The Peaceful Conquest: French Canadian Colonization in the Eastern Townships During the Nineteenth Century

Type of resource
The Peaceful Conquest: French Canadian Colonization in the Eastern Townships During the Nineteenth Century
The author points out that the first people to colonize the Eastern Townships were the Loyalists who settled in the Missisquoi Bay area of Lake Champlain in 1783. The British officials frowned upon this development because they hoped to preserve the Eastern Townships as a buffer zone between the St. Lawrence valley and the United States. If any colonists were to be allowed into the region, colonial officiuals argued that they should be French Canadians, for it was assumed that the French language and Catholic religion would protect them from pernicious American influences. But official policy changed as relations with Revolutionary France deteriorated. To ensure that French Canadians would not acquire complete control over the newly-created Legislative Assembly, the colonial authorities opened the Townships to American settlers in 1793. Unfortunately, the merchant oligarchy at Quebec managed to acquire most of the land for itself. Not only did most of the absentee landowners fail to develop their holdings, but the French Canadian majority in the Assembly was reluctant to spend road monies in a region destined for Anglophone settlement. With the additional curse of unnavigable river arteries, the region was able to attract no more than a trickle of the large wave of British immigrants which arrived at the port of Quebec after 1814. French Canadians from the overcrowded seigneuries finally began to colonize the northernmost townships during the 1830s. Little attention was paid to their plight until after responsible government was implemented in 1848. The French Canadian politicians were then spurred to action by the heavy emigration which had begun to take place from Lower Canada to the United States. During the early 1850s they passed a series of measures which encouraged municipalities to tax speculators and maintain local roads. Because this coincided with the beginning of the railroad era, the Eastern Townships was effectively opened to development for the first time. It was too late to take advantage of the American and British influx, so the French Canadians were destined to dominate the region after all. By colonizing the northeasterly counties which had been largely ignored by the Anglophones, and by taking jobs in the newly-established factories in the South-West, they became the majority as early as 1870. During the remainder of the century the English-speaking population did not decline, but it lost much of its natural increase, and it withdrew more and more into its southwestern stronghold. Even here the French Canadians began to undermine the English Canadian position by purchasing farms from those Anglophones who decided to move to the American mid-West. The author concludes that French Canadians "conquered" the Eastern Townships, not by direct assault, but by an encircling movement from the North, West, and East, which left the English Quebecers in a more and more confined position alongside the American border. Within this area the francization process has been going on ever since.
PhD dissertation
University of Ottawa
Ottawa, ON
Little, J. I. “The Peaceful Conquest: French Canadian Colonization in the Eastern Townships During the Nineteenth Century.” PhD dissertation, University of Ottawa, 1977.
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