THE LOYALTY OF FRENCH-CANADIANS TO THE EMPIRE.
Address delivered by the Honourable L. P. Brodeur, K.C., M.P., Dominion Minister of the Interior, before the Empire Club at their Luncheon, March 3rd, 1904.
MR. PRESIDENT,--speak before the Empire Club of Canada is a privilege that any citizen of this Dominion might highly prize, and, especially one who has been entrusted, to a certain degree, with a share in the administration of our country's affairs. It is not my purpose to delay you with any lengthy or elaborate speech, but I cannot refrain from giving expression to my deep appreciation of the kindness which prompted you in extending to me an invitation to be present, today, and the delicacy which suggested a few remarks on the important subject of the loyalty to Great Britain which is one of the most undeniable characteristics of the French-Canadian nationality.
The love of country is the basis of all true patriotism, and poets, as well as orators, have expended their best talents in every time and every age in proclaiming the grandeur and nobility of real patriotism. No matter how desolate or sterile, no matter how situated-at the frozen Pole or near the Torrid Line-a man's best country ever is his home. Hence it is that the Canadian, and especially the French-Canadian, finds in Canada all that is needed to awaken the love of country and to stimulate his patriotism. It is the land discovered by his ancestors, colonized and civilized by his forefathers; and its traditions, its memories, its scenery, its historical associations, all tend to make him feel that it is the land of his birth, of his heritage, and the land which will contain his own ashes and be the pride and legacy of his children.
Naturally, the French-Canadian is more attached to the section of the country which is most closely associated with the glorious achievements of his own race and with the memories of a past, which are, in a particular manner, his own; but that does not prevent his love of Canada extending to the utmost confines of the Dominion, for, after all, it is as a great national entity and not as a mixture of conflicting parts that we must all look upon our young country. The Scotchman has his natural love for the land of his forefathers, and it does not conflict with his devotion to Canada and her interests. The same for the Irishman, the same for the Englishman, the same for the man of any origin. The love you have for your mother does not preclude the love for the one who was her mother. The love of your wife and children does not efface the love of your mother or father, or your brothers and sisters. The more the human heart has to love, the wider and deeper becomes its range of affection and its capacity for love. Thus it is, the FrenchCanadian's love for Canada, instead of weakening only serves to strengthen the bond of his devotion towards the Empire, of which his country forms such an important part.
The French-Canadians prize too highly the advantages that they enjoy under the safeguards of the British Constitution to wish to change their position for any one that the accidents of the future might create. The French-Canadian knows too well that Independence would be, for the present, a mere Utopia, in which would be lost the safeguards that the existing Constitution has established for his interests, his laws and his language; he knows that a national or political alliance with any other country would mean the forfeiture of the same advantages. Thus does he appreciate fully the advantages derived from the Power under which his lot is cast, and while he sees in the accordance of all such liberties the practical side of the justice to which, by Treaty or otherwise, he has a right, he recognizes the great characteristics of the system under which he enjoys his liberty and is correspondingly true and loyal to it.
I need scarcely appeal to the history of Canada. It is a matter of history that the loyalty of the French- Canadians has been unswerving from the day that they came under the British regime, and that they have proved their allegiance with their lives' blood. They had only just become King George's subjects when they were called upon to defend the Flag against the Indians who, under the Ottawa Chieftain Pontiac, had formed the conspiracy in the western tribes to wipe out the power of England from North America. This was in 1764, a year after the Treaty of Paris. Eleven years after, we find them around General Carleton, in arms to defend their country against the American invaders. You are all aware that the British power was, at that time, in extreme peril, the country being overrun by Americans. St. John, Montreal and Three Rivers had been captured by the enemy, and General Carleton stood a fugitive in the vicinity of Montreal. It was then that two French-Canadian gentlemen, militia-men, undertook to bring him safely to Quebec by the St. Lawrence route during the night. They succeeded in their venture, and Carleton set at once, with the help of the French-Canadians, to organize the defence of this last bulwark of the British power at that special moment in Canada. There is no telling what would have happened if the French-Canadians, instead of rallying themselves around the Governor, had given in to the entreaties of Congress and those of the French Admiral D'Estaing.
The voice of the Catholic Hierarchy was raised during that war to stimulate the French citizens of Canada to be true to their new Constitution, and they stood loyal to the British Crown as they have always stood since. In 1812, Canadian loyalty was put to the same test as in 1775, with the same result. I am glad to observe that in this second American war the two Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada bore the brunt of the day with equal courage and equal success. I may remind you, however, that the hostilities had taken place after the removal from Quebec of the Governor, Sir James Craig, whose conduct had been far from being agreeable to the majority of that section of the country. He went so far as to suppress the only French paper of the day and sent three members of Parliament to prison because they had dared to ask for the reform of the Assembly by excluding judges from that body. Our forefathers knew how to distinguish between the acts of a despot like Craig, who abused his power, and those of the Home Government, and their loyalty had stood in spite of what Craig had done to weaken it. It is known by everyone that the Battle of Chateauguay, which had been so decisive, gave victory to the British flag, and that the officer commanding it was a FrenchCanadian, de Salaberry.
But someone may observe in this connection, " What about the troubles of 1837 ?" I hasten to answer that the opposition of those days of political trouble was directed against Colonial misrule, but not against the British Crown. The Governors of the time were wont to use public moneys without the sanction of 'the House, without the consent of the public, and hence the difficulties. Upper Canada then laboured under the same oppressive regime, and fought it on the same lines. If we are to blame the opposition of those days, we must in the same strain condemn the conduct of Hampden and Pym, who resisted the encroachments of Charles I. and transgressed the English Constitution. To understand a socalled Rebellion you must leave aside the accidental events of its culmination and go back to the source, examine the causes, remote and near, and then take into consideration the consequences. Listen to Papineau, the grand leading spirit of that memorable event. In Montreal, on the occasion of an election necessitated by the death of the King, in 1820, Papmeau expressed himself as follows
George the Third, a sovereign revered for his moral character, for his attention to his kingly duties, and for his love of his subjects, succeeds to Louis the Fifteenth, a prince then deservedly despised for his debauchery, his inattention to the wants of the people, and his lavishing of the public moneys on favourites and mistresses. From that day the reign of law succeeds to that of violence; from that day the treasures, the navy and armies of Great Britain are mustered to afford us an invincible protection against external danger; from that day the better part of her laws becomes ours, while our religion, our property, and the special laws by which they were governed remain unaltered; soon after are granted to us the principles of her free Constitution-an infallible pledge, when acted upon, of our internal prosperity. New religious toleration; trial by jury (the wisest of safeguards ever devised for the protection of innocence); security against arbitrary imprisonment, by the privileges of the Habeas Corpus; legal and equal security afforded to all, in their person, honour and property; the right to obey no other laws than those of our own making and choice, expressed through our representatives; all these advantages have become our birthright, and, I hope, shall be the lasting inheritance of our posterity. To secure them, let us only act as becomes British subjects and free men.
How do we reconcile this language of a man fully imbued with the advantages of the Constitution with what happened later in 1837 ? It is easy; it is very clear to all who reflect. Had the Constitution of 1791 been administered by men determined to be guided by the spirit rather than by the mere letter, it would have fulfilled the legitimate aspirations of the country. The essence of the Parliamentary system is the power vested in the representatives of the people of voting on the levying of the taxes and of controlling the public expenditure. This, in the main, was what Papineau and his friends justly demanded. They had a Constitution and they did not want to have it sacrificed to the rapacity of the leaders of a bureaucracy, who deprived them, by maladministration, of the rights that Great Britain had granted them. It was this family compact kind of administration that was answerable for all the troubles that followed. It was as British subjects that the French-Canadians sought the privilege of self-government; it was in the very name of the Constitution that they acted; it was against maladministration and not against the Crown, that they protested.
Let us turn our eyes from that troubled period to the inauguration of responsible Government, which brought harmony among the contending factions and fostered prosperity in the country. In 1849, when the famous Corn Laws were repealed in England, a number of leading citizens of Canada and merchants whose trade was effected by such a change in the fiscal laws of Great Britain, signed an annexation manifesto that has become historical. In glancing over the names of those who then would have handed over our destinies to the American Republic, those of French-Canadians are as conspicuously few as those of English-speaking Canadians are numerous. That annexation movement justified, to a large extent, what was said later by a prominent French-Canadian Statesman:--" The Last shot which will be fired for the protection of the British flag on this continent, will be fired by the hand of a FrenchCanadian."
During the American War, at the time of the Trent affair, which threatened to bring into conflict Great Britain and the United States, the French-Canadians at once formed regiments and enlisted, in large numbers, both in the cities and in the country. Their loyalty was also shown during the Fenian invasions, and it has never failed in any test. When the Confederation Act was being discussed in the election which followed the 1st July, 1867, and there was some fear that the people of Quebec would not approve of such a Constitution being imposed by the authorities in Great Britain, without the will of the people, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Quebec, and. noteworthy amongst them Bishops Larocque and Bourget, were issuing pastoral letters calling upon the people to support the party then in power because, as they asserted, that party had the Act of our Confederation passed in England and as an act of loyalty and loyal appreciation it was the duty of their flock to support its promoters. As you are aware, that appeal brought its fruit and Sir John A. Macdonald came back from the elections with a majority in the Province of Quebec.
Again, as recently as 1891, on the eve of a general election, and when the question of Unrestricted Reciprocity was on the tapis, we find the late Archbishop Fabre in his pastoral letter appealing to the people to be careful of the political movement that might endanger or slacken the close bonds that united Canada to Great Britain; and in so doing His Grace paid a most remarkable tribute to the British Constitution. When some of the flower of our youth went to fight and even die for the cause of the Empire during the recent trouble in South Africa, the Government of Canada spent large sums of money to defray the expenses in connection with the sending of these contingents. There may have been those who, for political reasons, found fault, but the sentiment of the FrenchCanadians went with those of their race who were fighting in distant veldts. The Laurier Government who, the first in the history of our country, had done that for the Empire, was in the following elections of 1900 supported in the Province of Quebec, amongst the French-Canadians by the largest majority that has ever been given in that Province to a Government, and that in spite of the appeals made against Sir W. Laurier by his opponents.
I do not know whether I should be permitted, on this occasion, to give advice to our friends of Ontario on this question of loyalty of the French-Canadians to Great Britain, but you will allow me, however, to say that you should never undertake to judge us by the illadvised writings, or phrases, or speeches of some of our countrymen, as we should never try, in our Province, to judge the feeling of Ontario by what is published by some irresponsible newspapers or said by irresponsible persons. We have a history; we have proved in the past what we have done for the Empire and I think I am perfectly justified in asking that we should be judged by that past. It seems to me I have said enough to convince the loyal members of this Club that the loyalty of the French-Canadians emulates theirs and is all the more remarkable from the fact that their ancestors are of another land. We have before us a record extending over a century of sound loyalty, which may go far to vindicate our people from the aspersions of illinformed persons.
In our days of matter of fact the material interests of the people seem to rule the world more and more. As the British Ambassador in Paris remarked some time ago: " Nations do not fight any more for sentiment or for ideas. It is a wise policy on the part of governments to put loyalty and interests on the same side to insure the maintenance of the former." French-Canadians have long understood that their interests are bound up with the existence of the British Rule, under which they have enjoyed the greatest amount of liberty they can wish for. They would be inimical to their own private interests if they thought otherwise. You sometimes hear, but very seldom, indeed, a discordant note coming from unimportant quarters which might be interpreted as a proof of disloyalty. It is said that it is the right of Englishmen to grumble; I must say that these few discontented parties show themselves Englishmen in this matter to the length of abusing the privilege.
I was very glad, indeed, to accept the invitation of the Empire Club, and I hope that opportunities of returning your hospitality of today, and thus cementing our union and our friendship will present themselves. I have spoken briefly of the different spheres of action in which the French-Canadians have proven their devotion to the cause of Great Britain and to the Constitution of our common country, and I desire, in closing, to say for myself, that as the grandson of one of the patriotic Canadians whose life went out on the field contending for our constitutional rights, the Crown and the Empire have no more loyal son than I am. But I would like to see all this quarrelling about the word " loyalty " ended, and a more practical test of its existence given in the union of all creeds and races in one grand effort for the development and the progress of this fair Dominion.
In response to a vote of thanks Mr. Brodeur continued
I was very glad, indeed, Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, to have had the occasion of coming and meeting my friends of Toronto. I knew that there might be some feeling, perhaps, in this section of the country against my countrymen ("No, no"), and I thought it was my duty to dispel any feeling which might exist, but I am glad to see by what you have just said that this feeling does not exist. We are all Canadians, and whether we live in the Province of Quebec, whether we live in the Maritime Provinces, or whether we live in the West, we want simply to build up this fine country of ours. This is our duty, this is our task, and for my part I was very glad indeed, sometime ago even to leave the Chair of Speaker of the House of Commons to take my share in building up this vast country of ours, and to devote all my time and energy to that effect. I am a true, loyal Canadian, and I assure you that it is the same with the vast majority of French-Canadians, not only of the Province of Quebec, but of the other Provinces. I hope, Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, that we will have very often the occasion of meeting together in this way. Come to Montreal; come to the Province of Quebec. Most of us can understand English, and I know that there are some here who can talk French. Let them come, and make speeches in French, in good French, perhaps better French than I speak myself, though you have been kind enough to listen to the broken English I have given you. I thank you heartily for your hospitality and for your kindness, and I hope we will very soon have the occasion for reciprocating.