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Box 03-246 ADDRESS BY REV. CALVIN MCQUESTEN
Mar 17 1924
To:
From:

FRENCH-CANADIANS


[The following is transcribed from Rev. Calvin's quick notes that he used as an outline for his speech; although it is rough, it gives some idea of the content of his talk and of the poems he used].

When Mr. Child did me the honour of inviting me to appear before this august association, and proposed the French-Canadians as a topic, I tried to persuade him to let me limit my contribution to a discussion of Dr. Drummond and his interpretation of the "Habitant."1

My reason was a deep conviction of the inability of any individual to portray a people as a whole, when his points of personal contact must be very limited. However, any of you who have had dealings with Mr. Child will understand why the topic decided on was the one which he proposed.

Still, I shall endeavour to avoid unwarranted generalities by limiting myself as much as possible to first-hand personal impressions. [there may be page(s) missing. Following is marked p.5]

Later I followed Geo. Patullo as municipal reporter, "Joli garcon." Ames, Laporte & Herald kept Montreal municipal politics clean. Tour de role then. Later Mederic Martin 10 yrs. I surmise that this was because of abuse heaped on French-Can. during war.

During my stay in Montreal, I was much impressed with the religious life of the people. And was led to give some attention to the study of R.C. [Roman Catholic] doctrine. And then too, I found I had many misconceptions to be removed.

[foll. sentence crossed out, but transcribed here] This is not the place to explain infallibility of Pope, but hard to distinguish from Presbyterian faith in authority of Shorter Catechism.

Not adoration but veneration. But chiefly impressed by attitude of reverence & atmosphere of worship. Notre Dame & Fr. Flor[?]. I am still a Protestant, but I feel that you are not as far astray as I thought you were. [Drummond or Habitant?] won highest prize of the French Institute for best poem of the year.

However, I was going to limit myself to personal impressions.

When I tell you that I went to Montreal from the staff of the Toronto News of which Hockson[?] was chief, you will understand that I did not make the acquaintance of the French-Canadians without having my attention drawn to the faults & defects seen in them by their Ontario critics.

Yet from the first I was strongly attracted. French reporters were first to welcome me. (Champaigne). In market might have condemned it as patois, but was living with Parisian. [The] fact is that Ont. High School French is just as far removed from Parisian as from Canadians "Clash" 127, 132.

Oui & voir survivals of grand siecle. Moliere not amongst Fr. I had not been in Montreal long before I began to realize how utterly false was the conception of French-Canadians in Ontario.

Tarte not slippery, shifty, frank & honest, elevators.

Bourassa, anti [?] not anti Brit. Alaska award Bernier.

In addition I learned to know & admire many Fr. C. who have since become prominent. One of my first assignments was law courts. Gouin, Lemieux, Danduranse, Brodeaure were all practicing there. And I formed a high opinion of their character & ability. Many of them spoke English without trace of accent. But it was rare to find English Can. at home in French. Derouse & Alarm. Irish R.C.'s [are the] only class really familiar with French.

Later I followed Pat on City Hall-Joli [?] Amis, Laporte & Herald kept Montreal municipal pals clean. Tour de role, then now Mederic Martin, Pres. Chamber of Commerce. (David-"Hommages").

You do not need a majority to get fair play from Fr. Can. All that is necessary is to treat them with courtesy. But if you do not treat them with courtesy,--well, they're human. Let me illustrate by personal exp. resident of Chambre de Comm[?], "We may be fools, but we are polite".........but it won't happen again.

There are, of course, some French Protestants & they are a credit to Reformed Church, But I saw no evidence of that bitterness between R.C.'s and Prot. Which turned Ireland into shambles. But then the R.C. in Quebec always enjoyed religious freedom, while in Ireland for centuries R.C. groaned under yoke of persecution & even after removal memory kept aflame by Orange agitation. Cf. July 12 & May to Montcalm & [?].

The French Protestant knows what he believes & prizes it, but he does not consider upon those who hold a different faith or to level defiance at them.

Ablest criticism of R.C'ism I ever heard was from Ireland but it contained no word of ridicule or contempt. French R.C. attitude well explained by Thibaudeau-an accident of birth. Swiss-Buckingham [?] [?].

Very pleasant memories of social courtesies extended to me in Montreal by those in whose houses I lived. Mantagnards, L'Africane.

After I went into ministry I spent some time in Buckingham Quebec, and there again I found Fr. Can. very likeable as neighbours, sawmill workers, butcher, Industrious, gentle & clean, washing carpets & rigs. Family planting, photos. [I] was there during war.

Saw efforts at recruiting. The priest could have been done elsewhere, both parties playing politics.

The more I saw of French Can.'s the better I liked them! Met many English Protestants who felt same; also many who had not a good word to say for them. I think difference lay in mind & heart of observer. If your idea of a perfect world is one filled with people just like you, you actually resent presence of those who are different. But if variety in people is just as congenial as variety in colour, you delight in people who are different. Personally I believe in unity in diversity, and [?] that hearty [rest of sentence illegible].

You will think more kindly of the attitude of the Fr. Can. toward the war if you keep in mind certain facts.

(1) If Fr. Can.'s opposed conscription so did Australians and Ont. farmers, but no one impugns their loyalty.

(2) It was the promptness and eagerness of the British-born that gave the great stimulus to enlistment among us. Of Princess Pat's 95% British born. Of total 6 to 1. Fr. Can 5 to 1.

(3) Try to realize how remote whole thing was to Fr. Can. Why is it that his parish is his world? Because he has no ties of family with old world. Grandparents if not parents of nearly all of us came from Old Land. This is true of U.S. yet we said "It is not their fight" Yet Fr. is 7 to 10 generations removed.

(4) Had no nucleus of volunteers or [?] Military spirit drained out by a century of peace. Not lacking in courage. Daring of Rivermen.

(5) I was disappointed that war did not unify, But devout Fr. Can [?] by secularism that seems sheer atheism. Sicotte.

With the real Habitant I regret to say that I have only a slight acquaintance but from it I retain vivid memories. The isolation of farm life largely overcome by long narrow farms. Waking a continuous village. My memory of brief summer holidays at Cap a L'Aigle contains some pictures that will not easily fade: An old man who called his sail-boat "Ma Voiture." An old woman at spinning wheel. A girl of sixteen driving a two wheel hay-cart standing up and galloping horse--like a Roman charioteer.

But must draw on Drummond to depict this.

First "The Habitant" in which you have a picture of happy family life worthy to compare with "Cottar's Saturday Night."

An equally charming lively description of social life in "Le Vieux Gui[?]." Pride in fellows seen in "When Albani Sang." Same capacity for deep feeling & love of home seen in "Bell of St. Michael" & "Borde a Plouffe."

Nothing of Drummond finer than his living portraits of Lure of Calumette, Dr. Fiset, Courteau Little Batisse Dominique.


1 Dr. William Henry Drummond (1854-1907) was born in Ireland,; his family immigrated to Montreal when he was ten. He wrote distinctive dialect verse, most amusing and most of it dealing with French-Canadian Habitant life. He wrote for newspapers and his first collection was The Habitant and other French-Canadian Poems (1897) (OCCL 333). Rev. Calvin was often asked to speak on Drummond and the Habitant poems, and this outline of a speech gives us some idea of the content of his talk and of the poems he used in Patois. See Box 03-188, Box 03-243, Box 03-156, W8734a, W-MCP2-3b.060, Box 12-159.

See Also Poem by FitzSimon, pen name Joe Picard, at Box 03-241, Box 03-246.




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