet deep at the most--On the eighteenth of November there was a heavy fall of snow.  It lay on the ground only two days, but during that time there was great gale.  During that month there died of dysentery a sailor and our locksmith, as well as several natives on account, in my opinion, of having eaten badly-cooked eels--The scurvy began very late, that is in February, and lasted until the middle of April.  Eighteen were struck down with it and of these ten died: and five others died of dysentery.[3]


By June, less than one year after Champlain settled Quebec, "only eight of the

twenty-eight remained and half of these were ailing."[4]  By the 1620s the number had risen to only eighty permanent settlers in Quebec.  Champlain requested aid from the Catholic Church because "France could only afford to give attention to its overseas empire on a sporadic basis."[5] His request for aid was met by Catholic missionaries of The Recollect eager to convert natives.  The early missionaries circa 1615 were ultimately unsuccessful because they "experienced difficulty adjusting to wilderness conditions, language barriers, and general indifference to the Christian message.  The Native people already had an enduring religious tradition that adequately met their needs, and they had no wish to abandon it."[6]   The fact that The Recollects asked for assistance from the Jesuit Order speaks to the difficulty that they had in penetrating the land and the native people with their message of Catholicism. 

            By 1627, "Cardinal Richelieu, the chief advisor of King Louis XIII--was determined to promote agricultural settlement and missionary activity along the St. Lawrence.  In accordance with the prevailing economic philosophy of mercantilism, he hoped that New France could fulfill the typical colonial function of enriching the imperial power by exporting raw materials and by importing its manufactured products."[7] Richelieu facilitated this development by creating the Company of One Hundred Associates who were given a monopoly on all commerce and a title to the land in exchange for a promise that they would bring over "4, 000 French and Catholic settlers within 15 years, and to promote missionary activity."[8]  This execution of Richelieu's plan was cut short by the English capture of Quebec in 1629.  The settlement disbanded and Champlain went back to France where he found out that French rule of Quebec was restored three months before.  Returning to Quebec in 1633 to rebuild, Champlain died two years later and "effective colonial leadership passed by default to the Catholic Church, particularly the Jesuit missionaries."[9]

 The Jesuits remained in control of colonial leadership for thirty years until Louis XIV gained interest in the colony.  In this period "from 1663 to 1672, King Louis XIV and one of his chief advisors, Jean-Baptist Colbert, took over control of New France instituting a new form of government, providing for the defense of the colony, giving impetus to settlement, and encouraging the development and diversification of the economy."[10]  The new interest in the colony created a drive to increase the number of settlers who would work the land as well as engage in the timber, fishing and fur industries.  The importance of this change cannot be understated.

In France as in England, the early structures of colonization emerged from a series of failed attempts, as would-be colonizers discovered by trial and error which features to discard and which to retain.  By the beginning of the seventeenth century, a viable organization had developed, which prevailed until Louis XIV chose to increase the level of state intervention in this, as in so many other, spheres of French life.  Before 1663 emigration took place within a framework of proprietorship and private entrepreneurship, although proprietors ultimately bore some responsibility to the crown.  After 1663,the crown intervened directly in both administration and recruitment.  Proprietors did not disappear until 1674, and chartered companies persisted until the conquest; the crown, however, succeeded in reducing them to mere partners in an essentially royal enterprise.[11] 


 Before 1663, private companies engaged not only in the business of fur trade and fishing, but were also responsible for the maintenance of immigration, defense and administration of the colony.  After 1663, the crown reclaimed its power over the colony and began to step up its efforts to increase immigration.  The ruling power of the Jesuits decreased, as did the power of the private realm to govern the public sector.  In turn, Colbert and Louis XIV set up a government by which the crown-appointed governor oversaw the "military affairs and diplomatic relations with the neighboring Native tribes and the English colonies to the south.[12]"  He also served as the superior to the officials who tended to everyday business in the colony.  He was, of course, also the chief correspondent to and subordinate of the King, who had absolute power.  The governor also partially oversaw French immigration to the colony. 

Citizens were offered free passages to Quebec and "land on easier terms than might be available to them in their homeland."[13] France's migration to Canada was a relatively slow one in comparison to that of England to the American colonies because "England could afford to permit a large-scale emigration of surplus population to its American colonies, whereas France feared a shortage of vital human resources for military purposes."[14]  Afraid that the immigration rate was too slow to keep the colony alive, the French sought to increase the birthrate in the colony by increasing the female population, for in 1666, "out of a population of about 3,400, men outnumbered women by a ratio of at least three to one."[15] The effort to increase the birthrate is demonstrated by the fact that the state encouraged women with "limited prospects at home" to settle in Quebec.  The chart below, from the book Frenchmen into Peasants, by Leslie Choquette, documents this trend. The chart is concerned only with female emigrants.


 One can see that, around the time of the census of 1666, the number of female emigrants increased so that nearly one-third of the settlers during that decade were women.   Also important to note is that in addition to private French citizens, a number of soldiers and "deserters, smugglers, and other petty criminals"[17] made up the immigrant population.  According to one estimate, "between 19,000 and 20,000 French men, women, and children actually settled in Quebec during the French Regime."[18]  This number does not entail the entire population, but only the French who made the voyage to Canada and not their offspring born in Canada. Furthermore, this number only accounts for the number of people who actually settled in Quebec and does not include return rates. 

Choquette details the makeup of the settlers by breaking down the numbers for the region in France from which they originated, their industry, and whether they were villagers, rural people, or urban people, and concludes by saying that "Canada was not, for all that, a popular destination."[19]  Nonetheless, the state's efforts to increase immigration were successful.  By 1700, Quebec was settled by 15,000 people and that number increased fourfold in sixty years.  One of the attempts to entice people to colonize lands was the establishment of the seigneurial system in Quebec. 

Defined by the Custom of Paris, the seigneur was a form of property that regulated social and economic relations between seigneur and censitaire by imposing differing obligations to both parties.  During the French regime, the most important obligations of the seigneur were to grant land to prospective settlers and to provide a grist mill--For their part, peasants were obliged to pay an annual rent and a levy on the sale of property; to clear and farm their land; and to have their grain milled at the seigneurial mill.  Failure to fulfill these obligations could result in eviction.[20] 


There are clear parallels between the seigneurial system in Quebec and the feudal system in Europe.  In exchange for their labor, European serfs were able to keep a portion of the crops and a plot of land to live on.  They same was true in Quebec.   In Canada, however, the seigneurial system was shaped by "the policy of limiting the size of seigneuries to prevent the rise of a class of large landowners who might challenge the royal authority."[21] The King's plan for the seigneurial system was one that he and his administration believed would further develop the colony of Quebec because it granted land to "influential nobility as a reward for favors or in return for military support."[22]  These land grants were to be then broken down by the recipients into smaller plots of land for the censitaires to work.  The plots of land allotted to the seigneurs lay primarily along the banks of the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec.

   It was thought that everyone would benefit, but many of the seigneurs were not interested in breaking the land up and using it for agricultural purposes. It has been claimed that many landholders in early Quebec were simply interested in holding titles to their own land rather than actually developing it for the good of the colony. Another account, however, states that the reason for the failure of the seigneurial system lay not with the land holders, but with their tenants. 

Despite the relatively small population, the French government had made and effort to enlarge its colony.  Primarily, it had resorted to the seigneurial system, making grants of land along the St. Lawrence River on the condition that the recipients transport settlers to farm the land or forfeit their grants.  As a way to transplant French feudalism, the effort failed, but as the foundation of rural French Canadian society, it succeeded.  Many seigneurs found, contrary to their expectations, that they could not survive without working themselves.  Conditions in the New World also profoundly affected the attitudes of their tenants.  The settlers transported by the seigneurs rejected the traditional name of censitaires because of its servile connotations and insisted on being referred to simply as habitants.  They paid a few feudal taxes to the land-owners, defied customs, and only occasionally, when not running off to trade in furs, farmed the land they had been brought to till.  The farmers never acquired any role in government, however.  Printing presses were forbidden; education and political consciousness were not encouraged.  Obedience, humility, chastity, and religiosity were the ideals repeatedly stressed by church and government leaders.  The result was a two-level society, with great concentrations of civil and ecclesiastical power at the top and below an uneducated people who possessed little civic consciousness but had a strong attachment to their church.[23] 


The accusation that the tenants "only occasionally--farmed the land they were brought to till" implies that tenants were responsible for the failure.   These accounts differ insofar that they partially lay the burden of the early failure of the seigniorial system on two opposing parties for not doing their respective jobs.  This is not to say, however, that the seigneurial system did not have its successes.  In fact, it did.  One of these successes included the relative relationship of egalitarianism between the tenants and landholders.  This relationship was established because there were so few inhabitants of New France at that time that tenants were not readily disposable, as in Europe.  In other words, the tenant was more highly regarded in New France than in Europe.  This was so for two reasons.  First, the tenant was as necessary to the landholder as the landholder was to the tenant.  Because there were so few tenants, if the relationship became inhospitable then the tenant had the option to move on, without fear of not finding another landholder to sell him a plot of land.  In this sense, we see a simple equation of a dry tenant market in which tenants had more opportunities to choose because there were so few of them -- yet their presence was necessary and sought after in order to settle and cultivate the seigneurs.  Second, not only was the landholder in competition with other landowners for the tenant, but he was also in competition with the vast wilderness in which the tenant retreated to make his living through the fur trade.  Because of this situation, the censitaire "never became an oppressed serf of an impoverished peasantry."  Similarly, "although he enjoyed enhanced social status, the seigneur seldom became a member of an aristocratic or privileged class."[24]  Thus, the relationship between the two was one that fostered a sense of interdependency and allowed for the creation of communities of settlers in New France.  The relationship was also one in which there were definite economic cleavages, but these cleavages were not as large as those in Europe.  Despite these cleavages, a common ground among French Canadians was their Catholic faith.

            The church was not without its role in the newly (the years after 1663) instituted government and social structure.  Even though the Church relinquished civic control in the years following 1663, it was instrumental to the development of the seigniorial system.   This point is illustrated by the fact that "by the mid-eighteenth century, the church held over one-quarter of the land in the colony, and more than one-third of the population lived on church seigneuries."[25]   Conflict was common, however, between the civic and spiritual realms, namely because of the "Jesuits' seemingly fanatical supervision over all social and intellectual matters."[26]   Even as conflict ensued, attempts to recruit young men and women into a life in the church were not in vain. The clergy of New France grew steadily throughout the eighteenth century.

From the early years the spirit of the French Canadians was also intensely religious.  The

Recollects, ascetic Fransiscans, came in 1615 to convert the Indians.  The Jesuits followed a decade later and were soon joined by Capuchins, Ursulines, Sulpicians, and others--Many Quebecois came to believe that they were a chosen people.  Fran┴ois Xavier de Laval (1623-1708), vicar apostolic of New France (1659-1674) and the first bishop of Quebec (1674-1684) did much to shape that image.  He established a powerful church structure more loyal to Rome than to the French monarchy and equal with the civil government of New France.  He made Quebec a stronghold of clericalism and missionary zeal.  The many missionaries who accompanied the explorers -- when they were not traveling by themselves : added to the overall religious commitment urged by Bishop Laval.  French Canadians never lost this commitment.[27]    


 While Quebec played the role of a "stronghold of clericalism and missionary zeal," it was not without its commitment to economic development. Fur trading was profitable and allowed for extensive travel in what is now the United States, with the aid and guidance of the Natives. The French fur trade of the eighteenth century capitalized on the abundance of the seemingly virgin land, and also sought to establish trading posts and military strongholds throughout the Great Lakes region and down the Mississippi River, into what is now New Orleans, Louisiana.    Notable trading posts as well as areas of exploration and settlement in the United States include Dubuque, Iowa, named after Julien Dubuque (1796) and St. Joseph, Missouri, named after Joseph Robidou (1812).[28]  The increase of French Canadian travel and exploration in the United States is illustrated by the fact that "there were approximately 6,000 French Canadians in the West in 1790 (although there may have been more before 1763), including 3,100 in Michigan alone.  By 1820 the Michigan group had increased to 6,000 people, three-fourths of whom lived in the Detroit area."[29]  French exploration and settlement of the land in and around the Great Lakes region and down throughout the western side of the Mississippi stirred English and Native fear that the French would soon inhabit the greater part of North America.

  The eastern part of the United States was also home to a few thousand French Canadians from Quebec; "The first U.S. Census in 1790 listed about 350 Quebecois in Vermont, some 1,200 in Maine, and 1,000 in New Hampshire."[30] Individuals of French Canadian descent in this area of the United States are so few in number that their history is scarcely detailed, but they were clearly present in that region of the country, as documented by the United States census.  These "early immigrants were isolated individuals, so silent and invisible that their history cannot be written, engulfed as they were in the great American vortex as soon as they crossed the border."[31] 

 The French empire expanded rapidly as the result of the exploration and settlement of these lands by fur trappers and the military.   Ultimately, this expansion was what gave rise to the conflict that resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, because "the thirteen colonies, emerging from their confined area along the Atlantic seaboard, collided with the forces of French expansionism that were determined to preserve the western frontier for the fur trade."[32] This collision produced several English attempts to capture Quebec.

 The first English attempt to capture the heart of New France, Quebec, took place in 1690,  but was ultimately unsuccessful because the "expedition arrived too late in the season and had to cut short its massive assault to avoid the risk of entrapment in the St. Lawrence ice."[33]  New Orleans became the base of the French Empire in the southern part of the United States in 1718, but Quebec also required defense, even if New Orleans seemed a more accessible target.  After all, the base of New France was Quebec, and the capture of the city and the surrounding region would have yielded land and resources, as well as a symbolic victory for the British in their quest for North American domination.  

Attempts to capture Quebec in 1690 and 1711 were unsuccessful, but the English remained persistent in closing in on Quebec. That persistence had severe consequences for the French inhabitants of Acadia, present day Nova Scotia, whom the English evacuated in 1755-56, over forty years after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which surrendered the region to England.  "The mingling of the French-Canadian and U.S. populations began with the expulsion (1755) of 6,000 or 7,000 Acadians from their homes on the Bay of Fundy, which had come under British rule by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).  These Acadians were deported to the English colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia, while another 3,000 or 4,000 took refuge from the continuing English manhunt in the woods of Nova Scotia."[34]  The word "Cajun" is the result of the corruption of the word "Acadian" and refers to the people of Acadian decent who now inhabit Louisiana.  Also important to note is that an estimated one-quarter to one-third of the deportees died as the result of the deportation, due to disease, food shortage or shipwreck.[35] While the Acadians suffered deportation at the hands of the English in 1755, the inhabitants of Quebec remained in control of their land for another five years.

The capture of Quebec did not take place until five years after the deportation of the Acadians from their homeland.  English General James Wolfe launched a successful attack on Quebec, which ultimately ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

Situated on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, Quebec was protected to the west by a line of steep cliffs and to the east by Montcalm's (commander of French and Canadian forces in North America) well planned defenses that blocked every attack.  As winter was approaching, Wolfe (General of English forces) was faced with the possibility of having to withdraw from Quebec.  In a desperate move to land his army, Wolfe found a small cove, Anse au Foulon, from which a narrow path led up the steep 200-foot-high cliffs.  The French had left this area lightly guarded, believing it impossible for an invasion force to climb such heights.  On the evening of September 12, Wolfe gambled, and by daybreak, he had succeeded in leading 4,500 troops onto the Plains of Abraham, a field outside the western walls of the fortress.  As soon as he discovered Wolfe's successful approach, Montcalm, decided to mount an immediate counterattack to drive the English from the heights before they could bring up all their forces.  The decisive battle for North American supremacy lasted less than half an hour and featured a dubious military strategy highlighted by the deaths of both commanders : certainly an uncommon occurrence in the course of 18th : century warfare.  Ultimately, the well-trained and disciplined British regulars triumphed over a French force that depended on Canadians, untrained for European-style fighting in line.[36]


The loss of Quebec was a blow that New France could not afford to take.  One hundred years after King Louis the XIV established the government of New France, it was lost to British forces in a battle that lasted less than half an hour.  The consequences for the French-speaking inhabitants of Quebec and the St. Lawrence region as a whole cannot be understated.  The inhabitants of Quebec were primarily of French descent and "all French territory on the mainland of North America, east of the Mississippi, now came under British control.[37]" The document that sealed the deal, the Treaty of Paris, was signed on February 10, 1763.  The following is an excerpt from that treaty.


In the Name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  So be it. Be it known to all those whom it shall, or may, in any manner, belong,--

IV.  His Most Christian Majesty renounces all pretenstions which he has heretofore formed or might have formed to Nova Scotia or Acadia in all its parts, and guaranties the whole of it, and with its dependencies, to the King of Great Britain:  Moreover, his Most Christian Majesty cedes and guaranties to his said Britannick Majesty, in full right, Canada, with all its dependencies, as well as the island of Cape Breton, and all the other islands and coasts in the gulph and river of St. Lawrence, and in general, every thing that depends on the said countries, lands, islands, and coasts, with the sovereignty, property, possession, and all rights acquired by treaty, or otherwise, which the Most Christian King and the Crown of France have had till now over the said countries, lands, islands, places, coasts, and their inhabitants, so that the Most Christian King cedes and makes over the whole to the said King, and to the Crown of Great Britain, and that in the mist ample manner and form, without restriction, and without any liberty to depart from the French inhabitants, or others who had been subjects of the Most Christian King in Canada, may retire with all safety and freedom wherever they shall think proper, and may sell their estates, provided it be to the subjects of his Britannick Majesty, and bring away their effects as well as their persons, without being restrained  in their emigration, under any pretence whatsoever, except that debts or of criminal prosecutions:  The term limited for this emigration shall be fixed to the space of eighteen months, to be computed from the day of the exchange of the ratification of the present treaty--[38]


The above excerpt from the Treaty of Paris is used to illustrate three important points.  First, the Treaty formalized a signing over of rule from the French to the English.  Second, it allowed for the French Canadians to continue practicing their faith.  Third, it guaranteed the inhabitants the opportunity to leave.  These three points are central to an understanding of Quebec after the Treaty of Paris. 

Part 2. Quebec After The Treaty of Paris

The British acquisition of New France cut off immigration to the region from France, but the population grew even as the inhabitants of the Quebec were guaranteed the option to leave as stated in the Treaty of Paris. Why, if the Quebecois, were so adverse to the reality of being British subjects, did so few people leave the colony when they were guaranteed the right to do so?  This question does not imply that everyone stayed in Canada, but asks why more people did not leave.  Some argue that the elite left the country after the Treaty of Paris because they could no longer partake in government affairs as the result of the English Test Act. Passed in 1673, the act stated that Catholics were not allowed to hold public office.  It remained in place until the Quebec Act of 1774, which stated that Catholics would have to take an oath of loyalty to the crown in order to be allowed to both practice Catholicism and be a part of civil society.   Therefore, it might have benefited the upper classes and civil authorities to leave in the years directly following the signing of the Treaty of Paris. However, because the Treaty guaranteed the right of the inhabitants of Quebec to practice Catholicism and confirmed seigneurial tenor, it may have had less of an effect on those who were more interested in their religion and industry, rather than civil society, to leave. 

Like all colonies, New France had social classes. Administrators and military officers were closely tied by patronage to the empire but at the same time they developed roots in the colony through their extensive land holdings.  At the Conquest this group had to decide whether to remain in Canada and retain their seigneuries or to pursue their careers in the French empire.  Most of the important administrators left but most military officers remained.  Merchants faced the same choice.  The import-export trade, the most profitable sector of New France's economy was dominated by agents of metropolitan trading companies and these merchants opted to return to France.  Most merchants, however, were completely integrated into colonial society.[39]


Censitaires, like landholding military officers and established merchants, had a greater interest in remaining in Canada than leaving. They enjoyed a certain degree of prestige previously unavailable to them in Europe and were also greatly integrated into colonial life.  The Quebec Act also gave incentive for the communities of religious leaders to stay due to its protection of their rights to practice Catholicism.  While the English might have permitted the practice of Catholicism, they were unwilling to compromise on border and immigration issues.

It was during this period that the francophone region of Quebec experienced both border changes and an increase in the number of British merchants and Loyalists from the American colonies. These changes altered the demographics of the region and had serious consequences on the political structure.  The Constitutional Act of 1791 amended the Quebec Act by maintaining "strong executive power exercised through the governor, the executive council, and the legislative council."  It also encouraged "limited democratic institutions," granting all property holders over twenty one who were British subjects "by birth, naturalization or conquest," who had not "been convicted of treason" the right to vote for a legislative assembly.[40]  By granting the right to vote to the people, the state hoped to appease the public and avoid a rebellion. The British merchant class was the main portion of the population concerned with obtaining the vote, while some accounts portray the French elite as ambivalent about the matter.  On the one hand, the French elite desired an institutionalized voice for their concerns and grievances, but on the other hand they risked losing the stature that they enjoyed as seigneurs because they feared that their tenants would use the voting power to renege on the agreements of the seigneurial system.  Despite some fears that it would allow tenants an opportunity to renege of the agreements of the seigneurial system, the Constitutional Act was passed in 1791. 

Passing the Constitutional Act partially facilitated the emergence of French Canadian Nationalism.  However, while it gave because it gave a voice to the people, "the act also introduced British elements giving state support to the Anglican Church and to education by establishing clergy and crown reserves.  These reserves were made up of one-seventh of the unceded public lands that were now divided into townships where grants were made in freehold tenure.  This change in tenure meant that property was held outright by individuals in these areas, without the restrictions of the seigneurial system."[41]  The integration of new English laws into the traditional system of Quebec and the calls to "bring the Catholic Church under government control and to institute a public Anglophone education system" caused frustration among the French elite voiced via the democratically elected legislative assembly. Furthermore, Francophone voters wished to change the official language of The House from English to French.  The English elite responded to these frustrations in the newspaper Mercury by claiming, "This province is already too much a French province for an English colony."  The response to such claims, as found in the French newspaper Le Canadien was clearly one of defiance.


            You say that the (French) Canadians use their privileges too freely for a conquered people,

            and   you threaten them with the loss of those privileges.  How dare you reproach them for

            enjoying the privileges which the British parliament has granted them?--You ask absurdly

            whether the (French) Canadians have the right to exercise these privileges in their own language.

            In what other tongue could they exercise them?  Did not the parliament of Great Britain know

            what their language was?[42]


The issue of language in public forums and the debates that ensued surrounding that issue was of considerable importance, but it was only one part of the Quebec Act. 

Another important part of the Quebec Act of 1791 was its breaking up of Canada into Upper and Lower Canada.  The Province of Quebec was renamed Lower Canada and retained French civil law with the inclusion of the above-mentioned adjustments.

 Upper Canada instituted British laws and was designed "to accommodate the Loyalist immigrants." In essence, "The Constitutional Act recognized the coexistence of two ethnic communities, two languages, two cultures and two sets of institutions within a British parliamentary system of government."[43]   However, the division did not result in segregation.  While the Upper region was reserved for Anglophone immigrants of the colonies and Britain, the Lower region was not solely Francophone.  In fact, English speakers "constituted a majority in the Eastern Townships and significant minorities in Montreal and Quebec."[44] 

The integration of the two cultures in Quebec and the subsequent sense of subjugation of the French Canadians facilitated the emergence of survivance.   This was because "the Quebecois were cut off from France and forced back upon themselves -- upon their families, their land, their parish, their priests, their language, their law and customs, and upon their memories.  The philosophy of survivance then emerged in the parishes along the St. Lawrence.  Surrounded by an Anglo-Protestant -- which for them was synonymous with Űpagan' -- nation, the French Canadians came to view themselves as abandoned, not conquered:  they symbolically portrayed themselves as Esau and the English as Jacob, depriving them of their birthright."[45] 

Survivance is important because it was a philosophy that was carried from Quebec in response to English rule and later used in New England in response to the issue of Americanization.  There are a few important distinctions between the two uses of the philosophy known as survivance.  The emergence of survivance in Quebec in the late eighteenth century was a response to the English acquisition of the land that the Quebecois had previously inhabited.  In New England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was used by a resettled group to fend off assimilation.  Survivance in Quebec directly after the Conquest was probably too young to be self conscious. In other words, because it was so young in its development, the practice of ideas was viewed as just that, and not a philosophy. At that point, it was a practice of ideas without internal conflict.  In New England, because the same general ideas of preservation of French Canadian language, customs,  religion and institutions had been developed in Quebec after the Conquest, over one hundred years before, the philosophy was not just a practice of ideas, but also a self aware philosophy surrounded by a debate as to what direction it should take.  Survivance in New England was as much a philosophy as it was a practiced set of ideas.  In both cases, however, survivance stressed the importance of maintaining traditional (French Canadian) ways of life.  This includes the maintenance of the language, the actual religion and the roles that it played, the customs and the institutions. 

Some argue that the philosophy was the product of the French Canadian elite's attempts to regain control of Quebec after the Conquest, but the sentiments of survivance became increasingly important to the French as a whole, in reaction to greater Anglicization resulting from a growing Anglo population.  In New England, as discussed below, survivance took several forms at different times, but the heart of the philosophy did not limit itself to the interests of the elite. Rather, it focused on preserving the whole community.  As survivance developed in Quebec, small farms began to dwindle. 

Quebec farmers faced disastrous harvests in 1809, 1815 and 1816 because of swarms and early frosts. More importantly though, the land was not providing the capital necessary to run the farms as self-sufficient units even when harvests were plentiful.  The inability to run completely self-sufficiently is described in the following passage by Brian Young of McGill University.

            Getting land into agricultural production was arduous.  Settlers in the St. Lawrence lowlands were             granted land in seigneurial tenure.  It normally took a family of two years to clear a hectare of             hardwood forest and to build a log cabin, and five years to clear three hectares, the minimum for             self-sufficiency.   During this period, the family consumed locally-produced foodstuffs sometimes             bought at the market but more often supplied by relatives.  Since families were large and peasant             family strategies aimed at keeping the farm intact by leaving it to a single heir, most members of             each new generation were consumers while they were clearing the land.  Thus, much of the             colony's production was geared to meeting these and other local needs such as payment of the             tithe and seigneurial dues, leaving only a small part of each harvest for sale in the towns for             export.  Rural families were never completely self-sufficient and brought cloth, clothing, alcohol,             tea and   coffee, salt, tools, home furnishings and kitchenware.[46]


The increasing demand for Canadian wheat, due to an opening of export markets, allowed for farm growth catering to surrounding areas, as well as foreign consumption.  Thus, continual clearing of land was necessary in order to meet these demands.

While a sign of growth, the clearing of land was not necessarily beneficial to all farmers, mainly because of the tradition by which heirs acquired land.  The Custom of Paris stated that all children of a marriage were to receive equal parcels of land upon the death or retirement of their farmer parents.  Therefore, plots of land were continually broken down from one generation to the next even though consumption rates increased.  This made for a system which, in theory, would have eventually led to generations of people with almost no land at all.   Instead, however, it was not uncommon that "the heir of the family farm, quite often the youngest child, paid an indemnity to his or her siblings."[47]  Furthermore, wealthier farmers often bought farms from less prosperous farmers who eventually became day laborers.  The land shortage is one of the reasons why many French Canadians migrated to New England in the nineteenth century.  Young argues that "by the beginning of the nineteenth century, land in the seigneurial zone was at a premium while expansion to freehold areas was impeded by poor communications and the existence of large clergy and royal reserves.  Subdivision of plots became more common, leading to the emergence of villages inhabited by the growing class of day labourers."[48]  This point provides foresight into the effect of the land shortage on the peasant population and their migration to New England in order to obtain work in industries like textiles and logging.

              The problem with fully understanding the extent of Quebec's agricultural economy during this period is "the absence of reliable statistical series on production" and "infrequent census reports."[49]    What is clear is that Quebec farmers did not profit from the opening up of foreign markets or from  the increase in settlers to Canada, to the extent that they could have because of conservative farming techniques and a lack of more advanced mechanization.  Armand Chartier argues that "widespread ignorance of agronomy" was the result of the state's absence to "familiarize people with agricultural practices which could have improved crop yields.  The lack of any scientific information on seeding techniques or crop rotation led to a progressive decline in production on land that was all too often poorly prepared for cultivation.[50]"

            The problems with the agriculture industry in Quebec during the nineteenth century were great enough so that even as markets opened and demand increased, farmers faced conditions that were not conducive to the meeting of those demands and, ultimately, missed opportunities for profit.  The seigniorial system, in which land was constantly being broken down into smaller plots, left many landless.  One may question why attempts to expand farming into other regions outside of the St. Lawrence Valley were not made.  In fact, attempts were made by farmers of the St. Lawrence Valley to colonize the lands outside of that region, but "little was done, at least with any degree of efficiency, since too few lands had been opened to colonization.  Given the overpopulation in the St. Lawrence Valley, the logical solution would have been to colonize the Eastern Townships, the least remote of the populated regions.  Alas, those lands remained in the hands of speculators like the British American Land Company which sold only at exorbitant prices."[51]  These exorbitant prices far exceeded the means of the farmer, leaving him with few options and many lost profits.  

            The missed opportunities and lost profits of farmers in the early part of the nineteenth century were therefore the result of several factors.  First, the seigniorial system broke plots of land down with every generation so, that many opted to sell their land to siblings or wealthier farmers.  Those who were able to retain land had a larger corner on the market, but the price for this feat was the emergence of a class of landless day laborers.  Second, attempts to acquire land outside of the St. Lawrence Valley were unsuccessful because many areas had yet to be opened up for settlement.  Land that was available outside of the region was often controlled by British companies whose asking prices exceeded the means of the Quebecois farmer.  Third, a general absence of modern farming techniques and the technology to perfect those techniques kept the Quebecois from participating in the modern marketplace.  For these reasons, Quebec, although primarily agricultural, was unable to capitalize off the expanding market in any notable degree during that period.  Failure to profit from the agriculture industry is just one of several reasons behind the mass migration that took place from Quebec to New England in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Part 3.  Causes for Migration

            The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups highlights several major reasons for the immigration of French Canadians out of Quebec into New England during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

            The shortage of desirable land in Quebec became acute during the nineteenth century, and             population pressure became too great for the outmoded agricultural technology,  Canada's             economic maladies, slow industrial development, generally inhospitable  western lands, and             apathetic land policy left few alternatives once the land near the St. Lawrence could no longer             contain the Quebecois.  Those who already lived in cities and were unable to find work were the             most numerous of the emigrants prior to 1860.  After the Civil War those from the countryside             constituted an ever-increasing proportion of the emigrants, more and more of whom took their             families.  [52] 


As previously stated, the seigniorial system, in which plots of land were broken down from one generation to the next in equal parts to all children of a marriage created one of three affects.  1) Farms became increasingly smaller creating an even greater need for labor outside of the farm because the unit was unable to produce completely self sufficiently.  Thus, work in cities or lumber yards became increasingly more significant in order to achieve the income necessary to run the farm.  2) Siblings sold their land to one brother or sister in order to keep the farm afloat and in family hands, which then created a large class of landless laborers. 3) Farmers of smaller plots realized the premiums of their farms in and around the St. Lawrence Valley and then sold their land to larger neighboring farms and then also became landless laborers in urban areas or employees of the timber industry.  Each of the three affects created a class of non-agricultural laborers because of a land shortage. 

Further compounding the land shortage was the huge population boom, which added to the rural poverty in Quebec.  The below table charts the drastic increase in population that occurred in Quebec between the years 1680 and 1880. 


A combination of factors including a growth in Anglo immigration to Quebec and the French Canadian practice of having large families known as "the revenge of the cradle"[54] created a population explosion. The population growth and the subsequent land shortage were exacerbated by the government's unwillingness to open up peripheral lands to colonization. The land problem had grave consequences because the farmer had nowhere to expand if he could not afford to buy an already developed plot of land from a neighbor or sibling.  This was because the state had yet to open up peripheral regions to colonization.  It was not until the 1850s that people were allowed to farm in the Laurentians, the Saguenay-Lake St-John, the Lower St. Lawrence the Matapedia Valley, the Eastern Townships, or Temiscaming.[55]  With no land left to acquire, the seigneurial system, originally been set up to protect farmers from losing land, had actually come to wound them.  

            The agricultural problem was also the result of faulty or insufficient mechanization and technology because of the inability of the farmers to acquire the means necessary to produce at a rate that would keep them afloat.  This was particularly true for small farms.  The lack of roads and bridges connecting farms and small villages compounded this problem.  Even when the products necessary to produce at greater rates were available, many farmers did not have the capital to purchase them.  This lack of capital was the result not only of an inability to produce efficiently, but also of an unreliable banking and credit system.

            Rural farmers in Quebec had difficulty obtaining any sort of credit for several reasons.  First, the major banks with enough capital to aid the farmers in any sufficient manner were few in rural areas.  Second, the banks that did exist in these areas were often small locally based institutions that did not have the means necessary to aid the farmers in obtaining the capital that they needed.  Third, the banks were well aware of the farmers' plight and their insufficient production rates.  They were therefore less inclined to lend to rural farmers than they were to the established elite.[56]  Fourth, the reliable larger banks were generally run by English speaking inhabitants of Quebec who were unable to communicate with or unwilling to help the small Francophone farmer. 

The outcome of the above mentioned conditions was a system by which small farmers had no means to acquire capital.  In turn, many sought the aid of local usurers, unsympathetic to the farmers' plight, whose interest rates were often so great that the farmer's debt grew at a rate that he could not afford.  The problems of landless laborers, an outdated seigneurial system, faulty or absent mechanization and technology, an inability to obtain credit, and mounting debt to usurers all contributed to the phenomenon that was poverty among French Canadian farmers in Quebec.   The Encyclopedia lists a second reason for Quebecois migration to New England : geographical proximity and modern modes of transportation. 

            The geographical proximity of Quebec to the centers of U.S. development eliminated many of

            the customary obstacles facing emigrants.  "Going to America" was a relatively short journey for             the Quebecois, whether by lumber wagon, baker's cart, stagecoach or foot.  The opening of             railroad lines between Quebec and Boston (1851), Portland, Me. (1853), and New York (1854),

            and between Toronto and Chicago via Detroit (1855), tightened the bond between the two North

            American countries and heightened the importance of proximity.[57]


The issue of geographical proximity is central to why emigration became a viable outlet from the poverty that faced so many French Canadian farmers in Quebec.  As stated before, farms were rarely self-sufficient units.  Money needed to run the farm was rarely acquired by the sole income of the farm itself.  For that reason, individuals from the family joined the labor force either in urban centers or in the timber industry.  Often, the individual would work in an industry other than farming during the winter months and take his income home to invest in the farm.  Geographical proximity to New England was important because of its textile boom in the nineteenth century.  Seasonal and individual employment in this industry was what first facilitated the migration of families and groups because the individual realized the potential income from the New England textile industry, which was so close to his home.  Because wages were higher in the New England textile industry than they were in Canadian industry, and because the region was so close to home, it makes sense that migration would be to that region rather than the urban centers in Canada.  The establishment of the railroad system was also important; "As Eastern North America's railroad became more complex and affordable, immigrating to the United States became simpler and cheaper.  Indeed, while in 1840 a trip from Montreal to Vermont would have taken several arduous and expensive days in a cart, by the 1880s it would only be a question of a few dollars and hours."[58]  Thousands believed that the few dollars and few hours spent to escape the rural poverty of Quebec was worth expending.  Therefore, the emigration of the Quebecois into New England was partially stimulated by proximity.

 Had the textile industry's boom been in Texas, it would be far less likely that Texas would now have a large Franco-American population.  In other words, the prevailing poverty in rural Quebec coupled with the proximity to the availability of unskilled employment opportunities in New England were for many, a recipe for emigration.   Important to this recipe was the development of the railroad system, which facilitated a fast and affordable passage.  The third reason that the encyclopedia cites for migration was the repealing of the British Corn Laws, exacerbating the problem of rural poverty in Quebec.

            Canada, as a colony of Great Britain, had been shielded by the British Corn Laws from             unlimited dumping of American grain on its markets.  But in the 1820s Great Britain began             moving toward a free-trade policy and in 1846 finally repealed its protective tariffs entirely,

            thereby placing Canadian farmers in direct competition with the more aggressive and technically

            more advanced American farmers.  This action also crippled the Canadian milling and lumber             industries. [59]


The efficiency of American farmers in contrast to the general lack of efficiency by Quebecois farmers allowed for a flooding of Canadian markets with American goods which were sold more readily and at lower cost.  Clearly the effects of this infiltration were detrimental to Quebecois farmers.  If farming in Quebec was unprofitable before 1846 because of an outdated seigneurial system, lack of land, absence of proper mechanization and an inability to obtain credit (which in turn led to mounting debt to usurers) then one can imagine what farming incomes were like after the Corn Laws were repealed and these ill equipped farms were forced to compete with their more advanced neighbors to the south. 

            In 1854, Earl of Elgin, Governor-General of Canada, attempted to foster the economic growth of the Canadian fishing, timber and farming industries by signing the Reciprocity Treaty.  This action was probably a partial reaction to the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.  In sum, the Reciprocity Treaty states that Canada enter a agreement with the United States "providing for joint navigation of the St. Lawrence River on condition that Canadian produce be admitted into the United States duty free."[60]  A portion of this treaty reads as follows:

            ARTICLE III.  It is agreed that the articles enumerated in the schedule hereunto annexed, being             the growth the growth and produce of the aforesaid British colonies or of the United States, shall             be admitted into each country respectively free of duty:


            Grain, flour, and breadstuffs, of all kinds.

            Animals of all kinds.

            Fresh, smoked, and salted meats.

            Cotton-wool, seeds, and vegetables.[61]


The list of goods to be traded duty-free continues, showing the range of industries affected.  This treaty was not solely concerned with the farming industry, but it is useful to consider when thinking about the effect that the repealing of the British Corn Laws had on Canada as a whole and Quebecois farmers in specific. 

Even with the Reciprocity Treaty, however, farmers in Quebec would not fare as well as American farmers because American products in Canada would be much less expensive than Canadian products in America.  Farming conditions in Quebec hampered the ability of Quebecois farmers to produce goods at the same quality, quantity and speed as Americans.  In any case, the United States repealed the Reciprocity Treaty in 1866.  The repealing of the British Corn Laws and the subsequent failure of the Reciprocity Treaty were contributing factors to the problem of rural poverty.

The factors contributing to the problem of rural poverty in Quebec served as a collective push out of the region, whereas the opportunities that arose from American industrialization in the East served as a pull.  The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups cites the pull of American industrialization as the fourth reason for the migration of French Canadians into New England.

             Canadians plagued by economic uncertainties and land shortages were attracted by             opportunities that arose from American industrialization in the East and later in the Midwest

            and from the opening of vast agricultural lands in the Midwestern states. [62]


Industrialization in New England was attractive to those "plagued by economic uncertainties and land shortages" because of the combination of its proximity and because of its employment opportunities.  Early emigrants attempted to utilize this combination in efforts to keep their family farms running. These opportunities, as previously stated, were often more lucrative than employment in Canada.

 The significance of industrialization in New England will be highlighted in the next portion of this essay in greater detail, but for now it is important to note that industrialization in New England created thousands of opportunities for unskilled laborers.  Although the nature of the labor in New England factories may not have been the sole reason for leaving Quebec, it became increasingly appealing as seasonal and individual migration morphed into relocation of whole families and groups. Claude Belanger of Marianopolis College makes the following argument.

            Farmers who left their land were naturally attracted to the factories of the United States.

            Despite the fact that, around 1890, a greater share of the Quebec economy depended on industry             than Ontario did, labor markets were saturated in the industrial agglomerations of Quebec and             wages were low; work was much easier to find in the USA and wages were higher.  Moreover,             these factory jobs frequently required no formal skills of education and would often employ             children and women.  While this was true of light industry throughout Canada and the United             States, it was especially true in the huge textile factories of New England where several members

            of a family could find work.[63]


Word of mouth information about work and life in New England encouraged the migration progress because it was the primary means by which Quebecois farmers were introduced to the prospect of migrating.  Often, young men who had left the farm for New England in the winter months and returned in the summer months to work the farm displayed new clothing and trinkets as proof of the better standard of living they encountered as factory workers.  The standard of living that New England industry allowed was of a considerably higher degree than that of life on the farm in Quebec  in the nineteenth century and twentieth century.  The developments of the French-Canadian presence in New England industry (especially textiles) will be highlighted in greater detail later in the essay, but for now it is important to understand that the opportunities of American industrialization were an essential part of the reason behind the migration of so many French-Canadians to New England.


(Detailing persons born in Canada and persons with one or both parents born in Canada.)




Part 4.  Migration


Figures prove that the French Canadian presence in New England became notable around 1860 when the New England textile industry had already reached its peak.  This is not to say that the textile industry in New England was on a rapid decline after this date, but only that the industry was not at the apex of its production rate.  Nonetheless, the industry offered hourly wages that surpassed those of Canadian manual labor.  Therefore, the textile industry plays an important role in the greatest periods of French Canadian migration.  These periods are broken down as follows; 1840- 1860, 1860-1880, 1880-1900, and 1900-1930. 

            The period of 1840-1860 was marked mostly by seasonal migration.  This seasonal migration was the result of the push of young men off the farms and into the world of wage labor for the purpose of earning supplemental income for the farm.  The young French Canadian man in New England was not a permanent resident during the period of 1840-1860.  His winter months were often spent doing manual labor in New England, but his presence was required on the farm during the farming months. He did not set up permanent residence, but often boarded in industry supplied housing quarters near the area where he worked.  The estimated number of French Canadians living in New England (even seasonally) around 1860 was 37, 420.   44.3% of these individuals resided in Vermont.  Another 20% lived in Maine and 20.8% lived in Massachusetts.  4.7% , 5%  and 5.3%  lived in New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut respectively.  

            The reason behind the large concentration of Franco-Americans in Vermont rather than the southern regions of New England (which was home to the majority of the larger textile mills) is explained by Armand Chartier's argument that "from 1830 to 1850, thousands of Quebecers and Acadians had already found employment in more and more diversified occupations throughout the northeastern United States.  It was agriculture, lumbering, and the construction industry that drew them here, and they found seasonal, temporary or permanent jobs, first in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, and soon in southern New England."[64] Chartier's account lends the idea that it was not the textile industry which lured the first portion of migrants into the New England area.  Rather, it was agriculture, lumbering, and construction.  While true for the period leading up to 1860-1880 period, the textile industry did play an increasingly important role as the decades from 1840 to 1860 unfolded.

While 64.3% of the French Canadian population in New England lived in either Maine or Vermont in 1860, by 1880 the collective French Canadian population in Maine and Vermont made up just 30% of the entire (French Canadian) population in New England. In comparison, Massachusetts was home to 38.9% of the entire French Canadian population in New England which was then 208, 100 people.   Chartier allows "as the century advanced, the immigration of the Quebecers, followed by that of the Acadians, was linked increasingly to the vast movement of industrial expansion that involved all of the New England states as well as northeastern New York State.[65]" 

Although the textile industry may not have been the number one reason for the early immigrants' temporary relocation to the New England states, it did serve as a "pulling factor" as the century progressed into the period of 1860-1880.  Claude Belanger of Marianopolis College adds to this point by arguing that the period between 1840 and 1860 was one where French Canadians in New England "mostly sought work as farmhands, in lumber camps and in proto-industrial shops like the brickworks of Vermont. However by the 1870s and 1880s, as industrialization progressed in New England and railway ties between Quebec and the North Eastern United States became more solid, emigration patterns shifted from the states of Northern New England to the textile towns of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and, to a lesser extent, Connecticut."[66]  The shift the destinations of emigrants was directly related to the availability of work and the difference in wages. 

            The textile mills' role in this location shift between 1840 and 1880 is important because it speaks to the centrality of that industry in the building of many Franco-American communities.  A Yankee financial group known as the Boston Associates was a key component in the larger mills throughout New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts where they "were able to maintain their dominance for several decades during the industrial expansion they had themselves been largely instrumental in bringing about."  This group not only controlled several large corporations, but insurance companies and banks too.  The Boston Associates also wielded "considerable political influence."[67]  The manpower needed to fuel the large factories often owned by groups like the Boston Associates was originally supplied by "local farm girls" who were later replaced by waves of Irish immigrants.  Several different immigrant groups added to this labor force, the most notable in size notable in size being French Canadians.  

An important side note about this period is that the Civil War did not give cause for young men to avoid migration to the United States, as one might suspect.  In an article from The New England Quarterly in September, 1950, entitled Quebec to "Little Canada": The Coming of the French Canadians to New England in the Nineteenth Century Iris Saunders Podea argues that "In view of the predicament in which French-Canadian youth found itself, the Civil War in the United States was a welcome opportunity to many young men.  The inducement of bounties for army recruits was irresistible, and it is estimated that approximately 40, 000 French Canadians served in the Union armies, a number of whom undoubtedly were already residents of the United States."[68]

 Podea's claim that the Civil War was a "welcome opportunity" suggests that the economic situation in Quebec was so grave that men would risk life and limb to receive the payments that the Union offered in order to keep the farm afloat.  Podea adds that "It is no wonder that the Seventh Census of Canada stated that it Űwas not in quest of a higher standard of living but to avoid a lower' that the French Canadian was impelled to migrate.[69]"   Young men were not, however, the only portion of the population who immigrated during this period.

            French Canadian groups and families (as opposed to isolated individuals) who made New England their new home were often influenced to do so by word of mouth information provided by those who had found seasonal or temporary work on New England farms, in the logging industry or as early factory employees. The emigrant himself was often the catalyst for others to migrate south of the border.

Family and parochial ties played an important role in stimulating and channeling emigration.  Often, the emigration of an entire nuclear family would begin with the departure of its members

who would sound out the general situation in a given town and then would send for the rest of their family.  Cousins, uncles and nephews would often join the initial family before bringing their own relatives down, creating a pattern of settlement where family ties became the primary source of support and information in the United States.  This pattern would often ensure that certain American towns would receive French-Canadian emigrants mostly from specific towns or parishes within Quebec.  For example, the French Canadians of Southbridge, Massachusetts, tended to come from Sorel and Saint-Ours.  This pattern, familiar to sociologists, also served to minimize emotional and cultural costs of emigration.[70]


The "emotional and cultural costs of emigration" refer to the degree to which the trauma from leaving a familiar area for an unknown one factors into a potential emigrants' decision to migrate or to stay.  The individual by himself may have felt this cost at a greater level than the group because he would be without a familiar network and would suffer emotionally and culturally without this support.  The group, on the other hand, would be less traumatized by emigration because they could transport their network of previously established relationships.  Furthermore, the shared customs and cultural traditions of the group, in addition to its ability to communicate with each other in their native tongue, made for a situation in which the individual within the group would be more inclined to migrate knowing that he was surrounded by familiarity in an unfamiliar area. 

            The emigrant as a recruiter is a vital component affecting migration patterns from 1860 to 1930 not only because the of the individual's interest in persuading his family, friends and neighbors to migrate for their benefit, but also because many were paid by their bosses in textile mills to do so.  The years following 1863 were prosperous for the textile industry because of the restoration of peace in the United States. In this period of peaceful prosperity, the textile industry sought to expand.  The French Canadians were able to capitalize off of this expansion because of a shortage of local mill workers.  The Irish were also a notable presence in the filling of the employee gap that was necessary for the textile mill to produce the goods that the country and world desired.   Scholars note several factors for this gap.  First, the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups makes the following assertion:

It has been argued that French Canadians did not displace the Yankees from New England, they replaced them.  By 1880 over 3 million native-born Americans from Maine to Pennsylvania had moved to other states, mostly in the Midwest.  That shift, occurring before the influx of East Europeans began, reduced the industrial labor force and compelled New England entrepreneurs to turn elsewhere for workers, particularly to nearby Quebec.[71]


This argument asserts that the gap which allowed the French-Canadians access to the textile industry was created because of the opening up of agricultural lands in the Midwest which allowed for New England farmers a chance to migrate to more spacious farms rather than staying in the more confined area of New England.  The farmers' daughters had previously provided the labor force for the textile industry, but the desire for more land uprooted them and left their jobs vacant.   Along the same vein, a second reason for the industry's need to find a workforce was the Yankee reaction to the increasingly demanding and dangerous nature of textile work.  Armand Chartier argues, "The very first industrial workers, both men and women, were Yankees of course, the most famous being the ŰMill Girls' of Lowell.  In the 1820s and 1830s, these young women would leave their farms to spend a few years in the spinning mills where they found job security, a healthy moral atmosphere in group homes under the watchful care of stern matrons, and the opportunity to enroll in courses in their spare time."  This "healthy moral atmosphere" disintegrated as the industry grew and employers were unwilling or unable to foster the seemingly cheerful work environment that Chartier describes above.   Instead, "seeking to maximize profit in a competitive environment, owners increasingly imposed harsher working conditions on the workers.  The ensuing job dissatisfaction led to strikes and, for many workers, to permanent job changes as new opportunities arose, due to an expanded job market and the American West."[72]  Thus, the Yankee employers' desire to maintain certain standards of living and working was incompatible with the industry's need for a cheap labor force.  The French-Canadians were willing and able to be that cheap labor force because of the dire conditions from which they came.

A point that should be touched upon here, but will be explained in greater detail later, is that the French-Canadian worker was known for his docility and unwillingness to challenge the standards that his employer set in terms of hours, conditions and wages.  These stereotypes would be challenged by their actions in later decades, but not before these characteristics caused turmoil within the workplace between non French Canadian (namely Irish) workers interested in unionizing and strike organizing and their French Canadian counterparts who were distrustful of unions and often served as strikebreakers. 

A third reason why textile factory owners were interested in foreign labor (which was often provided by French-Canadians) was because of the loss of human capital as the result of the Civil War, "once peace had been restored, this worker shortage was felt in all employment sectors, the war having claimed hundreds of thousands of victims."[73] 

            All of these factors contributed in some way to the industry's need for a new work force.  The higher number of immigrants living in the more industrialized regions, as opposed to the agricultural regions, speaks to the employers' successful attempts to fill these gaps with French Canadians.  Whereas Massachusetts Franco-Americans made up 20.8% of that population in New England in 1860, the percentage increased to 38.9% of the population of 208,100 in 1880, 48.1% of 518,887 in 1900 and then dropped to 45.3% of 743, 219 in 1930. 

The period from 1860 to 1880 is one marked both by seasonal migration and permanent habitation in the United States.  It has been noted, "Many emigrants sought only to stay long enough to accumulate savings that would be sufficient to pay off their debts or to acquire a farm or start a business."  At the same time, however, there was clear evidence that the French-Canadian presence in New England was not solely temporary.  Some estimates show that "roughly half of the 900,000 people who left Quebec would return after one or several stays in the United States."[74]  Although the return rates were greatest when there was a slump in the local New England economies, this does not mean that the French-Canadian presence in New England was seasonal or temporary in its entirety.  On the contrary, the numbers of those who did stay to make the United States their permanent home make up the other half of the estimated 900,000.  Furthermore, the fact that people left does not mean that they never came back.  In fact, seasonal work facilitated the supplemental income necessary for farms into the twentieth century.  The flow, however steady, was not without its booms and busts because "from the end of the American Civil War to 1873 and during the beginning of the 1880s and 1890s, emigration reached a fever pitch, while from 1873 to 1879, for most of the 1880s and from 1894 to 1896, it slowed down."[75]

By the late 1880s when the population of French-Canadians in New England exceeded 200,000 people, the more affluent classes joined the farmer in migrating to the United States.  While the focus of this essay is the French Canadian farmer turned factory worker, the upper classes made notable contributions to French Canadian communities of New England.   The upper classes often facilitated the creation of many of the Fraternal Societies as well as French-Canadian newspapers in New England.  Equally important is the role of wealthy French Canadians in the division of labor in New England.  The presence of the French Canadian elite in New England allowed for a community that was not solely based on factory work.  In fact, the growing number of elites who made their way down to the United States was instrumental to the development of the community as a whole.  French Canadian doctors, journalists, and educators made immeasurable contributions to the development of that community for obvious reasons.  Had it not been for their presence, the French-Canadian community in New England would have developed much differently. 

The clergy makes up one portion of the elite whose presence in New England must be recognized if one is to see the whole picture.  The role that the clergy and the church as a whole played in the development of survivance will become more clear in part six, but right now it is important to understand that the push off of the farm and the pull of the New England industries may have initially facilitated the migration of the poverty-stricken farmer, but the numbers of French-Canadians and the development of "Little Canadas" in New England drew in members of other socio-economic backgrounds. 

Part 5.  Life In New England

            The development of predominantly French-Canadian neighborhoods known as "Little Canadas" in New England corresponded with the availability of work in the textile mills. "Little Canadas" in New England were densely populated, with poor ventilation and lacking in basic sanitation.  Several "Little Canadas" in New England served as hotbeds of contagious illnesses.  "Little Canada" in Brunswick, Maine, for example, was the site of an 1886 diphtheria outbreak where 76 people died, the majority of whom were children.  The fact that French-Canadian immigration to New England did not subside until the 1930s despite these conditions speaks to the even poorer quality of life that existed in rural Quebec at this time. 

The most viable option to escape poverty in Quebec was to migrate to New England where many entered the mill workforce.  Millwork did not require specialized skills, enabling the farmer and his family to enter the workforce despite their lack of education and previous work experience.  These "large families without financial reserves were obliged to seek work at once."[76]  The mills allowed this to occur.

The cotton textile industry offered the greatest opportunity for unskilled labor and absorbed a large portion of these French Canadians, whose descendents become Űa permanent factor in the labor supply of the cotton mills' of New England.  The French Canadians made themselves felt in this industry in the 1870s, when there were over seven thousand Canadian-born engaged in it in New England.  Within thirty years this number soared to nearly 60,000.  French Canadians operatives in cotton mills rose from 20% to nearly 37% of the total number in Massachusetts between 1890 and 1900, and in Maine and New Hampshire they exceeded 60%. . Although fewer French-Canadian women workers than those of any other nationality had ever been employed for wages before coming to the United States, over 40% of those in Massachusetts over ten years of age were employed in 1885.[77]


The French-Canadian worker was attractive to employers because of his reputation for being docile, hardworking, and unwilling to challenge authority even if other "Americans looked down upon habitants arriving on station platforms in rustic garb, followed by broods of children."[78] 

The obedient stereotype of French-Canadian workers was probably bred out of the fact that they came from such dire poverty that they were willing to take whatever employment available (mainly in textiles) and not complain of the low wages, long hours, or dangerous conditions.  Some scholars cite, however, that this stereotype developed because French-Canadian clergy in the United States discouraged unionizing and striking among their parishioners because they feared that the local Yankee population would react adversely to a group who had entered the country out of desperation and then refused to work for the wages and under the conditions available to them.  Both of these factors were at work in the creation of the stereotype that French-Canadian workers were docile and obedient. In 1929, New York Times writer F. Lauriston Bullard argued French Canadians in New England "constitute a valuable labor class and do not manifest much affinity for unionization, nor do they tend to radicalism."  History proves that this stereotype was in many cases inaccurate.  By the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, it was not uncommon for Franco-American textile workers to join unions and partake in strikes alongside immigrant workers of varied ethnic groups, most notably the Irish.  This participation was the result of several decades of experience in the textile mills that acclimated French Canadian workers with the system of work, allowing them to feel comfortable challenging that system when appropriate for them. 

That being said, one must consider the history of antagonism between French-Canadians and their Irish counterparts both in the mills and at Church.   The Church conflict will be detailed in following pages, but for now it is important to understand that the workplace served as a battleground where these two ethnic groups were pitted against each other.  This opposition was often the result of French-Canadian willingness to break strikes by underbidding Irish wages.  Furthermore, French-Canadian workers were characterized as uninterested in and distrustful of unions because of a belief that they promoted a false community and leadership, which could lead to a transformation of the French-Canadian from an individual whose concerns lay primarily with his spiritual and familial lives to an individual whose concerns lay primarily with his labor.  The relationship became so hostile between the two groups that it has been cited that French-Canadian and Irish workers had to be separated in mills to keep violence from ensuing.  Both groups shared a common religion and often worked in the same industry, but were often enemies.

            Work in textile mills was not exclusive to the male population.  Women and children were able to work in mills alongside their adult male counterparts. In an interesting side note, French Canadian child labor in New England textile mills posed a problem for local Yankee statesmen because it had been outlawed in some states as early as the 1830s.  Furthermore, the use of child labor in the New England textile mills was not exclusive to French Canadians.  That being said, many accounts paint French Canadian parents as blatantly unconcerned with the illegality of allowing their children to work for long hours in unhealthy conditions. 

The charge has often been made that French Canadians, with their large families, had more child operatives in the mills than any other group of workers.  Child labor, nevertheless, was prevelant in the textile mills long before the coming of the French Canadians.  They simply followed a long-established custom when they sent their children to work, one further reinforced by necessity.  Actually a study of cotton mill workers made in 1905 indicated that the French-Canadian children contributed only one-third of the income in the families covered, while Irish children in the same survey contributed 45% of the family income.


More justifiable was the accusation that the French-Canadians evaded the school laws, sometimes falsifying the ages of their children--there can be little doubt that very young children were commonly employed and that existing child labor laws were violated.[79]


The 1st Annual Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the State of Connecticut released in 1885 argues that "the French Canadian, in a great many instances regards his children as a means of adding to the earning capacity of the family, and, in making arrangements for work, he urges, and even insists upon the employment of the family as a whole, down to the very youngest children who can be of any possible service."  The findings of this report are at odds with some scholars' argument that primary education was of great importance to the French-Canadian parent because it allowed the child religious instruction via parochial education.  The income brought in by children, however, would have allowed the French Canadian family of the textile mill an even higher standard of living. For that reason, sending children into the workforce rather than to school may have been a more appealing option, even if it meant that religious instruction would be held at bay.  This may have been the case because even though the income from the textile industry would have been greater than on the farm, the standard of living did not allow for any sort of abundance or luxury.  In fact, the large textile towns like Lowell, Massachusetts, where work was plentiful, were plagued by French-Canadian poverty; "In 1875, 41 percent of Lowell's Franco-Americans lived below the poverty line; an additional 11 percent were barely over it.  In 1880 two-thirds of the cotton mill workers in Cohoes, New York, a one-company town with a large Franco-American population, could be classified as poor."[80] 

It makes sense that parents utilized their children as a workforce considering the poverty that existed among the French-Canadian population in New England mill towns.[81]  This is not to say, however, that the religious lives of their children were not important to French-Canadian parents in New England.  On the contrary, the French-Canadian community as a whole has been noted as devoutly Catholic with a strong desire to retain the collective value of that religion.  Parochial schools were often the means by which French Canadian youth were educated in subjects both spiritual and academic. 

The argument that French-Canadians in New England utilized their children as a workforce rather than a student body held increasingly less weight after the turn of the century.  In the early years of the migration, larger mills set up schools to teach immigrant children English and a few basic subjects.  As the number of Franco-Americans in New England grew, so did the call for parochial schools there. Religious instruction was considered a necessity in the lives of Franco-American youth. 

Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Rutland, Vermont, was the first Franco-American parish to set up its own school in New England, in 1870.  The next decades would see an explosion of parochial schools in New England who aimed to instruct Franco-American youth on both an academic and spiritual level.  These New England schools were instrumental to the development of the Franco-American community not just because they educated the youth, but also because they served as a means by which parents and neighbors could come together in solidarity and support the passing on of French-Canadian traditions and the French language. 

Furthermore, the education that Franco-American youth received in New England was as important to the education of the adult as it was to the youth.  Many illiterate, Franco-American parents were introduced to primary education for the first time when they sent children to parochial schools in New England.  In his book, The Canadian Born in The United States, author Leon E. Truesdell cites that in 1930 over one-third of those who were unable to speak English were also illiterate.[82]

The religious orders introduced a new dimension into Franco-American education.  They did not just teach subjects; rather, they strove to implant an ideology of how to live according to well-defined rules.  Early Franco-American society, like most ethnic cultures, was a prefigurative community : the parents often learning from their children, not the other way around, as is usually the case.  Enrollment in the parish schools grew steadily, at times mushrooming as parents found the instruction authoritative and thoroughgoing, especially after the system of grades was introduced.[83]


The French-Canadian parochial school came under attack in Massachusetts in the 1890s  when local authorities in Haverhill and Fitchburg publicly asserted that schools in the United States that were not taught in English were not schools at all.  A compromise was reached in 1912 that allowed for half of the school day to be taught in French and the other half in English.  First adopted in Massachusetts, this system of bilingual education became commonplace throughout French-Canadian parochial schools in New England. The bi-lingual compromise came under attack several times, however, around WWI when Yankee educators and legislators sought to limit francophone education by attempting to discredit the validity of these French-Canadian educational institutions. 

Attempts to limit the speaking of French in the parochial school system were also made in a more direct manner.  Massachusetts French-Canadian parochial schools faced a 1919 bill, which sought to limit francophone education to one hour per day. Franco-Americans in that state acted on behalf of all Franco-Americans in New England when they successfully campaigned to defeat the bill.  Through community organizing they obtained enough signatures in opposition of that bill to prevent it from passing.  Even with the successes of community organizing, French Canadians, like many immigrant groups were not immune to the critiques of outsiders. 

An October 13, 1901 article in the New York Times entitled "French Canadians in New England" criticized the entire Franco-American population of New England by stating that school-age children of French-Canadian parents in New England were ill prepared because of their parents' unwillingness to adopt the dominant language of the United States.

It is by no means an uncommon thing to find men who have lived for twenty-five years or more in New England and have grandchildren, quoted in the census records as of American parentage who speak English either with great difficulty or not at all, and whose presumably native-born grandchildren enter the primary schools unable to understand the simplest English sentences.[84]


The grievance voiced in this article was one that motivated Yankee legislators and educators to attempt to pass bills limiting primary education to "English only." However, Franco-Americans were not unique in their struggle to maintain their native tongue via education in the United States.  Myriad ethnic groups faced the same problem and in 1925 the United States Supreme Court ruled that states did not have the power to limit private education to an "English only" policy.  Franco-Americans in New England are only one of many groups whose children were able to be educated in their parents' native tongue.   The subjects taught in French included the arts, catechism, Canadian history, and French grammar.  Geography, mathematics, and American history were reserved for the English-speaking portion of the day.    The Church, in addition to the school, was a resource for the community insofar that it served as a house of worship and a rally point. French-Canadian churches in New England were at the core of survivance not only as sources of common ground and shared values, but also as part of what the ideology stood for.  In other words, survivance was an attempt to preserve the French-Canadian way of life by using Catholicism in the community at the same time that it sought to preserve it.     

            The first Catholic Church founded and attended by French-Canadians in New England was Saint Joseph's Church in Burlington, Vermont.  Founded in 1850, Saint Joseph's was the first of dozens of predominantly French-Canadian churches to be developed in New England in the fifty years before the turn of the century.  By 1900, eighty-two French-Canadian parishes had been built in New England: "The procedure for founding a new parish was repeated over and over again throughout New England.  Often convened by a local merchant or professional, and following a visit by a missionary or priest, French-Canadian immigrants assembled and, after taking a census and making inquiries about renting a building or hall, or securing land to build a church, petitioned the bishop to form a parish with a French-speaking pastor."[85]  The eighty-two French Canadian churches built in New England by 1900 serve as testament to the success of the procedure. Early French Canadian immigrants were, however, met with adversity when recruiting clergy.  

Clergy in Quebec originally met the mass migration of the French-Canadians to New England with hostility.  It was not uncommon for priests in Quebec to portray the migration to New England as a symptom of a love of luxury and materialism. A reluctance to send clergy to oversee the development of Catholic Churches in New England was the product of the fear that the parishioners were abandoning their country and their church to live in "luxury."  This sentiment shifted around 1869, when the Bishop of Burlington, Louis Joseph de Goesbriand, issued the following statement in the French Canadian newspaper, Le Protecteur canadien:

In this astonishing immigration, Divine Providence, which rules the world, has designs that are hidden from us.  Let it do its work.  It will know how to bring good out of what we take to be evil.  We believe that these immigrants are called by God to cooperate in the conversion of America, just as their ancestors were called to implant the faith on the banks of the St. Lawrence. But no matter what Providence intends, we must come to the aid of our dear immigres, a multitude of people who have settled outside their homeland--It is part of God's providential plan that, in general, nations be evangelized by apostles who speak their language and who understand their habits and predispositions; it is God's plan that they be evangelized by priests of their own kind.[86]


The French Canadian Catholic Church adhered to Goesbriand's call to allow clergy to follow the farmers to New England in part because it realized that if it "failed to act, it would suffer the irreparable loss of some 500,000 immigrants already settled in the United States, as well as those who would follow them into exile with all of their descendants."[87] This realization facilitated the increased immigration of members of the clergy, who were instrumental to the development of French Canadian parishes.

One may question why French Canadian parishioners felt the need to build their own churches considering that the Irish population in New England had established myriad Catholic Churches upon their arrival throughout the nineteenth century.  The answer to this question can in part be found in the philosophy that is survivance.  French-Canadians in New England sought to build their own churches because Irish Catholic mass was recited in English.  Understanding the words that the priest spoke was important to the French Canadian immigrants for obvious reasons, but the value of retaining the French language also served as motivation for parishioners to build their own churches.  Attending mass at an Irish Catholic Church not only meant an inability to understand the service, but it also meant that French Canadians were partially forfeiting the language that defined who they were as a people.

.   Another survivance related motivation behind building separate French-Canadian Churches in New England was due to the value placed on the uniquely French-Canadian traditions performed at mass:

In nineteenth-century French Canada, the parish was an organic whole, the mainstay of social organization.  It was nearly as essential for every Catholic as was the family for each of its members, or the rang : a rural subdivision : for each farmer.  The parish was an integral part of the immigrant's mindset and that of his children.  And it remained so for almost a century, as subsequent religious conflicts would clearly demonstrate.  This traditional notion of the parish also included a body of cultural practices that would only gradually disappear.  For example, the curóe  was not only the spiritual leader of his flock but was also the confidant, the one whom they consulted before making important decisions. For his part, the curóe understood the souls entrusted to him--He knew, too, that even in America, they would continue to cherish their plain chant, which the Irish did not use, and the pomp of religious ceremonies, which the Irish tended to avoid.[88]


The use of the French language, the relationship with the clergy, and "pomp of religious ceremonies" were all central features of the French Canadian mass.  French Canadians attempted to preserve those features by building their own churches.  These attempts served as fodder in the conflict between the French Canadians and the Irish.

 Perhaps one of the most famous incidences to arise out of the French-Canadian

desire to establish Churches that would cater to their language and traditions was the Flint Affair.  Fall River, Massachusetts, was a hotbed of French-Canadian activity in the 1880s.  Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish served the spiritual needs of the French-Canadian parishioners in Fall River under the guidance of the Franco-American priest Father Bedard until his death in 1884.  Father Bedard was highly regarded in the Franco-American community because of his dedication to the preservation of French-Canadian traditions including the concept known as syndique, a practice that allowed for the congregation's financial affairs to be handled by a parish corporation rather than the bishop.  Father Bedard advocated syndique, in part, because it was practiced in Quebec.  Thus, the preservation of French-Canadian practices was often as important as the practices themselves.

            Father Bedard understood this and for that reason was at odds with his superior, Bishop Thomas F. Hendricken, who advocated the use of the Church as a tool of assimilation for Catholic immigrant groups.  When Bedard died, Hendricken named an Irish priest as his successor even though Fall River already had a predominantly Irish Catholic Church.  Compounding this insult was the fact that Bedard specifically requested that he be succeeded by a French-Canadian priest following his death.  Ignoring Bedard's request and appointing an Irish pastor, Hendricken was probably unprepared for the backlash the of the French-Canadian parishioners: "For two years, Franco-Americans resisted their bishop in a highly publicized clash of wills, hounding three Irish pastors in succession from this post and appealing to Rome.  Prodded by the Vatican and fellow bishops, Hendricken finally acceded to their wishes, thus consecrating the principle of national parishes."[89] [90]  This incident illustrates how the Catholic Church served dual roles for the importance of survivance.  On one level, the Church served as a main source of community, a spiritual necessity and a fixture in the lives of French-Canadians.  On the next level, it served as a highly valued tradition that came to symbolize the French-Canadian way of life which survivance sought to preserve.  Its value as an institution and its symbolic value were intertwined, both important in the maintenance of the Franco-American identity.  This identity was also maintained via secular organizations. 

            Although the Church and the family were generally recognized as the centers of Franco-American life, dozens of secular social orders were established by and for Franco-Americans in the sixty years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century.  The activities of these groups varied.  Whether they were fraternal social orders, groups devoted to a single charity, or groups whose main concern was the direction of survivance, scholars note the tendency of Franco-Americans in New England to be involved in a social life outside of the home, church, workplace, or school.  Included in the list of secular groups that existed in Franco-American New England in the three and a half decades following the turn of the century are national societies, including the Association Canado-Americaine and the Artisans, who "actively engaged in the advancement of Franco-Americans and ensuring the preservation of their cultural heritage."[91]  The preservation of cultural heritage was not, however, reserved to the religious and social realms. In fact, the financial field played a role in that preservation as well.

 Franco-American credit unions facilitated a gradual transformation for many Franco-Americans' economic situations by allowing an ability to obtain credit when necessary.  Franco-American insurance agencies created access to reliable insurance policies in New England. This development is of considerable importance considering the number of people who came to the area from poverty who were able to utilize these institutions, of their own language, that had not been available to them in Quebec. 

The role of financial institutions was twofold.  First, they aided Franco-Americans in New England on a journey to financial well-being.  Second, they aided in the preservation of the community and its language by offering services for and by Franco-Americans. The June 1939 issue of The New England Quarterly argues that "the financial field--may be adding a modicum of longer life to the French language in the three southern New England states, and with the aid of other agencies, they should contribute to a permanent--linguistic survival in localities nearer to the Province of Quebec."[92] The dual role that financial institutions played was similar to the dual role of the Church.  The Church aided in the development of the Franco-American community in the beginning of the twentieth century because it served the spiritual lives of its parishioners, and was also instrumental in the establishment of Franco-American institutions including schools, orphanages and hospitals.   

This period was also marked by an abundance of Franco-American newspapers in New England.  Over 115 Franco-American-run newspapers were founded in New England between 1880 and 1900.[93]  Many of these papers were short lived, but their presence is significant because they served as platforms for the promotion of or disagreement with the survivance ideology.  By setting up separate parishes, schools, newspapers, hospitals, and economic institutions in addition to their secular national groups such as the Artisans, Franco-Americans of New England (from 1860 to 1930) have been described as unwilling to or uninterested in the contribution of anything other than their labor to the country that served as their new home.  Outsiders argued that Franco-Americans were not interested in integrating with other communities because they developed so many of their own institutions.  Compounding the segregation was the proximity to Quebec, which allowed for the immigrants' ties with their native country to remain intact.  Many interpreted these ties as factors in the retardation of Franco-American assimilation in the United States.  While outsiders criticized this segregation, survivance adherents struggled amongst themselves in a debate on assimilation. 

Survivance, at its core, sought to maintain a distinctly Franco-American way of life by preserving the language, traditions, and institutions of the French-Canadians in New England.  This preservation was, however, the source of angst from both within members of the Franco-American community and from their Yankee neighbors who often viewed Franco-Americans in New England as "backward in education and primitive in habit.[94]"   Part six of this essay seeks to understand survivance and how it factored into Franco-American New England from 1900 to 1930. 

Part 6.  Survivance in New England

            A June 6, 1892 editorial in The New York Times titled "The French Canadians in New England" makes the following assertions:

Not only does the French cure follow the French peasantry to their new homes, but he takes with him the parish church, the ample clerical residence, the convent for the sisters, and the parochial school for education of the children. He also perpetuates the French ideas and aspirations through the French language, and places all the obstacles possible in the way of the assimilation of these people to our American life and thought.  There is something still more important in this transplantation.  These people are in New England as an organized body, whose motto is Notre religion, notre langue, et nos moeurs.  This body is ruled by a principle directly opposite to that which has made New England what it is.  It depresses to the lowest point possible the idea of personal responsibility and limits the freedom which it permits.


The above editorial vocalizes a sentiment among some Yankees in New England around the turn of the century that has been held towards many immigrant groups in the United States throughout the twentieth century.  For New England Franco-Americans around the turn of the century, this seemingly "pro-assimilation" rhetoric was often vocalized in what appeared an attack on the immigrants and their institutions, most notably the Catholic Church.  It was argued that the Church's insistence on preserving language and tradition created a situation where "It is next to impossible to penetrate this mass of protected and secluded humanity with modern ideas or to induce them to interest themselves in democratic institutions of methods of government.  They are almost as much out of reach as if they were living in a remote part of the Providence of Quebec."[95]

            The hostile tone that of the editorial was commonplace among Yankee literature that focused on Franco-Americans in New England.  This hostility was a direct result of the fact that Franco-Americans had moved themselves, in such great numbers, with their Church and their institutions that they seemed "secluded" and unwilling to participate in American life or thought.  This was problematic for Yankees who felt that Franco-Americans were merely using New England for its employment opportunities and not making any visible attempt to become a part of the existing Yankee community.  Furthermore, the prevailing sentiment was that Franco-Americans were not only not attempting to participate in American life or thought, but they were actually trying to remain secluded from American life. 

 What is more is that the Franco-American "plan" to remain secluded from American life was working.  One point of view asserted that French-Canadians were not moving to New England in order to make it their home, but rather for it to serve as a host country.  And they were particularly unsocial and ungrateful guests.  Numbers prove that although French Canadian migration to and from Canada was still correlated to season as well as repatriation efforts on behalf of the Canadian government as late as the 1930s,[96]the myriad institutions and newspapers set up in the United States serve as proof that the United States was a permanent home for hundreds of thousands of French-Canadians turned Franco-Americans.  Yet, the Franco-American institutions and newspapers were not, it was argued, interested in contributing to communities outside of Franco-America.  The argument asserts that while they did set up permanent residence, Franco-Americans did not contribute anything other than their labor to the surrounding Yankee community. 

The permanence of the Franco-American presence was not evident, however, to native New Englanders in the 1880s. Chief of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colonel Carrol D. Wright, issued his annual report in 1881, which included the following paragraph:

With some exception, the Canadian French are the Chinese of the Eastern States.  They care nothing for our institutions, civil, political, or educational.  They do not come to make a home among us, to dwell with us as citizens, and so become a part of us; but their purpose is merely to sojourn a few years as aliens, touching us only at a single point, that of work, and, when they have gathered out of us what will satisfy their ends, to get them away whence they came, and bestow it here. 


Records show that the French Canadian presence in New England cannot be characterized by an interest in sojourning for a few years with no interest in making a home, but that the seasonal migratory patterns although still a factor, became less significant as decades unfolded.  Nonetheless, the stereotype of French-Canadians as "the Chinese of the East" was considerably offensive considering the anti-Chinese sentiment that existed in California during that time.  

Such stereotypes prevailed into the twentieth century putting the ideology known as survivance in an interesting place.   Franco-American supporters of survivance in Quebec advocated the ideology in order to preserve the French-Canadian language and traditions that were initially threatened with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763.  On the other hand, survivance in New England differed from survivance in Quebec, and that difference accounted for how the ideology affected the group as a whole.  In Quebec, the ideology came into existence out of the fact that established French-Canadian ways of life and language were threatened in their own land.  Survivance sought to preserve those traditions and that language by highlighting the fact that French speaking inhabitants of Quebec were the descendants of the early settlers who had broken the virgin land, brought Catholicism to Quebec, and set up the seigniorial system.  The English acquisition of Quebec threatened the traditions and language that had been in place in Quebec for approximately 100 years.  Survivance in Quebec was a direct response to that threat. 

In New England, survivance took a different tone.  Survivance in New England was not a preservation of French-Canadianism in French Canada; it was a preservation of French-Canadianism in New England.  The seemingly secluded character of the Franco-Americans in New England was viewed with hostility because it appeared to the outsider as distrust in and dislike for American life and thought, even as French Canadians were pouring into America. 

            Franco Americans were often described as "clannish" by their Yankee neighbors.  The clan-like mentality was what many Yankee outsiders viewed as the fundamental reason that Franco-Americans continued to live in seclusion (and poverty) as other New England immigrants began to Americanize and climb the economic ladder.  Again, it is important to understand that this seemingly clan-like behavior was partially the result of Quebec's proximity to New England.  Communication and travel to and from the native land were more accessible to French-Canadians than other New England immigrant groups because their homeland was so close to their adopted country.  Nonetheless, Yankee hostility to the French-Canadian population in New England did not subside even as Franco-American communities became permanent fixtures in that region.

            The years surrounding World War I are particularly notable in the history of Yankee hostility toward the Franco-Americans.  The hostility that existed in these years, however, was not as much the result of the unique set of circumstances by which Franco-Americans were "clannish" as much as it was a national phenomenon by which immigrant groups throughout the nation were considered suspect. 

In the United States, the First World War gave rise to a wave of patriotism not exempt from racism.  This racism was directed first against Americans of German descent; and then : after the Russian Revolution : against those suspected of socialism; and finally it turned against Jews, Blacks, and Catholics.  In short, anyone who was not a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant was suspect, and what was demanded was nothing less than Űone hundred percent Americanizm.[97]'


Whatever justification for suspicion of Franco-Americans that was given in New England in the years from 1880-1930, there is little doubt that survivance, with its call to retain French-Canadian ways of life, was instrumental in the preservation of tradition and language and the corresponding Yankee backlash.  The backlash served as fodder for some survivance adherents' ideology to maintain the attempt to preserve, but soft lining subscribers with the realization that a certain degree of assimilation was key to the success of the community as a whole, used the backlash as a means to argue that the community would never prosper in seclusion.  

The "clannish" behavior of the Franco-American community as a whole was not always, however, the result of a conscious or even desired effort on behalf of many members of the community.  In fact, many individuals living in "Little Canadas" did not have to break with their language and traditions because the Franco-American population in New England was so great.  Simultaneously, when portions of the population did show signs of assimilation into American life and thought, hardliners of survivance sought to combat those signs with an argument that included the idea that assimilation was "a form of disorder, a manifestation of chaos, or an unnatural phenomenon."  This sentiment did subside, but not before internal debate ensued, causing cleavages within the community. 

            Cleavages existed in the degrees to which fraternal orders, parishes and newspapers advocated survivance.  Hardliners of the ideology not only discouraged any sort of assimilation, they also discouraged naturalization.  More moderate subscribers promoted the idea of a dual identity by which Franco-Americans retained their language and traditions in some spheres such as at home or at church, but also encouraged the use of English and the process of naturalization.  These individuals emphasized the fact that Franco-American life in New England would continually exist in a state of retardation if members of the community did not participate in political life.  Furthermore, the Franco-American community as a self-sustaining unit, it was argued, would never achieve the same degree of financial prosperity that it would if it branched out into the English speaking community that surrounded it.  If naturalization and some degree of assimilation were discouraged, financial and political life would continue to experience a growth stunt from within. Further, the surrounding Yankee communities would have fuel for an argument that resembled a claim made in the September 23, 1885 New York Times, which continued to hold weight in the early twentieth century.

Their dwellings are the despair of sanitarians and themselves the despair of social philosophers.  Nor is there any prospect for improvement.  They are the Chinese of New England inasmuch as they seem rarely to strike root in our soil.  Whatever may be the fate of the Irish immigrant, there is always the hope that his children and his grandchildren may be assimilated with the native population.  He himself has at least come with the intention of remaining.  His interest in the land of his birth is chiefly sentimental and is expressed in contributions to the emergency funds.  But even if the French Canadian leaves his bones here his thoughts all lie beyond the Canadian border, and he cannot be brought to take any interest in the life around him of a community in which he regards himself merely as a sojourner.[98]


Such critiques posed a threat to the Franco-American soft lining subscribers of survivance because of their understanding that that view of Franco-America would perpetuate a situation by which it would remain in a continual state of isolation not only because of hardliners' attempts to keep continue isolation, but also because of a distrust and resentment of Franco-Americans by their Yankee neighbors.  Biddeford, Maine attorney and Franco-American, Godfroy Dupre, met the fear of a perpetually isolated community and what the effects of isolation would be with the following call at a 1901 Franco-American convention in Springfield, Massachusetts.

            Instead of exchanging compliments and invoking the memory or our ancestors, which seems to be

            the and only theme our orators know, and instead of priding ourselves on a glorious past to which

            we ourselves have contributed nothing, it would be wiser and more patriotic for us to take a hard

            look at ourselves, get an education, and involve ourselves in civic affairs.[99]


Dupre's call to halt the "exchanging of compliments" illustrates an interest not in abandoning the Franco-American identity, but in preserving that identity by insuring growth via education and civic involvement.  That being said, there were portions of the population who did yearn to abandon that identity.

            Portions of the population did not subscribe to survivance at all.  For these individuals, survivance was not only an outdated philosophy, it was a system of thought that, in any form, seemed to pose a threat to their financial and social well being in the United States.  Eager to break from the identity that was "Franco-Americanism" these individuals made it a point to learn English, become naturalized, and socialize with people not of French-Canadian decent.  This behavior became more prevalent after WWI.   

            These anti-survivance individuals no doubt benefited, however, from the prevailing soft-lining survivance sentiment from which institutions that encouraged naturalization and offered English classes sprang.  Ultimately, the degree of assimilation that occurred in the Franco-American community was determined by the individual's effort to preserve his French-Canadian heritage as his primary identity, accept that identity in conjunction with an American identity, or reject a French-Canadian identity entirely for an American one.  As individuals' struggled to understand their own assimilation or lack thereof, the textile industry in New England struggled to stay alive.

            The New England factory began a decline in the 1920s when many were moved to the southern United States where unions were not nearly as prevalent and labor was cheaper.  At that point, however, French-Canadians had penetrated multiple industries. While there is no doubt that the effects of the decline of the New England factory were grave, these effects were not crippling enough to motivate the hundreds of thousands of French-Canadians living in the New England states to return to Quebec.  After all, Franco-Americans in New England, despite the claims that they were composed merely of "sojourners," were responsible for the development of dozens of churches, newspapers, schools, hospitals, orphanages, charitable organizations, fraternal orders, insurance companies and credit unions.  In addition, the generations of Franco-Americans born in New England were, even in the midst of a debate on the merits of survivance, American.  It is true that some portions of the population were motivated to return to the homeland, but the decline of the factory did not facilitate the mass exile that one might assume.  As the New England factory began to decline in the 1920s, many young Franco-American men enlisted in the armed forces.  The armed forces were, for many, a vehicle of assimilation. 

            WWI plays a significant role in the process of assimilation that occurred because it facilitated travel and experience for young Franco-American men who came into close contact with men from all over the country.  This integration, in combination with the breaking down of factories in New England (which forced many Franco-Americans into more integrated forms of employment) fostered assimilation.  Further, the advent of technologies such as radio and television, by which Franco-Americans were exposed to completely new schools of thought and ways of life, were key to a generation of Franco-Americans whose gradual assimilation paved the way for their children and the following generations.  The survivance ideology did not die out with increased degrees of assimilation, but it must be noted that hardliners' perception of what survivance meant became widely recognized as outdated and unrealistic.  The concept of a dual identity by which individuals were loyal to both their French-Canadian heritage and their American identities was widely adopted as a more beneficial and more realistic approach to survivance.  An interesting question to ask is what, if any degree, do the principles of survivance exist for and are practiced by individuals of French-Canadian descent living in New England today. 

                                                            Part 7.  Survivance Now

            The final part of the essay questions the relevance of survivance in the modern context.  Seven respondents generously donated their time and knowledge in answering questions of whether or not survivance and its principles are alive in New England today.[100]  Danielle Laliberte and Benjamin Michaud are undergraduate students of the University of Maine: Department of Franco-American Studies.  Lise Pelletier, a PhD candidate studying French at the University of Maine, was the director of Le Club Fran┴ais, a Maine-based "non-profit organization whose mission is the celebration and preservation of the French language and heritage"[101] from January 2003 to January 2004. 

Annette King is the author of Growing Up On Academy Hill, a memoir that documents her childhood in New England during the depression.  Georgi Laurin Hippauf, author of The Third Century: A Recognition of Franco-Americans, is the president of the Nashua, New Hampshire chapter of Association Canado-Americaine and the host of a local morning radio show based in Nashua.  Rhea Cote is the author of Wednesday's Child and the founder of the Franco-American Women's Institute.  Robert R. Fournier, Ed.,D. is an educator and genealogist.  He also served on the New Hampshire State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights as a representative of the Franco-American population of New Hampshire.  A member of that committee for sixteen years, Mr. Fournier received post-graduate education in both Quebec and New England. Respondents were chosen based on their activity in the study of Franco-American history and culture in New England.  Further, all respondents identify as Franco-American and have knowledge of their families' migration to the New England States.  While the essay seeks to understand the relevance of survivance in the modern context, it does not claim that the respondents represent the whole Franco-American population in New England.  Rather, the respondents offer their personal views and the paper seeks to present those personal views as just that.  These personal views were communicated as answers to questions that the author posed. 

            The seven respondents answered the following questions.[102]  1)  What significance does survivance have in the modern context? 2) What role, if any, does the Catholic Church now play in the preservation of French Canadian traditions, culture and language? 3) In general, do you think Franco-American youth are engaged in the preservation of the culture and French language?  4)  Would you say that the use of French in the home is currently on the rise or on the decline among Franco-Americans?  5) What is the most pressing issue currently facing the Franco-American community? 6)  What steps are currently being taken in order to preserve French-Canadian culture in New England today?  Each question was constructed in order to gain a better understanding of where survivance stands in the Franco-American community at present.

            When asked what significance survivance has in the modern context, answers varied, but the revival of the language served as a unifying theme for some.  Mr. Michaud states that "In the modern context, La Survivance is trying to bring back the use of French as our language and to make us remember our roots and where we all come from.  Now it is not so much about maintaining what is still there since many people have lost so much, as it is about bringing back what we have already lost."[103] Mr. Michaud's response indicates that assimilation and Americanization occurred on such widespread levels that the goal is no longer to maintain, but to revive.  Revival was a theme among others.  Three of the other respondents mentioned the need for survivance to revive the cultural traditions through the revival of the language.  Ms. Cote was less concerned with the need for survivance to revive the language, stating that survivance "drives the new views, if they come to the surface, but the ritual of ancestor worship is very strong in the Franco-American culture, and we need to move on--.and forge the identity which matches in society today."[104]    Mrs. King, like Ms. Cote, did not stress the revival of the culture through the language.  She stated that "Today I think of la survivance in the modern context as the struggle to make enough money, have a good education--"[105] Ms. Cote and Mrs. King's answers indicate that they understand survivance today not as a struggle to revive the Franco-American culture in the modern context, but as a struggle for Franco-Americans to create and succeed independently of cultural factors.  One of those cultural factors is religion. 

            When asked what role, if any, the Catholic Church plays in the preservation of French Canadian traditions, culture and language, five of the seven respondents stated that the role was either non-existent or barely visible.  Mr. Michaud did, however, contend that the Church does play a role.  Mr. Michaud stated that "In many Franco communities there is still mass said in French or at least bilingual.  The Church also occasionally holds events which enforce the Franco culture in New England such as pilgrimages to Ste. Anne de Beaupre, parish meals, festivals celebrating Franco cultures and celebrations of important events to Francos."[106]  Ms. Cote did not state whether or not the Church plays a role.  Rather, she responded that "one must not consider the church as the principle definer--that creates a secondary, false impression of the culture that is filtered first through the Catholic Church and I find that to be a false representation."[107]  Ms. Cote's point is well-taken.  Important to note, however, is that whether or not the Catholic Church is engaged in the preservation of French Canadian culture and identity currently, it was active in doing so around the turn of the twentieth century.   Thus, the Church may not be a "principle definer" now, but it did play a central role in many of the debates concerning survivance.  Whereas the second question is concerned with how active the Church is in the preservation of French-Canadian traditions and language, the third question inquires about the engagement of youth in that preservation. 

            When asked whether or not Franco-American youth are engaged in the preservation of the culture and language, four of the seven respondents stated that although attempts at preservation among youth may not be widespread, they can be found in pockets.  Three respondents stated that they knew of no involvement of Franco-American youth in the preservation of the language and culture.  Ms. Laliberte stated that "It largely depends on the individual."[108]  Mr. Fournier agreed with the point that individual experience crafts what engagement does exist stating that "For the most part, here in New England, there are some efforts to engage youth in learning about their culture.  Many who live in places where French is still spoken at home have passive language skills of listening and understanding but no active skill of producing language."[109]  This "passive" individual engagement is problematic for those like Lise Pelletier.  When asked whether or not Franco-American youth are engaged in the preservation, Ms. Pelletier stated "Not enough and not because they don't care, I believe. Because they are not invited to do so.  They are the future of our culture, they should be the leaders of its preservation--Children don't really want to espouse a cause whose members are all over 70."[110]  Ms. Pelletier's grief over the disengagement of Franco-American youth with their cultural heritage was shared, in some degree, by all of the respondents.  All of the respondents were not, however, in agreement when asked about the use of French in the home.

            When asked whether the use of French in the home is on the rise or on the decline, five of the seven respondents stated that it was on the decline.  Mrs. King stated that she knows "of no family that speaks French in the home any more."[111]  Mr. Michaud did not comment on the use of French at home but did state that "more youth are becoming active in learning the language and encouraging others to learn it."[112]  Ms. Cote did not comment on the rise or decline of the language at home stating that "to be aware and proud of one's ancestors does not require linguistics."[113]  While that is true, historically one of the core elements of survivance is the language.  Ms. Cote's response indicates that she believes that survivance need not concern itself with the preservation of French because she does not "believe that having the language is necessary to be Franco-American."[114]  This sentiment was not shared by all.  In fact, five other respondents stated that the decline of the language in the home was troubling.  Mrs. Laurin Hippauf asks "we don't take the time to teach our kids how to speak English properly; we're not teaching them manners, so how do you think we'll teach them a second language?"[115]  Ms. Pelletier agreed with Mrs. Laurin Hippauf stating that she "blame(s) the parents for not fighting for their language and for not teaching French to their children."[116]  The language issue was the most frequently cited response to the fifth question.

            The fifth question, "What is the most pressing issue currently facing the Franco-American community?" was one that evoked varied responses.  The majority of respondents, did, however, cite the use of French as the most pressing issue.  Ms. Pelletier, Mr. Michaud and Ms. Laliberte stated that the loss of the language was the most pressing issue.  Mrs. King stated that the most pressing issue was the loss of unique traditions.  Ms. Cote stated that the most pressing issue is "to reach the youth--and to develop a modern art form in literature, art, etc. that carries us toward our future."[117] Mrs. Laurin Hippauf stated that the most pressing issue was "the closing of our Franco-American churches, schools, parishes..."[118] Mr. Fournier gave an all-encompassing answer when he stated that "the issue is one of awareness. Many of the youth and also many adults know nothing of their heritages.  They are simply living their lives as Americans who have strange sounding names, which are pronounced in English, far from what the original pronunciation might have been--There are French-speaking organizations and service clubs and resource centers, etc. but not many people take advantage of them."[119]  While many people do not take advantage of the Franco-American organizations in New England, it is apparent from the responses to the sixth question that there is a certain degree of participation. 

            When asked what steps are currently being taken to preserve the French-Canadian culture in New England today respondents cited a variety of steps.  Mrs. Laurin Hippauf stated that "Organizations like the ACA (Association Canado-Americaine) are making useful attempts, but it's really tough."[120] Mr. Fournier cited cultural centers and festivals; "In Rhode Island, for example, there is a small museum called the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket.  This museum highlights the textile industry and the Franco-American population, which is one of the highest concentrations in the northeast.  The Franco-American Center in Manchester, New Hampshire has established programs of various sorts, linguistic and cultural to perpetuate the traditions.  Festivals are well attended each year in several of the states of New England."[121] Ms. Laliberte and Mrs. King also cite the work of Franco-American centers. Ms. Pelletier cited the organization that she formerly directed, Le Club Fran┴ais. Mr. Michaud cited preservation efforts on behalf of "schools and some non-profit groups (that) offer free courses, scholarships and other incentives to know French and partake in the heritage."[122]    Ms. Cote believes that "writing is the most important aspect of the work because books live beyond their authors and influence the readers of many generations to come."[123] 

            While each respondent was able to cite at least on organization or effort to preserve the cultural and linguistic traditions of Franco-America, there is little doubt from the findings that survivance is, for all intensive purposes, not a philosophy that the respondents believe is widely practiced among Franco-Americans in New England today. 

The findings do not attempt to make the conclusion that the philosophy failed, as only seven respondents can not speak for the entire population.  What is significant, however, is that the respondents are each in some way involved in the study of Franco-American culture and history.  It is quite likely that if there were widespread efforts to preserve the culture, than the respondents would know about these efforts.  Respondents' answers may lead one to believe that the loss of language, disengagement between the youth and their heritage, and the decline in the Catholic Church's efforts to promote survivance - related values are factors in assimilation.  These factors are for Mrs. Laurin Hippauf, the result of something else: "We've lost our sense of pride and mostly, our loyalty to one another as members of a unique --culture."[124]  Mrs. Laurin Hippauf's comments provide a negative response when inquiring about the current vitality of survivance.


            Survivance, with its call to maintain traditional French Canadian customs and language, is a philosophy whose roots can be traced back to the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763.  As French Canadian people migrated to the New England states, so did survivance.  The philosophy retarded the development of the Franco-American community in New England as it simultaneously created a cohesive and well-organized population.  This population struggled internally to understand how they related to each other and the outside world.  This struggle took the form of the debates surrounding survivance. 

            These debates, though not nearly as visible as they were around the turn of the twentieth century, ensue in portions of the Franco-American population today.  The question today is not, however, how the maintenance of a Franco-American consciousness should take place.  Rather, the question is how the revival of a Franco-American consciousness should take place.  That question is revealing in and of itself.

            The term "revival" indicates that there is a need to breathe life back into a Franco-American consciousness.  It is evident now that the "free pressure of American life" was sufficient to change newcomers proving the following accusation, as quoted in the introduction of this essay, from The New York Times false:

It has been hoped heretofore that the free pressure of American life upon our foreign population was sufficient to change all newcomers, no matter what might have been their previous affiliations, into interested and enthusiastic Americans in the course of one or two generations, but when an immigration like that of the French-Canadians in New England takes possession of the centers of population and has the power to crowd out the less productive race in the struggle for the survival of the fittest, the free actions of American institutions is not strong enough to counteract these designs.[125]


In fact, the free actions of American institutions were strong enough to "counteract" the "previous affiliations" of the French Canadians.  This "counteraction" may have developed at a relatively slow rate, but there is no doubt that it did occur.  It is evident now that the forces of assimilation and Americanization were victorious over the philosophy of survivance.  That being said, Franco-American organizations, clubs, festivals, education institutions, cultural centers and museums in New England are, according to the respondents, currently working to revive the Franco-American consciousness.  The victory rate of these attempts is important to the question of survivance's vitality today.  What is more important, however, is that these efforts exist.  Their very existence speaks to the success and endurance of survivance.




[1] "Editorial: The French-Canadians in New England."  The New York Times, page 4, column 4.  June 6, 1892.

[2] This essay is primarily concerned with Quebecois French Canadians.

Part 1

[3]  Talman, James J.  Basic Documents of Canadian History.   "The Voyages to the Great River St.Lawrence by the Sieur de Champlain,--from the Year 1608 until 1612."  D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.; Princeton, NJ. 1959.   P 13-15

[4]  Talman, P 15. 

[5]  Riendeau, Roger. A Brief History of Canada.  Facts on File, Inc.  New York, NY. 2000.  P 41.

[6]  Riendeau, P 36. 

[7]  Riendeau P 36-37.

[8]  Riendeau, P 37.

[9]  Riendeau,  P 37.

[10]  Riendeau, P 41. 

[11]  Choquette, Leslie.  Frenchmen into Peasants  Modernity and Tradition in the Peopling of French Canada.  Harvard University Press; Cambridge, MA.  1997.  P 249.

[12]  Riendeau, P 43.

[13]  Riendeau, P 44. 

[14]  Riendeau, P 45. 

[15]  Riendeau, P 44. 

[16]  Choquette, P176.

[17]  Choquette, P 253.

[18]  Choquette, P 21.

[19]  Choquette, P 304.

[20]  Young, Bruce.  A Short History of Quebec A Socio-Economic Perspective.  Copp Clark Pitman Ltd,; Mississauga, Ontario. 1988. P 45. 

[21]  Riendeau, P 45.

[22]  Riendeau, P45.

[23]  Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. "French Canadians."Editor: Thernstrom, Stephan.  Harvard University Press; Cambridge, MA.  1981.  P 390. 

[24]  Riendeau, P 47. 

[25]  Riendeau, P 50. 

[26]  Riendeau, P 49.

[27]  Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups P 390. 

[28]  Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups P 391. 

[29]  Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. P 391.

[30]  Harvard Encyclopedia of  American Ethnic Groups, P 391.

[31]  Chartier, Armand. The Franco-Americans of New England.  ACA Assurance and Institut franais of Assumption College.: Worcester, MA. 1999.   P 6.

[32]  Riendeau, P 55.

[33]  Riendeau, P 55.

[34]  New Catholic Encyclopedia.  Censur Deputatus: Whalen, John P., M.A., S.T.D.  "French and French Canadians in the U.S."  The Catholic University of America; Washington, D.C.: 1967. P 143. 

[35]  Riendeau, P 59.

[36]  Riendeau, P 60-61.

[37]  Talman, P 32.

[38]  Talman. "Treaty of Paris." P 32-33. 

Part 2.

[39]  Young, P 57. 

[40]  Young, P 63.

[41]  Young, P 65. 

[42]  Young, P 65. 

[43]  Riendeau, P 85-87

[44]  Young, P 75.

[45] Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. P 390. 

[46] Young, P87.

[47] Young, P 89.

[48] Young, P 89. 

[49] Young, P 90.

[50] Chartier, P 7.

[51] Chartier, P 7. 

Part 3.

[52] Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups.  P 391. 

[53] La societe canadienn-francVaise. Martin, Yves & Rioux, Marcel: Editors.  Henripin, Jacques. "De la fecondite naturelle a la prevention des naissances: l'evolution demographique au Canada francVais depuis le XVIIe siecle." Editions Hurtubise HMH; Montreal, Canada. 1971. P 220. 

[54] "Revenge of the cradle" is a phrase used to describe the French Canadian practice of having large families.  The "revenge" sought is in reference to the Anglo presence in Quebec.  While French Canadians are noted as having large families even before the Conquest, the phrase insinuates that having large families was an attempt to combat the growing Anglo population. 



[57] Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, P 391. 


[59] Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups.  P 391. 

[60] Talman, P 87. 

[61] Talman, P 88-89. 

[62] Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. P 391-392. 


Part 4.

[64] Chartier, P 12. 

[65] Chartier, P 12.


[67] Chartier, P 10. 

[68] Podea, Iris Saunders. The New England Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Sep., 1950), 365-380. P 367.

 [69] Podea, Iris Saunders. P 367.


[71] Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. P 392. 

[72] Chartier, P 11. 

[73] Chartier, P 14. 



Part 5.

[76] Podea, P 369.

[77] Podea, P 370.

[78] Podea. P 369.

[79] Podea. P 371. 

[80] Brault, Gerard J. The French-Canadian Heritage of New England.  University Press of New England; Hanover, NH.  1986.  P 61. 

[81] Different portions of the population fared differently, but Brault notes that a skilled labor force with incomes guaranteeing a standard of living above the poverty line did not exist en masse until after the 1930s.  " One informed observer was quoted as saying: ŰIt has taken the French Canadian three generations to get out and achieve what the Irishman did in one; namely, build himself a nice home, plan a good education for his children, and strive to better himself in his work.'" P 90. 

[82] Truesdell, Leon E. The Canadian Born in The United States.  Yale University Press; New Haven, CT. 1943. P 65. 

[83] Brault, P 74. 

[84] The New York Times. "French Canadians in New England."  October 13,1901. 

[85] Brault, P 69. 

[86] Chartier, P 16. 

[87] Chartier, P 17. 

[88] Chartier, P 17-18. 

[89] Brault, P 70. 

[90] The term "national parishes" refers to Űefforts by various ethnic groups to establish parishes based on nationality.'  The Catholic hierarchy in the United States was opposed to the establishment of national parishes in the second half of the nineteenth century.  The argument made by the hierarchy against the establishment of national parishes was that churches broken down by nationality would retard assimilation, which would cause prolonged discrimination against Catholic immigrants as a group.   Immigrant groups in favor of the establishment of national parishes, including Franco-Americans, argued that the Irish were opposed to national parishes not to ease the discrimination against Catholic immigrants, but to retain control of the church down to the parish level.  Brault argues that "Activists usually managed to obtain a guarantee that the parish would remain permanently national, but the understanding reached about the nationality of priests for mixed parishes was generally less clear."(P 71). 

[91] Chartier, P 109. 

[92] Edward Billings Ham.  The New England Quarterly.  Vol. 12, No. 2 (Jun., 1939). "French National Societies in New England."  P 332. 

[93] Brault states "a recent survey" found "no fewer than 330 Franco-American newspapers were founded from 1869 to the present day, more than half of them between 1880 and 1900, their golden age."  P 80. 

[94] The Washington Post.  July 10, 1892. 

Part 6.

[95] The New York Times. June 6, 1892. 

[96] French-Canadian immigration to the United States slowed down drastically after 1930.  The opening up of many lands in Quebec for agricultural purposes, as well as a boom in Quebec's economy during that period were significant factors in the drastic decline of French-Canadian immigration to the United States.  Although the years do not directly coincide, WWI also serves as a factor in the decline of French-Canadian immigration to the United States.

[97] Chartier, P 121. 

[98] The New York Times.  September 23, 1885. 

[99] Chartier, P 176. 

Part 7.

[100] Over fifteen people were contacted for interviews. Ten responded stating that they were willing to participate.  Seven of those ten did participate. 

[101] Interview with Lise Pelletier 05/06/04.

[102] Twelve questions were asked to each respondent.  Seven of those questions are not presented in this essay because they were asked only to aid the author and not for the sake of presentation. 

[103] Interview with Benjamin Michaud  04/27/04.

[104] Interview with Rhea Cote 04/27/04.

[105] Interview with Annette King 04/28/04. 

[106] Interview with Benjamin Michaud 04/27/04.

[107] Interview with Rhea Cote 04/27/04.

[108] Interview with Danielle Laliberte 04/21/04. 

[109] Interview with Robert R. Fournier, Ed.,D. 05/05/04. 

[110] Interview with Lise Pelletier 05/06/04.

[111] Interview with Annette King 04/28/04. 

[112] Interview with Benjamin Michaud 04/27/04.

[113] Interview with Rhea Cote 04/27/04.

[114] Interview with Rhea Cote 04/27/04. 

[115] Interview with Georgi Laurin Hippauf 05/05/04.

[116] Interview with Lise Pelletier 05/06/04.

[117] Interview with Rhea Cote 04/27/04.

[118] Interview with Georgi Laurin Hippauf 05/05/04. 

[119] Interview with Robert R. Fournier, Ed., D. 05/05/04. 

[120] Interview with Georgi Laurin Hippauf 05/05/04. 

[121] Interview with Robert R. Fournier, Ed., D. 05/05/04. 

[122] Interview with Benjamin Michaud 04/27/04

[123] Interview with Rhea Cote 04/27/04. 

[124] Interview with Georgi Laurin Hippauf 05/05/04.


[125] "Editorial: The French-Canadians in New England."  The New York Times, page 4, column 4.  June 6, 1892.