IN NEW ENGLAND
THE FRENCH CANADIANS IN NEW-ENGLAND
THE NEW YORK TIMES, page 4, column 4
June 6, 1892
It is said that there are more French-Canadians in New-England than
there are in Canada. There are 400,000 in round numbers in New-England
at this time, and in five of its principal cities they have the balance
of power to-day. The Irish-American population is still larger, and it
probably had the balance of power in more places, but to-day the second
and third generations of the Irish-Americans are so nearly assimilated
to the native population in political and social life that neither
their religion nor its adjunct, the parochial school, is able to keep
them out of the strong currents of American life. With the French
Canadians this is not the case.|
Mr. FRANCIS PARKMAN has ably pointed out their singular tenacity as a race and their extreme devotion to their religion, and their transplantation to the manufacturing centres and the rural districts in New-England means that Quebec is transferred bodily to Manchester and Fall River and Lowell. 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.
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 and methods of government. They are almost as much out of reach as if they were living in a remote part of the Province of Quebec. No other people, except the Indians, are so persistent in repeating themselves. Where they halt they stay, and where they stay they multiply and cover the earth. Dr. EUGENE C. SMYTH, in a paper just published by the American Antiquarian Society, has been at great pains to trace intelligently the extent of this immigration, and in his opinion this migration of these people is part of a priestly scheme now fervently fostered in Canada for the purpose of bringing New-England under the control of the Roman Catholic faith. He points out that this is the avowed purpose of the secret society to which every adult French Canadian belongs, and that the prayers and the earnest efforts of these people are to turn the tables in New-England by the aid of the silent forces which they control.
What will the New-Englanders do about it! There is apparently but one way in which this conquest can be arrested. That is to compel the use of the English language in all the schools of American citizens. This is a point which Archbishop IRELAND, with his intense American feeling, has had in view in the Faribault experiment in Minnesota. In that State all the European languages are constantly spoken by people who live in sections, and the placing of their children in the public instead of the parochial schools means that their children will become loyal and intelligent American citizens. One chief reason why his scheme appeals strongly to Americans is that it is likely to be more effective than anything else in destroying the race prejudices and divisions in the Nation. It is through their parochial schools, in which French is exclusively used, that the French Canadians in New-England are able to keep themselves from any sympathetic or intelligent contact with our American political and social life, and apparently the only way in which the danger which threatens New-England traditions can be averted is by national legislation which shall compel the use of the English language in all schools, public and private, throughout the Nation.
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 centres 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. It seems like an idle alarm to sound the note of danger at this early day in New-England, but he way in which thoughtful people in the New-England States are now gathering statistics and evidence as to the nature and extent of the problem which confronts them is indicative of great uneasiness.
R. Scott Michaud
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