Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

II
The Lauriers of St. Lin--The Bordens of Nova Scotia--The Bourassas and Papineaus of Montebello

WILFRID LAURIER'S first Canadian ancestor arrived in New France less than forty years after Champlain, more than a hundred years before the Plains of Abraham. He was one of the tiny band of lay pilgrims who helped Maisonneuve found and hold Montreal against the godless savages who skulked outside the palisades; he died at the hands of the Iroquois.

With such antecedents and others whose sole distinctions were warmth of heart and good sense, the Lauriers of St. Lin, Quebec, had already, by the time of Wilfrid's birth in 1841, achieved a serene though by no means common family philosophy. Their pride in their roots was so calm and sure that they felt no need to proclaim it. Their faith was strong enough for them to have no fear of its being shaken by heretics.

Thus to Laurier's father it had seemed a natural and useful thing to send his son for two years to an English-speaking school in a nearby village. Though he was not yet in his teens, Wilfrid went to live for several months with a family of Scots Presbyterians. The question of attending the Protestant family's nightly prayers was left to him. He attended.

During the almost sixty years since his early schooldays, Laurier's genuine regard for the open mind had been one of the chief instruments in the shaping of an extraordinary human being. He went on to seven more years of classical study at a secondary school controlled by the Church and broke up the school debating society by arguing that Canada would have been better off if the French kings had encouraged the Protestant Huguenots to settle

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