Wednesday, August 18, 2004

How they viewed us ...

Here's what New England Yankees thought of Acadiens in the 1880s, when my great-grandmother's family came to Connecticut. This is from the 12th Annual Report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor (1881). Commissioner Carroll D. Wright wrote:
With some exceptions the Canadian French are the Chinese of the Eastern States. They care nothing for our institutions, civil, political, or educational. They do not come to make a home among us, to dwell with us as citizens, and so become a part of it; but their purpose is merely to sojourn a few years as aliens, touching us only at a single point, that of work, and, when they have gathered out of us what will satisfy their ends, to get them away to whence they came, and bestow it there. They are a horde of industrial invaders, not a stream of stable settlers. Voting with all that it implies, they care nothing about. Rarely does one of them become naturalized. They will not send their children to school if they can help it, but endeavor to crowd them into the mills at the earliest possible age.
Cited by Gerard J. Brault, The French-Canadian Heritage in New England (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1986), p. 68.

At the same time, Protestants targetted them for proselytizing. Methodists, Congregationalists, and Baptists were most active in this, identifying Protestantism with Americanism. Typical examples were the Protestant newspaper, Le Franco-Américain, published in Fall River in 1888, and Rev. Calvin E. Amaron of Massachusetts, author of The Evangelization of the French Canadians (1885), republished as Your Heritage, or New England Threatened (1891).

Not much different today; outside of Grand Pre last week the Evangeline Baptist Association were distributing tracts (along with lagniappe like mardi gras beads, candies, and mini Tabasco bottles) to those entering the park (see this article).

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