The Evolution of French Canada

By Jean Charlemagne Bracq | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
EXPANSION OF FRENCH CANADIAN LIFE

THE great wonder of French Canadian life is the strength of its expansive vitality and its social coherence. Much has been done by the clergy to attain these two results. The religious and the national aims have been ethnocentric. In their eyes the Church has been the nation and the nation the Church. It would, however, be a grave error to think of the people as separated from the rest of the world by linguistic and other impediments. Irresistible social forces break through every hindrance to their normal action, and reduce to naught the finest systems that disregard them. Intense French Canadian life expanded beyond political and ecclesiastical landmarks. Large families, cramped in the small land divisions of the old régime, had to seek a larger field or greater freedom, and, when they could not find near them the elements of livelihood or of education which they needed, they looked elsewhere for them.

Doubtless the peculiarly narrow range of activities at home led young men to join those wanderers from France who lived with the Indians and married Indian women.1 This explains the permanence of the coureurs-de-bois of old or of the chasseurs who left home2 to go westward and northward, led seldom by definite knowledge, or by ethical considerations, but by the spirit of adventure. They wished to escape the trying poverty of the rural districts, the great moral languor and their narrow life. They had heard the

____________________
1
John Fiske, New France and New England, p. 105.
2
Alexander Mackenzie, Vol. I, p. 22; Dugas, p. 125.

-205-

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