Posts Tagged ‘Quebec’

What if North America was French?

August 3, 2020

If the outcome of certain European wars had been different, the dominant culture of North America would be French and not English.

After reading David Hackett Fischer’s Champlain’s Dream, I think this would have been a good thing.

The settlers of New Spain enslaved Indians.  The settlers of New England drove them out.  But settlers of New France intermarried with the Indians and lives with them in peace.

This was the dream of a remarkable individual, Samuel de Champlain.  Between his first voyage to the New World in 1603 and his death in 1635, his example and his laws established a pattern for a multi-cultural society.

His career would make a good TV mini-series, because it consisted of a series of crises, which in dramatic terms would be cliff-rangers—everything seemingly lost, but with the slim possibility of one last effort putting everything right.

Champlain was a soldier, sailor, navigator, explorer, map-maker, writer, administrator and diplomat, who was able to negotiate successfully in the councils of Algonquin and Huron warriors and the court of King Louis XIII Cardinal Richelieu.

He made mistakes in judgment, like everyone else.  The worst one was underestimating the severity of the Canadian winter.  He sometimes lost his temper.

But Fischer was unable to find a single incident in which he knowingly told a lie or broke a promise.  His observations of the lands he explored and his accounts of his own actions were not only truthful, but accurate.

When other French commanders made contact with Indian nations, they usually began a show of force and a demonstration of their superior firepower.

Champlain would walk into Indian settlements unarmed, either alone or with a single companion.

No fool he, sometimes on making first contact Champlain would sometimes have troops with firearms hiding in the underbrush in case things went wrong.  But he went out of his way to appear un-threatening.

He won the trust of the Indians by spending a lot of time with them and taking the trouble to understand them.  He sincerely liked them.  He didn’t have to fake friendship.

Champlain’s humanistic Catholicism was appealing to the Indians—I think partly because the Christian idea of forgiveness freed them of the duty of carrying on blood feuds without end.

Many Indian nations welcomed European settlers because they saw them as possible allies in their wars with other Indians.  Champlain avoided that trap.  He positioned himself as mediator.

But he did help the Algonquins and Hurons in their wars with the aggressive Iroquois to the South.

Champlain and allies vs. Mohawks

Champlain led a mixed French and Indian invasion of Mohawk territory in 1609.  They fought a battle on the shore of Lake Champlain, which he named/

The Mohawks wore wooden armor and fought shoulder-to-shoulder, as in an ancient Greek phalanx.  They probably would have won except for the French use of firearms, called arquebuses.

He led another expedition, against the Onondaga, in 1615, and fought a battle near today’s Syracuse.  The Onondaga took refuge in a wooden fort, which Champlain attempted to overcome by building a European-style siege engine—a portable wooden structure taller than the walls of the fort.

I never thought Indians wore armor or built forts.  I suppose a lot of what I think of as Indian warfare is an adaptation to the superior firepower of the English, French and Spanish.

After that, Champlain and the Indian nations of New France were able to negotiate a temporary peace with the Iroquois.  Fischer noted that this was partly because the Iroquois were preoccupied with fighting the Susquehannocks to their south.

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Winds of change in Quebec

September 26, 2012

The Parti Quebecois has come to power in Quebec, after months of protests against the incumbent Liberal government involving hundreds of thousands of people, led by students but not limited to them.  The new government has agreed to cancel university tuition increases, the original cause of the protests.

The new government also announced an indefinite moratorium not only on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, but on exploration for shale gas as such.

It goes to show what a determined and well-led mass protest movement can accomplish.

Click on Quebec’s Not-So-Quiet Revolution for cartoonist Ted Rall’s graphic report on the Quebec protests.

Click on ‘A beautiful day’ for environmentalists for background on the shale gas issue from the Montreal Gazette.

Quebec’s not-so-quiet revolution

September 19, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

The cartoonist Ted Rall, working as the equivalent of a photojournalist, recently went to Montreal to observe the protest movement there.

I had been vaguely aware of an ongoing student protest there, but, until I read Rall’s report, I hadn’t been aware that the protests drew hundreds of thousands of people, including students, the unemployed, blue-collar workers, advocates of Quebec independence, anti-capitalist radicals and others discontented with the system.

It began with college students protesting increases in tuition rates.  The Quebec government responded with a law that outlawed large protests.  The students did not back down, and their movement grew larger and more militant.

The Classé Quebec protest movement is harder-edged than the Occupy Wall Street movement, Rall reports.   Instead of consensus, they decide by majority vote.  Instead of acting spontaneously, they plan strategy, sometimes years ahead.  Instead of a do-your-own-thing ethos, they have a hierarchical structure and follow leaders.  Instead of nonviolent resistance, they actively confront police, and sometimes intimidate police into backing down.

I’m not sure what to make of the Quebec protest movement, and don’t know where it will lead, but I do see that it is important.

Click on Quebec’s Not-so-Quiet Revolution for Ted Rall’s full 10-page report on Cartoon Movement.

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