The Evolution of French Canada

By Jean Charlemagne Bracq | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
FRENCH CANADIAN HISTORY

ONE of the best indices of the cultural attainments of French Canadians is to be found in the field of history. Here indeed they have excelled, but they have had signal advantages. Their archives are unusually rich in documents bearing upon early North American life. It was one of their missionaries, Père Ragueneau, vice-superior of the Jesuits, who, before anyone else, mentioned Niagara Falls1 and Père Hennepin was the first to visit them. The oldest description of New York is from the pen of Père Jogues, a Jesuit put to death by the Indians.2 The history of these archives is a most eventful one, fire after fire destroying their collections, but with new courage the pioneers of historiography set to reorganise what was left, and to replace, when possible, what was lost. Lord Dalhousie founded the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec which was so efficient in gathering materials of Canadian history and in securing grants for this end from the government.3 Until the establishment of the archives in Ottawa there was a noble emulation among the French to gather evidence for a reconstruction of the past.

George Barthélémi Faribault, a lawyer and bibliophile, the brother of the first pioneer of Minnesota, was aware of the utmost national importance of the documents, manuscripts, maps, and books scattered everywhere. He gathered in Europe and Canada a fine collection of works upon

____________________
1
Ferland, Vol. I, p. 48.
2
Casgrain, Vol. I, p. 386.
3
J. E. Roy, Royal Society, III, Vol. III, p. 57.

-350-

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