The Evolution of French Canada

By Jean Charlemagne Bracq | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT

IN all questions affecting the French Canadian one must bear in mind his early tragic history, the elimination of his best men during long wars, and that of the leading classes at the Cession. One must remember the hardships of the ancien régime, so repressive of all initiative, his isolation, which long had its dangers from the Indians, and the depressing influence of his superiors who acted in keeping with the spirit of the times. It is important to recall his idealistic spirit, his conceptions of national worth, his sense of the value of his language, of his laws, and of his faith which he prized above all else. In the early days in rural districts he was known as hivernant or as habitant. Some maintain that the former, during the winter, returned to France, which is very improbable, or wintered in Quebec or Montreal.1 This would be in keeping with a practice yet common in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The settler resides on his concession, but after the disposal of his crops he spends the winter in neigbbouring communities. It is quite probable that habitant is the survival and extension of a term used, then, in various provinces of France and in the colonies.2

We must also recall that, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, farmers in North America did not aim at wealth acquisition, but to have a certain well-being on their farms upon which they reared large families. They

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1
R. P. Duclos, p. 19; Willson Beckles, Quebec: the Laurentian Province, p. 12.
2
Le Canada français, November 18, p. 217; December, 1918, pp. 273, 276.

-241-

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