French Nationalism

.. n were released from prison, Bedard remained incarcerated for one year. However this incarceration did make Pierre Bedard hostile but rather more determined to win the political system and the English. After his release, Pierre Bedard made this address to his constituents: The Past ought not to discourage us, nor diminish our regard for the constitution. All other forms of government are subject to such abuses .

. . All our contestations with the executive have eventuated in developing those advantages the constitution has vested us with. A master-work is best known by its practical operation. To enable us to appreciate the utility of each of the springs in the state machine, we have but to be deprived of its use altogether.

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It is, besides, in the nature of things that great advantages should be obtained by some sacrifices. Pierre Bedard remained composed during this period where he directly felt the wrath of Governor Craig. Governor Craig’s tenor was referred to as the Reign of Terror. Pierre Bedard believed in the system and believed that this system could work for the Canadiens. The increased awareness that the professional class brought to the inhabitants, had effects on other aspects of Lower Canadian society. The political arena gave a voice to the inhabitants, which resulted in the economics conflicts between the French and English.

The economic stratification between the French and the English was always a cause for numerous debates within the government. The English merchants felt it essential that the political structure of Lower Canada change in order to help the advancement of commercialism, and as they found out this advancement was not a high priority of the Canadiens. Thus the English merchants and the councils believed that the Canadiens were holding back ‘progress’. Again the assembly was divided but not only was it French verus English, it had become a battle between the farmers and professional class against the merchants. In order for the commercial industry in Lower Canada to grow, the merchants were demanding that money be put into the water system, via canals.

In order to build canals, the merchants sought financial support from the government. The farmers and professional class were unwilling to give government money to help the merchants, and believed that the money was best spent building roads in French communities. The tensions between the professional class and farmers and merchants heighten when discussions of where this money might come from. The obvious source of income was through taxation. At this time the farmers and professional class paid no direct taxes, and felt that there was no reason for this change.

They believed the solution was to increase tariffs and develop a sales tax on commerce, however merchants favored the development of a tax on property. Despite all protests the merchants made towards the passage of such a bill proved to be futile, the bill that was passed favored the farmers and professional class. The social aspects of Lower Canada were also a cause of some clashes. Essentially, the problem was that the Canadiens, were Canadiens and not Canadians. The Canadiens were still partial to their own habits, religion, and laws, and were unwilling to conform to the British social customs. This unwillingness to conform to the British society again sparked the issue of assimilation. Recommendations were being put forth by numerous British government officials.

These recommendations included an increase of British and American immigration into Lower Canada, an uniting of Upper and Lower Canada(create a minority French population) and strict control over the Catholic Church and education. The immediate attempts or suggestions of uniting the two colonies was disregarded, but the issues of education and religion were seen as good solutions. The education system in Lower Canada had always been controlled by the Catholic Church. Thus within the education system, there were deep rooted links to the French language and Catholicism. Therefore the British knew that to try to separate the Canadien from their customs they would have to start with the education.

The English were desiring a state-controlled education system, while the Catholic Church felt the education system should remain under their control. The British felt the biggest benefit from abolishing the Catholics hold on education was the assumed language implications. Numerous attempts had been made within the assembly to answer this question however, it was not simple. In 1801 the Education Bill was passed, which established the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning. Its controlling body consisted of the governor, the lieutenant-governor, the Anglican bishop, the chief justice, and the speaker of the assembly. The creation of the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning was seen as a threat to the survival of French culture. However the system did not advance very well and education was kept in the hands of the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church was thought to be one of the most powerful institutions in Lower Canada, with regards to the Canadiens. Before the Conquest the church was a high authority figure in New France. With the Conquest and the Constitution Act of 1791, the Church was skeptical of the implementation of government. The Catholic Church felt threatened by its development because it was quite possible that the Canadiens would stray from the Catholic Church. They feared this system for it might steer away from the Catholic Church as being a source of power.

The Catholic Church and their Bishop did not exist legally in Lower Canada, and for that they were unable to take any concerns to the courts. They had to sit passively by and watch as the English tried to develop new laws that would eliminate the Catholic Church for good. However, it was not only the Anglican Churches and British government officials that the Catholic Church began to feel pressure from. The Catholic Church was also struggling with internal problems. The Catholic Church had been suffering from a shortage of priests and vocations, and there was a poor quality of theoretical training, and that the priests were being sent out to young and unprepared for the parishes.

The Catholic Church needed help but was unable to receive it. The Catholic Church asked for more priests to be sent from France, however they were denied because they might provide the Canadiens with their origins and in return meddle into political affairs. Till this point the Catholic Church remained neutral in the affairs of the government, it was crucial to remain in good relations with the government. In order to do so they needed not make any obvious political backings. With the professional class some were already straying from the Catholic Church.

The threat that assimilation created was also very close to the Catholic Church. It was seen that assimilation was possible if the Catholic Church was subverted. Most attempts by officials to start an assimilation, resulted in views or programs of Anglicanization. However, all attempts were useless and the Catholic Church survived. In the last decade of the eighteenth century and the first decade of the nineteenth century, we see the development of French Canadian nationalism.

It was the implementation of the British Parliamentary system ,and the Canadiens refusal to passively sit back and embrace assimilation that sparked this nationalism. The nationalism was also a product of the emerging professional class, which went on to dominant the assembly and bring the complexity of the British Constitution to a level which could be understood by all Canadiens. The political, social and religious conflicts that evolved in the first decade of the nineteenth century were all connected. It seemed to be a cycle of clashes, the political would spark the economic and the economic would spark the social, and then back to political. French-Canadian nationalism was developed out of a series of defensive reflexes that were brought on by the numerous challenges that they faced in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

Le Canadien, as a form of mass communication, not only addressed the concerns of politics but it also emphasized anything that differed from the English would show French distinctiveness. The clashes that were seen throughout the first decade of the nineteenth century, were more then just ethnic or racial clashes, it was the beginning of a fight for survival by the Canadiens. It was not the actions of one particular person, or one particular clash that gave birth to French-Canadian nationalism. It was that the Canadiens began to see themselves as a collective whole, a shared consciousness had developed and from that French-Canadian nationalism emerged. French and English Clashes in the first decade of the nineteenth century & the Birth of French-Canadian Nationalism Politics Essays.