Tragedy of Quebec - Chapter
VIII : The Supplanting of the English Speaking Farmers
Supposing a number of men, ambitious of obtaining power over their fellows, organized themselves into an oath-bound society, and, further supposing, in carrying out their plans, they found it required the driving away of people who were hostile to them, would not their first move be to get control of the land? Possession of the soil means sovereignty. Villages and towns may decay and become effete, but the soil remains, and to whoever the men who plow and reap pay allegiance, will be the actual, though they may not be the nominal, rulers. The priests having got a legislature that was their creature, were absolute in every part of Quebec except in those sections where the land had been grants of the British Crown. To exercise the same domination over that land as they did in the old seigniories was their purpose. The assault was first upon the Eastern Townships, and the priests thrust into them two wedges to effect their purpose, the parish system and separate schools. Bring these free townships under parish law and the English-speaking farmers will not want to stay; deprive them of their public schools and reduce them to the alternative of sending their children to confessional schools, and they will be compelled to go. In the days of Louis XIV. brute force would have been used subtler and as effective means were found in perversions of the law. The crude idea, that the remotest approach to persecution was resorted to, is to be swept aside. The priests, relentless as Dominic in seeking ascendency, carried out their purpose in a different way. Concealing their design, plausible in explanations of their coming into the townships, voluble in praise of toleration, and effusive in their expressions of good-feeling towards their separated brethren, they set to work.
The obstacles they had to overcome were such as to any other class of men would have been insuperable, Here was a body of English-speaking farmers spread over eleven counties, who had held the land for sixty years and more, who had completed their social and municipal organization, and developed a characteristic individuality. The Protestants were largely massed in six counties. Stanstead, Sherbrooke, Waterloo, Missisquoi, Brome, Huntingdon, and in these counties in 1867, the year when Quebec passed under the rule of a Catholic legislature, the Protestants numbered 56,600, the Catholics 25,583, mostly employees of the English. With a clear majority of 31,000 the Protestants felt secure. They were passing rich as riches go in rural Canada, prosperous and aggressive, wielding a political influence not in proportion to their numbers but of their wealth and intelligence.
The design of the priests was, that this self-confident, self-reliant and enterprising people should be brought under a pressure that would constrain them to leave their fields and homes to be occupied by FrenchCanadians. That a farm papulation could be so supplanted seemed incredible, and those who suggested such a design being entertained were laughed at.
Out of a population of eighty-two thousand in 1867 thirty-one thousand was a sweeping majority, and appearances pointed to its increase, for each summer saw the number enlarged by immigrants from Britain. Left alone, these counties in another generation would have counted a hundred thousand Protestants. But they were not left alone. The Legislature, sitting at Quebec, was working hand-in-glove with the priests to work their downfall, and how far that has been accomplished let the census of 1911 tell:
Majority of Catholics 116,078. 116,078
Thus in forty-six years a majority of thirty-one thousand Protestants had been changed into a Catholic majority of one hundred and sixteen thousand! Since the days of the Dragonnades has there been such an extraordinary displacement of Protestants from their homes and native land? How, in the face of these official figures, can any man have the conscience to assert Home Rule has been a grand success in Quebec, and, having wrought no injury to Protestants, Ulster need not dread a Dublin parliament? When Quebec was separated from Ontario all six counties had a Protestant majority. Only one, Brome, is in that position to-day, and its majority of 9,652 fortysix years ago has fallen to 3,318, and grows smaller each year. Of all six Stanstead was the most largely Protestant. Within its bounds it counted only 2,100 Catholics in 1867 ; to-day it has over 11,000, and they dominate. Were I to take up the other five counties more striking instances could be given. There are instances of not a single Protestant family being left in a township. The clerical newspapers boast openly of the "peaceable conquest" by the priests of the Eastern Townships, the Protestant stronghold of Quebec, and with reason, for it is a conquest without parallel.
How Was That Conquest Effected?
The answer can be given in less than a dozen words -By carving the townships into parishes and destroying their public schools. The Legislature aided. The wave of exuberant national feeling that swept the French-Canadians on the adoption of Confederation, led to a system of government colonizing and repatriation. Large sections of the Eastern Townships were set apart and given in free lots to families from the northern settlements. It was hoped that thus the drift to New England factories would be stayed, and agents were sent to Maine and Massachusetts to induce those who had gone to come back. Colonization and repatriation was the cry, and larger and larger government grants of money were demanded to make roads and fit the free lots for the settlers to start on easy terms. Much of that money was spent in the Eastern Townships. The priests made the selections and led the colonists. When the Papal Zouaves returned from their futile errand to prevent Italian unity, they were rewarded by a huge block of land in the English county of Compton, the name of Piopolis being bestowed on the settlement. In the heart of Protestant settlements, where there never had been a resident priest, missions were established which' grew into congregations, and these soon became large enough to warrant the mission being .erected into a parish, and before Confederation had been in force 25 years the townships were cut up into parishes. In the pamphlet by Sir A. T. Galt, already referred to, he expressed his astonishment at the change which had overtaken the townships and at the rapidity with which it had been effected. Writing only nine years after Confederation, he pointed out that in only two of the constituencies always regarded as English could a candidate be elected independent of the Catholic vote. His alarm was shared by others.
In self-defence, leading men of Sherbrooke moved to encourage immigrants from the British Isles. How the attempt fared, may be judged by the experience of a company that had an option on a large tract of land in Compton. They applied for an Act of Incorporation. The Premier, Chapleau, told their representative the bill would not be allowed to pass unless the company consented to select Frenchmen as half of their prospective settlers. The completeness of the change was as notable as the quietness with which it had been wrought. Confederation had not been in force for a generation until the net of the parish system had been cast over the townships, and costly churches, convents, colleges dotted its landscapes, in every case the most prominent sites being chosen. The presence of moles in the dykes of Holland is not revealed until they have honeycombed them and the fields that depended on their protection are submerged.
It is often said, that the change was a natural one, and not due to the priests-that the English would have left anyway.
From all purely farming countries there must necessarily be a constant passing-away of youth. To get farms young men have to go where land is still to be had free or at a cheap rate. Then there is always a class eager for change, ready to abandon the homestead and go where they believe conditions are better. Account also must be taken of the drift from the country to the city. These causes explain many departures from the townships, but after allowing for them, there is the undeniable fact that a large proportion of the changes were not due to them.
It is well to note that comparison with the drift from Ontario rural counties does not apply to Quebec. The depopulation of Western Ontario was owing to the opening of the Northwest. That of Quebec began twenty years before the Ontario movement.
The Parish System.
As already stated, the priests used two levers to drive out Protestants from the townships, the parish system and separate schools.
The parish system came first. This book has been written in vain if it has not demonstrated that the extension of that system to the townships is a tyrannical invasion of free territory, a defiance of royal proclamation and imperial statute; in one word, a usurpation. Consider what that system means to the English farmer. So long as a farm is owned by a Protestant the priest can levy no tithe; his trustees no building-tax. The moment it is sold to a Catholic, the priest draws tithe and the churchwardens levy taxes.
See the motive here held out, apart from any religious or national consideration, to get the Protestant pushed aside. The patents issued by the Crown for the lands held in the townships read thus:
These deeds were signed for the Queen by the governor then in office, and they read the same from the time of George III. If language means anything, surely these deeds are conveyances to the farmer on the same conditions as if the land was situated in England. Is land in England subject to be taxed by the Roman Catholic priesthood? If not, how can it be in the townships of Quebec? Is the transfer from the Crown not clear as to there being no ulterior condition? Can it be pretended, that the sovereign ever recognized that the priests of Quebec had a latent claim by which, some day, they could tithe and tax? Was the grant made to the settler with a servitude to Rome, or as a free grant from a British sovereign to a British subjects Who ever considers the matter solely from reading the deeds by which the Crown granters, or sold, the farms in the townships of Quebec, can come to no other conclusion than that it was free land with no encumbrance or servitude. That was undeniably the intention of the British Government, for, in the Act of 1774, which restored French law within the seigniories, it is expressely stated:
This law has never been repealed, and stands as much in force to-day as any other section of the Quebec Act. If that section is not valid, is not now the law of the land, then neither is section 8, which the priests consider the legal bulwark of their privileges. There never was a clearer case of defiance of an Imperial statute than the erecting of parishes in the townships. When the agitation led by Papineau reached the point that the Imperial Parliament appointed a select committee to take evidence as to the alleged grievances, Viger was called and gave testimony as to the working of the Tenures Act, which formed part of his complaint. The committee, which included several emin. ent lawyers, in their report, spoke thus on this head:
The report was adopted by the House of Commons. It proves that, fifty-four years after the Quebec Act was passed, when the townships had been erected and many of them thickly populated, the Imperial Parliament placed the interpretation on the Quebec Act that section eight no more applied to them than it did to Ontario. John J. McCord was appointed a Judge for the Townships in 1842, and from his close association with them knew their condition and circumstances thoroughly. In the spring of 1854 a case was brought before him, by the priest of Milton, in the St. Hyacinthe circuit court, of a habitant, a Catholic, who refused to pay tithes because his farm was township, not fief land, that his tenure was free and common soccage, not seigniorial. The Judge upheld the plea. The only authority for tithes, said Judge McCord, was the Quebec Act, which restricted them to seigniorial land. The conclusion of the judge was, that such being "the present state of law of the country, and there being a positive prohibition to the extension of the right of tithes to land held in free and common soccage, I am bound to maintain" defendant's plea. The law is the same now as in 1854, but the judges are not the same. That summer the legislature passed the Act abolishing clergy reserves, because of the reason that it is "desirable to remove all semblance of connection between Church and State." This merely reaffirmed the declaration of the Rectories Act, which laid down legal equality among all religious denominations, both in Upper and Lower Canada. The statutes of the united Province have other passages of like nature. Thus in Vic. 14-15, regarding the Catholic diocese of Montreal, a section reads: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to extend, or in any manner confer, any spiritual jurisdiction or ecclesiastical rights whatsoever upon any bishop or other ecclesiastical person."
In the townships were a few Irish Catholic congregations, who had supported their priests and built their churches by voluntary contributions. On being required to pay tithe and building-tax they resisted. Their appeals to the courts were futile: on proof being led that their farms formed part of a parish proclaimed by the Lieutenant-Governor, judgment was given against them. Eventually these parishes were reduced to the level of those surrounding them, by the bishops substituting French priests for their Irish pastors.
Seeing section 9 of the Quebec Act has not been repealed, and no statute can be quoted repealing it, how comes it that the priests could extend the parish system to the townships? How comes it that she is levying her tributes on a single acre outside fief lands? As well ask: How did they go on exercising the powers given them by the ordinance of 1839 during nine years after it had lapsed? Holding the balance of political influence, public men dare not challenge what they do: judges receive their interpretation of the law from their confessors. There has been so far only one Doutre and one McCord.
The Sectarian School.
First the parish system, next the sectarian school, has been the means of ejecting the Protestant farmer. The one is based on the other. Had Sir A. T. Galt, when acting as representative of the Quebec minority in the framing of Confederation, instead of asking guarantees for schools, simply demanded that the parish system be confined to the limits defined in the Quebec Act, the farmers in the townships would have been comparatively safe, for, if in them Rome could not levy taxes to build churches and parsonages and tithes to support priests, it would have had no more interest to bring its forces to bear in expelling the Protestant farmers from the townships of Quebec than it has in meddling with the farmers across the line in Vermont and New York State. One fact the experience of the Eastern Townships has establishedthe Anglo-Saxon farmer will remain in no country where he is discriminated against. It is different with the business man. He goes where trade and manufactures yield the largest profit. The Englishspeaking population on the island of Montreal grows and will continue to grow. Of Protestant farmers, each census will count fewer, yet these farmers have an equal claim to the Province with the French and Catholic farmers. Quebec is the native country of the Protestant farmer, it has been the home of his family for several generations, and from their labor in creating that home by carving it out of the primeval forest. Tens of thousands of them know no other country
Quebec to them is their native land, which they desire to live in, and, if need should arise, would die for. The townships are the creation of English-speaking Protestants, what they are, they made them; they were their architects and builders, and by Crown and Imperial Parliament, were secured in the townships as their inheritance, their chosen seat in the Province of Quebec.
In referring to the part schools bear in driving out the Protestant farmers of Quebec it is essential that the two meanings attached to the term "elementary education" be kept in mind. Non-Catholics understand by it the imparting to children of the rudiments of that knowledge which is necessary for their success in life. The priests understand by the term instruction in the doctrine, ritual, and liturgy of the Church of Rome. If to this has been added reading, writing, arithmetic, it has been in deference to the agitation which, in our day, is represented by Godfroi Langlois. To find the school the priests design their people should have, go to the back parishes, where you see a young girl devoting her time to get her scholars memorize the catechism and recite the order of prayers. Her salary is a mockery, sometimes as low as $100, rarely $200, yet considering her qualifications, her youth, and what she has to teach, it is not so inadequate as it seems. When the priest speaks of an elementary school he means a confessional school-a place where the child will be prepared for first communion. When a Protestant speaks of an elementary school, he means a place where his children will be taught the three R.'s. The distinction between the two is as plain as the difference is wide. The purpose and end of the public school is to impart the elements of secular education to the children of the nation, to fuse them into a common citizenship, and make them loyal to the government. The purpose and end of the separate school system. is to divide the children, to hive those whose parents are Catholics, to keep them apart from other children, to bring them up as a distinct caste, whose first allegiance is not to Canada, but the Pope. On the community the effect of the separate school is divisive: to the unity of the State it is destructive. There is no comparison between the common school system and that of separate schools, for they differ as dark from light. The common school has an open door, inviting youth of all creeds and races to enter and learn what every citizen ought to know; the separate school has a screen before its door, which admits only those who can go through its meshes, and the first purpose of whose teaching is to make bigots. The one is inclusive, broad, progressive; the other is exclusive, narrow, reactionary.
Origin of Separate Schools.
How confessional schools were introduced into Quebec remains to be told. In 1801 the Imperial Government took steps to establish a system of schools. When the co-operation of Bishop Plessis was asked he refused-the priests demanded their kind of schools, to which the governor would not consent-they must take the schools as designed by the government or do without. They preferred to do without: they would have confessional schools or none. The government's offer had a different reception in the Townships, whose farmers organized schools, often at their sole expense, for public aid was erratic and trifling. Between 1820 and 1841 several educational Acts were passed, with grants per scholar; one provided for half the cost of new schoolhouses. Not one of these Acts recognized difference in creed; they provided for public schools and none other. Sydenham was extremely anxious to have the children of the habitants educated, and induced his Ministers to submit an Act, at the first meeting of the united legislature, to establish public schools in both Provinces. The Quebec members objected, asking Catholic schools. Instead of standing by their measure the government weakly consented to refer the Act to a committee, which inserted a declaratory clause giving permission to Catholics to dissent and form schools of their own. This permission applied to both Provinces. As regards the Quebec parishes the Act was inoperative. Conferences with the bishops followed, ending in submitting the Act of 1844, which forms the basis of all subsequent school legislation. It made distinct provision for sectarian schools. In Quebec the Act failed from an unlooked for cause. It authorized a compulsory tag to maintain schools. This the habitants resented, and attempts to levy rates resulted in a ferment of stubborn opposition with, in some localities, deeds of violence. The Act had to be modified in this regard, without, however, leading to the establishment of a general system of schools in the parishes. So late as 1853 there were municipalities whose ratepayers boasted no school tax had ever been collected. The planting of schools among the habitants is, therefore, comparatively recent. The organizing of the schools fell to their priests, and as has been stated, they made them adjuncts of their church. From the earliest period, the preparation of children for first communion in Quebec has been by means of repetition. Someone, commonly the mother, repeated the catechism and prayers from memory, and their words the little ones stored away as they listened. The introduction of schools was seized to do this work of preparation, and their main purpose to this day in the back parishes is to fit the scholars for their first communion. After ten years of age, few of the boys attend. These schools are as much a part of the Papal system as its convents. They do for the ordinary child what the college does for the select few-train them to implicit faith in and obedience to the priests. To parallel them with schools whose purpose is to teach the three R's and to enlarge the intellect by storing it with information, is to confound two essentially different institutions. Both are named schools but they are not alike.
Intelligent Catholics are quite aware of the defects of Quebec's educational system. That they make no effort to bring about reform is due to their worship of tradition and their fear of incurring the censure of the priests. There have been exceptional men who, provoked by conditions forced daily upon them, have spoken out, and what they have said reveals what thousands think and would say were it prudent. The boldest of these utterances was that of Senator Poirier, because it was made in the presence of a great array of priests. He pointed out that French-Canadians were not occupying the positions to which they justly aspired because they had not received the education that would have fitted them to fill those positions, and went on to prove his statement by citing undeniable instances. Archbishop Bruchesi rose when the Senator sat down and said significantly, "Were I asked by the Senator to give him absolution, I would do so with a few remarks, certain advice, and-a penance." There is the rod that keeps the laity silent -for speaking the truth in public-a penance. The shade of the confessional appals the boldest.
When the Act of 1844 began to be enforced, there were schools in every English-speaking settlement. In farming communities the support available for schools is limited. Children cannot be expected to walk over two miles to school, and that radius gives, where farms range from one to two hundred acres, an average of one school to every twenty families. This physical obstacle to a rural population keeping up more than one school has not been taken into account by those who framed our educational laws. Plant a second school in a district, and one or other has to go out of existence, for there are only sufficient families to support one. A priest goes into a school district in the townships and commands the few Catholic families to dissent and form a separate school. The loss of their rates impairs the revenue of the old school, and, as time passes, whenever a farm comes for sale, by some unseen direction a Catholic buyer is brought, so the revenue grows smaller until the point is reached that it is insufficient, and the door of the old school-house closes for the last time. The townships of Quebec had a system of schools as old as their settlement and as non-sectarian as those of Ontario. They have been undermined and destroyed by the innovation of confessional schools. It has been officially stated that four hundred have gone out of existence. The beginning of every school year sees more doors unopened. No matter under what pretence separate schools are introduced into farming sections, the result is to destroy the original schools. It is different in .towns and cities, where sufficient support can be got for both. In the country, where there can only be a limited number of families to the square mile, the priest, when he starts a separate school, does so with the design of breaking down the one in existence. In their invasion of the English-speaking townships the priests. planned to destroy the schools of their founders, and they are killing them slowly and sorely.
The statistics given in the government reports do not confirm this, for, according to them, the decrease of non-Catholic schools has not been large. These statistics lump together the number of such schools in villages, .towns, and cities, with those in the rural parts. There is no column for the little red schoolhouse. The number of elementary non-Catholic schools has increased largely in Montreal and in manufacturing towns and villages, and that increase conceals the loss of such schools in the rural sections. Then, again, the government statistics do not show how long the schools remain open during the teaching term. A member of the legislature asked for a special return on this head, and when it was brought down it showed that for the scholastic year 1907-8 out of 835 rural schools 100 did not open from inability to get a teacher for the salary the ratepayers were able to offer; two hundred were kept open with difficulty, having only from five to eight scholars, and 300 had less than a dozen. Only one-quarter were open for the full scholastic year of ten months; nearly 30 per cent. of them were open for only seven months or less, and 89 of them were open for five months or less. In the county of Huntingdon the scholars in ten years fell off 700 in number. These statistics indicate that the ratepayers, upon whom fell the support of these schools, were so few that they were able to keep them open for a few months only, which means that three out of four were inefficient. The case is made worse from the added statement that 459 had teachers without diplomas. In a typical township, having seven non-Catholic school-houses, which, forty years ago were crowded, there were 94 scholars-an average of 14. The school that had the largest attendance had 17, the smallest 6. A school with less than ten pupils, and open four months in the year, is better than none at all, and that is all that can be said of half of the rural schools in the Province of Quebec attended by the children of parents who are not Roman Catholics. In the year 1905 of these weak schools, 66 closed forever. The inefficiency of the education they impart is illustrated by the fact that out of every 100 who have attended them, 92 scholars have to be content with what little they have learned, 4 get one or more terms at a model school, 3 at an academy, and 1 goes to a university. And what of those sections where the non-Catholics are unable to keep open a school for even four months in the year? The children in these sections are growing up illiterates. Already there are respectable families in these sections whose younger members cannot sign their names, because the schools they would have gone to were shut by the priests. Everybody has met the man who affects to be an oracle in politics, who boasts he is not narrow minded, who despises the bigots who are always introducing subjects that cause heart-burning in a mixed community, and who considers it only fair Catholics should have their own schools. Men who use such language abound in and out of parliament. In doing what they consider justice to the Catholics, they do not reflect they are perpetrating the cruelest wrong on those who are not Catholics, that they are destroying their schools and dooming their children to ignorance. Place this fact down as incontrovertible, that in rural districts there is support for one school only, and whoever advocates separate schools robs those who cannot attend them of the means of getting an education.
Protestants Forced to Support Catholic Schools.
The demand of the priests is, that the taxes paid by their people shall go to the support of confessional schools and none other-that to take them to maintain even non-sectarian schools is a violation of conscience. They insist that the school tax be divided according to the creed of the tax-payers. The rule is a bad one, but when a legislature adopts it, provision should be made that it be impartially carried out. Whatever money is paid by a Catholic should go to confessional schools, whatever by a non-Catholic to public schools. If it be a dreadful sin in Catholics to pay a tax to maintain a public school, how much greater must be the outrage upon the conscience of Protestants to force them to keep up confessional schools? Singular to say, the priests only recognize conscientious convictions in their own people: that Protestants have any they seem to disbelieve; at any rate, they trample upon them in this matter of school support. The bulk of the commerce and manufactures of the Province of Quebec is in the hands of Protestants; blot them out and Quebec would be one of the poorest countries in the world. The visitor to Montreal who approaches it by the Lachine canal cannot fail to be impressed by the factories that line its banks and the abounding evidence of manufacturing industry so far as his eye can reach. Coming to the harbor he sees a long line of monster steamships. Turning to the business streets he is impressed by the massive buildings that house banks and those other institutions that trade and commerce require, and when he seeks the residential part of the city he views the palaces where (live the men who control these institutions and who own the factories that darken the lower part of the city with their smoke. Ninety out of a hundred of these men are Protestants of the remaining ten, Jews form a large part. Under the rule laid down by the priests the taxes levied on the properties of these wealthy Jews and Protestants ought to go to maintain public schools. They do not; the greater part goes to confessional schools, to schools taught by nuns and monks, to enrich convents and other monastic institutions. If the money filched out of the the pockets of Protestants was devoted solely to public schools, there would have to be a treble tag levied on Catholic city ratepayers. Seeing the principle of the statute is, that the school tax be divided according to the creed of those who pay it, how is this done? It is accomplished by a legal quibble in this way. A Protestant owns a factory. So long as he holds it in his own name, or in the name of a partnership, his rates go to the public school. The moment, however, the factory comes to be owned by an incorporated company, a new method is applied. Keeping in mind the principle of the statute, that the tax is to be allotted according to the creed of those who pay it, it would be supposed the school tax of establishments owned by incorporated companies would be divided according to the number of shares held by the Protestants and Catholics as they appear on their stock books. That would not suit the priests, for a Catholic shareholder is a rarity, so, as regards incorporated companies, they varied the law by enacting that its school tax be divided in proportion to the number of Catholic and Protestant children in the district in which the property of the companies is situated. Mark how the priests can change their cry to suit their own purposes. In the rural districts they preach that it is persecution to take the tax of a Catholic for other than a confessional school, but in city or town it is quite right to compel Protestants to pay taxes to maintain Catholic schools. In the country the taxes must be divided according to the creed of those who pay them, but when it comes to shareholders in the great incorporated companies of Montreal and other manufacturing centres, the school taxes are not apportioned according to the creed of the shareholders, but of the creed of those who live around their places of business! What difference can incorporating those who manage a factory make in their creeds? Can an act of parliament, whose sole object is facilitating the carrying on of business, change the spiritual status of a man? A Protestant has established, by individual effort and investing of his own money, a large mill. To facilitate carrying it on he incorporates his business under Dominion or Provincial act. Is he less of a Protestant because of his having done so? Yet, by so doing, he loses the right to designate where the school tax levied on his factory shall go, and his taxes are taken to maintain schools whose teachings he condemns. The tenderness of the priests for rights of conscience where the dollars are to be exacted from Catholics, contrasts strangely with their total disregard for the rights of conscience when dollars can be filched by law from the pockets of Protestants. If it be a monstrous wrong to make Catholics contribute towards nonsectarian schools, it must be a much greater wrong to compel Protestants- to maintain Catholic schools. If the conscience of the Catholic is outraged by his helping to keep up a non-sectarian, a neutral, school, what shall be said of the outrage of forcing Jews and Protestants to support nuns and friars under the name of education? The priests cannot endure neutral schools, but a neutral panel to provide them with the taxes of Jews and Protestants is an admirable device. Of late there has been a general movement among mercantile firms to become incorporated companies. By the change the greater part of their school tax goes to the Catholic schools. It is within the truth to say that of the capital of these companies nineteen-twentieths is that of Protestants. Catholic firms, where possible, avoid incorporation, and the amount of rates from companies composed of Catholics is a negligible quantity. An estimate, prepared by one who investigated the subject, gives a million dollars yearly as the amount taken from Protestants for the support of Catholic schools. That is excessive, but the amount has nothing to do with the principle at stake, which is, that Protestants having investments in banking and insurance companies, commercial and manufacturing enterprises, are compelled by law to support Catholic schools in the Province of Quebec. An ingenious evasion by Catholics of the law governing incorporation, is to name one of the corporation proprietor of the real estate, and from him the company leases.
There are two grounds upon which this mode of dividing the school tax of companies is defended. One is, that as it applies equally to Protestant and Catholic, it cannot be unjust. Were it a tax for a public purpose, involving no moral element, that would be sufficient justification. Seeing it is a tax to bolster sectarian education, it fails. Does anybody suppose for a moment, that were the majority of corporations composed of Catholics the priests would have ever suggested dividing the taxes drawn from them in the way that is done? The second argument advanced is, that the tax is just, because although the proprietors of the great industrial concerns in the Province of Quebec are
Protestants they are interested in the education of their employees. Certainly they are interested in seeing that they get a secular education, and would not object were their taxes used to give them such an education, but it is of the brutality of bigotry for the priests to confiscate the school taxes levied on incorporated companies to secure the teaching of the doctrines of their church. In Quebec the government prescribes Catholic schools as the schools of the Province, and then uses various devices to seize the money of Protestants and Jews to pay for their upkeep. First of all, the State assumed a function that did not legitimately belong to it in designating a certain denomination as the favored church of the Province and then went further by coercing those who disown that sect and its teaching, to pay to support it. Each dollar levied in taxation or, taken from the public treasury for the support of any church or for the teaching of its creed in any school, is not merely tyrannical, it is a violation of the rights of conscience. The priests declaim against taking the taxes of Catholics to maintain public schools in Ontario and Manitoba as an outrage that cries to heaven for redress, but in Quebec, these same men get the law so shaped that a considerable part of the taxes levied on the real estate, incomes, and capital of Protestants shall go to maintain schools in which are daily taught doctrines abhorrent to them. A mark of a true church must be honesty. Is it honest to demand exemption in the Dominion for Catholics from supporting nonsectarian schools on the score of conscience, and then cunningly plunder Protestants in the Province of Quebec to maintain Catholic schools? Have Protestants no consciences to be respected? Each session we hear members at Ottawa dwelling on the fairness of allowing Catholics in the Northwest to retain their tax for support of separate schools: these very members uphold the law in Quebec which seizes the bulk of the tax levied on the real estate, incomes,and capital of Protestants to maintain schools taught by nuns and friars, and strenuously resist a change in that law. I care not who the politicians are who pose as statesmen, I care not who the prelates are who rustle in gorgeous robes and profess to speak as representatives of Christ, I declare their seizing the money of Protestants to maintain their institutions to be more than intolerance, it is robbery.
The Coming of the Jews.
The influx of Jews into Montreal is going to bring this question to the front. Their appearance raised the point to which school panel their taxes should go. As the priests would have nothing to do with their children, the legislature enacted that for school purposes Jews were to be classed as Protestants! Half of the scholars in Montreal schools under the charge of the Protestant board are Hebrew, yet a Jew is never appointed by the Government to sit on that board, nor can a young woman whose father is a Jew qualify to be a teacher. No people can be expected to long endure such injustice. The remedy proposed, that the Jews have schools of their own, would be to endorse and perpetuate the sectarian principle, but it is impracticable. Give the Jews separate schools and a separate board of management, and a like favor could not be denied to those who profess allegiance to the Greek church, and the adherents of that church in Montreal are yearly increasing. If all are to have schools of the creed they profess, what would. remain but confusion and the reign of illiteracy? There b only one solution, the public school, which has no sectarian bias, and which Protestant and Hebrew, Greek and Armenian, can support-the school that unifies and does not divide, the school whose purpose is to elevate the children to an equal plane of citizenship, and, leaving the creed of each child alone, strives to impart a knowledge of those duties they owe to society and to the State when they grow to be men and women, and that school is the public school. It is satisfactory to know that the Dominion has no more ardent supporters of complete separation of Church and State than the Jews.
The air is full of plans to save the English-speaking farmers of Quebec their few remaining schools. In 1906 the Protestant Committee of the Council of Public Instruction adopted a motion asking the legislature to levy a small tax on the assessable property of Protestants. It was shown that in that year such property amounted to one hundred and thirty million dollars, and that a tax of five cents on the hundred dollars would yield $65,000, which would be sufficient to save the schools that were slowly dying. The proposed tax was abominable, being based on the principle that ought to be eliminated, of recognizing creed in public affairs. Rescue the rates levied on Protestants for the support of Catholic schools, place them in a general fund, and there will be no need to call for aid from the benevolent, for an increased grant from the government, or for the levying of a special tax on real estate owned by Protestants.
Present Condition of the Quebec Townships.
The early days of the townships were full of hope. Each morning work was begun in joyous expectation of plans to be realized. There was activity, progress, life. Periodically there was exultation over what had been achieved: neighbor meeting neighbor to review results, encouraging one another to attempt greater things. The pages in which Bouchette tells of his successive visits to the townships and of their marvellous advancement give a thrill of delight to the reader. A brighter morning no new country could have. How different the picture of to-day! In a few centres there is much industrial activity: Sherbrooke and Granby hum with the revolving wheels of mill and factory, around which cluster the tenements of workers. These are apart from the rural population, and it is with the English-speaking farmer I am concerned. Let us see how he has fared. Here is a concession on which, a few decades ago, in each home was heard the kindly speech of the Lowland Scot; here another where Highlanders predominated; another where Irish Catholics and Protestants dwelt in neighborly helpfulness; another where neatness and taste told of its dwellers being of New England descent. To-day approach one of those homes, and with polite gesture madam gives you to understand she does not speak English. Here is the school the first settlers erected, and which they and their successors kept open with no small denial. Draw near to it and you hear the scholars in their play calling to one another in French. The descendants of the men who cleared these fields of forest and brought them into cultivation have disappeared. The meetinghouse where they met for worship stands there on a knoll, with broken windows, and boarded door, dropping to decay. The surrounding acre where they buried their dead, is a mass of weeds, which defy approach to read the lettering on the stones discerned through the tangle of vegetation. Once in the course of years there is a funeral: a corpse comes by train from some far-distant State, that of one who was once a settler and yearned to rest with her kindred. A vanished race: why did they go? Because the pledged word of a British King and the statute enacted by a British Parliament, were broken and set aside by Canadian politicians in obedience to the priests who helped them to office. These acres were meant by the King and Parliament of England to be free land: the blight of servitude to a church is now upon them.
The situation of the few families who cling to a decaying township settlement is painful. They have seen neighbor after neighbor leave, and French Catholic families take their place. The people they visited and who visited them are in the United States, for of those who have left the townships the large majority sought the Republic instead of our Northwest, as if from an instinctive fear that no part of Canada is safe from the power that expelled then. The lack of social intercourse presses on the wife and children; the lack of neighborly helpfulness on the father. A feeling of isolation and loneliness creeps upon them. It is with difficulty services in the church are maintained: were it not for help from home mission funds its door would be closed. A day comes when there are too few families to maintain the school. The father sees the new Catholic one within sight of his door. Will he send his children to it? What is the daily routine of that school? Learning the prayers and ritual, so that the children may be able to follow the service on Sunday; learning the catechism, with such questions as these:
This is the catechism which forms the staple of the course of study with more or less of the three R's during the intervals between it and prayers. The teacher assures the father his children will not be asked to join in catechism or prayers, but he knows from experience they will be involuntarily fixed in their memories by daily hearing. I know an Orangeman, unable from distance to send his children to a public school, who allowed them to attend the confessional school on an adjoining lot. Everyone of them, from the constant iteration in their hearing, could repeat the little catechism. Then the day comes when the priest is to visit the school, and the scholars join in preparing and decorating the little shrine. The text=books are Catholic, the whole atmosphere of the school is Catholic. The farmer cannot in conscience send his little ones to it, and so the French-Canadian, who has been wanting his farm, gets it, and, a week after he is in possession, a priest comes to see the new acquisition of his church, for it has a joint proprietorship with the habitant in its acres. For the first time a priest drives up the lane lined by maples which the grandfather of the dispossessed Protestant planted, and levies tithes on the yield of fields his great-grandparents redeemed from the wilderness, and which four generations of Protestants have ploughed.
It has to be observed that the English-speaking farmer finds no fault with the language of the confessional school being French. The desire among the township farmers is that their children should speak both languages, and were the school non-sectarian the father in the foregoing paragraph would have no hesitation in sending his children to it. He is well aware from experience that, in Quebec, it is a great advantage to know both languages, and that advantage he would have each member of his family possess. No ridiculous notion that the language taught in the school can supersede the language of the family prevents his patronizing it; as well tell him that were the language taught in the school Latin his children would drop their mother tongue for the speech of Cicero. His objection to the confessional school is not that its language is French, but that the subjects taught within its walls are those dictated by the priests to ensure the scholars being subservient to their rule and to engrain in their minds a life-long prejudice against Protestants.
Where the English Sinned.
When the stream of emigration from the United Kingdom set in a century ago, it was so marvellous that any portion of it should have been diverted to the back country of Quebec, that he who weighs all the conditions of those times traces the hand of design that God would have in Quebec a people who would bear testimony to his truth. Hundreds of families who sailed from the Old Land purposing to settle in Ontario, were, by what seemed to them accidental happenings, diverted from their intention and remained in Quebec. Of the many first settlers I have conversed with, not one in twenty said they crossed the Atlantic with the intention of remaining in Quebec. Was there no purpose in this? Are the settlements of Ulstermen and of Lowland Scots that rose in the midst of the allpervading forest to be regarded in no other light than that which the economist views them? The fundamental truth of Christianity is the individuality of .man in his relation to God. Each of us stands accused before Him, and for our reconciliation there is no provision for a human intermediary. No fellowbeing can step between the soul and its Maker: no organization speak or act for Him. In every age and in every country there have been men who professed to be the deputies, the representatives on earth, of God; assuming to speak for Him and asserting the efficacy of their services as intermediaries in saving souls. In no other part of the continent was there more need than in Quebec for a body of men and women to bear witness; by their lives that no fellow-mortal can stand between the soul and God, teaching the twin truth of the individual responsibility and of the spiritual independence of man. The settlers, so strangely guided to Quebec, knew this great truth, but hid it in their materialism, their eager seeking after what the world can give, and the example they ought to have set was lost in their inconsistent lives, their utter indifference to the eternal welfare of the people whose eyes were upon them. It was their duty to be lights, to be witness-bearers to the sovereignty of Christ and the allsufficiency of his intercession, yet, if by naught else than their neglect of associating together to fan the flame of piety, and the meanness of their contributions to sustain Gospel ordinances, they disgraced, and finally blasted the cause they were called to recommend. Had they realized the grandeur of their opportunity, had they been faithful to their duty, would they have been abandoned to those who, from their first coming, plotted against them? The Protestants of Quebec had presented to them an opening to do a grand work. They threw it away, and as a people they have been thrown away. Will the remnant consider where their fathers failed and earnestly set their faces to redeeming the past? If they are to hold their own, it must be by a great spiritual revival among themselves. They have been sinned against, wantonly and cruelly, but they also have sinned by not living up to the knowledge they possessed.
The Townships Have Been Robbed of Their Autonomy.
A favorite topic with our politicians is, that the content of the French-Canadians is due to Britain's securing to them their autonomy. During the Boer War Sir Wilfred Laurier visited England, and kept repeating with eloquent iteration that the secret of binding alien peoples to the English Crown is to copy what has been done in Quebec, thrusting the advice on British statesmen that to solve the situation in South Africa they should grant the Boers the fullest autonomy. What of the hypocrisy of talking thus and at the very time being a ,party to the crushing of the autonomy of the Eastern Townships, robbing its Protestant settlers of their rights as British subjects, winking at the violation of laws in order to make their situation unendurable, and so drive them forth to seek equal rights in another Province-too often under another flag? Judged by their acts, it is seen there are men who in clamoring for autonomy really seek the power to supplant those who do not think as they do. These Townships' farmers, as fine a yeomanry as the sun ever shone upon, the influence and services of whose fathers in hours of danger saved Canada to Britain, are being ousted by a class in whose mouths autonomy, self-government, constitutional rights, are being constantly repeated-inspiring words when they mean power to benefit the people, sinister, hypocritical words when they mean dragging a people under the rule of the priests. The victims of priestly designs in Quebec ask for no exceptional treatment. What they do ask is, that they be rescued from the schemes and stratagems of the priests, and that they be rendered powerless to hurt them by being placed on the same level as other ministers. Is that an unreasonable demand? The shame is, that in a British colony British subjects should have to prefer such a demand.*
*As illustrating how the English have been driven out of certain districts this incident is given by a lady who was being driven to a house of a friend by a French-Canadian boy. The lady was a native of the district, but had been away far a few years. She was not recognized in her own early home. She spoke French fluently and the boy assumed that the passenger was one of his own people. The lady asked about this farm and the other farm formerly occupied by English-speaking yeomen. The bay answered in French, giving the names of the French-Canadian successors to the English-speaking farmers. Them air they passed a few farms still cultivated by their English-speaking owners, the boy said: "We will soon have the nest of them out of here:" The lady was the daughter of an Irish Roman Catholic family. She was of the boy's creed, hurt not of his race, and had no sympathy with the racial ambitions that speak even out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. Alluding to the incident when speaking with Protestant neighbors near her own home, the lady said in English: "The little wretch, I would have liked to have cuffed his cams."
Source: Robert SELLAR, The Tragedy of Quebec. The Expulsion of Its Protestant Farmers, 1916 edition, pp. 196-224.
© 2000 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College