Chronicles of America 

The Peace of Paris, 1763

France had lost an Empire. It was nearly three years still before peace was signed at Paris in 1763. To Britain France yielded everything east of the Mississippi except New Orleans, and to Spain she ceded New Orleans and everything else to which she had any claim. The fleurs-de-lis floated still over only two tiny fishing islands off the Newfoundland shore. All the glowing plans of France's leaders--of Richelieu, of Louis XIV, of Colbert, of Frontenac, of the heroic missionaries of the Jesuit Order--seemed to have come to nothing.

The fall of France did much to drag down her rival. Already was America restless under control from Europe. There was now no danger to the English in America from the French peril which had made insecure the borders of Massachusetts, of New York, of Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and had brought widespread desolation and sorrow. With the removal of the menace went the need of help and defenses for the colonies from the motherland. The French belief that there was a natural antipathy between the English of the Old World and the English of the New was, in reality, based on the fact of a likeness so great that neither would accept control or patronage from the other. Towards the Englishman who assumed airs of superiority the antagonism of the colonists was always certain to be acute. Open strife came when the assumption of superiority took the form of levying taxes on the colonies without asking their leave. In no remote way the fall of French Canada, by removing a near menace to the English colonies, led to this new conflict and to the collapse of that older British Empire which had sprung from the England of the Stuarts.

When Montreal fell there were in the St. Lawrence many British ships which had been used for troops and supplies. Before the end of September the French soldiers and also the officials from France who desired to go home were on board these ships bound for Europe. By the end of November most of the exiles had reached home. Varying receptions awaited them. Levis, who took back the army, was soon again, by consent of the British government, in active service. Fortune smiled on him to the end. He died a great noble and Marshal of France just before the Revolution of 1789; but in that awful upheaval his widow and his two daughters perished on the scaffold. Vaudreuil's shallow and vain incompetence did not go unpunished. He was put on trial, accused of a share in the black frauds which had helped to ruin Canada. The trial was his punishment. He was acquitted of taking any share of the plunder and so drops out of history. Bigot and his gang, on the other hand, were found guilty of vast depredations. The former Intendant was for a time in the Bastille and in the end was banished from France, after being forced to repay great sums. We find echoes of the luxury of Quebec in the sale in France of the rich plate which the rascal had acquired. There were, however, other and even worse plunderers. They were tried and condemned chiefly to return what they had stolen. We rather wonder that no expiatory sacrifice on the scaffold was required of any of these knaves. Lally Tollendal, who, as the French leader in India, had only failed and not plundered, was sent to a cruel execution.

Under the terms of the surrender and of the final Treaty of Peace in 1763, civilians in Canada were given leave to return to France. Nearly the whole of the official class and many of the large landowners, the seigneurs, left the country. In Canada there remained a priesthood, largely native, but soon to be recruited from France by the upheaval of the Revolution, a few seigneurial families, natural leaders of their race, a peasantry, exhausted by the long war but clinging tenaciously to the soil, and a good many hardy pioneers of the forest, men skilled in hunting and in the use of the axe. Out of these elements, amounting in 1763 to little more than sixty thousand people, has come that French-Canadian race in America now numbering perhaps three millions. The race has scattered far. It is found in the mills of Massachusetts, in the canebrakes of Louisiana, on the wide stretches of the prairie of the Canadian West, but it has always kept intact its strong citadel on the banks of the St. Lawrence. New France was, in reality, widely separated in spirit from old France, before the new master in Canada made the division permanent. The imagination of the Canadian peasant did not wander across the ocean to France. He knew only the scenes about his own hearth and in them alone were his thought and affections centered.

The one wider interest which the habitant treasured was love for the Catholic Church of his fathers and of his own spiritual hopes. It thus happened that when France in revolution assailed and for a time overthrew the Church within her borders, the heart of French Canada was not with France but with the persecuted Church; she hated the spirit of revolutionary France. Te Deums were sung at Quebec in thanksgiving for the defeats of Napoleon. In language and what literary culture they possessed, in traditions and tastes, the conquered people remained French, but they had no allegiance divided between Canada and France. To this day they are proud to be simply Canadians, rooted in the soil of Canada, with no debt of patriotic gratitude to the France from which they sprang or to the Britain which obtained political dominance over their ancestors after a long agony of war. To the British Crown many of them feel a certain attachment because of the liberty guaranteed to them to pursue their own ideals of happiness. In preserving their type of social life, their faith and language, they have shown a resolute tenacity. To this day they are as different in these things from their fellow-citizens of British origin in the rest of Canada as were their ancestors from the English colonies which lay on their borders.

The French in Canada are still a separate people. From time to time a nervous fear seizes them lest too many of their race may be lost to their old ideals in the Anglo-Saxon world surging about them. Then they listen readily to appeals to their racial unity and draw more sharply than ever the lines of division between themselves and the rest of North America. They remain a fragment of an older France, remote and isolated, still dreaming dreams like those of Frontenac of old of the dominance of their race in North America and asserting passionately their rights in the soil of Canada to which, first of Europeans, they came. At the mouth of the Mississippi in the Louisiana founded by Louis XIV, along the St. Lawrence in the Canada of Champlain and Frontenac, with a resolution more than half pathetic, and in a world that gives little heed, men of French race are still on guard to preserve in America the lineaments of that older France, long since decayed in Europe, which was above all the eldest daughter of the Church.

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